20. sep. 2008

The Storm

Written by Tea Hvala
Translated by
Maida Alilović
Illustrated by Jakob Klemenčič

After lunch and a short rest my grandmother and I were standing in front of the house again. With our hands on our hips, we stood inspecting pieces of scrap metal that once formed a tin roof, but were now lying in the grass; the aftermath of yesterday's ravaging. The day had been sunny and hot, but already in the early afternoon, humidity lay heavy on the high plain, followed by thick, dark winds from the south and a downpour that riddled the entire village – including my grandma’s house, exposed on the edge of the plain, naked and treeless. A strong thrust of wind came hurling up the hillside, toppling the flowers, blowing the laundry away and lifting the tiles that came plummeting into the backyard. In the morning, while we were clearing up the debris, a clear sky was stretching above us, pretending it knew nothing about it.
Early on, we picked up and piled the soaked logs; before lunch we set out to gather the tiles and we were left with less than half an hour of work. I put on my gloves and climbed the ladder. My grandma handed me another piece of sheet metal. I pulled it towards me, measured the distance; with difficulty, I managed to throw it in with the other pieces. The slightly wet corroding surface was slipping from my hands, the thin metal was bending on its own weight and with every throw it undulated above the ground. I worked reluctantly, convinced that the sheets of metal and the panels weighing them down will be landing in the grass with the next storm. When we were finished, I told my grandma that it would have been better to have used something heavier instead of the poles.
“Yes,” she said, “we could bind the roof with a rope,” but instead of grabbing the idea instantly as usual, she gazed towards the gateway. She slowly nodded to a man, who lifted his hand to greet her and was approaching slowly. In the other hand, he was holding a leather briefcase and seemed rather classy, too classy in fact to be selling thin air.
“I didn't want to startle you, you could have been hurt,” he said and shook my hand. He didn't introduce himself; he only smiled and looked at us both, although I was still standing on the top of the ladder. It finally dawned on me that he was cross-eyed, and that in spite of his appearance he must be selling thin air.
“What will it be,” I was short, but he didn't hear me. He turned to my grandmother and said that he could see we had a rough time yesterday.
I would have told him to go to hell, but my grandma had already hurried to tell him that in these parts the storm was not as violent, that it was much worse in Tolminsko and Idrijsko, a child was killed! The man was sympathetic, how could he not have been. Then he put down his briefcase and passed me a panel in his crisp white shirt. My grandmother got nervous and told him he would soil himself, but he calmed her down every time he handed me another pole. I was left with no choice; I took the poles until we weighed down the entire roof. My grandmother was thanking this cunning man for the help and I knew I had to come down as soon as possible, step in between, start small talk about weather and let him know we won't buy anything – before my grandma invites him in. But meanwhile he had already asked where he could wash his hands...
In the kitchen he stepped to the washing sink and supposedly for the sake of conversation asked where all the men of the house were. I laughed and asked if he missed them. He ran one eye over me.
“Do you live here?” he asked.
“When I need to,” I tried to avoid answering, but it was too late; he turned to my grandmother and repeated the question. Blind and deaf for our battle, she began explaining how she lived with her husband, who was at that time away, but is otherwise at home, a retired mason and carpenter. I was waiting for her to naively add that he has an unlisted workshop across the yard, but he only works for people who know him, and there is no danger that they would report his activity, although one should be careful, because in this day and age you never know who you're dealing with. Surprisingly, she said nothing. She was standing by the stove, Cross-eyes was lingering by the dining table and had at least that much courtesy not to sit without being invited to. I found a spot on the chest by the door and took out a cigarette from my pocket, although I had never smoked inside before. Cross-eyes opened his briefcase, laid a compass on the table and two rods, forming the letter L. I lighted the cigarette. He cast his left eye over me and asked my grandmother where she slept. She shifted nervously.
“Over there,” she said and looked up. “But I haven't always.”
“Do you sleep with your head facing the north?”
“No,” she said, “I’m turned this way.” She pointed to the apple tree under the balcony and Cross-eyes had to consult his compass.
“You know,” he said, “that's not best for your health. Have you been sleeping there long? ”
“No,” she said, “I married into this village. Before, I was living in the hamlet on the hill over there. You can see it from this window.” She did not utter its name. Her birthplace was more sacred than the kitchen in which she worked and ate for forty years. She kept staring through the window, so I told him to take a seat.
“I mustn’t,” he was quick to respond, “a radiesthetist who sits down before finishing his job, is no radiesthetist at all.” Cross-eyes is a dowser, that explains all the annoying questions and the rods! I blurred out: “Why? Are your feet perhaps less sensitive to radiation than your behind? ” My grandmother jittered, looked at me fearsomely and rushed to the man. She apologized for my rudeness and I could have screamed of anger and misery. I wished he would finally leave, wished he hadn't come in at all! With a rope or wire, with poles, no matter what, my grandma and I would be fixing the tin roof, but now ... I lighted another cigarette. The dowser held the rods and positioned himself in the center of the kitchen: it was show time. My grandmother collapsed onto a chair and in his sly manner he began explaining how the natural human position is either upright or lying, whereas sitting is unnatural, for it causes the spine to bend, creating an obstacle for the bodily ‘forces’. He pointed the long ends of the rod towards the floor, waited for them to stop moving and then lifted them, creating a right angle with the floor. The rods parted slowly and remained in the position until he lowered them again.

