The World to Come
The year is unknowable. Two fugitives hide in a safehouse in central Moscow. Near the Arbat, inside the second inner great ring. There are many good places to hide here. Some would find them to be murderers serving nothing but a psychosis. To others, heroes of a revolution. But to most regular people they are invisible. Their tribulations and trauma belong only to themselves. For now they are worth only a little bit more alive than dead.
They smoke. They cry. They take a few shots. At each other and with Vodka. They bleed and they also remember. They talk with their hands. The room is poorly lit in a soft blue light from electric candles. A man with pure gray eyes is seated at a desk. Eyes as such are expensive. As though he has very good patrons. As though he once had real eyes. He is working on a small primitive typing device. Tapping away. A large scroll is opened to reveal a very old story, an ancient manuscript in a language very few can read. Fewer still can possibly understand. In the background, the Russian song ‘Oy Moruz’ plays.
“Oh frost. Oh frost. Please don’t kill my horse.” But in Russian. “My wife is a jealous wife. My wife is a beauty! She waits for me in sadness.”
The record skips and it becomes a dancehall song. Abruptly it warbles. Then turns off. Sebastian Adonaev called ‘Kawa’, an Americansky. He is going through a lengthy codex. The codex is inscribed upon a parchment contained on rollers in a silver sheath. He’s copying out something Sephardic from the scroll. Intermittently he is also typing. The words appear holographically projected on the walls of the windowless room. Daria Andreavna called ‘Dasha is a Russian emigre with bleached blond hair. She is meticulously assembling a futuristic weapon. A silenced automatic pistol. She is smoking a banned Newport cigarette. Banned in the Russian Federation because it is more deadly than any other brand. Sometimes she smokes slowly. Sometimes she smokes quickly. She is deliberate until she is not.
Reading from the codex.
‘I have had so many lives. Some past. Some future. Some even run concurrently. I feel as though I have visited the mountain top. At the innermost quarters of the Ziggurat itself I had powder blown into my eyes and awoke here. With you. As though it were all a dream.’
She smokes at him. At first saying nothing.
A sane man, in an insane world is what?
You read the Talmud?
Of course I read the Talmud, blat.
I’m perfectly sane.
Yet the world is still not.
Your eyes. Always so fucking sad. I am sorry you are made to suffer so. It seems you have lost muscle memory to even form a fake smile. I would go so far as to say. It’s time to stop. All your fighting. Admit your struggle is hopeless.
We’ve done these lines before.
You keep these mad notions to yourself. We are again flesh. We live in only three dimensions.
Reading from the Silver Dressed Manuscript
‘The snow fall was exceptional. It was as if Hashem had pulled a vast white blanket upon us to tuck America to bed. Then the devil and a host of petty bureaucrats did not take the time to keep the power running. This winter was the winter that tens of thousands across the empire were tucked in without heat into a long kiss goodnight. That was the winter the Chornay finally fought back with real determination. Remembering finally where they came from. Resisting a planned eradication.’
Who taught you that word Chornay?
A pretty scroll. With such dubious origins. Dubious, is that a good word?
Reading from the Silver Dressed Manuscript
‘In a well-fortified safe house buried in the heart of the Russian Capital. I lock eyes with a woman who in another life broke me down and sold me as a slave!’
‘Indeed’, as you like to often say. Indeed you are a slave to something.
Reading from the Silver Dressed Manuscript
‘Her eyes, her eyes! Even the bluest day on the Caspian contains no such expansive shimmer! There is no comparison for this level of captivation. All things we have done, or did or may even still have to do! Only so that we might never have to bear again the painful agony of our tumultuous separation.’
My, my, oh my the fuck my! The stories you tell yourself blat. Re-read then my little bleak one. My American Mayakovsky. Read and torture yourself. Read the numbers of the letters. Read above and between lines.
Reading from the Silver Dressed Manuscript
‘Poem #38: The Millennium Hostage Crisis. Part One.’
Life of the slave show!
“I will remove you from your castle and make you watch the way we live in the wilderness below.”
And she slips off her high heels into a star-crossed stare down. She always calls the shots,
Gun shots to blood soaked makeshift cots.
The shots she calls are complicated.
She must find me highly dedicated.
She mostly deals with the haves, and I am the have nots!
The rules are anything goes, but no one “knows”.
If she’s been known to steal the weapon from my overcoat,
I’ve been quick to remove her clothes.
I spill for the thrill of those invited, I can kill on compunction! I still have the will! To activate the full facilities!
Of word play and the use of allegory.
To execute deliverance of a blue-blood-bleeding testimony?
“A Post Soviet love story?”
Involving a Chechen Jew peasant and a woman once of Penza now mostly “of night.”
It will be of little glory, the way I tell the story.
“It’s based upon real people. Real blood and real bleeding!”
Of taking, of wanting, of feeding the need. Of fucking and fighting and the will to survive!
In a City of glass, steel, and greed.
Real emotional explosions! Her eyes are always so bright.
She has long since urged me to put down the weapon and give up the fight.
But I have a last name that is easy to place, I could buy some new papers, but not a new face.
They can spot us on site!
