©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.

com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

HDive No Way Out at the Entrance
Dmitrii Emets

Translated from Russian by

Jane H. Buckingham

Translation edited by Shona Brandt

Cover designed by Georgiy Lebedev

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

Titles in the HDive Series
Pegasus, Lion and Centaur No Way Out at the Entrance

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

1

One should put together with the greatest effort a reserve of strands, since onagers,1 ballistae, and other missile weapons are of no use, if they cannot be drawn with ropes or strands. The hair from the manes and tails of horses is also very well suited to ballistae. There is no doubt that women’s hair is also very good for similar types of machinery; that has been proven by experience at the moment of the plight of Rome. When the Capitol was besieged, as a result of constant and long use the missile machines deteriorated, but there was not a reserve of strands, then Roman matrons cut off their hair and gave it to their husbands in battle; the machines were repaired, and the enemy attack repelled. Vegetius2

1

An onager was a siege engine of the Roman Empire, basically an ancient military catapult for throwing stones. 2 Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, commonly known as Vegetius, was a writer of the Roman Empire. One of his two surviving works is Epitoma rei militaris or De Re Militari, a Roman military treatise. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

2

Chapter 1 The D Route Minibus Four brothers go to the oldest. “How do you do, Tommy Thumb!” they say. “Hello, Peter Pointer, Toby Tall, Ruby Ring, And Baby Small!” Finger game Rina was sitting on a bollard swinging her legs and waiting. The subway next to her was spitting out people. Rina counted nine hundred people. Among them five hundred and ten were women. Leaving the five-hundred-and-eleventh woman uncounted, Rina jumped off the bollard and went to buy ice cream. She had enough money for either one good ice cream or to two so-so ones. After wavering for a while, she asked for two. “Who said that they’re bad? They’re underrated!” she said to herself and relaxed. A drunk tumbled out of the rear door of a stopped car. He started to shove his passport under her nose and said that there was no kid in it. This did not surprise Rina too much: she always got into some mess. Instead of quickly walking away, she took the passport and shook it. Not even one smallest kid fell out of the passport. “True!” she said. “No kid! Well, doesn’t matter: when you do, come quickly for teaching tips!” The drunk was offended and started to grab her sleeve. Rina ran to the stern guard, who had risked his life catching an old hag illegally selling mushrooms on a string, and slipped him the passport. “Here, I found a document! Will you please have a look whose?” she asked and dived behind the pavilion. Thirty minutes left for her to wait. In any case, so Kuzepych said. When she saw that nine people had gathered at the appointed place, she should press the centaur. Once. And that was all. *** “Cool! Third generation Muscovite and was never on Planernaya!” Sashka realized, after walking up to the city. He always pronounced his favourite “cool” with a stress at the end. Something bright flew high above the buildings. At first Sashka thought it was a ball, but looking closely he figured out that it was an ordinary plastic bag. It was flying by itself and was not bothered at all that under it was twenty floors of emptiness. Sashka took a step to the post and looked around with interest. Amusing region. Cramped, toy-like. The buildings come right up to the subway shelter.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

3

One can go out to the balcony and stare at the crowd. At night, when you are lying in silence, you listen as the floor shudders and trains rush past somewhere under you. Sashka focused to determine where he was now. Before him stretched an asphalt area with islands, where buses and minibuses docked. As always there were many of them at subway stations. “Please, do you know where the Route D minibus is?” he asked a woman in a red windbreaker. The woman was playing with a child. She absent-mindedly lifted her eyes and part of the tenderness addressed to the child accidentally splashed onto Sashka. Almost immediately on the face that came to the tenderness waned, fell somewhere inside, and Sashka was sorry that he had torn a person away from a pleasant occupation. “Don’t know!” the woman said and again dived into her child as into a pond. “Excuse me, please? Route D minibus?” Sashka turned to a stooping back emerging from behind the post. The back wobbled, and Sashka realized that he had missed the mark with the respect. A person of his age was looking at him. True, in order to determine this, Sashka had to lift up his head infinitely. The fellow was not simply two metres tall but somewhere close to two-ten. Narrowshouldered, long-armed. The teeth were big. Two front ones like a beaver’s. The eyes were green, mocking. The arms dangled like ropes while walking, and the chin was making “snap-snap,” right-left. On the stranger’s forehead Sashka saw a long abrasion, badly overgrown, exiting under the hair. “Didn’t fit into the elevator. Moscow is a town of dwarfs,” tracking his look, lanky explained talkatively. “And I'm powerless to help on the subject of the minibus. I’m searching for it myself! ” Sashka continued to roam along the area. No one knew about the route D minibus. Sashka reached the last asphalt island and was prepared to return to the subway, when he suddenly saw a sheet with the bold letter “D” on the post. After surveying the queue, Sashka was convinced that they would completely fit into one vehicle. Turning, his knapsack hit the fellow standing in front of him. That one looked around, gave Sashka the once-over, and not so much spat but hissed at the asphalt. Sashka thought that they call such a fellow “a lad” or “a young lad.” Not tall, thickset, in a turtleneck. He was moving unhurriedly, ingratiatingly, like a cat. “Makar!” He put out a hand, solid as a stump, to Sashka. Just in case Sashka pressed it strongly, expecting his hand would be in a vice now, and was mistaken, because “the young lad” did not even bother to close his fingers. It was nonsense. On one hand, for some reason they wanted to get acquainted with you. On the other hand, they treated your hand like a dead fish. The voice of “the young lad” was appropriate. Cracked. With a little twang. “How are you? Not bad?” he asked without the least embarrassment. Makar talked slowly. From word to word it was possible to stretch a rope and dry towels. When people talk this way, it is hard on the brain. A desire emerged in Sashka to describe to Makar his entire life from the moment of birth, in order to see at what
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

4

place he would fall asleep. But he restrained himself and answered briefly that he had never felt better. “Eh, real never?” Makar clearly attempted to back Sashka into a corner, posing questions, which could not be answered properly. And Sashka did not answer at all. He was no longer looking at Makar but at a girl who grabbed her purse every time someone’s cell phone rang. To her, a melody did not play any special role. Makar was not pleased that someone could be distracted from contact with him. He took Sashka’s button and began to twist it off. “Local?” he asked sullenly. Sashka shook off his hand. Such impudence surprised Makar. “You know anyone here?” “Aunt Claude from the flower kiosk!” Sashka unmistakably sensed that Makar would not fight. Such types like to work on empty chatter, looking for the collocutor’s weakness. They prefer to take an automatic casing from their pocket and twirl it in their fingers. Or to open and close a switchblade. Or to work such a thing into their speech that it would be clear to all with whom they are dealing. “Eh, bold?” Makar finally caught on. “You guessed it.” “Ah-h! Well, got it! Come on: take care, brother!” Makar again for some reason put his hand out to Sashka, who, remembering the last time, simply touched it with two fingers and turned away. Sashka understood that the “take care!” was not a threat but simply a last attempt to spoil his mood. A white minibus appeared out of nowhere. In the lower left corner of the glass on the driver’s side was a sheet of paper with the same letter “D” as on the post. Sashka was experienced in riding minibuses and did not sit down right behind the driver. Too much trouble: someone is always getting out, changing seats. He wanted to hide in the corner and look out the window, watching how Moscow steamed by the sun slowly wound around the wheels of the minibus. After flopping down onto the second single seat, Sashka placed his knapsack on his knees. A trembling reverberated in his shoulder: the door was slammed shut. The minibus started to signal a turn. It squeezed into the flow of cars. No one noticed how the smiling girl with freckles in the last row of seats as if by chance pulled up her sleeve and, after touching the beaming centaur, said in a whisper, “Full load!” Without waiting for an answer, she put the sleeve back in place and leaned back onto the seat. Looking from the tall minibus at the compact cars passing them, Sashka observed closely those sitting inside and thought with amazement: so many people and all different. Not a single person is repeated, everyone is distinguished by something. Each has his own look, his own unique turn of tiny events, and all this inimitably stamped in the thoughts, the fates, the feelings. For several seconds Sashka’s head began to spin. “Again!” he thought. Memory diligently unwound the tangle.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

5

Yellow tank top, green trunks, black helmet, red nose, blue gloves. Sashka mockingly watched as his opponent rushed to the ring, using the thumb of the glove to drive the mouth guard hurriedly into his mouth. “Dudnik, Bychkov! Two for two!3 Lively! Dudnik, special invitation?” The coach’s name was Paul Paulych. He consisted of experience, paunch, and a whistle. Roughly in this order. Although there were days when the whistle advanced into first place and experience and the spare tire trailed behind. Sashka (the very same Dudnik) ducked under the ropes and climbed into the ring. He did this very lazily. He showed that it offended him that they sicked a newbie on him, an oldbie, third year there. Bychkov was already shifting his feet in the ring. One felt that he was nervous. Certainly. First battle. Bychkov had attended the section for all of four months, skipped rope and diligently worked out in front of the mirror double jabs, bobs, delivery of a right punch, and other basics. On the whole, a typical piece of meat, though powerful, certainly. “Ready? Go!” After tapping gloves with Bychkov, Sashka began to dance around lazily. Open, only the right glove was raised somewhere at the level of the chest. Bychkov, on the contrary, was keeping down. He kept his gloves by his nose, and the chin almost squeezed into his chest. He kept down, and then – wham-wham – a double hit. He learned the ropes hitting the bag. But one can be a champ with the bag all the time: it does not hit back. “Bychkov, don’t lean forward! More active! The feet! Show this clown! Bolder!” Paul Paulych began to yell. Sashka resented clown and, being offended, began to wriggle even more. He was completely open and only took some jabs with the glove, and just either broke off at a distance or let a hit pass over the ear. He had decided to himself that the entire fight would go this way. Clown, so clown! Bychkov was huffing and puffing and, having grown bolder, worked like a hammerer. On the rare occasion when he pressed too hard, Sashka stabbed with his left. At the end of the first two-minute Bychkov was entirely soaked. The grinning mouth guard was making a hoarse sound. He pushed it back with a glove. Sashka was even sympathetic. When you are gasping for air, the mouth guard seems like terrible trash. Like something so bloody-rubbery and sweettasting. “Ten more seconds! More active!” Paul Paulych bellowed. Sashka, long waiting for this moment, lowered his right hand and now stretched out only with the body, occasionally moving the shoulder up. Simutaneously he was counting the remaining seconds and thinking about any outside things. The Russian dictation tomorrow… Must get something for Father for his birthday, but he has not decided on the price… Seven… Eight… Nine… Sashka counted ten, then eleven, then twelve, and, surprised that the fight had not been stopped, looked over at Paul Paulych. That one was talking with someone who had put his head through into the hall. Realizing that the fight was over, Sashka completely forgot about Bychkov and remembered only when the
3

Two rounds, two minutes each. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

6

first of two hits cut into his cheekbone. Sashka was thrown back. He, protecting himself, jerked up his hands, but managed only to scratch the bottom of Bychkov’s right glove just enough to direct it to his own chin. The words “go, lights out!” became a reality not only for girls with the name Sveta.4 After some time the smell of ammonium chloride broke through to Sashka in the dark room. You do not want to, but you come to. Simply out of disgust. “What a clown! Wriggled, eh? Leave now! Rest for two weeks!” Coach said without sympathy. Sashka looked at him and smiled. Thoughts in him were very few and everything was kind of strange. And people seemed to him surprised: this was probably because he had “slowed down” a little. Somewhere on the horizon loomed Bychkov – confused, feeling sorry for him, and simultaneously being proud of himself. He still did not know that in the next training session he would be paired with one of the stricter guys so that it would be made distinctly clear to him that you do not hit someone who had turned away or knock out the dazed.5 Paul Paulych spat out the whistle, with which he had called up to himself two older fellows in order to send them into the deserted ring. Out on the street Sashka sat on a tire for a long time, examining the thick poplar trunks. They were sawn off, waste oil was poured under them, but all the time shoots were sprouting and sprouting. Along the edge of the poplar, the bark of which was stripped off for the most part such that it turned out white almost like human skin, flowed a stream of ants. Occasionally first one, then another turned slightly to the side and tried to crawl into a deep crack in the poplar trunk. It moved its whiskers and stepped back. Sashka attempted to glance into the crack but saw only a head with two large eyes and moving whiskers. He drummed on the trunk with his nails and a large golden bee suddenly crept out of the crack. It fearlessly passed through the stream of ants and, after flying so closely that its wings touched his cheek, disappeared. Sashka plodded to the road. His head was clear and it only slightly resembled a rumbling bucket. Although, of course, with any attempt even to look around, Sashka would begin to sway. His head was spinning no longer. Sashka as usual pulled back the upper pocket of the camouflage jacket and, considering whom to give the money to, glanced all around. “I’ll be darned! Everybody here is about fifteen! Well, maximum sixteen!” he thought. Not so often you meet your contemporaries in this quantity. Sashka even looked around in order to ascertain that those behind also fit in this range. Improbable, but they did! Sashka came up with the option that they had finished classes somewhere or, let us suppose, everyone here except him were classmates going somewhere together. But no. No one in the minibus knew anyone else. Otherwise, they would not drop curious glances at each other. There would also not be careful, waiting tension.
4
5

A play on words in Russian: the Russian word for light is svet while Sveta is a girl’s name. In boxing training, there is no necessity for a knockout if the opponent is dazed. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

7

Immediately behind Sashka sat a girl, the same one that grabbed her cell phone when someone else’s rang. Small, frail, with a thin neck, which could be encompassed with two fingers. How the head could be held up on such a flower stalk was incomprehensible but it was solidly supported. The face was rather sharp, clever, agitated. Thick eyebrows, lips nibbled at. The hair was not simply cut short but ultra short – to one joint of the little finger. Bulging, obstinate forehead. She wanted to be first in everything for sure. Wrote letters to politicians, directors, and singers. Ready to sweat her guts out like an electric broom for twenty-five hours a day. In the next row by the window was a skinny fellow in a blue suit and tie, a cream shirt. Brushed, well-pressed. Amazing, all these trappings looked organic on him. One had the feeling that he was always in a suit and not just once a year on occasion. It was stuffy here in the minibus but he was like an idol. Not a drop of sweat on his face, the collar was completely done up, and even the tie was not loosened. He was sitting and moving alarmingly away from his neighbour who was dropping powder from donuts onto her knees and at the same time onto his as well. The neighbour was his complete opposite. Large, plump but not fat, with a chest like a sofa. From her face fluttered absolute, unaffected calm. Whether “the suit” moved away from her or not bothered her little. Most likely, the girl did not even turn her head in order to find out if someone was sitting beside her. She was in a contemplative half-sleep all the time. She was dressed in a spacious handknitted top. Any crumbs would fall through such a top and cat fur would not be visible on it. Her hair was long like a mermaid’s and carelessly braided. And she did not have such hair because she let it grow specially, but simply did not prevent the hair from doing what it thought fit. If you want to get into the life of such a girl, do not attempt to flicker before her eyes. This is too tiresome for her. Simply come and settle down beside her. Possibly, in a year or two she will discover that some stranger is sitting near her in the kitchen, and finally it will come home to her where her pancakes have been disappearing to. To the right of “sleeping beauty” was a young fellow in a bright T-shirt rhythmically twitching his head. Small, hook-nosed, continuously moving his feet restlessly even while sitting. Teeth uneven, crowding each other. Over the left eye was a black plastic patch tied with two fabric strips. Sashka was pondering for some time whether he actually did not have an eye or this was the final stroke of a romantic portrait. Sashka was still at a loss why on earth the young fellow was twitching when he noticed the small headphone. Suddenly the young fellow in the tee turned to his neighbour and loudly (immediately evident that music was roaring in his ears) uttered, “A bet on your phone number, your name’s Lena!” The calm girl looked thoughtfully at him. It seemed to her one-eyed neighbour that there would not be an answer. He managed to take off and put on the headset four times when he finally heard, “Should be: a bet on your phone number, your name ISN’T Lena!” One-eyed was happy. There was contact! “A bet on your phone number, your name isn’t Lena!” he obediently repeated.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

8

“You lose. I’m Lena!” the girl sympathized and continued indifferently to sprinkle powder from donuts onto the knees of the neighbour on her left. Sashka almost slipped down under the seat. He saw that one-eyed had made a guess for the first time in his life and was confused now, not knowing how to move on further. “Serious, Lena? Or are you pulling my leg?” “Leave me alone, eh?” the girl dully requested. “How ’bout showing some document?” “Fat chance!” “Here I can show mine! I don’t mind!” one-eyed proposed and with the motion of a conjurer extracted two passes and a calling card. “Don’t look here! I turned out like a dork here!” he imparted and showed precisely this photo with pleasure. Sashka noticed that on the photo one-eyed was presented with two eyes. And even saw the name: Cyril. Across the seat from Sashka a girl in a black tank top breathed on the glass and drew gallows. On her neck were two army dog tags tied together, in standard military style. On her face were delicate pink pimples. “Interesting, does she know that you need a second dog tag for hanging on the left big toe of the dead body?” Sashka gauged. Sensing that she was being looked at, the girl with the dog tags stopped sketching and turned around interrogatively. Sashka hurried to put a wooden expression on his face. Staring, he disturbed not only the girl with the dog tags but also the bigforehead person with the flower-stalk neck. She jerked up her face with annoyance, at the same time covering the cell phone screen with her palm. Sashka perceived that he was to her a kind of additional seat of the minibus. “For one!” Sashka heard and did not understand how he found himself with money in his hands. She did not ask, even did not demand, but would give a target designation. Since you are staring and not busy with anything, do something useful. “Also for one!” The girl with the death dog tags woke up. “Interesting, why to me? Could give to Makar. Or only to him at night in the park and together with a purse?” Sashka was being mentally malicious. The precisionist in the suit also charged Sashka to pay for the fare and immediately demanded change. His bill was so smooth, as if he kept it in a dictionary all night. The girl with the donuts could not be bothered and, not even making an attempt to count, poured out a handful of change into Sashka’s hand. While Sashka was sorting out the money, someone gave him a friendly nudge in the shoulder. The fellow sitting diagonally grinned at him like an old friend. This turned out to be that same fellow with the abrasion. “Hello!” said Sashka. “Hello to you too! I said that I would go search! You nodded and bolted!” the fellow said reproachfully and added, “Danny!” Leaning towards Sashka, Danny pushed him with a sharp knee and simultaneously scratched his cheekbone with the forehead. Not a person but a walking injury for the surrounding people. “Noticed?” he whispered. “That everyone is of the same age?” guessed Sashka.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

9

“Well, that’s not too bad!” Danny dismissed it. “More: we don’t stop at traffic lights. One. No one gets on or off along the way. Two. Several times people raised a hand but we didn’t even stop, although lots of free seats.” “Strange,” agreed Sashka. “Usually they take everybody.” “Hey, you two! Stop whispering! Can’t move?” the bossy girl impatiently tugged at Sashka’s sleeve. Her voice sounded fearless. It was felt that she not only spoke the plain truth but also brandished it like a shaft. Sashka discovered in his own hand a bundle of money and, remembering that it was time to get rid of it, passed it forward. “Hey! Pass it on!” he hailed and shook the shoulder of the person sitting directly in front of him. The person turned around. Out of surprise, Sashka jerked his hand back. He thought it was a guy there but “hey!” turned out to be a girl. The beauty of the girl was so obvious that even a catty sharp-tongued old hag would not call it into question. True, she would feel obligated to add that there are signs of dystrophy from the long legs and there cannot be a brain in such a pretty head. However, there is no getting away from envy: you cannot climb up to the fence at least to spit on one who sits on it. Noticing what impression she had made on Sashka, the corner of the girl’s mouth twitched and this spoiled seventy percent of the impression. Roosters are not the only smug ones. Simply one can more readily forgive hens. “May I ask an improper question? What camouflage is this? English? Bundeswehr?” 6 she asked. Sashka answered that for the time being the camouflage was Russian. Three more improper questions were posed to him in the next forty seconds: “Why the hanky on the neck?” (Cool.) “Why a smell of burning from him?” (A fire.) “What does Sashka want to express with his military pants?” (Simply comfortable.) It turned out Sashka was not the only one who saw the beauty. The young fellow with the patch on his eye also gave her the once-over. “A bet on your phone number, your name’s… eh-eh… Natasha!” he plunged in, not wasting time on display of fantasy. His calm neighbour raised her eyebrows and with defiance shook the crumbs off her skirt onto his knees. “Nevertheless, well done!” Sashka mentally approved. “He has no fear of a snub. He flies through life as a woodpecker. Knocks, doesn’t open, flies further.” Sashka himself was unable to be this way. For Sashka the world was too detailed, and the people too. He could not talk in phrases prepared ahead of time. He vaguely caught that for each person there exists special words, which reach him like a key and unlock his soul. But he did not know these words. Therefore, when he talked to a girl, he would carry on with the usual stock nonsense. What music she likes, what sites she visits, and so on. The beauty looked dully at Cyril. Likely he scored even less points than Sashka. Still, Sashka was passable. Light-brown hair, grey eyes, an open face. “So what’s your name?” Cyril repeated. “Don’t remember,” the beauty answered with defiance.
6

Bundeswehr is the Federal Defence Force of Germany. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

10

“What? Really they didn’t write it down in the passport?” Cyril was amazed. “Cool!” The girl gave in. “Oh, fine. I’m Lara! Anything else?” “Yea, smile!” Lara smiled, obediently and tiredly. “Got a bite!” Sashka praised. Vlad Ganich – the name of the precisionist in the suit – suddenly got up with a pressed knee on the seat and glanced back with suspicion at the last row. “Ah-h! Well then, yes!” he mysteriously drawled and sat down. Sashka also half-rose in order to figure out what had attracted Ganich’s attention. He looked behind the high back hiding this spot from him earlier and lost his way in simple feelings and words, like a baby among table legs. The beauty Lara was instantly forgotten and simply faded into the background. In the last row by the window sat a girl. Her face was cheerful like a person waiting for a gift of life, although also catching some bumps. Many small freckles added character to the skin. There were even freckles on the earlobes. The short, slightly pulled-up nose was similar to a sparrow’s beak. It seemed that the nose was not quite right at first – absurd, as if it had strayed from another’s face and got stuck. Only later you feel that there cannot be another nose here. After sculpting this girl from clay, life looked over its work, remained contented, as a last stroke merrily flicked the nose with its forefinger, and whispered, “Well, why are you standing? Go! Breathe! Live!” “What are you?” Sashka foolishly asked, trying to comprehend how he could have missed her. Then he understood: the high back had been blocking the girl. “Me? A person!” “Pardon?” “A person by the name of Rina!” a mocking answer followed. “And what are you doing here?” Rina slammed shut her book. She was reading a textbook on horse breeding. Sashka made out something on her wrist like a massive leather shield going into her sleeve. “Riding the bus!” she said capaciously. Someone pulled out the money from Sashka’s fingers. “Give it here!” Makar again. Of course, “brotello” had long since changed seat and had settled himself next to Lara. Interesting, did he find out if the girl is local? Did he advise her to take care? Makar leaped up with a knee on the seat and, jumping together with the rushing minibus, called out to the driver, “Hey, man! Hello! Are we taking the money?” No answer. The driver did not even attempt to stretch out a hand. They saw only a blue sport jacket with the collar raised high and a baseball cap. “Hello, garage! Deaf?” Makar began to yell quite insolently. He obviously considered that to humble someone in the girl’s eyes was an additional way to earn points. “Now the driver will stop, and he’ll fly out like a cork, given a send-off with tender strokes of the crowbar!” Sashka gauged and was mistaken. No one even turned to Makar. For such as he, this was a challenge. Yet, the great person
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

11

fidgeted on the seat with his precious knee, dog-eared the money in his sweaty palm, and was ignored. “I’m left with the money! Did you all see, people? We ride for free!” Makar announced for everyone to hear. “He’s simply deaf! Someone, shake him!” the bossy girl with the flower-stalk neck demanded. She had just been introduced to the fan of gallows and army dog tags, and Sashka heard how she presented herself, “Freda.” Interesting, is that her real name? It does happen that a person disagrees with his own name and runs around his whole life as someone obscure. Sashka put down his knapsack, jumped over to the empty seat next to Makar, and tried to touch the driver’s shoulder. Specifically, he tried, because the minibus made a sharp turn, passing a bus. Sashka, not holding his ground, tipped back, and in an incredible way pulled the driver off with himself. He yelled, expecting a crash; the minibus continued to rush along. A second later he realized that he only had the blue sport jacket in his hands. Having decided that he had torn it off the driver’s shoulders, he leaped up and saw that there was no one at the wheel. Only a baseball cap was dangling in the air. Now, when Sashka had the jacket, it could not be kept secret that there was nothing under it. Chapter 2 Coming from Nowhere to Going Nowhere In any good the keyword is “regularity.” Irregular good is evil, which decides to amuse itself. A warlock will discuss global laws on the eradication of hunger on a universal scale, but a hdiver will simply silently hand someone an apple or a pie and move on. The stronger one loves, the more one forbids. If you for sure want to destroy the one you love, allow him everything. Two ways lead to wisdom: grief or voluntary selfrestraint, i.e., in general the same grief, only conscious. If you do not choose the second path, the first one chooses you. Better to take less but carry it all the way than to take a lot and drop some halfway. The power of a person is manifested in how well he will be able to restrain himself. Yara’s summary. From Kavaleria’s introductory lecture

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

12

Freda melancholically contemplated the empty driver seat. “But where??? What did you do with the driver?” she asked in the voice of a person who did not get the joke. Sashka sensed that she thought him guilty. “Here! Catch!” He threw her the jacket by the sleeve. Freda in horror pushed it away immediately with both hands. The jacket fell. Now, when it was exposed, it did not pretend to be alive anymore. “No! You did something to him!!! Aagh!” Freda closed her eyes and gave a short shriek, giving a signal to universal panic. Lara began to squeal in the same second, demonstrating excellent vocal training. Makar in a businesslike manner advised her to cut it out. At the same time he leaned heavily with his stomach on the back of the seat, touching the mirror with his forehead. Incredulously, as if suspecting an invisible man, he ran his hand all over. “Wow, damn! Really no driver! Anyone knows how to drive?” Showing that it was managing quite well by itself, the minibus dashingly dived between two trailers and went onto the outer lane. The clipped truck groaned like an offended bull. “Me!” Sashka, recently in his grandpa’s Niva 7 demolishing the neighbouring fence at the cottage, said. “Well, so get busy!” Makar encouraged him. Sashka wanted to climb over, but Freda caught hold of him, “Only try to touch it! I understand! We’re moving by computer control!” Danny looked doubtfully at the pressed-down seat, the jingling door. He saw a kefir carton and a crumpled magazine. “By satellite!” he said skeptically, observing how the minibus honked angrily at a dog that had jumped out onto the road and made a dashing turn, dousing it with dirty water from a puddle. “Wow! The satellite surmised biological activity and set a course correction, taking into account the direction for splashing the liquid!” Sashka tried to free himself, but doing this without being rude was impossible. Freda was hanging onto him like a tick. Not letting go for dear life for sure. At the same time, Sashka would not say that she panicked. She was simply such a person. Not a single action could be executed in her presence without her approval. “What if it’s a show? Put us on some kind of stage and unnoticeably shoot our reaction? And broadcast live? Huh?” Freda put forward a different option. After hearing that they could be filming her, Lara instantly settled down and fixed her hair. “Can I ask an improper question? Who is the studio decoy here?” “Me! Really not obvious?” Cyril stated but backtracked on discovering how people were instantly staring at him. “Really! No need to kill me! I’ve already gone to seed! What show, people? Do you see at least one camera?” “What if it’s hidden?” the precisionist in the suit proposed in a businesslike manner.
7

The original Lada Niva was the first Russian/Soviet built off-road vehicle. The present Chevrolet Niva is a mini SUV. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

13

Cyril twirled a finger by his temple. “In this heap of junk? Even if they shove some web cam here, it’ll show like the eyes of a dead cockroach! Won’t work for TV!” he said with knowledge of the matter. Lara tapped her knee with the phone. “I understand nothing! Should be all sticks here!” she complained. Freda looked at her with an incinerating look. “Sticks are in the forest,” she said and, after letting go of Sashka, sat down. The minibus finally broke away beyond the limits of the Ring Road and dashed between colourful new constructions. The region here was spacious, new, and the roads wide, free. The minibus swiftly made a turn. As Sashka was not being careful, he butted the glass with his forehead. “We’ll not get out of here! We’re doomed!” the girl with the death dog tags uttered quietly. “Don’t be a killjoy!” Freda pounced on her. “Dog tags” shrugged her shoulders and with a long nail traced a final crossbeam on the gallows. “I’m not! I know!” Even Rina was starting to be spooked. She was sorry that she had given Kuzepych the promise to keep quiet. But even if she had not, what would she say? “We’re going to HDive!” “Where, where?” “HDive! It’s this guildhall of divers, where they fly on horses through a dead world to get markers from Duoka!” The minibus turned into a long straight road and it stopped rocking. Passing ahead of Sashka, Danny quickly half-rose. “Miss! May I ask you as an enormous favour to remove your skull?” he turned to Lara. “Where?” She was at a loss and immediately received the comprehensive answer, “Not strictly perpendicular to the back, but in such a way that the level of the crown would turn out to be below the level of the upper section of the seat!” “Huh?” “Off with the head!!!” Danny simplified to the extreme and unexpectedly deftly, making use of his beanpole frame, immediately tumbled over two seats on his stomach. The endless legs flickered. Escaping from them, Lara with a squeak bent down. It finally dawned on her why the level of the crown had to be lower than the back of the seat. The soles knocked on the back of the seat and Danny already emerged on the other side. He slid into the driver seat, grabbed the wheel, and slammed on the brake. Sashka watched as the pedal pressed down. “Stop, my beautiful! Whooa!” Danny ordered. The minibus began to brake at the horse word, but it kicked up and continued to fly forward. Danny hung onto the wheel and attempted to switch over to the outermost lane. The wheel obeyed but this again in no way affected the behaviour of the minibus. “Try braking with the clutch!” Sashka advised. Danny looked mildly around at him as if asking: do you think I do not know? He pressed on the clutch and, switching over serially, began lowering gears. When he reached the first, the minibus zipped out onto the oncoming lane and, after fearlessly cutting the flow, turned into a perpendicular street.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

14

“This is useless, gentlemen! I quit!” Danny announced melodramatically and climbed back into the cabin. He sat down there like an idol and arranged his hands with palms up on his knees. Something that in no way could be grasped stirred in his memory. Something important, elusive. Cigarette butts were floating in a glass jar a third full of water. Through the paint-spattered glass – cracked, with a whistling draft living in the crack – the Moscow courtyard well-defined by paint looked stingy to Danny. A golden bee was sitting in a sunny spot and cleaning its wings with its legs. Danny blew on it. The bee took off and, angrily hitting against the glass, bounced like a ball to the edge of the frame. “I said: we’ll all die!” the girl in the black tank top said with deep satisfaction. Frost dripped from her voice. Cyril touched the dog tags with a finger. “Listen, sunshine!” “I hate sunshine!” Dog tags” cut him off. “And don’t you be mad! Canna ask somethin’?” “NO!” “Were you ever smothered by a pillow earlier? Eh, sunshine?” The girl pushed his hand away. “What are you, stupid? I’m not sunshine! I’m Alice, idiot!” It was not possible to offend Cyril. “Idiot!” he said, turning to himself. “Get acquainted! This is Alice, who has never been smothered by a pillow!” “Ass!” “And who actively learns the names of animals!” Cyril looked around triumphantly. Alice turned away, lapsing into silence. Cyril clearly considered himself the victor; however, Sashka doubted this. A guy must not fight with a girl on the same level and with her weapon: the tongue. They deliberately exist in different dimensions. Well, what does an eagle brag to a dolphin? That it knows how to fly? But a dolphin knows how to swim. Cyril behaved like the bearded philosophy professor, who, after putting on a skirt, set off for the earthen bench and said, rubbing his hands, “Well, grannies, hold on! Now I can argue with all of you!!!” “I’ll try to jump out! Since the phones don’t connect here, perhaps they will outside!” Sashka shouted and tugged at the door. Asphalt with small puddles gleamed. Sashka stepped back. He did not imagine that they would be going so fast. Freda, with the idea of recording everything, directed the round eye of the cell phone at Sashka. “Don’t!” Rina shouted, unable to control herself. “Why not? Must! Jump! What are you waiting for?” Freda demanded impatiently. Sashka estimated the distance to the lawn. Grass is tempting, of course, but you could miss the mark and splatter all over the tall barrier. Asphalt would be better. He put his head out. The wind cut his cheek. It hit his eyes, blinded him for an instant. “When it’s thirty kilometres, shout!” he ordered Danny.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

15

Danny rolled over on his stomach to the driver seat and stared at the speedometer. “Ninety! Damn! Why no traffic jams? Aha! Traffic light soon! Maybe it’ll brake slightly at least… Yes! Going down! Seventy! Sixty!” “Jump!” Makar pushed Sashka slightly from behind. “Tough guy first!” Sashka turned and grabbed his turtleneck. He was so fed up with Makar that he was actually capable of throwing him off the minibus. “Let go of me!” Makar ordered quietly. “But why?” Makar slapped his own pocket with a threat. “Bluff!” thought Sashka. “He puts his hand in the pocket and will fly from the minibus together with me!” “Forty!” shouted Danny. “Thirty-five!” Sashka pushed Makar away and returned to the door. The speed no longer seemed so great. He will run several metres and then roll. The main thing is that no driver behind decides to pass them on the right. “Come on!” Danny yelled. Sashka rushed forcefully into the opening and… here something incomprehensible happened. An elastic force caught him and threw him back like a kitten. Sashka realized that he was sitting on the floor of the minibus, clutching Makar’s leg like a lifesaver. “Full protection, pity! Even if you yank the wheels off, you’ll end up on the bottom!” Rina recalled Kuzepych’s words. Freda tore herself away from the cell phone screen. “Shot it!” she shouted excitedly. “You were separated from the minibus for about half a metre and then it pulled you back! Did you feel anything?” “The joy of flight!” Sashka answered in annoyance. The minibus again picked up speed. “Let’s lean out and yell! Someone will hear for sure! Only better from the other side! More cars there!” Cyril in the heat of the moment wanted to hit the glass with his fist, but Makar held him back. “No, why? Must take care of the hands!” Makar said peacefully. Leaning over, he pulled out a fire extinguisher from under the seat and competently knocked with one end on the glass four times. The glass was covered with a tangle of cracks, but it held. Makar, not embarrassed, continued to peck persistently. On the tenth blow, the glass collapsed, after hanging onto the rubber retaining it. “And now we yell! All together! With feeling!” Makar ordered the girls. He himself did not begin to yell. He did not want to compete. The girls shouted, waving their arms. Lara, whom Sashka was holding by her legs, finally leaned out of the window up to her waist and found herself by the open window on the side of a car unhurriedly passing them. Sashka was convinced that the driver did not see such girls often, but he did not even turn his head. “Drove past like a robot! Could at least move a little!” Lara said with annoyance, when Sashka and Cyril pulled her back into the minibus. “You’re too noisy for him. He likes quiet dames with slippers in their teeth!” Cyril butted in.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

16

“Okay, gophers! Don’t want to notice in a friendly way, notice in a bad way!” Makar warned with a threat. Before anyone had time to understand what this “bad way” was, Makar had already rested a foot against the back of the seat and kicked it off. Sashka had never seen anyone stripped down a minibus with this composure. Makar leaned out the window. The seat back hit the windshield of the Toyota moving in the adjacent lane and flew away to the curb. A crack appeared on the glass. The driver twisted the wheel. Sashka, very near, saw a puzzled fat face and trembling cheeks. Sashka could not control himself. He leaned out, yelled, and waved the hanky torn from his neck. He was convinced that it would be impossible not to notice him. He could even describe the ballpoint pen sticking out of the stout person’s pocket. Someone pulled his sleeve. Pushed him down into a seat. Danny. “Calm down! He doesn’t see us! And you calm down! Put the extinguisher back!” Danny took the fire extinguisher from Makar, who intended on finally finishing the Toyota with it. “He even twitched!” Sashka said dejectedly. “He twitched because he heard a bang!” explained Danny. “We don’t exist for him.” “And those people who tried to stop the minibus at the stops? They were doing what, waving their hands at a void?” Sashka had his doubts. “I suspect that they see the minibus itself. But us and what we throw, no!” Danny followed with his eyes the fire extinguisher, which the agitated hands of Makar nevertheless flung out of the minibus. “Sit down and place your paws on your knees!” he peacefully advised Makar. “I understand why it’s route D minibus! D for devious!” Alice said suddenly. Danny snorted with suspicion. It is rare to meet mystics taller than two metres. Otherworldly things usually do not stray into a head placed so high. This is a height of practical things. “Well, ‘devious’, so ‘devious’! Gentlemen! Let’s stop running and howling, and try to figure this out! Has anyone been on the route D minibus before?” Silence. “Then something must exist that ties all of us together. If we understand this, then let’s also understand why we’re gathered here. Let’s determine what we have in common.” “Besides me, everyone here is a freak,” Alice muttered under her breath. “Age,” Freda voted. “Who here is older than sixteen, raise your hand.” Cyril immediately jerked up his hand. “You’re all small fry!!! I’m seventeen!” he stated. “Cyril! Well-a show that pass again!” Lena asked softly. “Certainly!” Cyril’s hand eagerly dived into one pocket, then another, and a third. The search was carried out with exceptional determination, but the pass did not appear. Lena waited mockingly. Danny lost patience first. “Fine, age!” he nodded. “But age is too obvious. There are 300 thousands like us in Moscow.”

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

17

“Why so quick about Moscow? What if I’m not from Moscow? Who’s also not from Moscow?” Freda was offended. There turned out to be many “nonMuscovites.” Lena was even from Kiev. “Fine. It means not only Moscow,” yielded Danny. “For that matter I’m from Novosibirsk. A year ago we dragged ourselves here and now we regularly feel sorry… Let’s think a bit more! Appearance, height, sports training, psych profile, gender sign, all different for us. Useless to search for similarities here.” “Gender what?” Makar frowned. Sashka noticed that the term “psych profile” also seemed suspicious to him, but he did not risk asking about it. “You’re a dude or a dame,” Rina explained from the last row. Makar squinted at her, checking if she was serious, and made an understanding face. “Let’s analyze further. Any geniuses among us?” Danny continued to find out. Cyril again put up his hand. “Cyril, precious! Lower your paw and continue to search for the pass!” Lena asked with southern softness in her voice. “Any others besides Cyril,?” Besides Cyril and the modestly blushing Danny, there turned out to be no other candidates. Danny played with the crease on his forehead. “Of course, it would be tempting to acknowledge that if we’re not geniuses, then at least talented in our own way,” he with melancholy raised his eyes and immediately lowered them, “nevertheless I fear that this is the deciding factor here.” “But wha did you look at me? You, beanpole!” Makar exploded. “I didn’t look at you!” “Did too! You eyeballed me and started to talk all sorts of nonsense! Are you hinting that I’m stupid?” Sashka felt that the showdown could stretch on for a long time. Bad enough that they were travelling from Moscow at one-and-a-half kilometres a minute. “He didn’t look at you. He looked at me!” he said and caught Danny’s grateful glance. “I looked at him,” confirmed Danny. Forced to be satisfied with the answer, Makar made a disapproving sound into the broken window. “In sync? This long leader cramps and you bring him a stool? OK! Take care of yourself, guys!” Freda was tired of filming. She lowered her hand with the phone. “Let’s take it from another side!” she stated. “How did we turn up in the route D minibus at all? Each specifically? Here, you?” she poked Lara. It turned out Lara was going to try out as a model in a summer collection ad. “I was given a piece of paper in the subway! For screen tests!” “Rush along on a piece of paper handed out at the subway… In the city, alone! Heavens!” Lena delivered tunefully. “Do you want to say something?” Lara raised her eyebrows. “I said, ‘Heavens!’” The suited precisionist Vlad Ganich was on his way to collect a monitor and speakers from a guy who had phoned him last night. Vlad did not get who he was. Some friend of a friend.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

18

“I immediately sensed that you’re a fan of freebies!” stated Makar. Vlad with indignation straightened his tie. Cyril informed them that he found himself by chance in the route D minibus. He liked someone and, out of natural shyness, was too timid to approach the person on the street. However, when they asked him whom he liked precisely, Cyril began to beat around the bush. It was clear that he was choosing between a pie in the sky and a bird in the hand. “Well, everything is clear with this… Will lie to the last! And what are you doing here? Hey you, boy!” Freda fearlessly poked Makar. Makar choked. The last time a female inspector had called him “boy” was in matters of minors. By chance dropping his line of vision onto Makar’s wrist, Sashka saw three small round bluish scars on the outside of the palm. Clearly tracks of cigarette butts put out against the skin. “Who did this to you?” asked Sashka. Makar looked at his hand. He clenched and unclenched his fist. The bluish burns were filled with blood and became violet. “None of your business!” he said sharply and, after hiding his hand behind his back, moved to the window. “He did it himself,” Cyril whispered to Sashka. “Why himself?” “Side by side and regular. If it were someone else, he would fidget. Likely, he punished himself for something. Who knows!” Cyril said cautiously. Freda herself was going to find out about the new humanities-theatrical college, which she by chance had heard about on the radio. Moreover, she had heard it in such a way that she understood neither the name nor the precise address, but only to get on the route D minibus from the Planernaya subway station. And on the whole, it turned out Freda flew into Moscow only the day before yesterday, settled at her coach’s former wife’s, and after a day and a half, had time to go around to seven institutes and three universities. “On the whole, everything here is vague. Nothing in common,” Danny summed up. The minibus kept going for a long time. Calm Kievan Lena even managed to snooze, moreover, of the two nearby shoulders, on Vlad Ganich’s. It was unrealistic to sleep on Cyril’s shoulder, because every three seconds he leaped up to meet someone. Vlad did not shake off Lena’s head, but it was noticeable that he was suffering and perceived her as a contaminated object threatening his suit. Makar leaned out the window with distrust. “Just in case! Seems we’re driving up!” he reported. *** The minibus slowed down. They had turned from the highway long ago. Monotonous concrete fences occasionally with graffiti stretched out. Reaching the end of the last one, Route D unwillingly rolled onto a broken unpaved road. To the right was a field. To the left was a colourful show of Moscow groves of different sizes, often small birches and maples covered with caps turning yellow and almost supported by nothing. The minibus went along slowly, swaying on the
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

19

way. After about fifteen minutes, it stopped at some gates. The gates opened. They again set off, drove for about twenty metres, and finally stopped. Sashka pulled the door and carefully got out. He took a step, expecting the elastic force to catch him and throw him back into the minibus. The bus was standing on an asphalt area surrounded by lilac bushes. Before them was an ordinary two-storey building. Two structures and a gallery connecting them. Low stairs, wide porch, and black double doors. Next to them was a blue doorplate, on which crawled cockroaches of indistinguishable letters. “What’s written there? Can anyone see?” asked Sashka. “It says HDive,” someone beside him answered. Sashka turned. Standing next to him was the person by the name of Rina, squinting in the sun. “You can see the letters from here? What eyesight!” “Well no, I can’t. I read them earlier,” she admitted with a sigh. “How?” “Well, on the whole, I came from here. I was ordered to meet, accompany, and explain nothing. That kind of thing,” Rina shrugged her shoulders slightly, and Sashka understood that she did not particularly like this task. Sashka belatedly realized that she sat more quietly than everybody in the minibus and did not panic. “So it’s you who dragged us here? I’ll strangle you!” Makar began to yell and rushed at Rina. Sashka caught him in a chokehold and discovered at the same time that everyone had already got out of the minibus. “Stop!” he ordered and asked Rina, “What next? Where are we going now?” Rina looked first at the sun, and then at her phone, checking if the sun was slower than the clock on her phone. “Well, come on! They’re waiting for us!” she said and, having turned around, made her way to HDive. Exchanging glances, the rest followed her. “Only not me! I’m not going!” Freda said and, after passing everyone, went first. Alice stepped with pleasure on the heads of the yellow flowers shooting out between the flagstones. If somewhere there were no flowers, she specially made a zigzag in order to crush some flowers elsewhere. “If this decoy also counts, then ten of us,” she stated. “Well, so wha?” Makar was puzzled. “No wha!” Alice mimicked and tinkled the death dog tags with a challenge. END OF AUGUST – BEGINNING OF SEPTEMBER Chapter 3 Three Wishes

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

20

It is very difficult to love one who is near. It is simple to love one who is far. Let us assume I love the writer Chekhov but we live together in one place; how he laughs, gurgles with tea, or drops a wet spoon on a polished surface would irritate me. That is, until I learn to tolerate someone near, there is no point in saying that I love someone. From the diary of a non-returning hdiver The chubby middle-aged person waiting for Guy on board the Gomorrah was so cheerful and efficient that Guy, dressed in a stretched sweater and canvas pants, momentarily wanted to confine himself in a pinstriped suit and be shaved. “Oh, Guy!” he said, leaping up. “No, no! I know that you’re monstrously busy! Several minutes for me will be enough!” Guy, not looking, sat down. He knew that Nekalaev would manage to move a chair. Moreover, not only for him but also for the stout Till. Thirty paces from the elevator, five steps, and Till was already gasping for breath. “Your call surprised me,” said Guy. “And the foolish mysteriousness irritates me. Why did you decide that I’m sure to buy from you what you’re offering? And, by the way, what is it exactly?” The cheerful person started to smile soothingly and lifted his hands, showing that all the answers would be given in their time. Then he took out a hard rectangular business card and tapped the table with it. “I’m… hmm… a little of everything. Broker? Antique dealer? Bibliophile? Now and then the most interesting people die. Writers, artists, academicians. The heirs remain. Quite often not particularly competent.” “I find this hard to believe,” Guy remarked absent-mindedly. “They cannot but know what their ancestor killed his whole life for.” Chubby began to nod hurriedly. “Goes without saying! It’s well known to them that there’s quite a lot in grandpa’s and father’s library. But that’s all they know! Almost no one suspects that 95 percent of collected works in luxurious bindings have very little value, but some tiny unpretentious little book is priceless. The first limited edition Akhmatova 8 collection with her autograph, or a well-preserved bundle of Satyricon,9 or something similar. I politely buy dozens of beautiful books, paying three times their value for them, and out of courtesy I take the tiny booklet in an overall pile of all sorts of unnecessary things.” “In other words, your task is to find this five percent and get it for nothing, after leaving the rest to the fool of an heir?” Till, wheezing, spelt it out. The round face of his collocutor strayed somewhere between the sun and a pancake. “Each business has its special quirks. Can’t teach them. Can only learn them. In the spring, a decrepit old lady on Ostozhenka passed away, the widow of an
8

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966), pen name of Anna Andreevna Gorenko, one of the most acclaimed modernist poets of the Silver Age. 9 Satyricon was a Russian weekly satirical magazine (1908-14). ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

21

artist of battle scenes. Her niece couldn’t wait to get rid of the junk. She was simply happy when I bought from her two trunks of all sorts of old stuff.” “Soiled palettes? Drying tubes of paint?” Guy asked. The cheerful person started to laugh with exaggerated energy. He had a habit of overstating the worth of mediocre jokes like that of book collections. “Not quite. The artist drew historical paintings, and for that, reliable historical things were necessary. Weapons, cloth, goblets. The entire second trunk turned out to be crammed with ancient horse harness. Bridles, belts, stirrups, adornment.” “Do you want a bridle?” Guy asked Till. Till shook his head and started to crumble bread with his thick fingers. “I now rarely sit behind the wheel. Gotten old, clumsy,” he complained. These jokes did not fool the cheerful person. Once such people have heard you out up to this point, they will listen some more. Then they will pay, there is no getting away from it. “The lid of the trunk interested me most of all. It was suspiciously heavy. I tapped it and found a secret compartment, which even the owners themselves clearly didn’t know about. An hourglass in a copper case lay there.” After mentioning the hourglass, the antique dealer stopped talking and quickly looked at Guy. “A very interesting hourglass. That and something else belonged to some first-hdiver Mityai Zheltoglazyi,” he sweetly added. Guy stopped cleaning his nails with a corner of the business card and looked attentively for the first time at his collocutor. “What do you know about hdivers, Sergey Ilich?” he asked sharply. Pancake-face grinned and stroked the napkin lying in front of him as if stroking a dead rabbit. “A little. You see, the hourglass was wrapped with a scrap of skin. On the skin was text. Very brief, but I examined it… For example, I understood that hdivers would hardly pay me. But you here are a different story.” “What, me personally?” Guy doubted. Sergey Ilich lowered his eyes so shyly that one wanted to give him some money. “No, of course not. I spent three months in order to come to you. Several times the thought flickered in me that there exist neither hdivers nor warlocks. So many centuries have gone by. I despaired, and here’s a piece of luck! I discovered on the Net the description of a strange anomaly – an enormous column of water on the Moscow River. Someone shot it with his cell phone. Immense! Such could only be done by a hdiver marker, the description of which was on the reverse side of the skin. And you yourself know only who could drop it… hee-hee… So I came to Gomorrah. The rest is a technical matter.” “Not bad!” Guy showed approval. “I see you’ve done some good work. Can I have a look at the hourglass and the skin?” The antique dealer looked cautiously at Till. Till was calmly chewing a piece of dill, which was hanging from the right corner of his mouth as from a horse’s mouth. “They’re at my place. No, no, it goes without saying, not with me! First we agree on a price!” “What will the price be?” asked Guy.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

22

“High. Transactions of this grade happen once in a lifetime,” the antique dealer said firmly. “I’ll ask three things, quite normal.” “What are these three things?” “Money. Health. And I want to know always what threatens me!” Guy drew a circle with a wet finger on the polishing. “Why the last one? With money and health?” he asked. The cheerful person looked tritely downcast. “I don’t like to move blindly! You can see that my work is also tricky. I’m always meeting people I don’t know. All or nothing. That’s my motto.” “Great,” Guy approved. “Are you sure that I’m capable of supplying you all this?” “Sure, I could demand even more. Three wishes is quite modest, taking into account that the sand in the hourglass has almost trickled through.” Guy stopped examining the chin of his collocutor and looked him in the eyes for the first time. “Sand? Do you mean to say it has been flowing all this time? All these decades?” “Yes,” touching the napkin, Sergey Ilyich confirmed. “It’s a strange hourglass. The sand runs only in one direction. And very slowly. One grain of sand a day at dawn. Must admit, I tried to cheat. Turned the hourglass over. And then the grain of sand – I swear! – fell from the bottom to the top!” Sergey Ilyich looked sharply at Guy, checking what impression his words would make. “You’re observant. Difficult to notice one grain of sand a day. You probably have a lot of free time,” Guy acknowledged. “I used a web cam and examined slowly at high magnification.” Guy stretched, getting up. Overtaking the waiter, Nekalaev dashed to move aside the chair. The antique dealer also jumped. “Well, fine, my dear!” said Guy after a long pause. “We’ll fulfil your wishes if the hourglass actually belongs to… what did you call him?” “Mityai Zheltoglazyi,” smiling with understanding, the antique dealer prompted. “When will you be ready?” “I’m always ready,” said Guy, listening to something going on inside him. “At least health and the knowledge of the future I’m ready to give you now. As for the money… possibly we’ll have to make a couple of calls!” He looked at Till. Looking sombrely, Till promised that he would find the money even without Dolbushin. From his small personal reserve. “And we still haven’t settled our misunderstanding with Albert,” he acknowledged. “Soon?” “Yes, perhaps I’ll manage in an hour. You need so much,” Till said complacently. “Bring the hourglass!” Sergey Ilyich anxiously turned pink. He thought for several seconds, knitted his brows, and made a decision. “I’m quick! I had the feeling that everything would be decided today.” “So the thing is with you?” Guy was surprised. “No, no, not at all! A friend is waiting for me not far from here,” he acknowledged.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

23

Guy smiled. “Ingvar! The money!” Guy reminded Till, who got up reluctantly and began to get down tottering. He returned quickly. The berserkers accompanying him unloaded from the trunk an enormous TV box glued together with Scotch tape. Their recent guest emerged from the parking lot simultaneously with Till. Apparently, he had been watching from the bushes. His boots were wet. He was holding in his hands a briefcase stained with soil. “Saw your friend?” Guy asked with irony. “Let’s have a look!” The antique dealer nervously looked sideways at the box. “This is ridiculous! You’re a serious person. Of course you won’t cheat me!” he said, having convinced himself, and handed the briefcase to Guy. Guy wiped with his sleeve the soil from the lock. He took out a bulky, thick hourglass with a copper stand. The sand inside the hourglass was bluish. “No doubt. The work is truly his,” Guy acknowledged in an undertone. “Look, Ingvar! What do the numbers 300 and 1 mean?” Till took the hourglass from Guy, looked at it, and poked at the stand with a rigid finger. “I don’t know about the numbers. Doesn’t this clay idol remind you of anyone?” he asked, wheezing. Sergey Ilyich gave a cough, drawing attention to himself. Guy turned to him. “It seems you said something about some skin!” he reminded him. The antique dealer hurriedly shoved a hand into the briefcase and with readiness handed Guy a ripped leather rag covered with writing. The other half was missing. “This is all? I hope you don’t have the other half? And then it’ll surface in a month for an additional three wishes,” Guy asked severely. The antique dealer hastily shook his head. He held before himself the briefcase, clutching it with both hands. “Ah yes! The wishes!” Guy recalled and with disgust nudged the box with his foot to the antique dealer. Then he stretched out his hands and simultaneously touched the right and left temple of his guest. Sergey Ilyich took a sip of air. For a moment, it even seemed to him that Guy’s hands met inside his head. At the same time, the fingers of one hand were icy while those of the other were almost white hot. “Well, that’s it!” Guy said tiredly, taking away his hands. “Ingvar! As usual!” With great care Nekalaev and Till took the trader by the arms and led him onto the gangway for Gomorrah. A well-fed berserker solemnly carried the enormous box behind them. His wide face like a samovar panted with importance. Sergey Ilyich took a dozen steps and, coming to his senses, stopped. “Why there? Perhaps I came from there?” he asked suspiciously. Nekalaev let go of his arm and courteously moved aside, yielding his place to the sturdy fellow with the neck of a bull. The water babbled. Sergey Ilyich sat and laughed hysterically. Guy did not cheat. He actually obtained all that he wanted. The open box stood by his feet. Occasionally he took out a bundle, took off the seal, and tossed it up. Money flew away like a fan. They fell into the water and floated on it. The cough torturing him
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

24

since winter had disappeared somewhere. He felt in himself such health as he had never felt for twenty years. And, most importantly, with his new gift, the antique dealer knew what would happen to him. He knew so precisely and unmistakably that he even did not jump up to beat on the thick door tightly pressed into the partition. It was useless even to shout. No one would hear. He was in a ship’s hold lower than the Moscow River. Above it were two more empty decks. The pump outside hummed monotonically. The tight cabin deprived of windows in the hold of Gomorrah slowly filled up with water… In the same minute two decks above, foreheads touching, Till and Guy were examining the parchment cut slantwise: Its demise is clever Only true to the Mysterious verd On golden wings to it wi Given three hundred And that same time When day has Will break the jug an Will open hissing Traitor on In that the lie Truth Guy again picked up the hourglass. He began to look closely. Earlier it seemed to him that all the sand had trickled through. Now he made out bluish grains of sand sticking to the upper flask. How much? Two dozens? Less? It was not simple to count them. “Mityai Zheltoglazyi disappeared three centuries ago. He didn’t return from a dive. Before the dive, he wrote a little poem, made the hourglass, and drew Gorshenya on them. Purpose?” he asked. Till, starting to snuffle, tugged at his wild boar head on a short choker chain. “A real watchdog!” thought Guy. Chapter 4 At Volokolamskaya Station Between Shchukinskaya and Tushinskaya stations, passengers following the Krasnopresnenskii radius can see Volokolamskaya Station in the window of the subway car. This station was intended for the residents of a housing estate on the Tushino airfield site but was never
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