“Radiation should be measured in every room. Even if your bedroom is, as you say, above the kitchen, it doesn’t mean that the forces are as strong as in here,” he played smart. With his rods apart he headed towards me. When he walked, they trembled and began to draw near to each other. I sat firmly on the wooden chest, where only dry wood was stored: matchwood, sawing and paper that in my knowledge only radiate heat and light. Perhaps it was the ironbound bottom, if this ancient chest even had one, that caused it, but then again it might not have mattered, now that the radiesthetist was standing decisively too close. His rods were pointing at me, with the right one he aimed directly towards my eye and goggled at me with his cross eyes.
“You see,” he established, “radiation is very strong here and you’re smoking.” I didn’t ask what difference the smoke made; I dodged him and ran to my grandma. He was still standing by the chest. He asked whether there was running water anywhere near.
“Yes,” I hurried, “you missed the plumbing for less than three meters!”
“I’m talking about subterranean waters,” he responded,” they emit magnetic radiation that harms our well-being and in the long run, causes disease. Madam,” he addressed my grandma, “didn’t you mention you had health problems?” Who doesn’t at her age, I grunted to myself and my grandmother began to list her thyroid, kidneys, blood pressure thankfully, but was rudely cut off by Mr. Doctor, who had established that her chest and neck have long been exposed to radiation.
“I’m not left with much time anyway,” she sighed in disappointment, causing professional duty agitation with Cross-eyes.
“Madam, don’t say that. You’re still young. I told my mother, who must be older than you, that each year, if nothing else, means twelve monthly pensions, Twelve! You have to look after yourself. Once the disease spreads, there is no turning back.” He looked at me with his deviant eye.
“Disease is like subterranean water. At first, it runs deep underground, but suddenly it erupts above. You see?” I smiled and shrug my shoulders.
“You know, sir, in these parts the ground is porous, limestone, and here, water usually runs underground, but then it disappears even deeper.” My grandmother smirked and it looked as if the dowser had surrendered. He sighed and slowly nodded, laid aside his rods and finally took a seat at the table. I marched towards the sink and poured him a glass of water.
“Have you heard of the Murmuring Rock?” my grandmother asked him. “You know, back home in the village, they said there once was a massive rock in the woods and it murmured. If you leaned your ear against it, you could hear a murmur, as if a river ran inside or underneath it. At one time the rock split in half and a big crevice was formed, so big in fact, an entire person could walk into it. Fresh water came running out, because there was a spring inside the rock. But the ground there isn’t limestone…”
“Madam, on the top of the Brkini hills I came across subterranean springs and rivers, but people didn’t believe me. Like you, they tried to persuade me this was impossible in such rocky parts. But I also met people who were searching for water with a dowsing rod and found it. They didn’t know how it functioned, but they saw it worked and that was enough for them.” He waited for the words to make a proper impression and repeated that beneath the house, close to the wooden chest, there must be subterranean water.
“I don’t know,” my grandma said, “all the springs are on the other side of the village, where the limestone ends and that green stone starts. When we didn’t have plumbing, we went to fetch water there, by the well. The water is there, horribly cold water,” she added.
“There’s water here, I’m telling you,” he persisted, “but I don’t know where it springs and it is difficult to estimate how deep under it runs.” He finished his drink, put down the glass and his eyes went for the brief case. He seized the rods.
“Can I give it a try?” I was in haste. “I won’t demagnetize them, right?”
“Go ahead,” he sighed, “hold them, they’re not magnetic, they’re chrome. Nothing special indeed.” He pointed to the shorter end, the handles that were inserted into the metal so that during dowsing the spinning part remained loose. I picked them up and carefully sat on the chest, for the rods were swinging left and right with the slightest move. I straightened my back and stood astride. I firmly held the handles and lowered the points. I waited for them to completely settle down and then I rolled them upwards, as he did before. They were pointing into his direction, and then the left point really moved, quickly followed by the right one into the opposite direction. I held my breath and pressed harder. The space between the ends kept increasing, they pointed each in their own direction, forming a straight line, and then the left one in a single move, swung ninety degrees and stopped on my chest. Not one, they both stared at me!
“What’s wrong with you,” I heard the radiesthetist, “you don’t have to press so hard, I never do. Drop them!”
I would have, but my palms, as if they weren’t my own, only held on tighter to the handles. I felt the pressure from my fists moving towards my shoulders and neck, binding me, holding me in a vise. In my abdomen I felt a different kind of pressure, a tingling that pushed onto my stomach, bladder and intestines. I wanted to run to the bathroom, but I couldn’t, I remained seated on the chest, still holding on to the rods. I could barely tell my hands apart from the floor, it got so dark suddenly. Where did my grandmother go? Instead of her, I saw some sort of whirling in the distance, sparks or stars, dancing in circles. They swarmed and twinkled, pulling and sipping me in their direction, and if I leaned forward into the darkness, it seemed like the pressure slackened. So I leaned again, and fell directly into the whirl. It caught on and twisted me and the pressure was gone instantly. I was thinking how everything is over now, but my body became too real and my own the very second I supported myself on my arms and looked about. I was sitting – on the floor by the chest. There were the damn rods. Let them lie, I was encouraging myself, I’m the one that has to get up. I leaned on the chest and got up. I slowly hobbled to the doorway and by the door I saw my grandmother and the dowser standing in front of the house. They were staring into the pile of wood that was covered half an hour ago. Why were the tin plates lying on the ground?
“What happened?” I asked, and my grandmother turned around abruptly, startled.
“God help us,” she said and squeezed pass me into the kitchen. She returned, carrying the rods, and handed them to the radiesthetist in silence. He placed them into his case and left without saying goodbye, without asking what the rods were doing with me while the tin plates were flying in the air … or I was doing with them? My grandmother stared at his back until he disappeared behind the corner. Then she told me to get up on that ladder as quickly as possible.

Published in Stripburger nr. 48.

17. sep. 2008


Napisala Tea Hvala

Ilustriral Jakob Klemenčič

Po kosilu in kratkem počitku sva s staro mamo zopet stali pred hišo. Z rokami uprtimi v boke sva stali in gledali rjaste kose pleha, zasilno pločevinasto streho, ki je po včerajšnjem razdejanju obležala v travi. Prejšnji dan je bil sončen in vroč, vendar je nad planoto že zgodaj popoldne legla sopara, za njo je prišel težak, temen veter z juga in z njim naliv, ki je prerešetal celo vas. Mamino hišo, ki se gola, brez drevja, izpostavlja na robu planote, še toliko bolj: po pobočju je pridivjal močan sunek, v hipu prevrnil vse rože, raznesel perilo in dvignil strešnike, da so s truščem pristali na dvorišču. Zjutraj, med pospravljanjem, se je nad nama sprenevedalo jasno nebo.

Tudi premočena polena sva pobrali in zložili že dopoldne, pred kosilom sva se lotili zlaganja strešnikov in ostalo nama je še za slabe pol ure dela. Nadela sem si rokavice in se vzpela na lestev. Stara mama mi je podala nov kos pločevine. Povlekla sem ga k sebi, premerila razdaljo in ga s težavo zalučala k ostalim. Vlažna rjasta površina je polzela iz rok, tanka kovina se je upogibala pod lastno težo in ob vsakem zamahu sem tudi sama vzvalovila nad tlemi. Delala sem brez volje, prepričana, da bo pločevino in obtežilne deske že naslednja nevihta spet vrgla v travo. Ko sva bili pri koncu, sem mami le rekla, da bi bilo bolje, če bi namesto kolov uporabili kaj težjega.

“Ja,” je rekla, “streho bi lahko prevezali s štrikom,” a namesto da bi, kot ponavadi, brž stekla za mislijo, se je zazrla v smer proti privozu. Počasi je pokimala moškemu, ki je v pozdrav dvignil roko in stopil korak bliže. V drugi roki je držal usnjeno aktovko in nasploh deloval dokaj fino, preveč, da bi od hiše do hiše prodal meglo.

