For Don with love
The story is set in the South of Russia in early 1920s, in the time of
"Are there any officers among you?"
I walked along a row of them and watched their faces closely. Five men. They
didn't look happy at all. Pretty wrecked. Their clothes were in disorder, three
of them were barefoot. Probably their boots were too good for our guys to
restrain from helping themselves. Their faces were badly shaven, haggard and
unhealthy. The expression of their eyes was very alert. I thought what was
under this alertness - fear? Hostility? One of them had a wound on his
shoulder, maybe, his collar-bone was broken. Another man supported him -
practically kept him upright.
"Red Army doesn't fight with common folks. Our only enemies are White Guard
officers, deliberate antagonists of Soviet Government," I went on with my
speech. Usually it was me who dealt with captives. Being a commissar meant it -
and nobody dared say that there was another guy who could do it better. "You
see, we don't have hard feelings against you. If you promise not to raise your
arms against us, we'll free you. You will be able to return to your places."
We dislodged them out of the village this morning. The information we got
was that it was a part of the regiment going to join General Krasnov's forces
in the South. Our first strike was still in the darkness - and their resistance
was not obstinate. White Guard was retreating in confusion. These five were the
prisoners we took. We didn't need prisoners really, especially sickly ones - we
hardly were able to take care about our own casualties. The only care we could
give - and gave - to those who were hopeless - was nine grams of mercy. I was
for this kind of ruth both for our soldiers and for theirs.
My eyes slid on their faces. Anxiety in their eyes changed to hope when I
promised them release. I didn't doubt they would make their promise. They
"Well," I said. "Show us your good intentions. Are there any officers among
There was a long pause. I looked at them, without really reading in their
eyes. I rather watched their eyes - grey, blue, blood-shot, widened with pain,
lowered... I didn't repeat myself. They heard me all right.
"What are you doing?!" one of them broke the silence abruptly. It usually was
like this. One didn't stand. He was a short man with a beard, coarse looking.
He stepped out and turned to them. His voice was too loud, exasperated. "Don't
you see?! He wants only our good will! What do you cover him for?"
"Shut up, you bastard," one of the guys said grimly. Too late. The man
turned to the wounded one and bent down in mocking respect:
"What, master lieutenant? No courage to speak? Don't think we are too dirty
for you to mess with us, your honor?"
"God damn, shut up, Vasily!" the one who supported the man shouted. I looked
at the wounded. His face was bleak and expressionless. His eyes seemed black
with expanded pupils.
"Are you a lieutenant?" I asked him. After a moment his lips moved.
"Yes," he said.
I sighed out. Upon my sign our guys took him roughly - he jerked when they
bothered his shoulder. But he couldn't probably fall down - they kept him too
I met the eyes of Grisha, my right hand man, my sworn brother. A smirk
touched his lips. He made a little gesture with his forefinger, as if squeezing
the trigger. I shook my head.
"You are free now," I said to others. They moved uneasily. I beckoned the
guys after me - to the house. They dragged the officer with them.
I was on the threshold when I heard a mess behind me. I turned around
sharply. Two of them - Vasily and another one - were fighting on the ground. I
addressed to one of our guys.
"Part them. And," I thought a little, "ask if he wants to join us."
I came into the room. There was the staff of White Guard located until we took
over. I liked it. I sat at the table looking at the man in front of me who was
supported by two our own guys.
He didn't have any jacket on - only a shirt - as all of them did. His shirt
was pretty grey and heavily stained with red. But the bleeding of his wound was
not very severe.
I peered at him.
"We don't usually give mercy to officers," I said. "But if you tell us where
your regiment was going to join the Cossacks - you have your chance."
He kept silence. When I heard his voice - outside - it was quite hoarse -
probably because of pain. He looked back at me levelly. He was a guy, maybe, in
his late twenties, with short dark hair. His eyes were too darkened with pain
for me to see their real color. He gazed at me steadily and made a little smile
on his lips.
"We'll get to know it," I said. "You can just spare us and yourself from
"Speak, you!" Grisha dashed to him and shook him. His face blanked
momentarily - too fast it to be of fear. It was his shoulder, maybe.
