petak, 30. prosinca 2011.

Happy New Year! - Electric Safari

Even from three thousand meters, the scorched plain below me looks infinite. I climb in broad circles, carried by the warm power of the thermal, and the plain stretches as far as eye can see. Production towers rise, scattered across the waste, like lonely fingers reaching for the sky. From this altitude, two hundred meters tall buildings covered by solar collectors seem insignificant, but in this place, they are the source of everything.

I hang below an ultra light wing, twenty meters in span, searching for the clouds of dust above the desert. But, they’re not there. The herds are already gone. They started moving yesterday, maybe even the day before. Clouds rise above the distant ocean. In a day or two, they’ll be here, driven by the winds, to release their torrential rains and water the thirsty earth before disappearing, scattered, whipped into oblivion by the mercilessly hot sun.

I see several tiny spots in the air before me, some two kilometers away. Vultures, searching and looking at each other’s actions at the same time, just like me. And then, one spot goes into a steep dive and the others follow closely. There’s a wreck somewhere down there. I go after them, diving towards the hot sea of dust. I have to check if the wreck is tagged before they get to it.

I catch up with the vultures. They don’t pay any attention to me, as if I’m not hot on their tails. Shiny metal of their wings glitters in the sun as they dive towards the ground, losing the altitude with wild abandon, as if in some crazy kamikaze attack. Three thousand, two, one thousand, the numbers on my altimeter display dropping uncomfortably fast, and then I notice the machine. Turned to its side, its collectors scattered around, its body torn apart. The first scavengers are already down there, tearing the hull apart, and I know that the whole wreck will be dismembered in half an hour tops, chopped and taken to the nearest production tower.

I send a call-signal. I receive no response, the machine is not from the studied sample. But I recognize the type. A/3, called the wildebeest after the grey-brown color of its cowl. Its undercarriage is torn apart, wheels cut to pieces, oil leaking from hydraulics. The predators got it. I’ve watched them more than once as they catch up with their prey in the whirling dust, charging at the undercarriage in order to turn it over. And then, they open its helpless body with strong cutters and crawl inside to reach the batteries and the electric energy stored in them. Charged, the predators then leave, following the herds after new prey, while the wreck is left to the vultures. Just like any other eco-system, nothing goes to waste in this one.

* * *

Just like Serengeti, one of the scientific geniuses that try to solve the puzzle remarked once. When the first reconnaissance ships buzzed past the planet, it seemed lifeless, barren, empty. It has continents, huge rocky and sandy plains criss-crossed by mountain chains and deep chasms. It also has large oceans and an atmosphere, not exactly something you’d breathe with full lungs, but atmosphere nevertheless. The first reports were optimistic. The planet looked ideal for terra-forming and subsequent colonization.

Careful observations from low-orbit satellites followed. And when the photographs revealed herds moving across the plains, the optimism dwindled. The planet is a cradle of life, was the first thought. Terra-forming was immediately discarded, as well as any disruptions of the discovered eco-system. Perhaps smaller settlements and limited exploitation, but that was all one could hope for. These are the rules, and there’s someone in space to enforce them. It was made known clearly to the human race, notorious for the bad treatment of its home-planet.

Then, another surprise! Life is not life! The herds are not herds of animals, as was thought at first, but herds of machines. The eco-system became cultural heritage left behind by some unknown civilization, neither first, nor last that we know of. And cultural heritage is also protected vigilantly and with care. Because, one can never tell when will its creators, whoever they may be, return from the depths of the Galaxy to claim what is theirs.

More studies, and the comparison to African savanna became unavoidable. Six-wheeled herbivores that, instead of grazing grass, collect solar energy with the help of collectors spread across their hulls. Fast four-wheeled predators that pursue the herbivores, tear through their cowls, connect to their batteries and extract electrical energy. And the flying vultures, looking for the wrecks to chop them into small pieces and take the remains to the production towers. Africa indeed, all that remained to be done is name the machines. And so, the type A/1, the biggest one, three meters tall, became elephant. A/2, striped in dark stripes, is now zebra. And there are wildebeest and gazelles, and lions and wild dogs, even cheetahs.

But, no matter what their names, one thing the machines cannot do: breed. Therefore, the production towers, placed alongside the migration paths of the herds. We know they churn out new machines, using the parts brought in by the vultures. We also know that the system is balanced: the number of the machines always remains approximately constant. But, what really goes on in the towers is still beyond our comprehension. And the machines migrate. We learnt from the wrecks we managed to salvage before the vultures got to them that the machines are quite simple and lightweight in construction. Not even the elephants weigh more than half a ton. A body, covered with collectors in the A-types, containing electric engines and batteries. Supported by the undercarriage, wheels, shock-absorbers, transmission. Simple sensors and processors: the machines are not particularly smart. But, they migrate, driven by some programs written long ago. Every year, when winds bring rains from the ocean, they move deeper inland, into more arid regions. We are certain they escape the humidity: when the rains stop and the water evaporates, whipped by the heat, the herds return. Every year, along the same paths.

* * *

I fly towards the southeast, catching a glimpse of dust rising behind the moving herds on the distant horizon. Carried by the wing, I catch up with the first groups of wildebeest mixed with zebras. Elephants are in the distance. I look for predators, but I don’t find any. They probably wait somewhere ahead for some machine to lag behind. I descent, broadcasting the call-signal. Nothing replies me. I activate the sights, red cross is drawn across my visor. I arm the missiles and dive, the arrowhead shadow of my wing rushing across the dull brick earth like some menacing bird of prey ready to pounce upon a hapless animal.

I speed towards the herd of elephants, training my sights on the one that lagged behind. I launch the missile, and as I pull out from the dive, I follow its trail until it hits the rear part of the bulky body. The missile head splatters, sticky fluid splashing across the hull and drying instantly in the hot sun. And glued in it, a small transceiver starts working. I send a call-signal and I receive the response immediately: this elephant is tagged.

We try to understand. How are the herds organized? Where do they move? How do machines relate to each other? How long do they last? Dozens of questions demanding years of studies. That’s why the machines have to be tagged, each with its own transceiver, its individual identification code. And in the vast expanses of the parched plain, it’s easiest to tag them from the air. And when the folks in the white looked for people to do the job, I applied. Why not? It’s not boring, they pay, and it’s also fun to shoot something that can’t shoot back.

But, as I dive again and choose another target, I know that maybe we’ll never know the answers to the most important questions. Who designed the whole system and set it in motion? Who erected the production towers, programmed them, gave them the initial quantities of raw materials? And to what purpose? And as the missile whistles out of its launch tube, the whole plain suddenly reminds me of a big abandoned playground. And the machines are just discarded toys, overgrown by some child ages ago, that, still winded, await for some new kids.

utorak, 27. prosinca 2011.


Tko je ono rekao da je poput Zemlje, pokušava se prisjetiti Milana dok klizi nad nabujalom rijekom. Poput Zemlje! Baš!

Sjena švarca golema je riba u moćnoj rijeci što se valja pod Milanom. Ona sjedi vezana pojasevima, vjetrobran je štiti od struje zraka. Gondola nosi akumulatore, dva motora što tjeraju potisne propelere, opremu i Milanu. Obješena je o aluminijski mjehur, punjen helijem i prekriven foto-ćelijama. Muljevita voda teče pod njom, vrtloži se, nosi debla.

Na prvi pogled, Smaragdija podsjeća na Zemlju: svi se parametri podudaraju unutar par postotaka. Čak je i mjesec tu, sive površine izrovane kraterima. Takvih svjetova ljudska rasa poznaje na desetke: ono što se nekoć činilo bogomstvorenom jedinstvenošću, u manje od dva stoljeća postalo je uobičajeno.

Kopno prekriva oko trećine Smaragdijine površine: spojeno u superkontinent, s morem što se usijeca duboko u njega i blagotvornim utjecajem zahvaća gotovo cijelu kopnenu masu. Tek je najudaljenije središte kontinenta, zaklonjeno od prodora vlažnog zraka velikim planinskim lancem, pustinja. Sve je ostalo zeleno, nepregledne šume, smaragd što je mamio.

A onda se poslalo istraživački brod i s njega odaslalo sonde da snimaju i uzmu uzorke. Zrak, voda i tlo su obećavali. Život je bio ono što je zbunilo znanstvenike i birokrate. Šuma je u trenu zaustavila sve planove naseljavanja.

Na navigacijskom ekranu, GPS iscrtava Milanin položaj na karti. Švarc slijedi rijeku: uskoro će Milana zakrenuti nad šumu što obrasta obje obale, stere se u daljinu, gubi u izmaglici horizonta. Iz sjedala, izgleda kao i svaka druga šuma. Milana pogledava ekran, strelica švarca podudara se sa zacrtanom rutom. Dok lagano naginje palicu u lijevo, a švarc je poslušno slijedi, Milana zna da izgled vara.

Stabla na obali podsjećaju na ona u gradskim drvoredima. Rijetko je koje više od desetak metara. Krošnje su kišobranaste, bujne, promjera poput visine stabla, tankih grana, srcolikog lišća. Ispod njih vlada vlažna i prohladna sjena, debeli sloj otpalog lišća, hranjiva trulež, Milana ju je dobro upoznala. Razlagači: bakterije i gljive kuglastih klobuka i kratkih stapki. Kroz trulež plazi i trčkara i gmiže mnoštvo. Crvi. Stonoge duge pola metra. Kukci s deset nogu. Na kopnu ne obitava ništa složenije. U rijekama, jezerima i morima, pak, mnoštvo ribolikih životinja, od centimetar dugih do kitolikih divova. I sva ostala vodena fauna, slična kao i na drugim planetima sličnim Zemlji: slični uvjeti, slični organizmi da u njima žive.

Samo se biljni pokrov razlikuje.

Milana nadlijeće šumu, sjena švarca klizi preko nje kao sjena oblaka. Vedro je, jedini je oblak na nebu njen zračni brod. Žuta strelica na ekranu približava se crvenom trokutiću, odredištu. Milana traži pogledom, a onda spazi svoj cilj, let traje već satima i postala je malo nestrpljiva.

