THE WONDER VOYAGE
Finally, I have the ticket and all signs indicate that my journey is about to start. One restless moment has to be endured, there is always some late obstacle which prevented any endeavor in the past. However, not this time. Wonder voyage here I come.
First stop has to be and it is Munich. Hidden in Bavarian mountains and forests, it is home for many fine people, wonderful sights and some festivals, especially one in October. As a history fan, I run to see for myself, if not for anybody else's famously notorious pub. I don’t know what I expected, but that isn’t what I found there. Surprisingly modern and not at all, something one could associate with those dreadful, drunken vandals. As I have ordered the beer, like a good tourist, my vivid imagination starts running wild, remembering and seeing all the scenes that might happen here in those dark days. As a Slav, I shiver slightly, since my breed was distant third, along with LBGT population and just in front of some “bad” Germans for annihilation. The first place was reserved for Jews, of course. And the second, when one thinks of it. Considering how blue I have felt, not even a pretty, blonde and busty waitress with the beers in her arms, which only three non-Bavarian girls can carry at once, could avert me from returning back to the fun train. Well, the journey doesn’t start well; things should improve when we reach Krakow.
Many trees and wonderful nature of this lovely forest, which we pass by on our way, doesn’t impress me, as I was still sitting in that pub in 1923, wondering how the hell events from that small basement erupted into world war and the deaths of more than 50 million people. One’s head is to burst up, but he wouldn’t be near the explanation.
Seagull right outside the window of the train! “That is strange”, I thought, so I opened it. There is more than one, together with a distinctive, sea scent. No sea around Bavaria, at least, not to my knowledge. However, my nose, rather large then one could desire it, isn’t mistaken. As we are descending from the mountain, as expected, the plains north of the city steadily make way for the huge body of water, not expected! I am puzzled? That is understatement actually, as I am more than puzzled, I am… I am… without any words. But the air is so nice and fresh, and fresh and nice. I should stop writing the log and enjoy it. I think I have deserved it, and so what if the sea has come to visit Krakow, or Krakow decided to take a little trip, for a fore night like the humans do every summer.
Suddenly, I realized that I missed Prague, my favorite city. It should have been somewhere on the path. Although it’s a setback, one should enjoy in what he has, and not wanting something else, equally good. We often don’t see fine stuff in front of us, as we desire for something out of our reach, that we don’t need, just because we are made to believe that it is essential to us, from friends, relatives, the media or society in general.
As I share these thoughts, I got down from the train to explore this unexpected treasure in the form of a runaway town. Instead of plains there is sea, La Manche as I can clearly see white cliffs of Dover. No world traveler, experienced or not, can replace them for something else. Rainy clouds above them haven’t crossed over. It serves them right, as they intend to leave our beautiful continent now, when it is finally peaceful and in harmony.
I compare Krakow with the Czech capital, and it is losing, since it’s only second in its country. However, Poland is much greater and had an empire of its own in previous centuries, which I am familiar with thanks to many books of their Tolstoy – Henryk Sienkiewicz.
With fabulous open square and many historical buildings around, this city could match any in its beauty and architecture. Also exit to the sea has earned it a bonus point. Different from other places are people. Everywhere you look, there are couples holding hands or entire families enjoying themselves jolly and cheerful. Perhaps since it is in the West and not East anymore, behind the Iron curtain, its inhabitants aren’t full of themselves but rather nice and friendly. Repression is just a word now, but for half a century it was around the city and country never far away, always in the back of the skull or in close vicinity. As the danger has passed, there is a slimmer chance that they take anything for granted anymore, but at the same time, every day is a new opportunity and without symbols of tyranny around and new latitude, life is much brighter and for enjoyment. That is one way to explain lovely Krakow and their citizens enchanted like they have broken some spell of a very bad red sorcerer.
All the benches are filled with lovers. It seems to me that one should only sit at one, and some pretty girl will join him. I want that. After half an hour tracking for solely one, I find it racing off some girl and boy. At first, they didn’t like it, but very quickly they smiled at me and left. Now I am observing a potential mate, smiling like a monkey in a Zoo that awaits bananas.
“Pjotr, moj milošć”, some very old lady in a wheelchair said to me, cuddling my cheeks, and wanting to kiss me, to mine astonishment. Soon enough, this commotion attracts many other people, and some smart fellow aids us and starts translating, whilst I throw the meanest look at him. Something about me reminds this poor old lady of her fiancé, who vanished in thin air during the uprising in the 50s. She praises my look, stating how youth and fine appears a person that has lived in the West, much to my shock but approval of the crowd. She continues with the same routine, as I am thinking to myself, beware what you wish next time.
All could end ugly, if some doctor hasn’t arrived to take away my devotee, who puts on a sad face as she is pushed away in a wheelchair. I want to make eye contact with pretty doctoress, but she only holds the hand of an old woman, which returns back to her tragic memories. Pjotr, like many boys of that time, didn’t reach sunshine, which he expected West is or could be made of. His destiny was one of those three – slowly drowning in the Baltic, instant death on electrical barb-wire or killed and buried in some ditch.
Mixed feelings preoccupy my brain, as I glance at the city and its people for one last time. Life is what it is, and we have to take the bad and the good almost in the same way. If anything, history teaches that. As the train is running south, fields and pastures of Normandy, as well as its small manors and abundance of hedges are a sight for sore eyes.
