He is real

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Chapter 11. Day seven

I opened my eyes, stretched out, groaned asleep and, sighing heavily, rolled onto my side, trying to focus on what was happening around.

— Misha? — I said with fear. This fear was caused by the blue wall against which my gaze rested. I didn’t expect to see it, because I hoped to wake up at least to be the last time with Misha. With the one who, without a red T-shirt, looked better off than in it.

— Hey, blonde? — I heard the familiar slightly mocking voice behind my back.

Holy shit! Does my dream continue?

I lay on my back, turned my head and saw him squatting by my bed. I was in the familiar room with the wardrobe, its doors were covered with a mirror film. The boy’s hair was disheveled, just like when we met last, his eyes bulged, and a broad white smile appeared on his face. His long bony fingers lay on his knees.

— You?! What the devil are you doing here? — I stared at him, being afraid to move. I shouldn’t have done that. It would be better to say: “What the devil am I doing here!”

— Devils are the lowest creatures, feh. — Wrinkling his thin nose and twisting his mouth in disgust, he moved to the edge of the bed. — Don’t tell anyone that I came. By the way, I heard a talk here. You haven’t left the ward for several days, that’s why I’ve brought you something to eat.

He took several oatmeal bars in a transparent package from a wide pocket of his pajamas and threw them on my pillow. I looked at the candy bars, then at him, then looked around the room once again — and that was all. I’ve got it. This is not a dream. Having jumped up from the bed, I clutched at my head and swore loudly.

The boy got up frightened — his eyes became even wider (to be honest, I thought that he had already opened them to the limit), he took off and ran out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

— Hey, wait! — I shouted after him and ran after him, crossed the threshold of the door, looked around — there was no one in the long corridor. Only rectangular ceiling-hung lamps, open white doors and a carpet on the floor.

— Misha, my “invisible friend”, where are you? And if you’ve gone why am I here? Answer me. Could it be that I’ll never see you again? How can I call you?! Should I pray God? What is this place, why do I always come back here?! — Come to think of it, these are quite suitable shouts for a person staying in this institution.

I circled around, looking at the empty corridor in the hope to see Misha, called for him. He wasn’t there. Neither in reality nor in my head. I moved forward, made a few steps, each step got more and more difficult, making my legs cotton. I could no longer go through an orientation, I realized that I was falling down, at first I bumped into the wall with my shoulder, and then I hit it with my head. After the impact everything suddenly went black, and my consciousness switched off.

***

I regained consciousness. The brown ceiling beams of the familiar log cabin froze before my eyes. Still gripped by fear, I raised up, crawled back sitting, bumped into the bedside table, which made it swing, and the unfinished bottle of whiskey that was on its edge fell to the floor.

Misha woke up because of the sound of breaking glass, jumped in bed with the words:

— Just go to hell yourself! — Dumbfounded, he started looking around, and when he noticed me, who was sitting frightened next to the bedside table, he heaved a sigh of relief, adding: — Great, we are still here! — Then he grinned and asked: — Anna, did you sleep on the floor again?

I got up without answering him and hurried to hug him, sat down on his lap, pressed against him, wrapped my arms around his big neck. He also hugged me, stroking my back.

— I was so scared, you can’t even imagine it. I thought I wouldn’t see you again and wouldn’t hear you. Mental health facility… is it… isn’t it a dream? Everything is so realistic there, just like here. Two realities, but different ones. — Sharply lifting my head, I looked into Misha’s face and was deeply surprised at what I’ve just said. — Misha, then what is the present?

My “invisible friend,” who knew the answers to most of the existing questions, could make it clear, he was even going to do it, but I stopped him had he only opened his mouth.

— The more I begin to understand, the more difficult it becomes. That’s enough. You’d better not to explain anything. We are here, I refuse to accept another reality. I’ll take a shower, — I said quickly, and purposefully moved towards the bathroom.

***

Standing under the cold jets of water that were falling on my head, and resting my forehead against the tiled wall, I stepped with my foot on the iron plug hole, closed it so that the bath could be filled. I will say this: five minutes, spent without the existence of Misha, shocked me, I was willing to do anything, for him to return. It was shock, similar to the one you feel at the sound of a siren, warning about the bombing. It is then that you remember about the existence of God. And after all, at that moment in the hospital corridor I, believed and was ready to beg for help like never before. What a queer thing! God is one of the creators of all things which are real and tangible — you turn to Him for the last service, remembering about Him in moments of despair. And His existence is justified when He helps.

