Our train was rushing towards eternity and beyond. We were jolting but smoothly. Journey must be long. I was ready for this. Since what was the point in sending us away not at a long distance? The atmosphere was cozy and tranquil. Well, somehow like that we have passed our journey to something yet unexplored. Each clatter of wheels against the rails that seemed to be made out of feathers made us closer to it. It? To the logical outcome - our imminent arrival.
The landscape around did not arise any enthusiasm, but it didn't disenchant also; a little bit withered ground without any presence of any animals, barren meadows or simply plains. But all of a sudden entourage has changed. We 'clashed' with diversity of colors and abundance of life: flowers, trees, birds, insects, animals of various breeds, unseen herbs and plants. How did we must act at this very moment. I'll provide a simpler example. Imagine that while being a child you were deprived of certain things, i.e. toys, gadgets, money, perhaps even of love and compassion, etc. Now imagine that you can possess (and you use this opportunity) all at once. But all that you are eager to grab is located behind the window. It's so close, but at the same moment it's so far that it seems unobtainable.
We, like the peasants who were introduced with some civilization after they crept out from their caves, stuck to the window and glanced at everything that our outlook allowed. At that moment I remember a story about one guy who did several strange and perilous experiments at our University. He has cut his nose off to obtain a peripheral vision. I suppose now he'd be the luckiest and the happiest among us. We kept on observing and absorbing flora and fauna until the window wasn't covered with a thick layer of our breath. Then we had several seconds break to recover ourselves and return to admiration again.
Suddenly our train almost froze. We hurried to another window on the opposite side and saw that our trip has come to its dead end. As we were the only ones on that train, nobody said to us what to do, so that we took our garments and all bags and descended the train. A train station where we found ourselves lacked only some tumbleweeds and small whirlwinds in the centre.
Stunned from such a welcome we lingered and didn't know what to do or where to go. One thing was clear, we had to go out to see where did we get. Ascending each stair I felt that after my foot each previous bar disappeared after me. I was right. Out of four I was the last one who stepped on the first floor and as soon as my foot left concrete stairs, I turned and saw simply the fog that pervaded lower floor, nothing more.
We walked up to the crossroad and stopped there. It recalled my first 'appearance'. Thought is material, you know that. All at once I noted a road sign with only one board 'five kilometers and that was all. We followed pointers that were scattered across whole city or whatever it was. We changed our direction several times, took a pause, ascended and walked down various steep heights, until we didn't notice metal construction that resembled a stop. We came nearer and saw a timetable with various numbers and dates perhaps, but we couldn't read it since the language was unknown for us. Then I heard a sound of coming vehicle, it was a bus. It stopped beside, the door opened and a gloomy figure stared at us from the driver's seat. We were confused and embarrassed, so we decided to get in. Anyhow, what could happen to us if there wasn't anybody, but us and the driver. The handle was turned and we felt the same tender and silky road below us.
After approximately twenty minutes we stopped, the door opened, the driver walked out and went somewhere. By this time we were so exhausted and exasperated that we merely wormed from the bus and fell on the ground. Before I managed to catch my breath, I once again noticed one more sign with 'Death's University' inscription on it. One more index, one more arrow and one more bizarre direction. We followed it, made a round and collided with a door. We invaded void lobby and sat on the bench. After infinite waiting our nap was distracted by some fellow who reminded me a shade, he issued our keys and after he dissolved in the entourage as stealthy and silent as he marched in.
Two keys, two rooms accordingly. Different floors. We agreed that we'd meet here some minutes after. I walked into my room. I thought to ask somebody about this place, but as always fortune has been on my side and I didn't meet anybody, moreover, I didn't hear any noise as if even the dust was pinned to the floor or walls. My room reminded me a corridor at the end of the tunnel, although with one distinguishing difference - there was no light at the end. I placed my hangers into the locker, unpacked my two bags and lay on the mattress. It was rigid, but so pleasant. I wanted to get up, but weariness as if shackled me and I was numb.