25

constructed. Exit to the surface and any external decorations are absent at the station, only several lamps illuminate the deserted platform and two rows of pillars. It is a station of standard design, with pillars, shallow placement.10 Subway reference site Only subconscious suicides, tunnel explorers, and hdivers risk riding between subway cars. A young person belonging at once to all three groups jumped at the last second between the last and next-to-last subway car of a train starting at Tushinskaya Station. He was twenty percent suicide, sixty percent tunnel explorer, and hundred percent hdiver. Although today he had replaced the hdiver jacket with a hoodie. The train caterpillar slowly pushed its way into the tunnel. It crawled lazily at first, but after getting excited, began to twitch its sides, desiring to scratch them against the thick wires sheathed in rubber. Each jerk could turn out to be the last for the person in the sweatshirt. The foothold was poor and there was even nothing really for the hands to hold onto properly. Soon he would have to touch his clms, and how to hang on then was incomprehensible. Light cut through the windows of the subway car. He saw how the yellow quadrangle, shaking, slid along the sheathing. All of a metre separated him from the people in the car, daydreaming, reading, listening to music, texting. Interesting, will someone hear his scream if he flies under the wheels? He began to feel sorry that he had gotten involved in all this when the caterpillar slowed down. The rumble of the train spread and ceased to deafen. The light from the windows no longer reflected off the walls but stumbled against vertical white pillars appearing out of nowhere. A light flickered for a second between the third or fourth pillar. Someone switched on and immediately switched off a lamp. This served as the signal for the young person in the sweatshirt. He pulled up his sleeve using his teeth, gauged the distance, and, after seizing the lion on the blazing clms, pushed off with a foot from the unreliable foothold. He was flying a second later into the darkness and only at the moment before landing recalled that today he did not have the jacket to cushion the shocks. Protecting his head, he fell flat as a rag. No rolling across, no somersault. No sense in ending up with a piece of railing in his back for the sake of a beautiful landing. Better to wipe the flagstones with his belly. Let the dear city become somewhat cleaner. Lying on his stomach, the hdiver turned his head. The caterpillar wagged farewell and, after giving an electrical buzz, was hidden in the tunnel. The youth leaned on scraped palms and got up. He was standing in a preserved unfinished

10

The distinctive characteristic of a shallow placement subway station in Moscow is its depth underground – just below the frost line. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

26

underground station without escalators and exits to the outside. Iron flakes of a large city were lying all around. “Hey! I’m here!” he hailed hesitantly. “And we’re here!” the answer was quite near. The young person turned around, stretching his lips into a smile without any eagerness like stretching wet socks. A ray of someone’s flashlight struck him in the face. He tried to screen himself but he was not allowed to bring his hand to his face. In the next second, he was pinned in such a way that it seemed to him as if he was pressed in a vise. The light continued to hit him in the face. He more guessed than saw the three large figures. Rough hands thoroughly felt his jacket pockets, underarms, and back, and slapped around the pant legs to his shin. After cutting the laces, they quickly and expertly unfastened the clms. They removed keys, cell phone, and a penknife, the existence of which even he himself hardly remembered, with a blade the length of a little finger. “It’s dull,” the young person said timidly. They advised him to keep his mouth shut. One of those holding him was moustached, nervous, and rough. The other was round-faced, with thick eyebrows, and outwardly good-natured. Simply a shaven Grandfather Frost 11 who had decided to take a break from the beard till winter. “A schnepper? An attack marker?” asked Grandfather Frost. “Yep, a hundred,” the youth answered carelessly and got the back of a hand on his lips. Strangely enough, precisely from Grandfather Frost. His face was compassionate at the same time, like a man who was forced to carry out his task. “Of course he has nothing,” the one going through his pant legs answered. “Good boy! Move!” The powerful figures closed in and half-led half-carried him somewhere. Stepping, the young person in the sweatshirt thought that if he tucked in his feet, no one would notice. Unexpectedly the berserker walking behind issued a short exclamation and directed the ray of the flashlight near his feet. A heavy bee got out of the hdiver’s pant leg and crawled in a businesslike manner along the floor of the platform. The bee crawled and shone like a newly forged nail. The berserker struck it with a heel. The bee was flattened under the heel but immediately straightened itself. The berserker struck it a second time, a third. In the end, he was already turning his heel screwing the obstinate insect into the concrete. When the bee should have become one moist pulp, he lifted his boot from the floor. The bee, alive and unharmed, was sitting and cleaning itself, moving its antennae and bending its wings with its legs. It displayed no hostility to the person who had jumped on it recently. The berserker squatted down and started to singe the bee’s antennae with a cigarette lighter. “Tenacious trash! Look, jerks away!” he said triumphantly. “Don’t touch it!” the youth in the sweatshirt rushed and again got the back of a hand. It hurt more this time because the hit came with the signet ring.
11

Grandfather Frost is the Slavic equivalent of Santa Claus, bringing gifts to children at New Year's Eve parties and New Year celebrations. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

27

“Leave the insect alone!” moustached said, frowning. “You won’t do anything to it this way! It’ll perish by itself as mine once did.” The youth in the sweatshirt quickly looked at him and lowered his eyes. The bee took off and, after landing on his hood, trustingly crawled under the collar. He with melancholy felt how heavy it was, as if cast. They started to come across lamps more often in the centre of the platform. The berserker who had trampled on the bee switched off his flashlight. A chair with the back to them was already very visible even without the light. Antique, with decadent curved legs. It would look much more appropriate in the out-oftown palace of a palm-tree dictator but not here in a deserted Moscow subway station. Guy was sitting in the chair, elbows on the back. His security did not form the usual chain but a spacious quadrangle. Occasionally someone with a flashlight gave a sign into the depths of the station and he was answered in the same way, with the brief winking of a flashlight. Moreover, each time the flash was from a new place. “Eight teams of four here!” the youth in the sweatshirt estimated. They led him to the chair. The cloth of the back was brighter than Guy’s face and the youth continually shifted his gaze involuntarily to it. Of Guy, he saw only sharp elbows and a soft face lowered a little. Guy waited. “The bees became agitated. They’re swarming, flying everywhere. Sometimes you’re simply wrapped in a cloud – they’re everywhere,” the youth said indecisively. “It means, already soon,” Guy commented indifferently. “Within the next few days,” the youth began to nod in a hurry. Guy, gnawing his fingers, listened to him. “If that’s all, you’ve wasted my time! The bees always fly for novices in September. It wasn’t worthwhile to drag me to Volokolamskaya for this.” One of the guards, dark-complexioned with a fresh pink scar on the cheekbone, raised his arbalest. The berserkers holding the fellow in the sweatshirt moved aside. They did not want to be splattered. The youth began to fret. “DON’T! I forgot! Four bees departed!” Guy stopped the arbalesters with a look. “To whom? Managed to trace?” he asked quickly. “Seems so to me,” the youth began. “I need names, not hallucinations!” Guy cut him off. The youth froze. To betray straight away was difficult. He wanted to do it piece by piece, choosing the least disloyal of them. But there was no turning back. After lingering, the youth squatted down, unlaced a boot, and took out from the top of the boot a folded sheet of notepaper. “Pity it’s only four, but also good!” muttered Guy. “Where did you get this?” “Kavaleria’s office. I copied while she searched for books on horse breeding,” the hdiver said dejectedly. Guy narrowed his eyes. “But why didn’t you say so immediately? Ah yes! Always it, the unquelled inner voice!” The youth turned away.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

28

“Now about something else. Did you do what I asked?” Guy asked insinuatingly. “Sweatshirt” began to nod in a hurry. “I tried! At night with a crowbar I tore the roof off the beehive and tried to steal the queen bee. It was difficult because Gorshenya was stomping beside me. It tried to hamper me. It mumbled, muttered, pushed me away, shielded the beehive! I was risking my life!” Guy yawned. “You were risking nothing. Gorshenya swallows only those it likes. It’s absolutely harmless to others! Did you do everything I ordered?” “Yes. I fumigated the bees with that gunk you gave me so that they wouldn’t protect the queen. I almost puked!” Guy frowned. “Now-now, young man! Choose your words more carefully! What gunk can there be in the hair of a witch buried alive exactly ninety-nine years and nine months ago? Well, possibly Beldo mixed it in too much hydrogen sulphide. But he wanted it better!” “Please forgive me!” “To forgive is not my department. The bees did not protect it?” The youth shook his head. “No. But I couldn’t take the queen! Radiance surrounds it. I touched it and it burnt my hand. I was barely able to discard the crowbar. It melted.” Guy was saddened. “This is bad. Although I assumed something similar… So, my dear, today you came with empty hands. Didn’t reach the queen bee. You can only steal up a few steps to the marker in the Green Labyrinth… On the whole, either you’ll make me happy with something special right away or you’ll be left without a reward.” The youth was frightened. “In June… or at the end May… a newbie appeared in the guild. Without a bee!” the youth blurted out and looked pleadingly at him. “This is interesting,” Guy generously admitted. “And who’s the newbie? Got a name?” “Rina… She brought a hyeon!” The corner of Guy’s mouth trembled. “Good start! Can’t bring a bee, bring a hyeon… Where did she get it?” “They say an adult hyeon whelped right by the fence of HDive, and the warlo… oh…” the youth stopped short, after feeling how the hands of those holding him hardened. The word “warlock” is exclusively hdiver. It was necessary to find another urgently as a replacement, but his thoughts got tangled up from fear. “The courageous rider of the hyeon. This is what you wanted to say?” Guy prompted with understanding. “He was obligated to either shoot the young or take it with him. But not to discard it… Arnaud, tell Till! Let him sort it out.” The secretary made a note. An ideal secretary. Obliging, forgetting nothing, surprised by nothing. Ordered to kiss, he will kiss. Ordered to cut the throat, he will cut the throat. Ordered to kiss and cut the throat as well, he will do even this, moreover without a reminder and in the time indicated. Smoothed-over forelocks, a timely smile. He was a person surprising even for Guy, who was a good judge of scoundrels.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

29

Once, not being able to resist and having taken the marker at his first dive, Arnaud cut heaven off himself, and so successfully that not even a scar remained. Now everything outside of the scope of his own body, his safety, comfort, and pleasures, was for Arnaud nonexistent. To obtain the maximum happiness, including happiness from juggling the fates of others, and to become clay. But he considered this period non-essential. Where is Queen Cleopatra now? Did her beautiful body not become brick in some Egyptian cow shed? Is the French king Louis not eaten by worms, pecked by a bird, eaten by a fox, into which flies lay their larvae? On the whole, live in style, and your fly will come flying after you… Only one thing did not give Arnaud peace – Duoka. Why is this world empty? For whom? “Bring the berserker’s head?” Arnaud clarified. “Why?” “Well, what do you mean why? Till for sure will propose it.” “Work situation. Let Till sort it out himself,” Guy made a face. “It’s still not grown, a pup. But lets itself be held. True, only by the owner. The others, no,” the young person in the sweatshirt continued ingratiatingly. Guy frowned. “You yourself saw this? That it allows being held? Without a muzzle? Without something attached to the neck? Without electric shock?” “Haven’t seen it myself. Our people described it. Unable to bring the hyeon onto the grounds of HDive. They hide it somewhere.” “Who are they?” “Rina, Athanasius, Ul, well and all the others with them,” the hdiver instantly responded. Guy winked at him with a deathly pale eye, in which the reflection of a lamp was floating like the moon in a puddle. “Others with them? Broadly said. So, you’re not with them?” he said merrily. “Well, they trust me, but I…” the youth began uneasily. “I don’t care about your ‘I’. Kill her!” Guy interrupted. The fellow in the sweatshirt was uneasy. “Who? Rina?” he asked, startled. “For the time being, the hyeon,” Guy politely set him straight. “Find it and finish it off! I advise you to hurry. It’s approximately three months old. That’s the age when a hyeon usually takes wing. This one’s growing without a mother; therefore, possibly, it’ll take wing a little later. But all the same must hurry.” The youth moved his eyes frantically. He did not intend to go so far. “Why? Perhaps I’ll simply find a place, and you’ll… well on the whole… take it away? Let it serve you,” he began to babble. “It’s of no use to us. A hyeon that trusts someone is a freak. And freaks must be destroyed. Do you agree with me?” Guy’s voice tinkled slightly. “Y-yes,” hurrying, the youth said. “Let him go!” ordered Guy. The hands holding the hdiver unclenched. The berserker looking like Grandfather Frost mockingly straightened his sweatshirt. “Don’t forget to clean up! And here, you’ll have to find a new lace for your trinket,” he said, returning the clms.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

30

“One more thing!” recalled Guy. “About the hmm-m… Gorshenya. You said it interfered with you at the beehive. What does it generally do in the Labyrinth?” “Don’t know. It often hangs around there. Especially if the moon is out,” said the hdiver. “And when there’s no moon?” “When there’s no moon it goes off to the park and disappears there till morning.” “Strange,” Guy drawled. “Why go to the shady park on moonless nights, where you’ll see little even with the moon? If it wants to frighten or catch someone, enough to stand up by the path, which leads to the stable.” “Sweatshirt” looked at him with surprise, not understanding how the geography of HDive was so well known to him. “Follow Gorshenya! Where it goes, why!” ordered Guy. “I want to know what it does each second of a moonless night. And try this with the bees!” He, not looking, stretched out his hand and immediately the attentive secretary put in his hand a small glass jar. Something similar to milk separated by water was splashing about inside. “Grease the roof of the beehive with this. Well, and other places where the bees rest. Only a thin layer. And use gloves. The poison is very dangerous,” said Guy. The youth stretched out his hand and, having touched Guy’s dry finger for a moment, fearfully took the jar. “Bees are immortal. What have our novices not done with their bees!” he warned almost joyfully. The corner of Guy’s mouth sagged with annoyance. “Bees are constantly cleaning their queen. When this passes to it through their legs, it will become barren and perish. There won’t be new bees, sooner or later there won’t be HDive.” The youth shuddered and straightened up. It seemed for a second that he would now fling the jar at Guy, but then he stooped and hid it in his pocket. “What are you waiting for? Move!” ordered Guy. The youth did not leave. Even when they grabbed his shoulder and nudged slightly, he remained on the spot. Pressing the clms against his chest, he was looking around with uneasiness at Guy. “Well, what’s the matter?” Guy asked impatiently but with secret teasing encouragement in his voice. “You promised!” the youth said anxiously. “Ah, well yes… So be it!” Guy stretched lazily and, making his face a rubber mask, with a bitten nail touched the youth’s forehead. The young fellow in the sweatshirt shuddered. A wave of pleasure passed throughout his body. He tried to hide it but his face gave him away. His mouth smiled weakly. His eyelids grew heavy. Droplets of sweat came out on his forehead. When Guy took his finger away from the forehead, the youth did not even notice. Then, losing his balance, he took a step and bumped his tummy into the chair. The berserkers guffawed with understanding. “Only don’t abuse it!” advised Guy. “I can stop any time!” the youth said obstinately.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

31

“I know you can,” Guy agreed willingly, lovingly shaking down the shoulders of his dusty sweatshirt. “But all the same don’t spend it all immediately. I’m begging you!” The youth pulled his collar with a finger and, having nonchalantly pushed aside a berserker in his way, went to the edge of the platform. He was stepping lightly, getting up on his toes, and felt an unaccustomed ease in his body. He wanted to push off and fly, but here was the trouble – a low ceiling. At the edge of the platform, the youth felt something rolling in the sleeve of his sweatshirt and scratching his skin. He pulled up the sleeve. A dead bee with folded wings fell out. He leaned over it. Then he straightened. Something buzzed in the tunnel, approaching. The youth in the sweatshirt looked around. A yellow cyclopean eye was hitting his face. The young man burst out laughing, slipped the unlaced clms onto his arm, took a run and, after jumping directly towards the eye, teleported the moment before collision with the train. Guy and his secretary Arnaud exchanged glances. “If our young friend knows about the hyeon, it means so does Kaleria. And she hasn’t interfered. Thereby, she sets up the whole situation…” Guy said slowly. “One hyeon is no big deal. Won’t even leave descendents,” Arnaud remarked. Guy clicked his tongue. “The trend is important. I don’t want hdivers to have tame hyeons.” The secretary nodded and made a note in the notebook, where there was a note about today’s meeting. “Useful fellow,” he said. Guy massaged heavy eyelids. “Must warn him to give up diving. For the time being he’ll be able to enter the grounds of HDive, since he hasn’t appropriated markers, but already can’t dive,” Guy answered in a preoccupied manner. “But if we come to an agreement with the elbes so that they don’t touch him…?” “What do elbes have to do with it? The matter is Duoka. It won’t accept him. Besides, he devours such doses of psyose that the crazy house will be waiting for him in half a year. But in this half year we must extract from him as much as possible.” Guy smoothed out the notebook page: Makar Goroshko Tukhachevsky Street, #, Apt. 9 Daniel Kuznetsov B. Cherkizovo Street, #, Apt. 155 Alice Fedina Sobolevsky Proezd, #, Apt. 99 Alexander Dudnik Vernadsky Ave, #, Apt. 301 “Telling handwriting! A lot of curlicues on the ‘M’, but the end of words are broken up, and the ‘y’ has a flabby tail. The fellow shows off but not enough confidence,” he remarked. A pencil scratched twisting, nasty, curved outlines in the notebook. Only Arnaud knew how to decipher his own signs. “Dispose of them ourselves or saddle Till with them?” the secretary asked quietly.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

32

“Dispose?” Guy was surprised. “Forgotten Krunya’s prophecy? Sooner or later these ten will deliver into our world the most powerful marker.” The shadow from a swaying lamp lost its way in the folds of his face. The face sucked in gloom like a sponge soaks up water. A train swept past through the eternal night of Volokolamskaya. Light lived inside its cars. Darkness rushed toothlessly to it from the corners but could not swallow it and, champing, crawled away into the tunnels. Chapter 5 Purely Voluntary with a Minimum of Violence A king had a daughter Princess Sombra12 and another Princess Braya. The king promised one half of his kingdom to the one who would make Sombra laugh, and the other half to the one who would quiet Braya down. Ul’s fairy tale Fall in HDive – especially in the Green Labyrinth and all around – the colours were always in full swing, so diversely and dauntingly bright that one had to squint. But colours began to kick up a fuss only in October. It was the fifth of September at present, and fall had just started to unscrew with its teeth the lids of tubes of oil paint. For Ul and Yara this was the happiest time. It was not like the previous terrible year, when it seemed to Ul that life had ended. They took off from HDive on any free evening and roamed around Moscow. “Let’s conquer the world!” Ul once proposed. Yara thought and agreed. She adored large-scale villainies. “World, you’re conquered!” she said in a whisper, so that the next table would not hear. Quietly and peacefully in a small subbasement cafe, they finished celebrating the capture of the world. Having the appropriate questioning look on his face, the fat waiter approached with a plate. He fancied that they had hailed him. “You won, but it’s not about that. Keep the change!” Ul generously told him. The waiter blinked. “What change? Only sixteen roubles from you!” he said. The next day Ul and Yara taught Rina how to fall from a horse. They tied a cord to her belt and yanked her off while chasing Icarus in a circle. Right after the fall, Yara had to overtake Icarus and jump onto the horse’s back while on the run. “Don’t grab the stump! Soft fall, don’t resist!” Ul howled. Rina was all covered in mud. Sand crunched in her mouth. Jacket, pants, and boots were all the same colour – grey. So was Icarus’ foaming back. Rina slid
12

The Unsmiling Princess is a well-known Slavic fairy tale about a princess who does not find anything to smile about or laugh at, so her father promises that whoever can make his daughter smile will be able to marry her. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

33

down. Ten falls. Twenty. Twenty five. “Not enough!” shouted Rina. “Not enough! Again!” Yara began to worry and looked questioningly at Ul. She did not remember such energy in any novice. Finally, either Ul overdid it or Icarus, running smoothly till now, pulled too zealously. After drawing an arc, Rina fell into the puddle and could not get up. “You’re sadists!” she shouted in a ringing voice. “We’re hdivers. Get up!” Ul again pulled the cord. Rina burst into quick, short tears, like rain with the sun. Yara took the cord away from Ul and went to Rina. To console. To change tears into laughter. Over the summer, Yara and Rina had become very close. Each saw in the other her own solution, her missing part: Rina, explosive, boyish, quick to flare up but simmer down at the same instant, and Yara, calm, slightly cool emotionally, very consistent. Rina was still lying in the puddle. “Great!” she said in a suspiciously cheerful and clear voice, turning over onto her back. She slapped the puddle. “‘We’re hdivers.’ Great! Super!” “What’s super?” Yara did not understand. “The principle itself. Simplification of truth to its essence, without any disguising coquetry! Well, can say that it’s to writing like processing coffee in letters. Or to fighting, that this one fella beats another on the head using his extremities, until by chance he gets to the switch… We’re hdivers! Ha! Hdivers!” She scooped mud from the puddle and began to dribble it onto her forehead. “You’re getting hysterical!” Yara quietly warned her. “And you only just noticed?” Someone whistled like a robber, with two fingers. Vityara appeared by the stable. “Ul, Yara! To Kavaleria!” “Why?” “You said it, dude! I have no idea… I was sent for the senior hdivers.” Gaining strength with the lion, Yara pulled Rina like a carrot out of the puddle. “We’ll be there soon. You’re okay? You’ll take Icarus in?” “Aha.” Rina caught up with Icarus and sprung stomach first onto its back. She rode along this way – head on one side, feet on the other – slapping the horse’s rump. Gentle Icarus, they could get away with such things with it. Ul and Yara had already rushed to Kavaleria. *** The office of the director of HDive somewhat resembled Beldo’s apartment. Not by the presence of sofas swallowing like quicksand and chatty skulls, but by the rigidity of the clearly defined zones. A tub with a dwarf pine tree, a seedling Kavaleria brought back from Duoka, divided the office into two clear poles. The garden bloomed in the south. The seedlings spread over multi-tier glass stands: violet leaves in little glass jars, young boxwood, newborn eucalyptus, and yellow roses. Between them lay shovels, pruning shears, watering cans of
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

34

different sizes, and other miniature equipment. Countless china figurines of ducklings, kittens, and human children were also crowded there. The northern part of Kavaleria’s office began from the palm tree. Even an ordinary pencil had the right to be here, only based on necessity. The minute this necessity disappeared, the pencil also vanished into thin air together with it. If a chance violet strayed into here, Kavaleria would personally send it a steel ball from a schnepper. She had no time for violets here, because now, in the northern part of the office, Kavaleria was raging. Detecting the approach of dangerous minutes in the barely noticeable vibration of her voice, clever Octavius tucked in its tail in advance and hid behind the bushy liana. “May we?” Appearing in Kavaleria’s office, Athanasius, Ul, and Yara, as experienced hdivers, first of all found out in what part of the office its mistress was. It turned out to be in the business section. Octavius hid behind the tub, solely the tail was spied outside. Kuzepych was sitting at Kavaleria’s. His eyebrows like brushes were moving angrily. He was like a boatswain flying into a rage. After exchanging a couple of words with Kavaleria, Kuzepych left. “Someone wrecked the beehive at night. Boards scattered, honeycombs trampled. Now Kuzepych is knocking everything together anew. But honeycombs, it goes without saying, are beyond his abilities,” said Kavaleria, not looking at anyone. “And the bees?” Ul began to fret. “The bees didn’t suffer,” Kavaleria interrupted. “Nevertheless, the beehive is destroyed. Nowhere for them to live and nothing to eat. That the bees are golden doesn’t mean that they feed on diamonds.” Octavius began to growl agreement behind the tub. “Don’t echo, emperor!” Kavaleria told it. The emperor subsided. “Kuzepych is sure that it’s Gorshenya. Its tracks were around the beehive. One can see that it was trampling there all night… And as ill luck would have it, the bees only recently began to depart for novices! Now they’re worked up, angry, and it’s also incomprehensible how it’ll be. Possible they’ll gather much fewer than the usual four teams of five.” “You think that Gorshenya…” Yara began. “I think nothing!” Kavaleria dryly cut her off. “Gorshenya has been in HDive for three centuries. It chases lovers, creates the necessary extreme sports for the novices, and prevents them from trampling the flowers! In general, Gorshenya is Gorshenya. It’s the symbol of HDive. No other like it.” “What do we do now with Gorshenya?” Kavaleria began to snuffle. “For the time being… I emphasize, for the time being… nothing. But if it continues to go on doing such things, we’ll have to part company with it.” Athanasius became agitated. “Has Gorshenya explained anything?” “I killed an entire hour in conversation with it,” said Kavaleria with annoyance. “Babbles something incomprehensible, ‘Walked, walked, touched, touched! Belly hungry does not eat!’ Likely we should be grateful that it didn’t guzzle the hive! A bow to the ground to him!” Kavaleria said with irritation and,
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

35

after opening the upper drawer of the desk, handed an envelope to Athanasius. “Hold this! You’re the best of all to take care of this. Here’s the name of the girl chosen by the golden bee. She left yesterday, before all these events. Find her and establish the circumstances… Ul and Yara, you get busy with the beehive! Help Kuzepych! I don’t worry about the hive itself; the honeycombs trouble me. Also protection. If Gorshenya comes again at night, where is the guarantee that it won’t ruin the new one too?” “And if…” Ul began. “Let’s do without the ‘if’! You’re not a spartan!” Kavaleria cut him short. “Set up a spatial trap by the beehive! Only don’t get carried away. I still haven’t forgotten how Kuzepych was left high and dry for a week on the island in the White Sea.” “Rodion set it up then,” Ul gave it away. “I was only in charge. But then he himself asked to protect the cases of condensed milk.” Yara grabbed his sleeve and pulled him to the door. Athanasius turned the envelope in his hands, an ordinary envelope with the hydroelectric power plant on the printed stamp. And not sealed. “What to do with the new girl?” asked Athanasius. “As usual. Purely voluntary with a minimum of violence. And especially don’t get tangled in a lie: you yourself know, any lie will echo when you pass the swamp,” answered Kavaleria. Octavius began to growl behind the tub, made a timid sudden move, and tried to attack the leaving Athanasius with a nip at his heel. * * * Athanasius carried out Kaleria Valerevna’s commission the very same day. He had to dash off to the university for this, about which he was only glad. Trips to the city did not happen to him particularly frequently, not counting the evenings when he arranged fake meetings with the cryptographer from Honduras. Moscow was humming in a businesslike manner, like the hive of the golden bees. The cars recently gathered from the spaciousness of cottage country bellowed restlessly and, interfering with each other, crawled along the gas station. Everyone was hurrying somewhere, everyone’s eyes were clustered together. Even babies in strollers looked surly. Only the sun tried to cheer everyone up, but did not manage and was sad, wiping the damp-looking clouds. Officials sat quietly on the Internet. The prisoners of offices smiled appropriately at their bosses and chose a country for the next two-week vacation. Schoolboys had their eyes on the new teachers, groped their weak sides, and mentally composed a list of tasks, which would not need to be done, and topics, which would not need to be studied. The same spirit reigned also at the university. The euphoria of beginning-of-school-year meetings had already died down, and now the students, spitting out marble aggregate, gnawed on the foundation of science.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

36

Athanasius went out of the first humanities building of Moscow State University and stopped at the front entrance, not recognizing Moscow. It turned out that while he was walking, outside had time to have a downpour. The most surprising was that it was already not raining now. The sky had cleared. The horizon had teethed with precise rectangles of high-rises. It seemed the capital was smiling with that uncertain, freshly washed smile, the kind that appears on the face of a person just finished crying. Along the asphalt flowed streams of water, in low places reaching halfway up the shin. The storm drains became seething pools. A stalled car stood in a pit. Water reached midway up its headlights. Other cars carefully travelled around it, scrambling onto the curb. Exactly like a herd going around a cow killed by lightning. Athanasius continually met victims of the rain. Umbrellas, damaged by the downpour, did not save them. Many, despairing, went around barefoot, after throwing over the shoulder shoes with laces tied together. After picking a long skirt up above her knees, a girl with a bag on her head walked towards Athanasius. The handles of the bag were dashingly tucked behind her ears. He moved aside, passing her, raised his head, and was immediately hailed. Athanasius looked around. He recognized the geometrical half-circle eyebrows and wheaten hair. It was Gulia. She grabbed his sleeve and, twittering, dragged him through the puddles. The sensation emerged in Athanasius that they had parted not three months ago but only yesterday. “Where did you come from?” asked Gulia, trying to shove his head into the bag with hers. Athanasius resisted, partly from dignity, partly because the rain had stopped. “From the university!” he said. “You study here?” “No.” “And rightly so!” approved Gulia. “Suspicious place! Here friends speak well of each other. It’s unnatural.” In the middle of the road full of cars splashing water, it came into Gulia’s head to stop and, arms akimbo, pose the question, “Where did you disappear to then? I waited for your call!” Knowing that he would not be believed nevertheless, Athanasius craftily lied with the truth. “Was injured. Lying in the clinic. Supovna cursed me ninety-two times. Fed me regularly as much as… That’s because I never finished eating. Dealt her a blow.” “Everything is clear, reindeer!” said Gulia in the magnanimous voice of a person willing to be taken in. A car swept past. A canopy of water appeared above it. Athanasius hurriedly shut his mouth and eyes. It was already useless to cover the rest. “Jerk!” Gulia yelled, jumping like a sparrow. “A natural jerk! Look where you’re going! People are walking here!” Athanasius carefully grabbed Gulia with both arms and moved her onto the grass. But even on the grass Gulia continued to jump and threaten the cars. Her
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

37

howls were laughable and silly. Like that of a child who beats the table for hitting him with a corner. She finally calmed down. “I thought about you,” said Gulia, not making an acknowledgement but simply informatively. Athanasius began to feel uneasy. He was not used to someone thinking about him. “How is your bear doing? Is it still so green?” he asked in a hurry. They agreed to meet the next day. This time without excuses. “I’ll bring a friend. And you’ll also bring one of yours!” ordered Gulia. “I’ve now adapted myself to finding in supermarkets bottles with winning codes! Felt one yesterday, but a woman already had it in her cart.” “And your friend is also…” Athanasius carefully asked. “Also what?” Athanasius hesitated. His tongue was not in a hurry to utter “incubator for elbes.” “Well, does she possess abilities?” Gulia looked around suspiciously at the elderly man with a professorial beard, who squatted across the street and examined an apple floating in the puddle. “Nina can find any object,” she said. “She finds treasures?” “Well, if she sees the one who buried it. Also any lost inanimate object… She’s unhappy. Introduce her to someone!” Athanasius hesitated. “In order to make two unhappy at once? Certainly!” “And your friend has abilities?” “Only one. He ties construction nails into little bows,” answered Athanasius. He imagined that he would bring Max with him. *** Athanasius showed up quickly in HDive. There were terribly long lines for the buses to the outlying regions and it seemed to Athanasius a good reason for teleportation. After turning up on the concrete area outside the gates, Athanasius wanted to take a step but realized that, having missed the mark by a centimetre, his soles were stuck. There was no chance of removing the shoes and nothing else to do. He had to take them off and go barefoot into HDive, leaving the boots sticking out in front of the bumper of Kuzepych’s bus. Athanasius approached Max in the evening, when that one was busy with an important practical matter: pick out from the tangled mess a pair of socks of more or less similar colour. There were six washers for the entire HDive. They were all in the room next to the shower and, since there were many people in HDive, things were always mixed up. What they had not tried. Basins signed with markers, labels on things, ribbons sewn on, and allowing only several people to wash at the same time – nothing helped. Max stated at first that he did not care. He was not going anywhere. Then he said that, so be it, he would go for the company, although he knew ahead of time that the girl would turn out to be this woofer. “Why is that?”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

38

“Law of the j-jungle! Pretty g-girls always have dogs as friends. Is your GGulia pretty?” he asked. Athanasius wisely kept quiet. He would not rush to call Gulia “his.” It seemed to him that love at first sight is a TV cliché. It was totally different with Yara. Virus love is outside of the rules. Moreover, he had already recovered. Max pulled a sock onto his enormous foot and wriggled his toes. “Forbidden to meet with w-warlocks!” he said. “Nothing in the HDive charter says so. I checked. Besides, they’re not warlocks!” Athanasius stood up for them. It was unpleasant for him that Gulia was called this. “Then what?” “Well… eh-eh… simply going astray a little.” Max neighed. “And what will y-you give me, if I g-go?” he asked. Athanasius punched him in the back and hurt his own fist. Max liked this. He adored it when they hurt themselves against him. But Max liked to pretend to be a dull bodybuilder more. Moreover, he pretended with such perseverance that increasingly he was actually becoming one. “Okay, I’ll go for free. Only t-take this! I…I’ll not talk with your woofer. And if she tries to come near me, I’ll un… un…unscrew her head!” “Of course, not a problem!” Athanasius hurriedly agreed. Max’s subsequent behaviour surprised him. The giant, allegedly not attaching any special importance to the meeting, began nervously to choose a pair of jeans and fling out turtlenecks from the dresser. “This will k-kill me! And this is s-small!” he swore and again declared that he was not going anywhere, because there was nothing for him to wear and could in no way go in the hdiver jacket. Athanasius wanted to propose his own sweater to Max but understood that for such a moose it would only be fit to be carried in the pocket as a talisman. Max kicked the dresser and dejectedly sat down on the floor. “I hate SSupovna! She fattened me so that now I can’t get into anything!” “What’s the difference to you? You’re going for the company,” Athanasius consoled him. “I don’t want them to th…think that I’m a d…dolt!” Max declared. Finally, he succeeded in finding decent clothing and calmed down. True, not for long, because he was concerned about what to do with his hair. Max did not have hair lying on top. He did not want to comb straight back. One obstinate strand always fell down with a comb-over to the left, while one to the right would show an unfortunate pimple. Athanasius wisely kept away. The best way to enrage someone is to start to calm him down. The words “Calm down!” have a clearly expressed psychopathic effect. However, it was useless to explain to Max that he would look seven times better if he would not stare or try to walk with tense muscles. Ul was lying around on the hammock and watching Max blowing hot and cold. “Take an example from me! The last time I looked into the mirror was when I helped drag it along the stairs!” he bragged.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

39

“It’s b…because you’re an i…invalid!” “I’m not an invalid! I’m a user of my own appearance!” Ul objected. “Then clean up your own m-mess, loser of your own appearance! I’m stumbling all over!” Max bellowed and, after pulling the rope, catapulted Ul from the hammock. Ul cackled. He was a slob not even squared but to some degree off the chart. So, if an object of his fell, he would not try to pick it up but simply began to consider that where it fell would be its new place. “I wouldn’t dream of it! I can live both in cleanliness and in a den. But you only in cleanliness. It means I’m the more advanced model of man.” Here Ul belittled Max slightly. By and large, Max was also a slob, just that he was convinced that outside spreaders prevented him from living in tidiness. Max made preparations till four in the morning and so tired all the inhabitants of the attic that Ul left to sleep in the stable and the quick-tempered Rodion began to throw heavy objects at Max. Sometimes he even got a hit. *** The meeting was set at Belorusskaya at six in the evening, in the centre hall. Here at the place, Athanasius stopped and belatedly recalled that there are altogether two Belorusskaya.13 However, Gulia answered rather strangely in the text message. What station are we meeting at: Koltsevaya or Radialnaya? Athanasius hurriedly texted and obtained an answer in the style, Hee-hee! Green bear kisses you! I am serious! Hee-hee! It too! Athanasius tortured the phone with one hand, and caught the fleeing Max with the other. Along the way Max managed to change his mind three times, and at the very last moment Athanasius almost had to pull the emergency stop, because Max tried to remain in the subway car. They arrived at six oh one. There were no girls. They ran off to Koltsevaya, but they were not there either. Athanasius argued at length about which centre hall. Max psyched out. He stood and cursed Gulia’s friend. Athanasius was a hundred times sorry that he had gotten Max involved. Although who else to bring? Ul has Yara, and useless to ask Rodion. A beautiful woman emerged from the passageway and began to shout into her phone, “The weather here is disgusting! No sun! The tap in the shower is broken!” There was triumph in her voice that she could not be made happy again. “I bet she was talking to her husband. Her voice has a domestic intonation!” said Athanasius, when the woman had left.
13

Both the Koltsevaya (Ring) Line and Zamoskvoretskaya (the other side of the Moscow River) Line have a Belorusskaya (Belarus) Station, with a passageway linking them. This is where passengers transfer from one line to the other. The station on the Zamoskvoretskaya is called Belorusskaya-Radialnaya (Radial). ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

40

“Ah! Would kill all of them broads! Indeed, where does the sun come from in the subway?” answered Max. Probably, in order not to let Max kill all women, a puny policeman with a big stick approached him and checked his documents. Two minutes later, another policeman without a baton also approached and checked the documents. Again they turned out to be in order. Athanasius hoped that someone would also look at his passport but no one was interested. He was even offended that he appeared so exemplary. Athanasius again wanted to go down to Koltsevaya but was afraid that while he ran about, Max would skip off. He started to phone. The first time the line was out of range, and the second time Gulia picked it up but only the rumble of a train was heard. Gulia and friend phoned back about fifteen minutes later, but from the city, not from Belorusskaya. It turned out they were sitting in a little cafe at Mayakovskaya14 and had no intention of going down to the subway. After speculating a little about the working principles of a girl’s brain and even about its location, they went to Mayakovskaya. “Oh, I live not particularly f-far from here! Can drop in at mine later!” Max came to life. “With the girls?” Max was even frightened, “What, are you m-mocking me? You don’t kn-know my mama! And g-grandma,” he added after twenty seconds. “And a-aunt,” he said as well a minute later. This might sound funny, but the big guy Max grew up in strictly female surroundings. Papa, once available, did not last longer than the mother-in-law’s first bout of greediness, the aunt’s first spring aggravation, and the first timid attempt to explain to grandmother that a latch is structurally provided in the john. Max lived in the centre of Moscow, in a seven-storied building, with ceilings so high that in childhood he lured friends into the apartment and proposed to spit to the ceiling. Over the years there turned out only one, not so much a spitting but jumping comrade, and the saliva, with a good mix of chocolate, was still visible about six years later. The apartment was old, poorly planned, with bricked-up doors leading nowhere, and a huge built-in closet, in which one could spend the night if necessary. True, to do this one had to sort out the mess of hundreds of jars of preserves so ancient that no one resolved to try or lifted a hand to throw them out. The windows looked out onto the Garden Ring. When cerebral laziness attacked Max (and for some strange reason it always coincided with the need to get something ready), he would sit on the windowsill and watch as the cars crawled along the Ring.
14

The Mayakovskaya Station is one of the most famous subway stations in the world. Opened in 1938, it was the world’s first deep column station and its Art Deco design won the Grand Prix at the 1939 International Exhibition in New York. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

41

Cars were always crawling along it and it worried small Max whether they could end sometimes. In the middle of the night, woken up by the roar of motorcycles, he would approach a window barefoot and check if there were cars. Convinced that they were still moving and, meaning they did not end, reassured, he would lie down in bed. The little cafe turned out to be in the courtyard. “The place’s o-out of the way. Am…ambush!” Max stated confidently. “Why?” “Simpler to ar…arrange it in a cafe! You have the schnepper?” It turned out that Athanasius did not have his schnepper. Only his clms, and even that was in the knapsack. “Let’s do this! I’ll drop in and if I don’t appear in sixty seconds, run to save me!” Athanasius said and pushed the door. When he came out ten minutes later, Max, huffing and puffing, was breaking off an iron rod from the fence. “Why so l-long?” “They’re right at the entrance. Chatting!” Athanasius, embarrassed, started to justify himself. Gulia and Nina were sitting at the second table from the door. Max was presented by Athanasius as “my friend Maximilian.” He himself did not know why he blurted out “Maximilian.” When he was nervous, his tongue accomplished unthinkable tricks. “Athanasius showed us in the window how you broke the fence! It was so amusing! Nina even thought that your turtleneck would burst!” Gulia chirped. On this remark “the friend Maximilian” sorted out which was which girl, and began to examine Nina unnoticeably. To his amazement, she turned out to be not bad. The horse lover Max would describe the colour of her hair as “rose grey” blond. Athanasius was also surprised. Yesterday, when Gulia said that Nina was unhappy, he imagined to himself a rather skinny girl, whom they would support under the elbow. The “rose grey” blonde turned out to be rosy, excellently proportioned, but somewhat in the style of “Why did you lose my bow?” The lost-bow style was manifested in that she batted her eyelashes, pouted her lips, and constantly uttered, “Why did you drag me here? And coffee without cognac here? You just watch, I’ll kick up a fuss. You’ll have to answer for everything!” She liked the strong Max. Soon she began to throw little bread balls at him, nudged him with an elbow, and repeated, “You have terrible eyes! I’m certain you’re a terrible person!” The “terrible person” listened and was delighted. He reminded Athanasius of a large dog, which no one ever patted, but now suddenly they decided to be nice to. The cafe was comfortable, with cheerful figures on the walls and the ceiling. An amusing family sat at the first table. The father was chewing with such caricature importance, as if eating up the chocolate cake was doing an enormous favour to the cake, the institution, and to humanity as a whole. The son huddled up to the mother and was an exact copy of her.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

42

“A child looks like the one who loves him,” Athanasius summed it up and began to gauge whether this was so. This was his internal game. He brought forth a thesis, and then chose arguments “for” and “against.” “Hey!” Gulia hailed him. “You’ve been stirring the tea for ten minutes already! Maybe you’ll stop?” Athanasius came to. “Don’t pay any attention! I have a fit of contentment!” he explained. Gulia had a short argument with the waiter that she would guess all the numbers of his student card and they would not have to pay for coffee. “It’s nothing!” Gulia said modestly. “But then I lose things all the time! Here Nina just finds things!” Athanasius unnoticeably sent two roubles through a hole in his pocket into his boots and proposed to Nina to say where they were. She found them, slightly screwing up her face like a math professor whose multiplication table was being checked. Max thought for a long time what to ask, then recalled that in school they stole his phys ed form from the locker room, and asked who needed it. The rosegrey blonde smiled coquettishly. Her face was unbelievably flexible and expressive, with dimples. These pits, like shots from mortar, appeared at a new place every time. “No one. They simply dropped it out the window. But here the little soldier in the crack behind the heater, this is interesting. Do you remember, you cried all night?” It turned out Max remembered. He also began to stutter then, although they had a popular story in the family that the neighbour’s dog frightened him. Then they went to stroll around the centre. Max, timid at first and holding Nina fearfully like a doorknob in a public sanitary facility, gradually grew bolder and proposed to show her how to break the sentry’s neck correctly so that he would not let out a squeak. “Look, I’m squeaking! Squeak-squeak-squeak!” Nina immediately gave voice. A happy Max grabbed her by the neck. Gulia and Athanasius were walking behind, not too close so that the violent pair would not bump into them. “Why did you say that she’s unhappy? I think she’s cheerful,” asked Athanasius. “They all abandoned her. Mlada – this is our acquaintance – says that she has an aura of celibacy and can only wash it off with elephant blood!” said Gulia in complete seriousness. She pronounced with awe the name of Beldo’s servant. “With what blood?” “You mock in vain. We even went to the zoo, but really, how do you get to an elephant?” Athanasius mumbled something. Nina was talking animatedly about something, whereas Max was largely limited to gestures. Not wanting to stutter once more, he substituted words with movements of the head. He had the richest mimicry. He knew how to pucker his forehead in twenty ways. As for his nose – like the tuber of a jolly tractor driver –
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

43

in general it skilfully conveyed expressions of every kind. It became a harmonica, fidgeted, or merrily breathed heavily and noisily. At the end of Tverskaya, the hdivers had a charge marker under one of the numerous memorial boards. Athanasius recalled it when fifty steps away Nina suddenly sprained her ankle and Gulia in the same second dashed onto the road. He had noticed earlier that the concept of roadway did not exist for her. Athanasius caught her a second before she was smeared on the side of a van sweeping past. Cars squealed with their brakes. Max and Nina, having pulled off her shoes, rushed from behind. The traffic cop, this herdsman of cars, with his stomach sticking out, stood in his booth. When they crossed the road, he whistled angrily but did not try to catch them. Pedestrians, even clearly mad, were small game to him. “Well, and where were you rushing to?” Athanasius asked on the other side of Tverskaya. Gulia thought for a bit, obviously trying to figure out why. “I forgot to buy napkins… Yes, napkins!” she said uncertainly. Athanasius was surprised by the speed of reaction of the newborn ele. About five seconds later Gulia was finally convinced that she needed napkins and it was for them that she hardly remained on the sidewalk. After mending Nina’s heel, they strolled for about another two hours and before parting they started to negotiate another date. “Let’s meet F-Friday!” said Max. Nina and Gulia exchanged glances. “We can’t on Friday.” “Why?” They did not get a clear answer. The girls hesitated. Nevertheless, Athanasius knew how to sum up from the scraps of answers that on Friday the warlocks were up to something. And it would be in the psychology school at Bolotnaya Square, on the next admission day. They said goodbye at the subway. Nina offered her cheek to Max and outlined the place with a long nail. “I hope you don’t intend to kiss me? It’s so disgusting!” she prompted. Max smooched her with athletic honesty, holding her head with his hands. Athanasius waited for some time to see whether Nina’s skull would crunch, but Nina turned out to be durable. “Well now! Not enough that this terrible person meanly dragged me to a date! He even attacked me!” Nina was outraged, taking out a mirror in order to check the damage inflicted on her face. While Athanasius was pondering whether he was obligated to kiss Gulia for the reason that Max kissed Nina and whether this would be plagiarism, Gulia got up on tiptoe – the difference in their height was large – and kissed Athanasius on the eyebrow. “Till we meet!” Max neighed so abominably that Athanasius again gave him a fist. The train approached. They hopped into a car. “Well, how do you like her?” Athanasius asked in the tunnel.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

44

Max looked suspiciously at him. He, like that lady on the phone, did not like to admit being happy. Dissatisfaction, if you examine it, is universal currency, with which everything can be purchased, if we bargain long enough. “Who?” “You know who.” “N-not bad. Okay,” answered Max. “For some reason it seems to me that this is for a long time,” said Athanasius. “Well, with Gulia. Not that intuition… Simply the more confused a situation, the more real it is, perhaps.” Max understood nothing and chuckled. The train slowed down, stopped, and again set off. “Now I’ll not calm down until I nail her ele. I know myself…” said Athanasius. “Watch you don’t n-nail her together with it!” Max advised quietly. They were silent again. Max swayed peacefully, holding onto the handrail. Athanasius was bouncing like a sparrow. “Did you understand everything?” he yelled into Max’s ear. “Yes,” Max winced. “What did I un-understand?” “Think!” Max thought till the next station. “Ah! That my Nina, most likely, is from Beldo’s fort but not from D-Dolbushin’s? She’s a pr-practical student,” he stuttered. “Oho!” thought Athanasius. “My Nina! He labelled her quickly! And several hours ago called her a dog.” “I’m not on about that,” he said. “The warlocks are having a new recruitment! Would be nice to see how all this progress with them? Eh?” *** Athanasius met Ul in HDive. Ul was standing with his schnepper similar to a double-barrel and aiming at a food can from fifteen steps away. He shot. The can remained standing. “Here I’m thinking about female whims. When it seems to someone that more time is spent with a horse and all that…” he said. “Is it true?” asked Athanasius. “It’s not about that. What forces them to behave like that at all? Maybe, a woman is capricious because it’s important for her to check if a man will stand the whims of a possible child? Some kind of test?” “There are girls who aren’t capricious,” Athanasius said carelessly. Ul again took a shot. “Who? Your telegrapher from Honduras? Holy! Dang! I suppose they learn to sleep on nails, eat with the head down, and open tanks with a finger.” “They learned,” said Athanasius. “What learned?” “She perished,” Athanasius lowered his eyes. “Didn’t make contact. In the mountains, where there was the hidden transmitter, they found the safety pin from a grenade trampled into the ground.” Ul grabbed his hand. “And you kept quiet?”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

45

“I was joking. She’s alive. Sits at home. Bought a cookbook,” said Athanasius half-heartedly. Ul pushed him away. “Some jokes!!! You’re simply a blockhead!” “Aha,” admitted Athanasius. “I know.” The can, which Ul aimed at, fell by itself. Athanasius found Kaleria Valerevna in the teachers’ room, long and narrow. There was an argument: whether Kuzepych blocked up part of the corridor or it was stretched as a result of an unsuccessful dance of the shamans, who wanted to crush the teaching staff of HDive with the walls but did not manage and only stretched out the room. Kavaleria was standing by the board with the timetable and considering how to make four instructors out of one free one in order to fill all the “windows.” “Nothing pans out! People will again hang around with nothing to do! Looks like you have to be busy with the novices,” she complained. “With the novices? Really the bees…?” Kavaleria’s plait bobbed like a fishing float. “The last departed today. The bees calmed down, it means fall recruitment is finished. This fall we will recruit nine. Plus ‘beeless’ Rina.” “You hand them over to Kuzepych. He knows how to keep everyone busy,” advised Athanasius. Kavaleria smiled. “Well, what can I do for you?” Athanasius told her, supplying the details. In his version, they met with the girls exclusively in the interests of HDive. “Certainly, can blast an attack marker, but there won’t just be some warlocks. Pity the ‘incubators’,” he finished. For a long time Kavaleria twirled the pencil in her fingers. “Risk must be justified. Unjustified risk is folly. For the time being, I see no justification for the risk. We can lose a man, but what will we get in exchange?” “Well… we’ll see how it’s there and what.” “And see what? Walls?” “Not… Well, warlocks at least…” Athanasius was lost. “And you haven’t seen them before? Or do you think that the heads of the forts will share their plans with a crowd of people assembled from all over Moscow?” Kavaleria asked mockingly. Yielding, Athanasius let air out through lips elongated like a small tube. “So, you’re against it?” “I need to think.” Chapter 6 Boys to the Left, Girls to the Right! Nice to meet you. My name is Philomena Ms Ann pacco, I saw you today in profile (www.***.ru) and become interested in you, please, send me email to my email address
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

46

for me to give you my beautiful pictures and tell you more about me. I will wait for your email today, (please remember that distance and/or skin colour nor language doesn, T matter, but love does) Philomena Ann Hunting letter of an elbe Vlad Ganich stopped by the porch, quickly looked around at Rina gone off in front and outlined with his eyes a semicircle through the lilac bushes. “Why are we following her? If we slip away? Through the fence and…” he, proposed. Cyril wanted to say something maliciously on the theme of cleanliness of the suit, but Vlad had already gotten a move on through the lawn and tore quickly like a young moose through the thick lilac. “He shouldn’t have! If we’re to get the hell out of here, then all together! He’ll climb over, and the girls will slow down! Have to let them go first!” Sashka condemned him, after noticing how a slightly opened window on the second floor wobbled. Vlad reached the iron fence. No thorns, no sharp peaks, a very convenient fence. Stepping on the embellishments, he scrambled up in a second and jumped. Sashka heard a crack, and yet a second later Vlad came out of the lilac from this side. The lilac indignantly shook its leaves. Vlad shook his head like a stunned heifer and again persistently climbed the fence. Sashka decided that Vlad had gotten away. Anything can happen when a man is under heavy strain. Vlad again scrambled along the fence, for some reason stood up on his feet, and only then jumped. This time Sashka definitely saw that Vlad jumped off onto THAT side, but again turned out to be on THIS side. Only this time he did not fall down into the lilac but flew through it. Vlad did not dare to jump a third time and, limping, returned to the others. Sashka raised his head. The window on the second floor was closed. Rina was standing next to Sashka and sympathetically watched Vlad. “Keep in mind, I got really badly scratched by this lilac. It seems, I think, the leaves…” she said and began to climb the stairs. Makar overtook her, ran up to the plaque and the white cockroach letters finally formed into the inscription “Guildhall of Divers.” “And whatsa here? They teach diving?” he asked, trying to beak off the plaque. “Drowning!” Cyril joked. “H-h-hands! Both!” someone ordered in a resounding voice. Makar and Cyril fidgeted in a startled way. “P-ut in the po-o-ockets! Don’t touch the inventory!” the voice finished cheerfully. The door was open. A thickset fellow in a jacket of rough skin examined them with interest. He looked to be twenty-twenty-five years old. The worldly Makar began to worry. He had gotten it in the neck most often precisely from this age range. “I’m Ul! Can be Oleg. All questions afterwards! For the present, if anyone gets anything into his head, digest three things. First: this isn’t a school of witchcraft and other magic. Whoever maintains the opposite, I’ll cast a spell on
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

47

him! This is neither school nor institute nor college at all, but simply the modest and only one of its kind HDive. Second: from this moment on you’re divided into teams of fives. For convenience in tasks, duty, and patrol. One team: Makar, Sashka, Alice, Danny, Rina! The other: Cyril, Lena, Vlad, Lara, Freda… And third: no one keeps you here by force.” Burning with indignation, Freda jerked up her hand. “Well?” Ul generously allowed her. “And the fence??? If no one keeps us by force, why couldn’t Vlad climb over?” “He could climb over. He couldn’t jump over there!” Ul willingly explained. “You jump to that side, you jump down on this side. You jump to this side, you turn up outside. Usually people quickly figure out the chips.” “But why is this at all?” Freda asked with suspicion. “So that cats don’t work their way to us. Otherwise they’ll settle here, you understand, showdowns with howls!” said Ul. “This way the fence is even very passable. Inconspicuous but reliable. No stranger will penetrate into our territory. Not even the riot police.” Makar grinned. “Wow! I like this fence!” he said. He looked at Vlad with mockery. Quite something: fell into a cat trap and did not hit upon how to get out of it. “And the minibus you can’t escape from?” Freda continued pushing. Ul stopped smiling. “We ask you to excuse us for the minibus. We could, of course, catch you one by one, schnepper to the head and with a wicked whisper, ‘Want to go to HDive? The bee picked you!’ But practice has shown that the minibus is the best method.” *** Ul opened the doors of HDive, when Lara issued a warning howl. Gorshenya was bashfully crossing the lawn in front of the hdivers. It was waddling, holding its stomach, and looked sheepish. Rina was the first to figure out what the matter was. “Ul! It gorged someone!” she shouted. Having touched the lion on his clms, Ul rushed to Gorshenya. Rodion hurried to help him. A sheepish Gorshenya was caught in the bushes. They forced open its mouth. That they opened Gorshenya’s jaws with a shovel produced a strong impression on the nervous Lara. Especially when a dishevelled small hdiver rolled onto the grass. He looked at the sky, squinted, and yawned. His pimples were crimson in the sun. “Vityara? What are you doing here?” Ul asked aghast. Vityara pulled the rim of the bagel, which someone considered his ear. “You said it, dude! Isn’t it obvious?” he said unhappily and, stretching, wandered off to HDive. Vityara walked in a very amusing manner, dragging his feet and with hands in his pockets. “Are you all so strange here?” Danny asked when Vityara had walked away.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