“Nisem Vas hotel presenetiti, da se Vam ne bi kaj zgodilo,” je rekel in se rokoval z mamo. Ni se predstavil, le nasmihal se je in gledal v obe hkrati, čeprav sem še vedno stala vrh lestve. Končno se mi je posvetilo, da škilil, in da kljub izgledu verjetno vseeno prodaja meglo.

“Kaj ste nam lepega prinesli,” sem se bila rezka, a me je preslišal. Obrnil se je k stari mami in rekel, da vidi, da je bilo tudi pri nas včeraj hudo.

Poslala bi ga k hudiču, a mu je mama že pravila, da se nevihta v teh krajih niti ni tako razdivjala, huje da je bilo na tolminskem in idrijskem koncu, umrl je otrok! Akviziter je sočustvoval, kako ne. Potem je odložil aktovko in suknjič ter mi v beli srajci podal desko. Stara mama mu je vsa vznemirjena hitro rekla, naj vendar pusti, da se ne bo umazal, on pa jo je pomiril in miril za vsak kol posebej. Nisem imela izbire, prijemala sem, vse dokler nismo obtežili cele strehe. Stara mama se je prebrisancu zahvaljevala za pomoč in vedela sem, da moram čimprej dol, stopiti mednju, reči besedo ali dve o vremenu in mu dopovedati, da ne kupimo – preden ga mama povabi v hišo. A medtem je že vprašal, kje si lahko umije roke...

V kuhinji je stopil k pomivalnemu koritu in menda kar tako, zavoljo pogovora vprašal, kje so pri tej hiši vsi moški. Zasmejala sem se in vprašala, če jih pogreša. Oplazil me je z enim samim očesom.

“Živiš tukaj?” je vprašal.

“Po potrebi,” sem se skušala izmotati, a je bilo že prepozno; obrnil se je k stari mami in ponovil vprašanje. Slepa in gluha za najin boj je začela pripovedovati, da živi z možem, ki je trenutno odsoten, a je sicer kar doma, upokojen je, zidar in mizar. Čakala sem, da bo naivno dodala, da ima čez dvorišče delavnico, ki ni prijavljena, a tako ali tako dela samo za ljudi, ki ga poznajo, in ni nevarnosti, da bi ga kdo prijavil, čeprav je treba biti previden, ker v teh časih res nikoli ne veš, s kom imaš opravka. Pa ni rekla ničesar. Stala je ob štedilniku, škilavi je postaval ob jedilni mizi in imel je vsaj toliko pameti, da si brez povabila ni drznil sesti. Jaz sem zasedla skrinjo ob vratih in iz žepa povlekla cigareto, čeprav še nikoli prej nisem kadila v hiši. Škilavi je odprl aktovko, na mizo je odložil kompas in dve palici, kovinski, v obliki črke L. Prižgala sem. Oplazil me je z levim očesom in staro mamo vprašal, kje spi. Živčno se je prestopila.

“Tam,” je rekla in oči uprla v strop. “Pa ne od zmeraj.”

“Pa spite z glavo obrnjeno proti severu?”

“Ne,” je rekla, “tja sem obrnjena.” Pokazala je na jablano pod balkonom in škilavi se je moral posvetovati s kompasom.

“Veste,” je rekel, “to ni najboljše za Vaše zdravje. Že dolgo spite tam?”

“Ne,” je rekla, “v to vas sem se poročila. Prej sem živela v vasi na hribu tam preko. Vidi se jo iz tega okna.” Vpričo tujca ni izrekla imena. Rojstni kraj je bil svetejši od kuhinje, v kateri je delala in jedla že štirideset let. Še kar je strmela skozi okno, zato sem akviziterju jaz rekla, naj vendar že sede.

“Ne smem,” je pohitel, “radiestezist, ki sede, preden opravi svoje delo, ni pravi.” Škilavi je bil bajaličar, zato vsa nadležna vprašanja in palice! Kar padlo je iz mene: “Zakaj? So Vaši podplati na sevanje morda manj občutljivi kot Vaša tazadnja?” Stara mama je poskočila, pogledala me je z nekakšnim strahom in planila k možaku. Opravičila se je za mojo nesramnost in najraje bi zarjula od besa in bede. Ko bi se človek že končno pobral, ko sploh ne bi bil prišel! Z vrvjo ali žico, s koli, vseeno mi je bilo s čim, bi z mamo utrjevali plehasto streho, zdaj pa… Prižgala sem nov čik. Bajaličar je prijel palici in se postavil na sredo kuhinje: čas je bil za predstavo. Stara mama se je sesedla na stol in premetenec je vedro začel razlagati, kako da je človekovo naravno stanje bodisi pokončno ali ležeče, medtem ko je sedenje nenaravno, saj je hrbtenica pokrčena, ‘sile’ v telesu pa so ovirane. Daljši konici palic je usmeril k tlom, počakal, da sta se umirili in ju nato dvignil pravokotno na tla. Palici sta se lenobno razprli in ostali v tem položaju, dokler ju ni ponovno povesil.

“Sevanje bi moral izmeriti v vsakem prostoru posebej. Čeprav je Vaša spalnica, kot pravite, nad kuhinjo, to ne pomeni, da so sile zgoraj enako močne kot v pritličju,” je bil pameten. Z razprtima palicama se je odpravil k meni. Med hojo sta vztrepetali in se začeli zbliževati. Trdneje sem sedla na leseno skrinjo, v kateri je bil samo suh les: trske, žaganje in papir, ki, kolikor vem, sevajo samo toploto in svetlobo. Mogoče je bilo dno, če ga je ta prastara skrinja sploh imela, okovano z železom, a mogoče to zdaj, ko je radiestezist stal odločno preblizu, sploh ni bilo važno. Njegovi palici sta bili naperjeni vame, z desno je ciljal naravnost v moje oko in me zraven škilavo buljil.

“Vidiš,” je ugotovil, “tukaj je sevanje zelo močno, pa še kadiš.” Nisem vprašala, kaj naj bi s tem imel čik, izmaknila sem se in stekla k mami. Še vedno je stal ob skrinji. Vprašal je, če se kje v bližini nahaja tekoča voda.

“Ja, se,” sem pohitela, “vodovod ste zgrešil za slabe tri metre!”

“Govorim o podtalnici,” je odvrnil, “podtalnica oddaja magnetno sevanje, ki neugodno vpliva na počutje in dolgoročno povzroča bolezni. Gospa,” je nagovoril mamo, “mar niste prej omenili, da imate težave z zdravjem?” Le kdo jih pri njenih letih nima, sem godrnjala pri sebi, stara mama pa je s hvaležnostjo začela naštevati ščitnico, ledvice, pritisk, a jo je gospod doktor nesramno prekinil in ugotovil, da sta njeno oprsje in vrat gotovo že dolgo izpostavljena sevanju.

“Saj tako ali tako ne bom več dolgo,” je razočarano zavzdihnila, škilavi pa se je po službeni dolžnosti razburil.

“Gospa, nikar tako. Mladi ste še. Moji materi, ki je gotovo starejša od vas, sem rekel, da vsako leto pomeni, če nič drugega, dvanajst penzij več. Dvanajst! Paziti morate nase. Ko bo nastopila bolezen, bo že prepozno.” Poiskal me je z iztirjenim očesom.

“Bolezen je kot podtalnica. Najprej teče globoko pod zemljo, nenadoma pa izbruhne na plano. Razumeš?” Nasmehnila sem se in skomignila z rameni.

“Veste, gospod, v teh krajih so tla porozna, apnenčasta, in voda tu običajno res teče pod zemljo, potem pa ponikne še globlje.” Stara mama se je namuznila in zdelo se mi je, da se je bajaličar pravkar predal. Zavzdihnil je in počasi prikimal, odložil je palici in končno sedel za mizo. Odkorakala sem h koritu in mu natočila kozarec vode.

“Ste že slišali za Šumečo skalo,” ga je vprašala stara mama. “Veste, doma, v vasi, so pravili, da je v gozdu velika skala, v kateri šumi. Kdor je prislonil uho, je slišal šumenje, kot bi v kamnu ali pod zemljo tekla reka. Nekoč se je skala preklala na pol. Nastala je tako velika luknja, da bi vanjo lahko stopil cel človek. Iz razpoke je pritekla pitna voda, ker je bil v skali resnično izvir. Samo tam tla niso iz apnenca…”

“Gospa, vrh Brkinov sem naletel na podvodne izvire in reke, a mi ljudje niso verjeli. Tako kot Vi so me prepričevali, da je to v tako kamnitem svetu nemogoče. A prav tam sem srečal tudi ljudi, ki so z bajalico sami iskali vodo in jo našli. Niso vedeli, kako zadeva deluje, a videli so, da dela, in to jim je zadostovalo.” Počakal je, da besede naredijo primeren vtis, in ponovil, da pod hišo, blizu skrinje za drva, gotovo teče podtalnica.

“Ne vem,” je rekla mama, “vsi izviri so na drugi strani vasi, tam, kjer se konča apnenec in začne tisti zeleni kamen. Ko še ni bilo napeljave, smo hodile po vodo tja, k vodnjaku. Tam je voda, strašno mrzla voda,” je dodala.

“Je, pravim vam, da je,” je vztrajal, “samo ne vem, kje izvira, in težko ocenim, kako globoko pod zemljo teče.” Izpil je do konca in odložil kozarec, oči so mu ušle k aktovki. Segel je po palicah.

“Lahko poskusim,” sem pohitela, “saj jih ne bom razmagnetila ali kaj?”

“Kar,” je zavzdihnil, “primi jih, niso magnetne, iz kroma so. Nič posebnega niso.” Pokazal je na krajši konec, ročaja, ki sta bila vstavljena v kovinska tulca tako, da je med bajanjem vrtljivi del ostajal prost. Prijela sem ju in pazljivo sedla na skrinjo, saj sta palici že ob najmanjšem premiku zanihali semtertja. Zravnala sem hrbet in se razkoračila. Ročaja sem trdno stisnila in povesila konici. Počakala sem, da sta se povsem umirili, potem sem ju, tako kot malo prej on, zasukala navzgor. Gledali sta proti njemu, nato se je leva konica zares premaknila in takoj za njo je v nasprotno smer zanihala tudi desna. Zajela sem sapo in še bolj stisnila. Razmik med konicama se je še kar povečeval, gledali sta vsaka po svoje, tvorili sta ravno črto, potem pa je leva v eni sami potezi zanihala za devetdeset stopinj in se ustavila na mojih prsih. Ne ena, obe sta strmeli vame!

“Kaj je s tabo,” sem zaslišala radiestezista, “saj jih ni treba tako stiskati, jaz jih nikoli ne stiskam. Spusti jih!”

Saj bi, vendar so se dlani, kot bi ne bile moje, samo še bolj oklenile ročajev. Čutila sem, kako pritisk iz pesti potuje proti ramenom in vratu ter me vse bolj veže, drži v primežu. V trebuhu sem čutila drugačen pritisk, nekakšno ščemenje, ki je pritiskalo ob želodec, mehur in črevesje. Prijelo me je, da bi stekla na stranišče, vendar ni šlo, obsedela sem na skrinji in še vedno stiskala palici. Komaj sem ju razločila od rok in tal, tako iznenada se je stemnilo. Kam je šla stara mama? Namesto nje sem v daljavi zagledala nekakšno vrtinčenje, kresnice ali zvezde, ki so plesale v krogih. Rojile so in migetale, me vlekle in srkale k sebi, in če sem se nagnila v temo, se mi je zdelo, da je pritisk manjši. Še bolj sem se nagnila in potem sem padla naravnost v vrtinec. Ujelo me je in zasukalo in pritisk je v trenutku popustil. Pomislila sem, da je zdaj čisto zares vsega konec, a je telo postalo še preveč stvarno in moje v trenutku, ko sem se oprla na roke in pogledala okrog sebe. Sedela sem – na tleh, poleg skrinje. Tam sta bili tudi prekleti palici. Kar naj ležita, sem se bodrila, jaz sem tista, ki mora na noge. Oprla sem se ob skrinjo in vstala. Počasi sem odkrevsala proti veži in že v vratih sem videla, da stara mama in bajaličar stojita pred hišo. Strmela sta v kup drv, ki je bil še pred pol ure pokrit. Zakaj so plehnate plošče ležale na tleh?

“Kaj se je zgodilo,” sem vprašala in mamo tako presenetila, da jo je kar zasukalo.

“Bog pomagaj,” je rekla in se mimo mene zrinila v kuhinjo. Vrnila se je s palicama in ju brez besed dala radiestezistu. Bajalici je spravil v torbo in šel, ne da bi pozdravil ali vprašal, kaj sta medtem, ko je pleh frčal po zraku, palici počeli z mano... jaz z njima? Stara mama ga je spremljala s pogledom, dokler ni izginil za ovinkom. Potem mi je rekla, naj se čimprej spravim na lestev.


Zgodba je bila objavljena v Stripburgerju št. 48.

7. sep. 2008

In Other Wor(l)ds Workshop - The Stories

Below you will find the text transcripts of seven science fiction short stories, written collectively by eight participants of the workshop entitled 'In Other Wor(l)ds'. The stories were written on September 6th 2008 at Ladyfest Amsterdam by Brigitte, Anne, Sara, Diny, Caroline, Nina, Anouk and Tea.

