In a Grove

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Contently Deranged Travelers


Two brothers living in the Soviet Union go on a traditional mushroom hunt in a forest and find an orb that predicts the future. Continues in NEAR DEATH, ICHTHYS, and SCARLET BEAST.


Preface

Boris Arkadyevich Horoshansky (1955 – 1982) was, undoubtedly, one of the most tragic figures in the Soviet literary circle. In his first major works, such as An Ode to Lenin (1973) and Atheism: Path of Reason (1974), he revealed himself as a staunch believer in the bright communist future, ready to use his pen in the uncompromising battle between our socialist line of thinking and the inhumane ideologies of capitalism and religious bondage. However, his literary output gradually became increasingly decadent, as the author was falling prey to the rotten Western influence.

His novel Toils of Love (1978) displays clear symptoms of bourgeois approach to family and its place in the construction of a communist state. It has failed to capture the spirit of marital collaboration and solidarity for the benefit of the society, instead unhealthily focusing on morbid deviations in emotional and physical life that had been long purged from the lifestyle and lexicon of the Soviet citizen. References to mysticism and retrograde religious symbolism have insinuated themselves into the book as well. The novel was chastised by the progressive element of our literary world. Furthermore, the young writer has tarnished his reputation by alleged involvement in Zionist activities, masquerading as interest in his ethnic Jewish heritage. The Association of Writers has unanimously voted to remove Horoshansky from its ranks.

The short story In a Grove, which we now offer to the readers of Literaturnaya Gazeta, was written by Horoshansky just before his voluntary commitment in the Leningrad Psychiatric Hospital nr.7 in September 1980, where he passed away two years later in the state of clinical insanity. We understand that the decision was, at least in part, triggered by a traumatic event he had experienced a few weeks earlier. It goes without saying that the Soviet reader will never be able to accept the preposterously fantastical description of said event as depicted by the author in the short story below, justly seeing it as the product of a delirious brain already in the state of severe decomposition. It is also an unfortunate fact that the writer, possessed by his fervently irrational anti-Soviet sentiments, is unable to properly evaluate the prudent and patriotic behavior of his brother.

We have decided to publish this excerpt of prose by the talented, yet sadly deranged author as a reminder to our aspiring writers to stay within the frames of socialist realism, reflecting reality in a healthy manner, and never succumbing to the dangerous tenets of capitalist art.

We would also like, on this occasion, to condemn the war crimes perpetrated by the Zionist leadership of the State of Israel against the brotherly Arab nation, as well as congratulate the Leningrad soccer team Zenit for winning their first Soviet League championship. A proletarian salute to our athletes from the city on the Neva river!

S. Zhdanov

 

IN A GROVE

by Boris Horoshansky

1980

It was the end of August – that blessed time when the Leningrad summer, bleak and short-lived, melancholically announces its upcoming transformation into the cold, damp Northern autumn. It is time for warmer clothing and reluctant preparations for the school year. It is time for sad thoughts to begin invading our minds, compelling us to ponder upon the meaning of our existence. It is also time for the sacred ritual of mushroom hunting.

Only those who have experienced it know the thrill of wandering through a pine grove and spotting, with inexplicable gut instinct, that magically different knoll in the distance. It is covered by thick, dark green moss, which you greedily cut away with your pocketknife; and there – behold! – grows the coveted brown-capped boletus edulis, the crowning achievement of your hunt...

My twin brother Anatoly and I agreed to meet on the platform of the suburban railway station Bronka at precisely 7am. I was coming from my apartment in Dachnoye, a dreary new district of Leningrad, escaping the stifling terror of identical grey nine-story houses dominating the landscape; he was arriving from the opposite direction, the nuclear power plant of Sosnovy Bor, where he worked at the time. Overcome by sudden nostalgic longing, we decided to revive the old tradition of mushroom hunting in the same forest we’d used to visit as kids when staying in the village with our grandmother for the summer vacation.

The red-and-green, snake-like body of the suburban train slid smoothly along the side of the platform. The automatic doors opened noisily, and I saw Anatoly, dressed in khaki pants and a long sleeve shirt, step out of the train on the far side. I rushed to embrace him, and for a while we were standing there, hugging each other’s shoulders and looking at each other, as the train screeched and brattled away from the station.

“Borya,” my brother said, shaking his head. “So many summers, so many winters... Forgive me, I’ve been terribly busy with my work at the plant. I should have called more often.”

“It’s my fault, Tolik,” I said gently, squeezing his shoulder. “I was busy as well. So many new experiences… new ideas. There is so much I want to share with you.”