Čistina se crni: tu je prije dva dana bjesnio požar. Bljesak munje, plamen je poharao nekoliko hektara dok ga nije ugasio pljusak. Vatra je kao vruća točka registrirana iz satelita, Milana je jutros krenula na požarište.

* * *

Milana pažljivo spušta švarca uz sjeverni rub šume, da je stabla koliko-toliko štite od prevladavajućeg sjeverca i sjeverozapadnjaka. Propeleri okrenuti gore tjeraju letjelicu prema tlu. Milana ispaljuje sidra, tri klina zabijaju se u tlo, vitla zatežu užad. Držati će dok Milana ugasi motore, iskoči iz sjedala, pozabija još klinova oko švarca i veže ga. Zračni brodovi su uvijek problem na tlu. Čak i slab vjetar, tukući u veliku površinu mjehura, može ih otpuhati.

Kad je osigurala švarca da ne može ni lijevo, ni desno, Milana se ogleda oko sebe. Ovdje će sama provesti sljedeće tjedne, proučavajući kojom se brzinom šuma vraća na opustošenu površinu.

Milana obilazi paljevinu, pažljivo zagledajući pougljenjenu trulež. Evo, prvi izdanak već izbija van. Mala stabljičica i dva srcolika listića, još blijeda. Pet metara dalje još jedan, skriven izgorjelim listom. Desetak metara dalje, evo i trećega. Gdje je četvrti? Mora biti ... Aha, Milana odmiče veliki komad nagorjele kore, tu si. Izdanak je bio pod njim, slabašan, ne bi se uspio sam probiti do svjetla. Čim ga je oslobodila, kao da se trgnuo, živnuo, promeškoljio na toplini popodnevnog sunca. Milana ne mora više tražiti, cijela je krčevina prekrivena izdancima. Pravilno raspoređenima, na pet do deset metara udaljenosti, na širinu krošnje, jednom kad narastu. Točno toliko da se ne moraju boriti za svoje mjesto pod suncem.

Takva je sinhroniziranost tjeranja bila tek prvi znak da izdanci nisu samo biljčice niknule čim se ukaže malo više svjetla. Nije dugo trebalo da se shvati da su dio nečeg većeg, cjeline koja ih tjera tako da od početka imaju najviše šansi za uspjeh.

Želeći još jednom vidjeti ono što je već vidjela, Milana pažljivo, da ne ošteti izdanak, razgrće spaljeno lišće i zemlju oko njega. I onda nalazi korijen iz koga niče, povezan s još korijenja ispod, vezan na čitavu mrežu što se širi preko cijele krčevine i dalje, kroz cijelu šumu, i dalje, preko cijelog kontinenta. Milana nježno vraća zemlju natrag. Samo ti rasti, pomisli skoro majčinski. To je bilo ono što je zapanjilo, što je natjeralo da se zastane, jednom kad se shvatilo da je kopno Smaragdije prekriveno jednom jedinom biljkom, jedinstvenom, nerazdvojnom, golemom.

Milana skida opremu iz gondole. Pola sata kasnije, podigla je mali šator za sebe i malo veći, sa sklopivim radnim stolom i stolicom i opremom, za laboratorij. Milana sjedi pred šatorom i pijucka instant-kakao zagrijan na kuhalu.

Veličina biljke nije bila sve. Zelenilo Smaragdije proteže se i dalje od ove šume, u umjerenije pojaseve i uz planine, sve do četiri tisuće metara nad morem. Tamo su stabljike i lišće drukčiji, prilagođeni drugom vjetru, temperaturi, vlažnosti, tlu. Ali sve je i dalje dio jedne iste, velike biljke, kao i stabla oko Milane. Dokazano je to analizama DNK: sve je tek djelić jednog organizma, sposobnog da svoje tijelo raširi kopnom cijele planete, i da ga oblikuje na svakom mjestu drugačije, prema zahtjevima okoliša.

Nad šumu se polako spušta večer, sjene se izdužuju. Milana baca još jedan pogled na švarca, zaključuje kako je dobro usidren i pali svjetiljku u šatoru. Vrijeme je počinku, put je bio dug. Dok izuva čizme, prisjeća se kako je netko primijetio da možda u svemu treba tražiti i inteligenciju. Milana se smiješi. Inteligenciju? Od nečeg što je ipak samo biljka. Gluposti, pomisli Milana dok povlači zatvarač kombinezona prema dolje. Gluposti.

* * *

Četiri dana kasnije, izdanci su već visoki nekih pet centimetara. Nad šumu se spustila noć. Vjetar šumi kroz srcoliko lišće, do jutra bi mogla i kiša. Milana još jednom pregledava rezultate na zaslonu računala, a onda zijevne i pogasi sve. Brzina rasta očekivano ovisi o vodi i hranjivim tvarima, a tlo je ovdje plodno. U planinama i na siromašnim tlima, biljka raste znatno sporije. Ali raste, zaustavljaju je samo hladnoća, suho tlo i obale. Raste čak i na otocima. Biljka, kao da zna, na rubovima svoje rasprostranjenosti tjera tobolčiće. Kad se rastvore, vjetar iz njih raznosi lagane sjemenke s ispercima.

Milana otpije gutljaj kakaa, a onda je odjednom obuzme neki neobjašnjivi osjećaj. Osvrće se, pogledom pokušava prodrijeti u šumu, onaj dio osvijetljen svjetiljkom pred šatorom. Ne luduj, stara, prekori se, znaš da je to nemoguće. Jer učinilo joj se ... Ne šizi.

Je li stvarno nemoguće, neki je bezobrazni glasić podbada iznutra. Jesmo li stvarno sigurni da na tlu nema ničeg većeg od stonoga? Milana sa zebnjom ustaje i uzima baterijsku svjetiljku. Usmjerava je među debla, snop svjetla bode u mrak i ne otkriva ništa. Ali osjećaj je ne napušta.

Jer, na trenutak joj se učinilo da je netko promatra.

* * *

Prošlo je još deset dana. Izdanci rastu centimetar dnevno. Već su se među njima, kako kakav sag, prostrle i gljive. Još koji tjedan, i više se neće razaznati da je ovdje gorjelo.

Noć je mirna. Čuje se tiho cvrčanje, krupni crni kukci glasaju se u krošnjama. Milana zatvara šator, liježe i gasi svjetlo. Dan je bio dug i naporan. Ali, san ne dolazi na oči.

Isprva bi je osjećaj da nije sama obuzeo tek na trenutak. Samo bi odjednom - dva, možda tri put na dan - podigla pogled s računala ili s izdanka koji je mjerila. I onda bi joj se učinilo da je tamo, dalje, na rubu šume, spazila nešto, nekoga, obris što hitro nestaje iza stabla. Pustila bi sve i potrčala i zastala, pažljivo slušajući i gledajući, dok bi joj srce udaralo kao ludo. A oko nje samo cvrčanje i zrikanje i zujanje krila i vjetar u krošnjama.

Zadnja tri dana osjećaj je više nije napuštao. Ali, što je mogla učiniti? Svaki put kad bi pošla do prvih stabala, kad bi zagledala oko njih, ne bi ništa našla, nikakvih tragova. Mogla je zvati pomoć, prekinuti istraživanje, skupiti sve, sjesti u švarca i otisnuti se od ovog ukletog mjesta, mogla je ... I što bi onda rekla kad bi se vratila u bazu? I stoga je stegnuta srca nastavila s mjerenjima i uzorkovanjima i pokusima i bilježenjima. Ali, oko pojasa je uz nož nosila i vojnički ašovčić: sjekirica joj se činila preteškom, a imala je samo signalni pištolj. Čula je jednom kako su se ašovi u nekim davnim ratovima koristili za borbu prsa o prsa u rovovima. A u postelju bi lijegala bez da ugasi svjetlo pred šatorom. Tako, ako je nešto probudi, možda vidi obris kroz platno, možda je ne zaskoči, možda ... I ašov joj je pri ruci. Za svaki slučaj ...

Iz sna je trza osjećaj nelagode. Straha. Svjetlo. Očima kruži šatorom, sama je, ništa joj nije ušlo. Ni kroz platno ne vidi ništa. Ali sigurna je da je nešto vani. Uz rub šume. Netko. Kako zna? Ne zna, a opet, sigurna je. Srce lupa, nutrina joj se zateže u čvor dok grabi ašov. Suspregnuta daha, uzima baterijsku svjetiljku i, bosonoga, izlazi. Oko šatora nema ničega. A onda -

Tamo! Vidi kako nešto, netko, hitro nestaje među stablima!

Mimo svake pameti, Milana potrči prema šumi, snop svjetla bode amo-tamo među drvećem. Zalazi među stabla, tiho gazi vlažnu trulež.

A onda staje. Zaustavlja snop na prilici desetak metara pred sobom. Jedan dio nje poželi vrištati, bježati, trčati da više nikad ne stane. A drugi dio ostaje smiren, jer tajna je razotkrivena, koliko god rješenje bilo zapanjujuće. Biljka.

Ženski lik. Ona u ogledalu, svježe zelena u bijelom svjetlu. Raširenih ruku. Zaključila je čemu ašov služi, zna da sam naoružana, pomisli Milana. Pokazuje da mi ne želi zlo. Razum. Pred njom stoji lutka iz izloga, s njenim licem, srcolikih listova umjesto kose. Milana tek sad vidi viticu iza nje, debelu i snažnu i nesumnjivo gibljivu: na njoj je šuma nosi.

Milana i šuma gledaju se tako, a onda lutka polako spušta ruke. Debela je vitica prinosi Milani. Zaustavlja je na tri koraka od nje i Milana zna da nema razloga za strah: ne zna kako zna, ali osjeća i smiješi se dok ispušta ašov. Podiže desnu ruku i prilazi na korak od zelene sebe, ipak malo oklijevajući. I šuma podiže svoju desnu ruku, nesigurna.

Negdje na pola puta, prsti im se dotiču.