All stories include two subjects: Bo, the human and Vlar (or Vlarrr), the non-human character. We did not specify their gender or any other characteristic. The only rule concerning the plot was that Bo and Vlarrr have just met and that they are busy running away from – or towards – something.

Each participant began to write her own story. Fifteen minutes later, the text was passed to the next person who read it and continued writing for the next fifteen minutes. The pieces were passed on until every person has written a part of every story – and we had seven stories in our hands!

The transcribers, Anne, Urška, Tea and Caroline have copied the handwritten texts without omitting possible mistakes – in fact, we probably added a few. All the stories can be cut up and the paragraphs rearranged and read in any (dis)order you want. Enjoy!

Thanx to all participants and Ladyfest Amsterdam for making this fun workshop possible!

Greetings from Whileaway,


Story 1

Vlarrr is escaping in the shadow of the hovering craft. For a second xe hesitates, the passengers platform of the space craft is only an easy jump away. Should xe take this chance, maybe the last chance, to safely escape and return to the hall. The earth eruptions and solid rain roaming around doesn’t bother xem anymore and the silent heaven promised there above is more a threat than a rescue.

All of a sudden the unthinkable happens: everything stops moving, all sounds have stopped. It’s like somebody hit the 'pause’ button. Vlarrr slows down, only hears his own breathing, the sound of his blood running through his veins. Everything around xem remains frozen in the same position. The silence and the quiet are so relaxing. Who has ever imagined the world to freeze like that? But Vlarrr is not at ease. Xe is on xes guard. This standstill might as well be over in a few minutes.

‘Are you coming?’ The silence is broken by a sudden voice coming from the aircraft’s entrance. The person who asked is hidden behind the wall, protecting him/herself from the heavy air pressure that dominates the entrance area. Vlarrr only sees an extended limb, shaped like a metallic broomstick, gesturing for xer to enter while xe still can. The person on the ship does not expect xer to decide, the decision, like the sudden, involuntary exodus from the upset Earth, has already been made.

Vlarrr approaches the air vehicle with caution, the silence cut, the tranquility of just some seconds ago is long forgotten, like it never happened, like this – the vehicle, the turbulence, the extended iron hand – is all there is… left to grasp. Vlarrr holds the iron hand, feels xerself lifted and brought to the platform like xe was weightless. There, behind the door, the creature reveals itself – it is really nothing more than a broomstick, an iron levitating broomstick that makes xe roll xer eyes in disappointment.

‘Great’ xe murmurs, ‘just what I hoped for, a brand new world filled with old gadgets, with dust piling up in the corners of the engineers’ imagination, caught in the matrix of house choirs, a house wife planet awaits!’ The broomstick makes a circle in the air, approaches like a large mosquito and says:



‘Bo. That’s my name. I will be your guide. I’ll dust the starpaths for you.’

‘Dusting starpaths? What do you mean?’ Vlarrr, who had never liked cleaning in the first place, imagined that starpath cleaning had to be some kind of a sick joke making sure that noone would ever have any time left again. Imagining the size of the universe the broom might as well be a toothpick, or a nano toothpick. What an idiot xe had been getting on this damn vessel.

‘I’ll show you’, said Bo, before she started spinning and spinning rapidly, so fast that from the movement the outline of a cylinder became visible. The shape moved towards Vlarrrs eyes and xe found xe could look through the shape, as with binoculars.

‘Stop, cut’, a disembodied voice calls, the scenary fades, like collapsing buildings. We are on a stage, thought Vlarrr … oh no, not the Earth again! It never seems to work out. But hey, what’s this? What had been a being to dust the starpaths now is a small heap on the ground with an elaborate head set on, huge sun glasses and dozens of wires attached to her back, arms and legs. Vlarrr could tell she was female. How? Well, the bulges at the chest, the bright red lipstick. Should I wake her up, Vlarrr thought? Vlarrr moved silently over and gently tapped the stranger on the shoulder. Immediately the Bo creature springs up, bund behind her glasses and throws a huge kick into the air.

‘Back off you bastard’, the Bo creature screams. Vlarrr glides back. Where Vlarrr comes from no one greets each other like this.

‘Bo creature’, Vlarrr says, ‘What’s the matter?’ The she-Bo-human jerks, pulls a knife out while struggling to flick the switch for her glasses.

‘Listen mister, I just wanted to be alone and if you know what’s good for you just go’. Vlarrr groans, xe will never understand humans. In an instant xe disappears.

Story 2

‘Bo-bo-bo-boring, this is boring, my comrade!’ said Vlar, the strange traveler I have met on my way away from the damned boathouse, the place I dare not think of too much because it makes me shiver and shake, makes my hair stand up straight. Well, it did until I met Vlar. We’ve been walking in silence for more than 15 minutes; I was lost in my worries. He or, actually maybe, she, was entertaining herself with kicking empty beer cans into the muddy dark river. I looked at Vlar again, grinned in an evil kind of way, letting that street kid know that I am not here to help, not here to share, not here to make friends… indeed, I am Bo the Boring, heh.

‘For fucks’ sake, Bo, say something’, said Vlar, ‘like, where are you taking me, where do we go. I’m hungry, I wanna stop, sit down, eat a falafel.’

I looked at Vlar in disbelief. Falafel?! Now?! ‘Vlar, please shut up and walk’, I said. He did. And I figured it’s time for me to tell him what happened at the boathouse, why s/he saved my life in the split second s/he decided to walk with me like we’ve known each other forever.

In fact, I had known him/her longer than today but this s/he did not know. Since my childhood I had always been fascinated by aliens and such. When I grew older that had disappeared. But the past weeks I had had a recurring dream. Actually, it was a nightmare. And this damn kid, this ugly creature was one of the main characters in my dream. I always woke up in the middle of the night, soaked in sweat. For some reason, I was not surprised when I found her/him sitting at the table in the boathouse. S/he was expected. I knew I wouldn’t stand a chance if I didn’t kill him/her. But for now, I would try to make the best of the situation.

‘Let’s go swimming’, Vlar said when we got to a wider section of the river.

‘What, in this water? Swimming? That’s disgusting!’ I replied. The wider section of the river was actually worse than the narrow parts because along the shallow edges floating garbage was mixed with the water plants creating a thick blanket on the murky waters of the river. I thought s/he was joking but Vlar ran towards the water, took off only a jacket and slid into the thick, dark river. A strong smell hit my nostrils and almost made my stomach turn.

‘That’s disgusting, you freak!’ I started saying but lowered my voice when I realized the smell didn’t come from the river but from the jacket. I sat down on the bank and watched Vlar moving through the water. If s/he hadn’t been so ugly and strange, if the river hadn’t been so filthy, it could have been a little like the park I used to go to with my little sister. I would watch her playing just like this and probably, I would have been getting ready to take a dive myself. But all that didn’t matter now. Vlar is someone to get rid of, I repeated to myself, someone who could make things way too complicated.