48

“What do you have in mind? We’re the most normal here,” Ul asked and bit himself on the arm. Danny’s jaw dropped. He had not noticed that Ul’s mermaid had dimmed at the same time. “In general we have the original Vityara. Once he lived only on beetles for a week. Another time he pulled a huge sweater over the knapsack, socks over shoes, and roamed around the city,” said Ul. “Why?” “Why is not a hdiver word. Hdiver words are either ‘must’ or ‘for fun’.” They crossed a hall with brick columns and went along a long corridor. Makar, not being able to resist, kicked the trashcan and, according to Ul’s expression, became stronger with fifty push-ups. Makar thought for a bit and did them. He always sensed when he could be beaten. His nose always itched before this. When Makar finished puffing, they passed along a narrow gallery with glass walls. Ul turned to the stairs and climbed to the second floor. “Oh!” Lara exclaimed, after seeing the young man coming towards them. “He invited me to the screen tests!” “Hello, Athanasius!” Ul shout. “So what’s up with the screen tests?” “Easy! I’ll just buy a cover for the lens!” Athanasius said cheerfully and dashed further down the corridor. “We usually send him after the girls. His tongue is hung properly. Whom didn’t he bring here? One came to learn macramé, a second for secretary school, but the coolest one of all was the hand-glider management course with the secret guild of divers!” explained Ul. They came across several hdivers along the stairs. Some were approximately their age. Others were about two or three years older. They looked leniently at the novices. Sashka recognized this look. He himself also looked this way at those who came to boxing for the first time. Benevolent but aloof. There was no sense exerting oneself especially and memorizing someone, because you knew beforehand that four out of ten would skip off after the first training fight. Ul stopped on the second floor. “We wait for Kuzepych. He’ll settle you,” he said and hopped onto the windowsill, not touching it with his hands. Sashka tried to repeat the same trick and miraculously did not break the glass with his back. The trick indeed turned out not to be so simple. “We live here,” continued Ul. “In that part of the corridor (he nodded to the right) are rooms for the fair sex. In the other are the not so fair ones. Possible and necessary to visit. But anyone who mixes up the rooms by chance after lights out will have to wash the stairs. We hang out in the daytime, sleep at night.” Freda threw up a hand. “Then why have mixed fives? Just pile up all the girls!” she blurted out. “Now I’ll pile someone up!” Makar, secretly afraid that Ul would do that, promised in a whisper. With a wide nail Ul picked off a piece of clay stuck on his military T-shirt, saw that no spot remained, and smiled contentedly. He did not notice that there were a dozen and a half such spots on the back of his shirt, so it could not poison his pleasure from the sensation of a clean shirt.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

49

“Mixed fives are more effective. Fellows more often settle a matter with schneppers or a marker, but girls are peaceful, without dust and noise. On the whole, more options,” answered Ul. Lara again screamed, pointing a finger at something. A screech was her method of primary mastery of all new things in life. Rina looked around. A lone mattress was climbing up the stairs. After ten seconds, the mattress had finally gotten up and it turned out to be Kuzepych, who was dragging it on his head. Kuzepych’s face was sullen. “Frog’s choking!”15 thought Rina. And she still recalled that Yara called Kuzepych’s frog “indududual.”16 “Fellows after me! Others wait!” Kuzepych, recovering his breath, ordered and, not stopping, dragged the mattress through the corridor of the residence of the not-so-fair sex. Cyril looked around at Lena. Somehow, it turned out that several minutes ago he had accidentally given her his own bag to hold and then forgot to take it back. “Behave well, Cyril! If they treat you badly, cry out loudly so that I would hear!” Lena gave him words of encouragement, handing him his bag. “And you go!” Cyril was confused. “It’s you go! I’m ordered to wait,” Lena quietly parried. *** Danny walked along and counted the rooms. They were on both sides of the corridor. Ordinary wooden doors smelled of fresh paint. Kuzepych looked at them and puffed up with pleasure. The corridor ended with a small hall. A horizontal bar was attached to the wall. There were also a table-tennis table and a bench for bench pressing. While Sashka was searching with his eyes for weights, something began to rattle. Hearing the tinkling of disks, a whistle, and Sashka understood that Vlad Ganich had found the weight before he did. In a friendly way, like a rural peasant treating an annoying dog, Kuzepych pushed the weight with a foot and it, ringing grumpily, rolled into a corner. Kuzepych was already standing at the last door and trying to find the necessary key. “Lucky for you: the room is next to the hall. You can always see when the table is free. True, a far run to the shower and the little ball will knock on the brain. For each of the pluses there is one of the minuses.” The lock clicked, and Kuzepych, leaning a shoulder on the door at the wrong time, fell into the room. Sashka saw three wooden bunk beds and a large table. “Settle in!” Kuzepych, panting, threw the mattress onto one of the beds.
15

Kuzepych, being very frugal, was always choking over the expense of something. The Russian idiom for something being too expensive is “being choked by a frog.” 16 This is a play on words, combining the words ‘individual’ and induk – Russian for a turkey cock, slang for a pompous, conceited man. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

50

A huge bag flew over Sashka’s head. “I’m on top, by the window! Reserved!” Makar bellowed. Danny, checking, lay down on a bed and stretched out his legs. “Indeed!” he said with reproach. “Another procrustean bed in the reign of the Lilliputians!” Kuzepych thought over the expression “procrustean bed,” sternly moved his eyebrows, and reminded them that there was no swearing in HDive. Makar, having the habit of checking all new people for “the weak spot,” jumped down from the top bunk. “Listen, pop! Where does one smoke?” he asked Kuzepych in a familiar way, slapping his pocket. “Pop” looked at Makar and suddenly pushed him into the wall with his belly. “Hey, wha sa you? Will kill a man!” Makar squeaked, trying to escape from Kuzepych’s rock-hard belly. “Sorry for my health?” Kuzepych looked at Makar with a look, from which it was clearly read that to him, Makar’s health certainly had value, but not as much as two kilos of wood screws. “Supper in an hour! Nice to meet you; that’s all!” Kuzepych made a chopping motion with his claw. He left the room. Vlad Ganich with great care removed his jacket and agonizingly searched with his eyes where to place it. “And how’s he to you?” he insinuatingly asked Makar, desiring to provoke him to criticism. Strange, but Makar’s opinion turned out to be surprisingly loyal. He loved those who knew how to put him in his place. “Wha, a normal bloke! This one at least doesn’t force me to do push-ups!” he said. There was panting in the corridor and Kuzepych’s round face again pushed through into the room. “Forgot to warn you! In your shoes I would close the door tonight! And move the bed!” “Why?” asked Vlad. Kuzepych sternly pushed forward the red heel standing in for his chin and, explaining nothing, disappeared. *** Kuzepych settled the girls instantly. It was felt that even the shortest presence in female company stressed him. “Figure out… umph! yourself! umph! where things are!” he snorted like a walrus. They figured things out in record time, since no one had anything. However, even with this minimum some managed to arrange themselves rather well. Lena straightened the pillow, pinned a photograph with a thumb tack onto the wall. Touched up something, added somewhere. Likely, she had not done anything, but it immediately became homey. Alice took an upper bunk. She discovered three sets of seven notches on the back of the bed. Evidently, someone had been pining away and counting the days. It was unclear why she had stopped making more notches. Either she had gotten used to things, or she had left, or an angry Kuzepych, discovering the damage to public furniture, had eaten her.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

51

Freda stared at an upper bed, on which someone had arranged a canopy for herself. “Here dwells the local grouch! Swiped all the blankets!” she stated. Rina silently pulled off the blankets and gave them back. The naked electric bulb, sagging sorrowfully, dangled on the wire. “The grouch will exercise her rights!” said Freda. “She won’t,” promised Rina. “It’s a good grouch. True, now she wants to kill everyone.” The whole summer Rina had been the only mistress of the room, but now an entire horde was here. It walked around, touched everything, drove things away from their homes. This was intolerable for Rina. A restless-proprietary spirit had always lived in her body. Once, returning from school, Rina, like a cat, visited all the rooms in order to ascertain that no change had taken place anywhere. Lara sat on the bed and energetically shook out the contents of her handbag onto the blanket. A carload of cosmetics, different combs, keys with a little heart. About two dozen crumpled papers with phone numbers and business cards, which had been pushed onto her in the hope that she would phone. The most endearing object turned out to be a child’s woollen sock with laces. “Whose is this?” asked Lena. “What? Ah-h! Evelyn’s!” “Sister?” “Younger.” Lena smiled. “And you specially drag it along?” “Nothing I can do! Lynn throws it from the stroller, and then I go along the stairs to pick it up,” in Lara’s voice was mixed self-pity and family pride. There, you know, we are so wilful and aggressive. Get to know us! True, Lara’s sentimentality was sufficiently short-lived. When a person shakes out his handbag, he is usually in a businesslike mood. His heart is on standby. “Well now, not even nail polish!!! I can’t stick around here for a month! I’ll die!” she moaned, performing breathtaking jumps from object to object. “Men are so clueless! They yell! Make them do push-ups. And why didn’t I bring nail polish? Ah, but I did after all! How it scared me! And what do they want from us? Facilities in the corridor! The sink is cracked!” “Put a lid on it!” Freda unexpectedly kicked the leg of the bed, on which Lara was sitting. Lara batted her eyelashes. “Not feeling well?” “What, sick? So?” Freda admitted with a challenge. Lara irritated her greatly, simply to the extreme, although they had only been acquainted all of several hours. Lara was beautiful, looked after herself, loved her own body, hair, and teeth. She carried herself in life like a china doll and received gifts that the plain Freda had to wring and gnaw out of somebody. One thing consoled Freda: some day Lara will become old and horrible. But her, Freda’s, mind will remain, and then we will see who swims better in gasoline with a cigar in the teeth. Yet fear nevertheless lived somewhere in the depth of her heart. What if the foolish but natural Lara outstrips her? She will forget her beauty in a store and be too lazy to return for it. She will drive on Saturdays to the
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

52

cottage, cure her husband of sciatica, and suffer when the charlotte burns. She will not care that lonely and evil Freda butts the pillow with a bulging forehead. The brain inflamed with envy again found itself in flight with an unopened parachute. Why are clever people so often unhappy? Perhaps because they are evil? So what is cleverness worth, if it cannot force one to become kinder? Suddenly Freda recalled the cell phone. She checked and discovered that there was a connection. The “sticks” (thanks to Lara’s erudition!) here was bigger than in the forest. It was soon discovered that one could phone anybody and say anything, except where they were now. That is, it would be possible to say, of course, no one would cover your mouth, but the conversational partner would blurt out something in the spirit, “And you leave me alone with the vegetable oil! I’ll buy it! Aren’t you tired of repeating the same thing two hundred times?” Lara finished investigating the handbag and began to amuse herself with the telephone as well, calling young people. Her friends were serious people, because from the other end of the line a computer keyboard was clicking, somewhere cars were honking nearby, or a commanding voice asked to focus attention on diagram number four. “Serezh, ah Serezh!” (Or “Vas, ah Vas!”, “Dim, ah Dim!”)” 17 Lara said, after which her voice died insinuatingly for about three seconds. Obviously, dialling the number, Lara still had no idea what to say. When she had gathered her thoughts, she voiced approximately one and the same thing, “Did you call me? Then whom did you call? What do I want? Nu-thin’! I’m sitting here and thinking whom I should call still!” After the fifth of such calls, it was necessary to calm Freda down again, because she started to yell, “I’ll kill the hen!” In the middle of her scream, there was a short knock on the door. Immediately, without waiting while they pondered whether it was a knock and not a random gust of draft, the face of an unknown girl poked in. It was red, but not from embarrassment, rather simply someone spending too much time in the sun. “Supper, move!” the face communicated concisely and disappeared. Rina opened the window to air the room. It was rather dark, although not indistinctly dark. The day had become rather bleak. Something nondescript was grazing and sighing at the flower house. “Gotcha, Platosha! Later they’ll yell at me that it was I who trampled everything!” Rina began to yell cheerfully. Something came out into the light and it turned out to be a pale youth with ash-grey locks. Pressing a bundle of cut gladioli against his chest, the youth climbed over the fence and, skilfully jumping off in the opposite direction, disappeared. “Catch him!” Rina whistled, not making any attempts to catch anyone. “Who’s this?” asked Alice. “It’s our neoromantic. Platon. He’s Platosha!” “Why a neoromantic?” Alice asked suspiciously.

17

Serezh is short of Sergey, Vas is short of Vasilii, and Dim is short for Dmitrii. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

53

“He’s strange. Night doesn’t exist for him. They say he picks flowers, jumps out of bushes, silently gives them to an unknown girl, and runs away. And all this after one in the morning, somewhere on the deserted road by the railway! Several times he was even splashed by a spray can!” “But it’s so remarkable!” Alice said pensively. For a special reason she was won over by the extreme pallor of the young person, and even more by the word “silently.” Alice connected this word with a very important event in her life. *** He was eighteen and studying somewhere, escaping from the army. Alice was three years younger. He was long, with hollow cheeks. Not enough for him that he was emaciated, and, strengthening the impression, he walked around in a tee with a skeleton on the back. Alice did not even understand whether she was being courted or not. He simply followed her as if stuck to her. It was even impossible to figure out if he was smart or stupid, because he always kept silent. He smoked and kept silent. He kept silent and smoked. And somewhere there under the tee smoke was seeping through the endless ribs. So she called him Skeleton. He obviously liked it, because he smiled, not immediately, but after a time, because it was proper to slow down. Alice thought, doubted, and fell in love. Girls are generally set up in such a way that they fall in love with any object that follows them sufficiently diligently. They wandered till twelve, till one in the morning. Alice usually walked in front, and Skeleton continually bumped into her when she stopped. Now and then it seemed to her that he, like a baby elephant, was searching for her tail in order to grab it. Then she started giving Skeleton her hand. Let us at least hold hands. Else it will be lost. Skeletons, they are like that, losable… When they had disagreement, he did not beg pardon. To do so, one had to learn to talk. Skeleton had another method: he persistently hung out on the bench in front of the building, yellow and tired like a vampire. He sat for a day, two… Tender-hearted grannies from the ground floor brought him tea and soup in jars. “Young man? Sit, sit, young man! This here’s for you!” they said in warm voices, looking into their own past. Skeleton wondered at nothing. He did not even thank them. He ate the soup and moved the jars under the bench. Alice’s mama was a decisive woman, cheerful and efficient. She seriously did not like Skeleton. Nor passion with turmoil. Mama amused herself by printing out the criminal code of the Russian Federation and hanging it up in the hallway and on the doors of her room. Alice tore the pages into shreds, but Mama at work had a sea of free paper and a bundle of printers hot from zeal. According to the wise law of nature, each new person came out of two used ones. Alice also had Papa. He was taciturn, led an autonomous existence, and did not interfere in anything. While Skeleton was hanging around under the windows, Mama several times sent Papa out to have a man-to-man talk with
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

54

Skeleton. For some reason Mama knew how men talk with men, and Papa vaguely embodied this. Alice even went out to the balcony to watch as Papa and Skeleton sat at different ends of the bench and kept quiet. At the same time, Papa sometimes ate soup from a jar, because the tender-hearted old ladies brought much more soup than would fill Skeleton’s ribs. So it continued for about four months. Then Skeleton suddenly disappeared and was around no longer. He did not answer his cell phone, did not answer emails, and she did not have his home address. She did not at all know where he lived. Alice wailed, beat on the walls. She suspected the most terrible: stabbed in a back alley, the long arm of the military. She again hated Mama furiously. It seemed to her that Mama was smirking strangely. Maybe Mama was guilty? She had hired gunmen who abducted Skeleton into the forest and chained him to an oak, pasting him over with the laws of the Russian Federation. Then came spring, the sun was rather hot, and… Alice suddenly saw Skeleton in the park in his usual black tee. It seemed he had not even washed it since then. Well, perhaps several times it was in the rain. Skeleton stood by the kiosk and bought beer. He flicked the lid, greeted her, and wandered off. Alice saw slightly to the side a tall girl with a sharp face. Skeleton again strolled pensively slightly behind like a baby elephant, not grabbing a tail. Alice returned home and lay in bed for three hours, evenly biting the corners of the pillow as the rest became wet. Then she got up, went into the kitchen, and ate a pot of cold soup. This was her return to life. That evening Alice realized a surprising thing. The screaming, absurd, ridiculous Mama, who foolishly smashed the TV remote against the windowsill and wasted twenty bundles of paper, was right. He, so manly and loyal, turned out to be a bastard and shallow. That is, it turns out that the shouts and spoiling of life can be love. Yet all these overnight stays on a bench can also not be love. Alice became like the inside of glass, hard and brittle. As if she was hovering somewhere outside. Sometimes she found herself sitting on a chair, stooped, with arms sagging to the floor, and thinking, “Who’s this? Me? Heavens!” They dragged her to a psychologist. Psychology wearied her. She was shown blots and was asked what she saw. Alice answered corpses and maniacs, although she saw fishes, birds, and butterflies. At the same time out of habit a monotonic chant emerged in her, “A fish doesn’t have a tooth. Fishes don’t have teeth.” She could repeat this for hours like a self-lulling song. However, Mama was again in her element. If before she played the game “my daughter fell in love with a monster,” then now the game was “my daughter is a mental patient and I’ll cure her.” In both cases one could be terrified, tell everyone about this, buy clever books in clinical psychiatry, contact all new doctors, and kill oneself with worry. Certainly, if someone said to Mama that she was contented and such a life was to her liking, she would strangle him. Once a wasp flew over and began to crawl on her. “Get lost, bug!” said Alice. The wasp disappeared, but Alice saw it in the evening on the kitchen window and
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

55

forever immured it in a half-litre jar. The next morning the jar turned out to be empty. Alice swore at dear Papa. She was in one of the last grades. She had to get a move on and start thinking about the future. Until her acquaintance with Skeleton Alice found out that she had signed up for the school of young philologists with Moscow State University. “What the heck is this philology?” she was surprised and immediately received from Mama the crushing answer, “Where else? You demand two roubles in change from a rouble! Exact sciences are inadvisable for you!” Alice gave a lot of thoughts and realized that other than the philology faculty, there really was nowhere else. There, at preparatory courses, Athanasius, sent by Kavaleria, found her. Alice did not find time to communicate with him properly. Using a sandal, she whacked the wasp stuck to her. Chapter 7 Eight Objects, Minus a Kangaroo Each of us bears an invisible banner in life. How many times it happened that I weakened internally, gave in, lowered my hands, and threw it into the mud, suggesting to myself that there was no banner and it was all nonsense. But every time someone, infinitely tactful, found it, raised my banner, and carried it further. And I suddenly discovered that I could not be without it. Then I caught up with him, seized my banner, and went further with it. From the diary of a non-returning hdiver It was noisy in the HDive dining room. The rather sour smell of cabbage soup at dinner had given way to the appetizing one of hot buckwheat with canned stew. Supovna was moving like a meteor. She had already communicated to everyone that she was leaving, because she could not live among scoundrels that pig out and do not help. In thirty minutes she managed to curse seven people, clonk two with a ladle, and throw a kitchen rag at three. The team of five on duty tried to do at least half of what one Supovna was doing. Two new tables were set up for dinner. Vovchik and Ruzya dragged them out from the pantry. True, they remained new only in the imagination of Kuzepych, but then they were notable for extreme solidity and on occasion could serve as supporting pedestals for elephants in the circus. Oxa was twirling near Vovchik and nagging him about some middle hdiver, whom he had gone to four mornings in a row for a ballpoint pen. “Couldn’t you have come to me?” “You were sleeping,” answered Vovchik. “And she wasn’t?”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

56

“Her pen writes better!” Oxa launched a saltshaker at him, having strengthened the throw with the lion. After whistling as from a sling, the saltshaker sunk into the wall. The whole HDive watched with approval as Vovchik bolted dodging. “The liveliest couple,” said Yara. Ul turned to her and stopped munching on a carrot. The jaw powerful as a horse’s paused. He jealously asked, “Why is that? Better than us perhaps?” “In any case more colourful. They supplement each other like legless and armless. He can’t stay still, chatters like a bird, and she can’t go to bed until she irons all her clothing. I lived in the same room with her, so naturally I had to hide the iron.” Ul snorted. He started to munch on the carrot again. When Supovna placed a saucepan on the table, Rina noticed the clms on her wrist. It was shorter than normal but more massive and resembled more a wristband. The cast figures seemed more three-dimensional and denser. Besides the usual figures, there was one more on the clms – a falcon taking off. Rina recalled that until now she had only seen this shortened clms on one person in all of HDive. Kavaleria. Just that she had a hand with a sceptre instead of a falcon. Rina involuntarily stretched out to the falcon. Supovna caught her wrist with two fingers. Rina realized that she could not even stir. There was more strength in the old lady’s two fingers than in her whole body. “Don’t grab the bIRdie!” Supovna warned with the slanting smile of a grenadier. She simply warned but Rina sensed that it would be better not to argue. “People! Stop dawdling! First team of five at that table, second – this!” Athanasius shouted from the senior hdivers’ table. He was holding bread in one hand and a potato in the other and was biting them in turn, by way of strict fairness. Close to the end of dinner a light hand came down on Makar’s shoulder. He shook it off. The hand did not persist and came down on his crew cut. Makar started to get up angrily but saw how Alice’s face fell and sat back down. He quickly considered not shaking it off. “Good day! My name is Kaleria Valerevna, I’m the director of HDive. And you, of course, are Makar? Kuzepych said that someone was really dying to repair the minibus. Do you know whom he had in mind?” “Here he is!” Makar hurriedly said and, not choosing for long, poked at Sashka, “He’s our regular Mr. Fix-it! Just give him a screwdriver, he’ll fix whater you want!” Sashka thought with melancholy that he had to teach Makar nevertheless when he had a chance. Simply for the prevention of mental disorders. “I know that you all have a lot of questions,” continued Kavaleria, adjusting her glasses with her nose standing in for the emotional part. “Therefore I’ll answer them when they’re asked. A) Regarding parents and friends. None of them will be able to come here. Meetings are possible but only in the city. I don’t need crowds of relatives roaming along the fence of HDive. B) Understandable that many questions will emerge. But no one will worry. I guarantee you this.”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

57

“They will worry!” Alice said with emphasis. “They won’t!” “You don’t know my mom!” “And you don’t know me!” Kavaleria said quietly. Alice leniently tinkled her medals. “Well, look: it’s my business to warn you! My mom will paste papers over the entire guildhall, depending on what article and clause you all settle on here!” Kaleria Valerevna reached for her other glasses and looked at Alice through them, for verification of impression. “Let her,” she decided. “Another obvious question: things. You all turned up here unexpectedly and, naturally, will need something. Regarding things, go to Ul. He’ll help you deliver the most necessary things into the guild. Clarification! Limit of eight objects per person. Absolutely everything is counted. So, pants with a belt aren’t one object but two. Pen with a notebook are two. These aren’t my whims but the ancient tradition of HDive.” “What if I want an elephant? Is an elephant also one object?” Danny got in with curiosity and instantly received the exhaustive answer, “An elephant, first of all, is a living being. Forced teleportation of living beings is not encouraged!” Supper was raced through. Danny tracked down Ul and pestered him with endless questions: how many objects are two socks, two or one? Kaleria Valerevna was beating off Freda, who demanded for herself a separate room, the rules of HDive, and the list of disciplines for learning. “I don’t promise a room. Short list of rules is on the door. If you want the full one, it’s dated 1503 and in Latin. There is even a later Greek translation,” answered the director. “And Russian?” pressed Freda. “Russian translation was entrusted to Ul three years ago as a lightweight project for those physically gifted,” smiled Kaleria Valerevna. “Curious about when he’ll deliver?” Ul exerted himself. “Work is going at full speed. I’ve already created a computer file!” he reported. “And the miracles here, where are they from in general?” Freda asked suspiciously. “Where do you see miracles? Name one at least!” Kaleria demanded. “Well, the fence with the reverse jump-off,” Freda began to put up her fingers. “The minibus… A monster, swallowing people.” Kaleria removed her glasses. Without them, her eyes seemed defenceless. “Remember once and for all, my dear! A miracle is a deviation from the usual order of things and which makes the world at least a drop more moral. But if the world doesn’t become more moral, then it isn’t a miracle but a trick.” *** The novices spent the whole evening doing tedious calculations. It turned out eight objects for a person was monstrously little. Boots with socks, jeans with belt, and a sweater – that is already five. If we add, let us assume, even a comb, a
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

58

charger for the phone, and a toothbrush, then you will order nothing more. And indeed one would also want something for the soul. It was necessary to form complex alliances and exclude all duplicate objects. “Let’s do this: one toothpaste for all, but the largest, okay?” Sashka tried to talk Vlad Ganich into it. Vlad persistently shook his head. “I need my own!” “Well? Then shampoo. Communal, okay?” “I need my own!” “Your own toilet paper too?” Sashka could not control himself. Vlad grinned wickedly. Finally, they gave up on him, and he was rocking himself on the chair, in grief that he could not bring everything. “You wouldn’t be able to confine yourself even to a hundred things!” said Danny. He ordered for himself several books, and was now agonizingly oscillating in the choice between house slippers and a dictionary. Sashka was tired of tinkering with the list and set off for the “female half” to clarify if it would be possible to join forces with them somehow. Cyril tagged along. It was all the same to him that he was going somewhere, even just to the girls. “Let’s assign them!” he demanded along the way. “Lara for me and all the rest for you!” Sashka was moved by his generosity. “Are you sure, not Lena for you?” he asked. “What’s this with Lena! She’s not my type! Such are a dime a dozen. I pick Lara.” “But I think Lena picked you,” remarked Sashka. “She can pick anybody! The hen! In order to distract a woman from universal suffering, enough to tell her that she had soiled the back of her skirt!” Cyril snorted, but blushed in delight nevertheless. He pondered for about ten steps and then generously stated, “Well, fine. I changed my mind. I take Lara, Lena, and… mm-m… well also… Rina.” “Why Rina?” asked Sashka, beginning to examine his chin with interest. “Well… She, of course, has freckles, but passable,” Cyril carelessly blurted out. The next second his back was pressed into the timetable stand. Sashka understood that he was furious only when announcements flew from the stand. “What, are you crazy? A psycho? Get treatment!” said Cyril, disporting with words. Sashka, having come to his senses, let go of him, turned and walked on. Cyril overtook him near the girls’ room. One could already sense in the hallway that an intense writing operation was taking place in the room. A piece of paper was hanging on the door: ENORMOUS THANKS for not forgetting to knock! “Listen, cranky fellow, what do you want? I’ve already given you Alice! And Freda!” Cyril shouted. “Let me tell Freda that you’ve given her to me. Now she’ll be really pleased!” proposed Sashka.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

59

Cyril’s sense of humour immediately evaporated. “Being brutal? Don’t you understand a joke?” he got scared, grabbing his sleeve. Sashka knocked and pushed open the door. They could not recognize the room. The beds were rearranged. The lower bunks were covered with bedspreads. The table was moved out to the middle of the room. Freda was sitting at the table and scribbling: Anything lying around not in place will be thrown out the window! ENORMOUS THANKS for understanding! Sashka peered over his shoulder sideways at Freda and began to look for Rina. He sensed that she seemed to be on the second bunk by the window. It is interesting that each person generally chooses a place maximally suited to him. One would even find an unnoticed corner in an absolutely empty room and settle there comfortably and quietly. Another would sit by the door and stretch out his legs so that everyone would trip over him. Cyril and Sashka did not stay long with the girls. Alice and Freda immediately began to yell and the guys found themselves in the hallway faster than they could make up a common list. “Cyril, the guys haven’t hurt your feelings?” asked Lena, looking out behind them. “Who? Me?” Cyril was indignant. “Then why is it written on your back that the seminar for middle hdivers has been moved?” Lena asked, removing from his back a piece of yellow sticky note from the stand. Cyril began to mumble something indistinct. His mumbling did not satisfy Lena. “Keep your eyes open so that Cyril’s feelings aren’t hurt!” she ordered Sashka and returned to the room. There Lara was just suggesting to Rina, “Did you see how Sashka looked at you? I have very sharp eyes!” Rina shrugged her shoulders. “In the marquise’s eyes appeared feverish lustre. He crushed her in an embrace. The crack of ribs was heard in the night,” she said mentally, took a can of condensed milk and left to feed the hyeon. Besides condensed milk, she had a very huge bag of chicken heads. One day, still summer, after dinner Supovna held her back by the elbow and dragged her into the kitchen. The people on duty and two permanent assistants, Nadia and Gosha, were rushing about in pairs and splashing boiling water. Four huge sinks were filled with dishes higher than the head. “Your little monster hasn’t croaked yet?” shouted Supovna. Rina shrank. The first weeks she hoped that only five people would know about the hyeon, but apparently the best way to keep a secret in HDive was to try persistently to reveal it to everyone. Moreover, not simply to reveal it but with lots of unnecessary details. “Ought to have destroyed it before the eyes open! What a thing!” Supovna again yelled. Rina was ready to bolt sideways from the kitchen but here Supovna dived under the sink. “Here give it these...! Let it choke itself, your little monster!” and she thrust at Rina an enormous bag of terrible-looking chicken heads with yellow beaks and bloody crests. Rina, having studied the habits of her
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

60

baby hyeon, sized up that if “her little monster” choked, then it would be solely from greediness. Now, she went with the bag of chicken heads and feet down to the ground floor and saw Platosha at the doors of HDive. The top romantic of HDive was sitting on the windowsill and telling fortunes with a cactus, pulling out the needles with pincers. His eyes were sunken. Under the eyes were dark-blue pimply rims. Rina sympathized: indeed, running after cottage folks with bunches of gladioli. He rushes about and in the daytime sleeps in the stable on a pile of sawdust. “Hello!” he said to Rina, waving weakly to her. “Where are you heading to, pretty child?” Rina smiled. Next to Platosha bounced Vityara, enthusiastic and fresh. Small, lop-eared, dishevelled, he first yelled, cried, roared with laughter, then blurted out his favourite “you said it, dude.” Platosha and Vityara formed an inseparable pair. Vityara loved Platosha to distraction and repeated everything after him. On noticing Rina, Vityara dashed toward her. “Did you see this lowlife?” he began to yell. “What lowlife?” Rina did not understand. Platosha with a tired face poked a finger into his own chest. “He’s talking about me,” he lazily explained. Vityara hopped. “This rat blew me off the phone ICQ! True, I killed him first but I just cleared off! Is there a difference? Tell me, is there?” he roared again. “Aha,” Rina carefully agreed. She left HDive and began to walk along the path that had become familiar. At first along the main lane to the old birch with double trunks. A turn to the left from the old birch and along the very bright and open park to the fence. The further from the Green Labyrinth, the more it became a Moscow outskirts forest. If it was easy to meet eucalyptus, cedar, or Japanese pine with a flat top in the first three hundred metres, then nearer to the fence grew the usual birches and pines, among which one occasionally came across an apple tree grown wild. A crack was heard in the birch grove on Rina’s right hand side. Someone, stomping, was walking in her direction. Without a moment’s hesitation, Rina dived for a fallen trunk with a layer of soil turned inside out at the root, lay on her stomach, and hid herself. Between the trunk and the soil there was a small space, into which Rina could look, to whatever extent the tall grass allowed. Rina lay there and waited patiently, examining her clms. She looked and considered how many hdivers had worn the clms before her. She saw scratches on the cast figures and cracks on the skin. Only the lace was new, but this was understandable. Laces wore out the quickest of all. “How old is my clms? A hundred years?” one day in the summer she asked Yara, with whom she had managed to become friends. “More. The last was sewn about two hundred and fifty years ago. Now no dragon skin left. Well, perhaps a couple of scraps left somewhere. So that there are less and less clms each year,” Yara answered worriedly. “Do former hdivers return their clms?”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

61

“Often not. All the same no point for them. As soon as a hdiver appropriates a marker, his clms no longer charges,” answered Yara. The trembling of the soil intensified. Ten seconds later Rina saw enormous feet, which could only belong to one creature in the entire HDive. “Gorshenya!” she whispered. The giant was behaving mysteriously. After several steps it would stop and, frozen, listen. Rina pressed her forehead against the birch, although she knew even without doing this that the place she was hiding in was safe. Gorshenya turned out to be so close that she could, pushing a hand through from below, grab its foot. Having stood for a while by the birch, Gorshenya stepped over the trunk and, without turning around, decisively made its way to the old oak. By the oak it lay on its stomach and pressed an ear to the soil between two thick roots. It lay motionless for a long time, for a very long time, and only the enormous mouth was extended with pleasure. Afraid that if she got up now it would see her in the grass, Rina began to crawl carefully around the birch trunk. As she did not try to do everything quietly, a branch nevertheless snapped under her. Gorshenya jerked up, looked around quickly, and, after taking several big steps, disappeared into the grove. *** Rina was very pensive going to the fence. Outwardly, this was expressed in that she muttered monotonously under her breath the senseless, “Mad hedgehogs in the batty forest tucked in and polished off a sausage!” After jumping from the fence in the opposite direction, Rina reached the garage. If there was no gate earlier, then recently, when it became clear that the impressively grown hyeon would fly any minute now, she and Ul found a wooden interior door and attached it haphazardly. “It would be better not to hang it. Only teases the locals,” Rina said, after estimating that the wooden door could be easily broken with a crowbar. “HOLY! Dang! But there’ll be nothing! Only don’t forget to touch the door with your clms,” said Ul. “If I forget?” “Then pardone, gal! You’ll turn up at a height of four metres above the Istra Reservoir. Closer to the bottom than to the shore there.” After taking a step into the shed, Rina stopped at the threshold. Immediately something very big, the size of a considerable calf, forcefully pushed her in the shoulders. Rina toppled over, dropping the chicken heads. A sticky tongue slid from her chin to her eyebrows. It seemed to Rina that her head was plunged into spoilt garbage sitting around for about three days. “I’ll kill you! I’ll finish you off!” she began to yell, pushing away the insolent hulk with her knees. The baby hyeon whimpered resentfully. Spitting with disgust, Rina wiped her face with a sleeve. The young hyeon ate with greediness, growling, flapping its wings, and with its back to Rina, as if not ruling out that Rina would take away what she recently gave. Now and then it seemed to Rina that the hyeon did not taste the food because it was swallowing without chewing. It ate everything it
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

62

could. Once Rina saw how the month-old hyeon tore and gobbled up in two minutes an artificial leather boot found here under the shelves. For a long time the baby hyeon remained nameless. Rina could not determine the sex of the pup and did not risk giving it a name without knowing the sex. The sex was determined only when Supovna came to look at the hyeon. By that time the baby hyeon was the size of a big bulldog and could crack a can of condensed milk in one or two bites. The greyish sides had changed colour. Noticeable spots had appeared on them. The separate islets merge in an adult hyeon and become dark strips. After seeing the hyeon, Supovna first of all leaned over and spat, carrying out the age-old etiquette of an old woman. “Such a thing was born! Ought to have given it the shovel! The shovel!” The baby hyeon sneered and showed Supovna its teeth, sharp and small like a saw. They did not frighten Supovna. “Snap your jaw at the missus! What are you there? A lad or a lass?” The baby hyeon began to roar, dripping saliva, for the description of which Mendeleev’s entire table18 would not be enough. It flapped its wings and gurgled. Something seethed and bubbled in its chest. Moist bubbles burst in its nostrils. The skin on its snout was all bunched up. “What’s this? And why have you gathered your beak into an accordion?” Supovna shouted with indignation. “Well, turn over!” Rina grabbed the hyeon firmly by the base of the right wing and with a jerk turned it over onto its back. Supovna leaned down. The baby hyeon continued to gurgle but somehow not maliciously. It smelled Supovna’s self-confidence, kindness, and fish. Either that or both or all three were secretly pleasant to the baby hyeon and compelled it to stay still. “Good that it’s not a lass! A lad! Still a shovel would have been more fitting!” Supovna stated and left, after throwing a half bag of herring heads to the baby hyeon. Then the baby hyeon rolled all over in these heads so that Rina would not touch it for three days, knowing that otherwise they would bypass her along an adjacent hallway in HDive. Partly because of the fish and partly because of the nightmarish habit of the baby hyeon “not to watch its tongue.” The smell of the tongue was fitting, especially after Rodion, becoming kinder, began to drag dead cats to the baby hyeon. “Where do you get so many dead cats? You haven’t shot them by any chance?” Rina asked him one day. “Fat chance! Only use up the charges!” Rodion answered not very convincingly, after which the dead cats came to a stop, but then Rodion came across incredible quantities of dead crows and jackdaws. “Here I walk along the street, I look, a crow is lying around. About a hundred metres away, two more. Well I think, already hauling one, what’s some more!”
18

The first version of the periodic table of chemical elements by Dmitrii Ivanovich Mendeleev (18341907), Russian chemist and inventor. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

63

Ul, to whom Rina described everything, looked at Rodion with suspicion. He had not forgotten how two years ago Rodion rescued a half-dead chicken from the dogs in the settlement and, while everyone was waiting for the noble deed of rendering first aid to the poor bird, he and Max together gobbled it up. “I hate chickens! They frightened me to death in childhood!” Rodion said in his own justification. “Uh-huh. The book about the golden cockerel 19 fell from the cabinet onto him,” confirmed Ul, giving everything his own interpretations. Rina named the baby hyeon Gavr. “Gauuvrrr!” was the only human word, which the hyeon uttered at the moment of maximum satiety and contentment. Chapter 8 A Prehensile Weapon Each person is a recurring musical motif. One is tramparam! Another is ti-ti-ti! A third is kudah-tah-tah! In addition every person thinks hard and thinks over one and the same thought extended through life and time. One has this, “I will endure anything! I will help everyone!” Another, “All the same everything disappeared. I will always be unhappy.” And a third, “You will not trick me! I myself will dupe everyone!” A person will not be convinced of anything. Any answer that I will give him ought to sound inside him NO MORE THAN my words. From the diary of a non-returning hdiver Close to midnight, the final list was ready. And, it goes without saying, Sashka had to bring it. Cyril was lying in bed with the headsets on and managed even lying to move his feet restlessly. Sashka was glad that he did not sleep under Cyril, because the bed squeaked and threatened to collapse. Makar closed his eyes, intending on doing so only for a second, but he was out all night. Kind Danny took pity and removed his boots. At the same time, a man’s watch with a heavy silver band fell out of the top of the right boot. “Look, what a ridiculous habit! Carries his watch in a boot!” Danny said cheerfully. Vlad Ganich clicked his tooth (he had a hollow tooth with a double root, which he clicked very expressively) and shifted his wallet from under the pillow into his pocket.

19

The Tale of the Golden Cockerel, a fairy tale in verse by Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin (1799-1837), the greatest Russian poet and founder of modern Russian literature. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

64

Sashka found out from Ruzya, whom he ran into along the way, that Ul lived in the attic. Ruzya was in sorrow, and the expression on his face had not so much suffering as voluntary self-torment. Sashka got up to the attic. Light broke through the slit under the door. He knocked. Athanasius opened it. Max was sitting on a stool behind Athanasius’ back and picking at a schnepper with a screwdriver. Rodion was swinging in the hammock and demanded that Max stop aiming at him. “Le…leave me alone! It’s di-discharged!” stuttered Max. “Your bowstring is drawn. Do you want to nail me with the screwdriver? I don’t need much, I’m a small person… And what do you want?” Sashka answered that he had come for Ul and brought the list. “Ul’s over there!” Athanasius poked a finger into the darkness, where an electric bulb was burning like a point. Sashka went along the attic, continually bumping against something. The skeleton of a winged horse hit him in the chest. After going around it, Sashka saw Ul, who was hanging like a bat on a beam with his head down and looking at him. “Brought it? Let’s see!” Ul stretched out his hand for the list and, without looking, threw it onto the hammock. “One from everybody?” “Well, besides the girls and Vlad Ganich. He’ll bring his own tomorrow,” said Sashka. He was unaccustomed to speaking with a person whose face he saw upside down. Obviously, Ul understood this. He swung on the beam and dropped down with surprising adroitness, not safeguarding himself with his hands. He rolled over and jumped up. “So, he doesn’t trust anybody else?” Ul asked. “Well, not that he doesn’t. He’s on the fourth page… so far…” said Sashka. Ul smiled. “But you all kept within the limit?” Sashka started to answer something. “In short, there’re so many of them that it’s as if there’s no limit!” Ul guessed and, not pretending to be excessively polite, showed Sashka the door. “Good night!” the latch snapped with the sound of a rifle lock. Athanasius stood next to Ul and together they listened as Sashka clattered down the iron stairs. “Likely not a bad fellow,” he said. Ul nodded. “Possibly not bad. But we’ll know this only after the first dive.” Rodion had taken off his clms and was stitching through its frayed edge with coarse thread. He pushed the needle through with a five-rouble coin instead of a thimble. Dragon skin was very thick. “For me it’s after the second,” he grunted. “The first dive shows whether you resisted the marker. But the second is simply the naked acid test. There’s already no novelty, nonsense has been knocked out, the romance has died, everything aches, but still have to barge in on a horse and dive.” “By the way, heard the news: Vityara refused to dive,” recalled Ul. “Who, Yousaiditdude refused? He d-dived not badly! Ex-extracted something every time!” Max did not believe him. “Kavaleria said he renounced and that’s all. By HDive rules this isn’t forbidden. They won’t even ask him why. He made the decision,” Ul remarked.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

65

Rodion scratched his stubbly cheek. “For some reason many are giving up. Platosha also refused recently. Some rotten hdivers these middle ones are,” he said unhappily. “Well, Platosha has another reason. Nosebleed with the difference in height… What’s he going to do, plug up the nose with a pillow? But what will Vityara do now?” “Don’t know. Maybe in time he’ll rethink it and dive again. If not, in HDive there’s loads of work even without that. At one point Kuzepych also turned down diving and he doesn’t sit around doing nothing.” “Ku…Kuzepych refused to d-dive? Y-you’re r-really s…s…s?” Max asked again, stuttering even more than normal from agitation. “Sing, Max! Sing!” advised Rodion. Max grew red. Once, without thinking, he blurted out that in childhood his grandmother made him sing. And Rodion, it goes without saying, memorized this. “There’s something confusing with Kuzepych…” said Ul. “He turned down diving. Then his bee perished. He wanted to leave HDive. He wasn’t being childish… Kavaleria persuaded him to remain for a year, then another year… On the whole, he has been here ever since.” “But indeed the bee perishes only in those, who…” began Rodion. Ul did not let him finish. “Since the Green Labyrinth marker let him through the fence, it means there’s a chance. First, he loses the possibility of a passage to Duoka; the bee then perishes. The HDive fence is the last bastion. In the case of Kuzepych he stood up to the assault,” he interrupted. *** Having handed in the list, Sashka roamed around HDive for a long time. He saw nothing especially interesting if we did not consider the wall next to the dining room, on which were hung a couple dozens of captured combat axes, two bows, and a dozen arbalests. Unfortunately, everything was thoroughly secured and the rampage of inquisitive hands subsided by itself. Slightly disappointed, Sashka returned to the second floor. When he left to search for Ul, the long hallway was illuminated. Now all the lamps were off except one, a distant one. It was burning far away, by the little area with the ping-pong table. The light of this single lamp was reflected off the white walls, a seemingly tapered tunnel. Feeling inexplicable anxiety, Sashka walked on for about ten metres. “You will di-e! Your hour has str-uc-k!” he heard muffled hissing. He stopped. He looked around nervously. Blind walls surrounded him. Sashka took several careful steps. Again a sound was born in the void – barely distinguishable, similar to the rustle of dead lips, “D-e-e-eath!” Now Sashka caught the direction of the sound. He turned, threw up his hands, but… there was only a wall. Plastered and white, bluish ripples went along it, as if someone was trying to force his way through the bricks and plastering to him. While Sashka was standing motionlessly, everything was quiet, but he only
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

66

had to move as much as a centimetre and voices again spilled out. There were a lot of them. They reached from everywhere, from the blind walls, “The brain for me… The eyes for me… and the g-u-uts for me!” Sashka recoiled and hit his shoulder against the cold wall. “Who are you?” he shouted, panicking. “Entombed h-hdivers! You talked to us, it means you’re ou-urs!” a voice hissed and directly from the blind wall a figure with something white overhead attacked Sashka. Sashka bounced back, screamed in terror, and, without a moment’s hesitation, hit the entombed hdiver’s jaw. That one collapsed like being chopped down. Sashka did not manage to hit a second time. The walls around him exploded. Several more figures rushed at him from different directions. One of them held in his hand a terrible hooked automatic weapon. The bright crimson outline of the lion flared up on the wrist of another. Sashka was knocked off his feet, and in only a few seconds he was transformed into a mummy wrapped in white linen. His arms and feet were bound so tightly that he could only move his fingers and neck. Sashka was lying on the floor, rolling his eyes and making all kinds of new discoveries. That the hooked automatic weapon nearby turned out to be a commonplace drill. That one of the attackers was a girl with a shaved head. The “entombed hdiver” whom he had hit moved with difficulty and got up. This was Vovchik. Sashka understood belatedly what was going on. Some seven or eight “middle” hdivers holding sheets with raised hands stood by the walls. The sheets were white and the wall also. Even two steps away with the weak illumination everything merged into one uniform background, and it seemed that the wall itself was wailing and wheezing. The shaven-headed girl squatted down next to Sashka. “No gold? Gose not filled up?” she asked in a kind voice. “No, why?” Sashka did not understand. “Till you choke!” the girl said considerately and placed a taut rectangle of plaster on Sashka’s mouth. He tried to push it off with his tongue – no good. “Get up!” ordered the girl. They helped the “mummy” up. The mumbling Sashka found himself directly in front of Vovchik. “Now you’ll find out what ‘novice night’ is!” he warned with a threat and touched his jaw. Swaying on the hands carrying him, Sashka glided to the end of the corridor. A large-headed fellow, identified by Sashka as “kitchen Gosha,” squatted down in front of the door and stuck his ear to it. “Asleep!” he whispered and pulled the handle down. Eight shadows and one animated cocoon infiltrated the unlit room. Sashka saw the blue square of the window crisscrossed with pine branches. Makar’s powerful snore reached them from a top bunk. Sashka was lowered with great care onto the empty bed and persuaded not to mumble. Work was already humming noiselessly in the room. A small young fellow squatted with the drill for several seconds in front of Makar’s boots. The drill buzzed quietly. The shaven-headed girl thoroughly sewed Vlad Ganich’s blanket to the mattress, using a very thick upholstery needle.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

67

Danny was attached to the bed with Scotch tape. They carefully placed a long stick of sausage on his chest, put it in a fixed position with the same Scotch tape along the ends, and covered him with the blanket. Beside him, touching in a business-like manner the teeth of a saw with a nail, a middle hdiver stood still. Not awake, Danny began to turn, said distinctly, “I hate slow Internet!” and made a useless attempt to turn to the other side. Vovchik, caringly like a loving mommy, got down on his knees at the foot of the sleeping Cyril and put pieces of paper between the toes. After finishing with the paper, he extracted a cigarette lighter from his pocket and began to turn the little wheel, waiting for the others to finish. “Attention! Ten seconds!” whispered the shaven-headed girl. Having moved the bed from the wall, two people stood on the different sides. After taking a sheet by the four corners, they raised it over Makar and held it approximately half a metre above him. Now everyone was only waiting for the signal. The signal was Vovchik clicking the cigarette lighter, and he in one long movement of the hand set fire to eight pieces of paper at once. Sashka expected an immediate howl, but Cyril continued to snuffle, uncomfortably tucking in his toes in his sleep. The fire burnt quietly for several seconds. It already began to seem to Sashka that he was feeling nothing, but here Cyril began to yell in a bad voice and, after flinging away the blanket with his knees, began to rotate his feet quickly, as if turning pedals. But the quicker he turned them, the better the fire burnt. “Only the ‘rocket’ is better than the ‘bike’ but terribly difficult to get saltpetre!” Vovchik muttered with regret. Cyril’s cry alarmed everyone. Now there was no need to hide. The fellow with the saw immediately took to sawing Danny in two. Shreds of blanket and scraps of sausage flew in different directions. Danny roared like an injured camel. Two middle hdivers helpfully shook Makar’s bed. “Landslide! Earthquake! Run for your life!” Vovchik shouted at the top of his lungs. Understanding nothing, Makar sat up on the shaking bed. In the room there was a haze illuminated only by the burning “bike” Cyril. Makar was swaying from side to side. Above him hung something white, rectangular. The hdivers holding the sheet slowly lowered their hands. A second later the sheet touched Makar’s forehead. “It’s coming down!” Vovchik yelled still more grievously. “Hold the ceiling! The ceiling is falling! We’ll all die!” Makar threw himself down on his back and in terror set his feet against the sheet. Ir probably really seemed to him that the ceiling was collapsing. “Good job! Good holding! All hope is on you! Help with the hands, the hands!” Vovchik bellowed. Makar started to help with his hands. Vovchik tugged at the planks under the mattress. They separated and Makar dropped down onto Vlad Ganich. Vlad, sewn to the mattress, rolled down from the bed and now together with the mattress crawled on the floor like a gigantic slug. Danny, with the sausage sawn through to the middle, was shuddering convulsively. The saw was sticking out of his chest. Light suddenly flared up, blinding everyone for several seconds, both the older guys and the new collection of hdivers. A sleepy Kuzepych was standing still
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

68

at the door, naked to the waist, shaggy like an orangutan, in long shorts down below the knees. He was barefoot, and the red toes of his feet spread wide seemed like the same claws as the fingers on his hands. “I warned you, lock the doors!” Kuzepych said, interrogatively examining Cyril, who continued to “bike” with his feet, although the paper between the toes had long gone out. Makar, blinking, distrustfully examined the ceiling. It was felt that he had difficulty understanding how he had managed to stick it back. “We… well this… visited purely to meet…” muttered Vovchik. It was boring for Kuzepych to listen to justifications. He went up to Danny, pulled the saw out of Danny’s chest and critically ran his thumb along the teeth. The teeth were crammed with fur and sausage. “Ruined the tool! Would be better with a circular saw! Mend the blanket! Unscrew the shoes! Drill to the shop! Two hundred push-ups for everyone and march to your rooms!” he ordered. “Push-ups for me too?” Vovchik asked insinuatingly. “My hand was recently broken!” “Persuaded. A hundred squats for you…” Kuzepych decided and, waiting until Vovchik triumphantly smirked, added stiffly, “…on each leg!” The consequences of the night assault only ended around two. The “sawn in half” Danny just could not fall asleep anymore, although the always-hungry Makar had eaten the sausage attached to him. Makar was the one who calmed down faster than everybody, although he had howled louder than anyone. “Here it is – the healthy psyche of a healthy psycho!” Cyril muttered with envy. Having eaten up the rest of the sausage, Makar took off his shoes, and, picking his teeth with his little finger, climbed into bed. Up there he pulled off his shirt and became white, hairless, and brawny, with a blue network of veins under thin skin. A long scar passed over his right nipple. Danny began to blink sorrowfully. Like many smart people, he was incredibly impressionable. “Knife?” asked Danny. “No! Which? Climbed over something there, caught by a spike,” said Makar negligently. “And where are such spikes?” Like a classical child prodigy, in a number of everyday things Danny manifested a naiveté off the scale. Makar did not begin to explain anything. “Nevertheless you’re afraid of me, lanky! And those who tricked us, let them be afraid too!” he said and, after yawning with a click of his jaws, instantly fell asleep. Danny could not sleep. He went out onto the street and began to wander around HDive. The sandy path seemed bluish in the moonlight. Dark curved stones piled up at the turns. If a white wolf sat on one of them and howled at the moon, Danny would not be surprised. He was in that pre-dawn nightly state when a person is surprised by nothing at all. Unexpectedly Danny became uneasy. He quickly stepped back into the shadow and squatted down. Several seconds later he was blinded by a sharp flash. The inexperienced Danny did not know that it would be better not to look at a strange teleportation, especially in the dark.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

69

When he again had the ability to see, he discovered that a figure in a hdiver jacket was moving along the sandy path in his direction. The person was shivering with cold, stooping, and hiding his hands in his pockets. The collar raised high hid his face. He did not see Danny, who sat in the shadow, and moonlight was pouring onto the person under observation. When he turned out to be very near, Danny noticed that he was swaying and his teeth were chattering. And he immediately understood the reason. The person was wet right through. Water was flowing from his jacket. It was also squelching in his boots. The unknown person reached the porch of HDive, opened the door, and disappeared inside. Danny waited a certain time and set off along the tracks. He was interested in who this was. At first the wet tracks were distinctly discernable, but then they became much sparser. Apparently, the person had taken off his shoes. Nevertheless Danny managed to figure out that the unknown person went up to the second floor, to the residence. Here the tracks were lost among many other moist tracks, because the floor in the shower was eternally damp, and a lot of hdivers in flip-flops were dragging water. Danny sighed and returned to his room. The handle turned easily, but the door only opened five centimetres and ran into an obstacle. Danny realized that they had gone solidly to bed on that side and for security had moved a bed to the door. For a while Danny shouted timidly, “Hey! Gentlemen, it’s me! If you don’t mind, let me in please!” But the gentlemen did not intend to wake up. “Now isn’t it sad, they don’t heed me!” Danny said to himself. He had so merged with his special intonation that he could not be perceived without it. If Danny suddenly became ordinary, everyone would sound the alarm. After treading in pensiveness, Danny tried lying down on the table-tennis table, but though it was larger, it was hard. An old bulky arbalest without bowstring lay next to the table. In a childish impulse Danny grabbed it and started to aim in different directions. Then he lay down on the bench for bench press and, hoping that in the morning he would not bang against the bar with the weights, fell into a deep sleep. Chapter 9 Instructor of Practical Ass-Kicking Do not feel sorry for yourself! Everyone that I feel sorry for will become fodder for worms sooner or later. But what is eternal is born precisely where self-pity ends. So that I become better, I must kick continuously, not beating this to death. From the diary of a non-returning hdiver

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

70

Rina lowered the hammer. She had just nailed Alice’s boots to the back of her bed. Perhaps at least this way she will learn, having barged into the room, not to toss footwear anywhere she happens to be? All the same, Alice does not understand words. She is a humanist, and words have no value to humanists. For all her contemplation, Rina was a person of momentary action. If she read, then for twenty-four hours until her eyes became as red as a vampire’s. If mad at Arturych, then she threw all his things out the window. If she broke a wall in order to make an arch in her room, then in such a way that the neighbour above came running in terror, squealing that the building was collapsing. “And where did you get a sledge hammer at four in the morning?” Mamasia then moaned. After finishing with Alice’s boots, Rina opened the window and jumped onto the lawn. Passing her window, Yara was dragging a military saddle somewhere. The mermaid on her clms had gone out. “A gift for Ul! Only don’t ask where I got this. All the same, it’s not needed in the Museum of Armed Forces. They only stick orders on it,” said Yara. The saddle was gorgeous, made of outstanding leather, and completely new. The usual story. Some stout marshal had inspected a parade on it several times. Then the marshal migrated under the Kremlin wall20 and was decorated with a monument, and the new marshal stated that he did not intend to sit on what the pants of his predecessor had touched. “Can I ask a question?” asked Rina. Yara showed with her fingers how small the question must be. “Why do you love Ul?” Yara stopped and dropped the saddle onto the grass. “Ul, who’s this? With the paunch, always grinning?” “YARA!” “Well, I don’t know. He’s real. Not phony. Not cool. Not made up. He is what he is. Yet he doesn’t notice himself. This bowled me over the first time.” “Whom doesn’t he notice?” Rina did not understand. “Well, it always catches the eye when a guy fusses over himself. How he squints his eyes in front of the mirror, how he laughs, how he looks at himself in photographs. But Ul in his own body is like riding a trolley bus. Be it new or old, what’s the difference, it goes all the same.” Yara laughed and poked Rina in the nose with her index finger. “Beep! Have you fallen in love with someone? Although don’t answer. I know it’s a no.” “How?” “Well, you turn many heads. But when a person is in love, he’s like in a tank. He sees a metre of the field in the view slit and that’s all.” Rina snorted. She had no intention of sitting in a tank and seeing only a metre. Yara went into the stable and Rina to Gavr. She herself did not understand what attracted her to this hyeon. Now and then, it seemed to her that she loved it
20