“Is that so?” Tolik asked nonchalantly. We walked off the platform, passing a decrepit wooden hut that served as a ticket booth. Just a minute ago the sun had been blazing; yet presently, owing to the precarious weather of our dear Ingria, a thick grey cloud crept over the sun, disconnecting us from the source of the pleasant warmth. We continued to move along the dirt road toward the forest.

“Brother,” I spoke warmly. “I’ve changed in those years… I want to tell you all about that. I'm so glad that we can finally meet… I’ve been craving for understanding and support, especially since my novel was lambasted by those ignorant critics.”

“Hmm,” Tolik said, smiling. “I don’t know, Borya. To be perfectly frank with you, I liked your early work more.”

“My early work?” I stared at him, amazed. “We both know it was just naïve patriotic dithyrambs to the glory of the party.”

Tolik was silent. We kept walking, our boots rapidly picking up the dust from the road, until it ended and we began trudging through a thorny thicket that lead us straight towards a narrow muddy path. We were inside the forest now. Squirrels were scampering up and down the burly trees, scattering pine cones in all directions. A jay cried menacingly, alarming the inhabitants of the woods of our presence.

Tolik stopped and sniffed the air.

“Ahh,” he exclaimed, “I love the smell of a Russian forest! I feel how the mushrooms are springing out of the ground, my dear brother. It rained yesterday, so I think we may look forward to a satisfying hunt.”

“It looks like it might rain any time now,” I mumbled, looking at the sky. I had the unpleasant sensation that my brother was avoiding a conversation that mattered so much to me.

We explored the nearby grove, and Tolik found a troop of chanterelles almost right away. He carefully put the mushrooms into his basket and announced with somewhat forced enthusiasm:

“Those are great with sour cream sauce! Have you tried?”

I touched his sleeve.

“Tolik,” I said imploringly. “We need to talk.”

Meanwhile, more dark clouds gathered above our heads. The sky was the color of lead, and I felt that it was swollen, ready to burst into a vicious rain any time now.

“Oh yeah?” he asked absent-mindedly. “What about? Oh, look! Isn’t that a red cap boletus? It is, I swear! Do you remember how proud you were when you found your first one?”

“I’ve found something much greater now,” I uttered, only to realize how stupid my phrase sounded.

“I see,” Tolik rejoined, squinting at the clouds. “And what would that be? The meaning of life?”

“You are mocking me…” I said reproachfully, as we were passing a growth of fly agarics. “I met this incredible person, brother. His name is Alexander Men. He is a priest of the Orthodox Church. A Jew by birth, just like us. He opened new horizons for me… Faith, spirituality… Things I had no idea about.”

Tolik looked at me sharply:

“A priest? Who is mocking whom now, Borya? You’ve been fraternizing with a priest? So it is true, what they are saying – that you’ve been brainwashed by religious propaganda? You haven’t repented the absurdities you wrote in your last novel?”

“Repented?” I cried, looking him in the eye. “Tolik, wake up! Or, at the very least, stop pretending! I know you are interested in nuclear physics, and I respect that. I know that your work at that plant is hugely important to you. I don’t intend to mar your reputation, sever your ties with the powers-that-be… or whatever that’s called. But please, talk to me like a brother for once – like a human being! You know we’ve been living a lie, don’t you? We’ve been force-fed this horrible atheist, materialist crap. We grew up with the notion that we were nothing but the dung with which they fertilize the bright communist future. Individuality, uniqueness of each human being is completely ignored; there is no trustworthy source of morality, and no metaphysical explanation whatsoever concerning the origin of our lives...”

I paused for a second. A pale lightning suddenly glimmered from beyond the clouds. I continued:

“And what are the results of that ghastly doctrine? The greatest crimes our century has known; nay, the greatest crimes in our history! Only the German fascism, that evil, murderous cult, could compare to communism in that aspect. The one rejects God outright; the other slanders and falsifies him.”

I don’t know what caused me to produce that awkward, poorly conceived speech. I guess I was just spouting whatever came to my mind. My brother’s reaction was not entirely unpredictable.

“God?!” Tolik suddenly started laughing. “So you admit you believe in God now? You, the everlasting skeptic, the shrewd chronicler of world’s superstitions! Are you telling me now that you think there is a God?”

At that moment, a dreadful thunderclap shook the leaden sky. A gust of cold wind swept the grove. First sporadic raindrops, like tiny aliens infiltrating our airspace, began dropping with treacherous persistence.

“Oh my,” Tolik smirked. “Here comes my punishment for blasphemy. Elijah the prophet is now driving his carriage angrily along the main avenue of Heaven City, disregarding other vehicles and street signs.”