Now I can understand more consciously what it was like for Misha, who was sitting on the porch of the house and holding the knife in his hand, which in addition to everything was evocative knife. If I were him, I myself would have acted in the same way, and without thinking. So, I don’t blame him for this act, but he himself considers himself guilty.

I didn’t know what to do next. I was standing, shaking under cold water, like a gopher in a pouring rain, and couldn’t understand what… what to do next?! Where will I return? Where am I? No answers, no explanations, no common sense. And in general, everything doesn’t agree with common sense for us. And life is a complete absurdity, consisting of contradictions.

Perhaps this common sense is understandable only to those who live by the rules, and my friend and I are protesting against the rules for no good reason. Perhaps, indeed, it would be better not to violate them, but simply to live. I thought about that, but later my action would be completely opposite.

— Anna, is everything alright? — I heard Misha’s voice. He was standing on the threshold of the bathroom and looking at me. In his eyes, I noticed a slight arousal.

— You have no idea how good it is with you. Come to me. — Why should he stand there when there is an opportunity to be together in a refreshing bath.

On the way, Misha pulled off his shorts and threw them away. Before his arrival the bath was already more than half full. He climbed into it. I sat with my back pressed to him, my head thrown back against his chest.

— When I was your “invisible friend”, when you said, sitting on the couch, drunk and tired: “I miss him”, I really wanted to tell you that I also miss you. — He pulled back the hair stuck to my neck, and buried his forehead in it. Hugging, squeezing my breasts in his palms.

— Show me more of our past.

— There’s no point in living in the past, baby, — he said in a hoarse whisper, without raising his head.

— But I want to go through it. Again.

— If you want it so much, close your eyes.

***

Fresh grass. My little feet in dark brown shoes worn out on the toes, put on white socks, were sinking in it. Lifting my head, I began to look around. I noticed a group of children; they were running and having fun playfully. Well, I myself was a child. Sunlight was flooding the glade, surrounded by tall birches with short black lines of stripes on white trunks. The orchestra on the wooden stage, located in the center, was playing an unfamiliar, classical style, entertaining music with distinguished sounds of the saxophone. On the right side, at the long table filled with various dishes strangers in old-fashioned clothes sat.

Someone patted me on the shoulder, and I turned around. A child wearing a bear costume, made of coarse burlap, was standing in front of me, waiting. His thin, pale legs stuck out from under the tight fabric of his shorts. He stretched out his hands to a huge round mask — his head — and took it off.

I was immediately enchanted by his sky-bright blue eyes.

— Hello, — he said in trembling voice, being childishly naively embarrassed.

At that time he was about twelve years old.

— Michael Serovski! — I jerked out, pursing my lips, bent my elbows, putting my fists on my hips. — Why are you constantly following me? Why are you bothering me?

I wasn’t going to say this, because I couldn’t even say a word, I was only an observer in my own body, but I realized that I liked it when this boy appeared next to me.

— Oh, come on. Why are you so cruel? Let ’s play. — He threw me the soft bear head. It hit my baby’s chest, bounced off from it and fell on the grass.

— Hey, you! — Shouted irate “Anna the girl” from my past life, and the boy Michael, laughing, began to run away.

She quickly picked up the primitive semblance of the head, which, crumpled, lay at her feet, and ran after Michael.

— Stop, you won’t make me play with you if I don’t want it! — She swung and with all her strength threw the crumpled quilted bear head in the back of the boy, however, missed a little. The head just grazed his shoulder and bounced away from him, like a ball.

The boy, still running, turned around. Laughing fervently, he was carrying “Anna from the past life” away. He rejoiced so innocently and she ran after him in a clear glade, not noticing anything, shouting expletives in a childish way. Having overtaken him, she tapped lightly. Then ran away. And when he caught up with her, she, having beaten him once more ran away, knowing that he would run after her. In fact, we did this until evening. And then we climbed a tree, sat down on one of its large long branches, with our skinny children’s legs with sharp knees dangling, and kicking our legs up. The boy Michael in the costume of a bear and I, “Anna from the past life” wearing a big, carefully straightened round rag mask on my head, resemblance of a bear head.

We looked from the heights at the children’s party, listening to music, and enjoying the saxophone solo. It should be admitted that he played the magic tune with feeling, its notes printed on the pages turned into waves of sound and spread throughout the clearing, shrouded in red light of the paper garland lanterns.

— Shall we play some more tomorrow? I have a wooden horse, big, on wheels, — the boy Michael distracted me from contemplating the holiday.