"Kill me," he said. His voice was low and even.
"You'll get killed," I said. "But there are different ways to die."
"What do you talk with him, Arckady?" Grishka was indignant. "Let me deal
"Sure, you will. But a little later. Don't let him think we don't know about
honor," I looked back at the man. "Think, lieutenant."
I was not actually sure that he thought. There was no process of doubt in
his anthracite eyes. The seconds dropped in silence plainly. I took out my
cigarette-box and stroked a match. He watched me - I could feel it - as if his
eyes followed my fingers tangibly.
I wondered if I could offer him a cigarette. Maybe, I could do it. Maybe, I
could ask his name. Sometimes I did ask them. But now we needed the
information. And we needed it urgently.
He wouldn't change his mind. I knew it all the way. Grisha's face had a
familiar delirious smile on it - the one he had when breaking into the ranks of
the enemies with his sabre at the ready. The smile that made me admire him
breath-takingly - and loathe him at my heart with the same intensity.
"Arckady!" he called me again. "But come on!"
"You are wrong, lieutenant," I said letting Grisha loose.
He stepped to the man and grabbed his shirt in both hands. The cloth ripped
open baring his chest. He struggled a little for the first time and his face
displayed a kind of insulted expression.
His skin was very white. He was a bit too thin - with this retreat life
probably was hard for them all - his belly was drawn in under his rib-cage. I found
myself staring at the curls of dark hair on his chest around his flat brown
There was a cross on the lace on his neck - small, golden and blue, much
like my own cross when I wore it.
His wound was right under his left collar-bone - a round hole pulsing with
blood lazily. His chest was smeared in blood, too - but not too much, most of
it soaked to his shirt.
Grinning Grishka probed the wound with his thumb. The man got pale
immediately. As the pressure increased he grunted.
"Feel it?" Grishka chuckled. "Going to speak?"
I saw lieutenant's teeth clenched between his dry lips when he shook his
Grisha stepped back and stuck his head out of the house. He spoke with
somebody there - and when he returned I saw a ramrod in his hand. Under his nose
he mumbled something that sounded like "Here you are, bitch..." I was not sure
if the man knew what he was going to do. His face got shut and remote when
Grisha brought the thing to his eyes.
"You won't like it," he said hitting him flat with the ramrod on the wound.
Lieutenant drew his breath in noisily. He didn't speak.
"White Guard slut," Grisha spat and pushed the ramrod into his wound. The
man thrashed in convulsions. His head tossed back and I saw how his throat
worked when he made this low agonizing moan. He jerked again when Grisha turned
the end of the rod - but it was on the verge of unconsciousness probably. He
grew flabby in the hands that held him.
"No, your honor," Grisha smirked, "you won't get off so cheap."
He took the man by his hair and raised his face. Lieutenant had his eyes
rolled up, with only whites visible. Grishka slapped him casually - right-left,
right-left - until he made sharp gasp and shifted.
His eyes were ink-dark pools splashing with pain.
"Didn't think better?" Grishka asked. "You'll have more."
* * *
It was not only that he didn't say to us anything. He didn't speak to us at
all. Well, he made noise when they punched him - very labored, as if even this
he didn't want to give for us. I watched them, smoking my cigarettes, stubbing
them against the table board, one by one. For some reason I suspected it was
all useless. But what would they think about me if I said it to them?
"Speak, whore!" Grishka shouted yanking him by his shirt. The two others
moved after Grishka, dragging the officer where my sworn brother wanted him -
to the door.
"Speak!" Grishka went on yelling. He grasped the man's hand and straightened
his fingers. "What a soft palm," his voice was mocking. "One can see it never
worked! And fingers! Just look! Aren't you sorry for them?"
"Oh, God..." the man whispered - I saw him driving his teeth into his lower
lip. Grisha put his fingers between the door-post and the door and hit the door
His scream was harrowing. They let him go. He dropped on his knees. He threw
up with bile. His head was sagging, his hair in mess, hanging over his face.