Just as this lovely scenery starts to change my mood, another strange thing. Unexpected capital in this rural and pastoral county, or arrondissements as it is called in these parts. None other, then Stockholm appears and opens to me as the train is approaching. Together with it, part of the Baltic Sea is shown in front of us, as those two are unbreakable, like Scylla and Charybdis, although the parallel isn’t very good, but I am furious right now. I was drugged, this is uncanny. Or all mine atlases back home, are misleading me. I have watched them, from time to time, and Stockholm is placed in Scandinavia, but apparently it is really situated, here south of Normandy. Never mind the fact that I have longed in to visit it for some time now, I decided to throw away all my atlases when I return. It is not right for such things to make fun of me.
Beautiful White Nights, the phenomenon for this and nearby cities, together with such beautiful sights like Stockholm City Wall, The Cathedral, Royal Palace or some palace which I can’t pronounce but it starts with D, light up my spirit as I want to see more, everything valid in this, heaven on Earth.
People here are different then in the south, cold, distant and blonde, both male and female. With my dark hair I stick out like a gorilla in the kindergarten. Again, my parallel is poor, I have to work on it. Some person, darker skin and hair than of me, approaches me, referring to me as we are old comrades, as we shepherded the sheep together as juveniles in the hills of our fatherland. I smell a rat. Others come near us, so I am in defense, going backwards. This is it; I will be stabbed in this lovely city, but in some dark street of it. I should have brought a pack of dogs for my protection. It‘s all apologetic now.
I am already praying to mine God, the thing we all do regardless of our religious beliefs or disbeliefs, as they start arguing among themselves. I am fine meat for torture, so each one wants to give killer blow, but only one is able to. Suddenly, a few men start laughing, so I copy them, without thinking, like a backward monkey which grabs a banana. I should be ashamed of myself. As it turns out, they have mistaken me for their buddy, finally realizing how my proportions couldn’t match him, I am much taller, regardless of the fact that we resemble like two eggs from the same nest. I could explain to them how we, in the Balkans, were ruled by Ottomans for centuries like probably their respective motherlands and that one can’t fool around with genetics. In the true manner of white male European, I have assumed that several Middle Eastern fellows immediately bring trouble or worse – some kind of jihad. I think I have overestimated myself and my importance in the big wide world. It turns out, since Arslan, my Arab twin is unreachable, some warlord back home is very interested in him but not in his artistic, cooking or equestrian skills, I am obliged to replace him tonight. I am about to experience oriental Stockholm, a rare honor for an ordinary white person. Night endeavor has proved too much for me, because I can’t remember most of it. Mainly, the theme was a Turkish bloke in a wigwam smoking huge calumet one after another, with an abundance of sweets like Turkish delights, comfits, baklavas and other. I am fairly sure that I have taken a few chunks too many, as I felt dizzy on the station the next morning. Standing on the open window, watching back to glorious picture of Sun rays shining like gold over the roofs of buildings and churches of Swedish capital, but as well observing to the south beautiful landscape of northern France with its vineyards, castles and many herds of different animals, I return the state of mine stomach to optional and just enjoyed, the breeze, the moving of the train and the life of a traveler, without any petite care, like paying bills, commute problems or many other of living in large city.
The GPS device, part of the luggage, has shown the good assessment of its proprietor, Paris is next in line. But how one could be certain, after nearly a week on this road, an unexpected and highly uncommon path. Our locomotive could enter Damascus or Union Station. I desperately wanted to visit the capital of France, like any of you. I can’t remember Last Time I Saw Paris was on TV. Such and many other movies were rushing through my head, as I was getting anxious by the mile of this voyage. The speed of the train hasn’t been to my liking, at that point I wished I was in the plane. Suddenly I saw the tip of some metal construction. I was happy like the third monkey who steals bananas whilst the front row pair is squabbling. I leaped into the air and nearly fell off the wagon. Pretty scared, I looked up only to be more frightened than moment ago. Only thing around was some stupid telecommunication tower and large quantity of cows. Maybe Paris is a cow-city now. Destroyed and mad, like child who lost its favorite toy, I dropped into my seat.
At that exact minute, other passengers start screaming and yelling some French phrases. Apparently, we were on the outskirts of our target, but I was still in the mood of that child, now hating it badly. It takes several minutes to realize what a baby I am and forget everything. Nobody is perfect not even Paris, a line from another movie.
There is always some twist in life, so I sense some here. The Seine is too wide, I have finally grasped it. Actually, it is the Danube, the river of mine childhood in the city of my resting years. I really hope that could be the case, as this beautiful city is perfect for the autumn of our human existence. Walking hand by hand, with your lover through great boulevards, slowly going up the Montmartre or under the Eiffel Tower. Climbing up at our age could only end in tear.
Together with the Danube, entwined with it, come the waltzes. Instead of harmonica sounds, or street musicians like Zaz, broad parks and banks of river are filled with orchestras and couples dancing, dressed Habsburg fashionable. However, each participant has a touch of French couture somewhere on them, a scarf, unusual hat or just plain green leafs. Germanic uniformity tangled with Celtic spirit and love for nature. Instead of wagging wars, those two create garments for all seasons.