The splashing had stopped. I looked up at the river but I didn’t see Vlar anymore. Damn, I need to get rid of her/him but not like this. I stood up and eyed along the banks. The damn alien had swum over to the other side and was now picking algae from the deserted over-blooming water-cleaning ponds.

‘Delicious!’ I hear her/him screaming; while I’m looking careful around that no one has heard or seen us.

‘Will you come back’, I shout carefully… as carefully as one can shout in a valley river bed. But why should I wait or care about this impulsive creature. Impulsive, unplanned moves aren’t what has kept me alive so far. That isn’t what took me to that boathouse but now I’m quite happy about the instinctive impulse that saved me and got me out of there. That is why I am still here. I owe her/him one. Or am I just tired of being alone. Ever since I left I felt the urge to talk to someone, share my memories … But Vlar wasn’t a perfect conversator. I wonder what was going on in her/his head anyway. Maybe some dark thoughts? Or naïve feelings? Or maybe nothing at all.

Vlar is a strange creature. But also one I didn’t really trust. What if s/he would tell anyone what happened on that boat. We had a murder on our minds, but I didn’t want to be punished for that. I could put the blame on Vlar, but Vlar could do the same to me. I had to get rid of her/him. Vlar was approaching me now. So what will I do? How do you kill someone? A shiver went down my spine. I had to do it now. Vlar gave me a hug, something I didn’t expect. Then s/he padded me on the head.

‘Have a nice life’, s/he said. I couldn’t speak. I just couldn’t find the words. Vlar was leaving me? I stood there, still watching Vlar walking away. I watched her to the end of the horizon. Then I turned around. I had been so ungrateful. Vlar had saved me and I never thanked her/him. Each night I hope I’ll dream of Vlar again, so I can say ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’, but Vlar never shows up.

I’ve never seen him/her again.

Story 3

‘Don’t!’ she screamed. Arms stiff against the door. Foot jammed up hard against the base. The sounds outside were alarming. Not so much the yells, the thuds, the crashes, but the feeling from the sounds that everything is falling apart, ripped from the inside out. Asunder. She’d stopped counting how long she’d been inside. Here was a bubble of time it seemed, a place outside time perhaps. But now she was here listening to the world fall apart. And now, here, there was someone trying to get in.

‘Hey!?’ she thought, ‘We’ll see about that’, thrusting now the whole of her body against the door in its heavy steel frame. Acrid smells started to reach her through the small window at the bottom, where she at always irregular times, not night, not day, received her food.

‘Stop!’ She let out a blood-curdling cry. It was refreshing, so refreshing to hear her own voice, to hear it rattle through her chest, burn her throat, like bleeding out all the pain in one abrupt gush. She almost didn’t care that there was someone… something trying to get in…

The heavy steel had begun to buckle in a very unordinary way. Not that there was anything ordinary about what she was now experiencing but if it was ‘them’ whoever placed her here, captured her or ‘them’ who she now had only the vaguest and distant memory, to whom she belonged, it wouldn’t be doing that to the material. She knew something very odd was happening. Was she saved? Had they trained her to react with fear or where did this scream come from? If she screams at the top of her lungs, that silly instant voice, they will think that I am scared. From her fingers, from deep down her toes she feels a totally different wave of energy, a confident, resisting, strong and very much alive strength…

She remembers this; her body remembers this now, a body, and a strength that is used to speak up. To take space and yes scream but scream the way she knows it. Scream in attack, in defense a scream for fight and for victory. Whatever is coming through that door, she is not going to be scared. She feels that her body will know how to defend itself, though she cannot really remember. She decides to let it in, to invite it even. Women have always been taught to keep their doors locked, never to trust strangers. But maybe sometimes it is better to leave the door open, be ready for adventures like the big boys. She took a deep breath and opened the door.

Story 4

The smoke had driven Bo out of her hiding place. From the deep bowels of the planet smoke had started to rise up through the vast system of caves and tunnels, eventually reaching the one that had been Bo’s home over the last few days.

Fearful of what might be waiting for her outside, she wearily looked out into the open. Even thought the smoke had already made her nauseous, it would for sure kill her if she inhaled enough of it. She was still glad to see it had spread a light grey mist across the valley, making her chance to get away unseen a lot better. She pulled her scarf tighter over her mouth and nose, took a deep breath and started running.

Because the rocks she has used before for orientation now all looked alike in the thick fog rising up from the many holes in the ground, instead she turned to the shape of the mountains for orientation. The glow from the planets’ many moons still outlined them so she headed for the highest one, hoping to find clean air behind it. Because she had stopped paying attention to the floor she was running on, Bo didn’t see the big bulge on her path until she kicked it, hard.

‘Swoomp’ was the strange sound and she was even more surprised to find her foot being stuck in the bulge. It was very soft and sticky, instead of hard like all the rocks around it. She had to pull hard to get her foot out, slluurrp, and then the bulge moved.

Bo was really tempted to investigate what just happened to her. Was this creature alive? Was it out there to swallow her? So she would vanish and could never tell her story to anyone… Bo decided to keep running away from the bulge and towards the highest mountain. She almost got there when a similar looking bulge speeded into her direction. She ran and ran, as fast as she could, but the bulge came closer and closer. What was this thing? She was going to find out soon because it grabbed her leg again and pulled her in the sand. Her mind became dizzy… she was panicking… What was happening?

The bulge had pulled her into a sort of underground tunnel. She fell further down. She couldn’t see anything because it was dark as night. She could only feel the soft, moist walls of the tunnel as she was sliding down. Where was she and where was she going? Suddenly she fell down on a floor. The tunnel spiral had ended. Or at least it didn’t go down vertically anymore. Bo used her hand to guide her. There was an opening in front of her that she slowly walked through. It was still very dark but somewhere in the background of the opening Bo could see a red light. It became brighter. Bo realized that it was approaching her.

‘Bo’, it cried, ‘where have you been?’ The thing knew her, how could that be? Now on her guard there were two options, answer the thing like she knew it, buy some time, or run for it. Now feeling frightened, and not so talkative, Bo began to run again, this time blindly into the fog. As she ran those lights seemed to follow her. She closed her eyes and decided to launch her body forward without seeing. Thud!

‘Bo’, the mechanical voice whispered. She was caught.

‘Let me go’ she said. The machine stepped back, the metal arms that had recently clutched her in their grip fell limply by its side.

‘Who, what are you?’

‘Bo’, it seemed to purr. Catching her breath, Bo calmed, the red in her face perhaps glowing as brightly as those piercing red eyes.