It’s the ongoing struggle of those who lead:
“A tragic, unyielding life of night.”
We’ll sell a sordid tale.
I wish I had found her back when she was nineteen or twenty.
Before she had to do what she did. And does what she still do.
To keep from starving in the shadow of plenty.
My objective and travail.
Is to recruit the members of this audience into a clandestine apparatus. And harness our collective clandestino.
To force a mighty train to prematurely jump the rail.
I wear suspenders with buttons, a Mayakovsky cap, and iron plated under shirts. I dreamed up a plan to get revenge on a man, or a series of men, hit them in their pockets.
Hit them where it hurts.
I called her late at night bleeding all over the place.
She said “Don’t get your bleeding heart on my red carpet.”
And she fixed me midnight supper.
Herring, beets, Palemni.
And she wiped the cake of crimson off my bloody Chechen face.
“And the snowfall is phenomenal this year.”
“Don’t get French with me my dear.”
“They really punched yer ticket. Did a number on you in the district, this time.”
(She loves the way I make the Amerikansky Noire lingo mix out eloquently with a touch of old Fenian rhyme.)
“The pay phone call cannot be traced.”
“The weapons hidden in the drywall. In the space your men replaced.”
“The ice cold taste of 9 proof Baltika is refreshing, albeit haram.”
“Those good patriot informers. Those zombies. Those follow-follow men. They beat me for a fortnight, Demand I sign a grim confession,
Attesting to the building and or placement of some near but unexploded bomb.”
“Why can’t you be like normal men?”
I told her: “I’m hungry for my freedom and I’m never going hungry again!” (Sung)
And she says:
“I cannot love you if you’re dead.”
“Please put the house in order, Use the lithium. Use Russian Standard Vodka; use my lips if necessary,
To rectify the madness as it expands inside your head.
I’m not saying that I love you now or later,
Simply I refuse to cater.”
“To all the incidents generated lately when you do not behave.”
“Explain how you plan to court me. YexFrom a black-bag-disappearance.”
“In a frosty, shallow, unmarked open grave.”
“If you’re going to dedicate, in your exacerbation, ‘Resistance efforts’ to a woman (me) who can only love you out of pity,
“In this bleak and foreign city!”
“Even if the words sound epic, also pretty”
“Fuck it man! You’re doing it again!”
I sigh and then reply:
“Did I tell you lately you’re my dorogaya and if not for loving you. I’d surely be dead a thousand times at the hands of ten thousand lesser men?”
Oh, when last we wrote I spoke of devouring her, for hours.
To tease her. To please her. To want her. To need her. Amid a bed of hand-picked, Peonies. Or provincial-wild-flowers.
She isn’t one for single serving dancehall roses. She moves too fast for poses.
Her bright eyes beckon as they dart about the room filled with bluff and imitating glee.
“Accelerate your tempo of evacuation! The checkpoints separate the have everythings. From the people who are dressed like you.
“And carry paper work like me.”
“I suppose you and only you. The woman that I trust and choose. Can entrap these men of business with their whoring,”
“With their endless thirst for further treasure.”
“With long lines of china white running from the mouse trap to their nose. How many slaves does it take to keep this neon play ground running?
“I know via your profession you can undertake a series of transactions.”
“Blonde dynamite distractions.”
Before any know exactly what’s in store. Reduce the need for automatic weapons. Acquire us the proper routes and channels.
And guide us through a tunnel to the vile trading floor.
She looks at me and rolls her eyes and says in Russian, “Lord have mercy.”
I said “I don’t have imaginary friends, there ain’t no need to curse me.”
Where we met is unimportant.
Did I mean to enlist her?
I couldn’t resist her.
I had causes and struggle and vengeance and plan.
I shouldn’t have kissed her,
And longed for her touch.
For surely she lays nightly in the arms of some husband, some much lesser man.
“We have become a most curious spectacle lately.”
“You hate me? Push further.”
“Took you home from the bar stool!”
“Kick me! Kill me! Fuck me!”
She could have killed me that first night, just with things that she said:
I looked at her once.
And the wheel was turning quickly but the hamster was dead.
The wheel was her cold rationale.
The hamster was the morals that once governed the wheel.
And there were bright lights. That up lit her eyes and whatever that implies.
Separating what she does.
From that which she is still willing to feel.
“You take up so much clock! Blood from a rock!
“I must return to District work which begins at moon rise.”
And the steel trap will slam shut.
And bind me behind those District walls.And the men of that vile district,
“Will use their credit cards.”
“To pay for my flesh. And access between my thighs.”
She said “Root for me.”
“I’m going voodoo out tonight. To earn my money in the City.”
If you truly are my friend,
“Understand that I’ve been hungry and I’m never going hungry again.” (Sung)
I am looking down the barrel at my pin striped enemy. And the columns we’ve been shaking.
And lives we’re always taking.
I was seeking sweet surrender and I sought it at her feet.
“You think you’re not a target? You pay your taxes don’t you?”
“Are you blind to their transgressions?”
A cavalcade of charging bulls rampaging down the street!
Everything from here out, it’s true!
My bones rust, from your stardust, your fairy eyes!