How brilliant local architects are shown in the bridges. Wider river needs a longer overpass that is the law of nature, but here many islands are exploited so only small bridges are made connecting the banks in zigzag formation. The journey is very pleasant and you can observe the city from various angles. For those practical individuals, who don’t want to lose their precious time, local officials put in the train array of contents both for pleasure and business. Although I prefer the classic type of city, one must acknowledge the needs of the population and modernize communities to make it practical and comfortable.
The timetable waits for no one, so I have to pack my souvenirs and memories. One day in this fabulous city isn’t nearly enough, but one shouldn’t get too greedy. It is always better than nothing. Now, again we are racing through lovely fields with vineyards everywhere you look. I am puzzled by the Danube. Our track is following the river, or is it the other way around. Finally, the blue river, at least in the melody, takes its natural course to the east, so we have to be separated.
I sit back in my seat, playing a tune in the head. As I opened mine eyes it was time to observe other passengers in the compartment. Opposite to me, a strangely dressed gentleman is reading the book with red covers, whilst his eyes are shut. Upon closer examination, I realize that it is actually my book, which I have put on the nightstand just off my bed. Etiquette on Cyrillic, from the local library where I have borrowed it, is unmistakable. “Babylon Pit”, collection of dreams and short stories by Kafka. Suddenly he opens his eyes, grabs a pen and the notebook and starts writing compulsively. I try to interrupt him, but other than a few remarks in German, I can’t reach him. He is in his own world. Slowly, but surely I comprehend that’s really him sitting right in front of me. I wish that my mother is here with me, she is German, but immediately I erase that thought from mine brain – nobody brings their mother to vacation, especially if it is wonderful voyage like this.
I turn to other travelers. It is a family, but very peculiar. Mother, ballerina with a bunch of children. At first, I am supposing that these aren’t hers, but the smallest one addresses her “Mama”, I have to think again. Something isn’t right, because with all the rehearsal, the plays and non-stop on the road, it is very difficult to bring up a single child, and five – impossible. However, she is a devoted parent, although I could see some longing in the corner of her eyes. Every child gets equal attention, as I have watched it, following her gracious moves from one’s head to another’s shoelace or some button hard to manage for a three-year-old, but instantly put in the right spot by mama’s fingers.
Outside the weather starts to shift, as heavy but rainless clouds are upon us and wind is picking up speed. Huge frozen water appears on the horizon, where I assume I would see the azure color of the Mediterranean Sea. Opposite to my wishes it gets chilly, so I look at a GPS device, which indicates the city of Lyon. This water is, in fact, a lake, as I could see the city in the distance. It seems like a ghost-town, since it is shrouded in mist. Some crying behind, make me turn around. The mother is gone. Horror in the eyes of small ones scared me, so I looked through the window. There she is. Despite cold winds and snow that start snowing, she is there, in her element, doing what is in her nature – dancing.
In spite of louder and louder cries just inches off me, I couldn’t avert my eyes from the spectacle on the ice. Her career desire has beaten the strongest force in the world, in the universe – motherly love. I am amazed. Actually, that is an understatement. I am astonished, like never before or I could imagine it is possible one person can be. At the same time, I am appalled, destroyed and shaken in the core of humanity. How could this be? It is one of the mysteries of our existence – a devoted and caring mother suddenly turning back off her offspring to pursue happiness elsewhere. Last glance to lonely, frantic ballerina as inexorably the wheels are turning and life goes on.
Sitting back down, I couldn’t look at poor orphans. Their destiny is bleak from now on. There is always someone to look after them, but they will probably be separated and many adults on their path will try to use better of them, then to give them what is required – warm, healthy and carefree childhood.
The city is gloomy, like the sky, gray and metal, like my soul, still recuperating from the events from the road. Few sunshine rays decorate the buildings, much to my delight, bringing color to my cheeks and steadily making me realize where I am. Leningrad is the site, with a lot of awkward monuments and huge red stars here and there. The remainder that Big brother never sleeps. There is even a tank on some square, not made of stone but real one. Another reminder that in the event that Big brother is in the land of nightmares, this huge, iron beast is like Cerberus on guard. But from time to time, when the Sun penetrates those dark clouds, I feel like I am in St. Petersburg standing in front of Hermitage, or walking around Nevsky Prospect.
Struggle above us turns into wild combat. However, the strongest force, at least in the sky, is our Sun, bringer of life, but also demise if you take large quantities, without any shield, or you approach it too closely. It likes to be distant. It values its solitude and is watchful over us all. Here, the Sun brings freedom, shaming modern Cerberus, painting it in pink, much to the jubilation of locals, craving for some humor, even if it isn’t hilarious. Everyone is in the streets, celebrating with fireworks just in front of Peterhof Palace.
Following morning I am at the station, ready to continue this voyage. Epic night is behind me, but I desperately want to get aboard for more adventures. In my head, I can see oranges and Spain, as it is the perfect thing after Russian winter. Who knows what is next in line on this wonder voyage. It would be nice to visit some small English town at Iberian Peninsula. Perhaps Stratford-on- Ebro. Don Quixote and Sancho Pansa meet William Shakespeare.
But I am roughly grounded. Some silly clerk acquired a ticket from me. Or, at least, I have to drink the same beverage I took at the beginning of it. I am trying to remember what ingredients I have put in my tea. Let me think. Mint and sage, as I have a sore throat often, maybe some hibiscus and briar. Before that I had a glass of ginger ale. I scream to the clerk to wait for me, as I go back to the city to purchase those things. Most of the stores are closed, obviously one couldn’t expect for people to party all night and then work early in the morning. Others haven’t heard of sage and they thought I was messing with them when I mentioned ginger.