When the door got opened, his hand slid out. He crooked it under himself,
pressing it to his belly, as if trying to cover it from us. A little whining
sound was coming out of his lips - the one he couldn't control and probably
"What?" Grisha asked. "Hurt?"
He kicked him. I don't know if he got his hand. The man made a sound -
Grisha turned to me.
"What? Do you think he is going to speak?"
I waved my hand faintly.
With a shrug Grisha came to the stove in the corner of the room. It had a
poker lying neatly there. He took it, opened the oven-door and pushed the poker
on the red ashes.
They set the man upright again. I watched him - as his legs buckled under
him. His mouth was slack by then, with a little of bloody foam on his lips. He
was gasping shallow, like sobbing. Well, he was sobbing. He gave in to us in
this. But he didn't speak.
The hair on his temples was matted and wet with sweat. I tried to meet his
eyes and couldn't do it. He was not looking at me. He was not looking anywhere.
Grisha took the poker out of the oven. He used a rag to take it. Its end was
red. The man pissed himself when he saw it in Grisha's hand, approaching him.
The guys who held him laughed. Why doesn't he speak, I swore mutely. It had to
be too much for him. His body betrayed him.
I knew he hated us. But his hatred was not the same as we felt to him. Ours
found its realization - his was buried deep. His hatred was that resistance we
couldn't break. At first his eyes were fixed on the scarlet end of the poker
sliding to his chest - and then he lowered his lids with an effort of will.
Grishka moved the poker close to his skin, letting him sense the heat. His
eyes stayed screwed up. Was it easier for him not to know where the iron would
I felt my mouth dry. I didn't know if it was of all these cigarettes I
smoked. A sick feeling overwhelmed me. I wanted to turn away - but at the same
time I knew I would look steadily; not only because I was their commissar, not
For the next half an hour Grisha used the poker - heated it and pressed it.
The air in the room was thick with the smell of burnt flesh. Even when the man
was silent I still heard his hoarse choked cries in my ears. They poured water
on him when he passed out.
After a while Grisha asked me if he should spare him below waist.
"Not at all," I said.
The man said nothing. By the end even our guys started doubting if he had
the information. I knew he had. And remember, he didn't try to assure us he
didn't - not once. I think, maybe, if he tried - I would prefer to believe him.
I don't know.
"Leave it," I said at last.
Grisha stood up from him. Lieutenant didn't move on the floor. He was alive
- but there was not much human in him left. I got the idea again - that there
was mercy in killing and he deserved it, even if he was our enemy. And he was
I went to the door. There was nothing left to do for me - and it was so
stiff inside. I couldn't wait to get out-of-doors, to get some air. I made a
sign to Grisha. Not here, of course - I didn't want any more mess here, you
see, I was going to live in this house.
"Hey," there was some thought in Grishka's eyes. "If you are not interested
in him, I thought we could..."
"Suit yourselves," I waved my hand. They were tired, too, they deserved a
bit of entertainment. And it was not something out of order - even if there
usually were women and girls at hand.
I walked out. The day was on its peak, bright and burning chilly day in late
September, in colors of golden and blue. I went to the cliff along the narrow
path among big waning burdocks.
The sheer beauty of these settlements on the Don River startled me again and
again. I listened to the rustle of little waves under me - the sound that
drowned all others if you set to concentrate on it. Yes, there was also the cry
of cattle, the mutter of geese not far away... No sound of children's laughter
now. But it was not time for children to laugh, with our detachment advanced to
the village this morning.
I almost didn't hear anything from the house.
The only other sound that was in a keen dissonance was the spades of the
villagers digging the grave for dead bodies. We ordered to do it on the edge of
the place - one for all. The land shouldn't be wasted.
I listened to the spades, smoked and watched my shadow moving on the ground
under the beams of the setting sun until there were steps behind me.
"Arckasha," Grishka was hurrying to me, beckoning me with him. I followed
him back to the house. I winced - I already didn't need any part of it. But he
was my brother and he thought I had to be there.
