God on call

Ирина НЕКИПЕЛОВА | Проза

God on call

Here, under the high ceilings, strolled the sun, painted in blue, red and green colors by the stained glass aspiring to the sky. It was vinaceous, heavy, oily, and fragrant with angels’ wings. It was light. And down there, it was dark and smoky from flickering candles. There was no light there. However, it was dark not out of lack of light; it was dark from the presence of darkness – souls and bodies of those who were slowly moving across the colorful tiled floor from icon to icon, litting cheap candles and hurriedly crossing themselves before sticking already lit candles in a free slot of the kanun table* standing in front of every icon.

Unattainable, elusive, and unbearable sun here was blinding eyes and posing a challenge by its perfection. The hot light stretching high above the head was sickening and nauseating. While there, in the dark, it was cool and comfortable. Sliding across the tiles were skittish shadows of parishioners who brought their miserable souls longing for earthly goods to unpack them before the icons with another petty prayer to God.

People were asking for a good life and health for themselves and their loved ones, for misery and death for enemies, they were asking for money, cars, apartments, low prices for bread and meat, available spots in the cemetery … They were judging their neighbors, colleagues, government … They were lighting candles, whispering prayers mechanically. Their voices were rustling quietly, sinking lower and lower to the floor, and falling silent barely reaching it. Some wished for forgiveness, some for peace, some for forgetfulness. Nobody wished for loneliness. And all were trying to escape death. To pay it off, to get eternal life by pleading. Poor people … Don’t they know there is no place on earth which death does not reach? It is omniplex and omnipresent. It is the ruler and the lord.

People were begging and weeping. Their souls were dying of their desires, and without going into the heart of prayer, the people were hastily, as if afraid to forget or lose a chance to inform God about what they want, repeating over and over the words they memorized as children.

They called on God with their prayers. Their lit candles were melting and burning out, being replaced by the next ones, which, likewise, were melting and burning out, passing into nothingness. From these false translators of human desires were coming thin streams of black smoke, never reaching the dome, but dissolving somewhere at the edge of light and darkness, in the shadows, where ended the flow of human thought and began emptiness.

God did not hear anybody. The people were asking and hoping to be heard. All of them were asking – none thanking. They were coming and leaving, crossing themselves, repeating the words of prayers, crossing themselves again and asking again – for themselves, about themselves, to themselves …

With his back to a dark low window was Saint Nicholas, sooty, oily and faded out from people’s glances. In front of him, helplessly sticking hands in the pockets of a long black coat, stood a middle-aged man. He didn’t light a candle, didn’t raise his face to the light — simply closed his eyes. It seemed he was not breathing, it seemed life faltered in his chest and stopped. And he turned to stone. But only his thoughts kept him alive, and as he was spewing them out of himself, dying, he could not die. His voice could not be heard, but his thoughts, lifting up, were gaining density and taking shape.

“Thank you. Thank you for everything,” gratitude, seething out of a human heart, reached the boundary between light and darkness and crossed it. — Thank you that I have nothing. Thank you that I have nothing left. That I have nothing more to lose. That you have taken everything. I have nowhere to go and nowhere to come back to. I’m not looking for anyone, and no one is waiting for me. Nothing can hurt my heart. Nothing else will happen to me …

His words broke the silence of the dome, which knew that only a man who has lost everything, does not ask for anything in the church.

_____________________________

* Kanun table — a table for candles for the dead (for the repose of the soul) in an Orthodox church.

Late Night Calls

There is nothing good about late night calls.

At first it all seems rather random. All of a sudden, you get a phone call in the middle of the night. By some weird circumstance, some random people dial your number and wake you up in the middle of the night to tell you that… It’s hard to fall asleep. What you found out that night will forever be stored in your memory nooks, in the backyards of your conscience, but you don’t know it yet, because you truly believe that it’s not happening to you.

However, some time later, you realize that it makes sense. And you get used to it. After it happened once you start to indifferently wait for the next time. The period from the first call to the next one, another one in a series of calls that occur with regular randomness, stretches like rubber and then collapses, leaving you one on one with your spooky and horrifying caller. Your life becomes a series of random events in between those late night calls. It’s only you and them. And everything else becomes unimportant, besides the fact that you are here and you can’t be anywhere else at the moment.

Late night calls don’t occur very often, but with every single one of them you lose a part of your life. It slips through your fingers and evaporates, and you have no idea what it was exactly, that you had just lost. So you close your eyes, you lie there and try to listen to the silence. Your heavy thoughts make the air ring. Lying there, you are afraid of waking up. What if it is all a dream? The night is a dream, your breath is a dream, your life is a dream… But if your life is dream, then is death also a dream? But no! You’ve got yourself into a mind trap, because life might be a dream but death is unfortunately not.

Late night calls make you wake up, and not just at night, they make you wake up at a point of your life. And life is divided into night and not night. At night huge birds of prey fly into your room and stare you in the eye to see whether you are real or not. And no one knows it. But the birds won’t fly away, time gets stuck in space being on air, and it seems like it will never change. It seems like there will only be the birds on air, and that it is the only thing that is real. But then morning comes, and the first rays of sun that look like killer nomads’ swords chase the birds away. But the birds will be back, they will be back as soon as the night comes. Morning brings no relief, daytime brings no oblivion, evening gives no answers. Only diehard night knows everything and consumes you, letting you into its mystical life.

Late night calls remind your soul that it is immortal. But it loves this life and does not remember that other one that it had been pulled out of once. It wants to stay here, but when the night comes dark birds come flying in and stare you in the eye, checking if you are ready or not. Their pupils look like planets, they captivate you, you are not ready yet. Today the birds will leave without you. But don’t fool yourself, their patience has no limit, they will come and go, and they will come and go again — they will wait for you.

The phone rang in the middle of the night. Hickory got up making her way through her sleepy corridor and picked up. A dull old woman’s voice as if coming out of a well asked:

“May I speak with Shimidsu Hickory?”
“That is me. I am listening.”
“Forgive me for calling so late. I am calling from the central municipal hospital.”
“Is something wrong?”
“Yes, unfortunately. Your father was brought to the cardiology unit at midnight and he passed away two hours after. The doctors did all they could. Please, accept our condolences.”

Silence. Yes, of course, the father was rather old, and she had to admit she wasn’t young either herself. But even at this age it is extremely painful to lose people that were so close.

“When should I come for the body?”
“Come in the morning. We will have everything ready by then.”
“Okay…”
“We’ll be waiting for you,” the woman disconnected.

Hickory sat at the table with one hand supporting her falling head and the other one still holding the phone with beeps flowing out.

Eyes open wide, bewildered. The air is spreading around in space, it strangles you, you  awaken… And you are no longer there. It all was just a dream.

About the author:

Eirin Brennan, Irina Nekipelova, candidate of Philological Sciences, associate professor of Foreign Languages ​​ Institute of Technical University in Zvolen (Slovakia),

Associate professor of Philosophy of Izhevsk State Technical University named after M.T. Kalashnikov (Russia),

Full professor of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (Moscow, Russia),

National program tester of Russian as a foreign language (TORFL),

Senior consulting expert of the regional subject commission for the state final certification on educational programs of secondary education (USE),

Licentiate and gold medalist of the European Scientific and Industrial Chamber for professional activity (Diploma di Merito for 2016 on Science, Culture and Education) (Eurochambers, Belgium),

Poet, writer, translator, member of the Union of Writers of Udmurtia (starting December 15, 2015),

Author of a textbook on Russian as a foreign language «Step by Step» (Gold Medal of  Frankfurt am Main bookfair, 2016),

Participant of the literary projects «Book of orange clouds» (2015), of book presentations in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev and «Literary Eurasia» (2016).

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