“Vodka is the cure for everything”, one woman explained to me. With a little Russian I know, I try for the last time, to get what I need so desperately. I could hear the locomotive’s horn announcing its impatience. I am now like the fourth monkey which never reached the Zoo and it was captured by poachers and has two possibilities – quick death and a dish in some underground Belgian restaurant or many years behind the bars when he is sold at black-market. With all hopes lost, I decide to buy this Russian recipe for everything. Maybe it’s a trick and that clerk just wants to make fun of me. Full of new hope, I grab a bottle, ready to pay for it. However, I have to choose from three kinds – Finlandia, which I couldn’t afford, Red Star, which I hate or home-made, very cheap but causing certain blindness, insomnia and impotency. Not understanding what I am buying, but without any second to spare, as another shriek from the station can be heard, I take a third bottle, without proper label, but who cares if I could continue my journey.
It was too good to be true for such a long time – a week. The train is leaving without me, and I have to stay here all alone and cold with only the content of this spirit to warm me up. Maybe you could take mine place on this wonder voyage. Be sure to write to me about places and countries you visit. Mine address would soon probably be, unnamed grave next to Rasputin’s one.
It was fantastic adventure like any we had in our young lifes. Tracking animals, even bears, although Jerome, party-pooper, claimed differently. We had quite a raw in front of the whole gang. He mentioned squirrels and I insisted that those were tracks of much bigger beast. Very soon, our dispute was boring to everybody, including us. Picking flowers for girls or sword fighting with pine branches for the boys were on the cards. When we returned to the camp that evening, we were all very tired, but the fun was just starting. In the middle of compound, huge wooden platform has been erected. Our teacher instructed us all to bring as many branches, pine cones and wood sticks as we can find. Every little child scattered around to please her. Most energetic boys continued with their duels, whilst most of us were running around, caring some sticks. Only few children organized in groups, needless to say, those were girls. One was in charge on packing the wood on outstretched hands of carriers, or carriernesses, if that word is aloud. I am not going to say that their heap was really substantial. However if I am not going to say it, it doesn’t mean that wasn’t the case.
At one moment, I halted with the task, observing the sunset and array of colors, I have never seen before. All shades of red and purple, but also similar colors in rainbow spectrum. One can’t see any of that from my terrace, in the city, as only visible thing are other terraces and many windows of surrounding buildings. Jerome hit me in the back, pointing to others who tried Himalaya’s climbing – catching up the girls. Any fool could see that we are beaten, but we continued our separate efforts. Instead of gaining on them, we were like cavemen and them – Egyptian society. Luckily, this is not story about that; the paper would be moist from my tears.
The teacher gathered us around as red and purple colors, all over the sky, have turned into darker shades with stars coming out.
-“Sit around children, we are about to light the fire”, with our eyes opened like never before in our existence.
To say it was a spectacle should be understatement. There are no words to explain our feelings, looking at huge bon-fire in front of us. Older boys were bringing larger chunks and some children played around holding their hands, whilst my closest friends, and Jerome, sat together still and amazed. Finally, we too have joined people dancing in the large circuit, smiling and screaming. Ordinary, I would consider it quite awful, but I was carried by the moment. Soon enough we were all very tired, taking back our seat at the ground. It was blissful day, full of interesting and exhausting things, but real fun is about to start.
Older boys and some girl started telling spooky stories as this is some kind of ritual for such gatherings. Or it was, ages ago, when people were in contact with the nature, with real themselves, someone would say. All kind of monster, ogres, some raven and even monkey which doesn’t know it is wild and kills someone in some street in that magnificent city of Paris, which we all want to visit, or at least they urge as to do so. Another story, told by that girl together with lot of mimic and staged, of some painting that murders its owner or something like that, I wasn’t really sure. I would not admit it, I was so scared so I hid behind Jerome, as he was doing the same, using one fat boy as cover. His choice was much better, I will acknowledge only that.
Looking at each other, as the flames were smaller and smaller, we were ready to return to our tents, one another interesting novelty of visiting Yellowstone city, or I should correct myself park. Our teacher was on her feet, trying to gather her flock. Bold man with gray beard stopped everybody in their tracks, speaking furiously, so we didn’t comprehend him. The teacher sat back as all eyes were upon him. He took another sip from his bottle and looked at us, especially Jerome and me, with his eyes wide open and piercing gaze further into the darkness.
-“You want to hear, real, proper scary story and not this bull…” Luckily for our teacher and our ears he stopped talking, waving with his free hand around as he was chasing away many mosquitoes or even some bat. The bottle has flown away into the bon fire as he joined left hand to this waving. The teacher wanted to protest, but he started his story with deep voice before she could do anything:
-“It was very long time ago, when I was a lad. Very long time ago, yes”. There he took some pause, looking and searching for something in his left and in his right hand. His face was puzzled. At last, he looked straight at me and realized where he is and what he is doing, or it just felt that way to me.
-“I‘ll give you factual”, he stumbled using this word, “real life horror story with real life beings and not those which only lives in dark places of caves and basements. Yes, it was when I was very old, I mean very young, as young as you are today, although I don’t think I was ever that young.” Some kind of dark smile illuminated his face into grimace. Both I and Jerome, one entity from now on, shivered, not sure where to look. Magically another bottle was in one of his hands.