As soon as I was there I understood that the room all the same had to be
taken care about. It didn't have any air at all. Several our guys were there,
standing over the man on the floor.
He lay on his side, crouched, with his knees pulled up - but not strained,
rather limply. I would doubt if he was alive - but there was blood running out
of him in this steady thin flow. He lay in the pool of his own blood, with his
pants around his ankles. He seemed small now - like a child, maybe.
And there was no resistance in him any more. No hatred.
"Nobody else?" I said. They shook their heads. "Then dispose of him," I
"Bury him!" one of the guys exclaimed with a gloating expression.
"Sure," Grisha said, "I'll finish him off."
He pointed the muzzle of his revolver to the man. He never covered his face
from possible plashing of blood and brains - one more thing that amazed and
"No," the guy said. "Just like that. Bury him!"
Somebody laughed uneasily.
"Great!" Grishka relaxed.
"Dress him back," I showed my hand up.
They pulled him, shook him, dragged his pants up and tugged him from the
house. With no curiosity I went with them. It was not that I wanted to watch
it. I just thought it would be right. I started with him - now it had to be
They were already laying the bodies down to the pit. I walked there first -
they couldn't go that fast, dragging him - and he didn't make steps at all -
his feet trailed flaccidly against the ground. In this bright sunset he already
looked like a dead man. He didn't try to raise his head.
But when they stopped he opened his eyes. I saw them grew wide when he
noticed the bodies of his fellows with whom he was captured. Vasily was here,
too, helping with the burial.
"Kiss them good-bye, your honor," Grisha smirked and pushed him to the edge
of the grave.
That was when he started resisting. I don't know if he heard the words in
the house or he realized their meaning only now - but now he writhed in their
hands, digging his heels in the ground. His voice was small and broken when he
"No, please, no, don't! Ooh, God!"
"There is no God, lieutenant," Grisha said.
They pushed him down and when he fell he couldn't stand up again, not in
this mess of corpses. The villagers took the spades and strewed the first
portions of earth over the bodies.
He looked back at us from the pit, with his eyes so black that there was no
expression in them. His lips moved - as if he was praying.
* * *
The night was freezing - as they always are after these bright cloudless
days. I stood at the window in the dark room - I didn't leave the light on
'cause I didn't want to be bothered. They would think I was asleep - and Grisha
would never let them disturb me.
The moonlight was enough.
There outside the noise and laughter of our guys was heard. The villagers
supplied enough home vodka and food for us to be happy. I heard Grisha's voice
the most often - boasting, swearing.
I knew they all were too much submerged in themselves to notice me. I could
do it. And the more I thought about it, the more seductive the idea became. Not
only seductive - but also natural.
I walked to the door and pushed it open without squeal. If I was careful I
could get down the porch without any noise - and I did it. I was no more than a
shadow passing the house where our guys celebrated.
Somebody left a spade at the fence. Its handle was outlined clearly in the
trace of the moonlight - and when I took it, it was done. And as if with the
real weight of the spade I took off an imaginary weight from my shoulders I
walked lighter and faster, warming myself in the chilly air of the night.
The place where we buried them was a vast grassless patch on the edge of the
field. If it were an one-man grave we probably would send the horses to stamp
the place - but with the pit so big it was useless.
I drove the blade of the spade to the soft wet ground. The sound was sharp
and deafening. But as I went on I got used to it - and even liked it. It was
closer than dogs' barking in the village or drunk yells of our guys. I dug and
When the spade stuck in something I put it away and dug with my hands. I
don't know. It really didn't matter if I cut a body with the blade.
After I almost freed one of them from the ground I saw it was not him. They
didn't seem to lie as we put them - but I couldn't swear in it - I simply
didn't remember exactly. And then I found him.
When I almost cleansed him from earth, the thought stunned me - that it was
the first time when I touched him. His body burnt my hands with its coldness.
And it was not stiff - it was languid. When I tried to pull him out I
understood he was too heavy.
When alive he was about my build - but now his weight was overpowering. I
pushed him and pulled him - and he fell down back making me fall on my knees.