‘Remember’, the machine said. Something light touched her forehead. She began to fall, and as she did something clutched her hand, was she still in the fog?

‘It is only you and I’, it said. Falling still the ground nowhere. She began to remember. Yes, Vlarrr. The being is Vlarr. ‘Mmmmmm’, Vlarrr said, ‘Welcome home. In this place you are not yet and I have already been.’

Bang! Bo wakes up. The kitchen is spotless, the convabulator buzy brewing away.

‘Vlarrr’, Bo cries, adjusting his apron. ‘Breakfast, darling.’

Bo felt like he had had a long coma sleep. He didn’t know anymore what happened last night. He went to a goa party. Never had done that before. But friends took him there. When they arrived, hippies with dreadlocks and piercings offered them pills. Bo didn’t know what they were, but his friends assured him that it was OK. He put the pill under his tongue. A girl took his hand and dragged him with her. She started to dance, her curly hair jumping up and down, her hands high in the air, like she wanted to invite the goddess or something. Bo relaxed and let the music fill his body. Around them dozens of beautiful people were dancing. Bo felt like he was making love to every one of them. His senses were open wide. A big warm glow filled his heart. A girl with a beautiful purple skirt came dancing in front of him. He smiled at her. She moved closer. Their breaths touching each other.

Color merge! He had had a fucking color merge! That hadn’t happened to him for a long time and there was a reason for this. It’s painful and it leaves you all sludgy, sloppy and melanged… he looked down… and purple. Hmm, purple. Not too bad. He remembered the time when he by mistake had colormerged an electric blue beauty. In the dark he had seen it as an intriguing lagoon lust but he woke up with some fluorescent sky-blue baby face… His friends had laughed. After that embarrassment, being a little purple for a while will not hurt.

Story 5

The car was chasing us through the empty streets of the city. How stupid of Vlarrr to try to repair it. By changing its mechanism Vlar had changed its mind. The car was now a hunter. And we were its prey. Its shiny headlights looked like mean eyes. They would see us anywhere. We had to find a street that was narrow enough so the car wouldn’t pass through it. But all the streets seemed like highways now except for that they were deserted. No persons, no other cars, no bikes, no animals, no robots… Except us being hunted by that evil machine. We were screaming help but we knew there was noone out there. Noone was going to save us from that metal monster.

Obviously we were getting tired. At least I was. Vlarrr's battery didn't seem empty yet at all and the car was still full of gasoline too, I feared. I screamed to Vlarrr if s/he could carry me because my legs were starting to ache real bad.

Vlarrr smiled and, because s/he's such a gentle creature, lifted me up and placed me on hir shoulders, while still running. I felt the wind in my face as we moved from street to street. Vlarrr seemed happy to help me. But could s/he get us out of the situation alive too? We couldn't keep running all our lives, could we?

And it was then that s/he surprised me again in that way only Vlarrrr could. Tossing her/his head back, Vlarrr laughed: »It's OK, I just remembered!«

The car was savage menacing presence just moments away from engulfing us.

'Vlarrr!!!’ I screamed, ‘Keep going!’ But Vlarrr turned, opened her/his mouth and kept opening. A tongue like a huge ramp flung out, lapped around the car, caught it like a fly on a lizard's tongue and swallowed.

‘Belch’, a thunderous burp ensued, shook the streets and the city blocks. If anything else was alive, it would have answered back, maybe a pack of cats would have screamed, or dogs would have howled, or a distant bird would screech. The people if there were any left I didn't know of…

But then Vlarrr screamed for me, her/his tiny body had somehow taken the whole car in one gulp. In a small voice s/he said it's time for me to write the story. I didn't know what she meant. I, Vlarrr have just become pregnant.

Oh perfect! So what you want me to do now!? Teach little puppy machines how to absorb waste for energy! As if we didn't have other, more urgent things to attend to. Couldn't you have thought of any other way to stop that monster… do you always have to be so, so self-fulfilling, so for the moment. Did you for a second think of what would happen after and how this would affect me, you stupid little… yeakh, what are you doing? And now, what is this? A spontaneous little abortion or… oh, isn't that sweet! A little mini-monster. For me? Quick, show me how it works. I want to get out of here and I don't want to ride on your shoulders anymore, you stink. I told you, you should't plunge into that waste container, that rotten waste was acid. Why can't you go tank at the waste station like everyone else. I never met a dirtier dodot in my life. Anyway, who is there to meet…

Clean-polished, shiny dodots without humor or the courage to take a fat-assed kiggy model T-1008 (yeah, that's me) on their shoulders, that's what or, should I say who, is left to meet. Dodot's who'd rather plead for mercy than run and attack those crazy hunter cars! But where was I? Right, on Vlarrr's stinking shoulders, trying to get off and turn my own engine on, lighter than ever, after tossing away the thought of little stinky dodot-kiggies in everlasting need of fuel.

‘Stop!’ I screamed and flew off Vlarrr's shoulders into the dust. I picked myself up and ran myself into his legs and pushed him in front of me with all my strength. The road went upwards, was more and more steep and I was starting to feel sorry for all my passionate advocacy of bio-fuels, made of McDonalds' and BigBuck fries, as I was losing speed, losing strenght, thus endangering the whole mission: the hybrid dodot and kiggy liberation fronts’ brave attack on the car-system that kept our comrades caged in their rusty jaws.

‘A la victoria!’ I screamed as we finally reached the top of the hill and rushed downwards, straight towards the Central Corrections Center for Superflous Robots, controlled by the cars which we, ourselves have turned into our enemies. What a mess!

Story 6

The streets were filled with smoke. Everywhere was the smell of burned flesh. I didn't know how I ended up here, even less where I came from. Some strange being, Vlar was its name, woke me up and since then we have been running, together with other creatures like Vlar. I have never seen anything like it. But I wasn't scared. I felt the creature had good intentions. And much later I understood it had saved me.

In fact, its presence was conforting for me. Even in the midst of all the chaos and fear, I knew the thing would brings things to a good end. I felt soft and warm. What I didn't know was that Vlar had injected a fluid in me. Something that made me calm and relaxed.

I wasn't sure where we were headed, Vlar and her companions were going home but I wasn't sure where that was or if I would be able to come with them all the way. They were a strange crowd, they talked with me but not with eachother though they had to be communicating somehow.

Their movements were slow and liquid but still I had trouble keeping up. They were able to take long strides, elastically bouncing on their limbs only to pulse themselves forward a large distance. I needed at least three strides to cover the distance they did in one. And then, running in this same rhythmic pace for what seemed forever, the group slowed down and came to a halt where the ground ended and we found ourselves at the edge of a great black lake.