-“All those creatures, so called monsters, can’t hurt you; they are products of imaginative minds, very imaginative, if you catch my drift. The ones I am talking about are real and so small that you can’t see. They hide and lurk around. You aren’t aware of them, nor are they of you, because they lack awareness and that is why they are so lethal. That particular breed and season when I was a lad as you are today, people were dying like crazy and panic spread much faster and more than the disease this invisible foe brought. Very soon there was any contact between folks, so if anybody wanted to go with some ladies it couldn’t. There were no dates, and subsequently no kissing or any action which follows. We all had to come around as best as we could. I, for myself, acquired pretty, smooth and obedient ladies in form of sexy dolls, which I could seduce and fool around to my pleasing.”
Our teacher steps in the frame, addressing the man up close and personal waving with her hands in all directions. As she was between the fire and us, strange shadows were on faces on mine classmates and probably on me. However we couldn’t hear any word until the man has spoken again, offering his beverage to her:
-“Exactly this behavior wasn’t allowed, intimate socializations in the middle of the night, or day, because of the curfew. Take a sip darling, if that virus should choose to venture back, this thing is the savior.”
-“How old were you during that plague?” – Our teacher declined offering as she was on the mission.
-“I was around 9”, he was sitting, but many girls, and the teacher, screamed in astonishment. On the other hand, many older boys looked pleased, as one, brave and foolish, grabbed the bottle and drunk some. His face turned into painful grimace and he run off to the lake. It was good thing, because many other, foolish and brave lads, wanted to do the same and our tracker would probably decline giving away his precious beverage, unless you are female or sex doll.
-“The worst thing was”, he continued when the commotion settled, “the lack of toilet paper, any paper if you catch my drift”. Obviously very drunk he looked directly at me, so I grabbed Jerome even closer and he also me. The teacher had enough of it protesting to the man, but he suddenly jumped to his feet, yelling to her:
-“Sit down, I am not finish.” We were all stunted and I could tell you that some children were crying, but I won’t tell you it was me or Jerome. Nevertheless, we couldn’t avert our eyes from tall figure, walking and hands waving in front of dying flames.
-“In a record time, the shops, all shops were out of toilet paper and any very soon. It was new currency. If you wanted to buy some pork chops, you could. It would cost you some toilet paper, five rolls first week, twenty following and a lorry full of them close to Easter. Then we had to turn to books in order to survive in dignify manner. Kindle editions didn’t do any good, only real, live books like works of Tolstoy or Victor Hugo. Their value was significant in those solitude days”, he ended his story with his face down in the warm ground already snoring rhinoceros style. In silence we headed for our tents. I was thinking how if such pandemic should venture back, we will be in tricky situation. There are no more proper, live books as that drunk called them. I would like to say because we are all reading e-books now, but the true would be as nobody reads the books anymore. There are so many other interesting and fun things to do – comp games, watching television and movies, following You Tube channels and social media to stay in touch with all your on-line friends and others, your foes. This is particularly important. There is nothing better of disliking someone’s image and post hating comments on their profiles at all networks. One can do it all night and day and never to be bored of it. Also going to nature excursion is so obsolete. It was fun, but once is enough in course of my life. I can’t wait for tomorrow, when we will go back. There are many posts to check and review. It is not good to be off-line for such long periods – day and a half. And what that man meant, when he mentioned isolation isn’t good. It is the way of life for us, I am on my own 24/7 but not alone, there is my phone, my best buddy and I am in touch with everybody with no need to go anywhere.
Nero is in grave trouble. Things aren`t going accordingly. He tried everything normal for a Roman emperor, blaming it on minorities, on dogs in the government and setting ablaze half of the city. Without any success! There is only one last option as he walks alone through the dark corridor to the temple of supreme deity – Jupiter. Reluctantly he has somehow urged himself to inquire for salvation. His head is up the wall. Only problem in those days, lack of the devil. Mighty gods of ancient times could be just that - gods, but also a devil, or at least devilish. One can`t be sure what will happen out of his request. What kind of secret obstacle the gods have made on a seemingly flat path? What enigma is hidden in their sweet words? Even the smartest person in the land – the emperor is no match for their duplicity or even threeplicity.
Returning back, Nero wasn`t sure what had happened.
“Choose one future technology. That is the only thing that can save you.”, Jupiter told him, apparently relaxed.
“Pick wisely”, one of the goddesses with snakes instead of her hair smiled at him. Nero turned to god of fire and metalworking, Vulcan. “My stable boy has nicer cloths”, he laughed within himself, but restrained from any comment – this wasn`t his court, he was only a guest over here.
There were many things in front of him, but he wasn`t sure of the purpose for any, except some kind of large musical object. “This is a trap, don`t go there”, Nero is cautious. However, the compulsion is so high, he marched towards it, but just whizzed past it, hearing sighs from some females behind. “Round one to the emperor”.
After that he scrolled up and down until Jupiter said something like:
“Dear Nero, I am expected tomorrow early, at” in half a voice,” some place in Britannia, Bath. We are opening a local spa there”.