I started feeling despair. I was so hot already, breathing with open mouth,
sweat covered my body in thin film. I rested him against the wall of the pit at
last and, kneeling on the brink, pulled him out. When he was out, I fell down
with him exhausted.
So pleasant was his iciness! He lay flat - as I let him - and I felt his
shoulder under my cheek, the soiled shirt covering his flesh that was both hard
and flexible. It was not his wounded shoulder - the other. But even if it was -
it didn't matter. He couldn't feel discomfort any more.
I touched his body slightly with my palm. He was still covered in earth. His
clothes gathered it. Where the shirt was open on his chest his skin was soiled,
too. He lost his cross somewhere.
I sat over him and started shaking him off from this earth. His head was
lolled back listlessly, his dark hair almost merging in color with the ground.
His lids were lowered - two ideal semicircles contoured with long dark lashes.
His lashes were so soft under the tips of my fingers; so stunningly soft that I
probed them with my lips. It was like touching a blade of feather-grass with
There was no torment on his face. I remembered how his veins swelled on his
temples when he struggled with screaming. And now he was so placid. So soft and
mellow. His temples were so smooth, and his forehead, and his cheek-bones - but
the stubble on his cheeks and chin so bewilderingly rough. It was like a dark
shadow on his white face.
I rubbed my palms against the roughness of his bristle, recalling how I
wondered how it would feel like at the first moment when I saw him. I could
probably take his face in my hands even then - in a threatening gesture, to
frighten and embarrass him. Now he was not frightened or embarrassed. He didn't
I rocked his head in my palms slightly and passed my finger over his lips.
There were grains of earth between his tender yielding lips. My own mouth felt
inflamedly hot when I pressed it to his lips. I felt the taste of soil on them
- there almost was no his own taste. I pushed my tongue to his mouth and licked
him there, the sharp edges of his teeth, his palate, his own unflickering
tongue. It was a little salty inside his mouth, as if dry blood was melting
under my warm tongue.
Hastily I ripped my own shirt open and lay down on him. The coldness was
breathtaking. My nipples were stiff and erect and sensitive and when I pressed
them to the rough coagulated scars on his chest it almost hurt me. But I didn't
back. I rubbed my chest against his. His chest was disfigured with all these
burns - but as I rubbed against it he didn't feel pain.
I pressed my face to his when kissing him, nuzzled him with my nose. His
head dangled awry slackly when I let his lips go.
I felt my crotch pressed tightly to his - and he didn't feel pain there,
too. My member was stiff and hard as iron rod - but as it pressed to his
smashed and burnt genitals he couldn't feel it, he didn't jerk under me, didn't
writhe in pain. I didn't hurt him!
Smoothing his hair I made his head settle back and kissed his throat. Rough
with stubble it was under his chin - and smooth lower - hard under the pressure
of my lips. But it didn't move, it didn't flutter under my touches. My lips
were so cold after all this kissing that when my own breath came out of them,
it was sizzlingly hot. I wondered how my breath would feel on his icy skin if
he could feel it. I pinched the skin of his throat with my lips and breathed at
it. There was a slight bluish mark of my teeth and lips on his skin when I
withdrew my mouth. It would mean that I hurt him more - if he were alive - but
like this it didn't mean anything. Any part of his body I could touch without
I groped his mutilated hand by touch. How it looked like I remembered - his
fingers broken and swollen enormously, ugly in their purple-violet color. I
plaited my fingers with his. I didn't feel hard bones in his hand - only tight
skin over pulverized carcass. I brought this his hand to my mouth. I kissed it
and licked and caressed and bit the tips of his fingers gently, gnawing in them
- I played with his hand - like a parent plays with a little child's hand - and
even if he didn't feel pleasure now - he didn't feel pain either.
I pressed my face to his chest. I sought for his wound with my tongue - it
was a round dry hole now, all blood gore around and of brackish taste. I liked
this blood, melting it, shoving my tongue inside the wound. It had slight
metallic blend, I couldn't figure out why.
My hard-on was sending pangs through my body. I put my mouth on his burnt
nipple. The scar was so rough, it almost scratched the insides of my lips. My
feelings were dazzled. I moved my fingers over other traces on his chest and
belly. Where it was not injured his skin was so smooth and delicate, almost
baby tender. The contour of his rib-cage was so palpable, hard bones covered
with silky skin. I sucked on his ugly nipple hearing my own breath that was too
loud, almost like sobs. I didn't want to move more than I did already - my
mouth and my hand - but my erection was too urgent - and I rubbed my bottom
belly against his body instinctively. Then I let him go and sat again.
"It's all right, cher," I whispered, still unable to part with this
sensation of his skin under my palms, still stroking him. "I'll do it softly,
my little one."
He was older than me, maybe, seven-eight years older. But now he was a
helpless baby in my arms - and I could pet and fondle him - and nobody could
prevent me from doing it. He couldn't prevent me.
I felt so close to him. There was no ache between us - no more. He didn't
contempt me, never hated me, never rejected me. I stopped being what I was - a
commissar, a communist. And he stopped being what he was. He was only my lover,
I unzipped his pants. They were soaked wet and gathered the most weight of
earth on them - heavy and soggy. But when I pulled them down his belly was
opalescent-white under them. I patted it with my fingers. Soft and hollow it
was - and I lay my cheek on it, feeling the thin trace of down going from his
navel to his groin - silky against my skin. I played with his pubic hair - dark
and curly and so soft - and I could feel the texture of every little hair on
the tips of my fingers.
I thought how his prick and balls looked like before Grisha started working
with them. Even with all this pain he was through by then he felt humiliated
when they pulled his pants down. His soft penis was light pink, only a shadow
darker than whiteness of his body. And when I saw Grishka's swarthy hand on it
I felt like pushing his hand away. The thought about him mutilating my
lieutenant's organs was dizzying - but I was going to watch it.
Now his private parts were maimed - like wreckage to my eyes. I took them in
my mouth - his prick first, then each of his balls. They felt so strange! Not
that I ever had any balls in my mouth... I sucked them, tasting the bitterness
and the salt, feeling tiny curly hairs on them sticking to my tongue. Something
was contracting in my chest achingly. I almost felt like crying.
Then I opened my own pants and took my cock out. It seemed it was the only
hot part of me by now. But it was burning hot - dark with blood, painfully
hard, swollen. It was dripping pre-cum, little drops falling on dark hair of
"Dear," I whispered. "I won't do it dry. It won't hurt you. I'll be good for
He was not moving under me. He was not covering his opening, was not
defending his insides from my intrusion. I didn't have to struggle with him, to
overpower him. He was giving it to me gently and unresistingly. It was
tranquility in him - so beautiful. No hatred, no fear. I was going in and he
The crust of blood on his opening was cutting the head of my cock! I
flinched, shivering of pain. But it was not his fault, not of my sweet lover -
and as I went in, the crust was broken and crumbled - and it became easier to
endure - and soon I forgot about it at all. What else could matter - beyond
this absolute pleasure of being inside his placid cold body. The unmoving and
unresisting walls of his rectum wrapped my shaft tightly and stiffly, hardly
letting me go when I pulled out - but opening again when I returned. He didn't
mind any rhythm I could take, any tempo I was going to reach. I couldn't hurt
him - he was contented with everything.
I was shifting his body when thrusting in him. His hands dangled on the
ground, one, injured, uncurled - and the other clenched in fist. His head
rolled as I increased my speed. I breathed out:
"My petit fleur, my lovely," as long as I had air for it. The battering took
the best of me. I was hot and sweaty - and my sweat dried under cold night
wind. I was catching for breath with open mouth. The amplitude of my blows was
incredible. I wouldn't believe somebody else could stand this frenzy pounding.
But he took it all - so sweetly, so lovingly. I drove my fingers in his thighs,
pulling him closer to me - more closer, with my balls smashing against his
cleft with every stroke, squashing them - even more closer - until the hot
stream splashed out of me into his mortal-cold rectum - the liquid that felt
steaming around my own sagging cock when it leaked out.
I lay down on him, nestled my body over his and kissed his lips again.
I don't know how long I lay like this. The sky still was black and starry
above me. The last sounds of the village died away in the far. I shifted.
Sometimes I was cold - but sometimes my own heat seemed to give a little warmth
to his body. I shifted him, too. I made him taking different poses - his arms
around me, his head lying on my chest. I cuddled him as if he was my little
While this moving I found out that he had something in his hand. His fingers
didn't open for me - the only part of him that resisted - and I tried and
tried, breaking my fingernails, leaving marks on his hand - until I opened it -
and there was his cross. I thought he tore the lace when he was smothering.
I put him on his side then - to the pose how I saw him in the house - the
pose of a hurt tired child, his knees curled to his chest, his abused bum
opened. Now I could do what I wanted to do then. I curled behind his back, my
body repeating his position, and braced my arms around him, and pulled him to
my chest, and my knees pushed under his knees. And my soft cock touched his
destructed opening - and I could think he was not hurt - I soothed his pain
* * *
What did I feel first? The flutter? The quivering of exhale? I held him so
tightly that he shifted with my breathing. But this one was not my movement. It
was his chest shuddering.
Coldness washed me up. I still held him, immovable, without breathing - and
then, when I almost stopped expecting, he sighed again. He stirred. His hand
jerked and his chest rose.
I jumped from him. I left him, crawled on my knees back. His body unfolded,
he fell on his back flat, his arms were spread palms up. He tried to breath!
Ooh, God, Sweet Jesus, ooh, Holy Mother! His lids flickered! He tossed his head
from side to side.
A hoarse moan went out of him. His chest was bending up in a wretched
convulsion. He struggled for air. Then a sound like a wet cough escaped him -
and I saw black liquid leaking out of his mouth. It covered his chin in foul
film. He groaned again.
The breath was torture for him. His inhales and exhales went accidentally.
He thrashed on the ground, scraping his chest with his fingernails.
I stood up. I was petrified. Disgust flooded me in dizzying waves. He was
alive! Alive! He survived!
My head was swooning. Here he was, at my feet, my enemy, the one I embraced
so sweetly - and he betrayed me! He took me in and he faked me, he broke me,
shook mind out of me! Damned slut! I hated him! How much I hated him!
His moans were heart-rending. Under no control he showed how much in
suffering he was. And it was ugly suffering! He puked with blood and something
like black clots. He looked like a disgusting insect, all broken and helpless,
squirming on the ground. He who was so still and placid in my arms just minutes
ago! Why didn't he want to stay still?!
I didn't want to look at him any more. It hurt my eyes. It hurt inside me. I
stepped to him. And at this moment his eyes opened. Two black holes on the
whiteness of his face - like two bullet wounds. But he stared at me. I think he
I pushed him down to the pit again. I screwed my own eyes up shut and I grabbed
the spade and with closed eyes I took the spade of earth and strewed it down. I
couldn't cover my ears, of course - but after a while there was nothing to
hear. And after a while I could work with my eyes opened. I leveled the place.
For some reason it looked in another way than before - but I didn't think
somebody would care.
I stood for some moments over it, still with the spade in my hands. And then
I realized I was holding his cross all the time. It was in my palm, pressed
deep in my sweaty skin - it stuck in, leaving blood traces with its edges. I
"Don't..." when I started speaking my voice sounded inhuman for me. I
coughed. "Don't worry. I'll leave it with you."
I put it in the mellow ground in front of me and pushed it in. The golden-blue
cross sank as if to the quicksand - and I understood that even if I wanted to
take it back, I wouldn't probably find it.
Nobody saw me when I returned to the house.
* * *
Our detachment went through blow-hammer failure two months after that.
Grishka was killed in that affair. Vasily returned to his place and enriched
briefly. As far as I knew he was depossessed and deported to Siberia in early
30s. And when I was listening to my death sentence in the cell on Lubyanka, in
1937 - I thought about only one thing more. That the end of my life will mean
the end of my dreams, too - because every night I woke up feeling the grains of
earth under my fingernails.