“Shut up!” I said quietly. “There must be an old abandoned hunting cabin nearby. Remember how we used to play there as kids? Let’s go.”

We crossed the grove and ran towards the cabin, which was still standing there after all those years, more dilapidated than ever, nearly hidden from sight by the wild growth around it. The light, skin-tickling drizzle had already morphed into violent downpour. I quickly pushed the half-rotten door consisting of several planks crudely nailed to each other. It almost fell off its hinges as we entered the cabin.

The tiny room was almost empty. Piles of old straw strewn over the wooden floor; two large wooden chairs; a few rusty tools dumped into the far right corner.

At first I hadn’t noticed the orb.

It was sitting next to one of the chairs – a round piece of what looked like marble, about the size of a tennis ball. Its turquoise surface was shimmering softly, as if it were illuminated from inside by a dim light bulb. I thought it was a children’s toy, yet it looked unpleasantly inappropriate in that cabin. It was too bright, and too new.

Tolik crouched, picked up the orb, and looked at it with puzzling intensity. Outside, the storm was raging, and thunder kept rumbling with unbridled force.

“What’s the matter?” I asked. My voice was suddenly hoarse.

“Borya…” Tolik spoke very quietly, slowly standing up. “Take a look at this.”

 Alarmed by my brother’s tone, I took the orb and lifted it to my eyes.

Something incredible happened right then.

The outlines of the room I was in began to blur. Instead, I saw what appeared to be a newsreel – a kaleidoscope of short video clips following each other in an apparently chaotic manner. An explosion inside what I perceived to be a power plant; a baldish man with a curiously shaped giant crimson birthmark on his forehead addressing a party assembly; a wall dividing a city into two parts torn down by a large crowd; an airplane flying straight into twin skyscrapers; angry fighters clad in black robes beheading helpless people; a nuclear reactor visited by an extravagantly dressed man who looked like the legendary caliph Harun ar-Rashid; and many other scenes that seemed unrelated and inexplicable, yet strangely familiar at once.

Suddenly I realized where I’d seen that wall before. It was the Berlin wall, separating the capitalist Western section of the city from the communist East.

I felt sick in my stomach.

“Tolik,” I whispered, turning to my brother. “Tolik… This orb… It shows the future.”

My brother pursed his lips and said nothing.

“Tolik,” I continued, my voice trembling with excitement. “You’ve seen it. You know it’s true. Take another look. It shows the future of the world. That man with the strange birthmark – he was holding a speech in front of the Politburo… No, he will hold that speech. I’ve seen that guy before on TV; he is just an ordinary member, but he’ll be the General Secretary. The Berlin wall shall fall. And Tolik… the Soviet Union will cease to exist.”

“Silence!” Tolik barked suddenly, his face distorted by a menacing grimace. “Shut your trap, Borya! This thing could be anything… It could be an American device designed to control us, for all I know. You’ve said and done enough. Throw it out, and let’s go. I think the rain has stopped.”

He stretched out his hand. I gripped the orb convulsively, until my knuckles turned white.

“Brother,” I spoke loudly. “We have to take this orb with us. We have to show it to everyone. Soviet Union will fall. We must make sure that there are as few victims as possible when this happens. We now possess an immense power, the knowledge of the future. Let us use this power to help people!”

I have never seen anything quite as ugly as the face of my twin brother at that moment. Blue veins bulged on his forehead; his soft brown eyes, now narrowed down to slits, shone with hideous hatred.

“Drop it!” he said sharply, taking a step in my direction.

I instinctively stepped back.

“No,” I said, shaking my head. “Listen to me, Tolik –”

“No, you listen to me!” he shouted. “Your book has nearly cost me my career. It’s a miracle that I’ve kept my job at the power plant – if I wasn’t friends with the mighty Stepan Zhdanov I’d be blacklisted in an instant. I protected you from the worst; you were only expelled from the Association. And this is how you repay me now? By threatening to destroy everything? By ruining my country, and me together with it? I knew I should’ve denounced you right away!”

“Tolik!” I exclaimed, overcome by pity and revulsion at once. “Stop this madness. No country in the world is worth our brotherly love, and least of all this evil empire, which will soon perish anyway –”

“Shut up, shut up, shut up!!” Tolik cried hysterically. “I don’t want to know anything about that! I’m a law-abiding citizen, a patriot of my country! I want to keep my job, do you hear me?! Drop the damn orb! Drop everything! Just disappear… disappear from my life!!”

I saw a murderous expression in his eyes. My hands began to shake. I turned around and started running. He tackled me just outside of the hunting cabin. We both fell onto the drenched ground, soaking under the incessant, heavy rain. He punched me hard on my face, then kicked me savagely in the kidneys. He proceeded to hit me many times, until blood started pouring out of my nose and mouth.