The emperor was finishing children`s song in his head “Iny, Tiny, Miny”, and he stopped in front of some little object with a big letter T. Very small with some kind of mirror and letters, together with numbers, but not typical. There was no way back, so he pointed to it. No reaction. That could be a good sign. As he was leaving, he was assured that he had made the right choice and Vulcan together with his team of semi-gods would make necessary arrangements.
“You have to hold out for a month”, Mercury escorted him out, tapping his shoulders. Nero was furious but as time was essential, he had to devise a plan to survive another 20 or so days. Luckily, the calendar was still chaotic and he as emperor could manipulate with it if with nothing else these days. In the meantime, another public spectacle should be arranged. Hopefully, there are some Christians left, lions and other big cats haven`t eaten all of them. If one should ask them, they would prefer change in diet, those Easterners are too thin, but the whole structure of Roman Empire is at stake. To be fair not all, just his valuable neck.
For once, the gods fulfill their promise. Every single person in the whole of land has received small, strange looking thing that could fit in the palm of the hand. The usage is simple as everybody has learnt it very fast. Even slaves, some donkeys and goats, together with females of the opposite sex obtain it with instructions. The Senate has to do it because recent wars, barbaric invasions and famine have decimated population of true Romans. We can add, killing sprees of any ruler since Emperor Sula, against proper citizens. Huge pillars of metal construction were erected around the empire to support new extravaganza.
Literate residents could write messages to one another with ease, but the illiterate could only watch and make some footages. Very soon, these characteristics became extremely popular. Everybody has been taking various recordings and watching them. One poor goat has nibbled its device and subsequently broke it. She is casted out of her flock, forced to wander alone. Even wolves stay clear of her, not putting her out of misery as the poor animal slowly falls in solitude and dementia.
Nero is certain that his countless videos where he shows his musical talents will be “talk of the day”. How wrong he is; the worse the act is, the more followers are there. Soon enough, all businesses and activities are halted as Twitter devices are in each hand 24/7. Many have fallen of the cliffs, not watching the road but some idiotic footage of cat playing with the hank. Others slam their vessels together with precious cargo on to the cliffs picturing their journey, God Neptune was very grateful for offerings whilst their relatives back home shared the disaster among friends and citizens. The disaster of Pompeii brought many to the coast. They were filming it, instead of saving poor victims. At the same time, standing on the shore or high above in the mountains, spectators shared video with the neighbor standing just beside him or her. Folks from Herculaneum, city opposite to Pompeii, turn their twitter apparatuses towards fire balls from the volcano, instantly sending the footages along. Those were very appreciated by all Romans in the whole empire. Many of them couldn’t wait for a similar disaster to happen just around the corner, so they could film it and send it around the globe. Needless to say that both Pompeii and Herculaneum citizens were dead and buried until XX century, although this isn’t sure for their respective twitter accounts. Some were working just fine, without the presence of their masters.
Unbelievable and speedy success of twitter prompted many deities, nymphs, semi-gods to acquire each for them. Under some other or nickname. Jupiter wouldn’t appreciate such activity. The only downside has to be, for them, not to be to play an active role, they could only follow ground humans.
Barbarian tribes stop attacking the frontier after shrewdly concluding that there is foul play with those tiny things in the palm of every Roman.
“Forests and wild plains are more suitable for our children to grow old”, they said on the way back, destroying several of those items rather than using them.
The Senate welcomes success for Twitter in repelling attackers and allows three days’ festivities in recognition for irrevocably getting rid of that pest. Nero is again certain that this is his big opportunity and once again, it ends in tears. More prominent senators tried to avert the public of dangers such devices could become, if used uncontrollably. However nobody has listened for the speakers anymore. They attempt to use Twitter and act like Trojan horse, but adventures of some silly ant mounting apple was more important than state affairs.
Exiled philosopher-poet Seneca Ovidius now has the chance for his voice to be heard once again. He embraces new technology as the means of recovering his career. Again he felt like he was back in beloved Rome instead of god forsaken land of the Istar region. Nevertheless he is very soon shocked as he gets only one follower – Etruria donkey who couldn’t help himself. Definitely a fine moment to drink some Cucuta.
In the evenings, as night shadows conqueror the land, every single person is watching the latest Messalina projects. Legion after legion marches by her bed, as borders are safe and you need to entertain the troopers somehow. Only one not watching is Nero, architect of this novelty.
“This is the worst possible outcome. I am in oblivion during mine term as ruler of this stupid realm. No way one could satisfy the populous”, he is screaming in the empty palace. At the end of his little speech he looks at the device in his hand. “Such small, seemingly fragile and insignificant thing has beaten me”, he smiles at the end but then furiously smashes it on the marble wall. Inquisitive, he approaches, realizing that Twitter is indestructible. Searching for his own feelings, he isn’t sure if he is angry or calm, jovial or gloomy. But one of many statues of former emperors is destined to be destroyed as collateral damage. One piece breaks off, demolishing with its body the device. Nero now knows what he is feeling. Anger beyond anything before, but also he is lost, drowning in cold, dark water. He runs out searching for somebody, demanding to hand him over their twitter. First Praetorian pushes him away. No luck with the rest of them. Outside, on the street, Nero is certain that his fortune is about to change. Again how wrong he is? Basic human nature is million miles from any ruler, but billions from this pathetic one.
He returns to the palace, dirty, hungry, and restless. An idea of a genius, he considers himself to be. He will repair it. Immediately, he realizes that he isn’t even close to such praise.
“Think, Nero, think. What will gods do? Gods, of course”.
He is in the corridor running in a manner he saw Christians do when lions are hot on their heels. In the great hall of the temple he is without any breath, holding high in the air broken piece.
“3 days, 45 minutes, the bet is mine”, Apollo jumps in front of Jupiter throne to claim his award. One look from his father makes him shiver and retreat.
“Dear Nero, to what we owe this honor of seeing you twice in one week?” Jupiter puts his finest face looking down at obese, sweaty emperor. Together with dirty tunic and golden corona hanging on the back of the head, revealing baldness, he is more like a part of some bad video for twitter then, the best among best, the finest among finest, Jupiter representative on Earth.
“This thing…it isn’t working”, with a lot of pauses, he finally replies.
“Can you … can you repair it?”, he asks after a surprisingly long silence. Surprisingly long for him, at least.
More silence. Nero, still dirty, sweaty and obese, but now also very thirsty and more importantly played out by those “masters of puppets”. “Here we go”, he is thinking to himself. Minerva first goes around him – “Can we help him, father” – others follow like he is helpless prey. Jupiter is at his throne, wanting to humiliate him even more. Nero hasn’t got any option but to play this game. He pretends to be disappointed with all of them, but inside he thinks: “What a charade? They are like little children.”
“We could offer you some other future technology”
“That is god idea”
“But which one?”
They all pretend to contemplate for most suitable.
“How long will this proceed”, the emperor is thinking for himself, “ I am really thirsty”.
After another round of vocal “contemplating”, Jupiter comes down and announces to the “surprise” of everybody:
“Space travel. How about space travel? Your subjects can see the Earth like we do it every day. It will be their chance to touch divinity for a day.”
Nero is ecstatic. It is a wonderful plan. Who wouldn’t enjoy sightseeing of stars and constellations and all on expense on somebody else? He apologizes, and quickly corrects himself, he admires such strong leadership and vision.
“Jupiter knows exactly what ordinary people want, when even they lack the knowledge for themselves. This is brilliant. I am going out to bring the best news”, Nero runs back, still thirsty, appreciating the guidance of divine creatures. He nearly blew it. One last problem is how to spread the news. He goes to Rostra, desperately trying to avert some intention. Again very furious, this is a rollercoaster of emotions, he decides to snatch one twitter from some unexpected and hopefully sleepy baby.
At the temple, there are celebrations.
“One way ticket to the universe.” Apollo drinks the ambrosia, happy and jubilant. “We are free of them, at last we have the Earth back for ourselves”, looking behind his shoulder to gagged and bound Prometheus and then to his father where, in his eyes, he can read – I won’t make the same mistake twice.
What To Eat?
Three men are approaching the ruins of the fortress. It looks abandoned as most walls are destroyed. Inside they try to find shelter from the harsh winter. They start the fire, without any conversation. It seems that it has been prepared for them; just to ignite it. Everyone sits to his place around it. Still no word leaves their mouth as cold winds are the only thing to be heard, apart from hauling of the wolves.
-“Fetch the wood”, silence is broken in commanding voice to the fattest and the smallest man. Also he has a dark beard all over his face. He goes out, but he is not coming back. As the fire is slowly diminishing, some figure takes the seat of an absent fat man. They are dozing until a huge fire in front of them prompts both men to look up. The third person isn’t their comrade, but some very old man, with the skin like of the shark, tiny eyes hidden inside eye cavities and fringes instead of hair. His gray finger calls them to follow him along the corridor. First part is open, but then they plunge into darkness, after some opening with white sharp objects all around; one man cuts his finger feeling it. They steadily go straight relying on touch, only. The passage is however, twisting and turning and the walls aren’t of some solid material. They are kind of alive to the touch and strange noises can be heard more-less. It could be, but it isn’t, an underground stream. Also the stench of strange sources, familiar but not so. As they move on they get used to it, still without clue what it could be. From time to time they stumble into mucilage liquid. The torch which their guide is carrying isn’t for light but its aroma prevents them from being sick. After going many miles they find themselves in the chamber with some light as the leader confronts them asking to choose one of three doors to proceed further. Both men point to the left one.
Fearfully, they do what is commanded. Darkness is behind it. First man takes one step, but he can’t breathe. Old man takes another torch from the wall, lights it and passes one to each men. After that, there are only two of them in the shrunk tunnel. The stench is awful, so they have to handle the aroma close to their noses slightly burning them. The progress is painfully slow, there is a steady flow of mucus under their feet and walls are very soft and spongy. They realize there is no way back as they stop for a minute searching for each other in the smelly darkness. At last they enter another chamber with three doors. It could be the same one, but who knows. First man grabs the handle of the door to the left. Nothing. Second man takes the handle of the door to the right. Same result. Both try to exhale but stop the motion at half way as part of the brain realizes how bad the idea is. Standing in front of the middle door it opens to them. After a few steps they realize it is some big hall of the cave, with natural stairs going down, near the side of the wall. As they descend they comprehend the size of it. It is much bigger than the chamber above. They look around and notice the little girl in white dress with blonde hair looking up to them, holding some stick and hiding under the stairs. They hear some noise from the other side, dark side. It could be an underground stream, but it is, probably, something sinister. They look at the girl with a pleading gaze, but something else comes into vision. The third man, fat, short and with a beard. He isn’t a normal self as he is walking funny by the wall and his skin is very soft like some gelatin. His eyes are nowhere to be seen.
From the dark corner a gigantic creature appears. It is the dragon, as his swirling neck is unmistakable. However his green, enormous head is different than expected. It consists of a huge sheep head and horn and a very dark nozzle of the cow. It opens its mouth, but it needs not to, because both men are already extremely frightened. The tongue is unfashionable purple and acts as hypnosis to its victims.
-“What to eat?” - The girl asks, as both men, like one, points to the third, their former companion. The dragon grabs it, but spills him out.
-“Rotten!” – The girl says, as both are going backwards.
-“What to eat?” - The girl asks again, as both men point to each other. Fraction of the second slower is grabbed by the mouth of the creature and quickly digested. Loud belch seals the deal. “Is it fed?”, the remaining man is thinking to himself.
-“What to eat?” - The girl asks yet again. The man points to her, but the dragon shakes his head and leaps forward. The man sees its throat and belch sound is in his ears, when he wakes up in his bed, immediately standing up. He walks down to the kitchen, holding his stomach. Same stench from the corridors of the keep can be smelled, but most of his brain is still in sleeping mode. He doesn’t turn on any light, but straight to the refrigerator. He opens its door. There is s pot of carbonnade stew looking at him. His belly desires something else this time, a yogurt or pickles. He doesn’t notice the small blonde girl in the lower compartment looking at him. Instead he remembers, as the lights of his brain are slowly restarting, the legs of eaten man wiggling and dangling aiming to stay alive despite its body is already in the mouth of the dragon. It was so funny, remembering the same attitude of chicken legs without their heads. As he grabs the jar of pickles he notices the child who opens it mouth:
-“What to eat?” -
The jar of pickles turns into a giant head of a green monster, emerging ever larger, but he still holds the jar and looks at the girl with last thought to his legs – “Would it be as funny as of that poor other man?”
Here in my town in the Balkans it is normal to call any lad or buddy you know or you are familiar gurry. Often in conversation there is "... my gurry... you know that gurrry... he is real gurry..." and so on. As we are university city many young people come here from other parts of the country and even further as far as Greece. After a while here one young lad said to his closest friends something like "Gurry? Who is that Gurry, whom every one in the town knows? Wherever I go I hear Gurry this, Gurry that...Who is that Gurry?"
It is on river Danube accross fortress, Gibraltar on the Danube, as some history books addresses in that fashion. Low but vast mountain is behind going south. I called it "our Himalayas" since it is like island in our plains, of Panonia. The most part of the mountain is National Park, with forests, many lakes and paths through the wood, all the way to former Roman imperial city Sirmium. Thanks to my bike, I often visit the park. The problem was getting across the river as NATO bombing left the city halfs separated. Gradually and painfully slowly one after other, the three bridges were erected in space of 20 years. I had to go often, since my grandparents and mother‚s sister live accross and the dogs need often to stroll along river and into thge woods. There is always something they need, often a lot, like sack of potato and onion, so my bike and me are overloaded. "The bridge" with single track for trains, cars and trucks and narrow passage for the rest isn‚t helpful. Some potatoes, several cans and backpacks paid the price. However it is all in the past. Now I am enjoying crossing over with ease, in one go, here in Central to Eastern Europe, just outside EU zone, where Balkans meet lovely and flat Panonia on the banks of the river Danube in which my curent dog and me often swim.
From my short story "... to construct us, here copy of Notre-Dame. Our hunger, thirst and unprecedented poverty could be endured much much easier if such cultural monument would stand in front of us all. Not to mention the shade that can provide. There we can grow some plants to avoid scorching sun ... The copy of Notre-Dame shouldn`t cost much. We will be thankful for cheap material, prone to collapse so that fallen structure would put us all out of our misery. Empty bellies are less difficult to last in close vicinity of man-made praise both to God and humanity..."
War And Dogs
...That day, somewhere in April of 1999, Jovan has visited his grandfather, during daytime, when some strange noise can be heard. They were both on the gate, as shelling from the local army unrest the birds and neighbor’s dog. Lassie, as they always have the Scottish sheepdog, even today, although it never goes out, finds himself or herself in the street. It was very afraid, but couldn’t find its way back home. Jovan noticed that the animal is in a stress so he told his grandpa:
“Move away, let the dog in. It doesn’t know where it is.” However old veteran, that fought the Nazis, didn’t mind the dog ignored his grandson, moaning about the bridge.
“Their aim is the bridge. I have watched the construction. It was the finest one in Europe at that time”, he replied, nearly crying.
Jovan slowly pushed his leg, with his own, allowing just a little space for dog to enter our yard. Nervous, frightened and abused animal hid under the car, as Jovan is following its movement. Sheer fear and horror can be detected in its eyes. When it was on the ground it used his forearms to cover its eyes. Like the awful planes would vanish if you couldn’t see them. The planers of war never take in account suffering of children and poor animals who can’t grasp any of it with their tiny but pure brains.
Finally, mine master couldn’t do anything more for poor creature, and he turned his attention to the bridge. Copying some neighbor, climbed up the dam, not very smart decision, to witness from the first hand the destruction of one’s pride and joy of entire city in a single moment. It takes many people and hours to build something and only single idiot to destroy it...