During the Russian Revolution of 1917, 240 pro-Bolshevik victims were buried in mass graves next to the Kremlin Wall in Moscow’s Red Square, where most of them were killed. From then until 1985, deceased dignitaries were honoured by a burial in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

71

even more than the winged horses. More precisely like this: she loved all winged horses, not picking any concrete favourite, while she loved Gavr selectively. She had hardly jumped over the fence, when Gavr rushed to her, sniffing her hands. After squatting down, Rina kissed Gavr on the snout, having thoroughly wiped the section of the nose with a tissue beforehand. Gavr related quietly to the kiss, but it gobbled the tissue after sniffing it, swallowing laboriously for a long time. When Rina returned to HDive, they were banging spoons there. From the kitchen reached the friendly curses of Supovna. Near the end of breakfast Danny glanced into his cup, “I understand, gentlemen, that some of my communication will summon degrading laughter, but I had tea with vermicelli! Anyone wants to confess?” No one began to confess, including Makar, whose face emitted off-the-scale candour. Sashka in consolation described how once on a kayak trip they had rice, flour, salt, and sugar turning up in one bag, and everything else simply sank in the water. Freda contemptuously flirted with her eyebrows. She considered Sashka an athlete. And athletes, in Freda’s opinion, were horrible people, who write “truely” instead of “truly,” confuse “loose” and “lose,” and no need to talk about the rest. The door flew open. Alice looked up, saw something, and stopped sketching gallows with her wet finger on the table. Ul stormed into the dining room. His face was red, worked up, stiffened. A terrible face. Not noticing, he hit with his thigh a table with a mountain of empty dishes. Plates flew. He shouted something to Supovna, who had jumped out at the crash. The next minute, tearing off her apron, Supovna was already running somewhere. Rina and Sashka rushed in her tracks. Aza was lying in its stall in the stable. Its entire body was spasmodic but the legs straightened unnaturally. The lips and nostril were covered in pink foam. However, Rina did not even look at the nostrils but at its beautiful wings. Bespattered with mud, spread out, crammed with straw, they lay now like something unnecessary, not having any relation to the horse. Someone, not noticing, stepped on a wing feather. Aza convulsively sighed and that was all. The wing even did not stir. Flies were crawling on the mare. They climbed into the eyes, the ears, under the tail. Yara, squatting, shooed them away, but the flies did not even try to pretend to fly away. “Crawled into the stall! Well, get out of here!” shouted Supovna, throwing Vovchik out like a kitten from the stall. Supovna’s power was immeasurable. They said that the lion on her clms did not require recharging at all because of the proximity of the falcon. Supovna and Kavaleria got down on their knees beside Aza. “I came to it in the morning, and this!” Ul said in a pitiful voice. “Calm down! What did it eat yesterday? Where did it graze?” “I led it out to the little brook. At night. Around two.” “Behind HDive?” Kavaleria asked sternly. Ul nodded.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

72

The little brook Zarianka did not appear on any serious map. Narrow like a stream, it cut through the meadow from the west side. The grass on the slope was unique, a person’s height. To take winged horses beyond the grounds of HDive was forbidden, but the temptation was great. As senior hdivers would not get caught for this, they nevertheless led the horses there at night. Kavaleria took a short breath but said nothing. Ul had been punished enough. “Maybe it ate something? Doesn’t look like founder,” 21 she asked Supovna. Supovna, after shaking her head, leaned her weight on Aza. She felt the chest, the stomach, the groin. She detected something on a hind leg, unravelled it, and pulled. Aza blinked with pain, pressed down the ears. In Supovna’s hands was a short piece of barbed wire about twenty centimetres. Rusty, all covered with soil and clay. She shook it in front of Ul’s nose. “Didn’t see it? It had to be limping!” Ul shook his head. He grabbed the wire, and from annoyance wanted to stick the thorns into his own hand. Supovna hit him on the forehead with a knuckle. She hit painfully. “Gone completely nuts? Want to come down with something? Who will nurse Aza?” She got up and, stepping over the horse’s legs, left the stall. Yara overtook Supovna at the doors and asked something, disturbed. Rina heard how Supovna answered her, “It has tetanus… How do I know? What am I, a fortune-teller? The mare is young, dragging its feet for the time being… If it were older, I wouldn’t even bother with it. Only torments the animal.” But Yara ran after Supovna the entire time, catching her sleeve and hoping for a miracle. “How does she know so much about horses?” whispered Rina, leaning towards tall Nadia. She had never seen Supovna in a saddle. And rarely in the stable. “She came from the circus… Born in the tent… Travelled twenty years with the circus,” the kitchen girl Nadia said with chagrin. In her sad eyes were always saucepans. The hours stretched on. Ul and Yara never left Aza for a minute. The mare did not die, but also did not become better. Only flies crawled along the moist sunken sides and the dirty straw tangled in the wings. *** At the end of dinner Kavaleria decisively entered the dining room, however, she did not make her way to her table but to the novices’. “Good evening!” she said in a voice, with which the police staff usually says, “Come with me!” “The period of adaptation has ended. Today the clms, jacket, and schnepper will be given out to you. I’ll wait for you in Auditorium 101 in the morning. O nine hundred sharp, as Kuzepych would say. Don’t bother to search for the previous
21

Laminitis, commonly called founder, is inflammation of the lamina, the connecting tissue between the protective outer layer and the sensitive internal structures of a hoof. This condition affects the feet of ungulates, especially horses and cattle. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

73

one hundred auditoriums. They don’t exist. 101 is the only large auditorium on the first floor!” “Who teaches here?” Freda instantly echoed. “In HDive each teaches what he is best at,” Kavaleria said coldly. “Max – shooting and hand-to-hand combat, Rodion – reconnaissance and survival, Ul and Yara – riding, flight, and preparation for dives. In addition, you have one more instructor… Right now he’s not in HDive. But about that later.” Freda could not keep quiet in any way. “What do you teach?” “I teach abstract blah-blah-blah!” Kavaleria said and looked around vigilantly, checking whether someone in reality considered that all was well. This reminded Rina of her geography teacher, who described all continents with this reproachful and offended energy, as if she had discovered them the Friday before. “And now listen to an old fool as she raves!” she began the geography lesson and ended it at the bell with one and the same phrase, “But you, of course, don’t care a thing about this!” While Rina was thinking to herself, Kavaleria turned abruptly to her. “Do I look like an instructor? Tell the truth so that I wouldn’t be offended!” She screwed up her eyes. “Is there an inoffensive truth?” doubted Rina. “Probably not, but you try anyway!” “Quite a bit,” said Rina and, imitating Yara, timidly showed with her fingers this “bit.” Kaleria Valerevna smiled, without opening her lips. She waved goodbye and, after lifting her hand with her glasses over her head, began to make her way purposefully through the crowd of people filling the dining room. Soon Kavaleria herself was not visible – only a raised hand with glasses, similar to the periscope of a submarine. Unexpectedly Vlad Ganich darted off and overtook Kavaleria. No one heard what they talked about, but a minute later Ganich returned extremely contented. “She let me go!” he bragged. “Where?” “To the city. Home.” “Forever?” Sashka was amazed. Ganich shook his head. “No, for one evening. She won’t release others, she warned.” Lena moved over to the chair opposite Vlad. “You’ll be in the city, download movies on the flash drive for me! I can’t do without movies!” she asked. Ganich straightened his tie, placing the knot immediately under his Adams apple. He always thought over any nonsense for so long that one wanted to howl like a wolf. “Fine, give me the drive!” he said. “Left mine in Kiev. Use yours.” Ganich blinked. “Won’t it ruin mine?” “How?” “Well, somehow… Wear something out, become demagnetized? It only seems that drives are immortal, in reality a number of re-recordings is not that great…”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

74

“Don’t be a skunk!” Lena implored. “I’m not,” said Vlad Ganich. “Simply understand me. If I say ‘yes’ to you, then tomorrow someone else will ask me the same and in a week my drive will definitely fry.” “You jerk! See if you ask me for anything!” “This is completely ruled out! I’ll never ask you for anything!” Vlad categorically stated. He made the trip to Moscow very smartly, and towards midnight, having managed the last train, he was in HDive. Sashka was surprised. He was certain that Ganich would not return to HDive. “What do you think, why did Kavaleria let him go but not us?” Sashka asked Danny. This question greatly occupied him. “Don’t know. Surely because he wanted to run away then,” answered Danny. *** They gathered in 101 not even at o nine hundred but fifteen minutes before. Even Freda and Alice were among those who arrived prior to the start. Auditorium 101 resembled the conveyer-belt auditorium of any institute. The same large windows, the same steps, and two entrances – one from the ground floor, the other from the second. The upper entrance was closed. Makar tinkered with a clip in the lock, but without success. Somewhere five to nine an enormous shy fellow stepped into 101. Only Rina of all the novices knew him. “H-hello to all! I’m Max! Your wise senior iinstructor! Kavaleria left urgently for a d-dive. She’s searching for grass for Aza, the kind that g-grows only on Duoka. I was asked to substitute.” Lara, showing interest, fixed her hair. “Wow! May I ask an indecent question: are your shoulders your own or are they padded?” she cooed. Max with suspicion poked a finger into his shoulder. “Likely m-mine,” he said. Makar got jealous. “What, he stutters?” looking sideways at Lara, he asked in a loud whisper. No one noticed the aiming. The apple, which he was crunching, was nailed to the table by a short, finger-length, arbalest bolt. Max pulled to recharge. Single-charge arbalests were hanging on his crisscross straps. “Let’s b-begin. No n-need to copy anything!” he permitted, after discovering the impatiently dancing pen in Freda’s fingers. Danny’s tongue was beginning to itch, but the arbalest was lying near Max’s hand, and he left the wise thoughts to himself. Instead, he asked neutrally when they would shoot. If he was not mistaken, is Max not the instructor on shooting and hand-to-hand combat? “W-want practice? Come h-here!” Max beckoned Danny with a finger. Danny, after hesitating, went over. Max turned out to be about half-a-head shorter. But then in width they were like a bubble and a straw. “Let’s talk about the clms and about the l-lion. Novices often don’t know how to use them, although it’s s-simple. In order to use the lion, before the action you
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

75

must imagine clearly to yourself what y-you want… Do you see the dowel?” Danny threw back his head. A thick piece of steel fixture stuck out of the wall by the ceiling. It was about three and a half metres to the dowel. “And n-now I imagine how you fly and h-hang there. Already in the final phphase,” continued Max and, on touching the lion, grabbed Danny by the belt. A second later Danny was hanging from the ceiling, dangling his legs, and managed to preserve a philosophical look even in this absurd position. “May I ask who will get me down?” he asked. Max pondered. It was noticeable that he had not thought this through. “A slight complication. I-in order to get you down, I have to t-touch you again!” he acknowledged with embarrassment. In a blind attempt to scramble to the ceiling, Danny soiled the plastering with his soles. “But I’m high up!” “I’m a-aware of that,” Max said and scratched his neck in search of a solution. “Well, f-fine! Let go! I’ll catch you!” Danny carefully looked down. Having closed his eyes, he yelled loudly and let go. He fell down onto something soft. The something soft turned out to be Max. Max carefully got up from the floor, inspecting his own body for broken parts. After quickly rounding up the theme of the lion, he began to describe the degrees of protection of the hdiver jacket. Rina recalled how Ul, showing how durable it was, jumped and hit his chest against the ground. Max though limited himself to the general words, which sounded standard. Freda listened to Max, cleaning under her nails with a pencil. She had the habit of cleaning under her nails with whatever she had handy. “Well, in short, everything’s clear with the j-jacket,” said Max briskly. “Any qu…questions?” “Why do you have so many sick people in HDive?” asked Cyril. “W-what? You said this to wh-whom, huh?” The “wise senior instructor” approached him threateningly. Cyril shrunk, cowardly following with his eyes the handles of his arbalests well polished with touching. “I’m not talking about that,” he hastened. “Well it’s… you look at a guy in the dining room, and he’s so all, well, as if he’s beaten, pale, eyes sunken, drags his feet, but the next day already nothing, fresh as a cucumber.” “Ah-h,” Max said with understanding. “Well, should have said so immediately. S-sick people!!! It, it m-means, he extracted a marker and he has burnout. It’s still f-fine, w-when after one day. Sometimes it’s worse, either troubles or some other s-stuff.” (Max pronounced the word “stuff” a very ridiculously “stiff!”) “And when you return without a marker?” “Well then n-no burnout,” said Max. “Any qu-questions?” Cyril hurriedly shook his head. Then it turned out Lara had a question, and, as always, in her style. “An indecent one? Are you married?”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

76

Max was confused. “What does this have to d…d…do with the theme at hand?” “Clear. And Ul?” He shook his head. “And Rodion?” “And w-what’s the difference to you?” “Clear. And Athanasius?” “N-no. P-perhaps, you’ll even a-a-ask about Kuzepych?” Lara did not ask about Kuzepych. She had already found out about everyone that interested her, and had settled down into a lethargic dream. Sashka asked when they would dive. Rina smiled. Now this one does not want to chitchat. This one wants to dive. If Danny is a theorist, then Sashka is a practitioner. Korolev22 invented the rocket and launched Gagarin 23 into space. Gagarin knew less than Korolev but saw space first. Max answered that they would not be diving soon and he had no idea at all when. But now he could show two methods of quick charging of the arbalest and teach the throwing of pneupfs without the assiatance of a schnepper. The main thing here was not to prick oneself. Lara stirred. “May I ask a question?” she asked. “Not… indecent?” asked Max. Lara dropped her eyes. “You want an indecent one? No, a decent one! The winged horses obey only those with a clms?” Max shook his head. “What’s with a clms here? Winged horses obey anyone who lo… lo… lo…” “Clear! I would also obey anyone who lo-lo me! But no one lo-lo me…” Lara said languidly. Cyril neighed loudly. From the distant stable Ficus, having finally met a brother of like mind, responded to him. A jingling sound rolled along the corridor. The bell in HDive was unique. Not strongly automatic and not particularly electrical. When required, the person on duty hit a piece of iron on a suspended piece of rail. With his face lit up, Max turned to the door. “Oh! Here’s the eee...end of class! I love it when they e…end!” he acknowledged honestly and slipped out the door. This was the frankest acknowledgement that Rina had heard from an instructor. The auditorium was almost deserted when Sashka dived under the table and showed up with a ruffled red notebook. “Max forgot his notes. I saw him entering with this notebook. Return it?” “Let’s look!” Rina poked an active nose into the notebook. Max’s handwriting was childish like many bodybuilders’. Chubby letters lay tightly on the line. “Look, here’s the history of HDive! The first-hdivers, dives, Duoka. Wait! We’ll return it afterwards!” she said greedily.
22

Sergey Pavlovich Korolev (1907-66) was the lead Soviet rocket scientist during the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. 23 Yuri Alekseevich Gagarin (1934-68), Soviet cosmonaut, was the first human to go up in space in 1961. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

77

Something resonantly knocked on the glass and shielded the sun. Rina saw an enormous clay head. Gorshenya, after sticking its face to the glass, attentively examined her with its round amber buttons. Then it turned and left. “He was looking at you!” said Sashka. “Maybe at you?” Rina muttered, knowing that Sashka was not mistaken. Gorshenya stared precisely at her. *** Kuzepych sent all the novices into the stable after lunch. The day was windy, damp. The winged horses frolicked. Icarus carried Alice away into the stable, no matter how much she screamed and kicked it with her heels. Bunt threw Lena over its head. She flew off but did not let go of the reins. When she opened her eyes, Bunt was leaning over her with an offended-puzzled look. The rump was pulled up but the front legs were bent. All hardware was on one side of the mouth. Freda, who was on Lana, had an upside-down saddle. Münnich pretended that it was frightened by a dog barking and bolted. Lara could think of nothing better than dropping the reins and rolling with a screech down onto the grass. After his third unsuccessful attempt to sit down on a saddle, Danny was given a shovel and sent to remove manure. Danny examined the shovel and suffered. It would be simpler for him to write a nine-page report on The shovel as the first breakthrough of scientific and technical revolution than to huff and puff for two minutes with the real thing. He interfered with everybody. They pushed him. Ficus left the stall with difficulty. It neighed, several times waved the wings so powerfully that it seemed it would now break through the roof; it ruffled all the straw and…remained on the spot. Makar carelessly tousled the mane of the scribbling donkey Phantom. The next minute he grabbed a rumpled piece of paper and the stub of a pencil, and began to write something eagerly. Sashka heard how he muttered, “Well, bro, I’m here!” Gloomy fired a long burst, taking out the rest of the store. After smashing the glass with the butt, he gently rolled two grenades into the window. Only one jumped outside, in a green uniform, sleepy, understanding little. Gloomy removed his knife. “You’re somewhat bad today! Have to do better!” Nikitos said, with a crunch breaking the injured neck. Kuzepych took away Makar’s pencil and, in order that he would come to sooner, dipped his head into the drinking fountain. “Wow!” he said encouragingly. “A fighter! It’s because he’s a chap. If he were a wench, I imagine the subject there would turn into… ‘Gloomy, have you truly loved?’ asked Nikitos and, rolling the glass of alcohol, smelled the rose.” “Once I rode Phantom around the stable. While riding, it was like nothing. But that night I filled a whole notebook with poetry. The person to whom all was addressed read half of the first page and fell asleep on my shoulder. It was
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

78

asserted later that the poems were simply super but we were caught on a slumber bus,” Ul’s voice was heard. Having lost weight, sad, he smiled, but the smile was as if borrowed from a stranger’s face. Passing by, he waved and led Caesar out of the stable. Ul was dressed in a hdiver jacket. On his back was a small knapsack. In his hands was a schnepper. Rina looked in on Aza. Yara, on her knees, was combing out the mare’s mane. Then, taking a basin, she began to wash it. If it did not blink occasionally, Rina would have decided that the mare had died. “Did you see him? A true-to-life scarecrow! The sixth dive in two days,” Yara commented unhappily. “I think he passes the swamp because he falls asleep in it. The elbes show him pictures but he simply conks out.” “Did Kavaleria find the grass?” Rina asked, recalling Max’s words. “No. She already dived three times for nothing.” Rina nodded and, after squatting down, began to clean Aza’s dirty wings. “It seemed to me that you can’t stand Aza. He always spent a long time with it.” Yara smiled. “I’m not sure now that I love it. He loves and I reflect.” “Ah-h…” Rina drawled and, not being able to control herself, asked, “Is it true about the bus? The poem? Someone fell asleep on someone’s shoulder?” Yara looked at her sternly. “Twenty-two,” she said. “What?” “The bus. It leaves the Dinamo Station,” said Yara. Her thinking was mathematical. Rina and Sashka sat with Aza until late at night, substituting for Yara, who had left to ride her pirate, as she called Eric, a little. She experienced a feeling of guilt about Eric. Indeed, she was on it when it got this wound. It was complicated with Eric. It always seemed to the stallion that someone was sneaking up on it from the “blind side.” Any incomprehensible sound frightened it. It reared, shied, and once squeezed Yara so with its side to the concrete wall that she spent a month with a cracked rib. When Sashka and Rina left the stable, the sun had long been hidden. Sashka tugged at Rina’s sleeve. In the shadow of the stable Rina saw an enormous shadow. Gorshenya was sitting on the ground, its infinite legs extended, and was looking… yes, again at her. “Let’s approach him!” Rina decided. “Don’t.” “You’re afraid?” “For you.” “I’ll be afraid for myself,” said Rina. They carefully approached, ready to jump away. Sashka rolled up his sleeve so that his clms would be ready. He may know boxing, but three kinds of hit cannot be blocked: a crowbar, an axe, and the “paw” of Gorshenya. “Hello!” hailed Rina. Gorshenya slowly lifted its head. Stars blurred in the amber buttons.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

79

My words are empty foam. In silence is the closeness of thoughts. It uttered resonantly. Sashka and Rina exchanged glances. “What-what?” Sashka asked again. Gorshenya lowered its heavy head and stopped staring at the stars. “I Gorshenya, clay head, hungry belly!” it said in its usual rather doltish voice of an unfinished puppet. “He simply repeats like a parrot! Only after whom?” whispered Sashka. “Let’s try to find out. I saw a list somewhere,” said Rina. From the inside pocket of her hdiver jacket – in the summer she had tried to return it to Yara but that one generously said, “A gift!” – she took out Max’s red notebook covered with childish handwriting. “Meshcherya Gubastyi! Gulk Razhii! Ivashka Kudrevatyi!” Rina began to read distinctly. Gorshenya listened to her without noticeable interest. It only came to life several times. After hearing “Faddei Nogata,” Gorshenya, sitting up, began to rub its stomach and repeat, “Fadyusha tasty! Fadyusha fat!” When Rina named Melanie Pertseva, it tried to hide behind the bush and muttered mournfully, “No Gorshenya! Gorshenya hid well!” “Who’s that?” whispered Sashka. “Quiet! First hdivers… Titus Mikhailov! Sergius Nemov! Guy Moksha!” Gorshenya behaved aggressively with reference to Guy Moksha. It leaped up highly and waved its hands with the energy of a windmill. Rina and Sashka ducked behind a corner of the storehouse, allowing Gorshenya to relax. “This Moksha did something to him!” Sashka remarked. “Don’t interfere! Still a few names left! Mityai Zheltoglazyi!” Rina shouted, watching. Gorshenya stopped swinging its hands. “Gorshenya goes far away!” it informed mysteriously and, moving its straight long legs stiffly, began to walk away. Several steps and it disappeared in the darkness. Rina rushed after Gorshenya. Sashka caught up with her. Afraid to lose Gorshenya, they rushed through the park. The bushes rushed by under their feet. Obscure shadows swung like a pendulum between the pine trees. A bench became white. Lamps jumped like spots in the darkness. When Gorshenya went past HDive, something compelled Sashka to look around. Against the background of a wall illuminated by a searchlight, he saw a sliding shadow. Light on light, white on white. Like glass sliding along paper. They sped along till the end of the lane and, after flying into young mountain ashes, stopped. The forest seemed monolithic. Only the nearest trunks were distinguishable. Further, something was whispering, something uniform, moving with the wind. The trees touched each other with their branches and scratched each other like friendly horses. A cluster of heavy berries struck Sashka in the face. He tore it off and mechanically began to chew. The ash berries were bitter.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

80

Rina recalled the oak and the fallen birch trunk. “I think I know where he is!” she said and went along the path. The wet branches, which she caught with the top of her head, splashed her with yesterday’s rain. Sashka looked around. It again seemed to him that they were not alone here, and a third person was sneaking around in the darkness behind them. Attentive, vigilant, inconspicuous. He stopped. He caught Rina’s shoulder. He whispered into her warm ear, after touching it with his nose. “Wait for me here! Make a little more noise! Stomp, crunch some branches!” Sashka dived into the brushwood and began to sneak off. After about twenty metres, having caught an obscure sound, he stopped crawling and hid. Rina honestly stomped and broke branches. She on inexperience exaggerated the sounds. It seemed as if somewhere nearby two young moose were grappling. The shadow did not quite emerge from where Sashka expected it. It emerged much closer, from the bushes. “Hey!” hailed Sashka. “Stop!” The shadow froze from surprise. The moon flooded a white face with light. The person turned and jumped into the bushes. Sashka returned to Rina. “Well?” she asked. “It was Vityara! He followed us!” Rina recalled the tamed domestic acne, the shy smile, and the donut ears. “A madhouse!” she said and again dived into the wind-fallen trees. Rina was honestly searching for the felled tree when Sashka suddenly jumped like a cat on her and brought her down to the ground. Rina saw Gorshenya quite near. The giant was lying on its stomach, pressing its ear to the ground. It did not notice them. It was cold. Rina hid her hands in her sleeves and raised the collar of her hdiver jacket. Gorshenya was listening the entire time. Its look was aloof like that of a dove hatching an egg. The trembling of the enormous, absurd body absorbed the sounds of the earth. Something was happening there, in the depth, and Gorshenya responded to this with its entire essence. It was unknown what Gorshenya heard, but suddenly something in it changed. The giant became agitated, abruptly got on its haunches, and began to tear up the earth with its hands. Sashka never saw digging like this. These were feverish, hasty, but simultaneously concentrated and loving motions. Three hdivers with trowels would not keep up with one Gorshenya. Light deciduous soil flew off like a fountain. Gorshenya literally sunk under the earth in front of their eyes. It was dawn. The birch trunks acquired a strange clearness and seemed like posts of light supporting the low sky. Gorshenya was sitting on the soil and, after tilting its head, was examining something. It was holding in its hands a moist box covered with soil sticking to it. Inside turned out to be a rotten rag filled with resin. Gorshenya pressed it with great care against its chest and began to unwrap it impatiently. “What’s there?” Rina whispered impatiently; the head of Gorshenya prevented her from seeing.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

81

As quiet as her whisper was, Gorshenya made it out very well. It jumped, swaying on its long legs, flew up to Rina, and effortlessly pulled out from the ground the bush, under which she was hiding. Sashka rushed to protect her, but Gorshenya negligently waved its hand and Sashka flew off to the felled birch. Enormous, important, it leaned sternly over Rina. The convex buttons studied her attentively. Rina saw her own inverted reflection in them. She stepped back doomed, understanding that it was not for her to leave. Here Gorshenya did something entirely incomprehensible. It lowered itself cumbersomely, almost collapsed onto its knees, and stretched an open palm to Rina. On the palm lay a shortened clms of the same type as Supovna’s. The silvery figures on it were familiar to Rina: centaur, mermaid, lion, and sirin. Beside that, on the side of the pulse, a half-animal-half-bird outline was pressed into the skin. There was no figure. “Yours!” Gorshenya said and with extraordinary adroitness slipped the clms on Rina’s wrist. The new clms was much more massive. Rina felt warmth issuing from it. The dampness had not harmed the clms. It was well preserved, if the lace, which was hopelessly torn, and two greenish spots of mould on the outside were not taken into consideration. “Who asked you to give it to me? There’s no figure here! Where is it?” Rina quickly asked. Gorshenya threw open its enormous mouth. The upper part of the mouth rose up to the eyes. Rina did not immediately understand that this was a smile. The giant rose, shook clay off its sheepskin coat, and went into the thicket, repeating, “I Gorshenya, clay head, hungry belly!” Chapter 10 Dionysus Beldo’s New Admirer In war, they put in front of the firing squad not the one who killed a few enemies, or shot a rifle with eyes closed in terror, or quietly shouted “hurray!” They shot the one who deserted. He simply left his post and fled. From the diary of a non-returning hdiver Athanasius was sitting in Kavaleria’s office and, showing that he was his own man here, stroked Octavius’ nose with his little finger. As a senior hdiver he could already allow himself some liberties. Octavius graciously let him pet it, but it was worthwhile for Athanasius to replace the little finger with any other finger as the dog screwed up its face and started to growl. “Emperor, you’re a victim of your own whims! With all my respects, I ought to have called you Ace. A simple, safe, worthwhile name!” said Kavaleria and, after taking Octavius by the handle on the harness, pulled it off the table. “Be off,
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

82

animal! To the doghouse and be chained up!” she ordered. Octavius went away under the little openwork table and with an insulted look settled down on the pillow. “Now the main thing!” continued Kavaleria. “Do you remember you talked about the warlocks meeting at the psychology institute?” Athanasius stopped teasing Octavius with a foot under the table. “You said: we don’t have an objective to justify the risk,” he uttered in the sweet voice of a school informer who with delight reports to the favourite teacher that she sat on a bun. Kavaleria looked at him wisely and tiredly. She leaned back on the armchair and closed her eyes. Her eyelids were trembling, with bluish veins. “When did she dive the last time? Probably today, for all that… Cheekbones like paper,” thought Athanasius. Kavaleria fluttered her eyelids, not opening her eyes. “Earlier everything was clear,” said the director of HDive. “Warlocks were hdivers who couldn’t resist. All of their elite are former hdivers who still remember these walls, the hallways of the guildhall, how the drinking troughs in the stable make noise… This did not support so much the balance, but at least we knew precisely that there were about three warlocks, considering one for each fort, to one hdiver. They even retained specific awe of markers. Respect for them, perhaps… Let there be hatred mixed in with this awe, but nevertheless the basic feeling was precisely respect.” “So, something changes this?” asked Athanasius. “Young man, they change and exchange at the flea market! I’m talking about something else!” Kavaleria said impatiently. “Guy, but such decisions aren’t made independently without the swamp, boosted the reserves of the forts. His people gather recruits. The young where possible, because they have a higher capability for adaptation. In fact, for this new generation of warlocks Duoka isn’t a real world, to which they themselves had been at least once, the grass of which they had touched with their hands, but hogwash. They have another approach to life: work, get psyose. They don’t care about the rest.” “It’s their problem,” Athanasius screwed up his face. “It’s our problem,” Kavaleria said with emphasis. “The new warlocks are tougher than the previous ones. They have no ideals. Golden bees didn’t pick them. They never cried. Were never in HDive. They need nothing except psyose. They bite off the heads just so they would be noticed and encouraged in the swamp. Alarming symptom!” “Why?” “Because it unmasks the intentions of the elbes. It says clearer than clear that if there is success in breaking the security of HDive for the elbes, they will choose the tactics of gradual enslavement. First the elite, and then also all people without exception will be transformed into slave-manipulators, who will prepare our world for merging with the swamp.” With the tip of his sock, Athanasius carefully treaded on Octavius’ tail. After a second, the tail disappeared and teeth were hanging onto his pant leg. Athanasius issued a quiet pensive howl.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

83

“In recent years the eles have been generating massively. Thousands carry the larva in themselves. Thousands of human incubators have already died. How do the warlocks manage to imbue them?” said Kavaleria. “But indeed earlier the eles also installed themselves!” Athanasius blurted out. “Earlier the elbes had to put in the effort. Many eles perished. Only a few managed to get into a victim. Now the discussion already deals with artificial breeding without any risk to the eles themselves. I’m convinced the warlocks have an artefact or a transformed marker, which transfers the eles directly from the swamp. Now I want to find out more about this marker.” “Do I understand correctly that the reproduced eles settle close to warlocks and that, furthermore, they exist in symbiosis with people?” “And you were thinking that they return to the swamp?” Kavaleria answered in irritation. “The bodies of the ele incubators decompose rapidly. The weaker the resistance, the faster the decomposition. Then the ele is already an elbe. The difference is colossal, like between a maggot and a fly. An ele is slow-witted, blind, simply a gorging larva, however, giving any gift according to the power of the person, which it gnaws through. The elbe sees everything that its host sees, plus it has a connection with all the elbes of the swamp. It becomes the guardian of a more valuable warlock of high rank. It advises him, helps him occupy a high position in society. It no longer decomposes him. On the contrary, it takes care of him like a good horse, which has learned the fine points but is high-strung. Transferring to a new one is simply disadvantageous, the formation of the delicate ties takes the elbes decades, otherwise it is necessary to stun the host with dull instincts. Food, reproduction, and pain form a performance on three chords. The elbes themselves despise it.” “Immortality?” Athanasius quickly asked. Kavaleria shook her head brusquely. “Please!!! In exceptional cases. And not even immortality but very good conservation. So far I know of only one such case!” There was a knock on the door. Kavaleria looked at the clock. “Oh, here she is! Late, of course. Only forty seconds, but still!” she said with satisfaction and opened the door. Nasta entered the office. Shaven-headed, with the automatic casing in her ear, she walked solemnly past Athanasius, after treading on his outstretched foot. “Hello to the widows! Removed the crutches!” she muttered and decisively saddled a chair like a winged horse. “Get acquainted!” Kavaleria said merrily. “A future student of the Dionysus Beldo School of Mental Development, Practical Witchcraft, and Runic Magic, Anastasia Fedorovna Nesmeyanova. Hometown – Tula. Age – 18. Weight – 59 kg. Height – one hundred seventy centimetres. I remember well the hair was light brown. Quick tempered. First tattoo at ten. Injuries: broke collarbone at twelve, broke right foot at thirteen, broke the nose at fourteen and a half. All acquired in fights. Then gave up smoking for the first time. Passion: winged horses and
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

84

everything connected with them. She plays the guitar well. Knows all the poets of the Silver Age.24 Main interest: to seem worse than she is.” Nasta shifted uncomfortably. It is quite unpleasant when you have been figured out this way. Although Athanasius had known Nasta for about two years and regularly squabbled with her in the stable, he was finding out so much for the first time. For example, about the poets of the Silver Age. Basically he knew about Nasta only that she always smokes behind the stable and regularly uses words, which ordinary people say when they pinch a finger at the iron gates. “You – want – to – send – her?” asked Athanasius separately, with each pause poking a finger at Nasta. She snapped her teeth. On recalling Octavius involuntarily, he quickly put his hand behind his back. “Quite right. Nasta, do you know how to sketch? You must memorize and sketch one object afterwards… I’m sure it’ll be there, otherwise how do the warlocks gather recruits to settle the eles?” “How do I know what it is?” asked Nasta. Kavaleria shrugged her shoulders. “Show imagination… You’re a hdiver. And, it goes without saying, stay far away from it yourself.” “And if they ‘awake her gift’?” asked Athanasius. Kavaleria hesitated. “Well, how am I to know everything? I’m a woman in the dark… I’m hoping it won’t come to that. Nasta, do you want to receive a supernatural gift from the warlocks?” “I dream! To pop a cork with my eyes,” she answered with a challenge. Kavaleria, as an experienced leader, politely pretended that she found it funny. “And if they recognize her? A warlock could have seen her at some outing!” asked Athanasius. “We’ll try to make sure that they don’t. Of course, have to get rid of some flamboyant traits,” Kavaleria looked sideways at the automatic casing in Nasta’s ear. “And we’ll supplement the rest with this!” She opened a desk drawer and pulled out a string of bright, large, improbably tasteless beads. Nasta looked at them and threw them back with such horror that she almost flew off the chair. “Never! You better shoot me! So that they would decide that I trade seeds at the Artic Circle?” she began to yell. “I don’t want to force my view on things on anybody, but in your shoes I’d give it some thought,” Kavaleria threw the beads around her own neck. Octavius sadly whimpered. Its mistress had disappeared. On the chair sat a girl of about twenty with a braid and killer looks. If not for the hdiver jacket, there would be no possibility whatsoever to recognize Kavaleria in her. “Outstanding disguise! It was even used by ancient hdivers. The problem is that you can’t wear them for more than three hours in a 24-hour period,” said the girl in a very familiar voice. “If more?” asked Athanasius.
24

The Silver Age of Russian Poetry applies to the first two decades of the 20th century. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

85

“If longer, the camouflage appearance can be stuck,” Kavaleria removed the beads without regret and handed them to Nasta. This time she did not reject them. “And me?” Athanasius asked plaintively. “Do you also want to go to the warlocks?” Athanasius tugged at his musketeer moustache. He had already grown it three times this year. And twice shaved it off. With the moustache, he lost the similarity to a prince and began to resemble Aramis. 25 “Well no, to protect Nasta! Dangerous to send one: they could nail her and you wouldn’t even know where the grave is,” he said sweetly. Kavaleria thought it over for a short time. “The warlocks know how to throw dust in one’s eyes. Should be someone close by capable of giving a friendly kick,” she admitted. “So it means I’m going after all?” Athanasius could not wait. “No. Beldo saw you once and now recognizes you even with any disguise… Someone not raising suspicion is needed here. I don’t have another artefact equal in power to the beads. So, need novices who aren’t hdivers yet, in essence. The security of the institute – if there is one – will assuredly let them through. Only who…” Rina’s head and immediately above, Sashka’s, appeared around the door. Both were wet, covered with clay. Both were talking about something excitedly. Rina showed her own wrist. “No, no, and… yes! They are the last I would think of… But when people force their company on you, one can see the finger of fate,” said Kavaleria in an undertone. *** Rina and Sashka reached a chair for two. They timidly sat on the edge. Octavius gave thought to something strictly canine and, after getting under their chair, began to growl in a proprietary way. “Well, looks like this is your first assignment!” said Kavaleria five minutes later. “The clms – one is quite enough – you’ll hide outside. Don’t carry it past security. Your task is to keep an eye on Nasta. Don’t get ahead. If something nonstandard happens, one continues to watch Nasta. The other reaches the clms and reports to me through the centaur. All clear? It goes without saying, also look out for the artefact and try to memorize it. Afterward you will sketch it. And no heroic photographs on cell phone, I beg you! Artefacts do not like cheap popularity. They themselves will take vengeance, even without berserkers,” said Kavaleria. Rina nodded.

25

René d'Aramis de Vannes is a fictional character from the Musketeers novels of French writer Alexandre Dumas (1802-70). ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

86

“Just a moment…” Kavaleria took out a chubby white mushroom and, handling it carefully, handed it to Sashka. “This is a flash! Such are found on Duoka, the north mine of the first ridge…” “It won’t in the pocket?” Sashka asked cautiously. “Not in the pocket, but I would advise not to drop it. Of course, this isn’t an attack marker, but it deafens and dazzles capitally… You’ll have not less than a minute. Now about the disguise.” Kavaleria opened a desk drawer and, after rummaging, found two pins with mother-of-pearl heads. “Better stick them in the collar so they won’t touch your skin. Try to stay in the crowd of kindred spirits. I think there will be more than enough of them.” Rina carefully took the pins. They were very long with rust tracks. In the presence of a sick fantasy, it was even possible to fence with them. “And they won’t be recognized?” asked Athanasius. “They will,” Kavaleria answered with a strange smile. “They’ll remind each person of someone, with whom unpleasant recollections are connected. Nothing you can do: the only artefact without side effect is an aspen stake.”26 “So, on Friday?” asked Rina. “What’s today?” “TOOSday since morning,” Nasta prompted mockingly. She said it this way: “TOOSday.” Nasta and Athanasius left. In the office remained Kavaleria, Sashka, and Rina. Kaleria picked up Octavius, jumping from barking (it was not pleased that Nasta, departing, stuck her tongue out at it). “Well,” said Kavaleria. “I’m listening! Shoot!” Rina silently pulled up her sleeve. Kavaleria attentively looked at her clms. She closed her eyes for a second. Then opened them. Nothing changed on her face. “Can you please find out if Kuzepych has shoed Arap?” She asked Sashka in an even voice. “Right now?” Sashka was surprised. “Okay!” Kavaleria shut the door after Sashka. “Where did you get it?” Rina told her. “And there was no figure?” “No.” “Well…” said Kavaleria. “Now this clms is yours. The previous one you’ll return to Kuzepych. The rules of HDive forbid having two active clms.” “But…” “Don’t interrupt!” Kavaleria silenced her. “Whether you understood or not, Gorshenya was the creation of Mityai Zheltoglazyi, the most mysterious hdiver of all that ever existed. His friend, the imprint of his soul in clay – call it what you like. All these years it preserved his clms, keeping this in secret from the entire HDive, and now it gave it to you. We hope that Gorshenya isn’t mistaken. After the incident with the beehive I’m somewhat scared of him.” Kavaleria curtained off the window, approached the cabinet, and pulled out from the third shelf the album Russian Wooden Architecture. Impatiently leafing
26

It is believed that an aspen stake driven into the heart of a vampire can kill it. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

87

through it, she stopped at one of the photographs depicting a wooden chest with instructions. She stretched out a hand, threw back the lid and, after taking out from the chest a thick worn book in leather binding, she returned Wooden Architecture to its previous place. “I don’t like storing important things in plain sight,” she said, opening the worn book to where a bookmark was placed. Rina saw a picture drawn by hand. In it were seven shortened clms. On the first clms – a hand with a sceptre. On the second – a bat. On the third – a cheetah. On the fourth – the head of a wild boar. On the fifth – a falcon. On the sixth – a saddle. On the seventh – a skull with an arrow in the teeth. “Seven such clms were made. Each for a different figure. All seven are smelted of one ore, delivered from the second mountain ridge, by Mityai Zheltoglazyi. The warlocks have the wild boar head and the saddle. I have the hand with a sceptre. Supovna has the falcon. The fate of the rest is unknown, although I have some idea about one. A special gift is tied to each figure. The wild boar head – invulnerability. The falcon – inexhaustible power reserve.” “The hand with a sceptre?” “The hand with a sceptre is this here…” Kavaleria stretched out her hand and got a handful of broken snow from somewhere incomprehensible. The snow was sticky. After muttering, “Thaw, in Greenland perhaps?” Kavaleria placed the snow in a flowerpot to melt, sat down, and scooped up wet pebbles, also from somewhere incomprehensible. The smell of algae and salt tickled Rina’s nostrils. “Well, this is already the sea bottom… Understand what the hand with a sceptre is?” “The skull with an arrow?” Kavaleria looked quickly and very sharply at her. “I hope you’ll never find out.” “And the cheetah?” Kavaleria stroked the leather binding of the book like she would a dog or a cat. Octavius started to growl jealously. “It’s written here that the cheetah makes any animal, bird, fish, and even insect, an ally of its owner. It achieves this by shifting any of your thought to the thought pattern of the animal, which has a totally different logic. But only when the person actually loves the one he orders. If he has evil intention in his soul, then the cheetah will only injure.” “Why?” “It strengthens and shifts precisely the innermost thought.” “But I don’t have the cheetah,” Rina said sadly. Kavaleria nodded. “Not yet, for the time being! But if you’re indeed the legal owner of the clms, then the cheetah will still come to you, as did the clms… These seven figures have the general name: uniqum. They are not repeated. If we assemble all the uniqa and alloy them together, then for this ingot the elbes will give all the knowledge of the dead world – the swamp.” “Why?” “So says the legend.” “And for less?” asked Rina.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

88

“The elbes won’t agree to less. Either all or nothing. I don’t know why they need the ingot whole. It goes without saying that hdivers aren’t interested in this transaction, but it’s a different matter for the warlocks…” “And Guy knows about this?” “It’s difficult to say what Guy Moksha knows or doesn’t know. Together with Mityai Zheltoglazyi he was one of the founders of HDive,” Kavaleria cut her off dryly. *** In the morning, Rina and Sashka again made their way to the stable. Along the way, Rina mused that HDive, in essence, grew from the stable. But for winged horses, what would all these clms, philosophy, even the knowledge about Duoka be worth? In the stable, the racks were clanking. The doors of the stalls were rattling. There they were tidying and cleaning. They were scrubbing and raking. Only who would figure that every five minutes of flight must be paid for by an entire hour of cleaning, feeding, medical care, fussing with horseshoes, repair of falling-off doors, leaky roof, and such without end? Outside by the gate, Danny was explaining at length to Bunt, with the application of diagrams of aerodynamics, that a horse cannot fly. The winged horse listened and was downcast, examining its reflection in the puddle. “Don’t kill Bunt’s faith in itself!” Rina shouted merrily. On seeing Rina and Sashka, Danny rushed to them. “Oh, here you are! My counter compliments! They have no muscular strength! According to all layouts, this hulk should crash down without fail!” Oxa rushed around the stable like a comet, at times issuing enthusiastic shouts. She had no special reason, but since when does a normal person need a reason to yell joyfully? “Work, widow, sweat!” Nasta, loading a wheelbarrow with dirty sawdust, said gloomily to her. Next to her Ruzya was huffing and puffing with the rakes. Ruzya and Nasta were known to the entire HDive. They were always sent somewhere together so that they would balance each other. Ruzya did everything slowly and thoroughly, and Nasta quickly and carelessly. In the time Ruzya cleaned one-half of a horse, Nasta managed to clean a good ten winged horses. But then half of a horse was cleaned ideally, which could not be said about the ten. Many in HDive knew that Ruzya was in love with Nasta. Alas, his attention was the most awkward, gawky, with sad sighs from dark corners, with cutlets slipped secretly onto the plate, and infinite conversations about nothing. Nasta wanted something different – passion, flights to the moon, and the ringing of blades. The penguin Ruzya felt like a burden to her. Oxa worked for half a minute, after which with the greatest readiness she stopped tidying up the stable and placed the rakes in the passageway so that someone would have the incentive to trip over them. “Oh, did you see Aza? The
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

89

poor thing! Ul has been with it for twenty-four hours and Yara is with it all the time!” she whispered, sneaking up to Nasta. Pink spots flared up on Nasta’s cheeks. Three spots merged into one on the right cheek, but on the left, they remained separate. “Shut your trap!” she spoke through clenched teeth. Oxa tried to be offended, but to be offended meant to be silent. Oxa was something similar to the universal mother Delta. If someone is not well, he must be soothed, even if he bites in doing so. “Oh! Come on!” Oxa chirped peacefully. “I’m not being wicked! Now smile! Nastochka dear, smile! What did you see in him?” With a hammer, Nasta was bending down a rusty nail sticking out like a spike in the passageway. She straightened on hearing “what did you see in him?” and, tapping her open palm with the hammer, said grimly, “IN WHOM?” Oxa cautiously looked sideways at the hammer. She still had not forgotten how once the same hammer flew along an arc into Gosha, who blurted out something not quite right. Therefore, Oxa decided to change the topic. “Oh! I can’t help it, girlfriend! We have different tastes! I like bad boys!” Nasta began to moan mentally. Oxa’s favourite theme was: my great love. Or even as a guy would say: my great luv. “And who do we have is bad? Vovchik, perhaps?” she asked and stopped crashing with the hammer. Oxa tensed. It is always pleasant to mess around with a finger in someone else’s wound, but someone only has to get into yours and the pleasure is immediately reduced to zero. If you have a wound, hide it so that friends would not begin to comfort you. Else there will be some among them who will stitch up the usual cat scratch with a coarse thread. “Eh-eh… Well, at least…” she carefully acknowledged. “Vovchik isn’t bad. Vovchik’s rotten. The real bad boys are the maniacs in the area. Only something in them doesn’t attract you,” Nasta answered lazily. A splash of the familiar puddle outside was heard. The door in the gates of the stable was opened. Kuzepych walked pigeon-toed towards them, Sashka and Rina walked behind him. Having searched with his eyes for Nasta, Kuzepych pointed a finger at her. “Let’s go! Kavaleria ordered me to deliver the three of you to the subway! Ready in ten minutes! March into the shower, else the smell of the stable will set any warlock on you in seven seconds!” Chapter 11 Day of the Overt Beasts The will is a small, evil, purposeful wasp. It stings and chases in front of it the indiscreet, lazy, and narcissistic mind.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

90

From the diary of a non-returning hdiver Nasta jumped into her room, dropped the hdiver jacket, and quickly changed. At the door she recalled something and took the casing from her ear. The hole left empty seemed enormous. A thought even flickered in Nasta that perhaps she should tape over it with something. After finding a bandage, she was again at the mirror and, having looked up carelessly, met herself face to face. Her face seemed terrible to her. Wide nose, red cheekbones like a rutabaga, low forehead, stiff short bristle growing on a shaven head. Nasta froze in melancholy. She was considered likable in school. But then somehow everything started rolling. It seemed to Nasta now and then that she was searching especially for something still to do to herself so that someone somewhere unknown would notice her and pity her. Cut off her hair? Put a casing in her ear? Shave off her eyebrows? Tattoo a scorpion on her neck? Challenging her own face as usual, Nasta grimaced, smacked herself lightly on the jaw, and left the room. Rina, Sashka and Kuzepych were waiting for her in the minibus beyond the gates of HDive. Kuzepych turned the wheel, went with disgust around the puddles, and cursed Makar for smashing the bus simply to surprise. Then he began to sing songs, jumping from Katyusha27 to Vysotsky. 28 Kuzepych did not have a voice but had the ear. “Supovna sings better!” stated Nasta. “When did you hear her?” Kuzepych asked jealously. “When I had a problem with my ear. I was lying in sick bay and she sang to me…” Imagination painted a picture for Rina: Nasta aching with pain in the pillow and Supovna stroking her head and singing; the Moscow night with wind and rain beyond the window. Nasta sat next to Sashka and looked out the window. Kuzepych was driving right past a school. She was amused watching the children going home. Students of the lower grades haul enormous schoolbags, from which their spine crumbles into their panties. The older the student, the smaller the knapsack, and finally begins the day and the hour, when a person goes to school, after shoving under the belt a single notebook for all subjects. At the subway, Kuzepych stopped in the middle of the road, blocking impatient drivers. Nasta wanted to climb out, feeling how Sashka and Rina were breathing down her back, but Kuzepych, turning around, caught her by the elbow. “You eh… well… take care of yourself there! Left the schnepper behind? Took the beads?” he solicitously asked Nasta. Kuzepych’s chin reddened like a wee one’s heel. In his bulging eyes was uneasiness. But Kuzepych did not allow
27

Katyusha is a very popular Soviet wartime song composed in 1938, about a girl pining for her beloved away at war. 28 Vladimir Semyonovich Vysotsky (1938-80) was the iconic Soviet-Russian performer well known for his unique singing style and lyrics of social and political commentary in humorous street jargon. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

91

her to get puffed up. “Don’t lose hdiver property! I have it in my inventory!” he said, himself again. *** Before allowing the subway worm to devour them, they temporarily stopped in the square. Nasta threw the beads onto her neck, and Rina and Sashka put on the pins. Remembering that the pin must not touch the neck, Sashka wrestled with his collar for a long time. When he finally raised his head, directly in front of him was his previous gym teacher from school by the name of Kurdyumov, who pitilessly forced him to run five kilometres for each missed class. Sashka stepped back in horror. On the gym teacher’s sweaty face appeared reciprocal stirring of memory expressed in accordion-like creases on the forehead. “What are you doing here? I’ll call Arturych!” Kurdyumov suddenly said, taking a step back. Sashka began to blink. Kurdyumov usually sorted out all problems by himself and did not call Arturych. “Rina? It’s you?” he hailed uncertainly. The gym teacher ran a hand along a red face. “Uh-huh, me! Excuse me! You look so much like a neighbour, who for two months confused our door with a washroom.” “Doesn’t matter… Let’s shake hands!” Rina shook her head. She did not want to shake hands with a boor who mixed up the doors, even though this was not quite him. Recalling Nasta, both turned to her. Sashka expected that Nasta would also turn out to be any Kurdyumova, but she did not change so radically. Simply an eighteen-year-old girl. Well, slightly taller, slightly narrower in the shoulders, with short bright bangs and… to be frank, an order of magnitude more likable. “Hair!” said Rina. “What hair?” Nasta lifted a hand and touched the bangs with suspicion. Not discovering anything to look into, she rushed to the nearest car. Turning the mirror to herself, she stared at her own face. She looked and pulled the beads, winding them around a finger. “Pretty girl! Where to take you for free, pretty girl?” someone said beside her. Nasta slowly turned her head. Looking at her from the driver’s side was a young merry Azerbaijani, smiling not only with his teeth but also with pink gums. Nasta gathered her wits and jumped away from the car. Rina and Sashka waited for her, anxiously casting looks at each other. Both had raised collars, into which they buried their noses with concentration. “We inserted the pins too early,” Sashka complained. “Why?” “Three times already someone try to give us one in the snout. And each time for a valid reason. It was even downright awkward to defend oneself… There Sashka met his ex-wife! Why did you drop her thirty years ago, huh?” asked Rina.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

92

A quite elderly woman was standing beside them and holding Sashka by a sleeve. Sashka was panting. He wanted to pull his sleeve away and was ill at ease at the same time. He was sweating and behaving like a thief caught in the act. “You haven’t aged at all! Just tell me: why? I’ll understand!” the woman repeated. “No need to pull him! He himself didn’t understand why he did it,” Nasta butted in. The woman flinched as if she was hit, let go of the sleeve, and quickly went into the crowd. Sashka took a step after her, desiring to detain her, but stopped. “Only try to be rude to my wife again!” he threatened Nasta and shook her beads with a finger. “And do you remember at all that you have only three hours?” Nasta shuddered like Cinderella, who was asked what she intended to do after midnight. “Don’t go into the shower without soap!” she snapped. “What?” “I say, don’t worm into the soul! What’s up? Well, that’s all, widows, move!” she said hoarsely and stepped towards the subway. She desperately wanted to smoke. *** They cheered up noticeably in the subway, especially when they passed the tournstiles safely. Sashka completely averted his face so that the cop on duty on the escalator would not identify him as the criminal from the morning briefing. You never know if the pin might backfire. In the railroad car, feeling guilty for the deserted wife, Sashka tried to give his spot to everybody and caught hold of elderly ladies, who were afraid and refused to sit down, by their arms. They reached Kitai-gorod Station this way and from there to Tretyakovskaya Station. The escalator at Tretyakovskaya smelled persistently of new rubber. Nasta suddenly realized that she was uneasy. She rode it and wanted it to go up forever. “Are you sure that we’re here?” asked Rina. “Uh-huh. Browsed this region a hundred times. They have a base here near the monument to maniacs,”29 confirmed Nasta. “Monument to whom?” Rina was in doubt. “Unimportant what it’s called. Important that it’s a real monument to maniacs. The warlocks love it. Not one of our clms works within a hundred metres of it. What do you want: Bolotnaya Square! Sounds familiar?”30 They reached Bolotnaya Square with adventures. Sashka met a redneck, who called him “Rusty,” squinted nastily, and repeated, “Forgotten the Kolyma, scum?”