— A wooden horse is great. — My voice sounded muffled, struggling through the thick cloth of the bagging of the round mask of the bear head.

— Mom will bake chocolate cupcakes, she always bakes them on Fridays. I will definitely share with you.

— Oh, cupcakes are great, especially chocolate ones, — I encouraged him — as “Anna the girl”.

— Yes, my mum’s cupcakes are excellent. — He smiled so familiarly, his eyes sparkled, he brought his thin palms together and, lifting his shoulders, put them between his knees.

— And I’ll draw you as a big bear. When you grow up, you will become as strong as a bear. And I will give you this drawing tomorrow.

— Will you be thinking about me in the evening and drawing me? — his youthful voice rang out loud.

— Yes, — I said briefly and confidently, as if there could be no other way.

— I’ll take all the cupcakes from the house, I’ll give you everything. And I will give the horse, honestly, — he said sincerely and resolutely. Leaning, he looked at me, peering into the narrow slits for the eyes of the bear head.

Suddenly everything disappeared.

How much I liked it sitting, dangling my skinny little legs in sandals on a tree next to the young Michael (he didn’t even suspect what a man he was to become and was so kind and naive), feeling confident that the next day would be filled with joy. Cupcakes, games, grateful surprise from the already beloved boy for the drawing given to him. And then… then we could think of something else that would continue to the next day, filled with our fantasies.

I returned to Misha, who, when he had grown up, became as strong as a bear, slid slowly down his chest, on which I leaned my back, plunged into cold water and drowned in it with my head. He quickly grabbed my shoulders, pulled me to him and hugged me.

Taking a deep breath, I tried to regain my lost breathing. My breathing restored, and a short chuckle broke out of my chest, at first completely quiet and muffled, but as soon as I took more air into my lungs, it turned into a high pitched laugh, echoed from the tiled walls of the bathroom.

— Misha, even at that age you were so, — I tried not to laugh again, — so good, so generous … — But I couldn’t control myself, and Misha laughed with me.

— I can still ride you on a wooden horse, in the same glade, — he said cheerfully. — I already loved you then.

— I know, and I loved you too, — I said, taking a deep breath. Suddenly it was not at all funny, but on the contrary, it was insulting and painful, so much that my heart ached. Everything could have happened again in this life, but it didn’t happen again, we could… We could have done a lot of things, but instead I lived in search of someone who was always there, just outside my world.

Russia

One of the records the day before the New Year 2018

My “invisible friend”, being careful, never spoke about himself. And now the need for caution has disappeared, it no longer made sense to follow the rules whether they will be violated or not, in any case he will return to the place from which he came before he became my “invisible friend.”

He dipped me into a reality which was already familiar to him, it was enough to close his eyes. He showed me the days when I went to bed in the morning. How he saw them for his part. He was with me, separated by the border of the worlds, was tempted to take on flesh and feel the touch of my body, having buried his head in my hair. He could heave breathed in its scent, hugging me tightly.

I saw the past nights where he had to share me with others with his eyes. I remember them in fragments, like broken pieces from a film. They periodically rush like memories, and, most likely, will not fade in my memory, regardless of the number of the years passed. Lustful touches of the customers’ hands, face to face or when I was on the warm up for couples of all stripes. In those moments, my “invisible friend” fell silent, my imagination drew him sitting on the edge of the bed, in which the people hiding their true nature were having fun with me. Luxuriant imagination and intuition, they are so similar and connected. As it turned out, my friend had actually sat there, being angry down to the limit. Resting his elbows on his knees, he watched frowningly, without saying a word, because his persuasions had already ceased to affect me.

He reminded me of a quiet beach in an elite village, with a pile of stones tumbled down on the sand (on the second day of our acquaintance, he — the real one looked at them thoughtfully, tapping his fingers on a glass of champagne when I asked him about his past life). Painfully familiar place for him. Recently, he used to transfer there at dawn. He sat obediently on the stones, unable to see how I, falling asleep, was squeezing the pillow and feeling the need for him, without knowing it. He was not able to change everything, no matter what powers he possessed.

Early Israeli morning, pierced with cold dampness. Just over three years ago. He peers into the waves, which run over each other and hit the bottom of the pile of those same stones in white furrows. He is sitting on one of them and looking down. He wants me wearing a white, light dress that suited me so well in his past life to come to him, sit beside him. My light curls would fly in the wind, touching his cheek a little.