I lifted my eaves up and realized that I, apparently, didn't come to our rendez-vous. I put on my clothes, rushed into the corridor, descended two floors lower and met my mate. According to her countenance and her look that expressed something like condolence I understood that she overslept it also. We laughed at it together. She said that when she woke up there was a letter in her room that most probably was pushed under the gap. She said that there was some information enclosed. I returned to my room and run into the same letter what I just didn't remark when I burst out of my room. I opened it and read it through. All that I understood is that we had to study. Again. ''So far so good. And why not. I wonder where I'll apply my knowledge...'' was all that I pushed out of myself at that moment. It was written about the subsidiary we arrived to, about the 'mental survival of the fittest', about our future subjects, studying process, tutors and 'Tribute'. We had to gather in the lobby with the first ringing. Oh, how I missed it. My adorable ringing. I shrugged shoulders and went down again. Me and A were just sitting and waiting for the ringing to break out. I suppose it was my first time when I spoke to her face to face, just like ordinary people do. Unfortunately, our talk was interrupted by the long-awaited clamor. We came down and met the same person who gave us our keys. He smiled. Strangely, but there was something in his smile. It was so calm, sincere, non-artificial and emitted trust. He put up his right hand and indicated to the door. That moment all his appearance found something common with arrows on the signboards. We went out, he followed us and did the same, but that time he directed us to some kind of misty field. We stepped on the trail and walked on. Consequently, with all arrow-like movements we reached one more building. I instantly found a similarity with our University. It looked like all its cracks that appeared there, at 'home' formed a groundwork for the University whatever it was. At the crossroad between blocks we met J and A. It turned out that they were directed into another building, but as I understood it was one more place of residence. I inquired them about the people there and they answered that they didn't see anything or anybody. Our shadowy arrow man said that we have to wait till another ringing. We sat on the lawn and exchanged with information about how we felt about that all. The conversation didn't last too long. Ringing sounded and while it was irritatingly ringing more and more people surrounded us and in the end it appeared that we formed one massive pile. We stood up. Nothing happened. Then speaker who emerged out of nowhere broadcasted that we had to wait for our turn and that everybody must be treated equally. I went down and said to poke me when it's our turn.
We were among the first ones who were dragged out of the crowd. Traversing corridors we appeared in a small room with a white screen on it. The person who most probably understood that we have a scarce understanding of where we are and what has to be done, took A and placed her next to the screen. Afterwards he indicated with motion that we don't have to distract her and we should remain silent. He took a photo of her. So far we understood what we had to do, so that one by one in a row we changed places and posed for the camera.
Directly after a photoset we were given plastic cars with our photos on. And already another 'navigator' motioned to follow her. We climbed up several floors and made some mysteriously sophisticated turns in some corners. After wondering across a labyrinth we faced timetable. If in our University I understood at least something, then here it was a total mess. Fortunately, we managed to settle it up. The next day was proclaimed to be our official studying day. In comparison with other students, we looked less confident and rapturous. The day was about to end and the same pale sun approached up to the horizon's edge. I was sitting in my burrow as well as I suppose my mates did, since I heard nobody in the corridors or outside. All around was so abandoned as if all vital powers were sucked out and life was simply on the verge of extinction.
My normal first night was more uncomfortable than pleasant. I woke up several times most probably because of the mattress. In fact, it was the only constituent of bed linen that I had. So my first night passed under my coat, sleeping in the tunnel. You know this feeling when you do not wink for several seconds and your eyes hurt. Well, that morning wasn't so nice as what I had there. My eyes hurt, receptacles were like red cables and I felt like a tortured prisoner. I didn't get up for a while, but in the end, I had to overcome myself. I locked my room, went downstairs, there I run A. Already the second time she 'forced' me chuckle. One more time I wasn't the only one with a seal of discontent in the face. This time we were able to cross the field without animating pointer.
Approaching the University, fog dispersed. Our road was overfilled with fog each time when we crossed it. In the street we met A and J and we entered the building. I forgot to mention that we got into the group 'N'. Therefore, it was essential to find room with such capital letter or people who'd be from the same group. Luckily we made it and settled in the class. I was amazed by the quantity of people. It was even harder to breathe because of the bulk of students who gathered in one small room. Lecture has begun.
The information that we heard wasn't nouvelle for us. The same subject, but only a package was presented in a different way. I started to feel myself in my own bowl. Why not a plate? Because this particular place and situation where we got involved 'deliberately by force' wasn't of tiny scope. We got into the very center of events and we were boiling there. But regardless that fact, I felt exaltation.
In less than one week we got acquainted with our new mates and all lecturers. Some of them were exceedingly serious, some of them were bizarre, most probably with their own cockroaches in head, others were enthusiastic and sometimes even too active. I don't know how about my mates, but I've found that some tutors here resembled ours there. It was so hilarious to realize that fact. I didn't tell it to my colleagues, believing that they'd see this similarity also. These were my superfluous remarks that made my days brighter.
In spite of the fact that I moved to absolutely unknown place for me, here I sensed time. No, I don't mean that I knew what time and when it was. I still didn't get it, really. I mean that here it wasn't like an unstoppable current, it was something like steady flux of ticking hand. This place sympathized me a little. People were amiable and benevolent. Occasionally it seemed that they exaggerated their attitude towards you, but after some time I got used to it. Alright, even if they aren't what they look like, why not? I have nothing against false amity. If the same hypocrisy and arrogance existed before, I don't want to get rid of it. As one clever person said to me once, ''There always should be the unalterable magnitudes.'', so that's why I took it for granted.
After several weeks we were fluent in understanding of the surrounding reality. I'd say that we were like sponges - we absorbed custom, the demeanor, the way people act and speak, etc. Yet nobody spoke to us, so we stood in our inseparable group of four Death's University foreigners. I incorporated into 'their' lifestyle, i.e. I smiled all the time, even if my jaw felt unendurable pain, I greeted everyone, even those whom I didn't know and I won't make friendship with these people, but who forbids me not to greet them? Yes, I still didn't know their names and what? But I smiled and greeted them just like they did. My conscience is clean, figuratively speaking. After one month we were an integral part of our new, but temporary society with all its oddities and inconveniences. Obviously that there were some positive points about this place. Definitely there should be. Yes. What's the time? I don't know either. Well, I suppose I have to hurry to my lecture.
Frankly speaking, it'd be easier to take a reader and place him or her in such a situation just to avoid further inference, claims and arguments. I'll try to summarize our days, weeks, certain parts of the studying year in several sentences. I said that I will try! I did not promise or stated that I will definitely do it. If you are capable of imagining eternal and flawless flux of never-ending information which streams from each void gap, then you have reached the sublime point of apprehension and compassion.
We got so accustomed to the surrounding people and atmosphere; now it didn't bother us. Unfortunately, we still didn't know where we were and what was the connection between everything, but who cared if it was okay. Soon we saw the blank with the list to the 'Tribute'. ''Relatively unexpected'', were my only thoughts. How it is to pass something like a trial in another realm, country, region, dimension, etc. You see, there's a big difference between how we endured it then and what we had to face now. During our stay here we got acquainted with people, but who said that they did the same? Anyhow, we were a bunch of strangers when we came here and we managed to preserve similar position and rather successfully. People around us were speaking in their language, like the aliens. Again. Again, this sense of a hive came to me. Now I was in the center of the stream. It also seemed that I was sucked into by whirlwind or trampled by hooves. Probably it's impossible to pertain the last comparison to bees, but I know that you've got my idea anyway.
After several days we encountered the same list of names and subjects that we had to pass. I'd say that it was more the survival list than a list of subjects, if I was allowed I'd have drawn a hangman near each subject. Since we all knew what will proceed after, i.e. if you pass you're allowed to exist in already post-life continuum and if you don't, you simply vanish and cease to spoil the air with your futile presence. Isn't it ironical? Look, you're a living person, you feel glee and exultation, you breathe and you die. You get somewhere, you realize that despite your death you're alive, but not in the same dimension. And one of the possible outcomes is death. Again?! You just cease to exist. I consider it as the outrageous injustice and torture. It's the oblivion that frightens us all.
Luckily or by mischance we got through it. Yes, we didn't vanish since the passing of 'Tribute' was our ticket back. Obviously we didn't know it. We understood it simultaneously with clatter and gripping of wheels of rushing train. Again, just four of us, unlimited spaces and rails to the horizon and beyond. We were proclaimed as dead, but we were still alive!
I liked trains once. In fact, I liked all means of transport where there were windows. I suppose a lot of people liked it and still adore looking through the window with a pensive countenance and a wearied sight. I was contented that one more milestone of our afterlives was over and we were moving somewhere or vice versa, were returning back. No one told us what is going to happen so we could only guess what exactly awaits us beyond the verge of the horizon. I was so mentally and physically exhausted due to the time that I spent on Ⅎ that I was not able to keep my eaves open, but I still mediated and observed the landscape of receding town, city, country or dimension.
As now I was dead I had a great, just an immense amount of time to think all my deeds over, to recollect everything that I could, since most probably some part of the brain was heavily damaged and now I cannot reproduce my previous life, but I can try to tie it up, step by step, as if I am trying to complete a puzzle. My eyes resembled to the mirror of my past. They saw all the events, but unfortunately they cannot reproduce them. I was a manifestation of a history, definitely not in the broad sense. But it was my life, thus it was MY history. Who said that we have appeared in real life or even here not on purpose? Our lives are not meaningless. Sure, during the wars it is impossible even to count how many corpses are in the truck's trailer or how many tombs people have to dig. We are animals. Even worse than that. Since even they have stuck to hierarchy and know, whom and what they have to soothe. People are ruthless by nature. Our existence in the society is suppressed by fears of being normal, but not perfect and similarity brings only deterioration and decay. Where did we put all previous moral values and laws? I mean human laws, not the political ones. ''That's not the appropriate way how to 'use' windows. They have to produce neutral or positive emotions and I'm like a cynic who is looking through the windows which are full of raindrops and, in the background there are ruins of the future past.'' A trifle thought, but very motivating one.
My mates were sleeping and I envied them so much. After my death my body has preserved some features I suppose. I still could not sleep, even after my physical death, I could not sleep as much as I wanted, it is a pity. ''When my rest will finally come to me?'' But there was an advantage it this situation - I could enjoy and pervade the serenity. Oh, I hate romance. The girls woke up. Suddenly, as it happened before, the clatter ceased and we stopped. We faced the same crossroad with a dusty and gradually deteriorating road sign. The same dim, the same loss of existence. We knew it at once, we were home.
After the universal decision that we have to sleep, we wandered each in our own way. I have never thought about where did they live, as I knew that we come to the University from various angles. I came into my room. Was I amazed? Not at all. Total idleness and heavy air. Sleeping friends and the loss of the sun. Most probably I missed it, at least somewhere deep inside in the sacred chambers that collected the best of my memories.
My appearance woke them up. Wiping their eyes, they greeted me with a light and irritated voice, ''What's up? Why so early? Long time no seen, huh...'' And after that, one of them plunged back into the pillow and another buried himself into the PC's screen. ''There should be some unalterable measures in life.'', it was the only bright thought in this early and gloomy morning that struck me. I unpacked my luggage, distributed the souvenirs, promised that I will tell more about my journey into the unknown and switched off for several hours. I suppose I slept about two hours, not more, I'm sure. It never works out in the morning, if I did not fall asleep before, then I will not go to bed during the whole day and if I wake up I continue my existence already in the vertical position. I leaned to the wall and commenced my story. The guys listened with sluggish, but entertaining enthusiasm. They absorbed every piece of information like sponges, but did not ask questions. I knew that it was not so because my story was so exhaustive, it was so due to their reluctance to inquire. But I did not forget how it is and dealt with it.
In their turn, they told me that during my absence our residence obtained new souls and some of the students failed the 'Tribute' and vanished all of a sudden, on the same place where they failed. They listed some names which were not familiar to me and I threw them out of my head. Was it because I did not care? No. It was so, because of their disappearance. If person vanishes, his memories and aspect joins him or her.
To sum up, I can claim that in the middle of my absence and my return there were some changes, but they were barely significant. What is the second death of some people and new souls for the dormitory? Personally, I noticed one change that caught my attention. Guess what? Cracks, walls, bricks, building, title, etc? Still nothing? I am speaking about the University. The only thing that really experienced some changes was our University. It did not change in its size, its colour remained the same, and perhaps it just mingled with the pale sun, as everything here had such hue. I knew that this minor, but already explicit alteration will lead to something. Just for one second I thought that if our alma-mater crumbles in ruins, we all could be rovers of the limb. But, I retrieved my hope and optimism and stepped on the accustomed stairs.
In comparison with the exterior part, inside all remained unchanged. Tutors were the same, the same exhausted look, students also resembled to hive as before. Vague stress, rush, questions and annoyance. In the capacity it created a detestable blend towards people.
Suddenly I felt somebody's hand on my shoulder and then this person patted me. It was our Grand Master. Frankly speaking, I was astonished, because I remember her as an unemotional and strict lady. Wait. Oh, it is alright, the same indignant sight. She expressed her gratitude to us and said that she admired us for our actions and tenacity. ''Whatever she means I am in'', it was better just to agree with people whose rank is already scratching the clouds somewhere up. It could not just end so. She said that despite our successful return we have to go through 'Tribute' also at our University. Oh, how it rejoiced me. And that is how our monologue went on. She shouted out her orders with a smile, as if offering them, but I nodded with the countenance that portrayed eternal sunshine of the spotless mind. I had to deliver this information to the rest part of my companions.
After our colloquy and overwhelming exasperation we drank tea in the buffet and spread each in his/her angle of the shallow and the dead city. I did not want to accept this fact, since it was not acceptable to persuade squeezed out students as if deliberately 'fight' for their own rights to continue their existence. ''It's not even close to normal studying process; it's a survival mode in the lower reality, not more''. The only possible outcome was to conform the regulations and to obey, since nobody declined hierarchy and subordination, even in the world where all people had to be equal. Like a hermit, I isolated myself from the society and placed myself around books in the library and reading hall. I did not count, time or days. All life flickered before my eyes like a film or a running line in the news. I damaged my stomach, but ameliorated my mental level. My last preparation consisted of shaving and meal. I was happy and switched off as soon as my body reached a hard soil.
During these days my life was a dial without a hand that indicated seconds. I did not hear the ticking and did not know what the time was and how many hours passed before me. My aim... I can say confidently that the only aim that I set was the eleutheromania. It was so intense that I grabbed the ticking hand and did not let it go until I went out from the University, landed on the stairs, inhaled void air and pushed my warm aim into the atmosphere. ''I'm done. But I know that it wasn't the end of my tale''.
I will be brief in my description of the 'Tribute's' passing process. Tumult, distress, fear, mockery, happiness, cheer, admiration, loathing, hope, aspirations, disillusionment, understanding, force, desolation, will, belief, fate, misunderstanding, protest, self-evaluation and life as the result. What was that? All milestones where I managed to stop and take a break during my examination. Something revived me, but something took me down and I needed time to get back into a saddle. But in the end, it was a worthy process. I restored faith in myself and realized that my life, if I can name it so, was still going on. Even after death, I am continuing living. I did not praise myself and did not expect that somebody will do it instead. Maximum of respect was transmitted through the handshakes and pleasant smiles. At these moments I thought about the possibility to imitate a handshake. Well, you see, people often do not show their real inner world or miseries, but prefer to hide it under the mask of eternal joy. It is not the matter of hypocrisy even. We just got used to it so much that it is in our nature and it cannot be wiped off. We have fake reproductions, forgery, false emotions and sense of stability, but what about handshakes? We greet people, congratulate them, show our admiration, etc. But in comparison with a smile, even despite of reluctance, we do it.
''How we like to adopt, that's just amazing. Oh, I'm so pleased. Thank you''. What could be said more? Yes, these words indicated my survival and escape from the scaffold, but I still did not have this feeling of completion. I was satisfied and happy I dare say, but I felt that something else is going to take place in my life. I knew that it was not the end of my educational trail. Did I rejoice? Yes, but not because of that. I was glad to have my inert and lifeless friends and mates around me. These were people who formed the proper bunch of morals and hope. That is so trivial that I lost everything with my 'passing', but they helped me to acquire it from the very beginning. Resurrected and fresh – that is how they appeared in my afterlife. And they did not vanish; that was the crucial point, since if they did what would I do then? All of us went through two 'Tributes' already and no one knew what was going to happen. It seemed that these people lived in the current moment. All of them lost somebody or something, even if they do not remember it, now they had me and I had them, but we did not know what awaited us tomorrow.
I promised that we will see each other once more. As I had this feeling of incompletion and assumed that we will gather perhaps in the same place again. We spread in our corners and bade farewell on approximately 90 000 minutes.