“I’ll kill you!” he roared wildly, his eyes bloodshot with fury and fear.

He grabbed the pocketknife that had fallen out of his mushroom basket and pointed the tip of its blade at me.

Then I passed out.

… … …

I don’t know what happened afterwards. When I regained consciousness my brother was gone, and so was the orb.

The rain had stopped. It was already getting dark.

I staggered to my feet and tottered along the mud path, out of the grove, and towards the railway station.

I must find the orb now. I must warn everyone. I must find the orb. I must…

(Reprinted from an unpublished draft of the November 28th, 1984 issue of the Soviet weekly cultural newspaper Literaturnaya Gazeta).

 

Postface

By Prof. Tal Horshan (1955 – 2033)

Department of Astrophysics at the University of Haifa, Israel

2033

I’m an old man now, and I’m dying of an incurable disease. I want people to know me. I am Tal Horshan, the most celebrated scientist of our time. I am the inventor of the revolutionary formula of constant acceleration involving beam-powered propulsion with magnetic sails – a technology that, theoretically, makes manned interstellar travel possible.

I am also a monster.

My birth name is Anatoly Horoshansky. I hebraized it to Tal Horshan when I immigrated to Israel from the collapsing Soviet Union in 1990.  Horshan means, roughly, “one who dwells in a grove” in Hebrew. The grove with the mushrooms. The grove where I nearly killed my own twin brother.

I could not go through with it. I was unable to plunge the knife into my brother’s heart. I took the orb and ran away, leaving the unconscious Boris there. I’m not a murderer, but I’m a criminal, a traitor, and a coward. And maybe I’m worse than a murderer.

Boris was determined to find the orb. He tried to contact me. He started telling everyone he knew about the orb, but, naturally, no one believed him. I pulled a few strings and had him locked up in an asylum.

He was not crazy. He was an honest, passionate, loyal man, and he was my twin brother. I put him into a madhouse, and he died two years later.

It is said that the Biblical Cain was marked for killing his brother. Is there a special mark for people like me?

When Boris died, I felt, at first, tremendous relief, as if his death had absolved me of my crime, while in reality it was caused by it. Only one thing continued to bother me – recurring nightmares. I’d see my brother’s innocent face, his sweet, serious brown eyes. He’d hold and comfort me, and then his body would disintegrate right in front of my eyes, and I’d be hugging empty space. Never in my life had I experienced anything more terrifying than that.

Haunted by those visions, tortured by nagging, relentless guilt, waking up every morning in cold perspiration, I began to realize, to my utmost horror, that my brother had been right all along. By the moral standards of our Soviet society, my betrayal was an honorable act of duty. As a schoolboy, I was instructed to venerate Pavlik Morozov, a kid who had denounced his own father to the authorities, causing his imprisonment and death. My conduct towards Boris was, in fact, milder and more “humane”. I acted according to the ethics I had imbibed with my mother’s milk. Just like Apostle Paul, I was “faultless in my righteousness to the law”. Then where did the guilt come from? If moral norms were determined by society, or an ideology associated with it, my conscience had to be clear. Then why wasn’t it?

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

I no longer needed any proof of God’s existence. The proof was right there, inside me. It was in my agonizing heart, in the pangs of my harrowed conscience, in every fiber of my body. While my mind was still resisting stubbornly, desperately clinging to the convenient and simple doctrines of my homeland, my actual essence – call it “soul” or anything else, I don’t care – was overcome by the sweeping current of the Truth.

The first thing I did after that epiphany was contact my old acquaintance Stepan Zhdanov, the chief editor of Literaturnaya Gazeta, the country’s most prestigious literary newspaper, and blackmail him into publishing In a Grove (I was aware of his machinations against his superiors). It was sheer madness, of course – to print a story with such content, no matter the convoluted mainstream Soviet interpretation Zhdanov offered in his preface. Naturally, the censors didn't let it through. We were both done with, and we knew that.

I got immediately fired from my job at the nuclear power plant, but I didn’t care anymore. I lost my interest in nuclear physics after I’d found that an atomic explosion would obliterate the majority of the Earth’s population in the year 2121. Yes, I was looking into the orb – after Boris’ death, the least I could do for him was carry out his plan, and use my knowledge of the future for the greater good.

It wasn’t that simple, however. Warning everybody of the impending events, as my naïve brother had assumed, would have been absolutely futile. No prophet is accepted in his own country. I could go out and scream the truth and only make things much worse. I did what I thought I could. I met Alexander Men, that priest who was so dear to my brother’s heart, and told him he’d be murdered in 1990, because that’s what the orb had shown me when I accidentally thought of him while looking into it. He said he would take precautions, but I think he did not believe me.

I thought of myself and of my descendants. I wanted to know everything about the future. And I discovered wondrous things.

My own great-grandson would travel to a distant planet and found the civilization of sentient dogs.

His son would learn mind-reading from a benevolent alien race dwelling on another planet.

Incidentally, Alexander Men’s descendants would also play important roles in the drama of human history – sow the seeds of knowledge and faith among strange inhabitants of a nearby star system, as well as do great deeds rising from underground vaults on the deserted, radioactive Earth.

I did not know whether I could actually affect the future I’d seen in the orb. I still do not know that. But I had to try. I had to make sure that interstellar travel would be available by the year 2121, so that these people – and, hopefully, many more – could leave the devastated planet and spread out to other worlds.

With my degree in astrophysics and my knowledge of future technology, rekindling my passion and talent for everything connected to spaceflights, I began my work.

It is now completed. Thanks to my inventions, within a few decades, when the Western world is united into a single state, opposing the constant political expansion of the Caliphate and the economic growth of China, first experiments of interstellar spaceflight will be held.

When the bombs fall in March 2121, several spaceships will have escaped safely.

Have I atoned for my sins?

I don’t know.

Borya, forgive me. Forgive me.

 

THE END


Submitted: June 21, 2016

© Copyright 2021 Oleg Roschin. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:

Comments

Chris Green

This is absolutely brilliant, Oleg. It covers so much ground deals with complicated subjects in a way that makes it easy to understand, creates a plausible narrative and the three sections of the story interlock perfectly. This deserves a wide readership. I hope that booksie readers appreciate how good it is.
Regards
Chris

Tue, June 21st, 2016 11:02am

Author
Reply

You are too kind, Chris. I'm extremely fortunate to have readers like you, which also happen to be fantastic writers. Glad this experimental "retro" story seems to work!

Tue, June 21st, 2016 6:01am

hullabaloo22

Excellent stuff, Oleg. It just goes to shoe how deeply indoctrination can affect an individual to the extent of almost killing their own brother. You put your message across in a very readable way, Hully.

Tue, June 21st, 2016 11:42am

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for your continuous support, Hully, I highly appreciate it. This story is very autobiographic, since I grew up in the Soviet Union of the 1980's. Place names and realities of the time are all authentic. Alexander Men is a real person, and he was really murdered in 1990. As a Soviet kid, I was also made to believe that Pavlik Morozov had been a hero because he had denounced his own father. That is why I think many ex-Soviet people can understand Tolik's behavior.

Tue, June 21st, 2016 6:07am

Lionel Walfish

Oh my, Oleg, I couldn't have expressed my thoughts, any better than Chris Green.
This is an amazing piece of work.
I am in awe of the craftsmanship in which you engage the past, present and future with such original technique and exquisite pathos.
What a stunning read !!!!!!
Regards,
Lionel

Tue, June 21st, 2016 12:39pm

Author
Reply

I'm literally blushing now, it's so heartwarming to receive such feedback from the excellent writers here on Booksie... Really, really happy to read these comments, thank you so much, Lionel!

I think I have a weakness for this story myself, because the setting is based on my childhood memories, and it was very enjoyable to write every part of it, from the critique of Societ ideology down to chanterelles in sour cream sauce :-) I'm overwhelmed by nostalgia...

Tue, June 21st, 2016 6:13am

B Douglas Slack

A fantastic read, Oleg. About halfway through, I wondered if this could be scripted for a media show along the lines of an old radio shoe called "Dimension X". It would also adapt very well to latter show, for television called "Outer Limits".

Wonderful read and a great candidate for scripting.

~Tom

Tue, June 21st, 2016 2:36pm

Author
Reply

I'm very grateful for your continuous feedback and support of my writing, Tom. Thank you so much. I'd really like to check out that TV show! And now I'm thinking of writing a radio play, in the style of good old Friedrich Durrenmatt...

Tue, June 21st, 2016 10:45am

Kenan Hodžić

All I can say is, astonishing, brilliant, incredible. Its written like it is acually happening, brilliant work Oleg

Tue, June 21st, 2016 6:24pm

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for your kind words, Kenan, I really appreciate it!

Tue, June 21st, 2016 7:52pm

Aranea

As always I find myself fascinated with how easily social, political, economic and spiritual/religious undertones flow throughout your work flawlessly. I have to ask, the ending portion of this however seems to bleed into the other stories you have written... is this perhaps another portion to your... I'm lacking the word right now, um... Anthology? of stories you've done already? ...

This story seems like an almost seamless precursor to the other stories I've read so far of your own. I liked it greatly. Thank you for the read request!

Take care and be well.
E.VA.

Wed, June 22nd, 2016 8:08am

Author
Reply

I'm very grateful for your kind support, Eva. To answer your question - absolutely, this story is a large-scale prequel to nearly everything else I've written. All my stories are interconnected, they have recurrent characters and an overarching plot that currently starts right here, in 1980 (unless I write more prequels :)) and doesn't really end - the current chronologically latest story takes place in the year 5000 or so.

You might have encountered the names Horshan and Men in my other stories, many of which are about the descendants of Tolik and the priest Alexander Men (a real world person!), respectively.

Nahum Horshan will found the planet of dogs ("Of Dogs and Men"), his son Eli Horshan will learn psychic abilities ("The Force"). The brothers Alexei and Maxim Men are introduced in "Scarlet Beast"; the first will bring civilization to strange tri-gender aliens ("When Muses Die", "Forward to the Past"), the second will stay on the ruined post-2121 Earth and his descendants will live in vaults ("Fallout", "Down the Rabbit Hole").

You've read "Redemption", which is like a summary of all that, without giving away much detail.

Wed, June 22nd, 2016 7:27pm

Amy R. Beckett

Very well written, although there were a couple of places where I think you unintentionally slipped into present tense rather than past in the main story. Nothing too big, but I thought I'd better point it out ;)

The story itself was great - interesting thoughts about different societies and the way we see our world, as well as the relationship between brothers. Honestly, I don't really have any points for improvement!

Thanks for the invite!

Wed, June 22nd, 2016 8:35am

Author
Reply

Thanks for your kind feedback, Amy. This story was mighty hard to write (the middle part, I mean), because I tried to model it after Russian style. A few times I literally wrote Russian sentences and then translated them. The tenses might have gotten mixed up in the process, because the Russian verb tense system is way simpler than the English one (just as every other grammatical feature is infinitely more complex :)).

Wed, June 22nd, 2016 7:19pm

Keke Serene

An interesting start

Starting with some histroy, eh? This should prove interesting. Real history, it seems. Is it? I suppose a quick google would answer that. :) Though, as an American I'm quite well educated concerning the Soviet Union, nor communism except that it's evil! No, I'm jk, I'd love a society of which every person was equal, but thats impossible. But that's not all that Soviet Union communism entails.
Anyhoo, I'm terribly off topic! Whoa, Horoshansky went insane?? I wondered why he died so young....
Okay, now this seems to be some sort of propaganda- "the dangerous tents of capitalist art?" :)
Omg, Tolik seems to have lost the ability to think for himself! D: OMG, he's killing him!
Well, it seems slightly nice that ex-Tolik is trying to redeem himself for being horrible to his brother. An admirable quality that sort of our shadows his insanity before, haha! :D
A really liked this style of writing! :D It was well executed, and seemed very realistic, even though it has sci-fi themes in it. :D Nicely done. :)
I saw that this is a prologue to other stories...Do you think you'd get them all published and printed in one place? :D

Wed, June 22nd, 2016 6:50pm

Author
Reply

Thank you very much for your kind comment, it's refreshing to witness how you are reacting to various parts of the story as they unfold! :)

Now, I thought there would be some confusion regarding the authenticity of it all, so allow me to quickly explain.

All the characters in this story (except the priest Alexander Men!) are fictional. The "preface" by Zhdanov is just my stylization of typical Soviet prefaces to literary works of any kind. The middle story is a stylization as well - of Russian literature (which was awfully hard to do in English; I had to make it feel like it was translated), as if the imaginable Boris Horoshansky really wrote it.

Alexander Men really exists, and he was really murdered in 1990, you can Google him and find out more.

As for the other stories, which are sequels to this one, please give them a read if you are curious :-)

I doubt I can get them ALL published at once, but looks like a few of them are on the way :)

Wed, June 22nd, 2016 7:16pm

Ethan Howard

In a Grove

Brilliant and unique.

I am running out of adjectives for your stories. I am truly thrilled when I get a reading request from you because I know it is going to be quite an experience.

I like to read yours and Amy's stories on my lunch hour and sit back and savory the richness of it all.

People like you are a literary inspiration.

Wed, June 22nd, 2016 11:03pm

Author
Reply

I'm very flattered to receive such feedback from you, Ethan. Glad to discover my work has been enhancing your lunches :-) Speaking of Amy, I think her new novel "Fallen" is going to be awesome, so check it out if you haven't already :-)

Wed, June 22nd, 2016 7:09pm

Renard Sarcastique

I honestly really love this work! The transitions from the beginning to end were seamless, and there's nothing better than a story centered around family. My favorite part was the middle where Borya and Tolik were in the forest. You have a natural way with description, and you do it in such a way where it's never overloading the reader with too much information. I could feel the warmth of the brothers' meeting and the tension once they discovered the orb. You know how to make us feel compassion for characters in so short a time. I can't wait to see what else you have in store!

Thu, June 23rd, 2016 12:29am

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for your kind comment, Renard. I'm glad you could sympathize with the characters, because I want to think it's one of my stronger traits in a writer - make the readers feel like they are in the shoes of the character, even if it's a morally flawed character like Tolik.

All my short stories are connected by an overarching plot spanning thousands of years. If you are interested in the (currently written) closest sequels to this story, those would be "Ichthys" (introducing Tolik's great-grandson), and "Scarlet Beast" (introducing Alexander Men's descendant). The latter is a much better story, though. For the foundation of the planet of dogs by Tolik's great-grandson, read "Of Dogs and Men" :)

Wed, June 22nd, 2016 7:07pm

shadowgate

That was very creative. Two Russian Brothers seeing the future. This is college level writing indeed.

Thu, June 23rd, 2016 1:29am

Author
Reply

Thank you for your feedback! I graduated from college 15 years ago, so I hope your comment doesn't mean that I'm getting worse ;-)

Wed, June 22nd, 2016 7:02pm

BigBang

I am speechless. I love the way you open the story with a article of a newspaper. Your writing style is incredible, covering the complex events of human history with an elegant flow. My mind is swirling with all those diverse vocabularies, hahaha :D

I love the relationship of the two brothers, sadly torn apart by the difference in faith. One chose to deny human law for the sake of God, and the other chose to deny God for the sake of the human law. I found it incredibly heart-wrenching when Boris died. At least he gave up this life for an everlasting one :)

I love how you put a bit of mystery into the story, such as that with the orb. It's awesome that it enabled them to look into the future :D It'll be cool once interstellar transports are invented :D

It's amazing how you can weave raw emotions into a story. I must say I am relieved when Tolik started questioning the presence of God, his own human sins, and how the Holy Spirit must have placed some uneasiness inside of him. Is it a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God? Well, I'd say no to fear Him who's willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of a tiny worthless human being on the face of a single planet out of an infinite planets :)

Very well written, Oleg! :) I truly enjoyed the read. It was a fantastic ride! Please update me for future stories :D

~BB

Thu, June 23rd, 2016 8:33am

Author
Reply

I'm very honored to receive such positive feedback from a great writer such as yourself, BB, thank you so much!

You have truly understood this story on an emotional and spiritual level, your comment makes me very happy because you are saying precisely the things I wanted to express with it. To me, the heart of this story is Tolik's repentance, and his discovery of a God through his own conscience. Many people say that the wonderfully designed universe is a clear proof of God's existence; but I think that the amazing fact of having a nagging, relentless moral compass inside us despite our incredible moral failures is even a stronger proof.

"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" is a quote from the Bible (Hebrews 10:31). This sentence was quoted in the Elder Zosima's story in Dostoevsky's novel "Brothers Karamazov", the greatest novel ever written (in my opinion), and it had stuck in my head. I think the meaning of that passage is that, when we do bad things, our conscience (which is God operating inside us) causes us much pain. In other words, it is fearful to be subjected to the supernatural judgment of our own mysterious moral compass...

Thu, June 23rd, 2016 1:59am

D. Thurmond aka JEF

It seems that there is nothing I could say that has not already been said, this is done so very well and I hate to say anything when a work is so perfect. However, I know that you do like to get other viewpoints and this is done so very well that I felt that the use of three words should be noted; this may be what Amy R. Bunkle might have meant in her comment. --- I found, as I was reading, that some words seemed out of place, or were used today but may not have been used at this time period. ... When the two brothers meet, one brother says that he has been "Crazy Busy" and I stopped dead because "Crazy" is being used a lot now days; "I keep crazy hours", "my job is just crazy", etc. --- also this thought is the same with the onetime use of the word "amazing", everything now days is "Amazing". it used to be "Fabulas". I think one brother said something like, {It is amazing that we could get together}. Finally, the use of "shut your (trap)" hit me when I read it, and caused me to stop and read it again. While it may be true that translation may have prompted these words, I thought it only fitting to note them. But who knows, it might just be me and the way my brain works, LOL --- None the less, a great story and I really enjoyed it.

Thu, June 23rd, 2016 9:53pm

Author
Reply

Thank you very much for your feedback, JEF, I really appreciate it!

The reason why some of the vocabulary here might feel out of place and jarring is my attempt to make it read like translated literature. Much of the dialogue in the second part is deliberately stiff and awkward. I actually wrote some of it in Russian first and then translated it. I wanted the narrative to feel foreign and slightly uncomfortable to read for an English-speaking reader. I even read a Chekhov short story in English just to see how it would feel like :)

Thu, June 23rd, 2016 8:22pm

Teddy Kimathi

That was a very brilliant piece!! Methinks your work collections can make a good TV series (please take that as a brotherly advise).

Fri, June 24th, 2016 8:44am

Author
Reply

Haha, thank you for the kind words, Teddy! :-)

Fri, June 24th, 2016 4:01am

Norman K

Hey, Oleg,

What better way to present disparaging views then through the eyes of twins? In such a short space you were able to cover the most important topics of our time, and, through the twins lives, give each of them the credence they deserved. And in the end, both figures suffered tragic consequences. Real life. However, it's what you didn't do that caught my attention the most. Being an avid reader of your work, there are two things I've noticed. One, there always seems to be a 'smart ass' character who can verbally jibe with the best of them, and, the use of a language that I've described as 'verbal gymnastics'. Both of these attributes are absent in this story - much to your credit, and the story's strength. I think that your choice of diction in this story will only broaden your audience base, which says so much about the story teller. It's traits like these that make you one of the best writers - and my personal favourite - anywhere today. I'm truly honoured to get to read your work.

NormanK

Fri, June 24th, 2016 3:02pm

Author
Reply

You are too kind, Norman. I'm very grateful to you for your insightful comments and your continuous support of my writing. I'm particularly glad you liked the style of this story. It is entirely devoid of humor due to its subject matter and the desired stylistic effect (a serious, somber Russian-style short story). It was much harder to write because of that, and I'm delighted to find out my efforts were not in vain. Thank you so much.

Fri, June 24th, 2016 8:17am

SuzanneE

This is absolutely stunning! I'm very impressed with the originality of this. Also, I want to point out that I really like what you did with the preface and postface, the varying points of view complement each other really well and really bring a lot of character to the story. It's refreshing to see some complex ideas incorporated into a short story (i.e. opposing political views). The only part that I felt was lacking was when you began to discuss the aliens and mind-reading, it just seems a little bit too cliche and too similar to other far-fetched sci fi plots. I get that it's a long time in the future and huge steps in space exploration will have happened, but it just doesn't really appeal to me. But other than that, this story is amazing! Definitely something I could see being published. -Suz

Fri, June 24th, 2016 3:34pm

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for your kind comment, Suzanne, I really appreciate it!

The bits about dogs and mind-reading aliens in the end are, so to say, teasers for the sequels that I've already written! :) This story is a prequel to my entire saga of interconnected short stories with an overarching plot. For example, "Of Dogs and Men" tells the story of Tolik's great-grandson and the planet of dogs; "Down the Rabbit Hole" is dedicated to Alexander Men's descendants living on the radioactive Earth, and so on.

Fri, June 24th, 2016 10:05am

Zefyr

Sometimes it takes me a while to understand science fiction writing because it's something completely different than what's real I guess but this was pretty good. I could imagine it which is something I like. I'm the kind of person that when I read something I want to get completely engrossed in it and feel like I'm literally there. It's not something a usually read but I enjoyed it. :)

Sat, June 25th, 2016 1:51pm

Author
Reply

Thank you for your kind comment! Glad you liked it :)

Sat, June 25th, 2016 7:11am

Brandy Lapid

I really like this!! Is this a true story?

Sat, June 25th, 2016 7:28pm

Author
Reply

No, but there are a lot of details here that are authentic. The only real person here is Alexander Men, a Russian a Orthodox priest, a wonderful person and a great writer, who was murdered in 1990.

Sat, June 25th, 2016 7:16pm

sslade

I admire the way you write. It's a skill I am still trying to learn. You made the preface transition into the story and then into the post face with no issues. It was intriguing and definitely different, but I enjoyed it. I also like how you were able to describe the scene. It was very easy to picture myself there.

Tue, June 28th, 2016 1:42am

Author
Reply

Thank you for your kind feedback, Samantha :-)

Mon, June 27th, 2016 6:50pm

DavidPaul

I really like this, very deep, and I like to see when it becomes a question of is the bad one really the good one. I like to see those kind of endings too. This is a really good story that keeps me reading to find out the next step, I like that, and even better when you can't guess it.

Wed, June 29th, 2016 1:37am

Author
Reply

Thank you very much for your kind feedback, David!

Tue, June 28th, 2016 8:26pm

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