“My darling, why are you sitting here? I can’t sleep without you. Come with me”, with a thrill in my voice, I would call him with me, putting my hand on his shoulder. And he would follow me into any bed, whatever it would be. But the days were passing. Week after week turned into months, and the thing that we both wanted, did not happen. Morning, the morning that followed it, the new morning, the next morning… Actually, all of them looked like that. Listening to the sound of the waves, he watched the dawn, announcing the beginning of the day. He was waiting for the order, not knowing yet which of the people would not be able to start the day at sunrise. I slept and met my “invisible friend” only before waking up. He came to me as different characters. For example, the guy who was sitting with me on a cloud or a faithful dog, knocking off daisies with his tail.

It hurt him, and I could feel his pain when my mind recreated him, bringing him to existence in my world, endowing him partly with human flesh. Being on the border of our realities, he tried to talk to me. But everything that came out of it caused me feel wild fear, turning the whole thing into a complete farce.

And then I met him “real” on the beach under the scorching rays of the midday southern sun. I was looking at him, feeling awkward. Yes, of course, the stupidity of my behavior worried him very little, he was happy to return. Happy to run on wet sand, happy to inhale the humid salty air again, excessively happy to be in the material world with me, to look into my eyes, knowing that soon he would finally be able to touch me and feel how I touch him.

Israel. Eilat

2016

In the early twilight of the seventh day, the soft yellowish-pink light of the sun going beyond the mountains enveiled the Eilat marina — an artificially created harbor surrounded by elite high-rise hotels of various forms. Each built in its own individual style, they clearly reflected the genius of the architect who designed them. Shining signs, adorned on the facades of the buildings, shone with names that raise their status by means of historical figures names. King Solomon, painter Leonardo da Vinci, founder of the Jewish dynasty King Herod. The latter is an evil genius who, according to legend, killed many citizens and his own family. But despite everything, he is popular, and the hotels named after him, for many years are considered to be the most elite in our country.

Pleasure crafts, private sailing yachts with neatly folded sails lined in smooth moored rows, forming a parking lot on the water. Swaying, they creaked, the splash of calm, barely noticeable waves hitting their sides could be heard.

The day was even hotter than the previous one. To be precise, the temperature in the shade was 42 degrees with a plus sign. I did not want to leave the air-conditioned walls of the house, but the desire to be with Misha on a yacht drifting in the sea was stronger. After all, I dreamed about it a few days ago, when I was dancing for the Arabs.

— I’m so hot, — I said, my voice was befuddled by the exhausting heat, Misha was looking at the moored yachts at that time.

— Do you want freshness and rain? — he asked.

— Very much. — I sighed with annoyance at understanding that this is impossible.

— And if it is possible? — He turned and looked at me, a slight smile touched his lips, and slyness flashed on his face.

Suddenly, I felt a fresh stream of wind. Looking up, I noticed how the clouds, which even a minute ago were so weightless and motionless, began to get dark, increasing in size. They were growing quickly and covered the sky, shielding the remaining rays of the sunset. Everything was quiet around. The darkness of the night enveloped the city and the narrow lanes of the pier. Our ears popped on. For a short time silence hung in the electric atmosphere. And then there were peals of thunder, originating somewhere far beyond the mountains.

Looking back, I saw how people who had previously been sitting in restaurants along the pier began to go outside. All of them were enthusiastically looking in the sky with their heads up.

Misha approached me and took my hands. The wind blew harder, it waved the hem of my dress, began to tangle my long hair, picked up the grains of sand that lay like a layer of old dust on the concrete floor, the roofs of restaurants and cars. The peals of thunder became even more powerful, they sounded with a deafening force, and rain fell on the ground. It banged on the street tiles of the pier, hitting them with massive drops. It was making noise, merging into a melody consisting of millions of particles of water that miraculously appeared in the desert. It filled every crack of the thirsty soil.

People around us, both adults and children, began to run, jump and sing, rejoicing at what was happening, calling it a miracle. Of course, the thing that happened was exactly this phenomenon.

Misha and I stood opposite each other, still holding hands.

— Has it got cooler now? — said Misha being happy but sopping wet because of the pouring rain.

His wet T-shirt stuck to his body, showing off the relief of his chest, the fabric of shorts stuck to the muscles of his legs. I peered into his face, excitingly beautiful, with eyebrows frowning a little. His look was calm, small drops of water were falling from his thick eyelashes, hair, flowing down the bristly cheeks, making small paths down his big neck.

“And how will I live on? — I mentally asked myself a question. — How will I do the usual things, knowing that he could be near?”

— Don’t be sad, we’ll think of something, — said Misha encouragingly.

— As for me, I haven’t got a clue, what you can think of here. — Mournfully I lowered my wet head, but after a second I raised it and continued speaking in amazement: — Can you read my mind? — Actually, I could have guessed before, he had always known how to do it.

— No, — said Misha shortly.

— Just don’t lie, — I said, trying to recognize the truth in his eyes.

— I didn’t dig in your thoughts, everything is clear without it. We have to go, I’ve found the yacht. — He released my hands, turned and headed in the direction known only to him, I dutifully followed him. I was walking beside him, when he walked silently, with his hands in his wet pockets, lifting his shoulders a little, as heavy rain pounded on them.

— And can money pour down from the sky instead of rain? — Having taken off my shoes, with bare feet I was stepping into warm puddles.

— Are you crazy?

— Well, I just asked. However ….

He stopped and looked at the people who were a few meters behind us, who were having fun in the pouring rain. Suddenly he began to peer at them with alert fear mixed with anxious silence — there’s such a look of a cool-headed predator who has noticed the approaching danger. I saw this emotion on his face for the first time.

— Do you see them? — he asked.

— Besides the crowd of people, I don’t see anyone else there, — I answered, confused.

— It’s good. Let’s go faster. — Having said this, he grabbed my elbow and pulled me to a white, bright finished yacht of medium size. On the forty-foot sloop along the starboard you could read the name in capital letters — ASTRAL.

Having got hold of me in his arms, Misha moved over the stern aboard and, while I was standing on the deck, examining the yacht, he untied hurriedly. He climbed the stairs to the wheelhouse. I heard the sound of the engine, moving in reverse, the yacht sailed off from the pier.

I went up for Misha, stood beside him, holding his hand. The rain was over, leaving behind coolness, the clouds scattered completely, and the stars glittered in the dark sky.

We were moving fast away from Eilat, a high-speed motor yacht, cutting through the oncoming waves, was carrying us into the dark waters of the Red Sea, and after twenty minutes the coast of the city turned into a semicircular strip of lights behind us. In the distance there were hotels, people, life with its familiar pace, as well as our cozy house, where we were not destined to return to.

***

The interior of the yacht was equipped with everything necessary for long parties, which seemed to have been quite frequent here. In the spacious galley there were water reserves, boxes of alcohol, all kinds of snacks, canned goods and soft drinks.

The galley itself was located under the cabin, on the lower deck, closer to the bow of the yacht. I found Macallan in one of the boxes under the table (drinking this whiskey could become a tradition, if it were not for one well-known circumstance), then I grabbed ten fifteen-gram shots from the kitchen drawer. I arranged them on the tabletop in a straight row and sat down next to Misha on the sofa at a spacious table for several persons.

— Look, we pour the whiskey in all the shots, and you start drinking from the left side, and I from the right. The one, who can drink more shots — wins. — I opened the bottle and started filling up the shots.

— And what is the prize? What’s the point of the competition? — Misha asked, watching the deft movements of my hands.

— A wish. One of us makes a wish, and the second fulfills it.

He grinned. Of course, it will not be difficult for him to win, to surpass me as an ordinary mortal person. But Misha, so to speak, is a “gentleman”, so, most likely, he will give up. Unless he is not reading my thoughts at the moment, of course

— On the count of three. And… one, two, three, — I said, giving the start.

I quickly picked up the shot and drank it, throwing my head back and sharply put it empty with a bang, on the table, then quickly grabbed another one, doing the same thing. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that Misha was following me. Then, even more quickly, I picked up the third, with the second hand the fourth, having emptied it, threw it on the table, took the fifth, swallowing its contents, quickly pulled the sixth to me.

Feeling my victory, I proudly put the empty shot on the table. Still he let me win, a thought instantly flashed in mind. I gave a long breath, and only then the drunk alcohol hit my brain, and so powerfully that everything began to go blur around.

— Actually I won, — I said quickly, trying to hide the tipsy voice. I tried to focus my attention, but it was in vain.

— Is that all? Have you “snapped”? — The expression of my Misha’s charming face hardened in a snide grimace. He tried to hold his emotions, although it was hard not to notice that laughter lurked somewhere inside him and it was about to break out.

— No, five shots is nno… no enough… not enough, in general, for me to get drunk. — I was even more tongue-tied, and on top of that, the hiccup that appeared unexpectedly finally knocked me off balance.

— I hope your victory was worth it. — Placing the upside down shots on the table, he looked up at me, and when I once again hiccupped after the phrase “so much”, he laughed in full voice with his gruff low laugh.

— Shut up. — I pushed him in the shoulder and sighed lingeringly. — Let’s go, we need to freshen up.

***

Having run quickly out onto the deck, we jumped off the yacht, holding hands, and dived into the deep abyss of the sea. There was no fear, because Misha was with me and didn’t let my hand go.

More than six years ago, we were diving from the bow of my father’s rusty small iron boat, and in those moments I couldn’t even think that my “invisible friend” would be able to hold my hand for real. That he would be next to me — as a man. A man with whom I can feel free and happy, the real Anna, a lover of doing everything she pleases, sometimes even stupid, but passionate and unrestrained, burning with the lust for him, and he would love me exactly like that. He, my Misha, is one in whom sexuality is implicated, reflected in his appearance, and a special attraction, expressed through a strong-willed character, restrained behavior and of promises only supported by the actions.

***

— Well, and what is your wish? — Misha decided to ask me.

After the swim in the cool waters of the Red Sea, we went into the cabin and in an attempt to warm ourselves, we went to bed, covered ourselves with a blanket, firmly clinging to each other. The silence was broken only by the sounds of calm waves beating on the sides of the swinging yacht.

— Show me death, — I said, expressing my wish.

He frowned and chuckled loudly.

— It’s impossible.

— Why?

— You can only see this reality. You are still alive, and if I take you there, it is likely that you will not return. And if you come back, you won’t remember anything. You won’t be able to realize here what is happening there. — After a short pause, he added puzzled: — And in any case, I don’t understand why you need this?

— I want to know where you’ll return. Show me what you’ve seen. Make an interpretation. Like in a movie.

— Don’t be silly, I’ve told you that it would not work. — His eyes widened for a second because of insight that came to him. — What are you up to?

— Nothing. Just show me. You’ve lost the wish. So do it.

He leaned back and, with his arms folded across his chest, turned his gaze to the dark ceiling of the cabin. Sitting up in bed, I tucked my legs under me and, leaning over him, continued saying:

— Everything is fair.

Yes, I used the situation to the best effect a little bit, knowing about his noble nature. I uttered the words that emphasize its significance on purpose, referring to the fact that he is my “gentleman,” if only he would give in, in case he still wants to read my thoughts. He agreed to play the stupid game and as a result of the loss he promised to fulfill any desire. And if he promised, then he would fulfill it by all means. These are his own principles, which he will never compromise.

He turned his head sharply to me and said in an angry voice:

— Well done. You’ve won, I’ve lost, everything is fair. Come here.

Having returned to Misha’s cozy arms, I began to fall asleep, completely eluding the feeling of reality. I was drawn down by darkness, alluring darkness. And then came the new awareness of reality.

I saw an endless world, a cosmos with millions of planets and stars, twisted in zero gravity. Here you understand that you are part of it, and your role should soon be performed once again, intertwining with the fates of people, while pushing them towards certain deeds and actions. And having returned once again, you could play another new role, mixing with this vast and boundless world.

The incommensurable tranquility suddenly enters the soul, erasing all thoughts and memories, nothing’s left. Our thoughts always move in chaotic action, and it is so chaotic that it is impossible to decide which of these thoughts is more necessary and correct. But they aren’t here anymore, there are no problems and worries, there are no sounds. There’s nothing. Only peace — dead peace.

Then everything begins to narrow, the boundless Universe narrows down to a cramped corridor. And then there is the sound of silence, a quiet hum in the ears, as if someone pressed one note, the highest one, on the piano key. This sound does not disappear, it only lasts and lasts. Involuntarily you make step by step, following the corridor. You already begin to feel your body by moving your legs. At the end of it there is no light, you fall into a cloud where you can barely see some shadows. Faceless shadows with outlines of human figures. You look around, turn around, do it over and over again. You understand that you are in a circle surrounded by shadows that stand close together. This is the first circle, and behind it — the countless number of similar circles. And suddenly you are pierced by a feeling of fear, merging with internal pain. The only thing, inhabiting this place.

— Now you’ll become one of us, you’ll wait for sinful souls that join our ranks. — The flying chorus of voices of dark creatures echoes in infinite space.

— I have to go back… — you say in despair and fall to your knees, without finishing your speech. There is no compassion here, any of your words calling for compassion won’t change the essence of what is happening, the shadows won’t let you go. They are not subject to such feelings.

— Your soul now belongs to us and this place, — go on the creatures around.

They lock you into a tight circle and begin to tear to pieces — not flesh, but everyone takes away a part of your soul, they take you apart in small pieces. There’s no limit to suffering and pain. Even ranking with them, returning to integrity, your pain does not go away. It continues to exist, and from now on it will forever be tearing you apart.

You begin to see the constantly arriving souls of sinners, and therefore, as you have already become one of these creatures, you yourself tear apart the new arrivals in order to alleviate your pain for a moment. After you greedily squeeze through the crowds of fellow brethren who have already become related to you in order to grab your piece and swallow it up quickly, the pain disappears for a moment. But it comes back with a new power, and so on ad infinitum, everything goes in a circle, like in the circle where you stand in the form of a shadow.

It’s all over. For me. And the world in front of my eyes became earthly. I returned, the pain went away, leaving behind a small tremor that ran along the spine like an aftertaste.

— Well, did you like the trip to hell? It was my hell, and yours, if you make a mistake that I had made, will be even worse, because it will be based on your fears. — Misha was hugging me, and his face was so close that I could feel the heat coming from his lips.

For a few seconds I looked into his eyes, my heart was pounding uncontrollably at a frantic pace, and only when my heartbeat became quieter I asked:

— Isn’t it the one?

— There’s an infinite variety of options. Make the right choice, and you will not go to your own hell.

— I… not… I don’t know what choice to make, without you everything becomes meaningless, I can’t imagine how I will live without the real you, without you, my “invisible friend”, who I’ve already got so used to (like this, a double blow). — Over the last couple of days my jaded psyche finally failed. Tears filled my eyes, and I blinked rapidly in an attempt to stop them. — How come, Misha? There must be a way out. Why can’t you change everything? Stay with me! Dash it all! — I got silent. It was impossible to argue with this reality.

— Stubborn you, I didn’t want to show you anything. — He himself was upset, ran his thumb along the corner of my eye and added after he kissed my trembling lips: — Hey, stop, we’ll think of something.

— It was like this before. — I don’t want to say that I gave up, but I got scared at the thought what I would have to go against.

— It’s always been like that, — he said affirmatively. He, who had been to hell and managed to break his own fears. He, who was not willing to abide by the circumstances. He, who knew that once again he would soon have to find himself in the place where he would be torn to shreds, — still continued fighting.

I will return and I won’t follow orders any longer.

— Come on, it’s time for a new fantasy. Start thinking up of what will happen next. I will already know where to come back later. — The words said by Misha involuntarily caused the stream of new images and desires, I remembered the past years when we were inventing various circumstances, some kind of dreams, which we believed could be fulfilled. He lay back on the pillow and threw his hands under his head, waiting for the beginning of the presentation of my imaginary future events. — Just move closer to me, as you lie far away.

Putting my head on his arm bent at the elbow and pressing close to him, I threw my leg over him.

— Do you remember, once I dreamed that I would dance on stage? It’s a pity, of course, that in reality this stage turned out to be a pole, in a strip club, — I said. — The next time we meet, I will be performing for the first time on the stage of the Opera and Ballet Theater, I will become a ballerina. That evening you will be sitting in the auditorium, I will see your eyes and immediately understand everything… — I don’t even remember what else I thought of. Misha was listening to me and not interrupting me. A few minutes later, he began to doze, and meanwhile the predawn hours were replaced by the dawn, the sun was rising from behind the mountains of Jordan, illuminating the clear sky. Its morning rays began to penetrate the round windows of the cabin.

Soon I will stop enjoying the summer nights… because they are too short…

I got up and lowered the curtains. Then I returned to bed and lay down next to Misha. He turned on his side, sighed sleepily, pushing one hand under the pillow, nestled his forehead against my temple and said:

— Thank you for reminding me how great life can be. — Then he pulled me to him and hugged me, without opening his eyes.

In the gloom-shrouded cabin, Misha’s breathing, touching my ear, became intermittent, and his strong embrace began to weaken.

— Misha? — I raised his face in my palms. — Misha?! — I slapped him a little on the cheek. Everything clamped inside me.

— What do you want? — He grunted in a muffled, sleepy voice, unwilling to wake up. — What’s happened? What should be done? I’m getting up… I’m getting up. — His attempt to get up did not bring results. His body shuddered and relaxed again.

— You can’t leave, — I said bitterly.

— I’m with you… with you… we… I’ll be back, — his words turned into indistinct fragments of phrases, and they were the last words I heard from him.

Suddenly, behind the closed door of the cabin, heavy footsteps thundered. They mixed with the lighter and smaller ones, mincing on the wooden floor. The sounds I heard stopped as suddenly as they began. I was listening cautiously, suggesting that they were only my imagination. It turned out, that they were not. Not my imagination. After a few seconds, the tinkle of broken tableware on the floor sounded, and I startled of fear. Steps resumed in more powerful way.

There was a galley in front of the cabin, shots and the unfinished whiskey bottle of remained on the table. The sea was calm, the yacht was swinging very slowly, so they could only fall off the table, only if someone dropped them. Dropped? Except for me and Misha, there was nobody on the yacht. There didn’t use to be, and now, apparently, there is.

— Misha? Can you hear me? There’s someone came. — I started to shake him, pushed him in the chest, but he did not react, he was somewhere else I didn’t understand where (it’s just clear that he was leaving my world), and something terribly frightening was behind the door.

— Come on, Misha, get up, wake up! — I don’t know why I was desperately trying to wake him up, perhaps I thought that by some miracle I would succeed. A lump of pain rolled up to my throat and burst out in sobbing. — Please wake up. Come on, come back now! You can come back, you won’t leave me, I can’t stand it, do you hear! I can’t do without you, I don’t want anything else without you! — My cry, filling the small space of the cabin, was accompanied by sobs. Tears flowed uncontrollably from my eyes with despair. I sat down on my knees, legs tucked under me, and nestled my face wet with tears against Misha’s shoulder, who didn’t react to my cries. He seemed to have fallen into a lethargic sleep.

The screech of the opening sliding door rolling wheels made me stand still. Out of the corner of my eye, without lifting my head, I looked through the lowered eyelashes toward the outgoing sound.

The light was illuminating him from behind. The oblong shadow reflected on the floor ended at the foot of the bed, surrounded by small tailed spots and shadows, they were making a rustling sound, like a herd of rats, hastily stepping their thin legs. A dark, slim figure with long, hands reaching to the floor froze in anticipation, never crossing the threshold, and in the shock of his hair, which reached the shoulders, they were really swarming — rodents. Some of their representatives began to crawl through the body. His eyes shone like red dots on a dull, black image of face (why an image? Just it was supposed to be in that place, but it was not there, only a blurred dark spot), the fingers of his hands hanging down to the wooden floor were tapping on it with nails.

The picture I saw caused dizziness, then numbness of my hands and feet and a sharp attack of queasiness. The clarity of view began to disappear, a little more, and fainting was granted.

— Anna, — I heard his gruff low voice through the perception that was sailing away, closed my eyes, without lifting my head from Misha’s shoulder, who was motionless on his side, sighed heavily, appealing to the remnants of self-control.

Creepy guest slowly sat on the edge of the bed. He sat down next to me.

— Do not be scared of me. — His voice softened, became steady, and the quiet notes of his subsequent speech automatically caused confidence. — It was you, the people, who started using fear as a mean of influence. I don’t need to scare you, talk to me, please.

Self-preservation instinct pushed me — it’s time to run as fast as possible. But no. Misha. I couldn’t leave him. Although he didn’t move, he hadn’t gone completely yet.

I had nothing to do, I had to face the fear, and, having opened my eyes, I stood up. A gray-haired old man wearing worn-out clothes was sitting at arm’s length. A shabby T-shirt with spots on the dark fabric that looked as if faded, hung on his lean and dried shoulders. He put his withered hands, pierced with bulging veins under thin skin, on his knees. It was not a fear, just a wretched old man with a white rat stupidly blinking on his shoulder. She was moving the pink tip of her nose sniffing.

— What do you want? — I asked in a broken voice, knowing perfectly well whose soul he had come for.

I put my hand on Misha’s wrist and squeezed it with my trembling fingers. My nails dug into his palm, my heart began to pound.

— Let him go, — said the old man. The dim light coming from behind the door fell on his good-natured face, hiding deep wrinkles, but reflecting the essence of facial expressions. He theatrically performed a pitiful semblance of a smile.

— Is that all? Yes?

Tears rolled down my cheeks again, the old man laughed in response, exposing a yellowish but even row of teeth, then abruptly stopped his laughter, narrowed his eyes and, pressing his lips, pulled his bony hand to our hands.

— Are you a harbinger of death?

— No, I am one of his kind and he has long been dead. Give him back! — the “time-worn fear” cried out, his thin fingers wore between our with Misha intertwined palms and, leaving the cold, tore them apart.

I tried to cling to my Misha’s hand of to the end, desperately searching for it, plunging into darkness, carrying me into another reality. I grabbed for such ghostly remnants of hope, those bright and kind ones, which I wanted to hold on with all my might.

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