Saturday, January 11, 2014

IVAN STEPANOVICH, the Russian Prisoner, contemplates his fate... 1/11/14

He sat alone in a small space they set up for him. How they did it, I don't know. Ghosts cannot easily influence physical matter. Perhaps there are others like the pin-head? Russians can be so secretive.  The space was once an office. Not a big one. No commisar, or anything like that. Probably some timid little clerk. The current tenant, the prisoner from Moscow, had an old, canvas mattress, worn but not too soiled. a pillow, some blankets and a box of candles meant to be used during storms. Even in a rather advanced (for its time) experimental center such as this, regular electrical service so far from the capital, or any other sizable town was questionable at best.

And he heard no sound at all, save for occasional trips to the food room with his spectral jailer, Usipov. He asked if he might take a can or two of beans, or Vienna sausage back to his place, but the temporary ghost said 'no,' so that was it. There was an old, institutional, chamber pot, straight out of Dostoyevsky or Chekov, once white, but now tinged with gray due to a fine network of spidery cracks. Someone emptied it while he slept. It had to be while he slept. He never saw them. He tried to wake up. He tried to hear whomever it was, but detection was futile.

There were twelve candles left in the box. Each burned four hours. Maybe three days worth. Unless 'they' gave him another box, it would probably end then. So he sat on the mattress with his back to the wall watching the shadows dance. 

Thirty four years old he was, born as the old system died, a foundling left at an orphanage. Usually mothers wrote a note, some scrap pinned to the swaddling, but in his case there was nothing. The matrons named him Ivan. One out of seven male Muscovites bore that name. so statistically they stood a chance. Stepanovich came from a popular footballer. Once the necessary forms were filled out there were no further questions. He grew to be a quiet child. Never disobeyed. Rarely (if ever) fought with the others. Always said his prayers. Always cleaned his place. So grateful for the small tokens given him for Christmas and his birthday (a matron picked that date). Colorful, cardboard picture books, a rubber sponge ball, gloves, things like that.

He thought about the walks through the district. How regimented they were. Poor, little soldiers. People called them 'the boys from the baby gulag.' Once he lost his blue, woolen cap. Like a military cap it was. They beat him for that. Some older boys, not from the orphanage grabbed it and ran away, but that didn't make a difference. 

When he was sixteen they put him out. He walked the streets for three days and nights til a man and his wife gave him a job in their haberdashery sweeping the floor and folding and re-folding the shirts and sweaters. The man and his wife kept a sweet, rich brick of halvah under a little glass, bell jar in the back. Sometimes they gave him some. Best thing was they let him sleep in the storeroom on a little folding cot he won at a carnival and raise sleek, undulating eels in the restroom sink. Luckily the patrons didn't seem to mind. And the small, Sterno stove he cooked the eels on was easily folded up and stored away. Life was good. He liked thinking about the old days, though soon he grew sleepy and drifted off. And the candle at the bottom of his old, empty pineapple juice can was the only light in the whole, vast, long forgotten complex.

Ninety minutes later, while he was dreaming (apparently the forces controlling this place understood the nature of R.E.M. sleep) a stooped, shuffling, half human, half bonobo hybrid quietly came in to empty the chamber pot. When it was gone, the temporary ghost (but rightfully a vampire) known as Grigori Usipov sublimated through the wall to study his future physical form. 

Harmonics would do the trick. Powerful, almost musical, vibrations would break the bond between spirit and flesh, allowing the vampire, oligarch to move in. And whether the former orphan-haberdasher's assistant survived in any form was quite immaterial.

Is it painful, this harmonic separation of the spirit and the flesh?

Well, I'm told it's torture......


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