29

The monument to maniacs refers to the group of sculptures The Children – Victims of Adult Vices by Russian artist M. Chemiakine (1943 -). 30 Bolotnaya Square was originally a swampy meadow – bolotnaya, from boloto, a swamp. Here it refers to the warlocks working with the elbes from the dead world the swamp. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

93

“Why don’t I meet anyone?” Rina blurted out and fate immediately punished her. A car braked beside her. A guy jumped out and started to push her into the car, yelling “Go have a look at your daughter! Such trash!” She had to flee to the courtyards, but he was running behind, thin and unhappy, and shouting all the time. “Shouldn’t get mixed up with these pins at all! And generally always some injured ones, no one who isn’t,” Rina said gloomily, kicking a drain pipe. The pipe clattered, but not where it was kicked but higher. Garbage fell from it. They crossed the bridge over the Moscow River, turned left, and found themselves by an enormous old corner building. The entrance was from the street, on the spot of a right angle rounded by the architect. The door, raised by several steps, opened out to Bolotnaya Square. Above the entrance hung several plaques, the most noticeable of which: Yakimanka District Board. Sashka gave Nasta an imperceptible nudge. “This is the door?” “Not this one yet,” Nasta answered mysteriously. “Wh-why?” “Later you’ll understand.” Sashka nodded, agreeing to understand later. They crossed the road and settled in the children’s playground not far from the monument to maniacs. Sashka immediately started to perk up. Nasta squeaked the rusty swings, and Rina listened to the squeaking and pondered the possibility of writing music for the swings. Rina tired of listening to the squeaking. She went onto the bridge and began to examine the locks, on which enamoured pairs wrote their names. 31 The locks were hung in clusters on the rails and posts. Nasta stood on the bridge and, ignoring the locks, spat into the water, confusing a young duck extremely. The duck could not figure out at all if it was being fed. You throw, it swims up, grabs, and that is it. After recalling Kavaleria’s order to hide the clms somewhere hereabout, Sashka went down to the river and began to search for a place. Finally, he pushed it under the bridge into a narrow crack where a piece of bottle glass gleamed rather greenish. “Someone will swipe it!” Nasta stated categorically. Sashka’s clms was the only one the three of them had. Rina and Nasta had left theirs in HDive. “No, they won’t. It went in deeply,” answered Sashka. “You’re a true hdiver! You do everything sloppily, with moderate hit-andmiss,” said Nasta. She so frequently quoted Ul that now and then she felt like a shadow that had lost its owner and attached to all indiscriminately just to belong to someone. Nasta had only one close person in Moscow: an old security guard who lived year round in a small trailer at the construction marketplace on Varshavka, in a corner where non-standard boards are piled up. Nasta met him when, once at the same marketplace, two clerks from Dolbushin’s fort half lazily, not with full force,
31

Love padlocks or love locks are padlocks affixed on public places, such as bridges or fences or gates, by lovers to symbolise their love, especially after throwing away the key to the lock. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

94

beat her up and, generously not finishing her off, left her lying around. Then she lay low in the trailer for two days, not answering the clms and not wanting to be a hdiver at all. Later she nevertheless contacted Ul and he picked her up. The security guard was quite old. Fifty… sixty… seventy… – for the time being the difference was blurry to Nasta. Small, dried up, dark-complexioned, covered with white bristle, he was made up of some bones and skin covering them. Formerly he came to Moscow from Transnistria, where he had no one left, and, completely lonely, he lived his life in a precarious existence. The guard poured tea for her in a tin mug with broken enamel. He kept quiet and Nasta kept quiet. She sat beside him and it seemed to her that the two heavy hearts stretched out their hands towards each other. There was something hopeless and irresolvable in melancholy. What was needed was one more someone, accommodating Nasta, the old man, Ul, and the hot new tin roof of the small construction trailer. *** Dionysus Beldo appeared in Bolotnaya Square at quarter to five. His painted minivan was parked closely to the rank and file. Ptah got out of the minivan. Clumsily going around it, he knocked with the windshield wipers and again climbed into the van. Mlada and Vlada fluttered out the rear door. The old man, hissing, pushed Mlada away and politely stretched his fingers to Vlada. Then he thought it over and, after pulling his fingers from Vlada, transferred them to the forgiven Mlada, after muttering: “Here! Don’t sulk!” Pulled by Mlada from the van, Beldo became hyperactive. He rushed to the monument to maniacs and, after dancing around its perimeter, laid four chrysanthemums on the corners. Then, after looking around and sending air kisses, the frisky old man made his way to the corner building. A small crowd had already gathered at the entrance and each second all new people joined in. Apparently, they had been here for a long time and, having dispersed among the passers-by, waited for the specified hour. Sashka also wanted to join the crowd, but a group of rummies identified him as Ted, who owed a small debt. Whispering to one another, they began to drive Ted sidewise towards the Moscow River in order to beat the dust out of him on the sly on the half-empty embankment. Nasta shot off the cigarette butt with her index finger. It flew in an arc, hit the grid of a fence, and bounced. “Let’s go! Ted! Give the guys what they want and march after me!” she said in a commanding voice. She approached the porch first. Rina and Sashka dropped back slightly, making way for cars. The crowd was pulled into the door like soapy water into a drain. The signboard Yakimanka District Board had mysteriously disappeared. Now another: Institute of Psychological Development occupied its place. Some characters managed to fade noticeably. While Nasta was waiting for Sashka and Rina, the door closed. Rina went up to the porch and pushed it away from herself. Sashka and Nasta went through
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

95

behind her. They saw a grey dull foyer, reeking of a recently washed floor. An alert old man with the “On Duty” band was looking bored in the security booth. An aloof young policeman in a bullet-proof vest was playing on his phone beisde the metal detector frame. The automatic weapon hanging on his belt hindered him. He pushed it with his elbow. “Closed!” he said to Rina, without lifting his head. “What’s closed?” Rina did not understand. “The board is closed for sanitary treatment. Exterminating insects since the morning. Please come tomorrow.” Rina looked around suspiciously. The foyer appeared empty. The recent crowd had been sucked in without a trace. “But what about them?” she asked stubbornly. “Which them?” The policeman was distracted for a second from the screen, and, while he moved his eyes, something irreparable happened on the phone. Either a fellow was killed or a turret crumbled. His face was sad. “What do they want? What?” he pleadingly asked the person on duty. The butt of the automatic weapon knocked his elbow painfully. The old man jumped out of the booth like a dog from a kennel. “You’re asked nicely: not reception day!” he snapped, running his eyes down Sashka and Rina. “Wait a minute! Isn’t it you who broke the glass here the day before yesterday? Well, stop, you’re asked nicely!” Rina jumped out in a hurry. She saw through the glass how the old man, signalling with his right hand, explained something to the policeman. That one got up and, hesitantly pulling out the automatic weapon, made his way in their direction. “Hey, what’s up?! Open the door!” Nasta yelled. “How does it open? There’re these!” Sashka did not understand. “Open in the other direction! Don’t brake!” Nasta jumped like a cat to the door, and a second before the policeman got out onto the porch, pulled the handle towards herself. Chapter 12 Designer of Desires In spite of the strangeness of this question, new and diverting only for the excess in it, it must be said that it is the very rare among men who love themselves. Most people hate themselves; try to do to themselves as much evil as possible. If we measure the evil done to a person in his life, then we will find that the most brutal enemy would not do to him as much evil as the person would to himself…

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

96

St. Ignatius Brianchaninov32 This time everything was different. They found themselves in a hall with parquet floor, which by its size could in no way fit in the building on Bolotnaya Square, although it occupied a fifth of the block. The hall went on infinitely and seemed even bigger because of many mirrors. In the centre was an islet – a small one, at an elevation of one-and-a-half steps. Along the edges of the islet were placed four glass tables, with greenhouse plants in tubs stretched out in a chain between them. The hall was so enormous, so hollow, so flooded by light, and the mirrors reflected everything with such frightening detail that even the most daring person involuntarily began to search for dark corners. He would quickly discover that there were none, and would involuntarily go to a table. Sashka and Rina did the same. Along the way, they several times came across piles of people of different ages. It was noticeable that the majority were here for the first time and no one was acquainted with anyone else. They animatedly exchanged remarks on foolish themes and laughed with that amplified laughter, with which people always laugh in an unknown place, when they want to show that the contact provides enormous pleasure. Into the hall slid Beldo, Mlada, and Vlada. Beldo fluttered like a butterfly, successful in touching every flower. He had all of a couple of seconds for each collocutor. He smiled at one, touched the hair of another, exchanged jokes with a third, slapped in a familiar manner the stomach of a fourth. Rina and Sashka knew the heads of forts only by photos. Yesterday Yara had a briefing with them, forcing them to identify them on dozens of photographs, including group ones. It is possible that a photograph and a man do not always connect; therefore, Rina shuddered when Dolbushin emerged from the crowd towards her. The head of the second fort was walking, staring at the floor. If he was greeted, he briefly nodded. Dolbushin was in an austere suit, in a blindingly white shirt and a solid blue tie. He nonchalantly slipped the umbrella handle over his wrist. Andrei moved behind and close to Dolbushin. When someone tried to overtake his boss and start a conversation, he would involuntarily bump into Andrei and start to double over his infinite back. By that time, Dolbushin had turned up far in front. “Look, there’s Till!” whispered Sashka. The head of the fort of berserkers moved in a dense ring of bodyguards. If we judge by the direction his security was looking, Till was mainly “bodyguarding” from Dolbushin. This was their first meeting after the attack of berserkers on Dolbushin’s home. Although according to Till himself it could not be said that he
32

From the Collected Works of St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, 4:38, On Love for the Neighbour. St. Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807-67), a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church, was a prolific author with five volumes of collected works. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

97

was afraid of anything. A cigarette was dangling carelessly from his moist lips, while Kesha and Pasha accompanying their father were behaving insolently. “My compliments, Albert! How’s life? How’s business?” Till shouted from a distance. Dolbushin stopped, looked at him for a second, and then nodded dryly, showing that he was satisfied with business and more so with life. Between them Beldo was twirling like a top. As if noticing Dolbushin for the first time, he was intensely glad to see him. He shrieked, hung onto the neck, shrank back, threw up his hands, sat down, and sighed. Then he rushed to Till and repeated the same, only changing the order: sighed before sitting down, and kissed Till on the neck, whereas on Dolbushin’s ear. Till and Dolbushin behaved identically – recoiled with wooden faces from the old man and… turning up beside each other, belatedly realized that this was craftiness of the insidious dancer. Voluntarily or involuntarily, he had merged their hostility to himself. Beldo, laughing, caught Dolbushin by the arm and dragged him from Till. “How’s your little girl, Albert?” he whispered. “It’s not too bad for her in HDive? After all the luxury surrounding her, now a common room and toilet!!! Ugh! Although the erased memory is a reliable protection against disappointment! Guy is bad to send her there, but, between us, it’s an outstanding school of life!” Dolbushin turned away. The price of this babble was well known to him. “Mlada, Vlada, and I worry so! Every night Mlada kisses a hundred stars for her! And Vlada took her photograph and whispers happiness into her ear all day!” “Tell her to take her happiness back or…” Dolbushin waved his umbrella. Beldo giggled, but moved aside from the umbrella. “Now-now, Albert! I understand you perfectly well! In your situation… I adore you nevertheless, although you’re… hee-hee! so nasty!” he said, jumping aside like a sparrow. Beldo clapped his hands loudly, attracting attention. The novices surrounded him in a wide semicircle. Nasta turned out to be in the first rows. Sashka and Rina stayed in the crowd. “My friends! Dear, dear friends! I send you the bright energy of my soul! Absorb it like flowers drinking the sun!” Beldo exclaimed resonantly, kissing his hands and blowing onto open palms. A gold radiance came from his hands and like waves flowed to the spectators. Dolbushin and Till foresightedly dived behind the backs of their bodyguards. Beldo stopped bestowing the energy of his soul and shook off his hands with distaste. “Before we get acquainted, I want to tell you the main thing! I’m not asking you to trust my word, but we’re all here in order to serve good! The absolute, worldwide, universal good, which all world religions speak of! Each just a little bit in its own way, but is it so important? This is it, good, that bring all of us here, on Bolotnaya Square, in these bright, good, affectionate walls!” The old man took an egg out of a pocket, breathed on it, and a young chick appeared in his hand, still small, not yet dry. The hall breathed out enthusiastically. Dionysus Tigranovich shrugged his shoulders modestly and bowed.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

98

“Tricks!” Frowning, a dishevelled young person, standing closer than others to Beldo, dropped the word. “Not any trick! The egg from a poultry farm, stamped, is absolutely sterile!” The old man was indignant. “But you’re fundamentally correct, young man! This isn’t a miracle! Even the least talented of you will do this in the third lesson! Only I beg you, not in the supermarket! Thousands of tiny chicks – it’s too much!” He turned and thrust the chick at Mlada. “But for a start let’s find out who’s with us and who’s against! If there are those among you who want to serve evil, let them leave immediately!” The old man stomped his foot. “I will not reveal this secret of the universe! Well, I’m waiting! Who wants to serve evil?” The dishevelled young person timidly raised a finger. “Are you yearning to serve evil?” Beldo asked him in a half-hearted way. “No… Nothing like that.” the young person answered in a hurry. “I simply wanted to ask. Is it possible?” Beldo politely let him continue. “I don’t want to serve evil, but not really sure I want to serve good either! What if it’ll only be talk on my part? In short, I haven’t decided!” the young person said in confusion. Beldo knitted his brows. “Is there anyone else who agrees with him?” he announced loudly. After a bit of embarrassment three more hands went up, and then, after that, one more. Beldo surveyed the raised hands, rolled his eyes, and solemnly declared. “We’re not on the same path with you, my friends! No! I ask you, Ingvar Borislavich!” Till croaked something and tugged at the cigarette attached to his lips. Berserkers closed around those five and took them away. People in the hall began to fret. “No violence! They’re being taken strictly to the exit! We don’t need people with a vague life agenda and who don’t care about universal good!” Beldo announced soothingly. “And you, my friends, relax! The presentation will begin soon!” Escaping from a suspicious lady who identified Sashka as her former boss, Sashka and Rina started to manoeuvre in the crowd and bumped their stomachs against a round table. At the table sat a plump woman in round glasses and with hair combed back. A notebook and a pen lay before her. “My name is Alevtina! It seems to me that I’ve met you somewhere! This is your first time here?” “Yes. Came with a friend,” Sashka said nervously. “It’s okay. We’re happy with everybody!” the woman calmed him. Sashka, smiling, began to step back, shielding Rina with his shoulder. “A minute! Please stay!” the lady said sternly. Rina looked around. She watched as a rather short, carelessly dressed man, so flexible that he seemed to be arching back, entered the door. Four arbalesters surrounded him. Guy and his security had barely moved forward as Till’s berserkers formed a chain at the exit, pushing everybody standing nearby back from the doors. “What’s that for?” Sashka tensed up.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

99

“Oh, please don’t pay any attention! Important that no one leaves until the trial lesson ends! Then, it goes without saying, they’ll let everyone go!” Alevtina said in an apologetic tone. “So, what can we do for you?” “Eh-eh…” Sashka mumbled. “Well, on the whole, nothing! We’re here as the support group…” The woman with the combed hair opened her notebook. “Doesn’t matter! In fact, I deal with exchange.” “Exchange of what?” “Oh, exchange of everything! Each of us has something extra and not something necessary. Perhaps this is correct? Here I help to correct this. A variety of options!” A neatly trimmed nail slid along the page from top to bottom, rarely stopping on one or another line. “What do we have here? An unfinished philosophical education (4 years, no defence of diploma) for the skills of a chef. A small neat hump for gastritis. The gift of speech for the ability to become silent at the proper time. Beautiful eyes (greyish-green, 2) for long hair.” Alevtina suddenly looked up interrogatively at Rina’s hair. “But apparently it’s also not for you. Other options! A truckload (the body of a GAZelle truck)33 of money for youth and health (certificate from Paramedic Utochkin on your psyose independence). Pedagogical education for love of children. The gift of foresight for everyday happiness (modification of Paradise in a Cabin).”34 “Ne-a, I’ll pass!” Sashka turned them down. The woman nodded absent-mindedly. “The last secretarial courses (honours diploma) for straight teeth. Wit for optimism. Good fighting skills for the ability not to get stuck in a story… Also a number of unique proposals with regard to psyose pleasures. But these, I beg forgiveness, are at that table!” The lady nodded at the adjacent table, at which a yawning clerk was cleaning his nails with a ballpoint pen, exchanging the border of mud with tracks of ink. Sashka promised to think about it. This did not deceive Alevtina. “We’ll be frank! You don’t intend to! You don’t want to change, because you fear pain! Please trust me, no one will cut off your ears or take a scalpel to your eyes. Our goal is to unselfishly make people happy.” “Ah! Well then! Excellent!” said Sashka, keeping track of Nasta with one eye and Till’s berserkers with the other. The lady with the combed hair apparently considered Sashka hopeless and touched Rina’s hand. “Aren’t you tormented by nightmares? Terrible, repetitive dreams, after which you wake up and can’t even breathe?” Rina tensed up. “How do you know?” “Experience. Not the first year I’ve been working!” said Alevtina, smiling. “I had something interesting. Exactly for you!” She quickly began to leaf through the notebook.
33
34

GAZelle is a series of light trucks, vans, and buses by Russian car manufacturer GAZ. Paradise in a Cabin is a 1966 Soviet animated cartoon about upbringing of children, as well as a 1970 song by Vysotsky about life in an enchanted forest. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

100

“Aha, here! ‘Will exchange a complete set of excellent dreams (to 12 plots) for the little toe of the right foot.’ A profitable offer! The owner of the dreams, as far as I know, is crazy about her feet. She’s ready for anything, provided it would be ideal mobility of the foot…” “I’ll be without a little toe?” Rina asked. “Why without?” Alevtina was surprised. “She’ll give you hers. I think having six toes on her foot isn’t part of her plan.” “And the toe is normal?” Rina asked with doubt. “After the change, of course, but it doesn’t matter. I can arrange for a personal meeting for inspection of the toe. Trust me, a really worthwhile offer. That girl is a true beauty. I think it also applies to her toes.” “If I, then…” Rina started to waver. “No pain, operations, transplantations. I already said to your friend!” Alevtina assured her. “Everything is instant. Complete merge! It’ll seem to you that it was always so.” Perceiving that an inclined-to-adventures Rina was ready to agree, Sashka grabbed her elbow and dragged her away with him. “We’ll get in touch! Please forgive us for wasting your time!” he shouted from a distance. The plump woman treated the failure quietly. “Wasting time is my job!” she said indifferently and was buried in her notebook. Discovering a nook between the greenhouse tubs, Sashka pushed Rina in there. “Why did you drag me away? Sorry for my little toe?” Rina was indignant. “Perhaps.” “What, it’s your property?” “Perhaps also mine.” Rina choked with this impudence. “Perhaps I’m also your property?” “Perhaps,” Sashka answered with a challenge and looked out from behind a tub. Beldo stood near Nasta and, hugging her shoulders, helped to retain in the air an enormous soap bubble, inside which a diamond bird was lifting its wings. Those standing around sighed enthusiastically. Nasta laughed. “Listen! Indeed she’ll get caught!” Sashka said to Rina. “Are you joking?” answered Rina. “Well, a ball… a bird… They’re trifles! I know Nasta.” She was more worried that Nasta had only fifty minutes left. They got involved with these beads too early. Should have put them on right here, on Bolotnaya. A whiny oldster, similar to a lamb, was glued to Dolbushin. The head of the second fort turned away, but the geezer ran up from the other side. Here even Andrei turned out to be powerless. “Who’s that?” asked Rina. “Ah-h! One of the psych faculty! An expert on blowing up filth. I don’t remember from whose fort,” someone suddenly said. Looking around in fright, Rina saw that on a step opposite the tub sat a small funny girl, dressed colourfully like a parrot. Under an unbuttoned green jacket was a yellow shirt, and it all ended with a red T-shirt, on which dangled a huge pendant.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

101

“What does he do?” Rina asked, dumbfounded. “Him? He examines how to fan gossip so that it doesn’t die in infancy. Suppose I accidentally say something stupid about you. If everybody let it go in one ear and out the other, there would be nothing. They must begin to discuss it, be outraged and indignant about it. Then some will defend you, others me. A third will argue whether this gossip has at least some bearing on facts. A fourth will reason whether I had a right to my own opinion. Gradually the subject of the initial dispute will be forgotten and the filth will appear to be endorsed officially.” “What’s your name?” asked Rina. “Gulya. And yours?” “R… Rina,” she answered after hesitating, thinking that all the same her name would say nothing to the girl. Well, who here knows the beginner hdiver who does not even have a bee? Gulya got up and with a polite grimace touched Rina’s collar. The pin burned her hand. She jerked it back. “So here’s the problem! Funny! Imagine, the first second I took you for the lady conductor who pushed Mama and me out of the rail car. We forgot tickets… Well, I was so surprised that she’s here! But then I started to look closer and some other thing showed through,” Gulya stretched her eyes slightly, after touching the edges with her fingers. Rina almost followed the footsteps of the hedgehog that forgot how to breathe while walking and suffered some hardship on this occasion. 35 Is it really so simple to unmask her? But indeed no one besides Gulya guessed! “You’re funny! Walk around with such artefacts!” Gulya continued to chatter. Rina did not manage to answer when, from somewhere unknown, a chubby bouncy fellow in a striped suit rushed over to her. He grabbed her by the arm, looking straight into her eyes, and muttered, “What’s with you, girl? You look like hell!” “Lousy mood!” Rina blurted out carelessly. The bouncy fellow became triply sympathetic. “Ay-ay-ay! Oh, I understand! You’re upset? Do you want to talk about it? We’ll be able to help! May I have your phone number?” Brusquely pushing the compassionate one away, the small girl dragged Rina to the side. “Shh! Have to keep quiet! Ran into the envoy on penguin rights!” she whispered. “Who’s that?” The girl squinted at the area, on which, greedily sizing up the crowd, bobbed more than a dozen such “driblets” characterized only by the colour of their ties. “Biovampires from Beldo’s fort! Terrible freaks! They search for cracks in relationships and climb into them.” “What cracks?” “Any! For example, Dostoyevsky once threw a glass at his wife. If they turned out to be beside such a penguin, he would immediately cackle, ‘Why do you let
35

A well-known Russian anecdote about a hedgehog goes like this: a hedgehog walked in the woods, forgot how to breathe, and died. Then it remembered how to breathe and walked further. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

102

him treat you this way? Where’s your pride? Divorce, quick! We’ll help! We’ll defend you! We’ll ban him from seeing the children!’ But she forgave, forgot, and loved him her whole life… Well, that’s it! Time for me to go! Performing soon!” Gulya said, winked, and dived into the crowd. Beldo finally left Nasta in peace. Right away the whiny character from the psych faculty started to hang around her. Poor Nasta manoeuvred between the tables, but with zero result, because the crossbreed of sheep and thinker possessed improbable nimbleness. Rina saw how Nasta put her hand into a pocket and in passing touched with an open palm the sweater of the academic. She stroked his shoulder so gently. Aha, clear! She had unnoticeably stuck to the nap of the sweater a bit of fluff from Duoka. It seemed like a trifle, but in an hour or two, the whiny oldie would become extraordinarily light. Any weak breeze would be a hurricane for him. Having decided that it made no sense to sit out behind the tubs, Sashka and Rina wormed their way into the crowd of business papas preoccupied with the silence of their cell phones and the young-looking mamas who, with the singlemindedness of cats filling in holes, rummaged in their purses. A redhead granny questioned a frail woman with eyes of a doe, “And how did you end up here, love?” “Well, my Lesha failed to get into management college; out of grief we wanted him to get into economics college, but then a friend of a friend phoned and asked whether I want my Lesha to become a successful leader?” “What, did she say exactly that?” “Well, I certainly had my doubts also, but decided that it’s worth looking into.” Rina and Sashka forced their way closer to Nasta. Sashka anxiously kept track of the time. Beldo, attentive like a hundred thousand loving relatives, was again hovering next to Nasta who had shaken off the lamb. Sashka was finally convinced that he was giving Nasta more time than the rest. At first Beldo worked wonders alone. He first released snowy white doves from his sleeves, read thought, and then forced a cup to somersault in the air. He grew so bold near the end that, after breathing on a polished stool, he had it covered with white flowers. The recent graduates performed after Beldo. A lanky girl with a braid made a wooden head speak in a human voice. The wooden head, a paste steadily coming out of its ears, extended its lips and told all the volunteers their past, for some reason stopping at the most humiliating and most bitter details. Then the girl made a mistake somewhere and the head flared up, flames breaking out on all sides. This produced an unfavourable impression on the spectators, since the head writhed as if alive. The girl with the braid left in embarrassment. “Please understand, so far this is the beginner’s level! We don’t intentionally show you the work of asses! Soon each of you will be able to do this!” Beldo, smiling, explained, giving a sign to someone. A blocky fellow came out after the lanky girl. Two berserkers beat his stomach for a long time with an ironbound battering ram, and afterwards fired bolts with
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

103

the tips removed. The fellow held steady and smiled, although Rina saw how large drops of sweat came out on his temples. After the fellow appeared Gulya and her friend Nina. Gulya on a bet guessed the cards in a closed box. Nina searched for hidden objects. After Nina trudged in a chubby young fellow like a little penguin, who Beldo said had learned the dictionary by heart. True, the little penguin immediately started muttering and was stopped only halfway through the letter “V”36 by the efforts of sprightly clerks from Dolbushin’s fort, who dragged him away by the arms. The girl who had suffered failure with the wooden head jumped out again, rousing the hall that had been lulled to sleep. This time she transformed torn paper into butterflies, and, having filled the entire hall with thousands of butterflies, she made the spectators forget about her failure with the head. “My friends!” Beldo chattered, sliding between the guests. “There is nothing inexplicable in what we show you! No magic, no mysticism, whether this word is despicable or not! The skill to work with one’s own consciousness, one’s complete liberation and deliverance from the routine rigidity of standards and ideas! All of you, I’m sure, have heard that man uses only ten percent of his brain! Ten! But how about the other ninety? It waits, until we rouse it!” Guy was standing modestly between Till and Dolbushin and was nibbling a cocktail straw with his tightly-packed bluish teeth. It was completely fine with him that Beldo reigned today. Till approached him from one side. “Our friend from HDive contacted me. He phoned from the village, from a booth. He’s starting psyose withdrawal. He asks for a new dose,” he said as if casually. Guy stopped nibbling the straw. “What, so soon? Psyose must be earned. What did our friend say?” “Ten are already in HDive. They broke them into teams of fives. They’re at the stable but so far there is no smell of flight. Usual training routine…” “Likely Kaleria isn’t going to speed up development… And our little bees there? Buzzing?” “Our friend swears that he greased the walls of the beehive and the roof, but so far no noticeable result,” answered Till. Guy listened to the proceedings and, after taking a step, gave a sign. The chain of berserkers parted. Bending over from the weight, a swarthy arbalester carried in a cube of darkened silver with a splinter of mirror fused in. In the centre of the hall was a low marble pedestal. Making his way to it, the arbalester turned up next to Rina. When the distance between them decreased, Rina felt hopeless despair, melancholy, and indifference flooding her whole being. For a few seconds the boundary between “can” and “cannot” was blurred, and Rina felt that it would be all the same to her if someone cut off Sashka’s head. Or even her own. Fortunately, the arbalester already went past.

36

The letter “V” is the third letter in the Cyrillic alphabet. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

104

“What’s this he has?” a fat-cheeked girl from the beginners, who recently together with Beldo forced wilted flowers to bloom, shouted briskly. “A meteorite from the depths of the Milky Way!” Beldo responded with a quivering in his voice. “Older than our galaxy, more ancient than the sun! In its crystals are recorded the secrets of an extinct, eternal human civilization. Perishing from a cataclysm, they didn’t take the knowledge away with them, but gave it to whoever wants to take it! Touching the meteorite rouses the subconscious!” Nasta quickly looked around at Sashka and Rina. But even without this look it was already clear to Rina that this stone was precisely their main goal. To see it, memorize every fact, and sketch it later. Oh, pity one cannot destroy it! They have one flash. Proving to everyone that the fused ingot was harmless, the old man leaned over and kissed it. The moment he touched it with his lips, everyone saw how his body was shrouded in a silvery cocoon. “Anyone wanting to be trained must repeat this after me! Of course, you can refuse. But, before you make your decision, we want you to find your position once and for all. It’s a misconception that history is created somewhere far away, in the fields of grandiose battles! History is taking shape here and now! Take a look!” Beldo pulled a crimson hanky out of his pocket and waved it. The massive iron door, which led not to the street but somewhere into the depths of the building, clanked and opened. Eight strong berserkers led out on chains a half-naked, twoand-a-half metre person in an iron muzzle and covered with reddish fur from head to toe. The man was thin, with a narrow chest, but terrible strength was detected in his huge body with knotty mounds. The skull was lopsided, the face was disfigured. An empty eye socket sucked in the proud flesh like a boiled sponge. After seeing Beldo, the monster, stretching the chains, rushed to him. The old man recoiled. Two berserkers could not stay on their feet; the rest brought the giant down and piled on top of him. Even immobilized, the terrible person continued to growl and tried to crawl to Beldo. The old man, grown bolder, approached and squatted down. “I think you’ve all heard about a series of brutal murders in a certain region. I wouldn’t want to go into details, but the internal organs of the victims were eaten. This continued not for a day or two but three years! And here’s the one who committed these terrible crimes! The police turned out to be traditionally powerless, and we nabbed him ourselves after a long pursuit through the swamps. At the same time, three heroes from the fort of dear Till received terrible mutilations. We thank your guys, Ingvar!” Till lowered his head to his chest and looked downcast. A sigh of horror rolled through the hall. Rushing back, the spectators formed around the cannibal a wide ring, inside of which remained only the cannibal, the berserkers holding him, and Beldo. The disfigured giant growled and tried to bite the old man through the muzzle.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

105

“If this isn’t absolute evil, then where is evil? What is it at all?” Beldo asked in a stage whisper and, after raising his voice, added, “Listen to me, creature! My tongue can’t turn to call you a man, but, I swear by the light in my soul, I will give you freedom!” Chapter 13 Warlock Style An interesting question. Let us suppose I could insert into my ear a sensor, which would safely deliver to me great pleasure exceeding any others, just simply by touching it with a finger. Would I be able to resist the temptation? Or, if this sensor were already in my ear, would I be able not to tug at it constantly? And if I did tug, could I then continue to consider that I am my own boss? From the diary of a non-returning hdiver Protesting cries were heard. The berserkers piling on the giant’s back lifted up their heads. Even Guy, it seemed, was disturbed that Beldo, getting carried away, gave such promises. The mutilated giant stopped growling. The eyes swollen with blood rose distrustfully to the bridge of the old man’s nose. “Yes!” Beldo continued to torment the soul. “You’re unworthy of life, but you’ll live if you’re able to win in a match against our fighter!” He got up and, lifting up a hand, shouted, “Come in, please! Prince of beauty – Eugene Gamov! Model, violinist, poet, gymnast! A graduate of our school last year! Keen on parkour, 37 translates Petrarch!38 Winner of the last three combat flight contests on hyeons! A simple ordinary person, same as we all are! Only good and fearless! And, on top of everything else, monogamous!” In Beldo’s voice was heard such tragic anguish that Till stopped chewing on his cigarette and raised an eyebrow. The pneumatic mechanism snapped into action. The mirror dome parted. An albino hyeon with pink wings and throbbing veins flew into the hall. On the back of the hyeon a youth with dark locks was torturing the strings of a violin with a bow. The features of his face at first seemed sharp, but when one had become accustomed to them, it was clear that they could not be otherwise. The youth’s eyes were enthusiastically half-closed. The hyeon descended in circles. By itself, without coercion. There was not even a muzzle with the usual electric shock antennae on it. The rein was lying
37
38

Parkour is a training to move around obstacles speedily and efficiently, originally developed in France. Francesco Petrarca (1304-74), known in English as Petrarch, was an Italian scholar and poet, often called the “Father of Humanism.” ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

106

freely on the neck. This so struck Rina, knowing the disposition of hyeons, that she looked closely at it for a long time, trying to figure out if there was an electric shock established somewhere else. “No-no,” said Beldo, as if overhearing her. “No trick! The hyeon listens to him simply because it loves him!” After descending about two metres, the young man freed his foot from the stirrup, threw his leg over the withers of the beast, and, without letting go of the violin, slid down. Landing on half-bent knees, he took a step forward in order to keep his balance. Only one, quite casually. In general, nonchalance (easy wellthought-out casualness) permeated the whole being of Eugene Gamov. His silk shirt unbuttoned down to only two buttons, slanting tiger eyes, and a straight, thin, nervous mouth. Something flashed dazzlingly on his boots above the heels. “Please pay attention to the spurs!” Beldo became animated. “You, of course, are certain that the stones decorating them are fake! Not at all, they’re real diamonds! Possibly someone doesn’t know, but Eugene’s papa invented the socket with four holes, which protects against power surges. Everything brilliant is simple, everything simple is brilliant! The patent has been sold to thirty countries around the world… The other two hundred countries kick themselves in envy and, not knowing the secret, they cripple their own sockets with a drill! Eugene Gamov, ladies and gentlemen, the son of a multi-millionaire and a simply good person not giving himself airs!” The good-looking young man smiled with a good portion of self-irony and handed the violin to Dolbushin. Beldo flitted to the youth, “Eugene, I’ll dare to pose to you a question, which is on the tip of everyone’s tongue: you’re not afraid? Before you is a maniac, a killer, a cannibal! He has nothing to lose, he won’t pity you!” Gamov, after lingering, shook his head. Dozens of people, leaning forward, waited for his answer. “I worry a little, but you understand…just the sort of thing…” he said. “A sense of duty directs you!” prompted Beldo. Eugene smiled politely, “Really? And where does it lead me?” “You do this to prove that we’re against violence and cruelty!” prompted Beldo. “Are we?” Eugene teased the old man. Beldo coquettishly hit the youth’s chest with a fist. “He’s even modest! So, gentlemen, Eugene Gamov! A graduate of our school!” One of the berserkers carelessly put a foot forward. The giant grabbed him by the foot. The crunch of bones was heard. The berserker fell. The others pulled the chains in a hurry. “Don’t!” Beldo said tiredly. “What’s all this? You will free him!” While the chains were being removed from the placated giant, Eugene approached Nasta. “Throw me the aster, please!” he asked. “What aster?” Nasta answered sullenly and suddenly discovered a blazing red flower in a vase beside her. This was an obvious miracle, but Nasta managed to remain Nasta even under these conditions. “Take it yourself, not a widow!”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

107

“It’s important that precisely you would give it to me!” Gamov said softly. “Why?” Nasta asked with suspicion. “For success. Girls who don’t need me inspire me.” “Who told you that I don’t need you?” “You can’t hide it. To everyone here, I’m the successful son of the socket with four holes, but only to you I’m nothing.” Nasta snorted. “Catch!” Eugene caught the aster, turned, and shouted to the cannibal, “Memorize this flower! This will be the last thing you see.” The giant, roaring, rushed to Gamov, but the last chain was still holding him by the foot and he fell. Eugene whistled. The albino hyeon came down. Gamov hopped into the saddle. Beldo whispered something into his fist and abruptly straightened his fingers. A space opened up. An arena enclosed by an invisible barrier appeared in the middle of the hall. Berserkers hurriedly dived into the passageway not yet closed. The last berserker, after exchanging looks with Till, dropped a combat poleaxe near the feet of the cannibal, and, having unfastened the chain, slipped out after the others. The giant picked up the poleaxe, weighed it in his hand, and rushed without warning into the passageway, behind which crowded the spectators. After waiting for a public outcry, Beldo clenched his fist. The closedoff protection pushed the cannibal back a metre. The giant jerked up his head and discovered the hyeon hovering high under the dome. The hyeon unhurriedly moved in a circle, anticipating something. The cannibal got a better grip on the poleaxe with two hands and prepared himself. After intercepting the aster with his right hand, Eugene Gamov extended it like a sword before himself. He nudged the hyeon with his heels and hurled it into a vertical dive. The cannibal waited, intending on jumping aside and hitting the hyeon on the neck with the poleaxe. Eugene shouted something, giving an order. A few metres from the ground, the hyeon suddenly stretched out its wings. The spread-out wings of the hyeon shielded its rider from the cannibal for a second. He was still considering the hyeon his main enemy when, after flying over the head of the brute, a nimble figure with knees pulled up to his chest fearlessly jumped onto him. The poleaxe, with blade deployed towards the hyeon, was late. It only cut air. The straightened out feet struck the cannibal in the chest. The power of the impact, intensified by the acceleration of the hyeon, was so great that the giant toppled over onto his back. The back of his head cut dully into the rock floor and, a second later, the blazing aster touched his forehead, forever closing his single eye. Veins swelled up on the giant’s temples; he started to get up, but twitched and calmed down, motionless like a broken toy. Eugene Gamov nonchalantly stepped over the poleaxe lying about. “Well now…likely that’s all…” he dropped. “Karmic good always conquers universal evil!” Beldo solemnly said. “Eveel,” Guy corrected soundlessly with his lips.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

108

No one noticed when the barrier disappeared. Having run up to the dead cannibal, the old man threw a crimson raincoat over him, then pulled it off, and everyone saw that the body had disappeared. A delayed applause was heard, which stopped abruptly after an impatient movement by Guy. “Indeed only a few years ago Eugene was studying in an ordinary school!” Beldo was being syrupy. “Well, not entirely ordinary. With French immersion!” Gamov modestly corrected him. “Ah, goes without saying!” the old man instantly yielded. “By the way, do you recall that you had a girl then?” The gymnast, poet, and violinist in one package smiled in embarrassment and shook his head. Beldo issued a triumphant old-womanish peep. “I knew, I knew! I didn’t call you monogamous for nothing! But now the main thing! Today, on his twenty-first birthday, Eugene will meet the one whom he will love his entire life! If she rejects him, his heart will break! So say the stars, and they don’t lie! It’s us, people, that lie to the stars!” Gamov turned to Beldo annoyed. “Was it necessary to open your mouth?” he hissed. Beldo touched his heart with both hands and then hit his forehead hard with his fist, demonstrating how much he regretted his forgetfulness. “Ah-ah-ah! I’m eternally so!” Eugene looked at the floor for several seconds and then lifted up his head, like a person with nothing to lose. A tanned hand squeezed the flower. “I remembered!” someone whispered in Rina’s ear. Turning around, she saw Gulya, who stole a fish sandwich from somewhere and was nibbling around it in small bites like a mouse. “I remember this guy! He came to our class! He has the gift of absolute adaptation!” “What’s that?” “Well, when several girls see one and the same person, but one describes him as blond, another as a brown-haired narcissist with a cougar tattooed on his shoulder, a third as an athlete solid as a board, a fourth as a romantic with long hair… With one he’s gruff and brusque, with another timid and shy, with a third a genius, with a fourth a thrifty hamster.” “But what does he look like in reality?” asked Rina. “Likely he looks that way. He’s nothing by himself,” Gulya said uncertainly. While she was whispering, the handsome man with black curls sneaked into the crowd with a catlike step, holding the aster in a lowered hand. The girls giggled nervously. Youthful mamas became incomprehensibly excited. Without stopping, Eugene passed all the girls. Now only Nasta was left before him. “I bet she won’t fall for it!” whispered Rina. “Consider it a bet,” Gulya answered quietly. Her words resounded in complete silence, because precisely at this moment the handsome man smoothly raised his hand and handed the flower to Nasta, who hid her hands behind her back.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

109

“Please!” Eugene said softly. “Not for me! For the poor plant!” Nasta did not know how to answer and took the aster. Edging in between them, Beldo, after shedding a few tears, hugged them both. “One thing I beg of you! Don’t deceive the stars!” he entreated. Rina almost groaned from the stupidity of this scene, copied exactly from pulp fiction, but here next to her someone emotionally blew his nose. This was a portly lady who till now seemed to Rina dry as crust. Now it turned out Rina herself was hard-hearted. “All others’ courtship is comical until you’re being wooed. Here you already begin to swallow the hook without the bait,” thought Rina. Sashka tracked down Nasta in the crowd. The crowd was shifting all the time, and where Nasta was a minute ago, a bored Till was already hanging around. Occasionally he squinted at Guy, obviously checking if the chief had left so that he could skip out. The twins Kesha and Pasha were pushing the girls away with their shoulders, insolently looking them over from top to bottom and, apparently, also searching for true love. The crowd began to change shape, became longer. After tracking where it was headed, Sashka saw that it was to the silver cube. Dolbushin stood by the cube; Beldo was bouncing like an imp next to him. The future students of the psych college approached the cube in turn and touched it with their forehead. Radiance enveloped them. They froze for several seconds, trying to sense if anything had changed in them. They sensed nothing. The ele was still too small and weak, not even an ele but the shadow of one. Now it only depends on the person how soon it would germinate. For each service, gift, or miracle accepted from the ele, something would be lost in the person and something would be added to the elbe, until one day the host and guest change places and the person finally becomes a marionette. A woman with the eyes of an injured doe pushed forward an intimidated youth in a sweater. The boy felt shy and was sad. Mama, though timid, was persistent. “Please let Lesha through! We’re late! Lesha still has to study in the evening,” she repeated. Having pushed Lesha to the cube, mama shoved his head into the fused ingot and fell back, pleased that they did not have to stand in line. Sashka managed to track down Nasta. The good-looking Eugene held her hand and whispered something in her ear, touching her cheek with his hair. Nasta turned away and shook her head, but it was perceived that she was also listening to him greedily. On noticing that Nasta was going to the ingot without much desire and letting others pass in front, Beldo began to force his way through to her. “Sorry! Excuse me! Sorry! Please allow me!” he repeated, wriggling like an eel. The situation was critical. The handsome Eugene caught one of Nasta’s arms and the old man Beldo the other. Seeing that Nasta would turn up by the rock any minute now, Sashka snatched the flash from his pocket. He looked around at Rina and forcefully threw it against the floor. The mushroom did not explode immediately and the curious Rina had time to open her eyes slightly again. Just barely, but it was also enough…
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

110

Rina did not see the flash. She did not hear the rumble. It seemed to her that she had dived into white-pink jelly, where there were neither sounds nor voices. She had plunged into absolute nothingness. Understanding that Rina was temporarily blinded, Sashka grabbed her by the arm. He pulled Nasta out from under a Beldo with a frozen rubbery smile and began to tow both girls to the exit. All around was a theatre of wax figures. Here was an elderly witch from Beldo’s fort with a glass not reaching the mouth. Here a strapping berserker from the cordoned-off area was frozen at the moment of yawning and an open mouth with crowns on the back teeth was visible. It was especially difficult with Nasta. Sashka was dragging her like a package. He pushed the old door with the glass tinkling and…almost howled. In front of him stretched the same hall with warlocks. Still hoping for something else, Sashka again rushed to the door, jerked it in the other direction and…again the chain of berserkers and Till’s round, fat-cheeked head appeared before him. Damnation! Rina had already come to and helped support Nasta. “Can you run?” shouted Sashka. They lowered Nasta’s arms onto their shoulders and, straightening her body into a vertical position, they dragged. Little by little, Nasta began to help them. In the depth of the hall, behind the mirrors, Sashka saw the beginning of stairs. If only they have time! The berserkers began to stir. Guy, squatting, was rocking like a shaman. Holding onto the leg of a stiff arbalester, he got up. The arbalester turned and, looking at him with empty eyes, started to lift up the arbalest slowly. Guy knocked the arbalest from him. He ran up to Till and sharply, like a cat with a paw, boxed Till on the ear. Till blinked like a loyal subject. The fat cheek trembled. “They won’t leave! We have the place surrounded. Go to the street only with me or with berserkers,” he said coolly. “Hdivers are here somewhere in the crowd! Search! Everybody to the rock! Security!” Berserkers from the cordoned-off area pitilessly cracked down on the hall, dragging by force everyone in turn to the rock. For the time being, the flashes were either silvery or bluish. If a hdiver turned up by the rock, the flash would be green. In expectation of this, two of Guy’s arbalesters stood still nearby, keeping the rock in sight. “Albert, do you have a blueprint of the building?” shouted Guy. “What blueprint? The newspaper kiosk on the ground floor belongs to us! The rest is a deception with the fifth dimension inside this kiosk,” answered Dolbushin, glancing around the hall, which would easily expand into a trailer with another trailer. “Could they leave through the second floor?” “On the second floor are offices of the Board. We left a way there just in case.” “Any other exit from the building?” “There isn’t,” Till broke his silence. “But, it seems I didn’t put berserkers on the second floor!”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

111

Dolbushin looked at his powerful short legs. “Little use today from your hulk. I’ll check it myself!” he said to Till’s knees and made his way to the stairs. “There was no need to worry,” the old man Beldo shouted to him from behind. “My Linda, a top tier militant witch, is guarding the second floor.” *** The stairs were old, with high steps and gypsum rails, and with wide landings. Once stone vases stood on them, then the heads of leaders; now the landings resembled a shaven chin on a pudgy face. Having run up the stairs, they found themselves in a typical hallway of a typical government institution at nonreception time. Long benches, the empty table of the person on duty, several engravings of Moscow sights, and offices, offices. The sweet stench of cockroach poison hovered in the air. Sashka heard muttering from the direction of the lobby. Someone, walking, was talking to himself. In the heat of the moment, he wanted to rush off, but Nasta stopped him. “Wait… need to look!” she put her hand in her pocket and handed a pair of opera glasses to Sashka. “Hold these! You go instead of me! I’m still reeling!” “Why the binoculars?” “You’ll understand later… And be careful!” Sashka took the binoculars and crawled, imagining how foolish he would look if someone walked out of an office. He reached the highest step separating the hallway from the lobby. He looked out carefully. In the narrow foyer, lengthwise with the austere stands of the officials’ work schedules, a pretty woman in light-coloured pants was strolling and continuously muttering something, smiling to herself. “Well, she talks… So let her!” Sashka thought and was about to crawl away, but, remembering the binoculars, unwillingly looked into them. There was a pink flame inside the binoculars. It splashed, spread to the edges, and Sashka saw that sitting on the woman, holding firmly onto her neck with his legs, was a Lilliputian wound in dirty bandages. Stop! What Lilliputian? What bandages? Sashka even closed his eyes, not trusting himself. He then opened them again and again saw the Lilliputian. He lowered the binoculars; the woman remained, the Lilliputian disappeared. He brought the binoculars up again. Sashka assumed that this was a doll made of grey rags smeared with glue. However, the Lilliputian stirred and Sashka realized that this was not a doll. The arms and legs were short, as if chopped off, but then the fingers and toes were like roots many metres long. “The roots” of the feet stretched to the body, “the roots” of the hands to the head. The most terrible thing was that the dwarf was not a freak of a definite form. He first changed into a beautiful butterfly and touched the woman with his wings, then leaned down and whispered something to her, forcing her to smile. She laughed and gave him a push with her hand (this was visible only in the
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

112

binoculars, because her real hand remained in place). “Leave me alone!” she whispered. “Well, go on! What did he say to her? And she?” Then suddenly, without any warning, the recently chattering dwarf became harsh, rough, and hit her. The woman shuddered. Her face became stupid, nasty. “Pull yourself together! These nonentities must learn who the master is here! Put them in their place!” the dwarf demanded. The woman, who had recently been hit, was shaken. She touched her cheek with suspicion, but the dwarf had already become a warm and thoughtful winter scarf. He wound around her neck, warmed her, tickled her ear with mysterious sweet words. She calmed down. Then suddenly he gained momentum and, changing from a scarf into a drill, drilled into her ear, “Think only about yourself! They use you! Your knowledge, ability, ideas! Enough of letting them dance on your bones! Time to be selfish finally! As it is, you’re doing everything for everyone!” The woman nodded, obediently and sadly. Then, after becoming a slender silver snake, the dwarf wound around her neck, leaned back, and rushed into her ear, piercing right through the brain. It seemed the woman should shout from the pain, instead, her face became passionate, still. “Don’t!” she whispered. “What are you doing? Don’t! Not now!” The snake stopped, after suspending its sliding, and began to lay down the law, “Find a marker for me! It’s difficult for me to be with you without it, although I love you so!” “Please stay! You’re everything to me! You yourself know I haven’t been able to enter Duoka for a long time,” the woman begged. “Then find a marker! Take it from whomever you want, wherever you want! Or I will leave!” “He’ll leave, indeed!” Sashka thought correctly. His thought, seemingly secret to him, was heard. The silver snake disappeared. The bandaged Lilliputian on the woman’s shoulder lifted up his head. His eyes blazed like the crimson tips of cigarettes. Sashka felt as if red-hot needles wanted to pierce his pupils. The flame in the binoculars splashed, filling space, and separating Sashka’s eyes from the eyes of the freak. The Lilliputian, as if scorched, leaned back abruptly, having involuntary jerked his finger-roots. The woman yelled, her body twitched, and she fell. The bandaged Lilliputian came to first. After recollecting that he had almost finished off his “horsie,” he pulled up his stumps. The woman got up. She wiped with a sleeve the sweat off her face. It was felt that she did not even understand what had happened to her. She was standing, then an awful pain, and she was on the floor. Looking at Sashka without interruption, the dwarf lifted his right hand slightly higher. The finger-roots stretched. The movements were precise, careful, thought out. The doll ruled the marionette. The woman’s head rose slightly and began to turn. An astonished Sashka belatedly realized what the dwarf was doing: showing him, the enemy, to the woman. He aimed her at the target. The witch “was aimed” very well. She saw Sashka’s head and lifted her hand. Not the physical
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

113

hand but the one visible only in the binoculars. Sashka bent down, hidden behind the step, but did not have time. A jet of fire came off the witch’s palm and swiftly rolled along the hallway. He fell. The fire singed his hair, poured dry heat over his skin. Sashka lay on his back and saw how the fire licked the information stand, blackening and rolling up the announcements. The witch approached, gave him a shove with her foot, and casually took aim with a finger. The nail on her index finger was long, yellowish. Sashka had not yet comprehended how this would threaten him when two construction nails pierced the parquet to the right and left of his neck. Sashka tried to get up but two dozen more nails pierced his sweater and pants, literally sewing him to the floor. After stepping on Sashka’s chest, the witch walked further along the hallway. “Careful!” Sashka shouted, but too late. Sashka did not see the battle itself as he did not squint. He understood only that it was brief. Something began to rattle, exactly as if a sheet of iron was hit by a hammer. Sashka heard Nasta’s pitiful cry, “Don’t! It hurts!” Rina also yelled, and a dead silence suddenly began. Then a man’s voice, completely unknown to Sashka, said, “Something’s not right here! Saw them twice, and they were different both times… Interrogate them, Linda!” “No need! I’ll ravage their brains through the eyes!” answered the witch. “Well, war is war! No one asked them to butt in here!” said Dolbushin after a pause. “Only search them first!” Sashka tugged. The sweater stretched along the neck. He was able to lift his head. He watched as the witch got down on her knees in front of Rina lying on the floor and went through her clothing. Nasta was on all fours. She was throwing up some lumps. “Ah…here’s the problem! There!” Linda pulled the pin from Rina’s collar and discarded it. “A girl hdiver! Strange, it seems I’ve seen her somewhere!” Dolbushin leaned down and looked at Rina. Nothing on his face changed, except that he closed his eyes for a second. The smooth, wrinkle-free eyelids tightened. Then he raised the umbrella and, without apparent effort but abruptly, with the sharp part of the umbrella struck the outside of his foot, where the smart shoe ended. This was obviously monstrously painful because his face turned pale and drops of sweat appeared on his temples. “Linda! Give me the pin!” he asked quickly and hoarsely. The witch, slightly surprised, leaned down. At the same moment, Dolbushin efficiently struck her shoulder with the umbrella handle. Sashka was ready to swear that he did not even touch the woman’s head, but she fell. Nasta ran up to Sashka and freed him, pulling the clothing with both hands. The nails remained so in the floor, clearly outlining Sashka’s silhouette. Sashka picked up the binoculars. One glass was broken but the other survived. He looked at the lying woman in the binoculars. The rag dwarf was shuddering like a jellyfish. A stench was coming from him. A decrepit old woman stirred feebly on the floor. She opened her eyes and sat up. With empty eyes – neither memory nor hatred, only grief and fear – she looked at Dolbushin, at Rina. “Who am I? Where am I? Who are you?” she asked
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

114

toothlessly, indistinctly. She turned away, then again lay down, turned over onto her stomach, and, biting her hand, wailed. It was terrible to look at her. Nasta, feeling sorry, touched her shoulder. The old woman turned to her and sneered, “Get away from me! Go away!” Dolbushin turned Rina around by the shoulders. “Get out of here!” he ordered. “At the end of the hallway will be a window, break it and jump! I’ll say that you killed the elbe. And don’t thank me, I had a score to settle.” “And her?” Rina looked at the witch. “She’ll die in the next few hours. She’s more than a hundred and fifty years old, but her age was frozen. Now everything will happen very quickly… Be off, I said!” Dolbushin turned and quickly walked along the hallway, looking around only once, by the stairs. The window opened easily, only the glass of the transom crumbled. Sensors hung on wires. Knowing that somewhere a light on a police console had begun to blink, they hurriedly jumped into the courtyard and slipped through it to the Sofia Embankment, near the barrier with a booth. A patrol car, blinking, rushed past them. Here Nasta angrily pulled the beads off her neck and shoved them into her pocket. A solidly built girl with a hole from a casing in her ear again emerged. The three quickly went along the embankment. Nasta angrily kicked a plastic bottle. “I still have to get my clms,” said Sashka. No one heard him. “Why did this person kill her?” asked Rina. She said “this person” with effort. She could in no way forget the terrible and unhappy eyes riveted to her face. “He killed not her but the elbe. His umbrella can kill elbes. Our weapon can’t. Only attack markers,” Nasta answered aloofly. “Why did she grow old?” “You were told: the elbe took care of her. If a rotten fish is frozen, it looks normal. But later it’ll disintegrate in a few hours.” “But why did he help us?” “I know nothing. I only know that I want to drag myself to HDive so that no one will bother me!” Rina looked suspiciously at her. For a person who had recently escaped certain death, Nasta behaved exceptionally cheerlessly. “The monogamous with the aster?” she asked. “Shut your trap!” Nasta made a sharp movement with a foot. A bottle, somersaulting, flew over through the parapet and splashed into the river. “And don’t you mess with this! Forget him! He doesn’t recognize you without the beads!” Sashka butted in. Better if he had kept quiet, because the next minute, Nasta with her shoulder cut into his chest with such force that he sat down on the asphalt. Sashka was still rubbing his chest, but Nasta was already rushing across the road to the area where in winter they bring snow to melt. She flickered by the lifted pipes, took off on the steps, and disappeared on the bridge.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

115

Chapter 14 The Dead Bee The basic enemy of good people is not evil people, but the kind ones. In fact, who said that evil is not kind? It is perhaps a kindness two hundred thousand times more humane, like a maniac at a specific moment is better than a father with a belt. Therefore, if evil comes to us within the next few years, then it will be under the guise of this global, non-national, unifying, and universal kindness such that we will all reach out for it right away. In addition, we will jostle in the queue to the scaffold. From the diary of a non-returning hdiver The whole night Rina was sketching the cube fused with the mirror. She sketched diligently, on a piece of Whatman paper, trying so that the scale would be one to one. Sashka was doing the same. Just that if Rina’s was an artistic work, Sashka’s was a rather sloppy sketch with pointers. “What do you have on the drawing?” Rina asked, in whom the high achiever was awakened. “I punched the bag a lot. My hand doesn’t make delicate movements,” said Sashka. Rina did not know that this was his usual excuse when someone criticized his drawing or handwriting. They brought both sketches to Kavaleria. On her table was already one more, from Nasta. Nevertheless, she compared all three. “Well, how is it? Anything useful?” asked Rina. “Yes. But better not to know anything at all than to know this!” answered Kavaleria sullenly. And that was all. She explained nothing more. Not able to keep it to herself, Rina told her what bothered her all night. About the man with the umbrella who had spared them. “Dolbushin,” Kavaleria instantly recognized him. “Strange that he let you go. Although, if you think about it, are you a catch for an experienced beast of his calibre? Two novices and a middle hdiver. This Linda probably did him a bad turn on something. Warlocks are spiteful.” “Yes, he said something like that… But why then…” Rina described how Dolbushin had hit himself with the umbrella on the instep, and only then attacked the militant witch. Kavaleria leaned back on the chair. This insignificant episode amazed her much more. “Strange… Very strange… Although, if you think about it, everything is clear as day!” she concluded. “What is clear?” “Well, you see! Dolbushin, it goes without saying, has his guardian. The same as Sashka saw in the witch. All elbe-guardians are connected together. What one
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

116

sees, the others see. After hitting himself on the foot, and on top of that with the umbrella fatal for elbes, he temporarily blinded and stunned his guardian with intense pain through the roots in the toes. Because of these roots, the elbes felt much more pain than people. This way, he hid from his elbe who killed that other one… Everything thought through, the rat!” “Why didn’t he hit himself with the umbrella handle but with its point?” Sashka asked. “Well, it’s understandable. Because he didn’t intend to kill his own elbe. He needs it. The whole warlock thing is in it!” Kavaleria said mercilessly. Breakfast took place in the hdiver style. Makar with an honest face carried off Alice’s cutlet and cunningly spilled gravy on the table so that the tracks led to Sashka. Danny put too much sugar in his tea and added salt so it would not be too sweet. “Why not dilute it with water?” Rina asked. Danny raised his eyebrows. “I don’t search for easy paths! Gentlemen, it would be simply pedestrian!” Arms folded, a ladle in one hand, Supovna was walking between the tables and watching that everyone ate. “Well, going where?” she yelled from time to time, running up, for example, to the emaciated Cyril. “Going where, the weight-watcher is unhappy? Well, look at me!” The ladle smacked the table. Kasha flew in different directions. Cyril got scared and started to tremble a little. “Where did the spoon go? Get it back! Don’t like what I make? Worms would choke on your bones in the coffin! Medical orderlies would pull your teeth as souvenirs!” shouted Supovna. Cyril became terrified. “L-like!” he stuttered. “No, you’ll say that I cook badly! Say it! I won’t be mad!” proposed Supovna. “You cook re-remarkably!” “If it’s remarkable, then eat up!” Supovna cut him off. “WELL!” Cyril grabbed the spoon from the table and started to shovel in the kasha with the speed of an excavator. He had long discovered that it was useless to argue with Supovna. The old woman was unstoppable. Even Kuzepych, whom Supovna knew still as a fat-legged pioneer, was afraid of her. In the entire HDive only Kavaleria did not fear Supovna, and now and then, when the old lady got too carried away, she would remark in an undertone, “Righteous howls are a big temptation!” Thus flowed their hdiver life. Time turned the calendar pages. In the beginning, Rina expected the novices to scatter right away. Some like Sashka, Makar, Danny, and Lena got acclimatised quite fast. It was more difficult with the others. They grumbled, whined, and slandered everyone, but for some reason no one left HDive as a result. Even Freda, each evening saying that her legs would not be there the next day, in the morning for some reason decided to grace everyone with her presence for another day. On that day according to the timetable was Kuzepych’s talk: Urban Survival, or How to last a month in an unknown city, having two kilos of buckwheat and a
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

117

blanket. Kaleria, sensitive to words, had thought up the word “talk” since the concept of “lecture” would not do for Kuzepych. The young hdivers, bored beforehand, gathered in the auditorium. Rina placed her cheek on the notebook, preparing to doze. Accustomed to crazy school workloads, the lessons here seemed like real mockery to her. Lectures were often broken off and one of the senior hdivers or even a non-hdiver would be sent as replacement. For example, kitchen Nadia, who asked them to call her Nadine. She has the nightmarish pedagogical habit of posing obvious questions. It was not for nothing that she came to HDive later than the rest – from third year teachers college, where she was studying in the specialty of teacher of the lower grades. Nadine arrived and with extraordinary importance put up on the board a poster depicting a skinned winged horse. “Before us on the anatomical diagram… what? A winged horse! Correct, Freda! And what’s this on it? Flight feathers! Now let’s think together, why are they marked red in the diagram… indeed, in reality, they are what? Correct, Cyril! Not red!” Lena began to moan. “Nad!” she begged. “Stop, huh? Why do you always ask?” “Why do I ask? In order to stimulate in you… what? Independent thought!” After the lecture about some muscles of the rump, Nadia began to remove the poster stuck on with tape for safety. Alice plugged up her ears. She asserted that she was allergic to rustling sounds. The insidious Cyril randomly scattered about the page the word combination “sad dummy,” “bright dummy,” “minutes in an hour,” “nil-nil,” “yaka-tyka-neon!” and, satisfied, prepared to enter between the dummies all other valuable thoughts on Kuzepych’s “little talk.” The door opened and Cyril dropped the pen. Kavaleria entered the auditorium. She leisurely took off her coat and was in a white blouse. Then, recalling something, pulled from the blind wall a notebook, a pen, and a bottle of mineral water. “Kuzepych has gone to the vet pharmacy. I didn’t manage to find the grass on Duoka and we decided to give in to traditional medicine. So, today I’m your Kuzepych. You have an hour and twenty minutes to find out from me what your apathy and lack of curiosity prevented you from finding out for yourself.” “Very glad to see you, Kaleria Valerevna!” Cyril said. She looked at him coldly through her glasses. “Why very? And why glad?” “Well…” hesitated Cyril. He was sorry that he had opened his mouth. “While there is no ground for feelings, happiness doesn’t start!” Kavaleria cut him off. “I’m waiting for questions actually!” Freda bit her pencil. “Questions, so questions. Duoka, it’s…?” She instantly demanded a definition. “There’s our world. There’s the swamp, a dead world that destroyed itself. And there’s Duoka, a healthy unchanging world, free from death, eternal. More profound than all worlds is the light. An enormous loving sun, but no stars, no material body, but something much more. It sustains our life, warms us, but we can’t see it. In our best moments it only glimmers, and then hypothetically manifests itself. We can’t dive into the sun.”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

118

“It’s beyond the second ridge?” asked Rina. “This I don’t know,” answered Kavaleria. “I doubt that it has a threedimensional allocation. The mountain beyond the second ridge is our limit of understanding.” “And all these elbes? Where are they?” asked Lena. “The elbes dwell between our world and Duoka. They’re jealous that Duoka is closed to them and they harm divers. Taking markers away from us is the only chance for them to get something from Duoka. Their goal is to infiltrate drop by drop into our world and wipe out the boundary between the worlds.” Kavaleria looked at the window. The sun was lying in the open window. Looking at the sun, Kavaleria unexpectedly uttered a rebellious thought, unexpected for a strict director of a serious establishment. “By and large, being a warlock is more interesting. Hdivers have only winged horses and dives. Hard daily work. All the rest are simply guesses for a very long time.” Freda issued a throaty sound. “I want to go to Duoka!” she said in the tone of a person who is doing Duoka a favour. “You barely stay in the saddle… Too early, hopelessly early. None of you are ready.” “To the swamp?” asked Rina. “Next to Duoka the swamp is simply the traffic jam blocking a trip to the sea. The problem is us. We aren’t ready for Duoka and its gifts at all.” Alice sniffed with distrust. She considered that she was ready for anything. “Duoka gives itself wholly, without reserve, and you must give yourselves to Duoka completely. We’re ready to offer only a tiny portion of our ‘I’ between wilfulness and the first serious difficulties. Since we can give little, we can take little. What can be given to us that we wouldn’t instantly abandon, trample, spoil?” Kavaleria asked sadly. *** Someone started to pant in the hallway. Ruzya’s fat face pushed through into the classroom. His voice though sluggish, did not dawdle, which, for anyone knowing Ruzya, was a sign of extreme agitation. “Please excuse me, but this is urgent! Something baffling is happening to the bees there!” Kavaleria darted off and, after jumping up with her feet on the chair, took a step to the windowsill. The spectacle of the instructor running out the window so shook Freda that she searched for a long time how to express her attitude towards this. She discovered nothing and said, “Well, I expected nothing different altogether!” After saying this, Freda also climbed out the window. After Kavaleria rushed Rina, Sashka, and Makar. Not only did Danny manage not to step on the chair, but, after throwing his leg over, he stepped over the windowsill. Alice clumsily climbed out after Makar. On the clearing flooded with sunlight, on which shadows of lithe birches were gliding, Alice had an attack of distraction. She disturbed a pigeon with a ball and stretched her arms out short©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

119

sightedly, trying to catch it. Realizing her mistake, she smiled for the first time this past year, and a short bright joy started to warm her. Passing everyone, Sashka saw a dense ring of hdivers near the pine tree. Gosha was standing on the outside of the ring and, with the appearance of an experienced guide, explaining to everyone, “They killed their mumsy!” Later someone else ran up, and Gosha, changing the words slightly, repeated, “Their mumsy was killed!” After going around the pine tree from the opposite direction, Sashka discovered that the walls and the roof of the beehive were covered with a thick carpet of bees. In the centre of the shifting carpet lay the large queen bee, which the other bees, turning it over, were dragging somewhere. When Rina squeezed her way to Sashka, the bees pushed the queen off the roof. Now it was lying on the ground. At times, either one or another bee made a circle and, without touching it, took off. Kavaleria got down on her knees beside it and placed the dead queen bee on her palm. She touched it with her finger. The bee turned over with that rustling sound a long dead dried insect, of which only the shell remained, made turning over. “This is the end of HDive!” said Kavaleria. Gradually everybody went away. Only the beehive covered with the shifting blanket of bees and the dead queen on the grass remained. The bees no longer flew to it. Occasionally a hdiver approached, looked, and walked away with a pensive face. It turned out that no one wanted the dead bee. The mother of thousands of golden bees was lying stuck in the grass, and ants ran around giving it the once over like dogs getting used to the smell. They touched it with their antennae. They had doubts. No, something was not right! They ran off. But others immediately appeared, and everything began anew. In the evening Rina appeared at the beehive again. She leaned down and, after pulling the bee from the grass, hid it in a matchbox. Then she walked towards HDive. The golden bee was rolling, hitting the box as if alive. *** It was incomprehensible how, but the warlocks found out about the loss of the queen bee that same night. Berserkers flew in twos up to the gates of HDive. They shouted. They shook their axes. They excited the hyeons. They threw Molotov cocktails.39 The bottles broke against emptiness, the splinters jumped on something invisible. The air was ablaze, outlining the invisible protective dome. Then one of the berserkers remained on the ground while the other gained altitude and, showing off, began fancy riding. He dived under the neck of the hyeon. He directed it up and then immediately down. The hyeon somersaulted
39

A Molotov cocktail is an improvised firebomb consisting of a breakable bottle with a flammable substance and a source of ignition held in place by the stopper. The bottle is ignited, hurled at the target, and breaks on impact, causing a fireball. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

120

over his head like a tumbler pigeon40 and immediately, after turning around, caught the wind with its wings. Having splashed boiling water from the porch, Supovna set down the bucket and wiped her hands with her apron. Her fingers were red, the joints twisted by arthritis. After straightening her back, she squinted at the little figures in the sky. The hyeon first dived towards the ground and then wiggled out like a grass snake. Supovna could not stand it and spat out, “Look how it dances, pesky worm! Purely amok!” “But what do they want?” asked Rina. She was the person on duty in the kitchen that day and carried buckets out together with Supovna. “It’s clear what. To lure us out,” Supovna answered right away. “Why the Molotov cocktails?” “The bottles are for noise… They won’t damage the defence.” “Why don’t ours go out?” Rina asked sadly. She did not think she said anything wrong, but Supovna crumpled her apron. She did not know how to argue something quietly. “You want to, you go out! Where can a winged horse gather speed here? Waste a horse!” she yelled. Rina bit her tongue. She knew that winged horses, though they fly faster than a hyeon and ascend higher, are only so-so with manoeuvrability. The wings are too huge. “Been to the Hill?” Supovna finally calmed down. “Yes,” Rina hurriedly answered. “Once.” The gently sloping elevation from the side of the river was called the Hill. Hdivers buried winged horses there. No monuments were placed. Horseshoes gleamed in the grass. In time, the horseshoes stopped shining, covered with flakes of rust, and disappeared. At the top of the hill was a stone with names cut out. The lower ones had already grown into the soil. Rina and Sashka crawled around the stone on their knees, picked at the moss, and read, Albatross 04.07.1848 Portsigar 1916 Blizzard Jan 1971 Babaran 1999 Raven (like hell you go with your own dates!!!) Bully 12.03.2001 – 29.10.2010 The mermaid on the old-model shortened clms flashed coldly and immediately faded. In Supovna’s hands appeared a pair of powerful army binoculars. “Catch!” Rina caught the binoculars. A berserker – slight, dry, with shaved head – rushed about in the air. He shouted, straining his voice. The hyeon turned around close to the ground. Nearly cut the grass with its wings. The shaven berserker ducked behind the trees, and immediately, like on elastic, another climbed up. Young, the face was beardless. Bluish enthusiastic cheeks jumped. He screamed out insulting words pertly, like a rooster. The fresh hyeon somersaulted, excited. Barrel, hill, snake. An electric
40

A tumbler pigeon has the ability to roll over backwards in flight. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

121

shock crackled dryly. One more berserker, stout and bulky, descended towards the first two. He was heavy for the hyeon. It experienced clear relief when its paws touched the ground. Unexpectedly the young berserker’s hyeon lowered its snout and, coughing with a hiss, jumped like a cat. The ears were pressed back. The Adams apple rolled like a sphere. At whom was it hissing? Whom was it attacking? Rina impatiently turned the little wheel of the binoculars. Grass jumped in the lenses, branches moved. Finally, she got the sneering snout of the hyeon. The stout berserker was beating it with an electric current. “Look at that, got a gut! Blast you!” Supovna said and deeply spat from the porch. Stout or skinny, to her any berserker is bad. Suddenly the window above began to shake. Sashka jumped down onto glass shreds, leaped up, and, limping, bolted through the park. Rina looked at him with surprise. After running about thirty metres, Sashka turned around and shouted one word, “… avr!” Rina belatedly realized at what the berserker’s hyeon was hissing. Gavr, always hungry, gangly, bored, ran out of the shed and hung around HDive, whining sorrowfully. It did not understand why it could not go to Rina, the inexhaustible source of tenderness, dead cats, and chicken bones, everything that personified paradise to the baby hyeon. Rina shoved the binoculars past Supovna’s hand. She dashed off. The park darted towards her, branches swinging, trees jumping out. “Where to, little fool? Want an axe in the head?” Supovna hurled at her from behind. Rina rushed off. She ran for about a dozen steps. She was panting. The headscarf flew off her head, cheeks bluish, blood filled. She turned and pressed the centaur to call for help. Sashka and Rina jumped over the fence simultaneously. Two hyeons were in the air, one on the ground. All their snouts were turned to one direction, looking at something. Rina saw Gavr then. It leaned out of the bushes and emitted a sharp, inviting sound, resembling the gnashing of a rusty door. It broke loose and awkwardly, like a wet leaf battered by the wind, fluttered for about fifty metres. The rusty door began to creak again: Gavr was hailing the incomprehensible winged essences stirring up mysterious feelings in it. The young berserker jerked up his schnepper. He took aim at Gavr. Rina stiffened. A cry froze in her. The shaven berserker nudged the young one’s shoulder and shook his head. The young one unwillingly lowered his schnepper. Rina understood that the reason was not pity. A hyeon is solidly built. It is practically unrealistic to bring it down with one shot from a schnepper. It would be much more probable that an injured Gavr would hide with heart-rending howls in the bushes, where it could not be taken. Gavr continued to approach inquisitively the strange beasts attracting it so at the same time. The hyeons lifted up their snouts foaming for undigested food. The shaven berserker raised his elbow and with his palm, barely moving his hand, turned the axe around on his knee.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

122

“Gavr!” Rina began to yell. “Gavr! Come here!” The baby hyeon did not obey. The adult hyeons were more interesting than Rina. The young berserker impatiently fired the schnepper over his shoulder. In answer Sashka picked up a stone from the ground and, after strengthening the throw with the lion, hurled it. The stone cut into the pine tree. The berserker looked around at the broken-off piece of bark and as usual scooped up the axe with his hand. Max and Ul, stomping their very big feet, rushed from the main gates to the rescue. A heavy arbalest in the hands of each. Much like schneppers, such can smash right through both rider and hyeon. The berserkers, after evaluating the danger, sent the hyeons up in the air. The shaven warlock shouted, calling back his partner dashing to Sashka with the hatchet. Gavr squeaked resentfully from the ground, upset that it was unable to meet them. The young berserker heard this squeak. He zapped the hyeon with a discharge and set it at Gavr from above. The hyeon dived, teeth ready. A hit by the paws, an agonizing bite in the throat, and everything would end. Gavr again squealed, opening its mouth wide. Somewhat unusually, invitingly. The hyeon under the stout berserker disobeyed its rider and turned around in the air, instantly bending a wing sharply. The speed with which this was done staggered Rina. The next second its teeth snapped and ripped open the leathery wing of the attacking hyeon. Fatty wheezed and gave up hopelessly. This impudence maddened the first hyeon: this was a large male, but a medium-size enraged female had attacked it. Nobleness is not a part of the package of hyeon virtues. The male with the torn wing hissed, switched over to the new enemy, and a ball of two tangled hyeon, screeching, spraying urine, and belching fish eaten in the morning, somersaulted in the air in the direction of Kopytovo. The stout person fell off the saddle. He fell like a toad into the forest. The frightened Gavr, which the fighting hyeons almost cut into, fled in a cowardly manner into the forest, switching from a run to short flights. It continued to move its paws absurdly during flights, trying also to run in the air. The hyeons were tearing at each other. The warlock that had dropped from the saddle ran limping up to them and, shouting, struck his mutinous hyeon several times with the axe. Then he turned, looked at Ul, who was not far away, and, bending down, dived into the forest. The bolt released by Ul pierced a birch. The male hyeon flew away, carrying its rider with it. All the time Gavr was gnashing in the depth of the woods. Sashka ran up to Rina. Stones poured from his hands. “What happened? Why did they fight?” he asked with bewilderment. “The first hyeon wanted to kill the baby hyeon. The other protected it!” answered Rina. “Why?” “Don’t know.”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

123

“I know. Probably, this was its mother,” Sashka blurted out without a moment’s hesitation. Rina ran up to the hyeon, which the berserker had struck with the axe. It was still warm, but moving no longer. Ul stood with lowered arbalest next to it. Gavr’s snout stuck out from the forest. It approached and, whimpering, began to sniff the bleeding wounds on the neck of the dead hyeon. Rina hugged it. “Now you’re an orphan!” she said to Gavr. It placed its snout on her knee. *** The following three days were the worst in the history of HDive. On Monday, Kavaleria did not leave her office the whole day, but saddled Caesar and flew away in the evening. Contradictory rumours went around HDive the entire Tuesday. Vovchik believed that in a day or two all of them would be sent home. Gosha, dressed in a shirt Get lost nicely!, argued that there was no hurry and HDive would exist a couple more years, since the fall recruit had taken place and the bees all the same would not fly away before next year. Vityara hung around near the beehive trying to look in, but the bees drove him away. “You said it, dude! What’s with you! I only want to look!” he repeated ruefully. Platosha roamed sullenly, annoyed by any silly pretext. His eyes rimmed in blue sunk even deeper. Oxa walked around with red eyes, but when they talked to her about this, she began to yell that it was an allergy. The bees left without a queen behaved restlessly. Huddled in a swarm, they flew blindly around the park and hit against moist trunks. The stunned swarm broke up and again gathered. Even those bees that had found their hdivers were crawling along the glass as if blinded. They circled in one spot and stung each other. Some managed to fall into plates and floundered limply. They had to be extracted with spoons onto the table. The wings had to be cleaned. Summer lightning made a splash above HDive at night. It beat soundlessly in the horizon, probing the ground. The sensation of rain hung in the air. A moist fog clung to the soil, gathered in the hollows. It was bad, alarming. However, this was still not all. On Wednesday, one of the middle hdivers, Igor, perished. Rina and Sashka barely knew him. He was unsociable and taciturn, outwardly nothing remarkable. About eighteen. Skinny, awkward, narrow-shouldered. He rubbed down the horses in the stable, did not shirk any job, loved solitude, and went for a walk in the park a lot. He was friendly to the comrades, but not special friends with anyone. Precisely because no one – as it turned out – knew Igor well, his death was absolutely unexpected. Igor was diving on Arap, when the warlocks somehow worked out his exit point from Duoka and fired at him. The shot ploughed into Arap’s rump. It scurried from the pain and Igor could not stay in the saddle. He tumbled from a height of approximately six floors. The height was not critical for the hdiver jacket, but Igor fell on the back of his head. All this happened in front of Nasta’s eyes. While she was going down, while she was running to him, a small, compact warlock adroit as a cat descended from
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

124

above on a hyeon. He jumped from the saddle, turned Igor over, rummaged in his pockets, and took off before Nasta got close enough to fire a shot from the schnepper. Arap returned to the stable after a few hours. Its wound was not dangerous, but Arap feared pain… The entire HDive buried Igor. Rina expected that the burial would be special, hdiver style, and the cemetery would also be special, but she was mistaken. The cemetery was ordinary, near Moscow, huge like a firing range. The Ritual bus 41 stood for a long time in a traffic jam at the exit from the city. It was unusually hot for Moscow. The windows of the bus did not open. The middle hdivers managed to run out of the bus, bought water, and then on foot overtook the bus at the next crossroad. Later there was a funeral service in a red brick church. Airplanes were flying over the cemetery – the Domodedovo Airport was next door. There were tearful relatives, there was an absurd fuss with papers at the glass window of the office, there was a talkative uncle, who in the bus even managed to come to the nephew’s funeral feast and now attached himself to everybody. Kuzepych was more like a crab than usual, and Kavaleria did not remove her dark glasses. In a grey dress, with a black headscarf, small built, she did not stand out in the crowd of women surrounding the grave. Octavius was left in HDive. The only distinction, of great surprise to those who stood near the coffin, was the unexpected appearance next to the grave of a black stallion with a white spot on the forehead. The stallion was covered with a horse-cloth, but even under the horse-cloth, it was evident that something bristled on its back. It smelled the dugup earth and it seemed that it did not understand what it was doing here. Then it began to nibble the grass growing by the fence of the adjacent graves. “I’ve been thinking for a long time how such a thing could happen. All the time something wasn’t adding up. He shouldn’t have crashed. Now I understand: he let go of the rein himself!” Ul suddenly said. “How do you know?” asked Rina. “Igor dearly loved winged horses. When a hdiver, flying off the saddle, holds onto the rein, he usually doesn’t suffer. But the horse always dislocates its shoulders. It becomes a cripple, in short…” They returned in the same bus. Oxa sat next to Rina and Sashka. She was experiencing obvious relief that there was no coffin next to her anymore and chattering merrily. “The fellow was good. He was a fantasizer,” she said. “A what?” Rina asked to repeat. “You don’t know? Fantasizers, they…hmm-m-m…well, how to explain? Now you live, you talk, you walk along the streets. Everything is outwardly normal. For example, you come to an agreement with a girl from a parallel group not to write a crib sheet for economics, but it seems to you that you’re paying court to a French princess. Or you drag potatoes from the store and think that it’s a bag of silver coins. Or you fight with a fellow, after propping up the locker room door
41

The Russian funeral service “Ritual” provides the coffin and transportation, a funeral bus, to the cemetery. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

125

with a mop, but in reality it’s the cruiser Varyag’s 42 last battle. In short, instead of your life you live another. More or less parallel. And even ten lives. Got it?” Rina recalled her own Marquis du Grätz and was sorry that she did not find out about Igor earlier. “And a fantasizer, it’s normal?” she carefully asked. “Don’t know. But he was one,” answered Oxa. The Ritual bus delivered them to Kopytovo. Here it turned around and left, jumping on the potholes of a bad road. They reached HDive on foot. The locals gave them a puzzled look, obviously assuming them to be summer residents. In HDive everyone still sat for a little while in the dining room. Rina expected a speech from Kavaleria or Kuzepych about how remarkable Igor was, how bad to be deprived of a comrade, and how they must now take vengeance on the warlocks for him, but no one gave any speech. Soon everyone went off to his own room. Nasta also went to her room. Her roommates quickly settled down to sleep, but Nasta was lonely, depressed. She tried smoking secretly, but they started shouting at her. They drove her out into the hallway. Nasta went to the stairs, squatted down in a corner, and began to breathe smoke out between her knees. As often in a state of anguish and voluntary weakening, the elbes hurried to dust Nasta’s consciousness with small bits and pieces of past offences. Nasta recalled her friend in school. How they quarrelled and the friend began to yell and demand money from her for all the years of friendship: for the cafe, for help on written tests, for lost time, for birthday gifts. Nasta flung her purse at her. The friend caught the open purse, counted thoroughly, got confused, counted again, poured change into her pocket, and straightened out a crumpled ten. Her lips trembled, she yelled and cried again. She did not need the money at all. Then Nasta hugged her and they reconciled. However, this final recollection was disadvantageous to the elbes and every time they did not let Nasta remember to the end, freezing at the stage: “all are skunks, traitors, I am alone, no one loves me, nothing good awaits me.” Having paved the way, the mercenary friend left somewhere with her moneyand-things friendship and in her place was the handsome man Eugene. He smiled and stretched his arms out to her. Thoughts about Eugene pained her and intensified unease. Nasta displaced them with others, fresher. Before her eyes emerged how the warlock rummaged Igor’s pockets, how, after cutting the laces with an efficient movement of the knife, he pulled off the clms. Why did Igor pass the swamp so slowly? What marker did the warlocks take away? Having finished smoking, Nasta shoved the cigarette butt into the crack between the windowsill and the wall, pressed it through with her little finger, and set off for the stable. She liked to listen to the winged horses snorting in the dark and butting the loose doors of the stalls. She had not yet left HDive when suddenly her phone rang. The number was unknown to her. “Hello!” she said nervously. “Hello! Who’s this?” No one
42

The Russian cruiser Varyag (1901-04) was a protected cruiser commissioned into the Imperial Russian Navy in 1901. It became famous for its crew’s stoicism at the Battle of Chemulpo Bay in 1904, when the crew decided to sink the ship instead of surrendering to the Japanese. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

126

answered. Nasta hung up. It rang again in a minute. From the same number. For a second the thought flickered that this was Igor from the other world. “Yes! Who’s this?” Again no answer. She heard noises, the tinkling of dishes, laughter, human voices, and surmised that someone had not put the handset back properly and now the apparatus was calling her by itself, from accidental contacts with the buttons. This time Nasta did not hang up. She simply sat on the cold step and listened to the strange life not having anything to do with her. Chapter 15 Night Flight What differentiates a soldier of the first month of war from a soldier of the fifth year of war? The first-month soldier is dashing, well fed, dapper. He sings patriotic songs, wears too many cartridge belts, and rushes to seize the enemy’s throat. The fifth-year soldier is emaciated, liceridden, chronically hoarse. He looks at the weapon tiredly, and does not sing patriotic songs. But then it is better for the enemy to keep away from him. From the diary of a non-returning hdiver Rina had the habit of setting the alarm of her phone to full volume and then not hearing it. Now, at two in the morning, Sashka stood in front of the girls’ door and heard how inside, by the door, hysterics was simmering. At first only the alarm was in hysteria, after a minute Freda and Alice, and finally even the unshakably calm Lena. It all ended with a half-asleep Rina, hastily dressed, being pushed out into the hallway, followed by the ill-fated cell phone hurled at her. “Remind me to poison them. The minxes have little kindness!” Rina complained and walked along the hallway. Sashka overtook her by the window. “Are you aware that you have a knife on your leg?” he asked. Rina stopped and looked inquisitively at the rode-up jeans leg. “Really? No kidding! A knife!” “Uncomfortable with it!” “Uncomfortable without it!” “Why do you need it?” “To jab at people a metre away…” Rina yawned. Soon another use was found for the knife. The window would not open. Rina forced the blade into the gap and pulled the handle to herself. The wood splintered with a squelch. “Probably painted,” assumed Rina.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

127

“We forgot to open the upper latch. Kuzepych will kill us!” said Sashka. Rina smiled. Today it would be possible to kill them for many things. After jumping onto rustling leaves, they sneaked along the park at night to the stable. “In my opinion, it’s idiocy to ground novices for so long! Speed up, trot, gallop, pull up the snout, give a kick, and the horse is in the air,” Rina said heatedly and, suddenly remembering, added, “How did Yara take off on Eric yesterday, you haven’t forgotten?” Sashka nodded nonchalantly. He preferred not to expand on the fact that he had ridden all of about four times, moreover on old hags like Bunt or Ficus. Love requires illusions at the initial stage. It devours them with soup and washes them down with dreams. “Ten minutes!” Rina said merrily. “We go up, do a couple of circles and back! We’ll not leave the grounds of HDive. Nor up too high. No risk at all.” “Parachute into the studio!” Sashka said peevishly. Rina let his words pass by. When a girl orates, her auditory centres are usually blocked. Having hung around winged horses without budging all summer, she had picked up some experience. With the exception of Arap, dangerous for novices, and Brute, the terrible legend of the stable, Rina had been on the saddle of all the horses in HDive. Certainly, she was no match for senior hdivers, but she was almost on par with some of the middle ones. Or so it seemed to her. Therefore, it was terribly offensive that middle hdivers were allowed to fly and dive, but she was not even permitted to get a metre off the ground. You worked the horse – take the wheelbarrow, the pitchforks, and forward. Regular physical labour is the best friend of a hdiver. The stable gates were open slightly. Two lamps were burning – one for the person on duty, dim, and the other in Aza’s stall. Rina glanced into the stall. Ul was sleeping in the corner on a blanket and covered by his hdiver jacket. Lying beside him was a shredded strip of straw twisted together. Evidently, Ul had rubbed the sides and feet of the mare until he finally wore himself out. “Poor thing!” said Rina. “The best mare in all of HDive! The middle hdivers were already plotting who would get its foals. The most annoying is that this wasn’t even the warlocks.” “It won’t die?” asked Sashka. “Supovna says have to wait for the crisis. The mare is healthy, it can hold out.” Rina carried in water and, after carefully stepping over the basin, in which were scattered syringes and broken phials, wiped Aza’s eye and nostril with a sponge. The mare tried to bite the sponge. “Looks like it wants to drink!” Sashka said peevishly. With two hands, he raised the mare’s snout slightly, and Rina put the bucket under it. This was awfully awkward. The bucket had to be tilted. Water spilled. Nevertheless, Aza drank a third of the water.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

128

“Hopeless! Simpler to stick the hose in its throat,” Sashka grumbled, placing the mare’s head on the bedding. “No second thoughts? Let’s go!” whispered Rina. Sashka slipped out after her. In the adjacent stall clattering the iron was the bay stallion Brute – competitor of handsome Caesar. They did not dive on Brute – it was much too unpredictable. Brute’s stall was lined on the inside with metal sheets, and even thick rubber on the side of the door. It would be impossible otherwise. It bit both people and horses. It kicked with both the hind and the front legs and hated dogs exclusively – to the point of being ferocious. It took apart with its hooves on the sand a large sheepdog that had forced its way into HDive one day, continuing to trample down on it, even when all that was left was only skin. Octavius gave a wide berth of two kilometres to Brute and, if it saw that Brute’s stall in the stable was open, it hid in the crack between the brick walls – so narrow that even a human hand could not wriggle through there. The only person Brute allowed to approach it was not even Kavaleria but a middle hdiver by the nickname of Darning. Not only did it allow her to approach, but also let her do anything she wanted. Even pull out the hairs on its upper lip. This Darning was an enigmatic girl. She was nineteen but looked thirty. She swore like an army of common construction workers, went to Kopytovo to play dominoes with the peasants, and only hung out with Nasta. She did not take good care of Brute. She cleaned it carelessly, brought it nothing tasty, and drove it into the stable by throwing sand at it. Once when Vovchik, imitating her, threw sand at Brute, he needed six stitches. “Just how did this Darning turn up in HDive?” Yara once asked, watching how the screaming girl chased Brute with a pole, and it, threatening, thumped the air with its front hooves. “Different paths lead to HDive. No one knows which. In exactly the same way, different paths also lead from HDive. So the main thing here is: take everything as is and don’t butt in with one’s judgments,” answered Kavaleria. In its own stall, Icarus quietly gnawed on a plastic bottle as if it was smoking a cigar. Next to it in the long stall-enclosure, the foals recently taken away from their dams were frolicking. The donkey Phantom was always loose and poking its snout into the passageway: it demanded attention. Night or not, it was all the same to it. Rina hastily hid her hands behind her back. “Go away, scribbling force!” Phantom was offended and left, twitching its ears. “You need the calmest. Which do we have is the calmest in flight?” Rina looked into the tack room. She pulled the bridles off the nails and Sashka dragged the heavy saddles. “Delta?” Sashka said uncertainly. “Kavaleria forbids touching Delta until November. It’s with foal.” “It’s an old lady!” Sashka was surprised. “All questions to Caesar… Let’s do this then: Askold for you, Münnich for me. Askold is still a three-year-old, and Münnich is a very calm gelding.”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

129

Rina dived into Münnich’s stall. The old gelding with the white-yellow stripe down its forehead shoved its snout into the empty feeding trough, then abruptly pulled it back and listened to the sound. Sashka watched for a while how Rina saddled Münnich, and then dragged himself to Askold. Three-year-old Askold was the foetus of the Delphian mare Roxelana – a most elegant creature with enormous eyes – and a farm horse by the nickname Locomotive, which was used at the Moscow horse-breeding farm for extending the total number of work horses. The hdiver who had let the mare slip away received a terrible reprimand and despondently raked out manure for three months. Kavaleria and Kuzepych were afraid that the foal would be born wingless; however, the Delphian blood dominated. At first similar to stumps, Askold’s wings were quickly covered with feathers and soon an energetic stroke from them brought up a wave of air opening the stable gates. In other respects, it was the spitting image of papa – slow, lethargic, and huge as an elephant. Very wide rump. Tail like a broom. Hairy legs with huge hooves. When Askold took off the first time, the entire HDive gathered to look at it. The best of all the collective feelings was expressed by Kuzepych. “If only it wouldn’t crash down onto the roof!” he said. Rina quickly saddled Münnich and started helping Sashka. Having reached the saddle, which he had dragged into the stall, Sashka jumped, trying to catch Askold’s snout. The three-year-old did not want to be saddled. It was angry and grunted with displeasure. “Don’t go to a winged horse when it bares its teeth!” warned Rina. “I thought it was smiling,” Sashka said, justifying himself. “Now I’ll smile at you this way! Take that! ” Rina raised her voice at Askold, catching its head with her right arm in a tight grip. “Take the bridle! Undo the chin, straighten the snaffle! What are you poking into the teeth for? Many extra fingers? Good it’s Askold! Try poking Eric this way!” “You poke too!” Sashka said, justifying himself. “I press on the toothless edge!” Rina enjoyed shouting at Sashka the way senior and middle hdivers had been shouting at her all summer. Continuing to grumble, she saddled Askold and ordered Sashka to lead it out of the stable. Next to the farm-horse half-breed, the old man Münnich seemed like a flying stuffed donkey, though a cocky one. On the third warm-up loop, the somewhat mean granddad used the fact that Rina was distracted, sneaked up, and with blunt teeth grasped the inner part of Askold’s thigh. This was awfully painful. The three-year-old decided that it was being eaten alive. Instantly losing courage, it pressed down its ears and began to flee. Sashka, until then sitting on Askold comfortably as on a sofa, realized that a gut-wrenching shaking had begun. It seemed someone invisible was continuously shouting “la-la-la-la-la!” into his ears. He first lost the right stirrup, then the left. He hung onto the reins, but this was all the same as grabbing the coupling of a rushing electric train.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

130

The quiet Münnich, usually scared off by everything, was extremely satisfied that it had succeeded in frightening this giant. A triumphant thought filled its entire brain: “Since they run from me, it means I’m scary!” It neighed and dashed after Askold. Rina shouted something but Sashka did not hear. After galloping as far as the edge of the field, Askold burst into the brushwood with its chest. It forced its way through the park like a raging rhinoceros, demolishing everything possible. The only thing left for Rina to do was to direct Münnich into the breach made by Askold. Although the clever gelding considered even without her how to make use of the fruit of the other’s work. Sashka clung tightly to the neck of the three-year-old and buried his face into the mane. This way he saved his eyes from the branches but finally lost any control over the horse. A minute later, an excited Askold flew out to the clearing in front of the fence of HDive. It dashed to one side, then the other. It began to stop, but the bellicose granddad was already puffing behind its back. Then Askold tore along to the fence, pushed off and… clumsily took off. A light, imperceptible push and Sashka understood that they were in HDive no more. The wild shaking immediately ceased. Sashka straightened hesitantly, looked around, and could put his feet back into the stirrups. *** Flying turned out to be much more pleasant than bouncing. No shaking, and everything inside remained in place. If not for the strong wind lashing into the mouth and interfering with breathing, it would be quite nice. The old gelding was refreshed and bullied no more. Sashka overtook Rina. Her face seemed white and flat in the moonlight. And absolutely happy. Her dream had come true: she was flying, feeling the safe elasticity of the air. Münnich moved against the wind so deceptively easily that Rina, not resisting the temptation, scooped air with her hand. What if she too can fly? You never know. Happiness filled her like gas fills a balloon. And this happiness was so great that Rina immediately forgot the never-ending cleaning, the tumbling wheelbarrow with the swaying wheel, the manure, and that she had lived the whole summer without her laptop and with all her things easily fitting into a knapsack. Rina was convinced that they were flying low, but the posts crossing the field seemed no larger than a teaspoon. A settlement in the distance was stirring with lights, one more beyond it, and Moscow quite far away turned golden with steady radiance issuing from the ground. It seemed from here like something alive, not unlike a jellyfish cast ashore. From all directions to the jellyfish gathered threads of silvery roads sprinkled with headlights like live fireflies. “How’re you doing? Managing?” she shouted to Sashka, feeling how the wind pushed her words back into her mouth. Sashka waved his hand encouragingly, showing that all was in order. The yellow moon like a scrambled egg was floating
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

131

in egg-white clouds above his head. Rina poked a finger upward, then downward and back. Sashka surmised that she proposed to go up higher, make a circle, and return to HDive. Sashka nodded. The restive horses had no objection to stretching their legs. The inexperienced Askold at first started to pull steeply up, but ran out of steam and now obediently trailed along behind the experienced, lazy Münnich. Münnich gained altitude gradually. It was keeping its strength. Higher, even higher. The romance was destroyed by frost. The fingers refused to obey at first, and then the feet became numb. A frozen mask paralysed Sashka’s face. An icy armour covered Münnich’s sides damp with perspiration. Rina understood that her hair was also the same. On lifting a hand, she touched frozen spikes. Now it became clear why Yara always dressed like a polar explorer before a dive, even in the summer in the heat. Torn clouds lay in layers like blankets hung flat. Having made their way through the next cloud smelling like a wet padded jacket, they found themselves in a moonlit clearing. The cloud under them was so milky-dense that any fear of heights disappeared from Rina. It seemed one could jump down from the saddle and run along the cloud. She could barely restrain herself from doing this for real. Forgetting about the time and the cold, they rushed along the moonlit clearing. They made circles, turned around, and plunged the horses’ legs into the clouds. Sashka managed not badly – flying turned out to be much simpler than trotting or galloping. As if you are gliding in a boat, scooping air with white oars. A strange motion chafed Sashka’s eyes. Two very discernable points came out from the side of the moon towards them. Two more points stuck slightly higher to the sky and seemed like pixels flying out of the living sky. These points, in contrast to the first ones, did not approach. They were holding onto the advantageous height between the flying horses and remained somewhere far behind HDive. “Crows! What are they doing here so high and at night?” Sashka thought cheerfully. Rina looked around at Sashka. Swinging his arms like a windmill, he pointed up and grinned, happy as a young moose. Rina lifted up her face. A second later Sashka saw how she started to rush about, pulling on the reins. Berserkers! It came to Rina too late that they were dimwits. On a moonlit night, they were doing circles along a moonlit meadow like two reckless moths. It goes without saying, the warlocks patrolling the sky above had noticed the wings of the horses. The situation was bad. It was not for them to fight their way to HDive. Carried away, they had flown too far from it. The only trump card of winged horses – the speed of horizontal flight – was lost. Hyeons were attacking them from above, using natural acceleration. Light and quick, they would cut them from above. To climb themselves? But the hyeons were diving at them, while the other two, exactly fish scales stuck to the sky, were waiting for the time being, ready to pounce if they returned to HDive nevertheless. They were losing to the berserkers on height and combat experience. They were unarmed. Rina’s knife clearly could not be taken into consideration. In ten seconds they would be fired upon from schneppers. Then hyeons would use their
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

132

poisonous teeth and claws. The strike of a light hatchet on a long handle would finish everything. Rina wanted to yell loudly, “This is unfair! Let’s replay!” The black dots were no longer points. Rina distinguished the ridges of the tucked-in wings and, in the break between the ridges, the small heads of the berserkers like twins with the hyeons. The winged horses themselves also scented the hyeons. They neighed and, lifting up their snouts, looked unfavourably at the black silhouettes. It was not possible to linger. Shouting to Sashka to repeat her every move, Rina sent Münnich to the ground. The gelding folded its wings and dived almost vertically. The well-fed descendant of a farm horse dive-bombed after them. Sashka desperately clung to the saddle with both hands. He could not hang on and toppled over onto the horse’s neck, thrusting his hands into the mane. Tenaciously. In any case, as with the mane, he could not be torn away now. The wind plucked Rina from the saddle. She no longer steered Münnich: not likely, if only to keep her seat! They cut into a cloud, then one more, after which Rina suddenly saw the ground. It was much closer than she expected. Neither Moscow nor HDive nor lights, only something greyish, uniform, with the winding road of a dark river. Where had they flown? Where was Sashka? Where was HDive? Where was Moscow? Rina saw a compressed black spot more to the right and higher. A berserker? If the speed were slightly less, he would fire at her. Rina did not turn around; she would break away. She was holding on this way only because to fall from the horse or together with the horse was approximately one and the same. The spot continued to grow. Simultaneously the ground also grew with it. Rina more guessed than saw that the hyeon had begun to slow down and pull out of the dive. Why were they doing this? Had they really decided to leave them in peace? Rina from inexperience tried to get Münnich to spread its wings, but the clever horse did not pay any attention to her nudge. The experience of hundreds of generations of ancestors prompted that the only way out of this acceleration was to dive. Must not spread the wings: too late, and the wind would wrench the wing feathers. It seemed to Rina that both Münnich and its wings became solid, dense, but the ground, on the contrary, was washing away like a watercolour. “I don’t know how to dive! Ah-h-h-h!” Stretching out its neck, Münnich covered Rina with the dome of its folded wings. Rina closed her eyes and pressed into Münnich’s back in such a way, as if she wanted to hide under its skin, to duck under its ribs. She waited for the terrible impact and feared pain more than death. In the following moment, something pushed her with force, as if she cut into water. Rina opened her eyes in surprise. Her world, whose boundaries she just had pierced through, flew away from her and was revolving like an enormous soap bubble. Chapter 16 Filled Outline
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

133

It is necessary to be constantly prepared for the fading of interest in ideals, work, occupation, a person, and not to howl at the moon when this happens. Between the first and the second breath are always disappointment, fatigue, and depression. By late fall it is difficult to believe that some day spring will come. If one does not know about the change of seasons at all, then one cannot surmise spring. Logically it in no way follows fall. Logically only winter follows fall. From the diary of a non-returning hdiver Rina straightened in the saddle and ascertained that the wind was no longer plucking at her. Münnich flew steadily and calmly. It was not surprised that it recently pierced the earth like a needle through lace curtains. The gelding looked bored: it would clatter to the feeding trough with much greater pleasure. Limpness poured out of the sluggish air between the worlds. Ahead scum was sinking, swelling, seething. A hurricane was drilling in its centre. Münnich was making its way precisely there. Even far from the scum Rina perceived the stink, which became more persistent with each stroke of the wings. A choked dead world. But indeed once, Ul said, it was beautiful. Not as beautiful as Duoka, but quite a bit better than our world. Rina, listening to stories of the others, knew everything about the swamp that a novice could. On the outside, the scum did not impress her particularly. She was expecting something Photoshop-like, ominous, with crimson shadows, but here was scum the colour and smell of overcooked fish. Everything was bearable, but uneasiness was gnawing at her. She was short of something. Or someone. SASHKA! Getting cold, Rina looked around, but did not see Sashka. Her own world seemed like a lamp burning in the dark – small and distant. Her obliging imagination instantly drew a picture of a field at night, Sashka badly hurt, warlocks standing in a semicircle, and hungry hyeons squabbling over the carcass of Askold. Rina began to turn the horse around. Understanding that it must not do this nor slow down, Münnich tried to be sly. It brought a wing forward, but afterward placed it such that air slid down along the feathers. Unexpectedly Rina saw a point between the horse’s ears. Having looked closely, she understood that the point had two wings. Askold? So, the three-yearold took the lead over Münnich in the dive, but did it keep Sashka on its back? It was not possible to make out and Rina lived through several unpleasant moments. She started to urge Münnich on. It lifted its snout in offence. Sometimes they rush you, sometimes they stop – just try to figure out what they want from you. Rina overtook Sashka before they reached the swamp. Although “overtook” was not the word. Askold was not running away from anyone. The inexperienced stallion was flying around in circles and still could not bring itself to rush into the
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

134

seething “sink.” It was trying, but chickened out at the last moment and made a turn, not sensing the rider’s confidence and not having its own experience. The hurricane spat out shreds of foam hanging onto Sashka’s leather jacket and the horse’s snout. Slipping down, the foam thickened into a white beard. Askold looked tired. The air between the worlds was thin. The support for the wings was poor and it was difficult to breathe. Therefore, the experienced Münnich seriously took care of gathering speed. If you reduce speed, you will not force your way through the swamp. One look was enough for Rina to understand how Sashka was able to hold on. The horse’s rein was wound around his biceps, and he himself hung onto the mane like a tick. On Askold’s left side was a broken feather. Evidently, in the heat of the moment Sashka had tried to grasp it. “They’ll kill us for this at HDive! But for this we still have to return,” thought Rina. She turned in the saddle. Their world seemed flat like a label, distant and dim. The tired Askold would not reach it going back. Whether it wanted to or not, it must rest on Duoka, but would it force its way through the swamp? It seemed that the horse perceived this: must decide on something. It rushed to where the scum was seething, but every time it snorted and turned away. A little longer and the weakened three-year-old would be lost with its rider in the swamp. “Do anything! Force it to dive!” Rina yelled, but heard nothing. The voice belongs to worlds. Between the worlds, it is locked up within the person. While Rina was thinking about how to force the horse with cold feet to rush into the scum, Münnich solved the problem for her. Difficult to say whether it wanted to help or had decided to scare the frightened giant again. Extending its snout, the crossbreed of a donkey and a sofa flew up to Askold and took out with its teeth a piece of skin from the rump. The unhappy giant felt like a lamb devoured alive. The curved teeth of the old gelding turned out to be more terrible than the swamp. Askold rushed, scooped air with its wings and, leaving Münnich behind by two lengths, rushed into the swirling hurricane. *** Sashka, who had not taken in air ahead of time, belatedly tried to inhale. He doubled over with disgust. It was as if his mouth and throat were filled with dead jellyfish. Somehow Father had brought back an enormous remainder of slightly salted fish from a business trip to Astrakhan, dragged it onto the balcony, covered it tightly with a lid, and forgot. When in a week Sashka by chance glanced into it, the vile smell forced him back a metre. Now there was even nowhere to bounce to… Askold slowly drifted through the narrow tunnel, its wings touching the sticky walls. Not knowing that it was possible only to look at the horse’s mane, Sashka stared openly along the sides. In the dense darkness, beyond the walls of the tunnel drilled by the hurricane, dim grey shadows, submerged in the infinite
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

135

night, stirred faintly. Münnich caught up with Askold and flew behind it. It could not be otherwise: the tunnel was narrow. The horses, grown quiet, did not squabble. The appearance of two riders in the swamp did not remain unnoticed by the grey dwarfs. They swam up to the walls and stuck to them. Like a cobweb, thin threads began to draw in the air before Sashka. There were so many that it was not possible to manoeuvre between them. Askold flew right through, tearing them up with its chest and wings. However, occasionally a cobweb also brushed against Sashka. Then something pricked him, as if he touched his naked skin with fibreglass. The hdiver jacket in no way helped here. Then chaotic thoughts began to come to him like flashes. Suddenly he understood that it was Father who was at fault in Mother’s death. He could have sold the apartment. If they had operated on her in Germany, she could have lived another year. Well so, why did Father cry then? Everybody cries. Even that considerable bastard Paul Palych! His whole life the loser-boxer dreamed of going to the Olympics. He spends time with them free of charge, yes, but at the same time demands that they buy equipment for his team! Any small offence inflicted on Sashka at some point and forgotten long ago rose again, increased tenfold, and turned into a clot of spiritual pus. Sashka made his way through the swamp, composing a list of enemies, enviers, and villains, increasing with each second. Hatred alternated with agitation and happiness, which finally muddled up Sashka. The powerful horse chest broke the cobweb without the previous ease. Askold slowed down, and Münnich, which could not fly around it from below or above, slowed down together with it. The wings sagged. Feathers began to break from stress. Suddenly Sashka saw something familiar, inexplicable here, in the swamp. The kitchen of their two-room apartment. Cracked Polish cabinets, the small TV with antenna sticking out the window. A large Russian doll stands on the TV. In it are threads, buttons, and the household money. But here is also Father! He is sneaking around, ransacking the doll, and quickly moving something into his pocket. This is probably that year when Mother started to be sick and Father, instead of doing something, drank. He walked around dejected, guilty, and breathed to the side. When he sat in a closed room for long, the glass misted over. Sashka forgot about everything in the world. Anger blocked consciousness. He yelled and rushed to Father. The kitchen stayed behind. Sashka turned back, pulled the rein to himself. The stallion neighed, lifted its head, and scooped with its wings the stinky slush of the swamp. The iron tore its mouth, but it continued to work the wings. Must never stop here. The horse knew this from birth. Seeing that it continued to fly, Sashka dropped the rein and began to free his feet from the stirrups. He decided to jump off. He had almost thrown his knee over the saddle when suddenly it was as if his neck was poked with a red-hot needle. Sashka yelled. Hatred for Father immediately disappeared. So did the doll with the money. Very close above him,
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

136

separated by the wall of the tunnel, a thick layer of flabby dwarfs was stirring. How many of them had crawled over! Grasping his neck, Sashka tore off a luminous golden bee. The bee immediately flitted into the sleeve of his jacket. Sashka did not know how to extract it, it was already somewhere in the region of his elbow. It was settling in. It no longer stung. Till the end of the tunnel Sashka thought no more of anything. The spot of the sting was burning so much that he even did not feel how the cobweb touching him burst. It brightened. The tunnel widened. A false confidence emerged that everything was behind and the swamp had let them go. Exactly in that moment, lifting her head up, Rina saw very near a hdiver on a red horse. A girl was sitting in the saddle in front of him. Both faces were distorted by hatred, teeth clenched. The foreheads were touching but the eyes did not see each other. Each was locked in his own solitude. Both hdivers were covered with elbes, which stuck to them like molluscs. Who were they? Why had they let themselves be walled in? All of this Rina did not know and even could not know. “Indeed at the exit from the swamp! Probably they also decided that they could relax,” thought Rina. Münnich proceeded forward. Several more strokes with the wings and Rina felt an elastic push. Light, pale for the time being, struck her eyes. It grew noticeably warm. Flakes of the scum on Rina’s jacket and the horse’s sides quickly melted. Under them lay a forest, seemingly endless. The tops of the pine trees groomed by an invisible comb leaned noticeably to one side. In the distance was a solid mountain ridge. A rock lizard was lying motionless. A white scattering of something incomprehensible. Snow? Sand? An invisible sun beating from upwind flooded the lizard. It was much brighter there. The exhausted Askold decided that it had had enough and, after folding up its wings, slid to the ground. The horse looked for a clearing between the trees. Rina saw how the three-year-old touched the ground with its front hooves and began to stumble, not expecting the resistance of the wings. The raised rump froze in a suspended position. Sashka, half-risen on the stirrups, flew over Askold’s head and went for a ride along the grass. Rina jumped down from Münnich. The sly pensioner immediately started to move away in small steps, hoping that she would let go of the rein. Rina held it firmly and Münnich resigned itself. It began to lick the dew on the ground. Sashka rubbed the spot of the sting. Askold roamed beside him, snorted, and, lowering its snout into the grass, nibbled the white flowers. On hearing footsteps, Sashka raised his head. He jumped up and, limping, went to her. Rina pressed her cheek against his hdiver jacket. “We’re on Duoka, do you understand? On Duoka!” she shouted directly into his breast pocket. The jacket smelled of dampness and the swamp. Sashka made a helpless gesture. Thoughts were crowding. His face was glad, radiant, but slightly guilty. “Cool! I thought: I’ll crash… Grabbed its neck, nearly strangled it. Right away merged as one. Like passing through a bubble … Eh?!” he said jerkily, excitedly.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

137

As if understanding that the discussion was about it, the three-year-old nudged him in the shoulder with its snout. Sashka swayed. Askold stretched out its wings. The long feathers caught the grass. Its lower lip sagged. The eyes were stupid, bulging. It only looked sideways in alarm at Münnich. Hoped it did not decide to bite. “How did you pull out Askold’s feather? By hand?” asked Rina. Sashka moved away from the moist nostril ransacking him. Askold’s unofficial name was Vacuum. Twice it happened that it ripped people’s pocket out together with the treats. “With teeth. I felt my feet flying off, but it was still grabbing me further with its wings. So I used teeth… What shall we do now? Search for markers?” Rina shook her head. Where to search for them? They are not here in the pine trees. Skip to the ridge without an assignment and pick at the ground there by hand without a trowel? Well, indeed not. They barely managed even without markers. Until now, her head had been stuffed with garbage that she fancied she saw in the swamp. She saw a quiet woman with an obstinate fold between the eyebrows, and a man who shouted at her. She saw a corpse with an arrow sticking out of its forehead. She saw a person reeking of medicine, pressing her temples with thick palms. His index fingers were yellow and the nails were hard as a tortoise shell. What saved her was that she was more worried about Sashka than herself. She was holding onto Münnich crawling near the rear hooves to Askold, and the cobweb slid down, not being able to anchor itself. “Help others carry straw and your burden will become lighter by a pood,” said Mamasia. Sashka examined his boots. Outstanding, from natural leather, they did not suffer, but here for some reason the laces had melted. Sashka picked off with a nail the drops of burnt synthetics. He pulled the jacket zipper. “Hot! I would stew right away.” Rina looked at the tops of the pine trees sensitive to cold, to the uncertain dawn. She wiped her forehead and sweat glittered in the lines of her palm. “Hot!” she agreed. “What do you think of Duoka?” Sashka looked around the clearing. Pine trees with a girth of the length of three arms. Resin tears thickened on the reddish bark. A motionless strip of dawn above the rock ridge. Time was frozen. Nothing was happening. Neither birds nor beasts nor insects. An entirely new world waiting for something, hardly freed from wrapping paper. “Don’t know,” he said honestly. “I still… haven’t gotten used to this, in short. And you?” Rina took in air. The collar of her jacket still had a whiff of the swamp, but something stirring, light, joyful had already mixed in with the mustiness. Smells had always spoken to her more than words. The breeze stretched from there, from the ridge. “I like it here, but it’s somehow scary… I feel… well, as if I was peeping at a gift ahead of time.” Münnich stopped licking the ground and greedily stretched out its lips: to drink. A narrow stream cut through the grass. Tapered banks. The water was
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

138

brown, the colour of peat. Rina pulled the rein but was unable to lead the gelding from the stream. It drank and that was it. She dragged it away by the snout and tied it to a pine tree. Münnich tried to press her sideways against the tree. It got a fist. It was appropriately insulted and began to rub its neck against the tree, bringing down the reddish bark. Sashka got down on his knees and washed in the stream, resting a hand on the opposite bank. “Cold… good…” Rina also washed. The water brightened on her palm. The peat had turned light turbid. She had already straightened when something jostled heavily in her pocket. The dead queen bee in the matchbox. Not giving any thought to why she was doing this, Rina rolled it out onto her palm. The bee had withered even more. The gold was lying on it like pollen. A large piece of bark was lying on the grass. After placing the bee on it, Rina let go of it onto the water. The bark was rocking. It glided. “Look! But how is it drifting?” Sashka asked suddenly. “Meaning?” He leaned down, ripped up a piece of grass and dropped it. “See! The grass drifts down but the bark up… Against the current!” The bark pushed into the bank, entangled in the overhanging grass, but after finding itself in the fast water, again hurried on. Clouds tinted peat and iodine drifted towards it. Rina ran after it. Sashka dragged Askold with him. He did not guess that it was possible to tie it up. When Münnich remaining by a pine tree became the size of a hand, Rina suddenly turned away from the stream. After catching up with her, Sashka saw peaceful backwater. It came to light ten steps away. The bark was swaying along its centre. The queen bee was no longer on it. No one noticed where it fell off and sank. Askold stuck its snout into the creek. Waves rippled out. “Do you see it?” whispered Rina. “Stones, perhaps?” Sashka wondered. “Well, they’re lying there and...?” “These are not simple stones.” On the shore was a pointer lined with white chalky stones. It was pointing to a low barrow piled up in the backwater. At the top of the barrow was a bag of rough “hdiver” skin. Sashka squelched along the water to it. Askold took a step with a front hoof and remained on the shore, suspiciously examining the winged horse in the stream. The skin of the bag had hardened with time. Inside were a small ancient arbalest of lever cock and three bolts with prickly pneupfs serving as tips. Sashka stretched a finger out to a pneupf but jerked back without touching. Beside them were salt in a rag, a knife with a wooden handle, and a tiny roll tied with a woollen thread. There was no need to cut the thread. It broke by itself. Inside turned out to be a silver cheetah, flat with a small round head. “Give me your hand! The other one, where the clms is!” Sashka ordered. Efficiently rolling up Rina’s sleeve, he turned her wrist. Here was the clear outline pressed down in the skin. Sashka touched it with the cheetah, checking if it fit. “The same. Set it on with glue, and...” Sashka tried to pull it off, but it was useless.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

139

He started to help with a knife but it only scratched the clms. Sashka was puzzled; he huffed and puffed. He dug in the bag again. But there was nothing more interesting. Only a rumpled parchment cut slantwise. spite in triumph. end will overcome. ict of a bee’s destiny, ll bring mortality. years of prophecy, a grain grows in obscurity. passes only one – cient guardian. the mouth of a young hyeon, ly creates for himself humiliation. gains a victory, will prevail is a guarantee. Askold neighed, lifting its head. A small spot shook near the grey peaks. “Look, a winged horse! Who is it, Caesar?” shouted Sashka. Rina had learned to recognize horses. “No, Mitridat… It means, either Max or Rodion in the saddle. Mitridat takes nobody else.” Sashka shuddered. He was rather scared of Rodion. Indeed better Max than this red-faced with a displaced nose and dry lips. Even if Max is angry, he quickly cools down. Rodion, though, yields to any movement of the human heart with enormous effort. Even when he smiles, the smile is as if carved in wood. “How do you know?” “Yara taught me. Look how it flies. Two strokes, short glide. Caesar glides after three strokes… Aza works the wings without gaps at all. Eric jerks the wings up, as if drying oars.” The rider descended. Mitridat still had not touched the ground with its hooves but he already came down from the saddle and jumped onto the grass. White with fury. Jacket zipped to the collar. Not a drop of sweat on his face. He staggered to Sashka, threatened with the whip. “Oh, you mutt, bitch! Half of HDive is searching for you! Ul, the idiot, dived without a saddle at all!” Sashka took offence. In the word mutt was something especially offensive, much worse than bitch, which they also frequently threw around at boxing. “But how does HDive know…” Rina started. Rodion turned his whole body to her. Rina saw that he was enraged and it would be better to keep quiet, but the usual substitution happened to her. When it was necessary to make a serious face, she suddenly wanted to laugh aloud. The muscles of her face turned straight into spasms of laughter. She squatted in a hurry, pretending that she was straightening her pant legs. “In your opinion, it’s possible that we in HDive don’t know about dual dives?” Rodion began to yell and, in order not to hit Rina with the whip, lashed
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

140

his own boot. “Why are you grinning? You think you’ve past the swamp? It threw you out without a load!” He pulled Mitridat’s rein, jumped up on it, and only then saw the bag in Sashka’s hands. “Where’s this from? Where did you get it, fool? Hand it over!” Sashka reluctantly handed him the bag. Rodion ran his eyes down the parchment, held the knife, turned the ancient arbalest in his hands. With a broken nail he cautiously touched the bowstring. He muttered incomprehensibly, “Indeed… it’s not your schnepper!” “This is everything? There was nothing more?” Rodion asked. Sashka saw that Rodion did not intend to return the bag. Otherwise, he would not have thrown the strap over his shoulder. “Seems so!” Sashka muttered, before Rina had time to mention the cheetah. Rina quickly looked at him. To tell the truth now without betraying Sashka was impossible. Sashka suddenly became hotter than earlier. Red spots began to twirl in his eyes. Wheezing, he wiped sweat off his forehead. He was panting, not understanding what was wrong with him. He did not know that one cannot lie in Duoka, even about trifles. Nudging Mitridat with his knees, Rodion forced it to go down into the stream. The horse was making chomping sounds on the moist clay at the bottom, crushing the clouds without pity. Rodion, knitting his brows, was picking at something with a finger. Rina ran along the bank to look. On the inside of the bag, on the rough skin, a sign was distinctly visible: a circle and a cross. “What does it mean?” asked Sashka. “Nothing,” answered Rodion through his teeth. “Simply a picture! Come along! We’re returning!” The return dive happened with an escort. First flew Mitridat, Münnich after it, and Askold brought up the rear, contented that no one would bite it on the rump. Before the swamp Rodion made sure that Sashka and Rina were blindfolded. However, even with a blindfold the flight through the tunnel became a nightmare. Choking in the poisonous fumes, Rina heard continuous gnashing, laughter, and cries. Strange voices forced their way into her consciousness. They were hissing with false kindness, searching for a loophole. It seemed to Rina that she was making her way with closed eyes through a hall where films of all possible genres were showing on dozens of screens. Shots, the clank of blades, the ringing of coins; the roar of guards greeting the empress; the sea washing over pebbles; someone whispering to her how beautiful and desirable she was; and here someone was even unwrapping the foil on a piece of chocolate and Rina heard the contented quiet laughter of a person having earned five minutes of happiness and rest. While Rina was listening to everything immediately, not sorting out anything, it was still okay, tolerable, but the minute she began to notice some separate film and listen to it with interest, the remaining films obediently quieted down, and that same film, noticed and selected, began to crawl like a thickening snake into her consciousness. In such seconds, Rina ceased to suffer from the stink of the swamp, and it seemed to her that it was completely bearable. “Come
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

141

to us! You’ve just come from Duoka. Was it nice for you there? Sweat, fatigue, pain,” whispered the voices. Rina no longer knew anything and wanted nothing, only that everything would end faster. Both the swamp and Duoka. To show up in her own world, to collapse into her bed, and to conk out. Rina did not know what Sashka fancied he saw, but once heard how he yelled, “Leave her alone!” Who “her” was, she also did not understand. *** Iushshshshp! A taut slap of air, the sluggish cold of scum hanging on the skin – and they escaped the swamp. Rina tore the moist bandage off her eyes. It was much brighter in their world than on Duoka, where they did not make their way beyond the dawn. They were waiting for them. Two black cut-out silhouettes dashed towards them from the direction of the sun. Berserkers. Everything happened instantly. The teeth of a hyeon clicked, almost reaching Askold’s neck. The hyeon aimed for the throat, but the bridle hampered it. Askold, with a dangling hyeon, started to panic, stalled, losing speed. To save Sashka, Rodion charged Mitridat at the hyeon. A lifted membranous wing brushed against Sashka’s face. The berserker, grinning, waved the hatchet, but the hyeon was already somersaulting from the powerful blow of the horse’s chest. The berserker, tenacious as a cat, grasped for the saddle. He held on. Released from the hands the axe hung on a long leather cord. The second berserker was attacking Rina, approaching from the direction of the horse’s belly. Clever Münnich protected its sated paunch. It managed in flight to meet the hyeon with double kicks of its rear hooves. The hyeon dodged and began to fly in from the other side. Rodion, after falling back in the saddle, with his head on the horse’s rump, unseated the berserker with a shot from his schnepper. The cold flash of pneupf blinded Rina and the saddle was deserted. The hyeon, surprised by the unaccustomed lightness, lost its head, span around, and remained behind; the horses continued to rush along. After discarding the discharged schnepper, Rodion jumped up with his knees on the saddle. Rina saw his face. Sneering, haggard, with eyes red from the swamp, completely covered in the sticky foam of the hurricane, he had nothing to lose and therefore was more terrible than a berserker. He threw himself from the saddle at the first warlock and hung onto his shoulders. That one fell back, trying to turn his fist clutching a schnepper in order to shoot Rodion in the head. The overloaded hyeon, scooping air with its wings, fell between the clouds and disappeared. Rina and Sashka, turning the horses around with difficulty, circled above the forest and the field for a long time. Under them, in the grid of dirt roads, the iron roofs of summer cottages blazed in the sun. They saw neither hyeons nor warlock with Rodion.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

142

Mitridat with the empty saddle circled above them. Then with a short neigh, it hailed Münnich and flew to HDive. The stirrups were dangling. Attached to a cord – like the example of the warlock – Rodion’s schnepper was swinging in the right stirrup. After exchanging glances, Sashka and Rina followed Mitridat. They flew silently, not looking at each other. The defence, becoming silvery, let them through. They turned to the stable, but the entire meadow before it was filled with hdivers. Almost fifty people, heads lifted, were looking at them. No one waved, no one shouted, all eyes were directed toward the empty saddle of Mitridat… Rina waved, showing the main lane. They landed quite close to HDive. Kavaleria stood on the porch. Small, standing very straight, almost falling back. She persistently looked above their heads. They ran to them. Rina jumped from Münnich and handed the rein to Platosha running up. All the time Sashka in no way could get down from Askold – a foot fell from agitation through the stirrup. Mitridat was already caught. Rina, in a state of unease, began to describe the dive, the struggle with the berserkers. Sashka was interrupting, trying to take the blame. Kavaleria did not tear her eyes off the empty saddle of Mitridat. She approached the horse, breathed into its nostrils, pressed her forehead against the horse’s nose. “Later. Everything later! Search for Rodion! You’ll show where you saw him last!” “In the sky…” Sashka was at a loss. “You’ll show in the sky!” Kavaleria angrily exhaled into the horse’s nostrils. She caught Mitridat by the rein and led it to the stable. Rina, after catching up with her, hurriedly described the two hdivers stuck behind the wall of the tunnel, near Duoka. Kavaleria, in motion, said angrily, “I knew them… The bee chose me when they were senior hdivers. Then one day both disappeared… The swamp is not the place for clearing up misunderstandings in love. I think they’ll be freed when they see each other and not just themselves! No one else will be able to help them.” “But they’re nose to nose!” “Possible to look and not see,” Kavaleria cut her off. “But love…” “It wasn’t love, but the fencing of two egoists. Now disappear nicely!” ordered Kavaleria. Rina obeyed. One may be persistent, but more pleasant to brake on your own than against a concrete wall. They searched for Rodion until late at night. The hdivers – including the novices – spread out in a wide chain. Long-legged Danny went out first to the cottages. He did not walk normally, but like a camel lifting his knees high. He ducked his head with caution under the gates, and here someone briefly and unnaturally hailed him from the bushes, “Hey!” Danny, eternally staying with his own thoughts, took about three steps before he realized that there was a working probability that he was being hailed. This happened regularly with him. He would sink so deeply within himself that he generally forgot that he had a body that was going somewhere. He would
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

143

remember about the body when he had to dash away suddenly from honking cars or a shoe was suddenly taking in water from a puddle, which mistakenly seemed shallow to the conceited self-striding shoe. “Hey. Please!” the voice caught up with him. In this lonely “please!” detached from the “hey!” was something such that Danny, after wavering for a while, pushed his head through into the bushes. He saw nothing, only a pile of leaves. Danny wanted to step over it, but the pile shot out a mysterious root piece and abruptly tugged at Danny’s foot. He gasped and fell. The pile cursed. Danny saw a young face badly scratched and stained with dirt. A cloak limp from moisture was stretched on the jacket of rough skin. Someone had cut off a layer of turf and, after freeing it from the ground, secured it to the cloak, having poured leaves on top. Even a black knitted cap and that resembled a bush more. “Quiet! Don’t yell!” Danny inadvertently moved a foot. His knee touched the fellow’s thigh. That one growled, clenched his teeth, and knocked his forehead against the earth. Danny belatedly discovered that his right foot was unnaturally turned with the foot in. “Are you always such an ass?” “Well, you see, everything depends on the system of nominations and principles of assessment…” Danny started with dignity. “I’m searching for Rodion!” “You’ve already found him! Must recognize your own! Get off me!” Middle hdivers, running up, made a stretcher with poles. Rodion was mad. The battle in the air had not ended in his favour. The strong berserker managed to escape – he butted his rock hard forehead into Rodion’s face and threw him off the hyeon, when it, after straightening the flight with difficulty, was near the ground. Rodion fell onto an unfinished bathhouse, broke his leg, and rolled along the roof down into the vegetable garden. The berserker searched for him for a long time in order to finish him off. He was rushing above the houses, leaning down, looking. Rodion hid in a gap between the bathhouse and the shed and from weakness wheezed into the cobweb. Pain came gradually. Rodion envisioned a dirty old woman with purulent eyes, getting the drill and tongs ready. For the time being, she was only trying them on. She touched the leg and moved away, but he knew from experience that she would soon get down to serious business. A dirty big dog came out from somewhere and began to yelp. In order that it would not give him away, Rodion pressed down on it with his stomach and pushed a fist into its mouth, pushed deeply into the throat. The dog was choking, skinned his wrist, but could not clamp down with its teeth. The berserker flew over them. Rodion saw his strong back. He remembered the smell of the deodorant, a massive gold watch on the wrist, a face satisfied with life, overfed, self-confident. This evening the berserker will shed his “work” armour, hide the axe, take off the schnepper, and sit down at the wheel of an
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

144

expensive car. A beautiful wife – top-notch, no doubt – is waiting for him in his comfortable home in the country. Even the rest is also premium: the best food, the best health resorts, the best medicine. And the children, if there are any, are also outstanding. In good schools, athletic, tanned. Only a hdiver has to be a hdiver constantly. It is enough for a berserker to be a berserker for two or three shifts a week. Shift is over and adieu! Another takes over. Guy and Till do not demand anyone to knock himself out. But what awaits him, Rodion? The dusty HDive attic? A hammock? Ul’s monotonous jokes? Dives? The mustiness of the swamp? Helping some people whom you do not even know and also do not choose… Old lady pain shyly gave a cough and twisted his bone with red-hot tongs. In order not to yell, Rodion bit his own hand. The berserker returned. He deftly leaned over the saddle and grabbed the bag Sashka had found on Duoka. The bag was lying in sight, in the sun. Rodion never crawled to it. The berserker threw the bag over his shoulder. He hollered and took off. Rodion let go of the half-stranggled dog. It lay on its belly, wheezing. Rodion was wheezing. They were lying this way next to each other. *** Till came to Guy’s residence late in the evening. Only the external perimeter was guarded. There was not a soul inside. Neither Guy’s personal arbalesters nor berserkers. Only the hyeons were making noise in their cages. Nevertheless Till pushed the door, knocked belatedly, and gave a cough as into a barrel. “Here… the on-duty shift delivered this… Took it from a hdiver…” he said into the gloom before his eyes became accustomed. Guy was lying on the floor. When the door was opened, he twitched, halfrose, and looked with the empty eyes of a sick owl. He again lay down. The secretary Arnaud had found room for himself in the corner, quiet as a dead mole. He pulled his knees to his head. It seemed he was waiting to be switched on. He hurriedly waved to Till to leave and froze again. Till sensed that the secretary was mortally afraid. Till became frightened. He had heard: there are moments when Guy’s soul “wanders.” The guardian, the elbeus, the strongest of the elbes in the swamp, installs itself in his body and then the host becomes a marionette. An eerie, terrible, cultivated death. Once in this state a skinny and slender Guy mutilated a huge berserker such that they buried him in a closed coffin. They say he even tore the berserker with his teeth. Was that the reason security scattered? Till stumbled, put down a heavy foot, and began to backtrack. Suddenly he heard the hoarse, “Come! Come, told you!” Guy, still lying on the floor, ran his hands over his face. He sat up. The secretary Arnaud’s eyes lit up immediately. He began to move, jumped up, and was almost everywhere at once. The elbeus had left. Panting, Till handed over the bag. Guy took it, scratching the skin with bent fingers. His face was suspicious, anxious. He took out the arbalest, the knife… Held it for a long time, examining the wood handle. Then also looked at the circle
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

145

and cross for a long time. “Well now! And you said that you won’t say goodbye to me!” he said voicelessly with his lips. His narrow mouth moved like a wave. After coming to his senses, Guy eagerly turned the bag over and shook it. He squinted dangerously at Till. “Where?” Till’s chin began to bounce with folds of fat. “Who? I don’t know… didn’t take it…” “You’re toying with death! You didn’t give me everything!” He grabbed Till by the silver boar. He pulled him by the collar to himself like pulling a dog, looked at him for a long time, scorching him with the look. Till stared honestly, afraid to blink. Guy pushed him away. “Watch it, if I find out! Mityai Zheltoglazyi had a rare uniqum… Once he took it away to Duoka… But today the uniqum returned to our world!” Till recalled the swamp. There they know what passes through the tunnel. “Searched the hdiver’s corpse?” Guy asked sharply. Till began to move his shoulders uncomfortably. “Something happened with this hdiver. They searched for the body, but only…” he began. Guy waved his hand to silence Till. He picked up the strip of skin with the writing, looked for a long time, even smelled it, fanning the wings of his cartilaginous nose. From the bulky cabinet he took out another strip, delivered at some point by the antique dealer. He attached them, smoothing out the rumpled spot. It matched exactly, as if fused. The piece that had been on Duoka seemed brighter, fresher, but it read well: Its demise is clever spite in triumph. Only true to the end will overcome. Mysterious verdict of a bee’s destiny, On golden wings to it will bring mortality. Given three hundred years of prophecy, And that same time a grain grows in obscurity. When day has passed only one – Will break the jug ancient guardian. Will open hissing the mouth of a young hyeon, Traitor only creates for himself humiliation. In that the lie gains a victory, Truth will prevail is a guarantee. “So far everything fits!” Guy said seriously. “The queen bee is dead. The young hyeon has taken wing… The traitor would have been in the grave long ago, if we hadn’t reduced the psyose dose. We dismiss the delirious morals. What’s left?”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

146

Till started to smoke. He looked at the glowing flame. “The hourglass, the jug, and the guardian.” Guy pressed his chin against his chest. Till tried fawningly to repeat the gesture of his chief, but he had a pillow of fat on his chin. “Bravo, Ingvar! You, it seems, have isolated the main thing wonderfully! If we believe the hourglass, 300 years has passed. Now the guardian must break the jug, after freeing a certain ‘grain’. The jug, of course, is in HDive. It’s the safest place. The guardian, it goes without saying, is Gorshenya.” “Why?” Till asked. “Who is still living in HDive after so long? And really not its image on the hourglass? It’s Gorshenya. Simply no other candidate exists there. Contact our young friend! Let him do everything necessary; Gorshenya must be removed from HDive as soon as possible!” “But why?” “Till, you’re tiresome! Then it won’t break the jug and the ‘grain’ will rot in it, whatever it was. And the hyeon… let our friend also get rid of it at the same time. Triumph of spite, so triumph of spite!” Chapter 17 Rina’s Diary The only thing with value before eternity is that in which a lot of love and pain has been invested. Everything else is situational rot. From the diary of a non-returning hdiver She did not have a laptop in HDive. A common notebook with snap “dividers” took its place. The handwriting was small, but the capital letters, commas, and stops were very steady. The rows were even. Rina did not use hyphens. She preferred to squeeze the longest word into a line, although getting closer to the margin, it would also begin to compress like an accordion. In the text were many drawings. They often replaced words. For example, short legs were often drawn instead of “went” and instead of “saw” were two caricature eyes with eyelashes. 92 September. (In reality, of course, 29, but no desire to make corrections immediately in the new notebook. Then I, of course, will become cocky and start to tear everything here into bits and pieces, but not now.) I sit and think how little can be said with words. Only to pass on some milestones, to catch the circumstance in each of the separate flashes, and that is all. I have not written a diary by hand in a hundred years and now I have
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

147

butterflies in my stomach. As if my head was not thinking earlier and the computer keys helped it, but now there are no keys and the brain stalls. Okay, I will record everything that comes to my head. Sashka and I really got it for that dive. We work hard in the stable: I with the wing horses, he… eh-eh… in the stable itself. All of Sashka’s fingers have calluses. Specifically, the fingers and not the palms. I never thought that you could get that from a normal palette knife. Sashka was told to strip old paint off the enormous gates, which he has been busy with for several days now. The most inconvenient is that the gates are always opening and closing. You only just climb up the stepladder and – wham! – someone slams the gates. Aza is somewhat better. It will live, but will it fly, skip, walk? Ul and Yara spent whole hours rubbing its legs and the base of its wings with straw plaits. Not far from here is Kopytovo, an urban-type settlement. Once it came to someone’s head to build a needle plant and make sewing needles, knitting needles, and fishhooks for the whole country. Now the plant is not operating and there is absolutely nothing to do in the settlement. Quite a few apartment towers are left, between which groups of bored youth lounge about. Vovchik regularly goes there to flex his muscles, and every time returns with a black eye. Even the clms cannot save him. We are not supposed to go there, but we do all the same and the authorities wink at it. We are not even forbidden to talk about HDive, although it is close by. Here the same rule applies as on the telephone with Mamasia. You tell her “HDive” and she, “five to five.” Our Makar also goes to the settlement often. However, they do not beat him up. I saw several times how he wears down the locals behind the kiosks about something. Yesterday I went to Kopytovo for meat scraps for Gavr and met a fellow in a wheelchair. With a huge sheepdog. He goes to the park there. I do not know what problem he has, but obviously something serious and long-standing, because his face is not hopeless but so peaceful and not anticipating. Although, I would not say that he sags. When I saw him yesterday, he was even laughing. He has a girl. So small, compact. They are both serious, natural partisans who know that they will be shot the next morning. They go about this way: he, the girl, and the dog. And they do not talk with anyone. Even the sheepdog also takes no notice of other dogs, does not growl, does not wag its tail. I found Kavaleria in the park. She was pruning with pruners and giving the bushes the shape of a poodle. “It’s more a fat groundhog. Especially if that branch there is removed,” I said. Kavaleria went around the bushes and stood next to me. “According to the logic of things – and everything is fine with me with the logic of things – this is really a groundhog! But, for me, if I indeed took it upon myself to make a poodle, then I’d make a poodle!” she said and continued to work with the pruners. I described to her the fellow in the wheelchair and proposed to dive to Duoka to get a marker for him. “Do markers for legs exist?” I asked.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

148

“Here it’s more precisely the spine… Any red marker will fit. Only not a small one, but somewhere starting from the middle,” Kavaleria answered pensively. “Please let me dive! Please!” She knitted her eyebrows. I understood that it was better not to mention me diving. “Then you! Or let Ul or Athanasius! Anybody!” Kavaleria slowly shook her head. “But why?” I could not believe it. “Why don’t you want to help him?” Kavaleria kept silent for a long time, continuing to click the pruners. It seemed to me several times she clicked them quite idly. “I want it very much,” she finally answered. “But I don’t decide who and for whom to get markers. Otherwise, long ago we would have increased the number of hdivers to ten thousand, breed twenty herds of winged horses, used anti-aircraft machine guns against hyeons, and dived in three shifts like in a mine. But now our max is several dives a day. That means only so many miracles.” “Why?” I repeated obstinately. “What’s bad about you diving now and he’ll be walking with his own legs tomorrow?” It seemed to me that the marble statue, which I erected for myself as Kavaleria, was covered with a network of small cracks. She understood this and looked sad. “You cannot imagine how many hdivers stumbled here, moreover the passionate and selfless,” she said. “Wh…?” I started and stopped in order not to resemble a parrot. She answered instantly. “Imagine that somewhere in an almost inaccessible place there’s a button, after pressing it, you’ll make all the people healthy, contented, rich, full. You’ll wipe out all diseases and even possibly death itself. Specifically you, of your own will, of your own choice. Would you press it?” “Yes,” I immediately said. “Ah,” answered Kavaleria. “Some day yes, even if we were to perish, but now – no. There is a time for everything. Can only do harm before this time.” She clicked the pruners again. They were already driving me crazy. “But how do hdivers determine at all for whom to get markers?” I asked. She thought for a little and placed the pruners on the bushes. “Come! Only keep in mind: must tell no one about this,” she said and we went through the Labyrinth to the fountain. Just like the last time, I could not get close to the rock itself. Several steps, no more. Further, something pushed me aside. “Interesting, does Kavaleria know that the time I pushed my way to the rock, it threw me across the fence?” I thought but did not begin to expand on this. Kavaleria took several stones out of a knapsack. They seemed normal to me. Small, with traces of clay. Three were the size of a fist, one long, and one flat, irregularly shaped. She began to throw them one by one into the fountain. When she grasped them, the stones lit up from within, but briefly. The small stones were pulled into the rock-fountain and disappeared. I saw red and blue flashes. They did not wane but shot up swiftly, changing shape. Like birds with colours washed out, when you shoot them in motion out of focus. The blue was from the flat stone and one of the two with clay.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

149

“There!” said Kavaleria. “Five markers, five destinies. This is also our help: bring and release.” “And that’s all?” I asked with suspicion, because it took all of ten seconds of effort. “Yes,” answered Kavaleria. “And you don’t intend to do anything more with them?” “With what?” she was surprised. “With the markers.” She showed me empty hands. “They are no more. But everything will be arranged as it should. Precisely how, you’ll never guess. The doctor will help one. They will announce to another that the last time they probably gave him someone else’s x-ray, because now everything in him is all clear. They will apologize, congratulate, and hide a box of chocolates in the locker.” “These are the red flashes. And the blue?” I asked. “Well, with the blue you also won’t guess. Someone will feel a burning desire to go into the store to buy a canvas and paint, although earlier he didn’t paint with watercolour but only soiled himself. Another, perhaps some quite reckless type, in half a year will end up in the hospital. Likely an accident, but there he’ll have to stay calm, and for the first time in his life begin to read books and revise his outlook on life.” “There was no other way?” I took a risk and asked. “What other way?” Kavaleria was surprised. “Well, take a shovel and hit him with the handle so he would lie and read, and give the marker to someone else?” Kavaleria smiled, and Octavius, which she was carrying under her arm, began a high-pitched bark. They are always this way: she smiles and it laughs for her. “Well, you’re just like Rodion! Who wouldn’t hit just to be within one’s power! No, never. First, you don’t know whom to hit and how hard. And secondly, if you hit someone nevertheless, then why would someone let you do this for some reason?” When we left the Labyrinth, we saw Platosha rushing to us and shouting something. Kavaleria and I dashed after him. I thought Kavaleria would fail to keep up with me but soon realized that it was the other way around. She did not even sweat. At the same time, I discovered that we were running to that part of the fence where I usually go to feed Gavr and this really strained me. After running out to the fence, we saw that one of the posts was wrenched out with the base, and the section of fence attached to it was down. In the wet soil were printed deep tracks, which could only belong to one creature in the entire HDive. “It had never done this before!” Kavaleria said through her teeth. Platosha darted into the breach and shot further. And we after him. Now I had no doubt that Platosha was leading us to the shed. There was simply no other option. Therefore, I pressed on, passed him, passed Kavaleria, and was the first to run up to the shed.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

150

The first thing that I saw: the garage was turned inside out and crushed. The ground all around was pitted by enormous feet. Here an excited Gorshenya was roaming. It was twirling on the spot, hitting itself in the chest, and banging the garage with hardware. On seeing us, it began to scream something indistinctly. Only three phrases were clearly distinguished, “I will gorge! I will not allow! I will trample!” Again it banged the garage, which was similar to a flattened food can. “Here!” Platosha said, looking guiltily at me. “I was coming from the settlement and here this…” Everything inside me fell. I decided that Gorshenya had sensed Gavr and killed it, because Gavr was a hyeon. I wanted to run up to the garage, but Kavaleria did not let me. She allowed no one to approach it at all, until Kuzepych, Max, Ul, and Rodion ran up. Using the power of the lions, they dragged Gorshenya away to HDive before any of the locals detected it. They pulled, precisely four ants and a resisting caterpillar. Although I would not say that Gorshenya resisted. It only floundered, looked at the sky, and repeated, “I will gorge! I will not allow!” They were not able to drag Gorshenya into HDive itself. Something did not let it in, although they struggled with it for a long time. The HDive defence continued to work even with the fence down. Everyone’s clms was discharged, but by that time Athanasius, Oxa, Nasta, Vovchik, and someone else, it seemed to be Vityara, ran up. Nasta was the first to have the sense to check Gorshenya’s belly. Everything was immediately understood. My hyeon was discovered in Gorshenya’s belly. Alive, hissing, with twisted wings. Obviously, Gavr was struggling the whole time. It was very angry, hissed, rushed to Kavaleria, to Kuzepych, and generally showed everyone what an average hdiver expects from an average hyeon. For example, I did not have any idea that frightened hyeons fire the remains of undigested food at enemies and splash them with urine. I grabbed Gavr by the neck and, not waiting for any comments from Kavaleria, dragged it into the bushes. Sashka went with me and helped to find a new place for Gavr. It is somewhat further from HDive, but then it is harder to find Gavr. Still harder to understand that the place is this way at all. In the thick of the forest, something like a trench is dug out with a roof of boards rotted through. About twenty steps away from it is the cab of a rusty tractor. That is it. Neither how a tractor found itself in the forest nor why this dugout was made – no answers, just a lot of questions. October 1. A bad day. They locked Gorshenya in the old storehouse. The walls of the storehouse are thick, it cannot get out. If a window is open, one can hear how it hits the iron gates. Boom-boom-boom! Day and night. They say Kavaleria has decided to send Gorshenya to Altai and release it there but does not know when to implement this. Cannot teleport such a giant. Ul worries about Gorshenya. So do all the senior hdivers. They have gotten used to the old guy. To them it is inseparable from HDive, but after the incident with the ruined beehive and the knocked-down fence, everyone is bewildered.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

151

Rodion lies in the attic. All sorts of restraints are mounted on his leg, I keep quiet about the cast. He cannot move. He cannot do anything at all, just lies and stares at the ceiling. Yesterday I took Yara with me just in case and called on him to apologize, but he did not want to talk to me. He turned his head to the wall. Gloomy, haggard, nasty. One feels that he is terribly hard on himself. Simply the tank in his heart moves and the gun got stuck in his throat. I was already leaving when Yara said to him, “And you think about Ilya Muromets!”43 “What for?” “About how it was for him not stirring from one place in those thirty years. Indeed something matured in him all those years when he could barely blow a fly away from his nose? Why was strength given to him but not to another?” “Be done with the propaganda!” Rodion muttered. October 3. Fall. All night the windows were banging. Empty buckets flew in the HDive courtyard. This is the autumn wind coming. I went out in the morning and saw that the park was bare and the sky looks through the crowns of the trees. Strange. When I lived in the city, it seemed to me that fall comes gradually. But here I saw that it begins suddenly. One night with the gusty wind moaning and the trees are like plucked chickens. And Moscow does not make itself felt here at all, though it is not particularly far away. For the time being, we are not particularly loaded down with work. We wander around HDive and then turn up in the stable. Every day Freda declares that she will break out of this jail but she does not. Apparently, because none of the authorities is especially against it. Freda has typical reverse psychology: if you want her to stay, open the door wide and start to push her out. Yesterday I accidentally overheard a conversation between Kavaleria and Yara. I was standing by Aza’s stall, and they were nearby, in Lana’s. Lana has something with the joints. When it is damp, it begins to limp, and in the morning cannot stand up. It becomes unsteady. Straightens the pelvis with difficulty like Arturych with sciatica. Did not know that horses are so similar to people. In the evening Sashka and I went to feed Gavr. Sashka always walks with me now. Freda jeers that he is stuck to me. October 9. Well! Still alive! I am sick. I have the flu. Temperature over 39. Weakness. I lie in the far room in sickbay, where we have a type of insulator. My nose is swollen, eyes watering. But I do not lose time for nothing: in the morning I soaked three hankies.

43

Ilya Muromets is a hero in epic poems of Kievan Rus’. The name is synonymous with outstanding physical and spiritual power and integrity, and dedication to protecting native land and people. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

152

Because of a head cold, I have become sentimental and stupid. I want to watch TV and cry aloud when some Duremar44 is killed. Talked on the phone all morning with Mamasia. For some reason she is still not tired of waiting, while the President trains me in the secret school and awards me with all sorts of Russian orders. One of the main pluses of HDive is that when you talk from there, money does not run out on the phone; instead it becomes more than what I have, what Mamasia has. But should you climb over the fence and even if you just say “cuckoo” on the phone, it all flies away at crazy speed. Generally, Sashka and Ul with Yara visit me. And Athanasius dropped in. I am not interesting to the rest. Sniff-sniff! But then Supovna stuffs me with food, Yara brought jam, and Sashka cutlets in newspaper. By the way, he also feeds Gavr. He says that Gavr flies very well, only manages flight poorly. If there is the smallest obstacle in its path, it cuts into it. He even says that Gavr invented a trainer for itself. It sits on the tractor cab, seizing it with its paws, and flaps its wings so, as if it wants to tear the cab away from the ground. *** !!!!! Kavaleria visited me in the evening and sat on my bed. The bed is narrow. I had to dangle my legs. So we sat together. “Here I’m thinking about you all the time, about the dive… You’re beeless! But one can’t be beeless in HDive. I think a bee for you exists nevertheless,” she said. “But where is it?” I asked. “A good question,” admitted Kavaleria. “Simply remarkable. I wish I had at least one tiny, most insignificant answer.” I carefully asked her about Gorshenya. What will happen to it? “In one of the coming days a van will arrive. A former hdiver will be behind the wheel of the van… No, he left by himself. Simply couldn’t stand the workload. Now he’s already all grown up.” “Are there many like that?” I asked. “Hdivers who left of their own free will? Quite a few. Some disappear forever, but the majority continues to help. Can never break off with HDive completely. Possible to curse, betray, even go to the warlocks, but can never forget!” Oct 10. Little is visible from the window of sickbay. It goes out to an empty corner with only Max there. Well, everything is more or less clear with Max. This is our positively competent hdiver-berserker. He loves the corner because here is the stand of thick boards for shooting from an arbalest. Max is always mutilating it,
44

Duremar is a character from the 2009 made-for-TV musical The Golden Key or the Adventures of Buratino, based on the 1936 children’s book of the same name by Soviet writer Alexei Nikolaevich Tolstoy (1883-1945). ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

153

throwing at it everything in succession: tent pegs, construction nails, knives, and axes, almost like pushpins. I have noticed: when a man loves something, love fills any of his undertakings with success. Let it even be throwing objects at a target. October 17. Tomorrow I will be discharged, and today I was allowed to take a walk, “You will walk along the path around HDive for about fifty metres and come right back.” I, of course, nodded and… left for the settlement, because I wanted chocolate so badly, and I decided to call on Gavr also. Barely got there and was completely soaked. When I was buying chocolate, through the store window I saw Kavaleria passing the square. Decided that she was searching for me and started to worry, but she did not notice me. Kavaleria approached the park and I saw how she looked at someone behind the fence, trying to remain unnoticed. When Kavaleria left, I went up to the fence where she had stood. There was already no one behind the fence, but on the other side, I noticed the clear tracks of a wheelchair and dog prints on the moist earth. Visited Gavr on the way back. Could not find this stupid cab for a long time. I was freezing. Got mad. Started to phone Sashka and curse him, although what does he have to do with it? And here I was jumped at from a pine tree. Knocked off my feet, licked all over, and covered with stench. A thousand exclamation marks!!! Gavr!!! Grown to about the size of a young tiger! Interesting, how many people in Kopytovo rush to drink after seeing my “bib”? Oct 18. I was not discharged, because yesterday I sweated, then froze, stayed too long with Gavr, and nearly croaked tonight. Now I lie and everything is terribly funny to me. The walls are funny, the ceiling is funny, the lamp is funny. Like slowmotion hysterics: I have led a delayed existence for a very long time, but now it sped up and hit me. Sashka came. Here indeed is someone really fun… ny (“ny” was written with another pen and, apparently, the next day). Oct 20. Phew! I am now free! Freedom will meet you joyfully at the entrance and brothers – tweedledee! – will give the sword back to you. While I was not there, Alice contrived to move to my bed. Had to drive her away. There were no howls from her direction. Just a hundred and forty-two tragic facial expressions, a clank of the medals, and the promise to poison me at the first opportunity. About the clms. Almost in the region of an anecdote. Alice does not wear the clms because it “sags her hand.” Lara drove Kuzepych crazy asking his permission to colour her clms blue. Black does not suit her. Freda drags her clms around in her handbag, at times forgetting it in the most inappropriate places. Lena tried to sew a zipper onto her clms. She broke three needles and an awl, and then shorted
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

154

the sirin. If she had not managed to discard the clms, she would be stuck together with it in the foundation of HDive. P.S. Saw Kavaleria. She looks bad. Circles under her eyes, taciturn. A hand is bandaged, obviously stripped the skin of her hand with the trowel. They say she returned from a dive in the morning. Chapter 18 Clay Head on a Hungry Belly One day I clearly understood that people examine themselves in ordinary relationships. We are not like the person whom we got to know yesterday and who interests us, but like the person whom we have known for ten years and who touched us long ago. From the diary of non-returning hdiver Soon after discharge, Rina dropped in on Sashka. Sashka was in the room alone. He was lounging on the bed and, with his feet on the wall, leafing through the pages of Kavaleria’s lecture borrowed from one of the middle hdivers. On noticing Rina, he did a cartwheel over his head and landed on the floor. “Oh! Hello! Nightmarish handwriting! Only possible to make out that she doesn’t want to impose her opinion on anyone!” he imparted. “You carry this! It’s for Gavr!” Rina shoved at him a massive saucepan of chicken drumsticks with traces of puree and hdiver teeth marks. Taking the saucepan, Sashka looked with interest at the scar on Rina’s wrist – traces of cable burns (she had taken it into her head to climb down from the fourth floor without gloves). “How many scars do you have?” “Indeed more than you!” Rina stated. Sashka looked at her with compassion. “Well, here you exaggerated! Can’t be!” he said leniently. They began to count. They pulled up sleeves, rolled up pant legs. Even parted hair on the head. It was also not managed without disputes. How to include the scar from a camp saw on Sashka’s leg? As one scar or seven? Burns and inoculation marks were not included in general. On recalling that she still had a scar on her stomach (she had fallen from a scooter), Rina started to lift up her T-shirt. Immediately like a jack-in-the-box, Makar’s inquisitive face pushed through into the room. “Oh! Whacha doing here?” Sashka silently kicked the door. An additional sound proved that Makar had a strong forehead. “Well, could say so right away! What am I, a wee one?” reached them without offence from behind the door.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

155

“Could have said with words!” proposed Rina. “To whom, Makar? You tell him three times in words, then kick the door all the same…” explained Sashka. After counting, they finally agreed that Rina had sixteen scars, and Sashka either eighteen or twelve (they still had not come to a consensus about the saw). Then they went to feed Gavr. Rina saw Kavaleria at the old storehouse. She was standing and looking into the small window. At times, the iron gates shuddered. From the other side came Gorshenya’s sighs and sad muttering. “I am Gorshenya, clay head, hungry belly! Must release Gorshenya!” “And what will Gorshenya do when released?” asked Kavaleria. “Gorshenya will boom-boom!” the honest giant instantly answered. Kavaleria sighed. “That’s what I’m afraid of!” Hearing steps behind her, Kavaleria looked around and bit her lip. Iron ladies do not like to appear weak. They get rusty from weakness. “This is its last evening here! The trailer will come tomorrow morning!” Kavaleria said and, having pulled her glasses out of her vest pocket, put them on challengingly. The sun, hitting from behind and passing through the lenses as through a magnifier, began to dance on Sashka’s jacket. It came to Rina’s head that Kavaleria’s look could set it on fire. “One second!” ordered Kavaleria. They stopped. “The hyeon is flying, of course?” “Yes,” Rina carefully acknowledged. Kavaleria pulled her plait. “Short flights?” “Well, not particularly,” Sashka blurted out. Rina looked around at him with displeasure. She wanted to be the only one to talk about Gavr. The others solely had the moral right to nod agreement. “It’s already flying not badly. Only it tires quickly and doesn’t know how to turn,” she confirmed. “Precisely during this period the warlocks begin to train them gradually to the saddle,” Kavaleria remarked. “Uh-huh, indeed! We don’t have a saddle for a hyeon!” Rina, feeling sad, blurted out. Kavaleria pushed up her glasses with her index finger. Her nail was provocatively pink with a white semicircle. “Let’s get something straight! Whom do you take me for? Someone who will tell you that you can find anything you want in the HDive storerooms?” she asked with indignation. *** Rina found a cleaner drumstick without teeth marks and took a bite. The drumstick had remains of cold puree stuck on it but was tasty. “Papa always bought me something in the city, though Mama forbade it. Rolls, chocolate, juice. We agreed that I’d eat at home and wouldn’t give him away,” she said, chewing. “And you?”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

156

“But I never ate later and always gave him away. Not with words, but somehow in different ways. For example, I would feel sick. Or accidentally wiped my lips with a white T-shirt in the cafe.” “Really your Mamasia is so mean?” “Of course not… Strange, likely she’s normal…” Rina started and became silent. Something in her own words did not quite mesh. Sashka stopped. An amber drop of resin was frozen on a rough, darkened, black thread of dried through mould. Sashka could not resist and, picking it off, quickly slipped it into his mouth. Rina remembered this simple motion for a long time, as she also remembered how Sashka once, after rolling up his pant leg, gnawed around the drying scab on his knee. One always attaches oneself somehow more to the atypical and the unsanitary. “Interesting,” thought Rina. “At first I can immediately like a few. But later only one from these few. And usually not even the one that stung the heart at the very beginning. The law of a flash. If a perch did not rush to the flickering object immediately, it would see that it’s a bright piece of iron with a hook…” Rina’s thoughts returned to Gorshenya. Tomorrow the van would come for it and take it away. Forever. “What does a crossed-out fish tail depicted on some object indicate?” Sashka asked unexpectedly. “Ah! Well, the tail is probably the mermaid! A crossed-out tail means the mermaid doesn’t work.” “Shield from magic?” “Likely that. But where did you see it?” “Nowhere,” Sashka said and hurriedly started to talk about something else. *** At night, after waiting until everyone had fallen asleep, Sashka carefully opened the window and jumped onto the flowerbed. In the summer, a considerate Supovna had planted her yellow flowers that could not be trampled down, the seeds of which someone had brought for her from Duoka. Knowing Supovna’s weakness, sly senior hdivers always brought her seeds, cones, and now and then even young saplings with roots. And all adapted wonderfully. Supovna’s hand was heavy for the back of heads but light for plants. Once, as an experiment, an inquisitive Makar spent twenty minutes grinding one of the flowers with his heel but could not press it into the lawn. The next morning the flower shook it off and differed in no way from the others. Sashka reached the old storehouse by the paths, afraid to show up on the main lane. He shook with a finger the very heavy lock with the crossed-out fish tail. He put his ear to the iron gate. Silence. He even decided that Gorshenya was not there. Then he heard a rustle. Someone on the other side of the gate was listening to Sashka as attentively as Sashka himself. “I found an outstanding place not far from HDive!” Sashka reported into the crack. “A deserted elevator. Of course, anything can fall onto the head there, but
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

157

one can stroll as much as one wants at night! Do you hear me? OK, we’ll consider that panting is consent!” Sashka sighed, shook the lock once more, and climbed. He rolled over onto his stomach on the metal-tiled roof. The crowbar tucked under his belt rested against his side. Sashka reached for it and began decisively to push it through the space between the sheet of metal tile and the low ridge beam. The tile straightened out easily. What is there – the usual tin! Only have to be more careful. Easy to cut oneself on this trash. Fussing with the tile took Sashka about ten minutes. After straightening the sheet, he forcibly pulled the insulation and vapour barrier out from under it. He squatted, gave a shove down with his foot, and, after feeling how something gave way, shone the flashlight into the void generated. The ray was lost, not reaching the floor. “Gorshenya! Hey! Do you see the light?” Sashka lowered his legs, squeezed himself through, and hung swinging by his hands. He did not want to jump blindly. Now he did not even need to be tall. An ordinary chair would be sufficient, on which one would land on a half-bent knee. The sharp edge of the tile cut into his hands and, realizing that he could not hold on much longer nevertheless, Sashka let go. A second of agonizing flight, a brief moment of fear, and not having touched the floor, Sashka hung in Gorshenya’s huge paws. “Hey, what are you doing? Put me down!” Gorshenya tossed him up. Opened its mouth. The amber buttons settled back. “I’m here to save you-ou-ou!” The howl was lost in the darkness. It was dry but tight in Gorshenya’s stomach. From the side Gorshenya seemed much more spacious. Sashka tried to kick Gorshenya’s stomach – useless, there was no support. He attempted to move an elbow – too little room. He tried to pull himself up to full height – the collar and his own shoulders interfered with his head. Remembering, he grabbed the clms. Teleport from here fast! The sheepskin coat was unbuttoned. Gorshenya slapped its own stomach. “Clms does not work inside Gorshenya!” it informed as if quite incidentally. Sashka thought sullenly that the exaggeration of the degree of one’s folly is the main tactical weapon of simpletons. After several attempts to get settled, Sashka hit upon taking the pose of an embryo. This turned out to be the solution. His head and his knees were already tired of each other and came unstuck with pleasure. He lay and pondered what Rina would say now. That one has to see something good in everything. Sashka attempted to see something good but could not even see his own hands. It was only Gorshenya’s belly on all sides. The most improbable thing was that Sashka fell asleep nevertheless. Either from the stuffy heat or that the setting itself was womblike, sedative… Noise and rumbling outside woke him. All around everything was jumping. Sashka’s forehead hit against solid walls. Gorshenya shouted something, swung its arms. Leaning with all their weight on different sides, they were dragging it somewhere. Sashka also tried to participate in the shouting, but when about ten people yell all at once, no one listens to the eleventh.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

158

The trailer door slammed, the motor roared. Gorshenya left the bounds of HDive forever, and Sashka together with it. *** Sashka’s absence was discovered in the morning. His tucked-in bed looked as if someone had lounged on it for the sake of propriety and then quickly disappeared. Each interpreted Sashka’s disappearance in his own way. “Knew he would take off. Still posing!” said Vlad Ganich. “Perhaps setting up an experiment?” assumed Danny. “Likely gone on a date!” said Cyril. “He’s not one to be trusted! While Kuzepych sleeps, a good time to snitch somethin’!” answered Makar. Sashka also had not appeared for dinner. Everyone asked Rina and she only got irritated. After breakfast, she managed to run around to the stable, the meadow, and twice to Gavr. Sashka had disappeared without a trace. His clms also did not respond, no matter how much Rina tried to connect with him through the centaur. While Sashka was persistently beside her, Rina behaved like Bonaparte – darted off somewhere without looking around, knowing that he would not leave. Now she remained the same Bonaparte, but had suddenly lost her guard and realized how she needed this guard. Yara approached her after dinner. “Where?” she started. “Don’t know! Don’t have a clue! Search ourselves?” Rina yelled. Yara moved back a little. “…am I to put the hyeon saddle you asked to find?” she finished reproachfully. Rina was embarrassed. “Sorry… I thought that…” “What were you thinking?” “Not important… it’s all Sashka… He’s disappeared somewhere and I’m mad.” The hyeon saddle turned out to be unexpectedly bulky. A wooden frame covered with skin. Short wide stirrups, into which rammed heaven knows what big size feet. Rina recalled the saddles of those warlocks twirling around HDive. “They’re not like this! Smaller and lighter.” “New model! This is about a hundred and fifty years old… See how intelligently made: no need for saddle blanket or sweat cloth. Only two contact points with the back of the hyeon, not counting the girth,” Yara said with admiration. Rina’s finger slid into a hollow of the front pommel. “What’s here?” Yara leaned over. “Where? Well now! A secret pocket. Withhold a marker from the dear boss. Saddles change, berserkers don’t,” she sneered. With the saddle on her shoulder, Rina meandered to Gavr. Gavr was sitting on the tractor cab, grabbing it with its paws, and flapping its wings. The wind made by its wings was such that it tore the last leaves off the birches. On seeing Rina for the third time that day, Gavr was not a bit surprised. Having jumped off
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

159

the cab, it ran up to her and growled pleadingly, opening its mouth. Its teeth were white, sharp, but its breath was awful. It showed its love for carrions and its habit of grubbing for garbage. “Sashka has disappeared!” Rina complained. Gavr whined. Possibly because it discovered in Rina’s hands, besides food, something incomprehensible, reeking alarmingly and so familiarly at the same time. Having poured out from the bag herring scraps begged from the on-duty people, Rina waited until it buried its snout in them. She sneaked up and carefully lowered the saddle between the leathery wings. She expected resistance, but Gavr, as a creature with a one-track mind, saw only the fish scraps now. Rina tightened the girths. Here Gavr latched onto the fact that while it was gorging itself, an incomprehensible and persistent being had clung to its back. It twirled on the spot. The heavy stirrups lashed it on the sides. It jumped. It flopped onto its back, attempting to hook its hind legs onto the girths. The persistent critter would not let go. It mocked Gavr. It squeezed its chest, chafed the base of its wings. Gavr finally lost self-control. Hissing, full of hate, it rolled on the ground, stripping the saddle against a felled tree. The veins in its eyes burst. Poison foamed on its lips. Rina did not wait until Gavr connected her arrival with the appearance of the saddle and huddled up inside the cab. After settling in on the foam-rubber trash, which was once a seat, she watched how the enraged winged monster rushed all around, pulling down young trees. So passed an hour. Gavr was rushing all the time, turning trees into candles along about three hundred metres, and its strength had not diminished. Rina understood that this was for a long time. The boy had come into effect. From a self-conscious adolescent it had become a fully formed loafer. Its wingspan exceeded three metres, approaching the maximum for an adult hyeon. On stopping to look out of the cab, Rina reached for pencil and notebook. Today in the stable, she had accidentally bumped into the donkey Phantom, without a moment’s thought what this could involve. Marquis du Grätz’s look was lost in the depths of her corset. Louisa was breathing so hard that the little buttons in her back exploded and the snap fasteners flew like rain. “Where is your stiletto?” asked Marquis du Grätz. “Seems I’ve forgotten it in the next room!” “Can you not forget anything at least once?” the Marquis said peevishly and looked into the next room. The prince of vampires was lying on the thick carpet. A narrow silver handle projected from his chest. Having finished writing, Rina hid the pencil and suddenly saw someone’s legs beside her. Long, skinny. In jeans. Rina’s look slid along the jeans. The jeans ended at a blue turtleneck and the turtleneck a pale face with ashy locks.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

160

“Allow me to sit at the wheel of the tractor?” the pale face inquired. Platosha, the mysterious HDive neoromanticist, stood before her, lashing his boots with a freshly cut branch. It appeared he had come from the direction of the settlement where he had love affairs. “Sit! Steer!” Rina allowed. Platosha did not wait for a repeated invitation and jumped easily into the cab. Gavr swept past over them. It hit the roof with its hind legs and, bouncing off like a ball, leaped out into the thicket, bringing down leaves from the birches. “Grown,” Platosha said pensively. “Naturally an adult hyeon. Cut the clouds like a corkscrew.” “Still should learn to turn. Else it’ll smash its noggin,” Rina said gloomily. Platosha smiled. “Don’t wish for everything at once and there will always be something to want the next time,” he advised. Gavr swept past over them again. Both eyes bunched up. The lower teeth jutted out forward on too big a jaw. It could not coordinate the working of the wings and got carried away. “Well, I’m hitting the road!” said Platosha. “Need help, just whistle! You know how to use the centaur? Imagine me and touch it… Let me give you something!” He shoved his hand into his pocket and began to dig in a preoccupied manner. He reached a subway pass, a picture of a girl, and several schnepper pneupfs in a plastic jar. Continuing to slap all around his pockets, he pulled out a narrow phial with a rubber stopper. A thread passed through the stopper. A piece of bark was attached to it. Platosha placed the phial on her palm. Rina saw that the bark leaned noticeably to one side. “Hdiver compass. The bark from Duoka always points in the direction of HDive. They say it’s attracted to the marker in the Labyrinth.” “And you don’t mind?” “What’s there to mind? I can always get bark. There are more phials and threads. Well, so long!” Platosha jumped out of the cab and, squinting cautiously at Gavr, disappeared in the forest. He moved almost soundlessly, keeping not to the path but the shadows by the path. Rina even recalled an anecdote. How to identify a hdiver without a jacket in the subway? He will crawl on his belly along a nonworking escalator and cross a station in short bounds, after hiding behind the columns. *** Rina returned to HDive. Towards her along the main lane waddled Gosha, half-stepping half-running like a duck. He was holding two green mess tins in each hand. “Four teams of five on departure! Warlocks attacked the trailer with Gorshenya!” he shouted. “And those?” Rina stared at the tins. She treaded on his sore spot.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

161

Gosha grimaced as from a toothache. “Well, Supovna here… Ordered them brown-bag dinner. Indeed she was told!” he answered in a whine. Dry flashes of three-dimensional displacements sparkled by the HDive gates at the parking area. Leaving Gosha behind, Rina rushed there. Three teams had already teleported, the fourth was getting ready. Vovchik sat on the asphalt and, with the help of his teeth, was lacing his clms. “Where were you?” Vovchik asked Rina. “Your team in the meantime teleports short and backwards!” “Hdived? Well, hdive out of here!” Rina said, using the slang. She had learned to deal with Vovchik long ago. Nice, he did not understand, nasty, he did not understand, and it was all a riddle to Rina: how had he turned up in HDive? Perhaps the bee had mistaken him for somebody else? The bushes cracked. Ul broke through the brushwood from the stable. It was also possible along the lane, but Ul did not search for easy paths. A well-known proverb in his rendition would sound like this: the wise will not go up the hill, the wise rams the hill.45 Yara ran after him, dropping behind one half-step, noiseless and light. “Take me with you! I won’t bug anyone!” shouted Rina. Ul looked questioningly at Yara. She, after lingering, nodded. “Well, OK, go ahead! Hold my hand! Holy! Dang! Mentally, and then connect!” Three flashes flared up simultaneously, blinding Vovchik. Left behind, he got up and loaded his schnepper. “At least once someone should manage to crash!” he mumbled and, after touching the sirin with his nose, disappeared. When Rina was assembled again in space, the first thing that she saw was the road sign “Moscow 145.” The sign lay near her feet, wrenched out together with the post. The trailer stood on a meadow about fifty meters from the highway. The driver’s door was wide open. Prowling all around with schneppers were middle hdivers; among them Vovchik displayed zeal more than anyone. “Down!” he yelled, aiming carefully at the spare wheel. “Hands up!” The wheel was down but it did not have hands. Athanasius approached Ul. A blade of grass in his mouth. His look was dreamy. “Kaput!” he said. “What’s kaput?” “Neither warlocks nor Gorshenya! In one place, all the grass is trampled down. Found several cigarette butts and a broken off antenna from a hyeon electric shock.” “The driver of the trailer?” “Taken to the hospital. Fracture upon fracture. Someone had a real good time. He already came to in my presence. He said a red car cut him off. He stopped, leaned out, and remembers nothing more.” “Can’t you stop chewing the grass?” Ul asked. “Irritating? Just that I’m so nervous!” explained Athanasius. He spat out the blade of grass, but in five seconds, forgetting, he reached for a new one.
45