The place looked deserted and sad. So here used to be the home of Vlar and her companions. Nothing was left of it. Trees were burned and the lake was filled with tar instead of fresh water. I felt like crying but Vlar's injection prevented me from shedding tears. Poor Vlar. Where did they have to live now? Their houses had collapsed and the ground was no longer fertile but very poisonous. I wondered what creatures like Vlar would eat. Do they eat at all? Maybe they could survive on poisonous soil. It wasn't a pretty sight. Even the view would cause someone to move away.

So what had to be done now. I was curious about what had happened but it was even more urgent to find a way out.

Perhaps Vlarrr should have taken the fluid too.

'We've been together so long, I come from my dying planet to yours and yours is dead too.' I look again across the stagnant lake. 'We need to get out.'

'Wait,' Vlarrr said, 'I know a place,' and then not running we glided. A huge ridge, a cliff face and then… inside, here we are safe.

'It seems as if we have run all this time that I find you and you find me and we run.' Vlarrr's head began to hang low, her huge arms flung over her thin knees.

'Let's tell eachother who we are,' I said. Vlarrr moans. She shifts around inside her stomach, a flat but vast space.

'Here,' a perfect glass filled with water is passed to me. Greedily I drink.

'Shhhh,' Vlarrr says, 'Lie here.' She pats her long belly and stretches out on the ground. Obediently I lie, tired so tired.

'Well,' Vlarrr says, 'For one, I'm not a girl.' I gulp.


'Well,' she/he/it said, 'I just said it to you so you would get along more easily with me.' I begin to feel less safe, Vlarrr's stomach adjusted itself to my head, warm light pin points creeped up my neck. I breathed again.

'Who, what are you?'

'Relax, does it matter?' said Vlarrr, 'I'll show you.'

I got really scared, or rather, I knew in the back of my mind that I should be, but the soft warm presence of my newly found buddy was soothing, somehow intoxicating. I could hear the violent winds hitting against our shelter reminding me of the barren land we've left behind. Here, on the other hand, was life. Peculiar complicated pulsating life. But who was it? It did matter.

'Tell me,' I said. 'I will listen, I promise.'

'The language you know is unfit, not made to accommodate my gender,' Vlarrr said and pulled it's (ah fuck, her) stomach towards itself, and I could literally feel the void, the void of language.
'See,' she continued, 'You want me to be a girl because you feel comfortable around girls. But think – how do you recognise, define somebody as a girl? By liking them? By their body-shape? I obviously don't fit in the appearance category. As for the first… you tell me.'

I did like her. Him. It? I liked Vlarrr, and I liked it right there, in the belly of the world crumbling to pieces.

'Please,' I said, 'Relax, let me rest my head once again on your soft belly.'

Vlarrr hummed, got warmer, spread around me like a pillow and the last thing I remember before falling asleep was that the wind had stopped blowing.

Story 7

The Coast in some far-off place, the sunset, only some small clouds on the horizon. The sea runs onto the sand like fingers on a back, touching their heels as they run, laughing. They are bare-legged, bare-foot and they throw small shiny red stones into the waves. As the sea swallows the stones gratefully, the stones immediately dissolve, making a slushing sound, forming red circles in the water. The beach on their left is entirely filled with the most beautiful sandcastles, some of which are covered in seaweed, stones in bright colors and paper ribbons. The two creatures stop running.

The intimacy of their bare feet's footsteps in the sand brought them closer then they thought it would be possible in such an unpleasant situation. They were, after all, fugitives, running away from a world beautiful only on the surface, the sandcastles, the ribbons remnants of a time when one could build them, play in the sand, without the fear of penalty, a 150 Euro fine for public gathering, for, as they put it, »disturbing the nature of things«. The sea did not seem disturbed at all, and neither did the squeaking seagulls who circled above them, curious about the two tiny figures below them. Bo and Vlar, what a couple! Or, as they would rather say: What a world!

Vlar touched Bo's shoulder with his limp hand, the one that he could't feel much with, the one people were scared to look at, even more to touch, as it felt like the dead hand of history, of a time made into history by the new government which wanted to make sure that people would be left alone. Solitary wanderers, prohibited from sharing glances, words, lives with eachother, trained to listen and follow, trained to whither in dull solitude… like Vlar's limp hand. Bo shuddered at the touch but tried to hide it and smiled at the cautious Vlar.

‘It's OK,’ he said and held Vlar's dead palm…

It was a miracle that they found each other. Vlar's heart felt big and jumped like crazy. The impossible had already happened: he had fallen in love with Bo and he wanted Bo so much to accept him, not to care about their differences. But for now, he would take things slowly, didn't want to scare Bo away. Bo would notice soon enough that Vlar had much more secrets to reveal.

It started to get dark. The sun had almost fully disappeared. Both were dead-tired. They had had a lazy day. They had run away from society as they knew it and now they were ready for something entirely different. This was 2060 after all… Let the good times roll! Like said before: ‘We carry a new world in our hearts.’ This time things would be different. We would make it different. But first we had to sleep.

Bo and Vlar suddenly woke up. They were surrounded by the gatekeepers, five of them, protectors of Society as It Is. The guards and the judges and the punishers at the same time. It was those gatekeepers and the system of control and conformation that Bo and Vlar had tried to escape from. They had run miles but not far enough. The gatekeepers had found them and they were not very forgiving. Those who tried to escape from the Society were always found, so the story went. Bo and Vlar knew that. It was told to them so many times when they were younger. It was told to all children, to scare them, to make sure they would stay and ‘be good’.

One of the gatekeepers punched Vlar with a spear.

‘Get up!’ The gatekeeper dragged them towards a cage of wheels. Was this the end? Would they be imprisoned or sentenced to death even?

But then Vlar turned around, facing the gatekeepers. Their spears and kicks couldn’t hurt his hand as he blocked them, because he couldn’t feel them. The gatekeepers looked at Vlar with big eyes, so did Bo. But Vlar kept hitting with all his energy and when Bo joined him with some sticks she found on the floor, the gatekeepers got scared. No one had even fought back with them. They didn’t believe what was happening. Their power was never challenged before. Bo and Vlar were fighting for their lives, and also for their freedom.

The gatekeepers got back into their vessel to receive instructions on how to deal with the situation and undoubtedly to gear up with heavier arms. This was their chance.

‘Come on,’ said Bo, grabbing Vlar’s hand. They ran down the hill as fast as they could going down the steep end knowing the gatekeepers would need to take the road. When Bo slipped, Vlar caught her just on time and held on so they were able to roll down like a giant ball. At the bottom of the hill was the old landing strip. They were stranded, the road the gatekeepers would take would end there and there was nowhere they could outrun them. Unless… there was only one vesel there, of an unusual type and no guards in it.

‘I’ve never flown a thing like this before,’ said Bo, ‘We could crash and die.’

But they did it anyway.