“I lose myself to you.”
She says, “Oh the things that you might do.”
Our harsh and untenable positions have emboldened us. As we know no one cares or pays attention, or even has a clue.
If we want it bad enough we can get it:
“For the rest of our lives?”
“Even if that life,” she says, “will last no longer than another day or two.”
“Kiss me. Fight beside me Dorogaia,
Even if to you my name and words are sometimes strange.
For what they do to your body and mind,
And what they did to my family, to my people.
“Help us create a major crisis at the Moscow Stock Exchange.”
“You’re crazy,” she said. Your crazy won’t get me dead! We’ll talk about your ridiculous plan in the morning.
“It’s all a slave show.”
“And if you didn’t know. Russians who help rebels aren’t even given a funeral. Much less a warning.”
Encore! Encore! Dedicated to heroic little me! Dasha Andreavna! A true Russian patriot! A hero of the revolution?
Are you blushing yet woman?
We Russians know not how! I like it very much. When you talk so emotionally, dirty to me in such lyrical poetry? Can I use that phrase ’emotionally dirty?’
I am capable of just about anything when you believe in the work.
The work!? The history books will again close and say you wrote it all yourself. The narrative, it makes no room for powerful female leadership.
Our work is important! Giving the people some actual hope. Giving the people in the trenches of America’s greatest uprising something of substance. To finally believe in the inevitable victory.
How do I bring you back? To the world of the real.
Your homeland is in ashes. You’re the very last of your kind. Your last held cities are completely surrounded. Flying fortresses blacking out the very sky. Marching metal tin men. Killing everything they encounter. Our poems are all lies. Songs about something impossible and never ever to be. Yet, you seem to find in them useful propaganda. To somehow hope these scrolls contain anything besides blasphemous false hope!
The poems and the codex are the only weapons we have left.
Publishing these, Je ne sais; wild fucking conspiracy theories and varying alternative realities. These delusions of grandeur, well they get a lot of people killed.
The clandestine movement is still circulating them with zeal and fascination.
Written in the antiquated prose of a dead language! Read erratically over the radio?
Poetry and Martyrs are immortal.
I think all your dead friends have very little use for any more poetry.
You forget a lot.
Because it is all so terrible.
We have already played our part! It absolves us of any further responsibility to any higher cause. We don’t have to get involved ever again. We’re safe!
We’re not safe. We’re only in Purgatory.
The dead can’t take the dead to sleep. The dead can’t dance to soca.
Remind me! Why again do I still stand by you? It costs me a lot.
Story time again?
Tovarish lover. I challenge you right fucking now blat. The Ministry of the Interior wants to know how our poems are coded. The Department of Homeland Security accuses you of course of the highest levels of treason. Thus to your alleged country of origin you will probably never return. Your “Millennium Hostage Crisis”. This one has cost the Oligarchy dearly. The Bureau for Arranging Meetings with God may knock on our door any day now. Remind me again why I’m still even helping you?
Sweetness, where do we even start?
You can remind me how we met.
The trouble sweetness, with all your little tales, is that not a single one of them are ever fucking true. Frankly, they’re all quite bleak. Your stories foster a real hopelessness.
The greatest fun with your stories is that so many of them are possibly real. You expose yourself. To a most serious liability. Your voice is just so fucking loud. Even the bed bugs can inform on you!
What will be the prize? For a most ‘premium’ story.
Tonight? I let you call me dorogaya.
If tonight were to be forever. Were it now, just one long cold evil night. What’s the get you now are after? What’s the goal behind the prize? If the truth is any real prize.
Ah, prosto. The legendary greetings of our cultural context.
I won’t get raped again. That is a good fucking goal blat. And you won’t get tortured for weeks into years on end. Good goal too. Killing things you love in front of you. People you really care about. With their blades, their beatings, gas, current, water fire boards and also sodomy. Cutting small pieces from me and feeding them to you. The people you love most won’t have to get killed this time. In the real world. Maybe they can even sit the long game out. Maybe, you’ll get to bring your city and miserable desert homeland back from the ashes of oblivion. Your whole mischosen people can come back from the dead. Goals upon goals Fuck! Fuck it man, maybe I’ll date you. For a while. Have a summer fling in Saint Pete. Take a train to endless China. Like you always said you wanted to. If it were a movie. Anything is possible. The truth is a means to such goals.
What story then tonight dearest?
What you’ve done in my name is very complex. What you’ve seen inside the Ziggurat is hardly small talk in any language.
What have I done in the name of you?
A lot of bloody fucking terror.
What I saw there? The truth in its innermost parts.
Liat, Liat. When all the history is finally written. They’ll make you look like a pure lunatic. A fanatical fucking zealot. A real mad man. A terrorist. A perversion. And me, just some whore. At best a hapless muse! Note the role of women in all men’s tales.
What have I done?
Suddenly she kisses him hard. Reminds him for an instant of what he’s fought and still is fighting for. She pulls away. For a small tiny moment he smiles inside and ourside.
One more night!
It is a shame that it all must end.
She blows a powder into his face and the story begins again. To the sounds of trumpets and rattling machine gun fire.