And It’s Finally Here!
May 16, 2012 § Leave a comment
Yeah yeah, so sue me. But it’s here!
Have some more Lovers, and I apologize for the lateness.
The Fifth Interlude
“Get him up!”
“What if he’s wounded? We shouldn’t move him if he’s bleeding!”
“You idiot, Jean-Paul! Do you see his lips? His fingers? We need to get him inside, now, bleeding or non!”
Unfamiliar hands grabbed Vasily and lifted him up. They were strong and able, even if one of them was hesitant at first. He was carried along like a sack of potatoes while rough hands dug into his armpits and his calves.
It was a mercy that he did not feel the hands tear at his weakened skin, but it was unjust that his near-frozen skin was unable to feel the softness of the bed they lay him down in. He moaned.
Because he was not in a small cabin maintained by the Swiss Forest Division, under direction by the Federal Office for the Environment. He was still in a forest filled with ghosts, where grey light shone through the trees and he was nothing and no-one. He was still in pain. He was still Pain.
“What should we do, Josette? He needs a doctor, immediately. Where did he come from?”
“He must have come from the crash site. But how did none of the searchers find him? There are dogs combing every inch of this mountain!”
“Josette! His breathing!”
“Merde! Radio the base, tell them we need an airlift! Now!”
It was too hard to keep breathing. Broken ribs and torn muscles fought against the heart that was compelled to beat. In its current state, his heart probably wouldn’t have minded a break, either, but the orders from the brain were crystal clear: beat on.
Grudgingly, the heart obeyed despite the waves of pain his palpitations caused. Each beat was as strong as the last, but his lungs grew weaker and weaker. They could only be pushed so far, and they were very near to the corner.
He could hardly stand. The forest swayed around him, spinning and twirling like a child’s top.
No, not “a” child’s top. His child’s top. Sascha. His top.
Death watched from the side. “It is as it must be. You must die. It has been ordained, it has been commanded, and it will be carried out.”
Vasily began a slow collapse towards the ground. His heart had finally bowed to the inevitable and had begun to slow. It still pumped away madly, and in fact sped up a bit, but this was the last gasp before the finish line and they both knew it.
“Why must you break all the laws of nature and the land for this soul?” Asked the woman, the female ghost. She laid her arms across Vasily as though protecting him from Death in his dark robes. “What crime did he do to deserve this?”
“Crime? No crime. He was spared his ordained death. That is unacceptable. There can be no deviation from the Plan.” Death was implacable. He sat atop a fallen branch, his hands on his knees, and fixed his faceless gaze on the legion of ghosts. The eagle kept his peace.
“So you are taking him because he was lucky? You’re balancing the scales, are you? Who do you think you are, acting like this? He’s a man! He has a family, and you’re going to take away their father, a man with the good luck to survive a plane crash, just because your rules demand it? Who do you think you are!” The male ghost asked, his voice filled with a righteous rage. He laid his ghost hand atop that of the female ghost in support of her defence.
“Who am I? I am Death. I am the final justice of man. Do not question me.”
“Final justice? Death is justice? So it was justice, when the guards at Vorkuta beat me and then marched me off into the snow to die?” A voice called out from the crowd of ghosts. Death raised a bony finger.
“No, but it was ordained. We are all moved according to the Plan.”
“What a shitty plan, Comrade, if that’s the case. The NKVD shot me for being a traitor. Me! I fought tooth and nail for two years at Stalingrad! I was a Hero of the Soviet Union, until I decided the side with my country in 1956. I denounced the violence on both sides! I didn’t even fire a shot when the tanks rolled into Budapest, and they dragged me out of my apartment and shot me like a dog! Did your precious “plan” call for that, you bony sack of shit?”
There was a change in the air. Of the millions and millions of ghosts, some were turning their blank faces towards Death. Only a few, perhaps one in a hundred, but even that small number grew larger and larger.
Vasily, almost completely dead at this point, heard Death backpedal. It almost certainly wasn’t, but if it was possible that Death, the angel of deliverance for every mortal man, woman, and child, could feel pressured, could feel unease, it would have been now.
“Yes, the Plan did, but allowances must be made for the infidelity of man. You are fickle creatures, after all. The Plan must be harsh if it is to be followed correctly.”
A ghost stepped forward and raised a ghostly child above its head like a torch. The face of every ghost, except for those two that knelt beside Vasily’s wheezing body, turned to look at the child. The one holding her, the mother, spoke.
“She starved to death in 1933. She was holodomor. I held her while the last breath trickled out of her, and then died the next day because I had given her the last of the grain. Why?”
The world fell silent but for the last wheezing breaths forcing themselves in and out of Vasily’s body. The ghosts waited for an answer. Death, who clearly had not felt the need to consult with a PR group before attending this meeting, rose to his feet and spread his arms in what was supposed to be a placating manner.
“Why? Because the physical circumstances of her life demanded that she die when she did. If she hadn’t, it would not have been fair…” Death immediately realized that it had misspoke, and immediately wished it had not.
Technically speaking, Death was not wrong. If it decided to higgedly-piggedly spare some lives and not others, that would be unfair. Death itself could not comprehend any reason why it would do that. It did not care for skin colour, or religion, or relative attractiveness of the corpse in question. And so it carried out its duty with an admirable disregard for questions. They simply could not occur to it to think to ask.
So it was only after Death said what it did that it realized perhaps the ghosts of all those who had been murdered and oppressed by the Soviet was the wrong audience to suggest that the callous and arbitrary nature of death was fair.
After all, the Party had never been wrong, and it was certainly fair in persecuting everyone.
Millions upon millions of faces snapped towards Death. The feeling in the air was like electricity that passed from one ghost to the next, arcing and snapping from one to the other.
“What I meant to say, was…” Words failed Death. They always did.
“I told you not to test me.” Said the eagle.
The ghosts surged forward in a tide of frustrated vengeance, rage, elation, and patriotism. Mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters flew at Death in ghastly fury. Although they could do nothing to it (Death is a part of Entropy, and no amount of rage will change His mind) as a concept, they tore the image and personification of Death into as many tiny pieces as they could get their hands on. It disappeared beneath a pile of ghosts with a “meep!”, and only a few bits of cloak marked where it had been. The ghosts shared pieces of Death with each other, satisfied in their quick vengeance.
Its power temporarily broken, Vasily should have felt much better. He did not. His heart trembled in his chest with each beat, now threatening to go on strike along with his bowels, sex drive, and higher brain functions.
Two ghosts had not joined in the mass stampede, and they stayed by the slowly expiring body of their son.
“You must fight this, Vasily. It is not right that you die here.”
Vasily’s unconscious brain decided to step into the ring and registered that that voice was so familiar it had been with him since before he left the womb.
“I know it hurts. Life always hurts. Such is life! But we are stronger than the little hurts that life sends our way. I taught you that lesson when you were no bigger than Sascha is now. I wish we could see him in person! You must tell him that we see him and we love him, our little внук!”
Vasily pushed. He tried to rise; he tried to breathe; he tried to get his body to work. He didn’t do anything in particular, really. He didn’t try and raise his arms or pound his chest, or even to think. He just tried to live.
“We love you, son. We wish it had not been this way, and that we could have been there with you. Please don’t hate us. We didn’t know that they would kill us for writing a few letters when we were younger, and if we had, we might never have sent them. But we did, and you grew up without us. We could not bear to see Maria and Sascha do the same. Get up Vasily, please!”
Vasily Reshetnikov who had grown up an orphan,
who’s parents had “disappeared” like so many others,
who had almost died so many times before,
and who by all rights should have died in the crash,
He awoke with a gasp. He was flying up to the sky, surrounded by lights and a heavenly chorus. For a second, he was confused. Had he died? Hadn’t he fought off death? What the hell was he doing now, ascending to Heaven when he should still be back on Earth?
And then the air ambulance paramedic, a lovely man originally from Germany named Hans, administered a sedative to Vasily, who very quickly came back to earth.
An eagle screeched, loud enough to be heard over the whirring of the helicopter’s blades. Hans looked out the window, but could see nothing against the blackness of the sky.
He would swear, however, that it sounded like laughter.