As the Distant Bells Toll

Here is another one of my stories translated into English. I think it fits nicely for these Holidays. It' one of my older ones - for one thing, back in those days (mid-1990s) you could actually expect snow for Christmas. I've received angry phone calls about it.


Winter night embraces me like a skillful lover. It wraps around me, seducing me into its game. It knows exactly where to touch with icy fingers, where to blow with chilly breath, where to lick with cold tongue. Cursing the winter, I rise the collar of my thin jacket. Won’t help me one bit, I have but a T-shirt beneath and nothing more.
If I knew, I would have put something warmer on before I died.
Blizzard whirls across the broad street, cutting through my jeans. Chill licks across my skin, ice clinging to my wet hair. Snow enters my sneakers and melts, wetting my socks. I can barely feel my feet. I rub my palms against each other and blow warm breath at my wooden fingers, trying to bring some life back into them. In vain. Damn, it’s cold!
I try flapping my wings, maybe that’d make me warm. I try, with all my strength. Nope. I try harder. Nothing, they won’t even spread. Useless decoration, as if I don’t have them. And I realize this power is not yet given to me. I still haven’t passed the Exam.
A car passes me by, lights penetrate the blizzard. The driver drives slowly, carefully, afraid to step on it on the snow-covered street. He has no chains, the snowstorm must have surprised him like so many others. I measure the car up as it leaves me behind. An Opel, one of the better models. Hey, if only the driver would stop! And make me warm, give me at least a bit of warmth ... I would be very grateful to him, I would be glad to make him warm. Oh, I would make him warm all right, the night is just right to make each other warm and ...
But he doesn’t stop, he doesn’t see me, doesn’t want to see me, doesn’t care. There’s celebration going on around me and nobody cares about the frozen apprentice in the street.
I’m back in the snowstorm, alone. Soon, it will be midnight. People in the distant apartment buildings celebrate His birth, looking forward to the feast. Gunshots and petards echo across the suburbs, mixing with shouts and drunken songs. The chill stabs me and penetrates deep into me, filling me completely, throwing me into icy shackles. I wonder if all this is just the Teacher’s twisted sense of humor.
Because, if I don’t pass tonight, I’m afraid I could soon become very, very warm ...
And I would sell my soul to the Devil himself ... Enough, I cut myself. Stop! Quiet! Don’t you even think about it! They are everywhere, just waiting. I know, I convinced myself, on many examples did I convince myself. The Teacher was very descriptive. They are waiting, all they need is a small slip and they catch you in their net and you’re cursed, cursed for all eternity, without salvation, without escape, the more you resist, the more you’re theirs.
And I don’t want to become that warm ...
The wind slaps me back into the night, snowflakes dance in beams of yellow light above the street. I should pass tonight, I don’t dare think what would happen if I don’t. Patience is almost exhausted. The Teacher let me know clearly that time finally came to correct the administrative error, one way or another.

I know very well that the wings on my back are an error. They reminded me of it, not once. They let it hang above my head, like a sword on a thin thread, ready to judge me at any moment. And opportunities were plenty, I was stubborn, foul-mouthed, spiteful, a girl from the street. And the Teacher, too, wasn’t exactly around when patience was being distributed.
If all had turned out the way it should have, I would be hot now. Very hot, hell-hot. But the day I died in screech of brakes - my body swept over the hood, thrown aside like a rag doll, hitting the tarmac - that day Death was everywhere. Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, she reaped mercilessly left and right, without questions, innocents and sinners alike, children and old men. The avalanche buried the Reception in cries and screams, and in all that confusion one condemned soul ended up on the wrong list.
Sometimes, at night, when I’m alone and it’s quiet around me, I dream of the confused apprentice. He barely finds his bearings in the general mess, shouting, crying, howling all over the place. Our eyes meet for an instant and he puts me on the list for Heaven, not even thinking about it. The notion that I was cursed doesn’t even occur to him, his hand writes down my name by itself. And angels in white come for me and take me, and I dream of finding him and thanking him, the way only I know ... But, these are the dreams of a lonely girl in long nights. I never met him again, they never let me search for him. Maybe once I pass the Exam ...
Of course, those down there saw the error sooner than those up there. So the phoning started. Frothy and impudent enough for the Reception to get obstinate. But, at the same time, they had a problem: according to the Laws, my place was down there, and everybody knew it. And then somebody at the Reception, perhaps Peter himself, came to a brilliant idea. So, without even asking me anything, they enrolled me in the School, claiming I was chosen before they were warned of the error. Once earmarked for the School, I couldn’t have been returned. And it stood at that.
When I think about it better, I was lucky. Because, I offered pleasure in my life. To be more honest, I sold it, several minutes of ephemeral joy, hundred marks in a dark doorway. A girl has to make a living. And sometimes I was bold enough to enjoy it myself.
And someone, sometime, somewhere, hypocritically decided it was sin.

A hospital, almost on the edge of the city, new, big, green concrete block thrown on the meadow opposite the forest. An ambulance hurries from afar, blue light and siren howl. I cross the broad street. The blizzard doesn’t abate, it still isn’t tired, a long night is before it. Warm, it must be warm in the hospital ...
I cross the parking lot. It’s almost empty, only a few cars. The snow merges vehicles into whiteness, covering bodies, erasing shapes. I pass the concrete jardinières, snow-covered conifers and cotoneasters (Gardening is the Teacher’s passion. In his words: Eden was a garden. And he always needs some help, whether I want to help him or not.) are white fingers, reaching to stop me from entering. But I hurry on, barely feeling my feet, fingers, nose. Warm, it’s warm inside ...
I hurry through the snow to the entrance. The ambulance is already here, it stops and the siren dies. The building breaks the wind, snowflakes dance, illuminated by the blue that keeps on turning. The doctor and the medic are already out of the vehicle, orange windbreakers in the white of the blizzard. Two medics from the hospital open the rear doors and pull the stretcher out. Somebody drunk too much. They rush through the entrance, nobody paying attention to me. Warm ...
I use the commotion and follow the stretcher through the entrance doors, past the night watchman in his booth. He doesn’t ask anything, probably thinking I accompanied the sick man in the ambulance. The doctor on duty arrives while I retreat behind a pillar and slip through the doors into the nearest lobby. I hurry, not looking back. Nobody shouts after me as I disappear in a labyrinth of waiting-rooms, leaving the chill behind me.
I dive into the warmth with all my senses. I begin shaking, my legs barely hold me and I almost collapse on the floor. A radiator! I snuggle next to it, soaking up heat. It creeps through my fingers, thaws my hands, crawls up my arms and into my body. Life pours back into me, driving away the freezing night howling behind thick walls. I don’t know how much time passed before I came to my senses. Finally, I rise and sit on a plastic chair next to the radiator, looking around.
A long waiting-room, plastic chairs against both walls. Regularly spaced doors, numbers, name-plates. A fire-hose, a glass-covered announcement board. More announcements stuck on the doors.
I probe with my senses. Tremors of daily rush still vibrate in the waiting-room, echoing, throbbing through my mind. Nervousness, tension, disease. Disease is all around me, people brought it with them, people bring it in every day, like sin, like punishment. I feel disease as it wants to enter and overwhelm me, strangle me and drown me in a flashflood of pain. New cascades of suffering pour from upper floors. The rooms are up there. Patients are up there, alone in this night when His birth is celebrated, alone with their diseases, alone with their pains, alone, without anybody.
I wish to shut myself before the tide of disease that washes me. I know I shouldn’t, I’m not here by accident. This is my chance to do something good, to pass the Exam. But I must shut myself: I never felt something like this, never before did pain posses me this way, completely and thoroughly.
And for the first time I realize how hard it is to be an angel.
Then it cuts me, suddenly, without a slightest warning! Something else breaks through pain and suffering and solitude, something I felt only several times before, always just for a moment, on my lessons, under a strict Teacher’s watch. Something cold, mean, truly evil, capable of destroying me in an eye-blink. I know I should run away while there’s still time. I should run out before it feels me, back into the winter, through the snow, as far as possible, before it discovers me and lurches at me.
A demon arrived to the hospital. Searching ...

One thing I’m certain of: the demon didn’t come for me.
I climb the stairs silently, feeling him all the time. With every step I’m closer to him and I know he’s searching. He is looking, probing, hunting. He wants something special, something hard to get. I wonder if he feels me, too, or if I evaded him, cloaked in whirls of pain all around me. Maybe I did, I hide the best I can, the way Teacher taught me. It’s possible he really didn’t discover me, certain of his power, convinced nobody can touch him.
I stop at the floor, glass doors lead into a corridor. He’s here somewhere ... Pediatric ward, black letters on the glass. I enter the corridor. Suddenly, as if a firehall door blew open, hot gust of his trail almost slams me against the opposite wall. A moment of unspeakable horror, but the demon is further away. The trail comes from behind the door in front of me.
Hesitating, I come to the door, waiting, listening, trying to find him. Silence, just silence everywhere ... I grab the door-handle, his fingers held it mere ten minutes ago. I feel the clench of his power in my palm, dark, merciless, cold in all its heat. I open the door. It’s a closet. Filled with brooms, brushes, rags and pails, sponges, rubber gloves, detergents and disinfectants, their sharp smells assaulting my nose. And through them all, I catch the unmistakable whiff of sulfur. A pentagram the height of man burns on the wall, I can still feel its heat. The gate through which he came here, uninvited into this night. The gate of Hell, he opened them himself.
Hunting ...
I follow the demon through the corridor. I clearly see his trail in the darkness, visible just to me. It leads from room to room, the demon was quietly opening door after door, entering, looking around in search and, not finding, continuing on.
The corridor turns left. I stop, he must be here somewhere. I feel him. I feel him so clearly and I’m afraid he feels me, too. It’s impossible he doesn’t know I’m on his trail, but he’s not in the corridor. He must be in one of the rooms. I go after him, following hot prints on the door-handles and then, suddenly, I stop, holding my breath. The next door-handle is not marked by his hand. He is here, in the room right before me ...
I see his print on the handle, and fingers on the door as he pushed them silently to enter, and I stand there, hesitant. The horror in me grows, rises and spills over. I should turn back and run away before he jumps me and grabs me, but my legs won’t listen and I wonder what is he waiting for, why doesn’t he strike? Is he playing games with me, now that I’m caught in the net from which there’s no way out?
“Come in, little one, it’s unlocked.” Mocking voice echoes in my head, filled with arrogant superiority and disdain to everything below him.
“Come in, don’t be afraid. You don’t interest me tonight.”

I close the door quietly behind me, looking around a single-bed room, just for the rare ones who can afford it. A bathroom is adjacent to the room, light from it illuminates tiny child’s body on a bed, connected to life-support. The little girl lies in coma, almost finished by disease. Her life is hanging just on plastic tubes and needles stuck under her tender pale skin and fastened by band-aid.
Her father sits on a chair next to her. He doesn’t see the demon and me, his head in his palms. He’s been crying, and now he’s just sitting as time slowly drips away, drop by drop, like a solution in the plastic bag hanging on the white iron stand.
I pass him by. His life unfolds before me, and in a moment I know all about him, as if reading an opened book, written in blood. He is rich, powerful, influential, many people in the town fear him. If only they could see him now ... His soul is already cursed, condemned, he judged himself by his deeds. And his hands, grabbing mercilessly throughout his entire life, are now clasped helplessly.
The demon stands next to the bed, looking at the girl. His dark grey business suit fits him like a glove. Clothes appropriate for a customer ... Dark hair. Deep, piercing eyes under dense brows, there’s nothing they will miss. Lips, just for a moment drawn in a cynical smile. And horns, massive, strong, spiraling, like a crown on his head. He’s old, regardless of appearance of a man in his late thirties. And experienced, oh, how experienced, he could eliminate me in a moment.
As I watch him, I find something in him. Something unexplainable, deep, outside of the moulds into which the Teacher stubbornly casts everything around him, demons included. Is it only me or is there a trace of sadness in his pupils, sadness carried only by eyes that have seen everything? I feel him attracting me: somebody did comment that opposites attract each other. Who knows, if he was someone else, and if I wasn’t what I was, and if we were someplace far away from here, alone, without the girl and her father ...
“What do you want?”, I whisper.
“And what do you think?” Cold, with disdain, the sadness is gone. Perhaps it was never there, perhaps it was all just an illusion, a trick, a game.
“Him?” I show at the father with my head. And I don’t really understand, he’s already theirs. As soon as his time runs out, they’ll come for him, eternally cursed, only he doesn’t know that yet. None of them knows until it’s too late.
The demon grins, comes to me and faces me, fire in his eyes piercing me.
“Listen and learn, little one, they don’t teach you things like this up there. And they’ll come handy, if you ever pass.”
The father doesn’t see us or hear us, alone in his pain. He rises, his eyes red from tears, brokenly pushing the chair back. He passes us by and disappears in the bathroom. Water murmurs as he washes his face.
The demon straightens himself up and winks at me as he touches up his tie, like a magician about to show me a new trick, reveal the secret of the trade or the masterly, unstoppable sleigh of hand in a game he plays with mortals from time immemorial.
Water keeps on murmuring in the bathroom. The demon goes after the father, leaving me alone with the girl. I wish to follow him, but his look stops me cold.
“Listen”, he commands.
The demon pulls the door behind him, but he doesn’t shut it completely. I approach the girl on the bed, her lifeless body is covered by a sheet, her head resting on a pillow. She’s six. Her pale face is emaciated by disease. I can feel it mercilessly eating the body from inside, gnawing, tearing, devouring, certain of another victory. I remove a lock of blonde hair from her forehead. The girl doesn’t feel me, she cannot feel me. Her body surrendered a long time ago. She will not live to see the morning.
A muted cry of surprise from the bathroom, the father bolts from the sink, water dripping from his face. Several moments of silence as they measure each other up. The father doesn’t see the horns and hoofs, and questions multiply in his head frantically. He left behind a lot of those who have reasons to hate him ...
“Who are you?” The father’s voice tries to dominate, but in vain, he cannot hide the anxiety of nights kept vigil. “How the devil did you get in here?”
“We don’t have much time.” The demon’s voice is quiet now, calming, bewitching, like a snake about to hypnotize a mouse. “She’ll die by the morning, won’t she?”
“What do you want of me?”
“She’ll die by the morning.” A bare statement pushes all questions aside, they’re so unimportant, disappearing before its finality. The father measures up the stranger before him, a slight dash of hope awakens in him. Oh, yes, the Teacher warned me of this game, the demon works strictly by the book. Hope is one of the most dangerous weapons in desperation, like a fire, it bursts and blurs the reason. It just has to be started and fed skillfully.
“Tell me finally what do you want!?”
The demon remains silent for several moments, letting the hope grow, blaze up, warm comfortably, the first trace of light after months of darkness and despair, pain and relentlessness. “I have an offer for you”, he replies finally. Silence again, flames flaring even higher, obscuring everything. “Your daughter will survive. She will recover completely. Not immediately, but she will recover in a week. And she will live a long and happy life. Rich ... And healthy ... That’s what I’m offering you.”
The fire burns in the father. The girl was everything he ever really loved, she’s the only thing he ever had, no matter how much he’d amassed and stolen.
“In return ...”
“What do you want? Name it, say the price, money is no issue”, desperately, the father still doesn’t understand completely. The stranger before him may be a miracle worker. A miracle is the only thing that can still save his little girl. And the demon just grins, knowing that the bait is taken and that the catch is almost certain.
“I want a soul.”
The father stops dead, speechless, it is only now that he realizes whom he has before him. This is the most critical moment in any bargaining. Fear and disbelief flood the hope like a torrent, almost extinguishing the warm fire. This is the last chance to refuse, but the demon is experienced, he’s already in the father, calming him down and convincing him without words. His lies become father’s thoughts, the offer becomes so attractive, irresistible, the last straw he can still hold on.
“Mine?” In a low, shaky voice. He’d give it. Even the way he is, he’d give it. He loves her so much, his precious ...
“You pitiful fool. We already have yours”, the demon looks him in the eyes, his voice becomes quiet, almost inaudible. “Hers ...”
And it is only now that I understand! Stupid, stupid, stupid how I didn’t get it from the start! The father’s soul is condemned a long time ago, not even a demon apprentice would bother about it. But the girl in bed before me is still pure, unblemished by crimes of her father. Down there, in the heat, a soul like hers is a true jewel, the best gift to the Lord of Darkness in this night. Oh, yes, it takes someone old and experienced to play something like this.
The father remains silent, not answering as the demon takes the contract out. Something is breaking in him, he knows what he’s condemning his precious to if he signs. But, on the other hand, the entire life ... It’s a lot of time, maybe enough to get around the contract. And a new hope stirs, a new flame. The demon sets it on himself. You can get around every contract, including the one with the Devil. Enough prayers and paid masses, perhaps even an endowment, anything it takes. Money is no issue, God must see that and have mercy on her soul, if it’s already too late for his.
The demon grins as he stirs false hopes. His master is a prince of lies, a lie is omnipotent, a lie conquers everything. In his claws, a lie is a reverse of hope. The demon reaches for a golden fountain-pen in his pocket while the father looks up slowly, agreement in his eyes. And the demon takes the pen out, unscrews the cap in silence and passes it to the father, showing where to sign with his finger.
I stand above the girl, helpless to help her as her father prepares to sign the eternal damnation for her. I know there will be no forgiveness, no matter what she or her father do, because a signature is a signature, and when time comes, when the demon fulfills his part of the bargain, he will come for her to take her into the deepest heat of Hell.
The father stops suddenly, wondering if he should, if he has the right to sign in her name. The demon, grinning, drives the clouds of doubt away. It’s all right, he persuades, the girl would sign herself if she could. The father remains uncertain, he knows what is it that he signs, he knows what is it that he condemns his precious to. But the lies fan the flames anew, the fire burns with all its might and warms, warms untrue, but warms. Every sin can be redeemed, and every contract can be cancelled, even the one with the Devil ...
And I can do nothing. A few more seconds, and her destiny is sealed. If only I could heal her, but I cannot, not on time, not before the father signs. The disease is deep in her, in her marrow, it overwhelmed her body completely. Even darkness needs a week.
The shaking hand brings the pen to the parchment, while my brain works feverishly, running in circles, caught in the trap of my own helplessness. The tip of the pen touches the parchment, the first stroke, slow, uncertain, as in trance, condemning his own daughter.
And then I realize, in a flash! I don’t even manage to feel all the horror before the relentlessness of what I have to do, the only thing still left to do. There’s no time for horror as the pen signs the verdict for the innocent.
I grab the pillow under the girl’s head and cover her with it, holding with both hands and pressing down with all my weight. Her body resists feebly, arching in bed, thrashing about and breaking, but I don’t let go, I won’t let go. I don’t know how long it lasts, I loose every sense of time as I strangle the little girl. Behind the door, the demon triumphs in his victory. It’s over, an innocent soul is his, it’s just being signed over to him. He admires his own genius, so certain of himself. He had it all worked out, he roars with laughter, completely forgetting about me. The pen writes down the verdict, just a little bit more, shakily, just a few more strokes, while the body beneath me gives up. I feel the last spasm of feeble muscles passing through my arms, like a spasm of a clothes-moth that I squeezed between my fingers a long time ago, while I was still alive. It shakes me from within, filling me with cold and terror. And I know when it’s over, her soul becomes free and rises, up, high up, as the pen makes the last stroke. Too late! The body is dead, the soul is free, the demon cannot fulfill his part of the bargain any more and the contract is void.
Numb, I lift the pillow. The eyes, wide opened in the spasm of dying muscles, stare at me as I return the pillow under the small head. I close the eyelids with my fingers, closing the dead eyes so they won’t see me. I don’t want them to see me, I’m afraid of them as I silently remove the locks of blonde hair from her cold forehead.
I feel nothing as I cast the last glance at the empty shell in the bed, and I feel nothing, complete emptiness, as I exit into the corridor, and I’m empty as I leave the ward. I just hear the demon entering the room and stopping, shocked. It takes him time to understand what happened, to realize that the signed contract in his hand is just a worthless piece of parchment. And I hear the father as he enters and stares at the dead body in disbelief. He jumps to the bed and takes the body in his hands and falls down to his knees, in grief, and I’m empty, completely empty, just chill, as I hear his broken moan. The demon simply walks away, before the father rises an accusing stare. No explanation, no words, in anger. The father’s nightmare, fuzzy, buried in grief, is all that will remain.
I run down the stairs, and on, down the corridor, through the waiting-rooms and into the lobby, passing the watchman, his face lightened blue by a small TV in the booth. He doesn’t see me as I pass the heavy glass doors, out, into the blizzard, into the cold, into the Christmas night.

The hospital remains behind me, lost in the whirls of pain and solitude. Lights are on in the distant apartment buildings. The midnight is long past, His birth is celebrated, drunkenly, in warm, at tables filled with food.
Around me, cold. The blizzard rages, wind licks my cheeks. The winter night like a skillful lover, I don’t even feel it. What is its chill against the ice that encased me, that I carry deep within me?
Suddenly, something grabs my shoulder, a hand like a claw, and turns me savagely to face it. I stagger in the snow, barely staying on my feet. The demon stands before me, fire in his eyes wants to fry me. There’s not a trace of charm in him any more, not a bit of sadness: it was all just a deceit. Only unhidden hatred rages in his eyes.
The demon rises his clenched fist and opens it. Ashes scatter from it, carried by the wind, whirled around, thrown into the snowflakes. The contract. Worthless, a fistful of ashes is all that remained of it.
“Well played, little one”, he hisses through clenched teeth. “Well played, indeed.”
And the demon turns and leaves into the night without a further word, leaving me alone, as the blizzard covers prints of his hooves in the snow.
I remain standing under the yellow floodlight, the game is over and it is only now that fear grabs me. I struggle to inhale the freezing air. The demon’s hatred burns in me, but I’m still here, he didn’t destroy me. And he wanted to, oh, how he wanted to. But he couldn’t, he was not permitted to, and I know why.
I try my wings. I spread them in all their magnificence, I flap them, again, once more, and again, harder, stronger. I rise from the ground. My white wings take me up, high, above the buildings in which His birth is celebrated drunkenly, and higher up, above the blizzard, and above the highest clouds and upward ... Bells reach me through the night. Only I hear them, they toll just for me. They toll grudgingly, they never fully accepted me, they never will, but they toll, they must toll, announcing my arrival to the place I belong after all, now that I passed the Exam.
And when I get there, I’ll look for the girl. And I will be hers, and she will be mine, and I know that she’ll need me. Because, Heaven can be a cold place ...

četvrtak, 22. prosinca 2011.

SF u Booksi - Godina prva

Ovog utorka, 20. prosinca, održana je zadnja tribina u ovogodišnjem ciklusu tribina “SF u Booksi”, koje su se jednom mjesečno održavale u književnom klubu Booksa u Martićevoj ulici u Zagrebu.

Ideja za tribinu rodila se koncem 2010, kad sam tražio mjesto za promociju svoje tada svježe objavljene zbirke “Božja vučica”. Posrednica je bila Katarina Brbora, koja je tu zbirku recenzirala za rubriku “Začitavanje” na Booksinoj stranici. Tamo smo, malo pomalo, došli do ideje za tribinu, složili neki program, preskočili siječanj zbog zimskih praznika i počeli od veljače, svaki mjesec osim ljetnih, jedan utorak u mjesecu, obrađivati neku od tema. Ja sam bio voditelj, imao sam jednog ili dva gosta.

Krenuli smo s poviješću SF-a u Hrvatskoj (gost Tomislav Šakić), nastavili sa ženama u SF-u (Katarina Brbora i Milena Benini), SF fandomom (Petra Bulić i Boris Švel), SF časopisima (Davorin Horak i Hrvoje Prćić), fantasyjem (Sanja Lovrenčić), vampirima (Milena Benini), SF stripom (Darko Macan), SF-om i internetom (Mirko Karas), te konačno SF filmom (Nikica Gilić). I na kraju, nakon devet održanih tribina, postavlja se pitanje kakav je doseg cijelog projekta?

Osobno, čini mi se da je dosadašnji rezultat polovičan. S jedne strane, iznimno je važno i korisno - i stoga hvala svima u Booksi: Miki, Vanji i Ani - da se program uopće održava. Kako se najave Bookse prenose po kulturnim forumima, o programu se javljalo i najavljivalo ga se. Recimo da se postiglo da znanstvena fantastika bude, u obliku nekog redovnog programa, prisutna izvan okruženja klubova i konvencija. Na nekim je tribinama bilo zanimljive rasprave (posebno, recimo, na ovoj zadnjoj, o SF filmu), na nekima je bilo i dosta gostiju (reda veličine dvadesetak ljudi na tribinama o - surprise, surprise! - vampirima i onoj o stripu). Generalno rečeno, atmosfera je bila dobra, i mogu slobodno reći da mi se čini kako nam je uspjelo biti zabavnima. Ali...

Ali, moj je dojam da je interes u javnosti još uvijek slab. Činjenica je da je na većini tribina prosjek brojnosti prisutnih bio oko desetak, uključivo samu škvadru iz Bookse. A i od tih desetak, većina nas je zapravo iz SFere. Hvala što dolaze, i nadam se da će dolaziti i dalje, međutim... Pomalo je depresivno doći desetak minuta prije početka tribine, zasjesti okružen licima koje ne poznam i onda gledati kako sva ta lica nakon tri riječi uzimaju kapute i torbe i odlaze. I mean, WTF? Was it something I said?

Nije se to događalo samo u Booksi. Prijašnjih godina držali smo program pod nazivom “SFera u Profilu”, u Bogovićevoj, i odaziv je bio sličan i slično “unutarpartijski”. Ni neke promocije pojedinih izdanja, koje smo radili zadnjih godina, nisu bile puno bolje posjećene. Da, bilo je novih lica. Pijančerosa koji, čini se, na svakom takvom događanju čekaju post-promocijsku pijaču i krekere. U Booksi ih nije bilo, srećom. Ni pacijenata, poput neke žene koja je na nedavnom “Književnom petku” svojim upadicama torpedirala cjelokupnu voditeljsku koncepciju u roku dvadeset minuta tops. Bili smo Macan i ja. Otišli, u razmaku od pet minuta. Da citiram Kate Bush, spomenuta “was striking violence in me”.

Da se vratim Booksi. Ostaje dojam kako sve vrtimo sami za sebe, kako čak ni uz relativno dobru najavu ne postoji interes šire, pretpostavljam kulturno vudrene, javnosti za takav program. Te kako nema ni neke reakcije na te tribine izvan užeg kruga osvjedočenih esefičara, baš kao ni na većinu SF događanja/projekata/knjiga u nas. Zašto? Je li to posljedica sistematskog omalovažavanja znanstvene fantastike u nekim našim sredinama, koje traje desetljećima? Je li to nedostatak zvučnih imena? Imali smo ove godine i dobre pisce svih generacija, i teoretičare, i urednike, ljude koji - netko dulje, netko kraće - rade i stvaraju unutar jednog kulturno veoma bitnog žanra, što je ostavio značajan trag u zadnjih sto i nešto godina. I zašto onda ne postoji zanimanje? Zašto na tribine, promocije, diskusije o raznim SF temama, posebno onim vezanim za naše žanrovsko stvaralaštvo, dolazi tako malo ljudi? Ne znam. Niti mi je došao itko za koga bih mogao reći da zna. A još manje da zna što učiniti da se to popravi.

U međuvremenu, preostaje samo žvakati dalje. Jurišati poput crvenoarmejaca po sistemu “ima nas više nego što vi imate metaka”.

I stoga: godina prva je završila. Počinje godina druga. Nastavljamo s tribinama, već u siječnju. Pozvani ste - dođite!

utorak, 20. prosinca 2011.

All The Colours Of Black

For the benefit of visitors other than those from former Yugoslavia, I'm posting a short story in English, first published in Croatia in 1999. Hope you like it!


It’s sunny morning in the space port, the first after five grey days of continuous showers threatening to wash the hotel away into oblivion. Lukas is absorbed in the collected Tezuka, book three, the size of the phone-book. Suddenly, the door bell tears the morning peace apart. Lukas looks up as the entrance membrane opens and a woman with a luggage in her hand enters the vestibule. She must be about thirty-five, attractive, black-haired. She looks around, as if assessing the place, and then comes to the desk and puts her suitcases down.

“Please, do you have a double-bedded room?” A man enters immediately after her, heavy bag hanging from his shoulder. He’s older than the woman, his face is refined, his hair streaked in first traces of grey. He wears dark glasses. Lukas expects him to take them off, and it is only then that he notices a folded white cane in the man’s hand and realizes he’s blind.

“Room 109, Madam”, Lukas answers immediately. He always knows which rooms are available, he almost takes pride in it. “It also has a bath and a kitchenette. And it’s on the first floor, you don’t have too much stairs.” For a moment, there’s a barely noticeable twitch on the man’s face. Pity is the last thing he wants. “And it’s also dry”, Lukas adds quickly: a dry room is jackpot in this climate. The woman passes their IDs to Lukas. They’re married. Miryana and Lavoslav Veltz. Lukas reads the data quickly as he gives them their key-cards. And then his eyes stop on their occupations and, as the couple climbs the stairs, he hopes that his amazement wasn’t too visible. Because, Lavoslav Veltz is a painter ...

* * *

Two weeks passed since the Veltzes checked in. The day nears its end and the first purple of the twilight pours across the sky, as if spilled from a cup. It is time for the Veltzes to return, Lukas muses as he sprays the lantern-fungi with nutritious solution. They respond with contented purr and pale yellow light that tears the semidarkness of the vestibule apart. The Veltzes go out every day, weather allowing. He, wearing the somewhat outdated white suit and wide-brimmed hat, dark glasses and the white cane. She’s always next to him, in a flared skirt and a white blouse, her hair under a silk kerchief, carrying a sketch-pad under her arm. To Lukas, they look as if from some dated movie, living in a time-line of their own, lagging behind for centuries, and enjoying it in some privately quiet way of theirs. And maybe that’s why he likes them so much.

They usually don’t return until late afternoon, tired, but with the sketch-pad filled with new Lavoslav’s thumbnails, sketches and drawings. Tumbledown wooden houses by the river, some abandoned, some dangerously not, waiting to be carried away by the murky flood. Impenetrable rainforest covering the hills above the spaceport, trees almost suffocated by vines. Huge starships on the apron, waiting for their freight to be loaded. Streets flooded after night cloudbursts, market stands filled with fruits, stares from the moving, whirling mass of humans and aliens. Brief, passing moments in lives captured by the stroke of pencil across the paper. “Excuse me, we need help!”

“Right away, Mrs. Veltz.” Lukas lays down the sprinkler and follows Miryana out to the porch. Lavoslav waits next to a large root tied to a collapsible wheeled frame. The root, dug out of earth a long time ago and thrown aside, resembles some ominously twisted hand, gnarly, knotted fingers clutching greedily at some unseen treasure. The fingers are overgrown by thick velvety layers of lichens and mosses, patches of dirty grey under the soft red and green and yellow. A fine subject, Lukas approves as he and Miryana bring the frame into the vestibule. It takes them some ten sweaty minutes to rise the heavy root to the first floor and wheel it into the room.

“You are so kind, we could never manage ourselves”, Miryana wipes the sweat off her forehead as she puts the root away into the corner of the room. “In other hotels, they certainly wouldn’t even let us bring it in. Are you for some drink?”

“Not now, I’m afraid”, Lukas declines Miryana’s offer with his hand. “Lantern-fungi await me. They have to be marry and happy, or I’ll end up in the dark.”

“Perhaps tomorrow afternoon? Around five o’clock? Tea?”

Lukas wants to refuse, he likes to keep a distance of courteous formality between himself and his guests. A matter of experience, long and occasionally painful. But he notices Lavoslav touching the canvases, delivered several days ago, stacked against the wall. Lavoslav chooses one and tries the texture of the weaving under his fingers. And Lukas recollects sketches and drawings, his curiosity becomes almost unbearable. “All right”, he agrees finally. “Tomorrow at five.”

* * *

Lukas takes a look at his watch, it’s ten minutes to five. The membrane is before him, red 109 glitters in the semidarkness of the corridor, red triangle beneath the digits. Lukas touches the triangle and rings the bell. “Come in!”, Miryana replies from the inside. Red triangle changes its colour to green and Lukas enters the room.

Miryana and Lavoslav sit before a canvas on the easel. Paints, cleaning rugs, cups and jars, painting knives, brushes neatly arranged on the table next to them. The root became a mythic monster on the canvas, alive in the inextricable knot of lines. Lavoslav dips a brush in the paint on the palette. Lukas follows him with his eyes as he skilfully goes around the sketch, laying down dark brown background. Miryana watches the canvas and Lavoslav’s movements tensely. At that moment, she becomes aware of Lukas’s presence and her eyes sway from the canvas. “You’re early!”

“Miryana!” Angry and begging at the same time, Lavoslav’s hand stops above the canvas, suddenly insecure, paralysed in the midst of a movement. Lavoslav’s hand reminds Lukas of a robot with a malfunctioning camera that he saw once. He can almost hear helpless buzzing of the servo-motors as the blinded processor tries to decide what next. Miryana immediately returns her gaze to the canvas and the hand completes its stroke.

Later, as Miryana puts the kettle on. “You wish to know, don’t you?” Lukas tries to deny it, but Lavoslav interrupts him. “You’re not the first one. I owe part of my success to my ... condition. Perhaps even bigger part, critics never liked me. Too much colour, triviality of motifs, I don’t follow trends. So they write.” Resentment in his voice is tangible. “But, people like to buy paintings painted by the blind painter. It’s a good subject for chitchat. Goes with tea and cookies. And they can only guess how I manage to do it.”

Suddenly, Lukas understands. It’s so obvious! “You and Miryana. You are connected telepathically?”

“Miryana is my sight”, Lavoslav nods. “I read her thoughts, as those who have no idea use to phrase it. And I see everything she sees. When I work, she sits next to me and I look at the canvas through her eyes. Sketch, paints, everything ...”

“Without her ...”

“Without her, there’s no light ... Nor colours, it’s all just one big black ...” Then Miryana brings the tea and sits next to Lavoslav. He takes her hand in his, tenderly, with love, but Lukas sees a spasm of fear in that touch, like a child afraid to be left alone in the dark ...

* * *

A month passed. It is late afternoon and it’s showering outside. Torrential rains last for days now. Lukas thinks of the Veltzes, rains interrupted their walks. Only Miryana goes out, for an hour or two at most, to run errands in the city. It takes her somewhat longer today, she left after lunch and still didn’t return ... Suddenly, a bell rings and a police woman enters through the membrane. Lukas looks at her questioningly, police doesn’t come here often. “You have Miryana Veltz staying at your place?”

“Yes”, Lukas replies. The police woman removes the hood from her head and takes off her cap, running her fingers through her blonde hair, looking for words. She’d rather be somewhere else now. She’s young and they sent her to do what nobody else wants to do. With chill creeping into his heart, Lukas realizes something terrible happened. “What’s the matter with her?”

“There was a disaster. A land-slide, down on the bank, the river washed away part of a street ... There are many victims, we don’t know how many yet. Rescue party recovered her body, we searched it. Found her ID and your key-card. Was she staying alone?”

“No, she was with her husband ...” And as he takes the police woman upstairs, Lukas musters his courage. He’ll need it, he knows he’ll need it. “Room 109. I’ll tell him.” The police woman gives him a grateful look as they pause before the room. Lukas rings the bell, the triangle turns green and the membrane lets them in. Just one glance and Lukas, almost relieved, realizes that Lavoslav knows. He saw everything that Miryana saw. He saw her death, too.

And now he sits before the canvas, holding a flat brush in his hand. His sketches are scattered around, some torn, some crumpled in helpless fury. The tubes are squeezed empty, all the colours are mixed on the palette into one. The brush dips into a dense, sticky mass. Heavy, oily drops drip as the brush searches for the canvas. A desperate stroke filled with grief, then another, and another. From one edge of the canvas to the other, horizontally, vertically, in all directions. More paint, the brush collides with the canvas, dark brown background and the root disappear beneath it, stroke after stroke. The root like an ominous hand, twisted, gnarly, knotted, the grey under the red and green and yellow, covered by the thick layer of black. In the silence of the room, as it showers relentlessly outside, one world becomes a big black, without light, without colour, just the black.

Vrijeme darivanja!

Pitate se što pokloniti za Božić i/ili Novu godinu? E pa, poklonite Žiljka! (rekoh da je ovo blog i za samopromociju)

Na primjer, moje zbirke priča "Slijepe ptice" ili "Božja vučica", obje u izdanju Mentora iz Zagreba. Ili časopis UBIQ, koji uređujem zajedno s Tomislavom Šakićem. Kontakt mail:

Ili, knjige pisca Joze Vrkića - u potpunosti s mojim ilustracijama; ljudi zaboravljaju da mi je to primarno zanimanje - o hrvatskoj prirodi "Bijela vrana" i "Crna vrana", zatim knjigu o hrvatskoj prapovijesti "Divlja naša", te putopise s naših otoka "Modre oči Lijepe naše". Sve su ove knjige Vrkićevi samostalni projekti (jedino što ne radi sam u cijelom proizvodno/prodajnom lancu je ilustriranje, izrada filmova i tisak), i nema ih u slobodnoj prodaji. Možete ih "prelistati" na adresama:

Toliko za sada. Ne škrtarite, ako je Majanski kalendar točan, sljedeću priliku možda nećete imati! :)

ponedjeljak, 19. prosinca 2011.

Tragovi na žalu

Zubi! Oštri i nemilosrdni, provalili su iz polutame, zagrizli u krdo, rasparali ga i rastjerali.

Dva megalosaura zaletjela su se među iguanodone na čistini i bacila ih iz jutarnjeg smiraja u bezumnu paniku. U prasku krikova, kroz uskovitlanu prašinu, Ona je bila svjesna jedino zuba što su je progonili. Tu su, za njom, samo što je ne dograbe! Ne razmišljajući, nagonski, Ona naglo zamahne repom i zakrene. Čeljusti škljocnuše u prazno. Ona se zaleti među visoke cikase i ginkoe i magnolije, u gustoj šumi krvolok joj možda izgubi trag. Njeno masivno tijelo lomilo je mladice i gnječilo pod sobom nježnu paprat. Nešto sitno pobježe pred njenim teškim nogama i nestade u gustišu.

Njoj za repom krik, bolan, jeziv, užasavajući kroz topot rastjeranih životinja. Režanje gladnih megalosaura, čupanje mesa, pucanje kostiju, liptanje krvi. Nije se zaustavljala, krčila si je prolaz kroz prašumu, tjerana urlicima klanja što joj nisu prestajali odjekivati u ušima. Nakon tko zna koliko vremena, Ona konačno stane, zadihana, i osluhne. Tišina šume. Tiho čavrljanje malih dinosaura skrivenih u paprati, brze noge razbacuju šušanj. Pištanje letećih gmazova što su iznad nje lovili kukce, lepet kožnatih krila. Uobičajeni zvuci. Opasnost je prošla: ostala je daleko za njom, na rubu šume.

Mamutovci oko nje bili su joj nepoznati. Ona shvati da nikad prije nije bila ovdje. Uzme dah, podigne glavu i dozove dugim, žalobnim, prodornim zovom. Posluša. Sve se oko nje umirilo, utihnulo. Dozove još jednom i osluhne. Tišina. Prolazila je s otkucajima njena srca. Dozivala je i slušala. Nitko joj nije odgovarao. Krdo je više nije čulo.

Cijelog će tog dana dozivati i slušati, dozivati i slušati, dozivati i slušati, konačno samo dozivati, već očajna. Po prvi put otkad pamti, odvojena od sigurnosti krda u kojem je provela cijeli život.


* * *

Vesna sjedi na klupi pod borovima, predvečerje plamti nad morem. Iza nje, u lovorici, mali dinosaur svima oglašava da je mačka u lovu, šulja se, ali nije promakla njegovu budnom oku. Dinosaur ima krila, crno perje, žuti kljun i obično ga zovu kos. Do Vesne, u mapi, počivaju neki drugi dinosauri, davni, daleki preci kosa i vrabaca i sjenice nad djevojkom i galebova što se vraćaju na noćna počivališta.

Pramen plave kose pada Vesni preko oka, odmiče ga rukom. A onda odjednom cijeli taj dan provaljuje iznutra i modre se oči pune suzama. Vesna pokriva lice rukama i trese se, grč ju je stezao od jutra, sustezala ga je na nalazištu, pred drugima, sve do sada. Ali, jecaji istovremeno donose olakšanje i nakon nekoliko minuta Vesna se smiruje, šmrca, hoće otrati suze s obraza i tek tada postaje svjesna pružene ruke i maramice u njoj.

Djevojka podiže suzni pogled. Pred njom stoji gospodin u šezdesetima, sijede kose i urednih brkova, u laganom odijelu primjerenom ranoj jeseni, s maramom oko vrata i štapom za šetnju u drugoj ruci.

“Hvala”, uzima Vesna maramicu i briše suze, a onda ispuhava nos i vraća je s osjećajem nelagode i osmijehom kojim kao da se ispričava što je, eto, napravila glupaču od sebe. “Bojim se da baš ...”

“Sve je savršeno u redu, gospođice”, odgovara čovjek uz lagani naklon, dok se Vesna pokušava sjetiti kad ju je netko zadnji put oslovio s ‘gospođice’. Onda ustaje i uzima mapu, lovorike i oleanderi i borovi tonu u mrak, nad šetalištem pale se svjetla. Vrijeme je da se vrati u svoju sobu, vjerojatno na još plakanja.

“Oprostite”, u muškarčevu glasu Vesna osjeća tračak molbe. Zastaje, okreće se. “Čini mi se - ispravite me ako griješim - da ste imali naporan dan. Ako mi dopustite ... Možda da vas izvedem negdje ...”

Vesna ostaje bez riječi, muškarac pred njom lako bi joj mogao biti djed. Dinosaur, zlobno pomisli i istog se trena postidi. Iako, osjeća da ni on, baš kao ni dinosauri, ne pripada ovom vremenu i ovom svijetu, i možda je baš to privlači. A onda pomisli: zašto ne?

“Vesna”, nasmiješi se i pruža ruku. On je uzima i ovlaš poljubi, poput pravog džentlmena.

“Šarić. Profesor Šarić”, predstavlja se uz lagani naklon i nešto u tom naklonu ispunjava Vesnu povjerenjem i ona mu dopušta da je uzme pod ruku i povede popločanom stazom, desetak minuta hoda do restorana s ugodnom terasom. Čim ga je predložio, Vesna je shvatila koliko je zapravo gladna. Negdje iznad njih, u gustim borovim krošnjama, pozdravlja ih mali noćni dinosaur velikih očiju i oštra kljuna, obično poznat kao ćuk.

* * *

Na obalu je mora Ona izbila petog jutra. Slijedila je rječicu na koju je naišla sljedećeg dana nakon napada. Rječica se probijala šumom, proširila se u rijeku. Bistra je voda tažila žeđ, bistra je voda bila vodič.

Pred njom se prostiralo more, u daljini je vidjela duge vratove pleziosaura kako izranjaju iz valova i opet zaranjaju. Visoko nad morem, veliki su pterosauri klizili u krugovima, uzdizani toplim zrakom. Nekoliko malih, sklopljenih krila i dugih repova, goluždravih glava, čeljusti načičkanih iglastim zubima, gostilo se na plaži uginulim ribama.

Ona je gazila pijeskom. Zastala je na trenutak da onjuši veliku spiralnu ljušturu amonita što ju je izbacilo more. Spazila je niz tragova, išli su plažom i onda skretali i gubili se u šumi, među cikasima i araukarijama. Pogledala je pažljivije, tragova je bilo još. Sitnih, što su ih u trku ostavile hitre noge malih dinosaura. I krupnih, što su ih utisnule stupaste noge tko zna koliko teškog sauropoda, troma tijela i dugog vrata i repa.

Ona se osvrnula za sobom: i ona je ostavljala tragove. A onda je spazila još jedan niz otisaka. Osjetila je miris, prepoznala smrad, sledila se. Tu se nedugo prije šuljao grabežljivi megalosaur, ovdje je zastao da onjuši zrak. Možda je tražio kakvu strvinu prije no što se vratio u polutamu šume. Zubi. I ovdje vreba opasnost, shvatila je Ona. Morat će biti oprezna. Ipak, dok je na plaži, teško će je zaskočiti.

Tada se nad obalom razlio duboki zov.

* * *

Vesna pogleda mobitel. Nema poruka. Zna da se uzalud nada, Slaven se više neće javiti. Svečano si obećaje da od sada više ne hoda s tipovima koji raskidaju veze preko mobitela.

Djevojka se zavaljuje, vjetrić s mora ugodno rashlađuje. Nebom klize bijeli dinosauri, obično zvani galebovima, klikću, na kamenu se dva otimlju za zalogaj. Vesna uzima mapu s klupe, rastvara je i premeće crteže okamenjenih otisaka preko kojih je brižno izvučena mreža pravokutnika. Na nalazištu, ista je mreža povučena razapetim užadima. Jutros je ekipa čistila daljnjih trideset kvadrata parcele, novootkriveni dio još nije bio iskolčen.

Vesna se trgne iz svojih misli. Profesor Šarić stoji pored klupe, trudi se ne pokazati kako ga zanima što je u mapi. “Znatiželja je odraz inteligencije, profesore”, našali se Vesna. Čak i ako je pomalo nepristojna, pomisli.

“Hvala”, zarumeni se profesor. Vesna se pomakne malo u stranu i to je neizrečeni poziv kojeg on s olakšanjem prihvaća. Šetnja mu se danas čini zamornijom nego inače. Godine ... “Dopuštate?”

Vesna mu pruža crteže, profesor smjesta shvaća da se nastavljaju jedan na drugoga. “Ovo je ono o čemu pričaju?” Vesna kima glavom, cijela Istra bruji o novom nalazištu, stotine otisaka zamrznutih u kamenu. Bar pet vrsta dinosaura i tko zna koliko pojedinih životinja: iguanodoni, sauropod, mnoštvo manjih biljoždera, jedan mesožder.

“Rana kreda”, pokazuje Vesna na crtežima. “Ovo je najvjerojatnije neki sauropod, samo je prošetao. Ovo tu je mesožder, možda megalosaur. A ovo su iguanodoni ...”, Vesna zastaje pred profesorovim zbunjenim pogledom.

“Ja sam ipak negdje drugdje, znate. Engleski, njemački, talijanski ...”

“Oprostite”, nasmije se djevojka, “ponekad se zanesem. Evo”, vadi među papirima nekoliko rekonstrukcija što ih je nacrtala zadnjih dana, u pauzama pažljivog precrtavanja otisaka u mreži. Profesor Šarić kima glavom, zadivljen, kao da ih prvi put vidi.

“Znači, ovo su iguanodonovi otisci?”

“Da, ali ne znamo što znače. Nikad prije nije nađeno nešto slično! Pogledajte kako je izgaženo”, Vesna uzima crtež i uzbuđeno pokazuje. “Ovo je jedna životinja. Prilazi drugoj, manjoj, vidite, to je ovaj trag. A gledajte ovdje”, Vesna preskače nekoliko listova. “Kao da su se okrenuli jedan prema drugome! I kao da su se tako okretali u krug ... Tjedan dana cijela ekipa mozga i nismo izmozgali! Možda nikad nećemo ni znati”, uzdahne djevojka.

Profesor opet uzima crtež i pažljivo promatra. Mršti se, otisci mu se čine nekako poznatima. Kvragu, to može biti samo ... Ali, nije moguće! Pa ipak, da su ljudska stopala, ne bi posumnjao ni na trenutak. Onda jedva čujno zapjevuši i da, to je to, ne može biti ništa drugo, pa pričali što im drago. A dijete to ne vidi, siroto, naravno da ne vidi, ova današnja omladina ... Konačno profesor vraća list papira, zamišljen, ništa ne govoreći. Ali Vesni se učini da se - jedva primjetno - nasmiješio.

* * *

Njeno srce zadrhti! Smjesta je prepoznala zov mužjaka svoje vrste! Odgovorila je, osluhnula, odmah dobila odgovor. Pohitala je preko vlažnog pijeska, zapljuskala kroz valove što su oplakivali žal, rastjerala nekoliko malih letećih gmazova. Gdje je, ne vidi ga, gdje se skriva? Dozove još jednom.

On je iskoračio iz sjene drvenastih paprati, krupan, snažan, smeđeg tijela popruganog bijelim prugama.

Koliko god mu htjela prići i pozdraviti ga, koliko god mu se radovala, Ona ipak zastade, oprezna. Nije ga poznavala, možda čuva svoje krdo i u tom bi slučaju mogao i nasrnuti na neznanku. Gledali su se tako tko zna koliko dugo, skoro nepomični. Nitko više nije izašao iz šume, nikog više nije čula i Ona shvati da je i On sam. Oboje su sami i oboje su nepovjerljivi, ne poznaju se. Svaki bi se nagli pokret mogao shvatiti kao nasrtaj. I zato nepovjerenje. Podozrivost. Samoća.

A onda Ona odluči da više ne može podnijeti samoću.

* * *

Vesna silazi kamenim stubama. Profesor sjedi ispod zida što se izdiže nad malom uvalom, more oplakuje pješčani žal. Kasno je poslijepodne, nekoliko šetača gore na stazi glasno razgovara i smije se. Nad njima, iz krošnje medunca zvonko doziva mali dinosaur. Sjenica.

Kad spazi Vesnu, profesor Šarić ustaje i gubi dah, kao okamenjen.

“Nešto nije u redu?”, Vesna će zabrinuto. Odjenula je haljinu krem boje, preko ramena prebacila laganu bijelu vestu, oko vrata šal od svile. Ništa posebno, ništa sračunato. Profesor se trgne.

“Da li vam se ...”, zastaje, ne skidajući pogleda s djevojke. “Da li vam se ikad dogodilo da ugledate nešto tako lijepo da je bolno? Toliko bolno da vas stegne oko srca ...”

Vesna šuti, ne zna što odgovoriti. Da nema te boli u profesorovim očima, shvatila bi njegove riječi kao neobični kompliment. Ali ... Sad nekako nije sigurna idu li stvari putem kojim želi. Ni sama ne zna kako i zašto, tek, ono što je trebalo biti samo bezazleno, ugodno druženje kojim je htjela razblažiti gorčinu nakon svađa i suza, odjednom prerasta u nešto što je hvata potpuno nespremnom. I ima li prava tako se poigravati sa starim čovjekom? Ili treba ...

“Oprostite mi”, profesor Šarić uzima Vesnu za ruku i vodi je sa stuba na žal. “I ja ponekad trabunjam gluposti. Zbog ovoga sam vas, zapravo, pozvao baš ovamo.”

Vesna tek sad vidi da je profesor sa sobom donio mini-liniju, radio, CD-plejer, zvučnici. “Možda ću vas razočarati, ali gramofon na navijanje bio mi je malo pretežak za nositi.” Vesna se nasmije profesorovoj šali, a on pritisne tipku i pod zidom se razliježe glazba. Valcer, djevojka se ne sjeća da ga je ikad čula, svakako ništa što se vrti u klubovima i na radiju.

“Čajkovski. Nekome možda zvuči sladunjavo, ali iskreno, Strauss mi je davno dosadio. Dopuštate?” Profesor joj nudi ruku, Vesna oklijeva.

“Bojim se da na ovo nisam nikad plesala”, priznaje s nelagodom.

“Samo se prepustite”, nasmiješi se profesor i Vesna popušta. Njenom rukom u njegovoj zastruji toplina nekih prošlih vremena, ne tako davnih poput onih u njenoj mapi, ali svejedno proteklih u nepovrat, vremena ni boljih ni lošijih od ovog danas, ali zauvijek izgubljenih. Profesor je obuhvaća oko struka i vodi žalom, Vesnina stopala nakon par nespretnih koraka sama hvataju ritam i njih dvoje skladno poleti pijeskom, nošeno melodijom valcera, ushićeno u vrtlogu plesa. Svijet oko Vesne i profesora više ne postoji, dinosauri na nebu i more i stabla i toplo poslijepodne, ostaju samo njih dvoje, zamrznuti, učahureni glazbom u nekom svome vremenu što kao da nikada neće proći ...

A onda valceru ipak dolazi kraj i vrtuljak usporava i staje. Vesna, zarumenjena, bez daha, zatetura, ali ostaje na nogama, držana sigurnim profesorovim rukama. “A sad pogledajte tragove, Vesna”, smiješi se profesor.

* * *

Cijeli su dan proveli zajedno, Ona i On, obilazeći obalu i šumu uz nju, hraneći se sočnim izdancima, pojeći se na rijeci. Tek bi tu i tamo, među zalogajima, najprije stidljivo, a onda sve drskije, On svojim rožnatim kljunom dotakao njen vrat. Onda bi je pokušao liznuti po obrazu. Isprva bi mu Ona izmigoljila, zamahnuvši repom kao da tjera dosadna kukca. Jednom ga je čak pokušala i ugristi, napola ozbiljno. On bi odskočio, izmaknuo se njenom repu, izbjegao njen kljun, ali nije se dao otjerati. Pričekao bi, a onda bi joj opet prišao, liznuo je, ovlaš protrljao svoje tijelo o njeno. Ona bi ga tek pogledala, naizgled nezainteresirana, napravila korak-dva dublje u šumu, potražila nešto još sočnije za odgristi, sažvakati moćnim zubima i progutati. A On bi je slijedio, gdje bi odgrizla Ona, odgrizao je i On.

Potom je On poveo nju, još dublje kroz hlad šume, uz rijeku. Odveo ju je do osunčane čistine, tajnog mjesta za koje je samo On znao, skrivenog mjesta, idealnog za podići potomstvo. Upoznavao ju je sa svojim obitavalištem, u šumi na obali mora, cijeli taj dan, sve dok se sjene nisu izdužile i šuma počela tonuti u tamu.

Ona je odjednom zastala, okrenula se, pošla natrag, slijedeći rijeku, a kad je čula šum valova što se lome na plaži, pohitala je. I On za njom.

Na žalu, na samom rubu mora, pričekala je da joj On priđe i uspravila se na stražnje noge. Gledala ga je, mužjaka u punoj snazi, i On je gledao nju, mladu ženku, spremnu da s njime zasnuje krdo. Uspravio se i dodirnuli su se prednjim nogama i stali se okretati, nagonski, u polaganim krugovima, u prastarom ritualu kome nisu shvaćali značenja ni smisla, ali okretali su se, vođeni nečim pradavnim u sebi, jedno oko drugoga, snažnim nogama ugazujući tragove u vlažnome pijesku. Okretali su se dok su nad njima leteći gmazovi klizili sumrakom prije no što će napraviti još jedan krug nad rasplesalim ljubavnicima i vratiti se u svoja noćna počivališta. A Ona i On su plesali, more im je bilo sva glazba koju su trebali. Pjevali su im valovi, svirao im vjetar, pljeskali su im pterosauri svojim kožnatim krilima. Plesali su kao što će plesati još desetljećima, kao što su plesali njihovi roditelji i kao što će im plesati djeca, jednom kad stasaju za ples ...

Negdje u šumi prolomio se gladni urlik mesoždera, ali Ona i On nisu se obazirali, nisu zastajali, ni na trenutak. Sad su zajedno, nerazdruživi, snažni: grabežljivac im više ništa ne može. Plesali su za nova pokoljenja, skladno, kao da su to cijelog života činili, kao da se nisu tek tog jutra sreli. Plesali su u polaganom ritmu kojeg su dopuštala njihova teška tijela, dva tamna obrisa naspram neba, plamtećeg u sutonu.

A onda, pod treperavim zvijezdama, stali su, Ona i On, i prepustili se jedno drugom. Pod njegovom je uspuhanom težinom Ona zaboravila svoje staro krdo, zaboravila zube i smrt i užas. Nagon ju je vodio u budućnost, prema velikom gnijezdu iskopanom u mekoj zemlji i pokrivenom suhim lišćem, i jajima u njemu, i mališanima što će se iz njih izvaliti i rasti pod njenom i njegovom budnom paskom, sazrijevati im pred očima da bi jednog dana i sami zaplesali u beskonačnom ritmu života, smrti i ponovna rađanja.

* * *

Vesna se priljubljuje profesoru uz prsa, njegova šaka počiva na njenoj dojci. Noći su već prohladne, njegova joj se toplina ugodno razlijeva leđima, prija joj njegov dah u kosi.

Trebalo joj je tog poslijepodneva dok shvati, dok je uzela u obzir proprocije životinja, razmak među nogama, dok shvati i dok prihvati. Ali, kolikogod se njen um opirao, kolikogod joj nešto unutra govorilo kako je to nemoguće, nije bilo nikakve sumnje. Njihovi otisci na plaži, u pijesku, otisci njenih i profesorovih cipela ... Vesna ih je zamijenila otiscima iguanodonovih nogu na njenim crtežima: manjih, sigurna je da su bile ženkine, i većih, mužjakovih. Prije mnogo, mnogo milijuna godina te su noge iscrtale analogne otiske kao i profesor i ona tog poslijepodneva. A to može značiti samo jedno: plesali su. Iguanodoni su plesali. Nisu tek izvodili nagonske rituale snubljenja - to ne bi bilo ništa novo, to se već desetljećima pretpostavlja da su radili, dozivali se i šepirili - već plesali!

Zašto? I to je dokazano poslijepodnevnim pokusom. Kad je, ushićena spoznajom, Vesna zagrlila profesora i kad ga je, ni sama još ne shvaćajući što zapravo čini, poljubila. A onda su se zagledali jedno drugome u oči i još se jednom poljubili. Da bi konačno, nakon večere, najbolje koju je Vesna u životu kušala, završili u profesorovu stanu, u njegovoj postelji, u zagrljaju nakon kojeg će Vesna zauvijek promijeniti svoje mišljenje o postarijoj gospodi.

“Ne spavaš?”, profesor joj šapće na uho. Lagano se počinje trljati uz njeno bedro, djevojka s radošću shvaća da noć još nije gotova. Sutra će biti vremena za razmišljati ...

“Muči me nešto.” Negdje u kutu svijesti, Vesna se pita čemu uporno i s jednakim poraznim ishodom psihoanalizira svaku vezu u kojoj se nađe? Zašto se jednostavno ne prepusti, do kraja, bez zadrške, bez sumnje, zašto ne posluša srce što joj šapuće kako je najzad našla ono što već dugo traži?

“Što?”, profesor ljubi Vesnin obraz, rukom joj mijesi dojku, tijelom joj počinje mravinjati, disanje im je sve ubrzanije. Vesna mu se okreće, gleda ga u oči, ljube se, ona mu se rastvara, prepušta strasti, stenje pod njegovim poljupcima, u sebi zahvaljuje nekim davnim grdosijama što su joj sasvim neočekivano, milijunima godina nakon svoje smrti, pomogle naći novu ljubav.

I kasnije, u smiraju, dok prstima mrsi profesorovu znojnu kosu i polaže mu nježni poljubac na čelo: “Iguanodoni. Tko im je svirao valcer?”

Ovo je priča iz zbirke Priče o dinosaurima s Festivala fantastične književnosti, Pazin / Bale, 2009.

Those who want to read a somewhat expanded version in English, it is available here:

It is a story in the anthology Extinct Doesn't Mean Forever edited by Phoenix Sullivan and available here: