Childhood (wherein Edik discovers a taste for nuclear water)
The child was born on the banks of Lake Pravda, near Kharkiv in the age of the Soviet Union, year: 1986. The lake was named this way not only out of desire to please the Soviet authorities of the municipality but more so due to the commonly held peasant belief that, if a child were to drink of the waters of the lake on the outskirts of town before his first year, he would develop a keen eye and sharp tongue for spotting and telling the truth.
This had proven true of the 18th century Ivanka, who, having drunk from the lakes whilst unsupervised by her aristocratic parents on a Sunday walk, had grown to become the leading mind in chess of her century, writing over 20 tomes on the subject and inventing vertical castling before throwing herself from the highest keep of Kharkiv Castle. – One gulp.
The same was true of the local prodigy child Ivan Stakhanov, who, the newspapers said, invented a new way to extract coal thirteen times faster after spending two days and two nights in silent contemplation after having his legs broken in the collapse of a mine shaft. Having slowed his breath to an almost imperceptible level, he had survived on the reserves contained within - all the while hallucinating torrents of water gushing into his soul, tearing the filthy soot away- until a mining crew found him by mistake, looking for a way around the collapse. As he was alive and breathing all the crew could do was drag him out and mutter “педик” under their breaths as they came to the inescapable conclusion that the same could not be said of the canary that had initially survived the collapse with him. –Two gulps.
In the summer of 1986, the mother’s milk ran out and, being a pious woman, she sought counsel from the local priest who gave her only the coy advice that she should read out loud from her favourite book to the child before he slept and feed him with solid foods, preferably potatoes as they were cheaper - the child having a strong chance to not live out the year, the risk management was thus optimal.
So the mother went home and did as instructed, mashing potatoes in water for the child, and read incessantly from William Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” to him, more specifically the Proverbs of Hell.
As the words chased each other of the mother’s tongue they collided to form a dissonant melody:
As well as being pious, she was a lazy woman and, one night, the water to mash the potatoes having run out or been used to brew alcohol, she eclipsed herself from the home where the father sat upright, dead drunk in the worn sofa. She only slipped on her wooden shoes over her bare feet for fear of snakes and rushed out back to where the still lake reflected the shadow of the trees. Dipping a bucket in the standing water she thanked the moon for the light it provided and, having made the sign of the cross on her bosom, she rushed back into the house.
The child was peering at her from beneath knotted eyebrows and the father still hadn’t moved nor uttered a sound. She felt reassured and, preparing him his meal, she sang again to the silent child:
The child sat upright and knew its name was Edik. –One mouthful
Edik began crying before realising the futility of what he was doing. –Two mouthfuls
Edik turned to the father and knew he had been dead for four hours. – Three mouthfuls
Edik turned to the mother and knew she would kill herself if she found out. – Four mouthfuls
Edik tilted his head and murmured so as not to startle his mother:
“Mother… he shall beat you to a pulp if he finds out you have not been to town for my meal. I shall not say a word if you would only take me away from here and Westwards. Pack your bags kind mother and take me away, bring your floral dress and white hat and follow the road outside towards the city, only tonight you shall keep going.”
Feeling satisfied with the impression his first words had made he took the spoon from her astonished hands and resumed eating as she ran upstairs to pack her bags in a flight of fear. As he heard the suitcase zip he looked up and bellowed:
“Don’t forget to bring the water from the lake for the journey ahead!”