The well-known Russian proverb: the wise will not go up the hill, the wise goes around the hill. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

162

Yara climbed into the empty container. Straw lined the bottom. Crushed boxes scattered about to the edge. Yara walked between them, looking at something. She leaned down and picked up something. In her hand was a familiar leather shield with figures. “A clms! Fully charged!” she exclaimed. “Whose?” Yara brought the clms to the light and looked at the inner side of the skin, where a careful Kuzepych had added a last name, thoroughly rubbing out the old one. “Who’s Dudnik?” “Sashka!!!” Ul and Rina said simultaneously. “Gone over to the warlocks, the skunk!” Vovchik said through clenched teeth. Ul pushed his schnepper aside with two fingers. “Can you not aim at anyone you’re talking to, agent? Better ask Athanasius for a blade of grass! Also occupy the mouth at the same time!” Vovchik unwillingly lowered the schnepper. “Holy! Dang!” Ul continued, getting mad. “I’d sooner believe that Sashka is sitting inside Gorshenya and, trying to catch our attention, throwing out everything at hand. Well, anything else there?” Yara moved a crushed box to the side. “A boot.” “Again Sashka’s?” Rina nodded. The last doubts faded. Sashka was sitting inside Gorshenya and trying with all his might to communicate to them where he was. Now only how did he get there? Did he really try to free Gorshenya and instead turned up in its belly? Rina’s heart grew warm. Dear silly Sashka! Did he really climb into the hangar for her sake? Yara pushed the tinkling door and jumped down onto the grass. “Hey! Does anyone want to explain this here to me?” she shouted clearly. Ul ran up to her. Above, where one of the steel rods entered a groove, a good piece of metal was pulled out. “Oho!” he exclaimed joyfully. “There’s hope that our giant slipped away!” “How did you figure that?” Vovchik doubted. “Well, look… They started to open the doors and here Gorshenya hit from within. They removed the basic lock and these bolts could not hold it back. A struggle took place where the grass is trampled down. Gorshenya swept everyone away and dashed off to the forest.” “Why precisely to the forest?” “Because berserkers are combing the forest! Sometimes it’s useful to look not only under your feet but also over your head!” Ul quietly imparted. Far above the forest, barely distinguishable, a couple of hyeons were hanging around. Occasionally one or the other soared upward and, after circling, returned to its former place. “They’ve lost it somewhere. See, one marks the spot and the other tries to search? Gorshenya won’t be easy to find in the forest. It hides between two pine trees like we do in the taiga.” “But where can Gorshenya go?” “Where else? Only to HDive.”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

163

“Far to HDive?” Ul looked at Max. “A-about fifty k-kilometres,” Max stuttered. “Less,” Ul recalled the wrenched post. “Twenty… well, let it be twenty-five! And now everything depends on who will intercept Gorshenya first: the warlocks or us.” “Why do the warlocks want Gorshenya?” asked Yara. “I have no idea. But obviously they do if they decided to attack a neutral.” “The driver’s a f-former h-hdiver!” objected Max. Athanasius nodded agreement with the blade of grass. “Any former becomes a neutral. Earlier this rule was never violated… If it’s violated, there’ll be such an outcry…” Ul looked sideways at the highway, on which a whole chain of automobiles had lined up. “Come, Max! Look how many cars have gathered and all are staring!” Max climbed into the cab of the trailer. The keys remained in the ignition. The engine roared. The heavy vehicle, rocking, crawled out onto the highway and turned to HDive. *** Guy walked anxiously around the room, turning sharply by the walls. The secretary Arnaud followed him with his eyes, not letting go for a second, like a dog. At the same time, he did not move his head. Beldo, sighing like an old woman, calmly played solitaire. When something did not agree, he, squinting anxiously at Arnaud, cheated in haste, shifting the cards, and sighed yet again. There were commotion, hoarse shouts, and hyeons flapping their wings in the cages above. It was the time of evening feeding. Security moved apart. Till, panting and wiping his forehead with a hanky, squeezed into the room. In his hand was a black garbage bag, which he prudently placed on the edge of the rug. “What’s there?” asked Guy. “Heads,” Till answered with a good-natured, slightly guilty smile. “I ordered to execute one from each participating team. Just had to drive the van off, but they started to climb in to check if Gorshenya was in place! Then, of course, they shot, and then…” The impressionable old man Beldo reached for wet wipes and wiped his nose. “When will you stop apologizing with heads, Ingvar?” Guy asked gloomily. “It’s tiring! Find me Gorshenya!” Till obediently turned and left, preserving on his face that same minty, slightly breathless smile. “Forgot the bag!” Arnaud shouted after him. Till obediently returned for the bag. “We have a few hours left,” recalled Guy, watching at the window as Till put his foot in the car.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

164

Beldo rolled up the wipe precisely and with two fingers delicately placed it on the very edge of the table. “It’s them with a few hours left. We’ll intercept the queen bee or it’ll suffocate in the jug – is it so important?” he corrected him sweetly. Chapter 19 A Zigzag Flight Wisdom, if one looks at it, is nothing more than the sum of patiently filled bumps. From the diary of a non-returning hdiver They searched for six hours for Gorshenya but without any result. Twice the vanguards ran into warlocks, fired at them, and moved away. The warlocks shot in answer. Vovchik finally managed to “bang.” They also “banged” at him – near the end, his cheek was scratched by a shot from a schnepper. He walked around proudly and on the rights of an injured hero hung around all the girls, driving Oxa to white heat. Rina disappeared as early as before nightfall. She leaped over the fence, jumping backwards as usual. Reverse jumping gradually became her habit. Recently in Kopytovo, after deciding to take a short cut, she made several youths laugh. Indeed – they saw a girl dashingly climb up the concrete fence, and then for some reason she leaped back and froze with a dumbfounded look on finding herself where she was. “Gavr!” she shouted. “Gavr!” Gavr, yawning, came out from under the cab. It was always sleeping when it did not have to eat or fly. Hyeons do not have a dallying phase; they are always doing something specific. The dangling stirrups irritated Gavr and it growled at them. On the whole, however, it had time to become accustomed to the incomprehensible hump stuck to it like a leech. After sniffing Rina’s hand, Gavr found nothing edible and whimpered with bewilderment. Rina and food had so solidly fused in its consciousness that one without the other seemed wrong. After thinking it over, Gavr came to the conclusion that food was hidden and started sweetly dribbling acidic saliva and rolled on its back. Such grovelling could continue infinitely. “Stop! You must find Sashka! Smell this!” said Rina, shoving a boot under Gavr’s nose. Gavr backed off and Rina understood that she did this with too much zeal. Changing her mind, she took away the boot and used the clms instead. Gavr sniffed it curiously and lifted its mug interrogatively at Rina. “Find Sashka!” she repeated.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

165

This game was well known to Gavr. They had played this repeatedly: with Sashka it searched for Rina, and with Rina, Sashka. Right away Gavr poked its nose into the leaves and, sneezing from the ferrous smell of earthworms, with confidence headed in the direction of HDive. Rina understood what the matter was. The previous four times Sashka had hidden behind a felled tree, and sly Gavr decided not to exert itself particularly. Rina cut through the craftiness and pulled it by the saddle. Gavr’s withers were about to her waist. “No, won’t work! We have to fly! You heard me right: fly!” she said, frightened because she let it slip out. To fly on a hyeon, on which she had never taken off before! Of course Gavr is a friend, comrade, and brother, but what will prevent this friend, comrade, and brother from dropping her from the height of a ten-storey building, and then walking around and whimpering, at a loss why she does not want to play anymore? Another serious problem concerned the bridle. How to control it? Rina had to dash back to HDive to find an old bridle in the tack room. In about an hour, using pruners, a knife, an upholstery needle, and an awl, from an old bridle for a winged horse she made a bridle for a hyeon. She had to show wit, bordering on arrogance, because the belts did not fit, there were no holes in the necessary places, and a growling Gavr totally refused to take the snaffle in its mouth, which as a result had to be managed without altogether. Finally, using persuasion and kindness in equal portions with frozen fish, Rina managed to bridle the hyeon and struggle up onto the saddle. “Well, now fly!” she ordered in a voice insincere from stress and tossed one of the two remaining fishes up highly. Gavr scurried, pushed off with its hind legs, and caught the cod two metres off the ground. The unaccustomed weight overloaded it, but it managed and, chaotically flapping its wings, flew along the road. A branch bashed Rina on the forehead. She started to turn and immediately another branch gladly lashed her ear. Here Gavr again hit a young pine with its wings, almost catapulting her from the saddle. Rina understood that if she did not urgently force Gavr to climb up, she would be flattened against the trees. She pulled the reins, jerking up its snout. A winged horse would understand this as the command to fly up; however, Gavr was not a winged horse and interpreted this as an insolent intrusion into its personal space. It tumbled over a wing, flopped onto the meadow, and started to strip the bridle with its paws. Distracting its attention, Rina waved before its nose the last frozen fish. Gavr scurried after the fish and again took off. Their flight reminded Rina of the movement of a butterfly. Gavr took off, did several swift zigzags differing in height, collapsed onto the ground, worrying little about the quality of its landing, rested a second or two, and again took off. On average, if we count along a straight line, they moved about three hundred metres every time. Completely worn out by the bucking movements, Rina did not know where they were flying to. It seemed to her she was handcuffed to a swing and her brain
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

166

was being pumped out methodically. She dreamed of the wide secure saddle of a horse and its flat, safe flight. A winged horse and a young hyeon are not just two different things. The difference is approximately like rushing along a flat road on a touring motorcycle or being towed by a tractor when it goes over potholes. “Po-or wa-ar-lo-ocks! And they do this every d-a-ay!” galloping, Rina muttered. She perceived the complete folly of her venture. Instead of searching for Sashka, they were tearing along without any direction and only moving away from HDive. Rina already only wanted the shaking to end and that she could quietly die somewhere on the grass. During one of the leaps, the bridle causing such strong indignation in Gavr hooked onto a branch by the chinstrap. Gavr scurried, twisted its snout almost to its back, as only cats and hyeons can, and the torn-off bridle remained far behind. Nevertheless, Gavr got carried away in the air. Rina was knocked back, after being struck by the shoulder blades against the base of Gavr’s spine, and then sharply thrown forward. Trying to hold on, she wrapped her arms around Gavr’s neck and suddenly heard the hyeon’s thoughts. This so amazed her that, not understanding why, she even licked Gavr’s neck. The thoughts were sporadic, jumpy, dissimilar in structure to human. Not so much thoughts as images of endlessly flowing things strung on desires. If the desire was to eat, then strung on it were herring heads, bones, chicken giblets, deep rumbling, and, the pinnacle of anticipation of intense happiness, Supovna’s soiled apron appearing on the horizon next to Rina’s dark hdiver jacket. If it was the desire to play, then on it strung knots, on which it was so pleasant to drag and scratch the back, the wind smelling of orange and strawberries (they made shampoos in Kopytovo), a gnawed through rubber ball, and again Rina. Rina was Gavr’s most popular person. At any given moment, Gavr did not think about anything substantial, it only took off and fell, and still the girth was chafing its stomach, driving it crazy. Rina’s nose, still pressed against the hyeon’s neck, accidentally touched her clms. In the darkness, she saw the weak twinkling of the cheetah. The figure shone dimly, in outline. “The cheetah is for hearing the thoughts of animals and controlling them. For this we need contact of clms and skin!” Rina surmised. “Well, Gavr! Brake!” Gavr went down, but immediately pushed off with its legs, and they again dashed off to make loops. No matter how much Rina knocked on the cheetah, it was no use. “They don’t think like us… They have their own logic… It means, must also order according to this logic,” Rina grasped. She tried to catch the rhythm of Gavr’s thoughts. She caught up with the wave consisting of jumps, uneasiness, uncomfortable sensation from the girth, and began gradually to replace the images with others. A wind-fallen tree, under which one can hide; wings touching wet grass; the smell of rotten fish (the returned wave of hunger and desire almost knocked Rina off the saddle). Gavr began to have doubts. Now two waves were flowing in parallel: its own of jumps and the discomfort from the girth, and the other, Rina’s. Gradually the
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

167

second wave caught up with the first and covered it. The wing flaps became calmer. Gavr descended and sat down. After jumping off the saddle, Rina saw how Gavr was greedily sniffing the grass. It squinted at Rina with suspicion, sniffed, and dug in the ground. It had the same look as a tourist whose knapsack was stolen. “What’s this it’s after? Ah, looking for fish! Well, I’m simply an elbe temptress!” thought Rina. She was standing on a small hill, which was dimly flooded by moonlight. The highway flowed below like a dark river with flakes of little white houses sprinkled along the edges. Behind her was a sparse growth of trees cut through by numerous ravines. Neither Moscow nor HDive, nothing familiar. Gavr, rumbling, dug in succession the third foundation pit. Rina felt pride that she had created such a clear image to subdue the hyeon. Nearly an hour went by. Gavr, having dug up the entire field, had worn itself out and was lying with its snout lowered onto the loose soil. Occasionally it jumped as if hit by a current, rushed off somewhere, and an entire fountain of dirt flew from under its hind legs. “Oh! I got it! Fish under that bush! Well, now you won’t get away!” said its happy tail. Suddenly Gavr stopped digging and jerked up its stained snout. Its ears turned to the forest. Rina heard how it started to whimper in warning. Someone was walking along the ravine at the bottom, once in a while calling to someone. Male voices were distinctly audible. “Shh, kitsy! Scram!” Rina whispered and, touching Gavr’s neck with the cheetah, transmitted to it the necessary mental image. Something like a modest winged half-lion, sitting in the bushes and staring slyly from there. She herself went down onto the ground and quickly crawled to the brushwood separating the little hill from the ravine. Gavr crawled beside her, honestly pressing its belly on the grass and covering its nose with a paw. It seemed to it that it hid well. That the exposed humps of folded wings were capable of easily giving it away did not bother it a bit. Because of the thickness of the bushes, Rina lost sight of the ravine and remembered it only when she slipped downward on her chest. Wet soil began to shift down too. Rina found herself in the silliest position. Her boots were on the embankment, her knees, stomach, and head in the ravine. At the bottom of the ravine, spread out in a sparse chain, four berserkers were advancing. Rina only saw the two at the end. The older one was with a heavy arbalest. The buttstock of a rifle, a scope. A good piece: hits accurately without spread. With such, if one shoots from a support, one can land a bolt in a pack of cigarettes from a hundred metres. The other berserker was sinewy, with an axe on a long handle. This one moved like he was dancing. They were about seventy metres from Rina. Two others were only issuing sounds from an adjacent ravine. Rina squinted at Gavr. Stretching out its snout, it was noisily nibbling a burdock on a paw. Rina was glad that the berserkers had nothing edible with them: Gavr would have enough smarts to start begging. She tried to touch its
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

168

neck with the clms, but the hyeon had settled too far. Move carelessly and one would roll down along the sandy embankment to a berserker’s feet. Understanding this, Gavr insolently sat on the embankment. It sat and scratched its dirty stomach with a paw. It yawned. Five more seconds and it would have to be blind not to see her. Rina, hissing, half rose and threw a lump of soil. It fell on a wing, where the tender bones caught in the fork of the leathery film cut by blood-making veins. Gavr cautiously sniffed the lump of earth and, baring sharp teeth, withdrew into the bushes: it was offended. The berserkers were discussing very close by. Only the darkness and that she was higher along the slope saved Rina. On seeing a convenient rock, the berserker with the arbalest sat down on it, stretching out his legs. His young companion stopped unwillingly, toying with the hatchet. Rather pale, active, with a small restless face. Such a one would not even be able to sit quietly on a stool and, continuously twisting and turning, would screw himself into it. “Gamov saw the freak somewhere here. While he was descending, it disappeared.” The berserker with the arbalest shoved a hand into a bag. “I brought along a couple of bolts with explosive tips. Fragments of this freak will pack the entire forest.” They whistled questioningly from the adjacent ravine. The berserker also answered with a whistle. He leaned down and, after spitting on the grass, wiped mud off a boot. “How this Gamov takes care of his hyeon! A psyose maniac! Indeed it’s attached to him! Never thought that hyeons can become attached to someone.” “Gamov isn’t a psyose maniac. I know him well,” objected the young one. “How not? He earns a lot!” “True. I don’t know what he does with his psyose, but definitely doesn’t spend it on pleasure.” “All the more a nutcase. In my opinion, you get, so use immediately. One of the fellows that Till beheaded today also left tonnes of psyose. Stingy all the time! What’s the point?” the berserker with the arbalest said, getting annoyed. An impatient whistle was heard again. The berserker got up unwillingly. “Yes, I’m coming, I’m coming! Annoying! Just can’t wait!” he said unhappily. Eyeing his back, Rina let air out through her nose. She was keeping two large lumps of soil in her hands. A third was held down with her chin. It just started rolling when she began to crawl carefully back. There was no Gavr in the bushes. “Gavr!” she hailed in a whisper. “Are you still mad?” No one answered. Rina began to search. Here was a broken branch, here was flattened grass, and here illegible tracks of claws marked the ground. Gavr had lain here. Then it got up and dragged itself off somewhere. Further, the tracks disappeared. Rina was afraid that Gavr had flown away. Where to search for it now? She was choking with horror and immediately rejected this probability as terrifying and blind. No, we will consider that Gavr is here. For half a kilometre, the night fog was mixed with the smell of smoke. Then Rina also saw the campfire, lying lower than the fog and connected to it by a
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

169

smoky pointer. So, the warlocks had gone off to the potato field, found no one, and set up camp. “Gavr!” she shouted more loudly. This time it seemed to Rina that she heard something. She broke into a run in the fog, bumped into a scattering of stones and, after jumping out onto flat ground, suddenly saw Gavr. It was sitting on its hind legs and, wings stretched out, examining a thick forked stick jutting out of the bushes. Something about this stick it actively did not like, because it leaned its head first to the right, then to the left, and started a deep rumble. “What, now we’re afraid of any stump?” Rina nudged the stick with a foot. The following second she was dangling with her head down and contemplating an open mouth and two amber buttons. The moon was reflected in the holes in the buttons for threads. “I am Gorshenya, clay head, hungry belly! I like you! I eat you!” It was not possible to dawdle. The huge mouth was settling back even further. Here the mean Gavr even approached and began to sniff her face, making use of the fact that there was nothing for her to kick it with. “How will you prove that you are Gorshenya?” Rina blurted out. The thrown-back mouth moved in the opposite direction. It was noticed that earlier the giant did not think about proofs. “I am Gorshenya!” “It’s I who is Gorshenya, and there can’t be two Gorshenyas!” Rina continued to push the thought. Logic was limping on all prostheses, but the giant’s mouth was no longer open. Gorshenya thought, and its thought was grave, distressing, and mysterious like itself. Suddenly the giant let go of her. Rina had time to put her arms out. She rolled a little along the grass. The giant sat on the grass propping up its head with its hands. “You are Gorshenya! Who am I?” he asked with melancholy. Rina checked if her neck was whole. The neck was in one piece but turned only in one direction. “I’ll think about it,” she promised. Chapter 20 The Hill at Kopytovo Rays come off the sun and radiate in different directions. The moment comes when the rays are millions of kilometres apart; they are forever strangers to each other and any contact between them is impossible. The only thing that a ray needs to stop from being lonely is to return to the sun. From the diary of a non-returning hdiver

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

170

“Well, come here!” Rina said severely. She threw open the sheepskin coat and stuck an ear to Gorshenya’s belly. This was not clay but a solid copper cauldron of impressive size. “Who do we have there: boy or girl?” “No one,” answered the giant sadly. “So did you eat Sashka or not?” Gorshenya began to recollect. It had also eaten many at different times. “Always turns. Kicks.” “Spit him out now!” “Not-Gorshenya not supposed to!” the giant said obstinately. Rina began to drum on the copper cauldron. “Yes, you’re Gorshenya, Gorshenya! Hey, Sashka! You here?” “Almost…” a voice confirmed, however, not from the cauldron but from the opposite direction. Sashka was lying on a pile of leaves behind two large rocks. His face was happy. It is pleasant to watch as they search for you. “Kicks, butts, does not agree with Gorshenya. Ate, sit, do not come out!” complaining, the giant started muttering. Rina rushed to Sashka, but, not having reached him, stopped, realizing that she had almost thrown herself onto his neck. She reached out for her clms to communicate with Kavaleria to say that she had found Gorshenya, but recollected suddenly that her centaur was discharged. She was searching in the morning in the stable for Yara, who turned out to be – mockery of nature! – in the next stall. Mamasia called this “psycho-syndrome” – always searching for friends and relatives on the phone when they open the door with a key. “Not a bad place! A recess, and surrounded by bushes. And the fog line is low. Can light a smokeless fire, berserkers won’t notice,” said Sashka. “Are you going to stay here till morning?” “Me, no. But it seems it’s not against it,” Sashka nodded at Gorshenya. That one had settled five steps from them. It was muttering something and looking at the stars. After moving about in place, Gavr trampled down a grassy spot and settled down next to Gorshenya. Gorshenya put a three-fingered hand on its back. Gavr began to growl and moved aside, showing strong teeth in a rim of dark gums. “They like each other. It doesn’t even believe that Gorshenya once swallowed it,” said Rina. “It also swallowed me,” Sashka reminded her. Gorshenya sat restlessly. It moved its head, got up, and sat down again. The night was cold. They warmed their hands by a small fire. Already towards one in the morning, a frozen Rina realized that she would not mind being swallowed by Gorshenya. “We would light a fire inside it and it would release smoke through the nose!” she proposed. “Cool, but I’d rather watch on the outside,” Sashka declined. Rina took out the sandwiches she brought. The ham had started to spoil, which Gavr liked but not Sashka. “In which cemetery did you dig this up?” he asked Rina.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

171

“You don’t like it, don’t eat!” Rina was indignant, trying to take the bag away from him. “I didn’t say that!” Sashka said in a hurry, sniffing out for himself a sandwich with cheese. The scorched kasha was reflected in Marquis du Grätz’s passionate eyes. “And I considered you perfection, my dear!” he said in a velvety voice with spurs ringing in it. “You don’t like it, go to a tavern!” Louisa suggested. Marquis du Grätz’s gaze slid along the desert stretching out for a ten-day journey. The night sand sparkled with jackal eyes. The jackals were finishing the fallen horse. “Perhaps I’ll still continue to consider you perfection!” the terrible person said with a sigh and picked up the spoon again. Rina wanted to write this down. At least on her palm, but there was nothing to write with. Thoughts are like birds. If a bird sits on your hand, grab it fast, because it will flutter away and it is unclear if it will return. Sashka started to show Rina how to drink whirling tea. “You twirl, wait for the liquid to gain speed and…” Sashka lifted the bottom of the flask too high and coughed spasmodically. Rina had to jump up and slap the hero on the back. Although Sashka was being goofy, all the same it was done for her. Any folly performed for love becomes a plus, if it does not become habitual. Rina carefully lowered her head onto Sashka’s shoulder. This way at least one ear was warm. And her feet too, which she almost shoved into the fire. “Whom do you live with, Sashka? With parents?” she asked. “With father.” “And mama?” “Cancer,” Sashka answered sullenly. The question about mother was posed to him regularly, and he could visualize very well the entire sequence. When you say, “she died,” they begin to sigh without fail, throw up their front extremities, and feel sympathy, and then without fail, after an appropriately polite pause, “What did she die of?” But if you immediately say “cancer,” you can bypass all the painful steps. Rina lifted her head. “My mama also…” she suddenly said. “Also what? Died?” Sashka was surprised. Rina remembered Mamasia and was surprised at herself. “Who, Mamasia? You what, sick?” she asked, abruptly pushing him away. “Of course not… You yourself… never mind,” Sashka was confused. He looked at the small fire and fed it the dry ends of fir branches, which did not emit any smoke. He thought about the berserkers keeping warm now by another campfire, about hdivers. Gavr placed its snout on his knee. The snout was heavy. Sashka tried to push it off, but Gavr bared its teeth. It only allowed Rina to touch it. Well this, it goes without saying, was along the lines of “the presence of the absence of the availability of something to devour,” Ul had specified.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

172

“Obtrusive service without the right of refusal,” said Rina. Sashka nodded, yielding his knee to Gavr. “I’m putting together an entire system here. Remember the swamp?” Rina said nothing. “They fouled up their world. Duoka is closed. Can only break through to us. But in order to operate here, they need bodies. They can’t take them by force. They can either incorporate an elbe or gradually feed it psyose and use the body as a manipulator in a medium hostile to them. The more psyose the body takes in, the higher the degree of control. The problem is that a body burnt out by psyose perishes contentedly. Then they switch over to a new one, but again the same, this is the uneconomical way of consumption of resources. Therefore the most valuable warlocks – well, Beldo there, Guy – the elbes protect.” Sashka talked clearly and logically. Obviously, to him the system was fully formed. “How do they protect?” “Well, neither incorporate elbes in them nor feed them psyose. There’s another channel of control, longer lasting.” “Through those bandaged dwarfs, which you described?” “Well, yes. Maybe there are also germinated elbes? Those that will populate our world?” Rina listened to him and wiggled her toes. The toes moved but the tips of the thick boots remained stationary. Gorshenya saw a sleepy fly woken up by the heat of the campfire and, suddenly pushing its arm out, tried to kill it. This interested Sashka. He began to experiment. He waited until a fly sat down somewhere and shouted, “fly!” Gorshenya immediately delivered a powerful hit. The fly always flew away, but Gorshenya hammered the stone into the ground to the depth of a finger. “Quieter! The berserkers will hear us!” said Rina. “Not far from the road here. And noisy even without it,” said Sashka, who did not want to be interrupted. Suddenly Gorshenya straightened, shuddered, and, as if a clock spring in it had snapped into action, began to walk away from the highway. Rina and Sashka rushed after it, trying to stop it. Gorshenya was walking straight to the distant campfire of the berserkers. Gorshenya moved as if wound up. When, moving its legs like a pair of compasses, it got down into the crumbling ravine, it seemed that any minute now the giant would fall, but only Sashka and Rina fell and rolled down. “Where’s it going?” shouted Sashka. Rina recalled the hdiver compass, which Platosha gave her. She took it out. The piece of bark on the thread was slanted to the West. Gorshenya was also walking that way. “To HDive,” she said. Gorshenya was unstoppable. It was goose-stepping as if on a thread, refusing to deviate from the course. It went off to the clearing at the edge of which, in the forest, a campfire cracked and it went through it. A seventeenth-century ceremonial poleaxe stuck out of the stump of a recently felled fir. Berserkers valued a good weapon.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

173

Three berserkers were asleep on fir twigs. One was sitting with his back to them and quietly playing a harmonica. He was exactly between Rina and the fire and therefore it seemed that the flame surrounded him. Rina even froze for a second; the sad sounds originated from breathing were so strange. Gorshenya’s unsteady shadow jumped on the forest wall. It crossed the clearing. It only had a little bit more to go in order to hide when the berserker sensed something and turned around. Rina heard a shout and flew into the forest after Gorshenya. Gavr rushed somewhere in front, agile and quick. It folded up its wings and only occasionally caught the bushes with them. Once in a while, in open places, it even managed to glide. Shouts of berserkers and a whistle caught up with them. Very near, hyeons screamed in the fog. Gavr lifted its head on the run but did not hurry to answer: it still had not forgotten how everything had ended last time. One of the berserkers fired a signal flare. A red sphere shot up from the forest, hung in the fog, and began to come down slowly. In the light of the rocket, Rina saw two figures bending down, rushing in their direction. Attempting to determine whether the warlocks saw them, Rina did not notice the rotted tree trunk, so soft and overgrown with moss that it was possible to crumble it by hand. A speeding foot went into the trunk while the body continued to fly forward… Half stunned, Rina fell down into the ditch from the roots, deep and long like an entrenchment. Sashka jumped in after her, and Gavr, for which this was a fun game, after Sashka. Gorshenya unwillingly returned and settled on them like a broody hen, completely covering the pit. Its huge paw deftly lifted out a layer of moss and threw it on the sheepskin coat. In a second, they were not there. After approximately a minute, warlock voices rolled by somewhere very close and bore more to the right. Then they returned. Rina understood that the berserkers, spreading out, were searching for them all over the area. Again strange hyeons screamed in the sky… This stretched out for a long, very long time until finally the berserkers moved to the highway. Rina was lying on the very bottom. Somewhere on her legs, Sashka was huffing and puffing. She felt either his cheek or his sharp chin. The hyeon was shifting its feet on her back. It persistently smelled of Garv in the pit. Occasionally a slippery tongue passed like a broom over her cheekbone. “Get off me!” Rina hissed and, with the threat of being scratched by its poisonous teeth, butted its forehead. Gavr obeyed. “Merci,” Sashka said sadly. “For what?” “It’s on me!” Finally, Gorshenya got up, shook off the moss, and began to walk like a mechanical toy, a known course holding onto him. Gavr rushed lightly and willingly after Gorshenya. It was behaving like a dog: first it ran in front, then returned and began to get under foot. To it, the game was still continuing.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

174

Rina first walked, then ran, otherwise it was impossible to catch up with Gorshenya. Any wind-fallen trees, which Gorshenya, playing, stepped over with its compass legs, she and Sashka had to either go around or climb over. They went on. And on. And on again. Rina was not thinking whether they had gone far or not, and how much more they still had to go. She already feared no one and desired nothing. Occasionally she understood that Sashka took her hand and helped her to get up. “Someone please shoot me!” she begged. “My schnepper is in HDive,” answered Sashka. His voice was hoarse. He was also tired. Trying to keep up with Gavr, Rina rolled down from the little hill and dashed into the tall growth of reeds. Only when it started to chomp under foot and icy water poured into her boots that she understood it would be better to keep further away from the reeds. Nevertheless, she climbed out onto the other shore of the swampy stream, but her legs had become mud posts. The forest thinned out. They began to come across structures: a cow shed with boarded-up windows and a collapsed roof, the yellow booth of a substation, a newspaper kiosk – it had likely been dragged into the forest by a tractor. Tracks of it being dragged remained on the ground. Then the forest disappeared altogether. Now they were going along a gently sloping hill, which, gradually picking up, became higher all the time. Gorshenya’s back was swinging in front like a pendulum. Rina wanted to throw something at it. She already hated it. In the middle of the hill rain caught up with them. Still from a distance, Rina saw how it was rolling up to them. The rain moved like an army, with pacesetters. At first a light infantry of sprays, long-distant archers after that, soundless lightning, and further, the armoured array of troops of a heavy fall shower. The streams were skew, dense. Here the rain reached the foot of the hill, bent the bush down to the ground, caught up with Gavr taking off and began to drum on the stretched skin of its wings. Gavr, surprised, somersaulted in the air, and, clicking its teeth, started to hiss with a threat. Its lower teeth gleamed. “Only try, I’ll tear you apart!” it said with its whole appearance. And the rain did. Stunned by the thunder, severely lashed by the wind, Gavr, whimpering, rolled from the hill. Lifting up his face, Sashka swallowed raindrops. They were flowing along his neck from the edge of his mouth. “Drink! The wind is strong. Soon there won’t be rain. Will blow it off,” he said. True: soon the rain began to weaken. The drops lost strength and became guilty like drunken tears. All the time Gorshenya was stepping. From the side it resembled a large sponge. The sheepskin coat became limp with water. Water even gurgled in its belly. Sashka estimated that it was leaking somewhere up top. Perhaps through the slightly-opened mouth?

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

175

“Dawn!” Sashka indicated where beyond the forest the young sun was discernable in the thick fog. Clouds rushed to it from all sides, exactly like grey blankets. Gorshenya also noticed the sun. It turned its head slowly and looked at it with distrust. As if it doubted whether it was the sun in front. But this was definitely the sun. Gorshenya walked up the hill and stopped. This happened so unexpectedly that Rina, who had been dragging her legs for some time like they were prostheses, bumped into it. “We’ve arrived!” exclaimed Rina. Below, the red water-pump station of Kopytovo, very recognizable because next to it a high pipe stuck out like its loyal guard, was visible. Here was also the soccer field. Under them lay Kopytovo, familiar to the last fence. “About four kilometres to HDive,” said Sashka. Gorshenya, turning clumsily, pulled the sheepskin coat off itself. It turned out to be absurd and ungainly under the sheepskin coat. The huge cauldron of a stomach. One more pot, the chest, without a bottom, and a clay head, settled back, topped everything. Gorshenya noticed no one and nothing: neither Rina nor Sashka nor Gavr, who was twirling next to it and having pushed its snout far inside a sleeve of the sheepskin coat, was trying to rid itself of it. It twisted its head and the sheepskin coat twisted together with it, hitting it with the second sleeve. “Clay head, hungry belly has arrived!” Gorshenya said with unspeakable seriousness. With arms up, it seized its head (earlier the tight sheepskin coat prevented it from raising its arms up high) and, before Rina and Sashka figured out what it intended to do, pulled it off itself. It stood with its head in its hands, and it stared goggle-eyed at them with the buttons. “Gorshenya did not have time for HDive! Already dawn! Gorshenya will do everything here,” said the head. Rina screamed. Only Gavr treated what happened as natural. It looked sideways at Gorshenya and continued to sneak up to the sheepskin coat. The sheepskin coat lay, did not stir, and seemed extremely suspicious to Gavr. Gorshenya’s mouth was opened to the limit. The giant stuck its fingers into the clay pot and began to fumble inside, above the eyes, in the upper part of the head. Its movements were unusually careful. Sashka noticed that the pot was bigger on the outside than from within. This meant that the head had a false bottom and the space there was empty. Gorshenya took a finger and picked along the pot from within. It turned out to have a false bottom. Carefully, very carefully, Gorshenya extracted fragments and something else from the head. This turned out to be a dry honeycomb that had lost its shape. After dropping them onto its palm, Gorshenya began to sort out the honeycomb, glancing into each cell. Honey was still preserved in some. It was hard for Gorshenya to work blindly. Therefore, pausing for a second, it thrust its head at Sashka, who, understanding what the giant wanted, turned the heavy clay pot with the buttons towards the honeycomb.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

176

Now Gorshenya was working like a surgeon. Incomprehensible how its huge fingers, pulling out young trees easily, could be so delicate. In one of the central cells, a black-headed insect sat and twitched its antennae. When Gorshenya’s finger touched it accidentally, it moved capriciously, slowly let out its wings with effort, and crawled out onto Gorshenya’s palm. Rina saw the golden taut sides covered in honey. “You don’t think it’s …” losing his head, Sashka started to talk. Rina covered up his mouth with a hand. Gorshenya jammed on its head with an air of importance. It was beaming, to whatever extent a clay being whose face expressing nothing can beam, and its mouth was similar to an enormous trap. Gavr marked the windfall in its own way. It jumped on the sheepskin coat, bit it, hit it with a paw, and bounced off. It lay down and, very contented, waited until the coat died from the poison. Chapter 21 The New Mistress of the Beehive Any pleasure contains punishment in itself. If pleasure – any, the most desired – could continue infinitely, it undoubtedly would become torture. If so, then maybe hell is also this bundle of all false pleasures, with which there was no more sense in disguising itself? From the diary of a non-returning hdiver The queen bee sat for a long time on Gorshenya’s hand. It cleaned itself. Then it began to move its wings, at the same time without tearing itself away from its palm. “Warming itself. It’s cold,” Sashka declared and proposed to warm up the bee with a cigarette lighter. Rina with suspicion looked sideways at him. One could never be sure about Sashka whether he was talking seriously or joking. After waiting until the sun had climbed higher, the queen with explicit pleasure crawled up along a finger and stood still, catching the rays with greediness. Then it flew to Gorshenya’s head and crawled along its forehead, along the long crack above the right eye. There still remained the smell of comb honey. “Look! A hyeon there!” Sashka suddenly said. Rina lifted her head. Double semicircles – the way children draw seagulls – hung motionlessly above the water-pump station of Kopytovo. “Not a hyeon. A winged horse!” “How can you tell?” “A hyeon fidgets all the time. It doesn’t like gliding for long. And the wings are different.”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

177

The winged horse coasted above Kopytovo and slowly began to move away. Rina shouted, jumped on the little hill, waved her arms, and tried to force Gorshenya – it would be more noticeable – to make itself noticed. But Gorshenya stood like an idol: grand, pot-bellied, even did not raise its arms, all the time looking with its slapped-on head at the bee. “You jump! Do something!” Rina yelled at Sashka. He began to jump, but somehow without enthusiasm. Rina, demanding him to be a more persuasive bunny, remained dissatisfied. She remembered Gavr and began to nudge it, pointing at the winged horse, “Front! No, not front, but… in short… bad kitty! Hmm-hmm!” Gavr looked at her politely. Then stuck out its tongue and sympathetically licked Rina’s forehead. “It’s checking if there’s fever,” said Sashka. “And you jump, bunny, jump!” snapped Rina. She flung herself into the saddle, tightened the girths (during the night Gavr’s sides had sunk in perceptibly), and touched Gavr’s neck with the cheetah. Now everything must be shifted into images: she imagined the sky, a winged horse, and, obeying inspiration, added a bag of slightly spoilt mackerels into the saddle of the winged horse. After this intellectual pumping, spurs were not needed on Gavr. Dropping saliva, it took off and sped to the winged horse. Rina did not expect such speed from it. She had to bend down so that she would not be blown off by the wind. Moreover, she had not yet put her feet into the stirrups and now perceived herself as a very temporary occurrence in the saddle. Guided by instinct, Gavr chose an exceptionally reliable tactic – from below, from the direction of the hind hooves – for approaching the winged horse. A better approach would only be on top, from the clouds. In the beginning the winged horse left them far behind, but then it made a U-turn on a sighting circle, and Rina was able to shorten the distance. Because she was approaching from below, Rina could not make out who was in the saddle. She even did not immediately recognize the horse. At first, she decided that this was Kavaleria on Caesar, then Arap and Oxa, and only identified Brute near the end by the powerful bay rump and the dramatically expanding wings. On its back was the dashing overgrown girl Darning with a beer. The bottle was a two-litre, and poor Darning, having bought it for economic considerations, was now grappling with greediness and could not decide whether to throw it away or take it to HDive. Darning herself noticed Rina only when Gavr was beside her. She abruptly turned around in the saddle, dropping the bottle. A small schnepper with a silvery arc was aimed at Rina’s forehead. “Hey, it’s me! Don’t shoot!” Rina shouted. Darning spat and lowered the schnepper. Rina experienced relief but then Gavr noticed the bay stallion. It sneered, yelped, and started to turn around, scooping with its right wing. Rina understood that what happened with Brute was originally built into its name.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

178

Rina had gotten used to winged horses fleeing from hyeons, but here it was strictly the other way around. Foam from the stallion’s mouth flew onto Rina’s jacket. She got a blurry strike by a wing. Teeth clicked next to her head, miraculously not taking off a piece of her scalp. Gavr, in a flash transforming from predator to victim, squealed and saved itself only by sharp lunges from side to side. Rina pressed herself to the hyeon’s back, squeezed the saddle with her knees. “Paddle out of here, kid! I’ll pull the tentacles off! I’ll skin you!” Rina heard. Darning settled back in the saddle, pulled the rein, and struck the stallion with the whip. Useless. Only near the ground did she succeed in turning Brute to HDive. The whimpering Gavr hurried to hide in the hole between the soccer field fence and the garages. Darning, aiming higher, took a pot shot at it with the schnepper and sped away to HDive. “Call Kavaleria! Tell her we found Gorshenya!” Rina shouted belatedly. “Ah-h! Well, die, dummy! I’ll bite the ears off! Jellied hooves!” reached her from a distance. “Gorshenya!” Rina shouted again. It was important for her to imprint something on Darning’s consciousness at least. When she stops raging, she will remember. Demonstrating the miracle of tenacity, Darning landed the fidgeting stallion on the central street of Kopytovo, empty in this early hour, and swept past along it from end to end. Brute bounced and tried to take off. Local dogs hid with a quiet howl under the kiosks. On the enraged stallion, Darning jumped to the place known among the locals as “mushroom.” An entire group of Kopytovo winos was forever shocked, when right on them in a cloud of dust jumped a sneering winged stallion with red eyes, ears pressed down, and a cursing girl on its back. It bruised the chest of the impervious and indestructible Uncle Tolya, having already sustained five concussions and two flights to prison; knocked down with outstretched wings the boozing migrant workers Mike and Gene; tore up with its teeth the bag of the former chess player Boris, better known as Knot; and sped away into the unknown. The bruised Uncle Tolya got up from the sand, scratched his tattooed chest, spat, recalled mama for the sake of appearance, and informed everyone surrounding him, “Holy moly! That’s it, fellas! Time to ditch the champagne!” The surrounding ones listened to him, despondently heeding the voice of reason. Rina dragged a trembling Gavr out from behind the garages and returned to Sashka on the hill. He was sitting next to Gorshenya, and four eyes were looking at the bee crawling along the grass. Rina, recovering her breath, joined them. The queen bee ran up along Gorshenya’s leg to its knee and, after taking off with difficulty, quickly gained altitude. “It’ll get lost! It won’t find the hive!” shouted Rina. “Another will show it!” said Sashka. “What other?” On looking closely, Rina was convinced that, true, there were two dots. The large one was flying and the small one accompanying.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

179

“My bee,” said Sashka with pride. “It cleaned it for about twenty minutes. And all the time on Gorshenya’s forehead. It could barely keep its eyes open from tender emotion.” The dashing girl Darning nevertheless carried out the assignment. Moreover, most likely through the centaur, because otherwise she would have to breathe on Kavaleria. The director of HDive appeared after ten minutes. Without saddle, on Bunt. How she had forced it to take off remained a secret also to Bunt. Depressed by coerced diligence, Bunt pretended to be thoroughly sick. Still not having decided until the end exactly what illness to simulate, it limped slightly either with the right wing or the left, arranging dying dances in the air. On reaching the hill, Kavaleria jumped from Bunt. She went to them with a decisive step, but Rina suddenly realized that she did not notice the puddles. She saw only Gorshenya. Gorshenya jumped up and turned its back to her. “You are nasty! Gorshenya will not eat you!” it threatened. Kavaleria stopped. “I’ll try to survive this,” she said, making enormous efforts not to be pleased. Rina saw how the corners of her lips stretched. However, Rina already firmly knew what would make her smile. “Gorshenya let out the queen bee!” she said. A hand began to pat a pocket blindly in search of the glasses. “What? What delirium is this?” Kavaleria answered absent-mindedly. “The queen bee, which Mityai Zheltoglazyi hid. It was in Gorshenya’s head!” Rina continued persistently. After hearing about Mityai, Kavaleria raised worried eyes to Rina. “Mityai? Queen bee? You’re confusing something! Mityai disappeared three hundred years ago. He certainly dived to the second ridge, but…” Rina silently pointed a finger at her feet. Kavaleria got down on her knees and began to examine the fragments of the internal partition of the pot. She picked it up and carefully licked it. “Similar to honey! But indeed this proves nothing!” she said in the obstinate voice of a person who categorically refuses to be happy. A vague sound was heard nearby. Kavaleria lifted up her head. The rumble became louder. Surrounded by a weak radiance, the queen bee flew around the lonely growing tree. It was impossible to confuse this with a worker bee: it was larger, stronger, it was queen after all. The queen bee brushed against the rowan branches, knocking down a rain of tears, and, having gotten wet, it grew heavy and came down abruptly. It touched Sashka’s hair and he felt a muscular might quite unlike that of a bee. It again took off and, getting accustomed, made several circles around Rina. Rina stretched out a hand. The queen bee did not quite sit down on her palm. It descended onto her wrist, made several turns, and unwillingly climbed into her sleeve. At the same time, it behaved independently, like a lenient queen. “Don’t by any chance think that you’re doing me a favour! In fact quite the opposite!” it informed with its whole appearance.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

180

Kavaleria stood beside her and watched. She had grown quiet, unrecognizably quiet. “Well now, it’s… Your bee!” she said. “Are you serious? Yes, no, of course! It’ll now fly away and want to live in the beehive altogether,” Rina said hoarsely. “All bees live in the hive!” Kavaleria said in the tone of a person who stamps a document. “A bee flies to its host on three occasions: when it has to call him into HDive, in key moments of his life, or…” “…when it was mistaken in the person and it must die,” guessing, Rina finished. “Only in your version this would indicate the loss of all bees of HDive. I doubt that Mityai still has queen bees stashed,” said Kavaleria. She looked intently at Rina, pensively nibbling a temple of her glasses. Rina became uneasy. She did not feel herself worthy of such a bee. “Well then, perhaps it’s not necessary at all…” Rina began carefully. Kavaleria shook her head. “Necessary or not… Can’t separate you. The selection of a bee is always final. Not possible to explain it, only must take it into consideration.” The queen bee was already tickling Rina in the region of her elbow. Then it turned and crawled out of the sleeve. The tour of Rina was complete. Sashka stretched out a hand. He was interested whether the queen bee would touch him at least in passing. However, he did not manage to clarify this. “Don’t touch!” someone yelled. Someone jumped Sashka from behind. He decided that this was a berserker tracking them. He jerked his shoulder, freeing his right arm. He was unable to strike immediately and even had to hit blindly, into the whitish spot jumping in front of him, and they were already rolling on the grass. The spot collapsed somewhere. Sashka got up, surprised at how easily this victory came to him. On the grass, arms outstretched, lay Vityara. In the unzipped hdiver jacket, big-eared, absurd, he resembled the baby elephant from the cartoon. “He rushed at me first,” said Sashka guilty. “This I saw! But don’t understand why,” Kavaleria admitted. “But then I do… I told Vityara that you ruined the hive, killed the first queen, and want to kill the second. Vityara has been following you for a very long time. The nice boy wanted to save the bee,” someone mockingly explained. Platosha was standing by the rowan. He held a schnepper in his left half-bent arm. In the right, lowered for the time being, was a heavy double-charged arbalest with bolts placed vertically. Platosha leaned a shoulder on the rowan. Evidently, he had been standing here for a long time and had heard everything. Kavaleria interrogatively looked sideways at the arbalest. “They didn’t ruin the hive,” she said. “I know,” answered Platosha. “How?” “Because I did. And I poisoned the queen bee. But now I’m going to take apart the new one. After this, I’ll leave you, and you’ll see me no more,” said Platosha with a challenge.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

181

Gorshenya was hanging around next to him, throwing up its arms, turning its head, but Platosha did not pay it any attention. Such courage surprised Sashka. “It won’t do anything to me…,” Platosha explained, guessing his thought. “It’s dangerous only for the warlocks, and I’m still a hdiver. This big guy didn’t even eat me at the hive, when I blew it away. Mityai Zheltoglazyi made it harmless… It only eats those it loves! Hey you, shoo!” Gorshenya moved aside. Rina squatted down by the lying Vityara. She raised his head. “What a fool I was to suspect him! Should have guessed! Gorshenya kept repeating, ‘hungry belly will not eat!’ But then swallowed Vityara!” she said. “By the way, thanks for taking the compass and separate thanks for going up the hill. There was a radio beacon in the lid,” Platosha barked. “Unfortunately, it works rather poorly. Until you climbed up the hill, I couldn’t catch a signal.” Kavaleria looked without break at Platosha. There was no hatred in her look. Only infinite regret and pity. Unable to bear this pity, Platosha pushed a cone with his foot. It jumped and stopped six steps from him and one-and-a-half steps from Kavaleria. “A boundary not to cross! Else…!” he brandished the schnepper. “Why?” repeated Kavaleria. Platosha licked his lips. “Why so important to know? Curiosity torturing?” “Yes,” said Kavaleria. “All right: psyose! I was introduced to a girl from Beldo’s fort. In a hole by Kievskaya, where there’s the drain to the river. The warlocks have some temple there. She jumped out at me with a schnepper.” “She didn’t shoot you?” “As you can see, no,” said Platosha. “We saw each other for three months. Then she died and I got hooked. But I only wanted to help so that she would get less…” “Did it ever occur to you that you could bring the girl to us?” Kavaleria asked softly. “She couldn’t get into HDive!” Platosha objected in a hurry. Kavaleria took off her glasses and blew on them, as if she did not rule out that this Platosha, whom she had known till now, was an optical illusion. “No comments. Even for a person who wants very much to deceive himself, the argument is weak. I could also meet her in the city,” she said. “She didn’t want to! She despised all hdivers!” shouted Platosha. “Well. It means she was close to Dionysus Beldo,” Kavaleria remarked. “Beldo? She couldn’t stand him! Called him a narcissistic skunk!” “A complex case. Despised some, couldn’t stand others. Nevertheless, note that she chose the word ‘skunk’. Action is always more important than words. A person is capable of yelling for two hours and helps. Or lisping for two years and betrays.” Platosha shuddered. He stood, lowering his head. It seemed he had forgotten about the schnepper and the arbalest. But Sashka sensed that his forgetfulness was deceptive. Sashka estimated the distance between them to be eight steps. Too far to leap. He used any of Platosha’s relaxing of attention to move unnoticeably.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

182

Sashka’s golden bee was twirling above Platosha but did not land on him. “Land on him!” Sashka mentally begged it. “At least for a second, please!” Interesting, does a bee hear thoughts? Indeed it is his bee! “And, it goes without saying, now you console yourself that you have had a beautiful tragic love,” continued Kavaleria. “Don’t! Please stop!” whispered Rina. She saw how Platosha’s face became aloof. Only the finger became white on the cock of the schnepper. “But I won’t keep quiet! It always irritates me when people take abominable actions and feel righteous about it!” Kavaleria continued energetically. “You had three months. In these three months you not only did not help her, but also slipped into it yourself!” “I loved her!” Platosha obstinately repeated. “You loved no one! When she died, you lost the channel to free psyose and immediately dashed off to beg Guy… This is what you loved in reality!” With the same aloof face, even without moving an eyelid, Platosha shot from the single-round schnepper. The steel ball slid along Kavaleria’s hair. She touched her hair in a preoccupied manner. “Don’t embarrass yourself making excuses! You did everything possible so as not to get caught,” she remarked. Platosha threw away the discharged schnepper and got a better grip of the arbalest with his freed hand. “It was a request for silence! Now listen to me, you! I need this bee. I can’t kill it. I have no poison to poison it. Put it in a box and take it away? No restraint will hold it!” “And what do you propose?” asked Kavaleria. “This!” Platosha lifted the heavy arbalest and took aim. He held the arbalest firmly. His hands did not shake. The upper bolt looked Rina in the neck, the lower in the centre of her chest. Rina could not take her eyes away from the bluish steel tips. Death did not even frighten her, since a person cannot visualize what he has not gone through, and what a silly question: interesting, if the cock is pressed, do the bolts depart one by one or both at once? The queen bee did not think of flying away. It crawled along Rina’s shoulder, cleaned its wings, and did not much hurry off to the beehive. “Only you can help me! Kill it while it’s weak! Pull off its wings! Or I’ll shoot your friends before your eyes!” Platosha’s voice was jumpy. It seemed he was diligently working himself up but was somehow doing it unconvincingly. Kavaleria walked up to the cone marking the boundary, kicked it to Platosha’s side, and, after sitting down on the grass, crossed her legs Turkish style. “Won’t work,” she said. “What won’t work?” he asked, irritated. “Blackmail. Would everything be so simple that it would be worthwhile for warlocks to catch one hdiver and demand the rest to kill all the bees, give out the markers, amputate the horses’ wings, and, after blowing up HDive, go home?” Vityara stirred. He lay on the ground and, licking his broken lips, looked first at Sashka, then at Platosha. Sashka squatted down next to him and looked at his
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

183

pupils. His eyes were already normal but with tears in them. Sashka understood that Vityara had come to long ago. “Platon!” Vityara called, without raising his voice. “Platon!” Platosha pretended that he did not hear. “I thought you were my friend, Platon! The best, the closest… The keys on my phone have been rubbed off, we texted each other so much! For your sake I gave up diving, you yourself asked me to when you couldn’t dive! I thought it was because of your nose!” Vityara’s voice was crushed. Like earlier, without getting up, he wiped his lips with the back of his hand. The drying blood remained as a narrow dark strip on his skin. “You used me! You forced me to follow Gorshenya, and then the newbies! You lied to me and I believed you. I understand more about the hyeon! I was there when Gorshenya broke the fence! You would have shot it if Gorshenya hadn’t swallowed it!” Vityara shouted from the ground. He persistently tried to catch Platosha’s eyes, but that one persistently did not look in his direction. Only the dry flush on his cheeks showed that he heard everything perfectly. “Gorshenya swallowed Gavr in order to protect it?” Kavaleria asked again with distrust. “Why?” Vityara continued to shout. “Why couldn’t you do everything yourself? Why involve me? Answer me, Platon! Aren’t you tired of pretending to be deaf?” The arbalest in Platon’s hands lowered and aimed now not at Rina’s chest but her stomach. Sashka was able to get one step closer. “I couldn’t follow alone. I got tired. They demanded too much from me. I also need sleep,” said Platosha, as before avoided looking at Vityara. “You yourself were…” “Trusting? Nice to you? Naive?” Vityara prompted. “Why have you gone deaf? Answer me! A simple fellow from a small town, which no one can find on the map, yes?” Platosha did not answer. Then Vityara got up and moved towards him. Very simply and slowly, arms down, with a sad face. “Back! Back, I tell you! I’ll kill you!” Platosha yelled. “No,” said Vityara. “Shoot! Only don’t miss, else it’ll be very painful for me!” He took another step. Platosha jerked up the arbalest. Sashka saw how the golden bee, long circling above Platosha, sat down on his head. “A fly! Gorshenya! A fly!” he shouted. Platosha did not turn immediately but did all the same. Amazement still had time to be reflected on his face. Gorshenya swiped him like a tractor operator in a fight. Legs flickered. Platosha disappeared from the hill. “You said it, dude!” Vityara said in amazement. The golden bee, which Gorshenya never hit, circled above the hill with a displeased buzz… ***

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

184

When they returned to HDive and together with Kavaleria went to put up Bunt, Ul was proudly strolling along the stable. He was leading Aza by the rein. Emaciated, with a dull coat, with sides sunk in, Aza moved like a ghost caught in daylight. But, the main thing, Aza’s eyes were not lacklustre. Interest and slyness were reflected in them. It tossed up its snout and squinted at the sun. The wing feathers no longer swept dust. On noticing Rina, Aza stretched its wings and waved them weakly, as if saying “hello!” ***

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://emets.olmer.ru/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful