Wind in the Hands. Return

Unique materials testifying to a visit of the planet by unindentified flying objects have fallen into the hands of the head of a powerful religious organization. The Chairman assembles representatives of world confessions to discuss the matter of concern. The religious figures of authority start searching for the Stranger who witnessed a meeting with “the others”

ISBN-13: 978-1502563996

ISBN-10: 1502563991

             All characters appearing in this work are fictitious, any resemblance is purely coincidental…

Book Two

The Return

Prologue

He sat at the shore of the endless ocean staring at the horizon that grew darker. The waves rushed to the land fiercely but got tired at the soundings and turned into gentle, nice spindrift that caressed the outstretched palms. Bright red spot of the Sun went down precipitately. The darkness was setting in.

“The time is coming,” he spoke aloud, and the Wind clasped his head as if with a hoop. He felt like a man of power and knowledge. He got up and stood a little, enjoying this feeling, shook off the sand, and went home slowly. His heart became high, troublesome thoughts retreated. It seemed that the entire busy world was fading away. Life or death did not matter, and there was nothing to worry about for everything was full of love and care. The Wind waned gradually,

“As the autumn winds swept the block
The Sun passed by, as well as the time
And I wanted to live but died blindly with fear
Because I did not know you were with me.”

 

He stopped and whispered, “Are you with me? I feel Your being near.”

 

Chapter 1. Meeting

In a dimly lit office near the massive oak table with carved legs, a few people sat in the modern orthotic chairs. Everyone kept silent and just stole glances to the old golden clock. A smooth-shaved man in years, with blear eyes, who sat in front of the guests, was the first to talk.

“I am glad to meet you, the highest representatives of the different faith communities. First of all, I am glad to present my compliments to you. Such a significant meeting speaks for our common desire to promote a dialogue among the civilizations in the search for a fair world order. Our today’s meeting has a great meaning because something important and frightening happens in the fields of the world. We are witnessing some complicated processes. Technological advancements may go both boon and bane. The faith along with conscience gives a man an ability to distinguish good and evil, to realize where the border is that is not to be crossed. But now, we are facing a problem, and it is to be resolved through traditional religions. The time forces us to reach a compromise and to work out a global strategy by means of joint efforts. In the past, our fathers did not use the science for their good purposes, they did not harness it in the name of God and looked over a terrible war, nor did they rise against the tyrants. We are losing ground and may end as religious bankrupts.”

The Chairman paused, drank some water but as soon as he tried to continue speaking, he was interrupted by a middle-aged man with a spade beard and in the dark long clothes who spoke gently.

“Like all of you, I am glad to be here. There is nothing for us to segregate. The great divide has been completed a long ago. We do not break the agreement. Every priest tries to avoid preaching away, and even theestraysare sent back to their folds. It is not the time for wars but for the peaceful coexistence. And if we are facing a global trouble, we need to join efforts.”

The religious authorities clapped hands with decisive approval.

 

The Chairman nodded gratefully and finally started to speak confidently, “Witness testimony, photos and video footage are telling about our planet being visited by the intelligent extraterrestrial life. You do know about it, but the reaction to those events is the silence of all the faith communities. For those who doubt the phenomenon of the UFO, I am ready to provide with the video footage. This is a small portion of what we have at hand but the quality is good, and the source of the information is reliable – the security services of the different countries, that is why we decided that the footage deserves your consideration.”

The Chairman took the remote control and pressed the button…

In an hour, an uncomfortable silence settled in the office. Somebody drummed nervously with fingers on the table.

The old man pleased with the impression produced spoke again.

“So, everyone will know about it soon. And there will be no those who doubt or do not believe. At the moment, the information is hidden or is being banalized by the yellow rag. Many fakes are thrown on in order to spread misinformation. But, sooner or later, the truth will be revealed, and theflock will come to us looking for answers. Are we going to shrug our shoulders confusedly again?”

“Perhaps, it is not that bad,” said the Scribe fingering his slightly dyed black beard. “We have seen the flying objects only but not the pilots. Though the objects of several kilometers length cannot be of terrestrial origin, and their speed and the flight path is far beyond the abilities of a human being. Let assume – we are visited by the creatures from the other planets. Perfectly possible – they do it since the old days. Let’s assume that they exist but do not influence our life directly, they study us from behind the folding screen. I believe, we should observe as well.”

“Aren’t you interested in understanding the phenomenon?” the shaven-headed wearing colorful long clothes the  Contemplator edged himself into the conversation.

“That interest may cost a lot,” the Scribe answered crossly. “They do not want to contact us. They are dangerous. You have seen the crashed planes with your own eyes a moment ago. The holy books mention people that were killed with their curiosity. Remember the miserable wife who violated the warning of the angel to avoid looking at the cities being destroyed. Remember those who dared to look into the eyes of the snake-woman – they all turned into the stones. These stories are the warning to the humankind. And what about the recent events which were so quickly forgotten by everyone? I was in the City three years ago and saw the people struck with horror.”

“We did not forget. There were our representatives in the City”, the Chairman said. “In those days no one was able to find the solution, everyone was lost. No one could sort out the situation. And who was to lift after all? The cultists. Anyway, they dashed down as fast as they lifted up. Now we cannot leave any questions unanswered. I am not forcing anyone, if someone wishes to leave the residency, they are free to do it anytime.”

“There is no need to lit the candle when the Sun shines bright,” the Contemplatorflaunted with folk wisdom.

“They say as well: a poor decided to make candles but the sun is shining and not setting,” the Scribe sighed fatefully.

The Chairman waited for a while. No one stood up.

“I am grateful that you have accepted the cooperation request. We got access to the archives of different states. Still, despite a wealth of information we know almost nothing about ‘the others’. Let me call them so. Who are they?  What goals do they pursue? There is no proven contact at the moment. The statements of the common people are not a reason for the consideration. We will be flooded with such reports. We can trust the facts only. There are different versions that explain the purpose of ‘the others’ staying on the Earth – from protecting and help to the mankind to the total destruction. I repeat, we gathered a lot of information but it is not enough to make clear conclusions. It makes sense to look at the holy books from the different perspective for they have the answers to all the questions. Perhaps, ancient books and manuscripts have witnessed the events of that kind, and we ignored it as we had the explanations from our spiritualadvisors. But the new time demands modern interpretations.”

 

“I’m afraid, we do not understand completely what the consequences of such an investigation can be,” the Scribe interrupted him. “The holy books describe some events that we call miraculous and heavenly. For example, one of the prophetic books, in the opinion of the modern UFO researchers, tells about the transport that looks like a helicopter. It seems that the prophet was short of words as he had never seen such an object before. It would be fine if he had just described the flying object, but he had seen a godhood in the brightly lit cockpit. And that angel on behalf of God spoke to the prophet and gave him the power and the authority. Do the servants of God fly on the helicopters? Our sacred books tell us about the chariot that can move the prophets to the great distances instantly, even to the higher skies. That chariot is a great mystery. What do you propose? Shall we announce that angels handle the flying saucers, shoot down the planes, kidnap people, or prepare cattle? Mark the territory, flattened the mountaintops in order to build the takeoff strips, notify other angels by leaving the geometric figures in the fields? Such conclusions may compromise the basics of the traditional religion. Some ‘wise heads’ reduce the God and His angels to the extraterrestrial creatures with their perverted minds. It causes the mess in minds and souls. What if ‘the others’ talk and announce that they have been visiting the Earth from the ancient times and directed us and helped us? Their tale will be accredited! The only hope is that they will not contact us directly.”

“I am terribly sorry for interrupting you. I am the representative of the ‘New Wave’ church,” the Rhetor, a smooth-faced young man of pleasing mien in a suit made by one of the best couturiere, thrust himself into the conversation. “All the religions have stories of evil that possess powers far beyond those a human being has. Perhaps, ‘the others’ are the ancient demons, and don’t you believe that this is the most reasonable and acceptable definition that complies with the letter and spirit of the sacred books?”

“Maybe, you are right,” the Chairman said regretfully. “It is preferable for us. What if they have nothing to do with angels and demons? What if our doctrine does not stand up to criticism? Do we have a right to make a mistake? Even more – to make an intentional mistake because it fits us at the moment? It is time to face the truth. I am sure that nothing willshakeour faith, it is higher than human and even angelic understanding.”

He got off the chair, lifted his eyes to the ceiling and put his hands together.

“Brothers, I pray the God to give us patience and love. There is a threat hanging over the humankind. We do remember the notorious events that took place in the City. Everyone who met the Exterminatorshad found his death. Those woeful faces rigid with fear are the silent evidence of the terrors abidden. What if the Exterminatorsof whom we were warned by the saints from the ancient times are ‘the others’? If an invasion is reserved for us, we must be together to stand up to them. Perhaps, I magnify the danger, so forgive the old man.”

“The danger after all,” the Rhetorsmiled. “So, you do believe as well that they are the archenemies.”

 

“We cannot assert that black or white,” the old man uttered grimly. “One of our missions is to find out whether they are hostile. We have evidence from those who had been death-sick but experienced miraculous healing after they met the UFO. It’s not all that simple. Perhaps, it is a matter of three years ago that is the key to the answer. We know that one person was present in the City. From hearsay, he survived faced the Exterminators.”

The Scriber gave a cough. All those present glanced in his direction.

“I can tell you about him.”

“Have mercy,” the old man asked.

The teller was collecting thoughts for some seconds.

“His name was the Stranger. About ten years ago, he underwent trial on the charge of appropriation of archeological values. Strange as it may seem, he was put to a one-man cell as a severe  offender. After release, the Stranger escaped public life, but appeared in the City some years later. There were rumors that he had undergone the Tunnel of Death – a trial invented by the warriors of desert, the villainous rebels. As per the legend, the Angel of the Lord met him as he left the tunnel and opened the door for him.”

“Do you believe in this?” the Chairman asked.

“Don’t know. Don’t know,” the Scriber muttered. “The warriors of the desert told so. Then again, there is no this sect any longer. Mostly, they were killed by government forces, the others disbanded, the tunnel locked. I shouldn’t be surprised if it is a tourist amusement one day.”

“It was rumored that the Stranger can fly. Privately, I do not believe in levitation,” the young theologian uttered.

“You are wrong,” theContemplatorput in a word. “The lore of ages enshrine stories about the saints who could come clear of the ground to hang in the air.”

“Your lore?” the Rhetorsmiled ironically.

“At least, we have them.”

“Brothers, this is not a time for contention. Let us be patient to each other. Please, go on.”

The Scriber nodded to the Chairman with respect.

“The Stranger flew with no devices, unlike science-fiction films, he not wings sprout.”

“Who could see that?” theRhetorintruded.

“Hundreds of people saw.”

“What about you?” the young man couldnot keep quiet.

“No.”

“This is a legend then.”

“Have you seen the God?” the teller flared up.

“No, but I believe in Him.”

“Following your logic, belief is insufficient. He must be seen in your own eyes.”

“Well, for goodness’ sake! One cannot have trust in everything,” theRhetormade a helpless gesture.

“Please, calm down,”the Chairman addressed to the young polemist. “No need to interrupt anybody.”

“Sorry,” the offended theologian grumbled.

“Please, tell us about the Stranger more,” the old man asked the Scriber.

“The citizens went off their heads, they were ready to tear to pieces everybody if only to stop horror, but they believed that the Stranger would bring redemption. I stood on the square personally to see and hear that man. I have never felt anything like that,” the Scriber stopped speaking collecting his thoughts. “It’s not the words, it’s power of those words. The words entered the heart. The glaze of fear and madness fading away, we apprehended clearly our deeds, which made us ashamed. Then the Stranger went,” the teller stop speaking with a wince. “In the night time, he appeared on the square again to clash with a so-called Friend, a false prophet taken for a great one. A battle of images took place. They were looking at each other uninterruptedly. The Stranger was turning pale dizzily, but outstood, while the false prophet fell dead. The winner sat down on the ground to fall unconscious. The crowd was startled. After a while, we woke out of trance, fear passed off, people came to senses, they were crying, delighted…”

“The Stranger survived, didn’t he?” theContemplatorasked with acute fascination.

“Ah… yeah, sorry,” the teller gave a start smiling guiltily. “He was taken to a hospital. Nobody knows where he is now. Everybody forgot him except for some devotees.”

There was a silence in the hall.

“By the way,” theRhetorstarted up. “You said that the Stranger felt unconscious. Perhaps, he died?”

“I don’t think so,” the Scriber drawled.

“I believe, to find the Stranger makes sense. Above all, look for any information on ‘the others’ in holly books. I must confess, with hand on heart, I do not have a definite opinion on this matter. However, our task of prime importance is not to build our personal opinion, but to find the truth.”

“What if we could not arrive at a common view?” theRhetorasked cautiously.

The Chairman said nothing. He was bored enough with that young Johnny-come-lately, but what are you to do – times have changed, such people cannot be ignored anyway.

“Maybe,” the Scriber responded. “One able to judge right will be awarded, while a looser is at risk to lose everything. We stand a better chance of success if acting together. You are very young and ambitious. You can use skillfully the latest achievements in marketing and psychology, scoring points apace. Don’t take it unkindly, there is a good few prophets in our community as well who do not shy away from any means while competing for the flock.”

“While you have come in nowhere. You neglect logic and up-to-date knowledge,” theRhetorrose voice.

“I have a proposal,” the Contemplator noticed the old man’s placating gesture. “I’m sure, everyone has heard about the Seer. I know, all of you,” he was silent for a while, “are not very fond of him, however, he can find the Stranger. All we need is to pay him.”

“No way. This will hurt our authority. The servants of the God oughtn’t to appeal to fortune-tellers,” theRhetorretorted.

“It’s up to you. If recompense for our sins is imminent, we must accept this,” the Contemplatorkept on telling his beads.

“Generally, we can address to him through an intermediary,” the Scriber paused.

“Do you believe that the Seer is able to find this man?” theRhetorasked incredulously.

 

“He is capable of many things,” the Chairman confirmed. “His power is not given by the God, however, he is a human being, and therefore, our brother. There were many seers, and now, he is not the only one, still the best known, and probably, the best gifted of them. By the way, we can compare stories told by several foretellers. So long as they neither use magic rituals, nor offer sacrifices, or trance. Remember the ancient tsar who came to a witch. He did get the answer, but did that helped him? Didn’t he replenish the list of his sins with one more? Didn’t he intrude upon the forbidden area, the world of the dead, which persecutes those who contacted them at least once? The Seer neither communicates with the dead, nor usesmagic. His eyes and ears are open. He is just a contactee. We have our own structures and resources to search, but we must act promptly and efficiently. Thank you for receiving the invitation and honored this austere shrine with your presence. By the Grace of God, we will meet again soon to gift each other with good tidings…”

The guests broke up. The Chairman was not contented with the talk with his spiritual opponents. In his mind, doubts were built up like brick walls.

‘The patriarchs were opposed to collaboration, but what are you to do – the time dictates terms. Priests put fashionable clothes on, some of them speak criminal jargon to make sermon understandable. They try to please the public, do not lift voice against governmental decisions inconsistent with our belief, and repudiate sins and crimes committed by priesthood in the past centuries. They thump their chest in public knowing nothing about that awful time: “If we had lived in the days of our Fathers, we would have acted otherwise.” We are neither the sliver of light nor shining beacon for those wandering in the dark of labyrinths of the world any more, while the secular part of the population look at us with stern intensity. The laity hesitates and doubts the previous postulates of belief. And now, when the entire religious system stands on the brink of a precipice, hope for revenge has glimmered at last. A chance to put the clock back, restore the majesty bygone, and worship the God has appeared.’

The Chairman felt unexplainable fear.’Who knows, whether the enemies, even the past ones, want to collaborate, or they make use of the important information in their religious struggle for new flock. However, the meeting was not useless, the Scriber told us about the Stranger, who might be the only true witness.’

Chapter 2.  The Unknown

He entered the house without taking off his sandals covered with sand and dust, and sat down into an armchair.

“Honey, how’s the ocean?” he heard аwoman’s voice. “I’ve made a dinner – everything that you love.”

“Believe it or not, the ocean is still here though the local people have light fingers,” he answered. “Do we have wine or beer for dinner?”

“The beer, of course, it is the seafood after all,” she smiled and hug him. “I am in high spirits today.”

“Everyone in this country has high spirits.”

“Don’t be a dull fish. Who cares,” she shrugged her shoulders. “They find their joy in the ‘happy grass’, you – in sport, books, and ocean. My joy is love and independence. To each their own.”

“At least, you have a reason to be happy, though it’s an imaginary joy. But the locals look as if they didnot see their troubles because their minds are besotted. Take the drugs off them, and what will be? They will toss and smash up everything, hang themselves or others. What are the real they? Happy and giggly with the drug, or aggressive and depressed without it? Who is to profit by keeping them poor, dark and woozy?”

“Please, stay in your lane,” the girl begged. “We do not mess with them and they do not mess with us. What else could you ask for?”

“You can’t understand. I feel choky here. I need to go to the City. Perhaps, I can recall the days that escaped me.”

“I have forgotten the years, and you would like to recall the days?»  the girl swag off a glass of beer and poured another one.

“Don’t play cunning, you know that those are the most important days of my life. I met you, the Seer, the Medium, and somehow I found myself in the City hospital. Why does the Seer patronize us? What have I done for him?” the man reached for his glass.

“The Seer forbade talking to you about it. He thinks that it is too dangerous for your mind,” she looked in his eyes tiredly.

“Thanks for the dinner,” the Stranger rose from the table.

“But you haven’t eaten anything. Please, sit with me,” she asked plaintively.

“I am sorry, I can’t,” he bent down and kissed her in the cheek.

She whirled upward, looked at the dinner cooked with such care.

“You do not respect me totally and hold cheap everything. You live like in paradise here.”

He turned back and spoke in a low voice,

“This is a shitty paradise for the tourists. If you are a money-bag, you are a master, wave a hand, and all the services at your disposal. You overtop the others because you were born ten centimeters taller than the aborigines. You eat and drink at the restaurants, dance on the discos with the tawny beauties covered with two strings. You roll along in the car while the others walk in bare feet on the incandescent asphalt under the hot sun. I cannot live like this.”

“Why don’t you go and give everything to the beggars? This house can become a home for thirty children. Sell the car, and this money can tide a large family over the rest of their lives. But you do enjoy your life! You reread the same books multiple times, stroll along the shore and speak with the ocean. I will not be surprised if it answers you! As for me, at least, I do something – I am taking care of the whole house, I made myself useful,” the girl’s eyes scintillated.

“Good of you, you pay to the cleaner on time. I decided to leave, this paradise is not for me, I feel a trouble is brewing up,” he kept silent for a while as if listening to something. “The ocean is angry.”

“You scare me,” the girl moved back nervously. “And we are not going to leave this place!”

“You undertake too much, woman,” he shook his head and went out to the street resting from the scorching day heat.

The scenes like that have become more often in these latter days but today the Bird went the limit and managed to destabilize his dispassionate detachment. He did not remember how he met that beautiful young girl. The Stranger barely talked for a long time after the Seer sent them to the isles, and she took care of him patiently and reverently. She claimed that she loved him and he just gazed at her and kept silent.

She was a perfect company due to her amazing ability to listen without interrupting and agree in everything. He was never to feel the erotic love to her. Despite all the tries, the hot girl did not manage to light the flame of desire in him. She was annoyed to realize her failure but kept trying to obtain his heart, she even turned to the local shamans and got the love potion for him. All in vain.

The Stranger regretted that he could not refrain from the needless emotions. He had a beautiful woman who made him comfortable and who asked just a little emotional warmth and care in exchange. Still the Stranger saw and felt that he made a mistake by living with an uncongenial woman. The lack of understanding in the relationships does not and even does not anneal the soul but destroys it.

He got tired from the totally meaningless life, though it was really comfortable. At the same time, he realized that not only the islanders but the most inhabitants of the advanced countries will gladly switch places with him. His life was a dream of everyone – the ocean, the sun, the amazing nature, fruits and cocktails, fishing and ocean cruises. By his convictions, the Stranger was not an ascetic – a man is not born to suffer – but the poverty of the locals pressed heavily on him.

His own idleness sat upon him as well. The Web was prohibited on the isles, there were only a few books, the Seer has sent some, but it was not enough for his inquiring mind. On the first year, he took an active interest in the religion and the cults of the aborigines. Up to the present day, they prostrated before the painted statues and pictures, span two times by seeing a place of worship, kissed the horseshoes attached to the doors, thus spreading the diseases. They believed in gods who were no different from humans in their passions, knew different crafts, were able to fly and got the devastating weapons just like the ‘advanced’ contemporaries. The priests deceived the naïve people hooking them on the ‘happy grass’ that was cultivated on the preachers’ own lands.

There were the disciples of the Prince on the island but his teachings had mixed with the local believes so hard that it turned into the idolatry. That fact pushed the Stranger off his potential spiritual brothers.

The only thing that interested him was the ancient martial art. The Stranger took lessons from the best teachers in the most famous club of the country. He believed that this activity strengthened the character and did not allow becoming a lazy dumb animal, though deep inside he felt that there was one more reason for that hobby. The trainings were exhausting, painful and dangerous. He never took part in the competitions and never challenged anyone but every fighter felt it his duty to teach a big-shot idler a lesson. Though eventually seeing his contempt for danger and refusal to hit face of the opponent (he preferred clenches and sweeps) as well as amazing intuition regarding the actions of the opponent, the teachers and students developed respect to him.

Despite all the Stranger’s requests and prohibitions, the novices prostrated upon seeing them considering him the saint. Then he started to bow as well, thus baffled the ignorant men completely as it was impossible to explain to them that he thinks all the men are equal irrespective of their position and talents, and there is no supreme or inferior race, there is no first or second quality.

 

After an argument with a woman, he unconsciously went to the drill hall smelling with sweat and adrenalin. He took off his shoes and started the warm-up, but suddenly he felt a gaze upon himself and turned: an unknown man stared at him. The Wind covered him abruptly, not gradually as usual, it squeezed his head slightly, flew over the shoulders and moved down to his palms. The thoughts disappeared, the feelings became sharp, and he realized that he had met that man once.

The guest had robust and flexile musculature. There were some scars left from fragment wound on his naked torso, and white stripes left by knife on his arms. Encouraging the fighters, the unknown spoke the international language with an extremely familiar accent that made the Stranger shiver. The local champion, heavyweight, appraised the combat skills of the unknown by his slightly arrogant and patronizing look, and did not allow the less experienced fighters to participate.

They approached each other slowly in a circle, closer and closer, within a leg’s kick. The champion moved his shoulders, suddenly jumped and gave a straight blow with a fist. The unknown dodged easily by slightly turning his body and synchronically with the punch of the attacker beaked his nose with clasped fingers. In a moment, the champion started bleeding. He attacked the opponent fiercely trying to grab his legs and stretch him on the plank floor. But he squirmed, got down a little and hooked the champion’s neck with his elbow. The local fighter fell down, after a while he got up with the help of the fellows and perplexedly bit his lip with pain and offence for the fight lost so quickly.

“Anybody else?” the guest pointed with his finger to each fighter and stopped on the Stranger. “Maybe you? Don’t be afraid.”

The old teacher tried to stop his student but he just shook his head. The hall held breath. The silence fell broken by the creaks of the boards only. The opponents approached. They looked at each other, and one of them was filling with confidence and the other weakened.

“Is it you, Stranger?” the unknown said in the jaded voice with his mother tongue.

“How do you know who I am?”

“Don’t you remember me?” the recent opponent was surprised.

“We have to talk,” the Stranger demanded and without saying a word left the drill hall. The unknown followed him without more ado.

They sat on the ocean shore for a long time listening to the play of the waves.

 

Chapter 3. The Task

Lately, the Seer had been suffering from almost the constant pains in his leg. The anodynes helped for a short period only, but he rejected the operative intervention indignantly as he was scared to death by the very thought of the surgery under general anesthesia.

He was waiting for guests today and prepared himself for work. The Seer stopped receiving callers a long time ago, but made an exception for these ones. Very serious people. They have found him through one of the top public officials. Alas, somebody had thought hard and pressed the correct keys, that is why he is smoking the third cigarette at a stretch impairs his health and prepares to perform a seemingly common task. Anyway, the money wouldn’t go amiss, particularly earned by his favorite activity – searching the missing people. Still, the Seer felt uneasy, apparently, it was referred to some important and thus shady business, for the fee promised was fabulous indeed.

‘It is time, they are here,’ the Seer stood up and entered the house bearing on his strong stick. The guests waited for him in the drawing room.

After a polite greeting, he led the way to the parlor and proposed them comfy armchairs in the most reverent words.

“You are very kind,” a silver-haired middle-aged man said. The visitors were trying to maintain natural attitude but they felt ill at ease. The rumor of the infamous Seer, the atmosphere of his gloomy oppressive parlor might have affected the guests as well. The Seer felt as if one of them was praying but he preferred not to read his mind so that not to expend energy to the idle curiosity.

The visitor pulled out a tight greysealed envelope from the inside pocket of his jacket, put it down before the Seer and said in a slightly shivered voice,

“Could you specify what is in the envelope without opening it?”

“Do you want to test my abilities?” the host kindled. “I always mean what I say and I never err.”

“We are sorry,” the silver-haired said politely but crisply. “This is no laughing. We have never worked with you before, and we have no habit of believing the rumors.”

The Seer took a deep breath, stared at the strong envelope, and closed his eyes. He saw the lines of arectangle almost instantly.

“A black andwhite picture, a man.”

The visitors looked at each other meaningfully.

“Correct. How does this person look like?”

With his eyes still closed, the Seer glided his hand over the thick paper and answered,

“A man, long hair, beard to the chest, dark clothes.”

“Is he alive?” the guest asked carefully.

The telepath placed the palm over the envelope again, the photo had warm aura but at the same time, a sense of alert appeared.

“He is alive, but probably not for long.”

“Where is he?” the next question sounded suavely and soft.

The Seer’s face became hard and concentrated.

“Far… Far from here. A lot of water. The water is everywhere. Waves, giant waves,” he spoke jerky. “A life of a male, cakes and ale,” he covered his eyes with palms and smiled ironically. “Aleggy blonde in a short skirt is near him. Music, broken rhythm, dancing, hips wiggling, cocktails. The smell is sweet and sour, a bit mawkish, it is everywhere, everywhere,” the Seer gripped his throat and screw up his face. “It is a drug, the grass.”

“Can you specify where it is? Is it an island?”

“Yes. I need to check all the isles,” the Seer answered after blinking for a while.

“There are thousands of them,” the client was surprised.

“It is a big island. Most likely, the drugs are legalized there. I need two days, I’ll check and give you the answer”, the Seer halted. “Excuse me, could you show me the picture?”

The guests looked at each other unequivocally, expressed gratitude dryly and left the house as if they did not notice the request.

The task was not difficult. And it definitely was not worth the money paid. ‘It means they are looking for an extraordinary man but I am not supposed to care about it. The less you know, the more you smile. Only kids can rejoice spontaneously. Though there is one person that can smile like a child. Stop! Stop! Stop!’ the Seer clutched his head. ‘That’s it! Is it?’

He called his secretary who was rather an attractive person in addition to the other skills, and asked to provide him with the list of all the islands where the soft drugs are legalized. Soon, he received a relatively short list. He ran his eyes over it and suddenly turned pale, his heart beating thick. Still hoping for a negative answer, he asked: ‘Is it him?’

The clients went to another foreteller, less famous but rather talented. She lived in a small apartment, had no servants and worked at a reasonable price. She specialized on searching the missing people, and the clients hoped to obtain more detailed information about the object.

The walls of the parlor where the foreteller received callers were covered with pictures depicting saints. Though in the past, those saints burned and lapidated people of her kind, now it seemed that they gathered so that to help the extrasensory to find a missing person.

She was also given a sealed envelope, and she was not pleased with the test as well. As a rule, people who asked for help pinned faith on the foreteller, grasping at a straw. However, the clients had already transferred the prepayment.

She smoked, lit a candle, whispered a prayer, drowning into a trance gradually but never missing to flip the ash straight to the ashtray. finished the cigarette she put her palm on the envelope, her face got hard, eyes darkened. The visitors, who have been watching this show indifferently, even with a grin, drew themselves together and got a bit nervous. The atmosphere got tense.

“I see him. He is great and terrible. The sword lives in him. It stayed in thescabbard too long and wishes to leave them…” the woman said jerkily and trembled a little. “Look for him in the City. He will return to the City to fight the evil… the falcon fights the goat…” her eyes became insane for a moment, the sense left them. “Enough. I can do no more. You may leave the rest of money to you. I do not want to deal with him.”

“Here is your money,” the client passed another envelope to her. She opened it carefully, pulled out a black and white picture of the long-haired man with a beard and looked at the guest in surprise.

“It is ok. We are sorry for the silly joke. Your money is on the table in the envelope that you were conjuring over. You were of great help to us.”

They left the house.

“Hunter, it’s a codswallop,” the visitor who had been keeping silent all the time addressed to his mate. “You walked her round perfectly. She didn’t feel that there was money in the envelope – not a photo. What a charlatan! But why did you pay her? She failed to find the place where he is at the moment,” it seemed that he was pleased.

“No”, the silver-headed man answered sullenly. “She told a lot. The witch saw him, exactly him. While the Seer described some sort of a playboy. I don’t like the look of it. She said ‘he will return to the City.’ As if she knew that he had already been there and did something significant. By the way, we are to meet another strange person, or better to say – personage. We’ll give her a quiz as well.”

The hostess, a beautiful woman, tall and slender, with high cheekbones and enormous black eyes, grumbled something instead of greeting. The visitors declined the offered coffee politely as her unfriendly look suggested at least spitting to the cup or throwing up apurge if not witched.

She examined the guests for some time. She did not like them, especially the silver-haired man, but a job is a job.

“I am surprised at your visit,” she said after the long silence. “People of your kind do not like the people of my profession and certainly do not ask us for help. Is it an experiment? Or you were put to the wall and had no choice? I see it in your eyes, you are put to the wall,” the woman mentioned with pleasure. “Now I see why the fee is so high. You are paying for the moral damage from interacting with you.”

“We know enough about ourselves. Tell us about this person,” the Hunter put the sealed envelope onto the table.

“I am not supposed to open it. Am I right?”

She sat and started to scrutinize the envelope. She closed her eyes, it seemed that theforeteller was smelling something.

“It smells like bank, no cash, there is a cheque. But I can see something else as well. Strange, I guess I know…” suddenly she stumbled, glanced at the clients from under her eyebrows.

They could hardly suppress their surprise.

“You are right, there is a cheque, your fee, and a photo. We need to know who is on the picture and where we can find that person.”

“Could you leave me the photo, only the photo? I shall work and give you the answer tomorrow.”

The Hunter opened the envelope, pulled out the cheque and tore the photo into two parts. He put the upper part to his pocket and gave the lower one to the woman.

“You do not need to see his face, do you? See you, Medium,” he smiled coldly and left the house, his mate followed him without even saying goodbye to the hostess.

“Bastards,” the woman swore. “Spastic bastards, by no means a photo should be torn. What do they want from you? That’s a bad sign.”

 

The clients decided to stroll discussing their meeting with the foretellers.

“What would you say?” the Hunter asked his mate.

“I believe the Researchers were right to find, catch and execute people like these. It is not possible for a man to see through the veil, unless he is a prophet or a saint. And the servants of the Adversary  have the transcendent capacities, it is one of the characteristics that help to distinguish them.”

“There is nothing special in these abilities, a common atavism.”

“Then why are there no people like these among us?”

“You do not welcome them. Still, I guess, many can see but prefer to hide it,” the Hunter smiled ironically.

 

Chapter 4. New Forms

“How have you revived?” the Strangerasked. He seemed to hardly believe his old acquaintance.

“I came to life in the cave… I have a deem recollection of some shades. Came to, skipped across to the City, to the Medium’s house, but found nobody. Decided to go as far as possible to forget everything. And why are you here?”

“The Seer has brought us here.”

“A nice place. Your girlfriend can be as happy as a goosey girlwith legal grass. By the way, have you drunken wine with her from the same drinking cup?”

“I prefer water,” the Stranger answered indifferently.

“Can those like you live with a woman out of wedlock?”

“Wedlock is a code of rights and duties. Unless rules are observed, marriage will break down, or bring misfortune. We rely on family as on stronghold, a castle, but I do not like this. Whenever the horn sounds, I’m back in rotation.

I would like to stay with you,

Just to stay with you,

But the high Star in the sky

Invites me to hit the road…

For those leading sedentary life, wedlock is the most convenient form of existence both for upbringing children, and for control of passions. However, modern society has ed ancient rules by releasing a man from responsibility for his wife as for his property, thus giving freedom to a woman…”

“But in the days of yore, slaves,hetaeras, and prostitutes existed as well,” the Soldier interrupted the companion. “Intrigues with married women were on easy street despite severe religious bans.”

“Now, the forms of relations between man and woman are new and more convenient. As you can see, I’m a quite contemporary person,” the Stranger gave a sigh.

“But what about love?” his vis-à-vis has a mischievous twinkle in the eyes.

The Stranger smiled and uttered,

“The sky is huge, but I cannot breath

There is nothing to chase after, but I have to run,

And I forget what I came for to this world.

This is love, my friend. One mustn’t build relationships on such a brittle foundation,” and he poked the companion in the ribs not budging him even slightly.

“Maybe, everything has come to an end for us? It’s time to unsaddle horses and choose the right and comfortable form of existence, isn’t it?” the Soldier suggested.

The Stranger shook his head negatively.

“I don’t know why I’m walking over the ground.

It would be simple for me to fly off.”

“By the way, they said, you can fly. It would be interesting to look at this.”

“Is everything you told me aboutmyselftrue?”

“I cannot tell a lie.”

 

Chapter 5. The Plankton

Dial tones. She hung up, walking about the room nervously. In a minute, the callback sounded.

“He is searched after,” the Medium flung off ignoring conventional greeting.

“I see, they visited you too. Serious guys. Come at once. I’m waiting…”

Shortly after that, she was sitting at the Seer’s telling him about the meeting in detail.

“I saw their aura. One of them is dangerous, for him, to kill a person is as easy as to smoke a cigarette for me,” the Medium pressed the stub in the ashtray abruptly.

The Seer closed his eye for an instant.

“You are rather right. But what has aura to do with this? Anyway, you use your own methods inaccessible for me,” he gave a wave of the hand. “They are the soldiers from the very powerful and rich religious community. I did not know whom were they looking for, otherwise I would have denied doing that to them. You know, I have made decent money out of our friend.»

“Do you recognize this?” the Medium offered the torn picture to the Seer.

“Yes. This ill-fated picture it all started with. The past always comes up with. Sooner or later, the Stranger will learn that he had destroyed the Adversary`s servant to continue killing.Weapon felt the smell of blood, nobody can stop it now,” the Seer made a reach for a cigarette.

“Have you forgotten what he did for the dwellers of the City?” the Medium was irritated.

“You cannot understand because you can see bubbles on the surface only, but cannot see the cause. Time passed, I have gained insight into many things. Do you know, what plankton is?”

“In general.”

“Plankton consists of animals and plants small abilities to move independently. They move passively, carried by sea currents or wind. Unless eaten out, plankton will overfill seas and oceans. Without predators, nice weed-eaters will gobble up all plants, which will cause epidemics.”

“Where does it concern the Stranger?” the Medium grew suspicious.

“Let’s say, there are two groups, Predators and Liquidators. The first group waits patiently for the plankton to overspread, to gather a rich crop. While the other one tries to keep a delicate balance to escape pandemic death. The Liquidator, or so-called, Exterminator I faced in the City, is from the second group. The Stranger hindered him. Most likely, the Liquidator was not able to push the matter through, nor did he shake the City.

Our friend was called to the City by the Predators. They made obstacles for him to become more confident and stronger. They prepared him for the meeting with their competitors, the Liquidators. They trapped him by making believe in his sense of been chosen, but failed. seen that he didn’t need the crown, they made up their minds to kill him.

In essence, the Stranger did his part, that is, he paved the way for their representative possessing eyes of a snake. He had to die under these eyes like his friend, the Soldier, thus strengthening the status of that Friend of People. However, for some mystique reason, the Stranger won. Perhaps, somebody helped him, reinforced… There is someone else, another player, but I cannot seehim,” the Seer sighed helplessly.

“Isn’t the Wind a weapon? Why did he have to lose the battle?”

“Of course, the Wind is a weapon, but the Stranger needs a very solid reason to stick a sword and turn it through. There was the reason though. I was not able to plumb the mystery. Who did the Hermit look for? Why did he come to the City? Can he be deceived as well?”

“Tell me, why the Exterminator yield to the Stranger? Left him unscathed, and left the City at all without fulfilling the task.”

“I was pondering over this and have arrived at a strange conclusion. Perhaps, the Exterminator caught the wind of the like, or someone who must not be hurt. The City cannot carry double. It would be over the top. Or, maybe, he wanted the Stranger to end with the Snake. I cannot spy into these non-earthly deals, and, frankly speaking, I’m afraid to…”

«So, let us leave the Stranger to decide how tolive.We won’tbetray him,” the Medium was grimly determined. “Or, maybe, you have told them where he is?”

“I put it on hold, but have to name the island in a day or two. We can send them to any other place, though my reputation will suffer. They will comb all islands and find him without my assistance anyway. Rather, the question is what do they need him for? I know that there is no intention to kill him. He doesn’t interfere with them.”

“Maybe, they think him to know something important?”

“But he remembers nothing,” the Seer took thought. “Then again, how should they know about his amnesia? Suppose, they want to draw something out of him. But which reason could force them take an unprecedented measure, I mean, to apply to people like us? Something out of the common only. I will find out. You will stay here for a while. Live at mine as if a state of siege was proclaimed. I will talk to the Stranger, if he agrees to meet with them, we shall disclose his address. Unless he does…”

“But you know perfectly that he will seize on any chance to get wind of those events,” the Medium interrupted discontentedly. “What if anything goes wrong? After all, they are very dangerous. The grey-haired man is directly associated with secret services. Here, at your home, our friend will be secured. Enough wasting life with that…” she stopped short for a while fumbling for the right word, but gave up. “Let him come back home.”

“You love him,” the Seer smiled grimly.

“Well what of it? You love me, and he  loves that…” the woman stopped short again.

“And what about her?” his voice rattled with sarcasm.

“She will never understand him,” the Medium gave a sigh. “He cannot be with her. He is sleeping with her, interchange of information takes place, comprehension of the inner spiritual world of each other. Sex is not only impregnation or pleasure – this is interaction. She is a bad influence on him.”

“The Bird went through the Tunnel of Death with him.»

“Because she is a goose!” the woman burnt up. “She was not aware of danger; she could die, or kill him by inadvertency.”

“Maybe, much of what you say is true, but there is a thing you go wrong with for sure,” the Seer made a pregnant pause. “He does not love her.”

The Medium raised the eyebrow, but said nothing.

Chapter 6. Heaven and Hell

The security enabled the remote control to open the gates, the comrades walked over the parkway and sat down on the bench in front of the house.

The Soldier whistled, “Sitting pretty. I have bought a little house on the island next door. Living with a nice girl. She is good, tidying the house, cooking, and in any case… Only that she is keeping silent all the time, looking pitifully with her enormous eyes, and afraid of being given the wind. Foreigners exchange servants often so as not to get used to each other, or just for the sake of new impressions. I’m going to leave my hut for her. Let it be at least one person made happy through me.”

“Yes,” the Stranger dropped eyes. “And there is nothing to be changed. Values have been turned upside down, the beggary and people of different castes sneered at, while the rich facing servile obedience. Lust is unlimited. Many already cannot be satisfied with common coitus, they find new forms to die from experiments. Handsome boys and pretty girls are just the goods for pleasuring rich bastards. Worshipof images, sacrificial offering, and magic are going strong. This country went through rough times, but much bitterer miseries are reserved for it. I’m sorry for people, but theybear and hope that their dreams will come true next life. Belief in reincarnation stops them from getting mad. The less rich men, the more poor ones from year to year – arithmetic is simple.”

“They are restrained not only by abstract teaching, but also by fear,” the Soldier did not agree. “They are afraid of policemen. I saw a peace officer beating a bus driver for overspeeding – the driver had no money for a bribe. Slaughtered, he was smiling guiltily with his mouth full of blood, contented that he did not have to pay. They need‘happy grass’, not religion, to forget themselves.”

“I’m tired. I cannot help the miserable, but feel absolutely done in when looking at that,” the Stranger said.

“Why?” the Soldier took a deep breath. “Isn’t this a paradise as all religions depict it? You are the chosen one, you have everything, with any pleasures at your disposal. Beautiful view, salty ocean air, soft sand, big cozy house, heavenly fruits. Are you distressed for aborigines suffering? I can calm you down. They are sinner, because they’re freaks, worshipers of idols, drug addicts, and other evil spirits. There now, you are with the heaven, and they are with the hell. Fair play.”

“I do not accept the doctrine of idle paradise, nor did I enjoy the tortures of the damned, but the God is far better than me,” the Stranger remarked. “Well, let’s go to the house.”

 

“Honey, who are you talking to? Do we have visitors?” the Bird was going downstairs wearing briefs, which exhibited her long sunburnt legs. Standing for a moment, she muttered,

“Sakes alive! Am I junked up?”

“I’m gathering, you have met. Don’t even think of telling stories,” the Stranger uttered strictly.

“I don’t know. He resembles our friend. But he was killed!” the girl poured some juice into the glass and drank it out.

The Soldier rubbed the unshaven cheek and asked sweetly,

“Should I remind you of our meeting?”

Tears welled in her eyes. She put slowly the glass on the table and rushed upstairs. The Stranger followed her with his eyes and fixed the Soldier with a stare.

“I believe you. You don’t need telling a lie.”

“Do not judge her. I have changed, indeed. I’ll go home to settle some affairs, and come back in a few days. And you and…” he nodded towards the spiral staircase, “have a talk, but not about departure. No need to see me off.”

The Stranger hotly shook the sweepinglyofferedhand, and the guest left the house whistling a song.

Chapter 7.  Not new, but anew

The Medium looked rested and even respired, which had happened to her seldom lately. Her long black hair was fresh after shower, sparkling under the rising sun. The Seer, in contrast, was anxious and gloomy.

“You were up all night, right? Look shaky.”

“The Bird has called. The old friend of ours has risen from the dead,” the Seer made a sad attempt to smile.

“Didn’t catch that,” the Medium’s voice fed. “Whom do you mean?”

The telepath looked at her tensely.

“That cannot be true. He died, he was killed. We saw that with own eyes live on television,” the Medium looked at the Seer incredulously.

“We did not burry him. However, I’m not sure that it was he who visited our friend. It could happen that anyone at all conceived to play with him. And the Bird doubts. I’m sure that if the Soldier rose again, the Stranger will learn about himself everything they need.”

“Who arethey?”

“Don’t know just yet. He wants to come back, the Bird is against, of course, but he is irrepressible.”

“Let her stay alone,” the Medium uttered coldly.

“It is one trouble on top of another,” the Seer screw up face. “Dangerous guests visited us. At the same time, the Soldier appeared well in advance of our clients. Something has been devised over there,” he curved the eyebrow. “Can this be a new turn, but much steeper this time?”

“Not new but anew…” I’m afraid not of the Soldier who has revived, but of those looking for the Stranger. Hope, we haven’t framed him up. The clientsare to bring a cheque in exchange for information,” the woman said low.

“You won’t meet with them. I’ll pay the lost money,” the Seer was apparently troubled.

“Who takes money for a friend? I’m indifferent to them,” the woman gave a snot of contempt. “I’m coming home.”

“Look,” he took her hand. “They are really dangerous. They will never lay a finger on me, but only because they know that I can keep mouth tight shut.”

“Then why have you given the Stranger to them, if they are so dangerous?” tears of despair welled in her eyes. She bit her lip, but failed to hold in and cried low.

 

Chapter 8. The Cell

“We mustn’t stay here,” the Stranger tried and failed to convict the Bird. “Trouble comes to this place.”

“I won’t go,” the girl stood firm.

“Won’t you follow me?” he looked in her eyes.

“No. But you shouldn’t go either. Things are going well here, and bad there. What else could you ask for? Can’t make it out.”

“The Soldier told me about the tunnel. Can it be true? You fought out a storm, but failed to endure no wind. I’m sorry.

 

Your eyes had reflected fires of the past.

But now, just scattered light of a lamp…

Something walks past to make you feel ill at ease.

A new day is done, but without you…»

 

The Stranger made for the coast along the twisting road. It will take a little more than an hour for the air of the ocean to pump the lungs.
The Bird was pacing a room nervously; then, she poured wine, drank it at one draught, did a twirl before the mirror, and, after hesitating a little, dialed a number.

“I agree…”

Hardly had the Stranger reached the beach, when he heard an alarm sound – two cars stood in the way of him. He stared at the officers and short assault rifles and big guns pointedat him. Saying “you are under arrest,” the police officers put plastic bracelets on his wrists behind his back.

“What’s up?” despite anxiety andseverepain of squeezed skin,theStranger kept self-control.

“You will be explained later.”

They opened the door for him and tilted his head not to bump against the flank, because a person with his hands behind his back, hand-eye coordination is impaired. The police officers permeated with the smell of sweetish smokesandwiched him tightly.

Shortly, the Stranger was at the police station, with the bracelets opened with cutters, his wrists bearing livid marks. He was printed and taken to an investigator’s chamber. After formal questions asked, the detainee inquired about the cause of arrest.

“You have beaten your cohabiting partner. At least, she asserts so.”

He could not conceal surprise.

“I need face-to-face. I’ll prove my faultlessness.”

“If you doyour woman will go to prison, perjury is strictly punishable, while beating will entail just reprimand, a fine, or suspended sentence,” the investigator’s eyes look at the Stranger compassionately. “You won’t fail her, will you?”

“Sure, but I am not going towitness against myself either. You had rather to close the case,” he looked around, saw a blinking red point, and looked at it expressively. The investigator grinned, found the remote control, and switch the camera off.

“They have already paid me. In particular, for kindly treatment of you. Don’t worry. Tomorrow, you will appear in court, go bail, and be released on pledge not to leave the town.”

Some years ago, the Stranger spent a year in a one-man cell, but the previous one was incomparably more comfortable. ‘Déjà vu,’ he whispered stretching himself out on the hard board bed. A concrete box with no window. An artificial lamp. He was short of breath. He dropped with sweat. He wanted to drink very much, and saw two buckets, one of them third full with water, the other one half-full. ‘I would better not drink at all than drink dirty water.’

He tried to fall asleep, but his mind was racing, thoughts changing one another. Hardly had he closed his eyes, when phantoms appeared as dim images of some flying machines and jumping creatures. Half-awake, he heard an unpleasant sound over his head like buzzing of a dental drill. The noise was toning up approaching the man. The Stranger tried to escape stupor. ‘Wake up, wake up,’ he ingeminated. ‘You must open your eyes.’ But some insurmountable force stopped him from throwing off shackles. Suddenly, he felt being sucked in a funnel. Fear froze his throat. It seemed to him that he would leave his body full soon. For a moment, he was wonder what will happen later, but his inner voice repeated, ‘Do not give in.’

The Stranger felt death looking like a black thundercloud slowly, yet steadily covering the sky. He was out of breath as if his head were covered with a thick blanket, which could not be shaken off. ‘No! No! No!’ he groaned and opened his eyes by incredible force of will, or he dreamed that he could. Here, he saw a complex mechanism equipped with many elements and pipes. The Stranger stood up abruptly, completely awaken, but the phantom disappeared. His head was in a bath of cold sweat, his heavy head swimming, his heart beating madly, hands trembling. He took a deep breath, kept air in his lungs for a while, breathed out slowly, and cleared throat. He was breathing long until recovered himself completely, and made up his mind not to sleep any more. It seemed to him that if he falls asleep, the nightmare would recur. The Stranger sprawled on the floor to pray passionately. He saw the trash of the recent idle years falling off. His heart becomes calm, light, and high. In that stuffy and dirty one-man cell, suddenly, he felt happy. Dim recollections, dreams, and stories told by the Soldier were taking shape. He recollected the Enemy’s look, his cadaverous countenance, and his words, ‘I’ll be back not alone…’

The Wind filled him up from head to foot. ‘I shall meet you!’ the Stranger said between teeth.

 

Chapter 9. Sky Lights

The Soldier cohabited with a girl of eighteen, in a small house surrounded by a garden. Four years ago, the parents put her into service of a visiting engineer of an electric station. She did housework, and besides, catered to the whims of the ‘generous’ master, for whom she worked for shelter and food. Sometimes, the good-doer was listening, with tears in his eyes, to pitiful stories about miserable hungry family, and gifted her some bank notes of small denomination. In two years, he drove her out of the house after taking into service a younger house cleaner.

In the evening, when jogging along the seashore, the Soldier saw a girl sitting on the sand and crying bitterly. He approached her, gave his hand, and brought home. He was kind to her, unlike the former master, never raised a hand, and provided back to her family.

He was sitting on the porch when suddenly he saw lights high in the sky. The flashes were approaching in a zigzag way, changing colors thus breaking the laws of thermodynamics. The Soldier sprang to feet to take a good look of skylines of the bright triangles. One of them, burning with white dense light, hovered for an instant right above him, and, rocketed up, disappeared in the dark sky,with red points left behind, which shortly faded away like smoke. ‘I ought to go to the Stranger. He has got into a mess.’

He waited for a short while peering into the black starry sky. He had every confidence that he should follow the Stranger again. The Soldier considered himself a combatmachine,the one who brought him back to life may need, sooner or later. He was a completely changed man possessing abilities not intrinsicin him before, he could run dozens of kilometers tirelessly, stay under water for a long time, or move at a speed extraordinary even for a well-trained man.

 

Several people were sitting in the parlor, the house secured with armed guard.

“Are your sure that nothing will happen to him?” a young hostess was worried.

“Everything under control. After all, you want him to stay with you, don’t you? He shouldn’t come back to his country, because they will arrest him as a spiritual leader of a dangerous terrorist organization. Warriors of desert were picked off without charge or trial, and to think that they proclaimed the Stranger their Prophet. We just want to speak to him. We would do this easier if he is in prison. Don’t worry, the cell is solitary and replete with every comfort; he will stay there just for a day or two,” a silver-haired man admonished softly.

“If the Seer learns about that, it will go hard for us, but at our worst, if the Soldier, his watchdog, gets wind of his imprisonment,” the Bird warned.

“It’s no use scaring us. By the way, which Soldier? He died three years ago, and we are not afraid of phantoms. We must know all about the Stranger. We will make it worth your while.You will have a princely sum to live happily ever after, on this island or another one in the great ocean self-dependently.”

“You’re rather right. Only promise that you will leave him unscathed.”

“You have my word!” the guest gave an untroubled nod.

The Bird told them about her acquaintance with the Stranger in a roadside café, and about the scuffle with the criminals. When she narrated about the mysterious meeting in the desert, the guests drew tight, exchanged looks, and asked that she would omit no minutest particulars.

“I know little. We were walking at night when saw three silhouettes. The Stranger stopped dead and told me not to look at them.”

“What awful might you see? Did you see weapon with them that scared you?”

“No! They were dressed in black, very high, indeed, and walking somewhat strange, too smoothly, you know.”

“They passed you?”

“I think so. By that instant, I switched off.”

“The Stranger lost consciousness too, right?”

“No,” the girl was filled with indignation. “He carried me to the Hermit.”

When recollecting events of three years ago, the Bird understood that she betrayed the Stranger, however, she pretended to herself that he had better stay in confinement for a few days in a strange land than be imprisoned for many years at home.

 

At the spontaneous meeting held in a hotel, the major question prevailed: “Whether she deserves to be believed?”

“The girl can be most probable believed.  I am aware of some stories. The meeting with mysterious travelers in the desert is of the greatest interest for us.”

“We shouldn’t jump at conclusions,” the Chairman’s authorized attorney tampered with the thread of an argument of the Hunter. “The girl used drugs, and now she sounds as if she didn’t give up the addiction. Maybe, she saw a fata morgana of desert.”

“We don’t know whom they saw. The Stranger could screw up his eyes,” the other Chairman’s representative added. “Why are they ‘the Aliens’? Because of their height? Fear sees danger everywhere. Maybe, they were merely tall people, but reflected in the moonlight, appeared as giants to the girl.”

“Do you agree that the Stranger is the only person to settle our dispute?” the Hunter was irritated a bit, but controlled himself to put on a serene look. ‘I wonder, who is more faithful of us, me, a former agent hired by the Chairman, or these cynic priests?’

“It is not necessarily right,” one of them said. “As long ago as at our first meeting, the woman told us that he had lost reminiscences associated with the City. However, we must meet with him. Except that imprisonment. Cannot you treat witnesses in other way?”

The Hunter bowed with respect.

“Prison is useful for refreshing memory; a person recollects many things, reviews his life, and would be happy to get in touch with anybody. I thinkit is possible that he had pretended to lose his memory to make his life easier by not calling out inquiries. We will help that all comes back to him. The Chairman asked me personally to bring the Stranger to him.”

The priests looked at one another,

“It has been truly stated that in worldly matters, the sons of this world are craftier that the sons of light.”

Chapter 10. Payment for Water

They examined the detainee making no secret of their curiosity and misgiving. A silver-haired man short haircut was the first to speak out.

“We will get you out of here and help going back to your native land.”

“To what do I owe this honor?”

The visitors startled at the Stranger’s iron voice.

“A very important and respected person wants to see you,” the Chairman’s attorney uttered softly.

“You have wasted time plowing with my oxen. You did amiss by playing the poor girl. Go away!” The Stranger felt the Wind clenching his head, he whilst could control anger, however, the guests got off the armchairs trying avoid looking in the prisoner’s eyes, and promptly left the room on bended knee.

The paled Hunter inhaled deeply warm and wet air.

“This is the Stranger. No doubt,” he confirmed.

“You’ve made a sad mess of the affair. What should we report to the Chairman?” the attorney was distressed.

“We’ll come up with something. Don’t worry,” the silver-haired man assured. “There is no escape for him!”

The Stranger was put to the cell again. The door clanked. The investigator came in. He waited for some instants for the prisoner to stand up, but in waste.

“I’ve brought you some water. I’m sorry that we have to hold you in such conditions. The judge took ill, but we cannot release you without his permit.”

“You were given a decent pay. Cost of this hotel accommodation does not include fresh water, toilet and shower, does it?” the Stranger inquired.

“Prison is not a five-star hotel, our conditions are a bit humbler,” the investigator glared unkindly. “And you should sing small.”

“Thanks for water. Want a tip?”

“If you please,” the investigator tilted his head slightly.

“Let me go. It would better for everybody, especially for you.”

“A threat?”

“A warning. This is water money.”

“You have already said thank you. This is more than enough.”

The investigator left the cell wiping off the shaven head with a handkerchief.

The Stranger took a drink, he was keen to drink out the small plastic bottle, but he had to abstain. Heat was exhausting. ‘That’s OK. I shall survive. That’s OK.’

 

At the gates of a prestigious cottage village, two tawny guards wearing snow-white shirts met the Soldier, and when they recognized the Stranger’s friend, they told him about arrest.

“They say, he beat his woman. We don’t believe that. The Messenger is not built that way,” the gatekeeper expressed sincere compassion. They liked the Stranger, because the latter always greeted the guards amiably, presented gifts, and brought fresh water in plastic bottles to displeasure white men.

“Which Messenger?”

“My father was a foreteller, he saw right through people, and gave him that name. The Messenger invited my father, talked to him. Two months ago, we poured water onto my father’s hands begging forgiveness for our sins. The goner asked your friend to build the death pile. Now, the Messenger is in trouble. A white man cannot survive in a local prison,” the guard felt sorry.

“I want to speak to his woman. Let me come in.”

“OK. But I must get a permit from her. How should I introduce you?”

The Soldier paused for an instant.

“Tell her that the Winner has come.”

 

Chapter 11. The Lighter

“What have you done?” the Seer shrieked and sprayed spit to the receiver. “You couldn’t trust them! You see, he is in a local prison, and this slightly differs from the villa you are taking things easy thanks to him! You have several hours to get him out of prison. Pay any money, sell the car, house, whatever, to make him free!”

The Medium, who heard the cries, came running up. She had never seen the Seer in such a heat of passion. He spouted obscenities and spat on the walls.

“What’s happened? Don’t worry,” she embraced him tightly almost hugging to death with her bust.

He held off escaping from her grasp. Calmed down almost at once.

“That bitch has locked him up.”

Gasping, the Medium dropped onto the floor staring at him horror-stuck.

“Don’t you start. I have already given her a good tongue-lashing,” he quieted downsurprisingly fast. “She is stupid, but clever players stand behind her back. I’m sure, that the enterprise was not hers.”

“You mean our clients?” the Medium gave the Seer a level look.

“I guess so. They invented a provocation in their favorite manner, to torture the body to save the soul.”

“They do not care for his soul,” the Medium turned red with anger.

 

The Soldier was standing near the house for some minutes and was about to leap over the fence, but the gates started sliding. He sneaked into a hardly seen opening. Passed the lawnto the verandah. The Bird was waiting, with a gun pointed at the guest.

“It is not right to meet friends like that,” he smiled.

“I’m afraid of you. If you come nearer, I will shoot,” the girl looked at him determined.

“Why have opened the gates?”

“Want to talk.”

“It’s impossible to chat qualitatively at gunpoint. I would have screwed your neck if I wanted to. I have a plenty space for maneuver. By the way, bearing and keeping arms is strictly forbidden in this country. You have already earned a fiver. If you open fire, you are given away, you know. The shooter has no silencer.”

“Who are you?” the Bird got down keeping hold of the arms.

“the gun,” the Soldier demanded.

The girl pointed the gun, the guest grinned. She pulled the trigger, a click sounded. He did not move a muscle.

“I stopped smoking long ago.”

“But I didn’t,” the girl drew off with the lighter gun. “I feel like signing and yowling at the same time.”

“Sing, well then. I’ll listen to you with pleasure,” the new music lover consented and got down to the stairs.

The girl took a jerky eager puff and threw the stub down. Then she brought a guitar, a slow melody sounded.

 

“Summer asked me to let it stay overnight.

The Sun promised to give me heat and light,

Cannot give a treat, the home is empty,

There is nothing there, there is no one there.

 

Only cardboard bears and ill-tempered neighbors,

A promise that a do-gooder will come.

Crying ‘hurray’, bringing goods and chattels,

Giving money for road, and for pick-me-up!”

 

The Bird raised voice,

 

“Burn dying out, my lighter!

I need nothing, I feel sorry for nothing!

Burn dying out, my lighter!

I need nothing, I feel sorry for nothing!

 

Summer came away, winter at the door.

Flying through the window like a X-mas firework.

It will cover houses driving someone mad,

Making fall into leaden sleep.

 

There is a road storing someone’s trace,

Pack of cigarettes, ticket to the alien land.

There are paradise and spring on the alien land.

But either an apostle or policeman awaiting.”

 

The girl’s voice trembled:

 

“Burn dying out, my lighter!

I need nothing, I feel sorry for nothing!

Burn dying out, my lighter!

I need nothing, I feel sorry for nothing!

 

Silence echoes in my ears,

Black corridor ending in white room.

It is not my moon, it is not my spring.

There is nothing in the whole world.

 

Only road dust, only heavy sand.

There is the God hidden heaven-high.

Only road dust, and prophetic spark,

Doing life is as heavy as lead.

 

Burndying out, my lighter!

I need nothing, I feel sorry for nothing!

Burn dying out, my lighter!

I need nothing, I feel sorry for nothing!»

 

Coming to an end of the refrain, the Bird burst crying. The Soldier came up to her and hugged her tight. His T-shirt became wet with the girl’s tears. She was crying long, sobbing and holding tight the old friend. The Soldier was stroking tenderly her blond hair smiling at something personal.

She draw back to look into his impenetrable eyes hiding abyss.

“I didn’t betray your friend. He would have been d a terrorist. We will prove nothing. Those people frightened me very much.”

“Which people?” the Soldier grew suspicious.

“Don’t know. For the first time, they came up to me in a café, said that they knew all about us, and yesterday, they visited me escorted by the armed guard. One of them, our compatriot, looked like a special-service agent. The voice was convincing and silky, while glare was sharp. He said that the Stranger is a spiritual leader of the warriors of desert. You remember them, right?”

“Sure. These guys are outside the law. Then, their prophet is outside the law too. It figures. Only that he remains to be proved linked with them.”

“They explained that the case associated with terrorists needs no evidences, presumption of innocence cancelled.”

“Right! However, nobody needs dirty laundry as well. Why promote the Stranger’s deeds? So, baby, it’s bluff. You have been’milked’.We ought to get our friend right now. You must that you have no claims against your cohabiting partner. Do you have money?” the Soldier looked at her searchingly.

“If need be, I’ll sell the car,” the Bird shot out lightly.

“To close the case is a piece of cake, but money cannot buy these clients. Pack your things.”

 

The investigator met the visitors hospitably, his smile and appearance inviting to private conversation.

“Switch off the camera,” the Soldier pointed with his finger at a small image armed with a spear.

The smile died on the officer’s lips, and he said between his teeth in surprise, “Well, you’re a magician.”

“Not really. The statuette is scratched length and breadth, and mounted to have a good view. Aren’t you afraid of being punished by gods for blasphemy?”

The guest found the remote control, pushed the button, nodded contentedly, and asked the girl for waiting in a corridor.

“Who are you?” the investigator inquired.

“It makes not matter. I want to offer a bargain to you. Let my friend off,” the Soldier wrote down the amount of ransom on a scrap of paper.

“Plus fifty percent more,” the officer consented. “I’ll let him out on pledge not to leave the town. Hurry up, foreigners are not adapted to this heat.”

“OK, but I want to see the stuff,” the Soldier who was well trained to identify fraud, could reveal lying assurances easily. “Otherwise, the deal will fall through. Bring him here. I do not mean to go down to your gas chamber.”

The investigator gave an order without hesitating. The Soldier left the room and whispered something to the Bird. She cast up her thin eyebrows, but coming against his eyes, left the station immediately.

“Where have you sent the girl?” the officer inquired.

“To collect money, the amount is considerable, after all.”

 

Chapter 12. Say Nothing

The five-star (as the management saw it) hotel surrounded by a three-meter high concrete wall carefully cloaked with barbed wire was situated in the city center. The hotel was packed with digital room surveillance cameras that worked online. The system had a special algorithm of turning the cameras on depending on the ‘trouble events’, those might be the words said by the guests, names, appearance of the ‘suspects’. Of course, it was not the aborigines who kept the constant observation over the tourists and the local fat cats in the hotel (which was built by the foreign company).

There were some people in one of the best rooms of the hotel (that surprisingly had no observation system), who reclined on the scattered pillows. Comfortable furniture was of no use here and – which was more important – in contrary with their traditions.

“We cannot let him go,” the Hunter argued. “Just a little more – and he will agree. We need to press on him.”

“We want him to cooperate voluntarily. Your methods are unacceptable for us and, what is more, they are useless. People like these become stronger after trial,” the Chairman’s agent did not agree.

“We could use his girlfriend, he will agree to help us for her,” the local civil servant covering the Hunter’s activity proposed.

“I don’t think so,” the opponent shook his head. “He, who cansacrificehis life, will as wellgivea life of somebody else.”

“What if we let him go?” the civil servant was afraid that the whole story will become public, the foreigner was put to the prison, after all. “Could he agree to your proposal out of sheer joy?”

“No,” the silver-haired answered sharply. “I have met people of his kind already. They start talking in confined circumstances. His will should be neutralized, I have my medkit with me.”

“The Chairman will not applaud these actions.”

“You appear to forget that he asked me and not some sniveler to help you. Our client is a hard nut to crack but we dealt with even more complicated cases. Would you like a story?” the Hunter suggested.

“Do us a favor.”

“It happened two years ago. I was working for the office at that time. The police ran off their legs searching for some guy. The criminal chose commercial banks with no visitors. He approached the cashier, looked them in the eyes and spoke something. He repeated the same words, raising and depressing his voice. Finally, the cashier gave him a tidy sum. And what he did in the jewelry stores! The shop assistants could hardly recall anything. It’s a good thing that the surveillance cameras were everywhere. It is difficult to sue such a person. What article of the criminal code is to be applied? He neither robbed anyone, nor threatened. He asked, and they gave him. We must develop criminal laws for the situations like these. But no, we have no experience – the innocent can be harmed. Your spiritual advisors were right to act against the extrasensory criminals for they knew the score.”

“How did you catch him?”

“It was not easy. He scared us half to death, we ran fast and far. But there were those who could resist his spells. We assailed the house with gas grenades, it is quite difficult to jive them and the little shit crept outlike one o’clock,” the storyteller smiled ironically. “We gave him a couple ofjabs, bled him dry. He told us where the money and the jewels were.”

“What has happened to him then?”

The Hunter said nothing, touched his hair and continued soon:

“Three years ago, I was chasing the Stranger and was about to take him. I don’t know why you need this guy. He’s a dreamer, lives in his own illusory world and does believe that his fairy tale is real. That is why he hardly can be used as a witness but he is indeed as a good hypnotist. I insist – it is not possible to make him talk without special tools. If you need an approval, call the Chairman. If you do not want to foul hands with that, say nothing. You can tell your boss that I used my own discretion without telling you. I shall confirm that. Agree?”

The agent of the Chairman smiled sadly and spouted:

 

“It’s so simple to become rich

It’s so simple to be first

It’s so easy to become a hangman

Just say nothing, say nothing, say nothing!..”

 

“You’ve seen a lot of blood. Cissies,” the Hunter said sardonically.

 

The priest in the civil clothes fetched a deep sigh, “I shall say nothing. God forbid if something will happen to him. I shall not take this sin on me.”

The silver-haired made a reconciling gesture and left the hotel room, he hurried to the foot massage that mitigates fatigue, gives buoyancy and the peace of mind that he was so eager for.

 

Chapter 13. Escape

The Stranger was barely walking; when he was lead through the long stuffy prison corridors, he had to stop constantly, his head was swimming. After being punched in the back again, he looked into the sergeant’s eyes. The guard gave him a fawning smile. However, hardy had the Stranger turned he winced with the strong thrust between the shoulder bones. He had the air knocked out of him for a moment, and could hardly suppress a moan.

The sergeant pushed the prisoner to the office without saying a word and gave a fleer to the investigator and the guest who sat in a carefree pose. The Stranger recognized the newfound friend and heard as if from far away,

“Do you have any complain regarding confinement? Some water maybe? Would you like…”

The officer never finished, the Soldier jumped behind him in a second and interrupted him off mocking word with a kick of the leg to the popliteal curve, and simultaneously pressed a cap to hismouth. He throw his head back and slightly hit his throat with the sharp of the hand. The Stranger checked the sufferer – he was alive, breathing.

The Soldier pulled out a rope, put a loop on the investigator’s wrists, tied his hands tightly, then hefted his head and coiled the rope over his throat, pulled up the tied hands to head, made the officer bend his legs and after tying the ankle-joints finished the ropes behind his back.

He covered his mouthwith the cap, swathed with the adhesive tape and hit at the scared officer who was lying on the belly,

“Where is his passport, crum?”

The policeman squint with fear then opened his eyes slowly and peered at the safe. The Soldier chose the right key unerringly, found the document and winked to the Stranger.

“It’s ok. Let’s get out of here. What a nice country, they have no check system at the exit.”

“As well as at the entrance,” the Stranger mentioned. “Couldn’t we make a bargain? We may get to the prison for a long time now.”

“They wouldn’t let you go,” the Soldier screwed face into a smile. “When a man is deprived of a right, he goes and takes it himself. By the way, your girlfriend was hoodwinked impressively.”

“She  ought to talk to me first but not play by their rules. The humans are given the role they deserve. Someone saves, someone kills. Unfortunately, her soul was not filled with light…”

A sports car stopped near them softly.

“Where are the pursuers?” the young blonde leaned out of the window.

“Do you believe that we can fling off the police on the island?” the Soldier asked. “We are leaving. Are you with us?”

“I’m with you but later. I need to sell everything.”

“It’s dangerous to stay here. You must leave,” the Stranger insisted. “The ocean is angry.”

“You’ve been talking about it for a year. I shall give you a lift to the pier.”

“I’m not sure about the ocean but the investigator is surely not happy. I wish I broke his neck. We should not leave the enemies behind our backs,” the Soldier shook his head.

The Stranger gazed at him, he was about to say something but kept silent.

“You look bad and smell even worse. Why didn’t you take a shower? I was promised something like a hotel. I did it for us,” the Bird explained away.

“There was a time when you were not scared of death, you were ready to die in the desert so that I could continue my journey. What has happened to you? Could it be that people can be people only when they are in trouble and have nothing,” the Stranger said sadly.

She slammed on the brakes.

“How did you know?! I never told about it to anyone!”

“My memory returns. Thank you for the rouse. The adversity is good for the people of my kind. The Godstands behind every trouble.”

“I was saving you!”

“The stones were of no good.”

“What? What did you say? That was what the Hermit said,” the girl was filled with terror.

“The Hermit…Hermit…” the voice of the Stranger shivered. “Here is the pier. Let’s get out.”

The brilliant grey eyes of the Bird rained big teardrops. The girl made a wish: if the Stranger turns back, she will leave everything and run off after him. He never turned.

 

Chapter 14. The Rules of the Game

Time was hanging unbearably heavy. The investigator prayed that someone would enter the room and relieved his pain. Let them laugh, let them even fire him as long as they take the ropes off him.

Someone knocked at the door, the tied officer trembled. Without further invitation, two men entered the room. The Hunter stopped his companion, who rushed to free the police officer, examined the ropes carefully, and his grim disappeared.

“You were lucky that we were the first to come. No one will know about this unpleasant incident,” he promised. “We will help you.”

In a minute, the investigator was sitting on the chair, holding his throat and chinking heavily while trying to swallow the ice-cubes as the Hunter recommended.

“Write down what has happened,” the local civil servant demanded. “And we will send you to the hospital.”

deciphered the scratchy writing made by the trembling officer’s fingers, he interpreted the content of the note.

“Give a command to form a search unit right away! All possible efforts to capture the escaped must be made!” the Hunter demanded in anger.

The police officer flourished arms in protest, took the note off the table and tore it apart.

“He let the arrested escape and let them tie himself. It’s a shame. Most likely, he will destroy the case itself,” the civil servant explained. “We shall find the criminal, but must do that without fuss. We’ll contact the right people to look the country up and down for a reasonable price.”

The Hunter thought to himself for a couple of seconds, inspected the office, threw the idol with the built-in camera to the drawer squeamishly, approached the investigator, and hit him in the throat hardly, then looked at the civil servant severely.

“We have cleared the skirts of the brave police. Now, everyone is to look for the escapees. Did you get that?”

 

That time, the Seer was speaking in a totally calm tone:

“I can do nothing for you. I am really sorry. You will have to everything. Do you hear me – you have to leave. Now.”

The Medium looked at him impatiently and inquiringly.

“The Soldier helped him to escape. By the way, you’ll be pleased to hear that the Stranger has left the poor girl.”

“It’s a natural result, a betrayal cannot be forgiven,” the woman said indifferently.

“Perhaps, but the weakness should be treated with condescension. Don’t be lulled into complacency. The Stranger is in great danger now, that’s why he left her.”

“I am begging you to help him. Call the minister, or maybe the president. You have so many coat tails.”

“I wish I could, but our enemies have more serious patrons. I am helpless here. I do not even want to foretell the situation. But most of all, I am confused by the revived Soldier.”

“I am not sure that it is him. I believe, it is somebody else,” the eyes of the woman getting dark, she gazed into space.

“Stop!” the Seer screamed. “Enough! You must not fall into a trance!”

She shuddered and was ready to burst into tears.

“We are scared of everything. We see a poster ‘Keep out!’ and we keep out. We sit here as if it was a state of siege, and you are glad about it.”

“Of course. I am glad when you are near.”

“I knew from the very beginningwhy you sent him to the faraway isles, gave him that ‘poor’ girl. You were afraid that he would stay with me.”

“I was not afraid. I am a fatalist.”

“You are a smooth manipulator,” the woman stroked his palm.

“I can rarely be happy. Now is one of those moments. I am sitting in a snug house, listening to the noise of the burning wood in the fireplace, holding my beloved woman’s hand.”

The Medium smiled dreamily.

The phone rang again.

“Answer,” the Seer asked querulously. “I don’t want talking to her. Yet, it’s not her.”

He thought to himself for a moment, stood doubtingly. It was an uneasy unpleasant call, but he could do nothing, he had to answer. After saying ‘well, I’ll come’ he stood up and hobbled to the garden to talk to the trees. To pour out his pain and worry to those always ready to listen.

 

The ferry moored to the pier. They went ashore and headed for the house situated a few hundred meters from the ocean. The Soldier shortened the stride, stopped, and said wonderingly,

“That was fast. I’ll go and check. You stay here.”

“No way. We’ll go together.”

The friend hesitated.

“Do you insist?”

The Stranger took the companion by the shoulders and looked him in the eyes.

“The rules of the game? I insist!”

“Let’s go,” the Soldier said gently.

A young girl ran to meet them and fell upon the neck of her benefactor.

He put her aside softly and said in a low voice,

“I left a grant on your name on the table. The house is yours now.”

“They are here. Run,” the girl whispered ignoring the joyful news.

A silver-haired man appeared on the doorstep, went down the stairs and approached the escapees.

“The pattern gave you away. The locals do not tie like that. And there are not much fellow subjectshere.”

“Your girl did not betray us,” the Stranger said and gave him a smack on the shoulder.

“I’m glad too,” he answered leaving out the Hunter.

“It’s great that all we are heretoday,” the ex-agent smiled. “Be cool. You have two options: go with me or turn yourselves in to the police. The last option is not recommended for you will be sentenced to death for killing a police officer.”

The friends exchanged knowing looks.

The Stranger did not hesitate too long.

“Good. I’ll go with you but on two conditions: my woman will be left alone as well as my friend. I will be checking myself everyday if they are safe and sound.”

“I agree,” the agent nodded.

A few people went out of the house and from the backyard.

“Isn’t it too much for two of us?” the Soldier smiled ironically.

“It’s a token of respect,” the Hunter parried. “What’s the problem? We have agreed upon everything.”

“I don’t like being driven into a corner. And my friend will definitely not hold the baby for me. Remember our meeting when I was about to fall into your trap. Remember your people spitting blood. Why stepping on a rake for the second time?” the Soldier’s eyes became cold.

The Hunter scrutinized him.

“It is you, indeed. Nice to see you again,” he said and punchedwith his fist.

The Soldier leaned aside and hit back in a trice. The blow was not seen but heard well. The silver-haired fell down, managed to get to his feet, held the jaw, and moaned with pain.

“A man is unwell!” the Soldier cried and gave him another blow with a knee. The agent fell on his back, his arm behind him.

The fighterslunged at the friends. The Stranger got away from the attack line with a circular movement. Holding an opponent who lost the balance, with one hand over his shoulder and another on his neck, the pacifist laid him low softly and made a warning gesture with his finger.

The Soldier dealt shortly, his fists flied with unbelievable speed. He attacked and at the same time protected his head and liver with the elbows. He moved along the unusual trajectory from side to side, swinging like a pendulum, hitting rapidly, preventing the attacks from the different points. Using the enemies as the shields, he did not allow them to collect themselves thus breaking their attack strategy.

Shortly, everything was over. The Soldier inhaled deeply and caught breath again.

“Why?” the Stranger asked him without tone.

“They were first to start,” the friend shrugged his shoulders. “Everyone is alive. I killed nobody.”

He approached the Hunter, pressed a point below his nose, the poor one opened his eyes, moaned, reached for his holster, the Soldier pulled out the gun, uncharged it, and threw away the magazine.

“What a restless one. Can you hear me? I know you can. Leave us alone, homie. Or…”

The Stranger came up to the paralyzed with terror the Chairman`s agent.

“What does a good man want from a person like me?”

“He just wants to talk. Why did you do that? Why?” and the representative pointed to the dozen of moaning and bleeding people.

“One has to play by the rules,” the Soldier replied. “The time ofiniquity is over. Enough. They will suppress without remorse for if they leave it as it is, it will be the end to all. You do not understand other ways!”

The Stranger looked at the Soldier. Took him by the shoulders.

“Who are you? Tell me!”

“You cannot go with them – they will turn you into a laboratory monkey, disembowel, desiccate, and place to the museum,” the Soldier looked him in the eyes.

“They will find you. They will not be too soft next time. I could help,” the agent of the Chairman was about to beg the Stranger.

“Leave the island now, but first find the Bird and help her to get out of here! You are answerable for her safety, I will not leave a favor unanswered,” the Stranger promised and addressed to his friend: “Let’s go!”

“One call and a couple of things,” the Soldier cried while running.

 

They silently rowed to the nearby island on the fishing boat. The Soldier oared vigorously, the boat racedplowing the waves.

“Are you not a human?” the Stranger broke the silence.

“Do you want to see my blood?” the Soldier answered seriously.

“There is no need to. Tell me, why do you help me!”

“I will,” the companion agreed. “As soon as I bring you to the City.”

“I’m tired. I cannot distinguish dream from reality. Would you believe, I cannot cry anymore,” the Stranger took head in his hands.

“And I learned how to smile, though you say I’m not a human,” the Soldier laughed. “There is a tough road ahead. The Hunter and the locals are going to search for us. And then, to kill me and to swathe you. Luckily, there are as much uninhabited islands here as the inhabited ones. Can we trust the Seer?”

“I hope so,” the Stranger answered.

“He promised to send a small airplane to one of the small islands in three days. I have given him the exact coordinates.”

The Soldier raised the oars, and listened.

“A motor boat! They were too quick to find us. Whoever could help him? Anyway, theoffice has a lot of talents,” he said through his teeth. “I had to kill the agent. Haven’t you forgotten how to swim? There are a lot of sharks and skates here. Please do not touch the corals, you may cut yourself.”

“I’ll do my best, and you make sure not to urinate with fear. This bait is as good as blood,” the Stranger tried to joke.

“I know. Let’s sink the boat.”

The friends hid under the water when the motor boat spotlighted the ocean expanse with the blue light. They have been swimming for few hours already. The Stranger was short of energy, his arms hardened into stone. He almost drowned several times and, in despair, choking,asked to leave him.

“A little more. I am here. I will not let you get drowned.  Breathe, you must breathe,” the Soldier calmed him down.

The waves became stronger, so the land was close. The Soldier raised the friend over the water. The feet touched something hard but slipped off the stone. ‘I cut myself. As if that wasn’t enough!’ He shouldered the weakened Stranger with a jerk and ran like blazes. He could not see but felt the sharks drawing near fast. ‘Hurry, hurry,’ the Soldier lashed himself.

“I’m OK,” the Stranger gave mouth and pushed off the friend. “Don’t stay like that. Run!”

Chapter 15. Strange Mysteries

The representatives of religious communities looked at an elderly exhausted man perplexedly. Despite poor light, they recognized him. Some of them could not disguise their displeasure; however, the Chairman was quiet.

“I’m pleased to greet you again. Please, show respect to our guest, for we have invited this man as a witness,” the Chairman put the accent on the last word.

The clergymen calmed down: a witness could easily turn into an accused one.

“Only a month has passed from our last meeting. Not all those invited have come. The selected ones are present only, who show decent courage and aspiration for making contribution to the common cause,” the elder continued.

“We are confused a little,” the Rhetor said. “I have a suggestion to make. First, let us listen to the respected witness, and then discuss our sad affairs,” the young man’s voice sounded mocking, and even scornful.

“That’s right,” the guest looked at the preacher steadily. “Your affairs are sad, indeed. Why did you beat her? Big deal, he failed… I am not always in good form either, the age, you see… nerves are frayed, but why use fists? I see, she asked to give more, so to say, to make up for damage to the appearance. You are not a poor man, after all. Why skimp? Tut-tut…” the Seer wailed.

The young preacher turned desperately red.

“You! You!” he pointed at the elderly man with a trembling finger. “You’re lying! I didn’t beat her!”

He stopped short. The Chairman exulted inwardly, as they taught a lesson to the filthy impudent fellow.

“Eh, youth, a careless time,” the guest kept on. “Do not take it to heart, remember, who you are, and who am I. You are a brilliant, charismatic preacher, a picture of a man, an idol for modest homemakers confident in your goodness. Your house looks as a palace! What a car fleet! As for me, when I was of your age, I didn’t have a shelter, going on Shank’s mare.”

“I’m begging you. Please,” the Chairman imploredaddressing to the Seer, who put his arm onto his heart as a token of the deepest regret. “Last week, we decided to find the Stranger, who, according to our sources, is the only person who survived after the meeting with the Exterminators. We’ve found him…”

The guests shook up and started a noise, only the Scriber grinned poisonously.

“Let me go on?” the Chairman inquired. Silence was the answer.

“So, we have found him. Hope, in the nearest future, the Stranger is going to honor us with his presence. Let us call upon our guest.”

“Do you mind my sitting?” the Seer rasped. “Age and illnesses penetrate into my bones. Perhaps, you will pray for my recovery and salvation.”

The Scriber who knew the guest firsthand, could hardly smother a smile.

“Unfortunately, a joint   prayer of representatives of different religious confessions is not allowed, but I’m sure that everyone will pray for your recovery,” the Chairman said.

“Rhetor, our benevolent brother, will be particularly diligent,” the Scriber spoke up.

The Chairman could scarcely strangle a laugh, someone beginning to cough.

The young preacher sprang from seat.

“Yes! I will pray for him. The sky is excited to salute to the penitents.”

“I read in one of your books about a unique way leading to the paradise – to sin on purpose, and then to repent sincerely. But what if one is too late to repent?»

«The Sky is a place for the righteous, but not for the sinners,» the Scriber shook his head reproachfully.

“Let our witness have a say,” the Chairman interrupted the dispute.

“Thank you,” the Seer tilted his head. “I dare say I’m not only a witness of those events, but also an immediate participant. I have something to tell you, but if you are plain with me as well.”

The Chairman wrinkled his dry senile lips. Then he looked at those present.

“Do not mix apples and oranges,” the acid-tongued priest advanced his opinion.

The Contemplator half-rose and gave a respectful bow to the Seer.

“For a person like you, to lift the veil is easy.”

“Our meeting seems not to be a secret anymore,” the Rhetor remarked.

The Seer cast down his eye for an instant and sighed.

“I shall tell you about a wonderful man, who knocked at the door of my dwelling three years ago.”

As the narration progressed, nobody breathed a word, even the impatient Scriber kept silence, frowning and restlessly pulling his pointed beard.

“Thank you,” the elder uttered with a modest air, when the teller fell silent. “The events you told us are wonderful. We have taken the right decision to find the Stranger and apply to him for advice. Unfortunately, at a stage of negotiations, we made some mistakes,” the Chairman looked at the Seer lackluster.

“I will do everything possible the meeting occurs,” the guest tilted his head politely.

“Can I ask a question?” the Contemplator smiled.

The Seer looked expectantly at the man telling the jade beads.

“How did the Stranger get out of the Tunnel of Death? After all, not only the entrance, but also the exit was guarded.”

The Seer did not move a muscle.

“Probably, the Stranger puzzled out the cypher of the lock.”

“Following the legend, an angel opened the doors of the tunnel,” the Scriber thrust himself into conversation.

“I have heard of that as well,” the Seer smiled ironically.

“This is a very important question for us. You see, we have different ideas of reality,” the Chairman explained. “Please, be honest, whether it was an angel of God to open the door, or the rebels spread rumors?”

“As far as I know, there was not an angel.”

“We trust you,” the Contemplator said. “The Stranger withstood presence of the Exterminators. While you – did not, judging by your story. What should we expect of them?”

“If these creatures are rightly called the Exterminators, their mission is obvious. Can an ordinary person fight with tsunami or hurricane?”

“The Stranger was able to withstand,” Contemplator smiled again.

“The Stranger survived, for there was a reason to leave him unscathed.”

“And you know that reason, don’t you?” the Contemplator looked at him through his heavy eyelids. The Seer could feel that man to have a great gift for extrasensorics, it useless to lie.

“I can just suppose. But I won’t my ‘ifs’, for I got used to be responsible for what I say. So,” the Seer gave a cough, “if I got it right, you need the Stranger as a witness of abnormal phenomena, right? If so, let me say ‘good-bye’. I decided long ago to keep away from any mystics. The Stranger cannot help you either, for he is just an executive, and executives are never let in on plans.»

The Chairman got off the armchair.

“God bless you.”

The Seer bowed courtly and left the hall slowly. After he left, the atmosphere became far less tense.

“What an unpleasant person,” the Rhetor shook his head.

“He knows too much,” the Scriber sneered.

“This does not matter,” the Contemplator syllabized as he spoke the international language with a strong accent. “He concealed something, not telling the entire story. The sly old dog is very careful.”

“We know,” the Chairman smiled favorably. “He is far from our ideals, but cooperation with him would be useful for our affair.”

“But is the Stranger akin to us?” the Rhetor stood up. “Do you want to invite a man who worships the so called Prince?”

“The Prince’s teaching is gathering speed, and, perhaps, its followers should have been invited to our meeting,” the Scriber expressed his opinion.

“You are right,” the Chairman agreed. “But almost all of them are outside the law. By the way, the situation is likely to change in the nearest future. The adherers of the Prince change their tactics, talk about peace and love, and deny terror.”

“Any more, and you, the respected giant of the faith, will adopt his teaching,” the Rhetor laughed.

“Sooner or later, the question about the Prince’s status will need discussing,” the elder responded.

“We took the decision long ago. For us, the Prince is one of prophets. If required, we can saint the Stranger as well,” the Contemplator said.

“Your religion denies existence of evil, so, you are ready to saint any popular individual so long as drawing attention to your doctrine, and making handsome donations,” the Rhetor smiled.

The Contemplator gave an annoyed look to the young wit, keeping silent, though.

Chapter 16. The Receipt

The Stranger was lying on the white-snow sand; the Soldier was pondering over something, his clothes taken off. Rocks were stepping into the water as a solid wall of some dozens meters high.

“This is an atoll reef,” the Stranger broke the silence. “We will  survive.”

“We must act while we are able to. I’ll climb up to look around, it is not dark yet.”

“We shall make it. Let’s have a rest and then inspect the area.”

“Inspect and then have a rest,” the friend corrected.

The exhausted man tried to stand up, his legs fing, and sank down powerlessly.

The Soldier nodded knowingly, and freshly approached to the rock of approximately forty meters high. He found a split, and, supported at three points, smoothly, with no jerks, started climbing the rock. An unpleasant surprise was reserved for him – the split was much narrower at the top. The Soldier figured natives, but there was no choice, he had to surmount the shelf rock. Setting his back against the rock wall, he found a support for his leg, turned around carefully, caught hold of the ledge – fortunately, the rock was strong enough, chinned up, and threw his body forward. Yellow grass on the top of the mountain reached his nose. The Soldier sat for a while, stretched his arms, massaged the calves, and ran leaping from stone to stone. Then he stopped at a wide gap, found a safety  ledge, leaped without hesitation, and flying several meters down, landed softly on all fours, getting away with his palms slightly scratched.

climbed the top, he saw a nearby island. ‘All right. I just hope the Seer won’t fail.’ Then, at leisure, he descended to the coast.

The Stranger looked quite cheerful.

“What’s the news?”

“It’s all right. We’ll make a raft to come over to a near island. We have to get food,” the Soldier said while examining the area.

“The island is crammed with coconuts. The green ones have a plenty of water. Except that to reach them is not an easy task.”

“No problem,” his decisive companion responded.

He came to a tall tree and started climbing up with confidence, by pressing the foot against the stem as if pulling on the tree. reached the fruit, he cut bunches instantly, and descended the palm-tree in the same skillful way.

The friends swilled coconut water, and then tasted with pleasure the heaven sent food, white pulp. sharpened hollow bamboo sticks, the Soldier forced them into the banana trees, previously putting large leaves for the flow to provide water reserve.

“Let’s make hammocks to sleep in comfort,” the Stranger smiled.

“I see you are content. Riding a high horse again?” the Soldier gave wink.

“I’m confused with your riding a high horse too.”

“As for me, I’m pleased to see you again. Let’s stay on the coast, this is safer.”

cut two bamboo stems, the Soldier split them almost throughout the length using a knife and stone. The Stranger wasinterweaving palm-tree branches with the strips. After tying up the hammocks with the ropes washed ashore, the friends settled to have a rest.

“I’ll take a nap and go fishing,” the Soldier gave a yawn. “You should gain strength.”

“Do you know why they are looking for me, and why my humble person attracts the Chairman so much?” the Stranger sounded.

“I’m sure, they have serious reasons to listen to you, and your matter will be solved depending on the information they will receive. They know that you have amnesia, but they also know the methods to recover memory, activate the brain region responsible for recollections.”

“Recollections are stored not only in a brain cell, but also in a special information area, they may be recovered if desired.”

“Have you recovered anything?”

“I remember some moments; however, they seem to be fancy. I still don’t get it why I came to the City three years ago, and don’t know why I’m going there now.”

“You have changed very much, losing belief in your power. You haven’t fought your fear.”

“And you?”

 

“I had to die,

Lie in the stones,

Should I be afraid

Of those dirty dogs?»

 

The Soldier song carelessly and burst laughing.

“Once, about twenty years ago, we came under fires. Under the order of some brass hat, we arranged on the plain. The Earth was shaking as a drunkard, the fire was nigh at hand, zeroing in; a little more, and all would be under the fires. We got our teeth into the ground trying to dig in. No such luck! Hissing sing. Flares. I was quaked with fright. I could not hear moans, only see the eyes of my comrades, their open mouths gasping for air. Then everything went down. Shortly, they came, those beasts, to finish off with ‘insurance’ shots, cut heads, and capture that on film. I was buried deep. They did not notice me. They got cozy to drink and smoke. I was lying covered with ground, unable to breath; it seemed to me they would hear beat of my heart any minute. Panic seized me. I was about crawling out to rush to them, ask for help, breath, at last. Don’t know how I overborn… When they left, I dragged myself up to the surface scattered with corpses. I was crying, crying for a long time. Later, I felt better, fear leaving with tears. After that, the ability appeared that made you notice me. The fear, which had been an enemy, transformed into an ally and assistant. It always warned me of a true danger.”

“How in the world the Enemy killed you? Why didn’t you feel danger?” the Stranger asked.

“When I saw, it was too late. He squeezed me with the screws, and I got that was the end. Then pitch darkness fell.

 

Not an iron needle, but grief

Pierced my chest today.

I’ll start out from the ground!

Don’t forget me, please…”

 

“What are you talking about?” inquired the Stranger.

“You and I are warriors. The warrior is expected to leave home, family, and children to take the field.”

“A true warrior never settles down to married life,” the Stranger grinned. “When captured, the prospect of staying for two years in a one-man cell did not trouble me. After all, I breached the law.”

“Good people ought to breach bad laws. You were trying to make public the scrolls theauthorities had hidden. You made up your mind to correct the situation. That’s right.”

“Nobody is good. All of us are sinners,” the former archeologist uttered.

“You were married, have children. Don’t you want to see them?”

“I was constantly thinking of them. Suffered from betrayal of the loved one. Pain in the chest was incredibly severe, sharking from the inside. Once, I said to myself, ‘so much for suffering. The cause exists.’ And I have found it.»

“You think that was a visitation of God?”

“God never punishes. He wants you to understand, be lightened. He may back down, though, and then they… demons… come.”

“What a cause?” the Soldier could not surrender.

“Dependence and fear.”

“Dependence gives rise to affection. You were scared with loneliness, weren’t you?” his clingy friend supposed.

“Understanding brought release. Nothing is worthy of fear. Nothing. God will give you everything you need. Just look inside. Dependence means weakness. If weak, you won’t be able to rescue people from their dependencies. However, unless you were dependent once, you will never understand weak points of another. It seems to me that I’m ready to come to the Golden City.

 

There are two roads only,

One leading from home,

And road to home.

There, in the land of eternal Sun,

Stairs to the sky,

To the Golden City

waiting for me, but in waste.”

 

“You did not meet with your children all that time, right?”

“Law forbade me to approach to my house.”

“They took everything from you!” the Soldier wheezed out. «‘Your honors’ had no right to judge you. Imposters seized authorities nobody gave them; they had money and power. They suppress everyone who threatens their profits. We have to come back and set the world free.”

“You’re talking as if you were a rebel,” the Stranger was surprised.

“I am not. You were trying to understand the nature of your power. Succeeded?”

“This weapon is not meant to be used against people.”

“Remember the wretched Seer and trembling criminals. But above all is that you crushed the snake in human shape.”

The Stranger jumped from the hammock.

“I killed a man?! Why, on the earth, didn’t you tell me earlier?”

“You killed the one who had killed me. And kept off bad luck.”

“Not sure. Exterminators had not to let the Enemy come. When they saw me, they escaped for some reason.”

“Perhaps, they supposed you to manage on your own,” the Soldier smiled.

“Am I an Exterminator? The Prince did not destroy people. He helped some of them, but never killed the others at the same time.  It is difficult for you to understand, but this is possible. The Prince is a receipt, protection against the Exterminators and the Alien people.”

“I saw fires in the sky. They are here,” uttered the Soldier.

“Who?”

 

“These are not the birds

Signing in the clouds,

Singing not about spring,

 

On the cold ground,

Populated from without,

Alien visitors are landing…”

 

The Soldier sang in a clear voice, not making a pause to breathe in.

“Ancient books run about invasion of the Alien people,” the Stranger suggested.

“You mean the Alien people are the visitors who want to conquer us?”

“This would be the simplest explanation.”

“There is another version as well. There are those not craving for property of another, but taking what they own rightly, from the earliest times.”

“So called gods? Creators of people according to ancient myths?” the Stranger said between teeth.

“Maybe…” the Soldier uttered reflectively. “I’m going fishing. Have a rest and take the air.”

Whistling a tune, he went fishing. Pulled a strong bone out of the fish washed ashore and tied it to a bamboo stick with a bootlace to make a scratchy hook. Took out of the pocket a providently stored coil, and tied the hook to the thick fishing line. He had only to find bait.

Knee-deep in the ocean, the Soldier took a big stone, and smashed it into water. The shock wave knocked a small sardine the newly made fisherman baited and sat down to the sand to wait for a catch.

 

Chapter 17. The Pickled Rabbit

Upon leaving the residency of the Chairman, the Seer walked around pavements of a big city that had been called the Hill from the ancient times. In a crowded place like that, one could stroll along with no worries as for being recognizable.

The warm rain spat. The Seer was sad, and at the same time, he felt tranquil and lonely. It was getting autumn. Once overheard verses emerged in his memory.

 

I breathe your smoke,

I walk your gold.

I watch the clock,

I rust with rawness.

The dark grey sky is calm and mournful,

Here is another day of my loneliness.

 

In a quite respectable café near the railway station, the Medium was waiting for him. The cuisine was a bit exaggerative. The woman ordered hashed rabbit, pickled in balsamic vinegar and white wine. The Seer looked at the dish incredulously – he was a deep-rooted vegetarian – and asked to bring him some vegetable salad with the olive oil and three-year old red wine.

The Medium gazed at the sad Seer’s face and put aside the flatware with a sigh.

“What do they want from him?”

“I shall eat a little and tell you everything.”

He cheered up after the meal. The Medium looked at him in anticipation.

“They believe that he knows of ‘the aliens’ more than anyone else.”

“But he doesn’t remember anything.”

“Who knows,” the Seer said inscrutably. “He is in danger, but the guardian protects him.”

“The Soldier?”

“Let’s call him like this… I took some precautions. The day after tomorrow my plane will be waiting for them on a small isle.”

“Good,” the Medium relaxed. “Why the spiritual leaders are interested in ‘the aliens’?” she got back to the rabbit.

“I am not a lounge singer. You either eat or listen.”

“Don’t be angry,” the woman slid her long finger around his palm and gave him an imploring glance. The Seer stopped frowning at once, and barely purred with pleasure.

“You are twisting me round your little finger,” he bantered. “They are scared and concerned. It seems they are trying to prepare and gather the information.”

“Do you believe their concerns are not groundless? Can it be a terror is coming?”

“The terror has been here for a long time. Only a few can see it, though. The ancient prophesies become true. The disaster is coming to cover the entire earth.”

“He stopped the horror three years ago.”

“All that was in vain. Do you believe it is better to stave off minor local shocks and let a global earthquake happen? According to the prophesies, one third of the City inhabitants were supposed to die so that the rest could be saved. He plugged a hole with the rag but the water pressure becomes stronger and…” the Seer took a breath and emptied a glass of wine to the bottom.

“Will it break through soon?” the Medium shut lips tight.

“Soon…”

 

Chapter 18. The Fallen

The representatives of religious communities gathered again in the dimly lit room. The Chairman put on his round narrow-rimmed glasses and after a traditional short greeting said,

“I would like to discuss the testaments and the texts of the sacred books that are perverted by the people remote from religion in favor of their own ideas. Those people, unestablished in faith, do not see the heavenly forces behind the miraculous events, but instead they treat them as the signs of the technical progress of the other civilizations.

Let’s start from this part:

 

‘In the ancient times, there were the Fallen on the earth,

When the sons of God came to the daughters of Man

The latter used to give birth to children –

The heroes of the old times who brought their names to repute.’

 

People ignorant of the Scriptures elucidate that ‘the others’ had an affair with mortal women, and this relationship gave life to the generation of special men possessing portentous abilities, the generation of the kings and rulers,” the Chairman looked at the theologians from under his glasses.

“The Sons of God are His spiritual children, pious men,” the Scribe proposed.

“I do not agree,” the Rhetor objected. “The Sons of God are fallen angels.”

The Contemplator raised his hand. The Chairman smiled politely at him.

“To begin with, there is a question that should be answered, dear Rhetor, are the fallen and the Sons of God the same to your opinion?”

“Aren’t they?” the young priest asked owlishly.

“There are four groups we can see in the verse: the Fallen, the Sons of God, the daughters of Man, and the Heroes. I assume that the Fallen or, according to another interpretation, the Giants are indeed the Heroes – the offspring of the daughters of Man and the sons of God. But it is also possible that thefallen has nothing in common either with the Heroes or with thesons of God. They just lived on the earth, but their number increased after the sons of God appeared.”

“That’s a challenging idea,” the Scribe fingered his beard. “Then who are the sons of God and who are the Fallen?”

The Contemplator said nothing meaningfully.

The Canonic, a middle-aged man, wearing the black robe, interrupted the flow of conversation.

“From the ancient times, the scholars equaled the fallen with the angels who lost their rights and honor, and went over to Adversary, the leader of the rebellious angels.”

“Dear,” the Contemplator said mildly. “Do you really believe that the author of the sacred book named the sons of God – the Fallen?”

The Canonic shrugged shoulders in an irritated manner.

“The God can have recalcitrant children.”

“I guess it wouldn’t be superfluous to recall the myth of the god’s descendants,” the Contemplator pulled out a small tablet and upon seeing the willing ears began to read: ‘From generation to generation, until the power inherited from God became weak, the kings obeyed the laws and lived according to the heavenly canons.

But when the godly nature became weak, and dissipated in the mortal blood, and when the nasty human temper, passions and vicesprevailed over – the bad generational bondage from the animal nature, then they lost their decency. For the Enlightened,they were a shameful sight, for they spent and did not save the godly power. The Enlightened despised them for they disdained the shrine and lost the godly power.

And then the God of gods, watching the laws being kept, thought of the kindthat immersed to the lips in the depravity and decided to punish it so that it, being sobered up with troubles, could learn the sightlines. It was time of the great earthquakes and floods, the Giants were eaten by earth in one day and the continent disappeared being submerged to the depth.”

The Contemplator switched the tablet off.

“Apparently,” the Chairman summarized, “the Giants were destroyed. Though it is unclear if they all died or someone managed to survive? So, with God’s help, let’s continue… ‘The God appeared on the mountain with the trumpet sound. And it was bid to place a border around the mountain and woe unto one who trespass the boundary made ofstones. The thick cloud hovered over the mountain, and the God came out and called his servant theLawyer, talked to him and send the laws by his hand.”

“Why is this interpreted as the UFO?” the Scribe was puzzled.

The Chairman kept silent serenely.

“Look at the testament in whole but not the small part,” the Contemplator proposed. “A strange cloud, an unknown sound… Dozens of the chosen climbed the mountain and saw the deity standing on some structure of the bright clean color that they were not able to describe. The God looked like ahuman being.He looked at the people and never killed them. Though there was a beliefthat the God did not spare those who saw him.”

“I am not ready to listen to this insanity,” the Scribe burst.  “Do not interpret the sacred books letter by letter.”

“The ancient people had no capacity for abstract thinking,” the Contemplator smiled respectfully.

“Lies! They were perfectly capable of speaking allegories, composing fairytales and legends!”

“Do not be angry,” the Chairman said in a conciliatory way. “We are trying to understand our opponents so that to disarm the enemy with his own weapon. Dear Scribe, you have told us about the testament of the prophet. I would like to talk about it if you do not mind. I studied the ancient text and was more than surprised.”

“I am very sorry,” the Scribe said. “But I am not ready to discuss it. My head is spinning when I hear your elucidations!”

“If you don’t mind,” the Contemplator said, “I would like to tell about the Son of the Sky that arrived to the earth with his followers many centuries ago. They travelled across the mountains in the self-moving carriages: ‘The mountain cart – moves by itself. No one is harnessed, no one is driving, it spins and wriggles by itself…’

The Son of the Sky shared his knowledge with the aborigines. I should note that he, unlike God, does not the world and does not demand worshipping. His activity is quite material though he taught people the spiritual disciplines. He and his followers taught the locals the crafts, brought the culture, musical instruments on the earth and even taught people the needle therapy. The ancient tractates on acupuncture are of thousands years old. The incomers practiced astronomy, draw the geographical maps, made enormous metal mirrors and even some tripods. ‘Hundreds of spirits, monsters and animals filled them inside.’ We can assume that a working tripod produced some sort of noise. ‘The tripod perceived the positive and the negative signs, knew what existed and what had disappeared.’

Soon the tripod created a dragon flying in the clouds, and that dragon appeared and took away the Son of the Sky and his friends. ‘The Dragon burnt itself in the fire, it raised and fell down with the smoke in one morning and reached the quick sands.’ Once the Son of the Sky cancelled the important flight due to the bad weather, though everything was ready and the Dragon had already been ‘filled with water.’

Here is a few more quotes,

‘Early in the morning, the Great sat into his sky cart and prepared for the flight. The cart moved by itself. It was big and nicely painted… When the cart made its way through the air, it produced the monotonous sound. On a signal made by the Great, the beautiful cart get off the ground with the loud noise, when it was setting out the roaring filled all four sides of the horizon and the cart was shining like the fire in the summer night, like the comet in the sky.”

“Allow me as well to tell the legend of our ancestors,” the tawny middle-aged man asked.

“We will highly appreciate this,” the Chairman looked at him with curiosity.

“I would like to tell about our saint teacher. Once, there was a deafening noise in the mountains, and the Sky man came to earth. The shining clothes covered all his body and he held a staff in his hand emitting lightning. The villagers ran away to the forest in fear. The men attacked him. But their spears and arrows broke barely touching the clothes of the Sky man. He killed nobody, just laughed and showed the people the power of his weapon by destroying the rock.

Due to his heavenly handsomeness and love, he managed to alleviate the fury of the most aggressive men. The people developed credence to him and worshipped him as a deity.

The Sky man improved the weapon of the warriors, taught people to build solid houses and protect them from lightning. One of the houses was used as storage for the weapon and tools. The other served as school and town-hall.

Often the young men did not want to attend school and then he put on his clothes and enforced obedience. No one could resist him for he had a power to paralyze people and suppress their will.

Once the Sky man disappeared suddenly and then appeared again with great noise. He started screaming that he had lost oneof the items he possessed. The villagers could not understand what they were to search for. When the men touched his body, they instantly fell in a dead faint. failed to find the lost item, the Sky man said farewell to the inhabitants, but some warriors spied upon him to the mountain range. What they saw filled them with horror. He cut a wide cleared strip with his staff. Then a roaring that shook the earth was heard from the above. A house landed, and the Sky man entered it…” the tawny man suddenly stumbled and stopped speaking.

“I knew something about the Sky man as well. I can tell,” the Contemplator proposed. “But the story is a bit less poetic.”

Those present nodded their heads.

“After he let them know he had come with peace, he was brought into the fold of the tribe warriors. The most beautiful young girl fell in love with him, and they got married. They gave life to many boys and one girl.

He enjoyed using the weapon of the villagers and soon became a good hunter. But while hunting he killed the animals without hurting them and gave all his catch to the villagers as he did not eat the meals of animal origin.

In the course of time, his habits changed little by little. He stopped hunting and stayed for a long time in his hut. When he used to come out, he went to the mountains.

Once the Sky man gathered all his family and disappeared. Sometime after that, he appeared on the village square and let out the terrifying battle-cry. Everyone believed he went mad. When the men approached him, he started a fight without a word. His body was shivering and everyone who touched him fell down in a dead faint.

The fight had lasted for several days until the warriors managed to catch him and bring to the mountaintop. Then he destroyed and turned to ashes everything that surrounded him. The terrible noise shook the local area, and he disappeared in the cloud of fire and smoke. The earth shook so heavily that all the trees and bushes were rooted away. There were no wild fruits any more, animals went to that area rarely, and the tribe started starving.

Meanwhile, the daughter of the Sky man married one of the warriors and gave birth to a son. She told her husband that she knew where to find food for the village. They came up to the mountain, and the woman started to look for some special tree. Upon finding it, she sat on one of the branches, put her son on her knees and asked her husband to shake the tree so that the branches touched the ground. There was an explosion and the woman disappeared in the clouds of smoke, dust and fire.

Her husband had been waiting for many days. He lost his hope and starved almost to death then a new explosion shook the ground. The tree was back to its place and, to his surprise, his wife and the Sky man sat on it. They brought the baskets full of unknown food. The Sky man again climbed onto the tree, and as soon as the branches touched the ground, an explosion happened, and the tree disappeared in the sky again.

The daughter of the Sky man passed the words of her father to the people: they should leave the village, set up a new settlement and keep the seeds of the fruits, vegetables and the bushes until the great rains start. There a lot of the stories of such kind in the ancient literature, and it would be unreasonable to consider them a pure folk fantasy,” the Contemplator ended.

“If you please I shall read another text,” the Chairman said. “This is the earliest existent papyrus, of thousands years old, it kept in our archives,

‘The scribes of the House of Life saw a flaming circle moving in the sky… It was one hundred elbows long and two hundred elbows wide… They fell on knees and reported to the king and he thought about it… In a few days, there appeared a lot of flaming circles shining brighter than the sun. And the king watched them. In the evening, the flames got higher and moved to the south… And the king incensed to the gods and ordered to write down what happened to the annals of the House of Life.’”

 

Chapter 19. The Catch

The Soldier felt a sudden jerk, pulled the fishing line, jumped on his feet and started spooling it on the flat flask. The spotted fish with its gill wide open breathed heavily on the shore. The Soldier cut off its head, and disemboweled it. He stroke sparks and started a fire using the dry husk of the coconut palms. He fried the fish on the wooden skewer and woke up the friend.

“You’ve got a nice nervous system. How do you manage to sleep in an aviary like this? It seems these creatures never get tired of singing,” the Soldier pointed at the small motley birds. “The dinner is served.”

“Thanks,” the Stranger took a piece of the fried fish. “Tasty,” he praised. “Didn’t you sleep? Do you have insomnia?”

“No. I couldn’t sleep without pills before. Now I know – my body deceived me.”

“There is a monster inside each of us that is fed by our fears and illusions. These beasts the situations so that we could follow their desires. Sometimes we cannot tell their will from our own wishes,” the Stranger explained.

“Haven’t we made this monster?”

“They say, the monster is a fruit of our subconscious mind. Maybe, the demons come from the outer world. They catch our weak points, evils, negative thoughts, project them to the real world and lead us to the abyss.”

“What good does that do them?”

“The fish we are eating now is our catch, and we are their catch. They are like the cancer cells: they kill the whole body, and then destroy themselves. The monsters cannot live outside the body.”

“The demons can exist outside the body but not long. The hell is waiting for them,” the Soldier was looking at the dying ember. “I had to die in order to get rid of my monsters.”

“The pills are not the worst addiction,” the Stranger smiled ironically.

“Sure, love is worse,” the Soldier winked.

“I agree. Erotic love is born by our biological program, so, it is an inseparable part of us. Unfortunately, love can both create, and destroy.

 

I sit by the window. There’s a tree outside.

I loved a few people. But my love was strong.

I wrote that the terror of sex was in the bulb.

That the love as an act had no verbs.

 

We often confuse love with passion. Erotic love occupies a large part of soul and sometimes fills the whole space and makes one do unworthy and intolerable things. Passion cannot be higher than ethical canons. If you defeat it you will be stronger, if you yield yourself – you will be weak and lose in the end.”

“Do you speak of the passions that make men leave the families and women forget about their children?” the Soldier specified.

“Betrayal cannot be excused by love,” the Stranger said.

“Once, I heard, ‘But I am given to another now, and I will eternally keep my vow’,the cynical friend laughed. “Enough talking. It’s time to work. The bamboo is great for making a raft. It has a lot of air and does not imbibe water.”

The Soldier cut the bamboo sticks into three parts, made holes in the edges and pulled through them thinner bamboo scions. Then he tied additional crossbars to each of the part with lianas. Soon, the extemporaneous sail of bamboo and leaves was ready.

“The weather gets bad and waves are higher,” the Stranger peered to the horizon anxiously. “The raft can sink.”

“Are you afraid to drown again? There are a lot of dangers ahead. In order to overcome them you must recall the most important thing.”

The Stranger made an undefined gesture and said without turning to the Soldier,

“These are not the words of yours.”

“Not mine,” the Soldier’s voice was estranged.

 

They rushed to the next island. But after they left the reef, the sail became almost uncontrollable. The wind pushed the raft to one side, and the tide to the opposite. It started raining. When the shore was almost near, a big wave threw them off to the water.

The Stranger remembered the basic rule of survival on the water, ‘keep to the watercraft.’ The waves made the raft jump as if it was an empty nutshell, but soon they reached the soundings and made their way to the rescuing shore.

“This isle is inhabitable,” the Stranger pointed to the trash scattered around the shore.

“We’ll have to be careful, we don’t need the conflict,” the Soldier warned.

The friends were looking for the path that would lead them to the mountaintop. Suddenly, the Stranger stopped.

“The fishermen’s huts. Let’s ask some water.”

“The contact will not conduce to the goal progress,” the Soldier answered but upon seeing the tired and haggard face of his friend went to the fishermen.

They approached the aborigines that were crowded near the local enchanter.  The healer strewed the head of an ill person with dust and threshed it mercilessly with palms, mumbling the spells. The head of the native dangled all over but, despite tears and sobbing, he tried his best to repeat the spells after the healer.

“This is exorcism. A few more punches, and the poor guy will never want to see a doctor anymore,” the Soldier whispered hardly resisting laughter. “Don’t even dare to interfere. What a fun!”

The ill one was weeping aloud, and the healer tired of whacking blew on his red palms. At least the aborigines noticed the incomers. It seemed that the tourists were not among locals’ favorites. The magician looked at the Stranger arrogantly and gave a snort of contempt, and then stopped his eyes on the reckless Soldier. The disdain changed to the perplexity and even fear. He started to jump in a strange way screaming something. The Soldier approached him, grasped his shoulders, reached his neck and pressed the carotid artery. The local healer showed the whites of his eyes and fell on the sand.

The Stranger frowned at the Soldier, found a weak pulse of the magician, and slapped him on the cheek. The healer opened his eyes. A sigh of relief went out the crowd.

“He’s alive. Let him sleep a little. We don’t need a lot of attention and he was too loud,” the Soldier explained indifferently.

“You understood what he said,” the Stranger realized. “Let’s get out of here now.”

The huts of the fishermen left behind. The friends easily went up the amazing mountain path.

“What a strange technology: there are no traces of axes or saws. As if a large piece of the rock a few hundred meters wide was squeezed out or cut off. Is it possible? That’s indeed a miracle of engineering,” the Stranger was astonished.

“That’s a comfortable road – use it. They built scrupulously,” the Soldier answered absentmindedly.

“Who are they?”

“It seems you haven’t recalled yet. By the way, you shouldn’t have woken the enchanterup.”

The Stranger turned back and saw the people armed with sticks and hoes guided by the same annoying healer.

“Go up. You should not see this,” the Soldier said turning to the mob.

“No,” the Stranger shook his head. The stone concentrated face of the friend, unwinking stare of his steel eyes made him take a step aside and look down unwittingly.

“Low tide,” he whispered with pale lips. “Disaster.”

 

Chapter 20.A Panic Attack

“Shall we not come back?” the Seer proposed when leaving the restaurant. “Let’s settle in a small town or village. Breathing fresh air, living a happy life. Don’t you need some rest?”

“What next?” the Medium smiled sadly. “Living a happy life is great but a wise man once said, ‘I don’t need peace if there is no light.’ I like you and I respect you. You are a friend that I can count on in an hour of need…”

“Please stop,” the Seer interrupted her. “You would love to hide in the most dark and deep hole with him for he is the light of your life.”

Suddenly the Seer stopped. He looked right and left.

“I feel danger. I feel bad.”

The Medium took him by the hand aggrievedly.“Your fingers are ice-cold. Take a deep breath, hold the air inside for a couple of seconds and exhale very slowly. It will stop soon. This is a panic attack. The nervous system crashes.”

“What attack?! Something terrible is going on! We must go home!” the Seer cried chokingly and forgotten about a pain in his leg ran to the taxi stop. He jumped to the back seat of one of the cars.

left the city behind, the driver gathered speed steadily. The Seer was looking around over and over again, and even the Medium started to feel unrest but she pulled herself up and looked at the fields covered with snow and the short dull trees all the way. The airport appeared in sight soon, the Seer smiled with relief.

“I feel better. The nerves got bad.”

“You need a real work, and your body requires adrenalin. Idleness is not good for you,” the Medium delivered a verdict.

“Let me choose myself what is good for my body,” the Seer grumbled.

 

The phone rang. He looked hopelessly at the number that appeared on the screen, pursed lips and answered with a snarl.

“They want me to go back.”

“Who can stop us?” the Medium was outraged. “Let’s go to the check-in.”

“They will not let me out.”

“You can pass by check-in.We should try to break out!” she pulled the Seer by his hand.

“My attack did not come out of the blue.”

“What has happened?” she looked into his dreamy eyes in fear.

The Seer scarcely hid the smile.

“Disaster.”

 

The religious leaders gathered in the conference room without a delay, and were discussing tempestuously the latest events. Only the Contemplator sat tranquilly, with his eyes closed.

“It was expected. The islands have been steeped in sin, depravity, and infidelity. It’s not surprising that the God’s wrath feel upon them,” the Rhetor blazed away.

“All sinned, there are no righteous people. Today, the trouble has come to them, tomorrow, it will come to us. We all should lend a helping hand,” the Canonic argued.

“Natural disasters always happened in the history of mankind,” the Scribe sighed.

“Why do you keep silent?” the Rhetor asked the Contemplator.

“Is the Stranger there?” the Contemplator opened his eyes and looked at the Chairman who stood by the cloudy window made of stained glass.

The old man approached his seat of honor slowly, sat down to the armchair and answered,

“Yes. He is there. The communication with our representatives is cut. I called the Seer again.”

 

Chapter 21.The First Wave

The Stranger, with his fists doubled, looked at the ocean headily leaving the coast. Children and women gathered fish and shells in haste.

“Warn them to leave for the mountains,” the Stranger cried to the local healer and rushed down.

“You mustn’t!” the Soldier stopped him by the strong hand. “We cannot help them anymore. But you ought to be in the City!”

The Stranger looked at the ocean, and at the healer shaking with freight, who explained his people something, weeping and bawling. The men threw away their sticks and picks, and rushed to the seashore, while the wizardleft on the mountain to call to the gods.

“They have no time,” the Soldier shook his head.

“However, they tried to escape,” the Stranger said bitterly. “Let’s go.”

The friends climbed up the mountain resembling a pyramid, with a top cut. A small plane could land easily, but a pilot was likely to call off a flight at the sight of the impending catastrophe. As approaching the coast, ocean waters were growing in height and strength. A five-meter high wave just licked dry land.

“Here goes nothing,” the Stranger moaned. “The first wave will lessen resistance for the subsequent ones. In next to no time…”

He stood crying at the sight of the natives rushing about the coast. The Wind obsessed him, pierced his skin depriving of any chance to think, and turning him into a frozen-up mummy. The only word the Stranger could utter was “It happened.”

The Soldier was peering in the sky. A point coming on gained contour – the plane was landing. He sighed with relief and called the Stranger cautiously. Shortly after that, they were sitting in a six-seater listening to the news, “A most powerful tsunami… all islands of the region are hit… crowds of lost… the entire coastline is flooded… some islands are covered completely… Calamity!”

The Stranger awoke.

“We must return. I cannot leave her. Look,” he snatched out the map and pointed at the coordinates.

“No way,” the pilot made a quite rude gesture of denial.

The Stranger requested again simmering with emotions. The pilot just bit head. The Soldier shook his head discontentedly, but looking at his comrade addressed to the pilot,

“Do what he told. Don’t make me ask twice.”

“Shut up, fuckhead! It is me who decide,” the latter snarled out.

Not thinking twice, the Soldier made a short strike with the sharp of the hand at the neck of the impolite man, and engaged the manipulator.

The Stranger tied the aviator to a passenger seat carefully and inquired a newly made pilot,

“Can you operate this piece?”

“I’m going to discover that right now,” the Soldier winked.

“Can you land the plane, or we have to persuade the pilot?”

“We have not time for negotiations. In emergency, one should act decisively. I will land the plane, if there is a landing site available.”

The airport of the island where the Stranger lived was situated at the hill, not flooded. The Soldier descended to a thirty-meter height, focused on the ground, pulled the lever, and started leveling the plane.

“Idiots! Crazy!” the pilot who awoke was moaning. “You will kill us! Release me right away. To land a plane in such conditions vast experience is needed.”

“I know what I do!” the Soldier cried out. “Never trust an offended one.”

He flipped the plane through a right angle, flying straight for three seconds, then made another turn at ninety degrees to place the plane downwind. Giving an upwind turn again, he started descending smoothly. With the gun cut almost to the idle run, the Soldier drove the machine with confidence. The plane was flying sliding, with fuselage axis placed precisely against the landing strip. When the machine was lowered to one-meter height, the Soldier stopped nose diving, pulled the height handle, and cut throttle completely. Pulling slightly the handle, he leveled the plane making it fly horizontally. Bewildered, the pilot was looking at the newly made ace’s maneuvers. Before touching the ground, the Soldier pulled the lever slightly watching the machine to make three-point landing. The plane touched the ground, and running about one hundred meters more, made a full stop…

 

Two men and a young woman managed to climb a concrete roof of a supermarket and watched the water coming on.

“He told me, he warned…” the girl repeated.

“We are guilty toward him. God knows, where the prophet is, and whether he is alive at all,” the Chairman’s proxy sighed. His suit was torn and stained in parts.

“He is alive, I can feel that. Why have you found me? And where is your gray-haired colleague?”

“That sinner’s fate doesn’t trouble us,” the man answered. “I promised the prophet to take care of you.”

“The Stranger left me, he will never forgive. He doesn’t care that I tried to help him. I wanted to live in that fairytale so much. Here we go. Enjoy it now!”

“This is a natural disaster,” another agent interfered. “Neither first, nor last in the history of humanity. We must survive. I cannot see rescue operations so far, whilemarauders are more than enough. By the way, we are an easy target for them.”

“It proceeded to get worse,” the girl agreed. “If they don’t get their ‘happy grass’ in time, they will run wild. I’m scared.”

“They will rescue us as soon as communication is recovered. You will go with us to tell the Chairman everything you know.”

“I see, why you need me,” the Bird grinned.

People climbed the roof, some of them squinted to the aliens. Everybody was excited, somebody screamed, others cried, tearing to and fro. A spontaneous meeting began. Several dozens of scared foreigners huddled up in a corner.

“The crowd is raving. They are talking about us,” one of the tourists remarked. “We had better get off with a whole skin.”

“Where?” the other made a helpless gesture. “Though ‘Roofs of the houses trembling under the burden of time’ they are the most reliable shelter now.”

“People are more dangerous than flood. It is more terrible to die at the hands of people than in water. There is at least a chance to survive below.”

“They are looking so nastily,” a sunburnt brown-haired woman shivered. “Yikes, they are coming here…”

 

“Wait for us,” the Stranger asked while untying the pilot.

“You are crazy!” the pilot swore with abandon.

“Look,” the Soldier addressed to him. “I could kill you. We don’t need you. But you must not kill your like,at least, until they try to kill you. Do you know, whom did you rescue?”

“So, whom?” the aviator grinned.

“To men who had died and rose from the dead!” the Soldier syllabized clearly. The aviator turned pale, stepped back, holding the chassis, sat down on the concrete, and cheeped,

“I will wait, don’t worry.”

“Just in case, we’ll find you,” the Soldier warned softly.

 

The coastal part of the island was completely flooded, palm-trees pulled up by the roots, houses destroyed. They made their way to the center of the city, waist-deep in the water, sometimes, by swimming, holding on to beams, stems of trees, hardly skipping dangerous things raised by water. Seeing a rubber boat with three young men, the Stranger waived with the hand asking for help. made a few mighty strokes, the guys swam up to him.

“Money, jewelry, watches?” the young man asked and took a swing with an oar.

The Stranger was able to escape the blow accompanied with hysteric roars of laughter of the robbers. The Soldier jumped into the boat to snatch out the oar and operate it other than intended. Two men holding on to their broken heads whimpered, with blood dripping through the fingers, the third one showing heels.

“Go figure, their foreheads are harder than wooden oars,” the Soldier was examining the broken paddle.”

“That’s the way it goes. Do you know, where to look for her?”

The Soldier froze for an instant, reached out his hand southwards, and forced strenuously,

“She is over there!”

 

Chapter 22. Competitors

It seemed to the Seer that he understood the cause of a sudden attack. Perhaps, that was a transition to another, higher level. He became a part of the Universe, a prophet who could anticipate global disasters, like a weather-sensitive person responding to atmospheric pressure drops. However, the telepath blamed him for those thoughts. It was not time to reflect on a new level, while dozens of thousands people died!

put on a mask of deep sorrow, leaning heavily on the stick, he entered the room and, preventing excessive formalities and the key question, uttered politely,

“He is alive.”

“My question is of different nature,” the Contemplator sniffed.

“I’m at your service,” the guest drawn tight.

“The catastrophe is associated with the Stranger, isn’t it? After all, he is in the hot zone.”

Strange as it might seem, but the Seer did not think of it. The telepath closed his eyes, but he could not but feel hard looks focused on him. Despite a tremendous experience of public speaking, excessive attention hindered him from being concentrated.

“This is a difficult question…” he decided not to rush to an answer. “You believe in destination, fate, and deny an accident. However, there are surprising concordances with no determining value.”

“You cannot think so indeed, right?” the Contemplator looked at the Seer’s forehead with slit eyes.

“Whatever may happen,” the latter bristled. “But the Stranger has nothing to do with it.”

“I don’t argue the point. Still, why did he happen on the islands exactly at that time? And he was in the City in the days of troubles and chaos,” the Contemplator could not subside.

“The Stranger was living a quiet life, he even did not preach on the islands,” the Seer could feel fear and suspicion of those people, which meant that the guilty one would be found inevitably. “Hasn’t the punishment come to the dwellers for heavy sins?”

“Nobody accuses him. Citizens of the islands committed no more sins than those from any other even successful countries. Somebody breaks the first commandment, other – the second one,” the Chairman interrupted. “However, the highly respected Contemplator asked the right question.”

“Well,” the Seer answered sullenly. “Suppose, he is involved in the calamity, but I have not the slightest idea – how!”

The Chairman got a cambric handkerchief, apologized for weakness, and blew his nose noisily. The Scriber could hardly keep smiling.

“We became aware of the fact that the Soldier you gave up for lost escorts the Stranger. Don’t you mind that?” the old man inquired.

“His death was broadcast live,” the Seer retorted. “However, I’m not sure that this is about the Soldier. Until I see him with my own eyes, the issue is still open.”

“Who needs to pretend to be the Soldier? Who may be so informed save for a witness of the events?” the Chairman was surprised.

“What is beyond a man’s strength is possible for the God,” the Contemplator uttered shaking. He seemed to be in trance.

The Seer who fell into a muse, startled.

“Can we check, whether there was any UFO activity on the place of the disaster?” the Scriber inquired.

“There is always high activity over there,” the Contemplator awoke. “There is a mountain road on one of the islands. According to the legend, gods built it. The mountain is crowned with a flat plain. All aborigines are faithful, for they know that such structures are beyond a man’s strength. They could not cut a road through the mountains either, or build a site perfectly suitable for takeoff and landing.”

“What’s the name of the island?” the Seer started up.

“Stone rock.”

At that name, he turned pale, which could not be hidden from the Contemplator’s observant eyes, and rose heavily from his seat.

“Dear Chairman, unfortunately I cannot help you. Let me leave your welcoming residence.”

“Please, stay with us. You don’t have to fret about your companion, she is under our wing. Be sure, your hardship will last not long.”

‘The Medium is a hostage,’ the Seer understood. ‘They will snatch any opportunity to find out information as full as possible. And they have a vast experience of communication with witches. What a foolish old thing, I have brought her to the trap myself. They are tolerant when it is beneficial for them, but when push comes to a shove, they will protract their claws.’

 

Two men were leading the woman along the extended ill-lit twisting corridors. Bored, she was examining the plates on the doors. The guide opened one of the doors with a big old-time key, without saying a word, let the woman pass, and locked the door. She turned around and gave a kick at the door, strong oak even did not stir. The Medium lied down on the wide bed. ‘No big deal, I’ll show you the witch hunt.’ She looked around – a decanter, glass, massive desk lamp… ‘I won’t give in without a struggle.”

Sometime after a while, somebody knocked at the door, the woman grasped the heavy table glass.Dove-eyed, a very aged man came in, rolling a well-laden trolley. She recognized him at once nearly dropping the makeshift weapon out of her hands.

“Did you want to fight with an old man?I shall last little anyway,” the Chairman rasped. “We closed the door not to let you get lost. We have no right to detain you. But I would like to talk to you before you leave our residence. May I take a seat?”

The Medium gave a benignant nod. The old man continued.

“We are at the threshold of great changes. Once, our fathers were at enmity with people like you, however, we have to collaborate.”

“You would persecute us because we have been always competitors to you.  When troubled, people asked us for help,” the Medium was brassily spreading black caviar and pouring flavorful strong coffee.

“We toil in the different vineyards,”the Chairman smiled ironically. “Esotery is inferior to our theology. We give hope and peace, while you expose people to danger and chaos. We know you more than you know yourself, for we have studied you for centuries.”

“To arrive at the conclusion: to burn a witch, or shower stones.”

“We were unjustly slandered. We burnt people in exceptional cases. You should study archives of interrogations and sentences. Did journalists in the history who fulfilled our opponents’ order read them? For you, it is more convenient to brand us to justify your nasty things by our ‘evil deeds’. However, the government took advantage of the struggle we led with evil for self-interested aims, that is seizure of property and extermination of those otherwise-minded. By the way, didn’t you reflect on why holly books, regardless time and cultural traditions, criticize fortunetelling and magic?”

“Fortunetelling was an integral part of ancient worships, religion was fighting with. Nevertheless, the key reason is competition. Everybody is looking for aid, the rich and the poor, fortunetellers cured better than priests did. You had nothing but a pray and holly water in your arsenal, while we were equipped, at least, with minerals, herbs, and curative roots, by the way, foregoers of modern drugs,” the Medium quipped.

“As for drugs, you are right. You made addicted entire settlements and cities. Life was difficult, and you sold illusion at a reasonable price. We rescued unlucky creatures, like a drug control department,” the old man shot fires.

“I cannot believe, that you are guided by high ideas and care for people. You were at war, and won. You got authorities and seized at the power exterminating any who could impinge upon your gains!”

The Chairman took a minute’s interval to show significance of the moment.

“From the earliest time, there has been an order liquidating black magicians. It dates back as far as civilization arose. Priests knew that people and even the laws of nature are controllable by magic. If there is weapon, those willing to use it are always ready. There is a war going on, and like any war, it takes casualties, including peace offerings. We are aboard of the same ship, and we mustn’t leave things to chance, since water from one broken compartment will flood the entire vessel.

Researchers have been interrogating closely the suspected and witnesses for many years with the only purpose, to capture the truth. We were afraid of making a mistake and it on our conscience. We even left a magician who did not do harm yet to the four winds, corrected and repented. Sure, some mistakes were made, but that was only through haste or inexperience of young interrogators. We came to power so as not to let you seize the authorities. You were obstinately intruding in the political activity assisting the rulers with extermination of competitors…”

“Which methods, you think, were used to take off curses and hexes?” the Medium interrupted the old man. “The priests neutralized magic using purifying water, for example.

 

Let water of my body and washing of my hands

Take away

Your charms,

Your witchery,

Your intrigues.

 

 

They knew that a bedeviled object had to be annihilated. Unless they did not have such an object at their disposal, they would invent it. They took everything ready to hand. For example, they ground and burnt an onion – this is an ordinary magic ritual.”

“This is not a ritual, but just a manipulation to make the unlucky creature believe,” the old man protested. “Modern psychologists also practice similar techniques. Will you accuse them of bewitchery as well? Let me tell you about a terrible crime, turning a man into a zombie. Magicians caught a person’s spirit to make the pathetic creatures deprived of vital energy dieway. On the islands, wizards catch souls in draw nets hanged near their victims’ dwellings. The nets are woven of strong threads with different holes to suit for catching spirits of any size, large or small, thick or thin… The magicians do not care, which soul is captured, they willing to return it for some remuneration. The wizards store the souls in stock to supply them to wealthy patients who need energy. I don’t believe that they can seize spirits, but they can deprive people of energy, indeed. For the hunters, soul is not holy. As for us, we tortured a body for the soul to find salvation on the Judgment Day. Our mission is to release those caught in the Adversary’s nets.”

“I have never done what you are talking about!” the Medium cried. «I just communicated with departed spirits at the of their relatives and friends. But, the dead have not visited me for three years already, owing to one person.”

“Owing to the Stranger?”

“Yes. By the way, don’t you want to include him in your collection of wonders? He is a magician, in your opinion, isn’t he?”

“We don’t consider him the Adversary ’s servant,” the Chairman answered politely.

“You believe that modern physic mediums serve the Adversary? Many of them even don’t believe in his existence!” the Medium replied with passion.

“According to ancient manuscripts, fortunetelling came from fallen angels. The gift was transferred to descendants by coitus between the fallen angels and earthly women. They need a door to our world to draw out energy. And magicians willing to oblige them open that door.”

“Who are those heavenly creatures wishing earthborn women?  Whether the Fallen angels, or, to be more exact, the Fast Descending angels, helped the sick from hatred of humankind, or for profit? Are curative herbs forbidden for use? Who taught our ancestors to cook over fire, grow grain? Who gave us art? Who turned bellowing barbarians into high creatures? Weren’t they two hundred angels who landed on the mountain “Obeah?” the Medium scarcely held in temper.

“The fallen angels needed not only slaves, drat-cattle, but also fellows in arms working with heart and soul. Their chosen are betrayers of humankind and offenders of the celestial Truth.”

“Who passed the celestial truth to people?”

“Servants of the Creator, heavenly angels. And we, acting like them, serve to the God. Not always decently, but we try our best.”

“So, our things look black,” the woman sighed.

“You are my guests,” the old man put his palm onto the heart. “We intend no harm to you. I would like to learn something about the Stranger. Say, how did he influence on your skills?”

“He put his hand onto my head. I could feel a kiss of death. It was very dreadful. Then, I felt empty.”

“He exorcized the demon out of you, didn’t he?”

“I’m not possessed with demons! It is just different.”

“Then, what is it?”

“I’m afraid of the world of the dead now.”

“May I ask you an immodest question?” the Chairman was confused.

The woman grinned, turned towards the wall.

“I did sleep with the Seer a couple times, very long ago, with the Stranger – not yet. It’s a matter of time, though…”

“Sorry,” the old man got embarrassed with such a straightforward answer. “I have the last thing to ask you. It is very important for us. Please, be honest, or do not answer at all. Tell me, how the Stranger could escape the Tunnel of Death?”

The woman sighed with relief: the old intriguer did not ask about the Wind.

“The Seer was there, ask him.”

The Chairman looked at her bewildered, examining her beautiful traits for a long time. Finally, his face brightened, lips stretching in suspicion of a smile.

“Thank you for such a sincere talk. You have nothing to worry about. We will make up for your hardship. Have a rest.”

The Chairman rose from the armchair and left the room, leaving the key on the table.

He was anxious about a miracle. What if the angel helped the Stranger? However, he knew for sure now that not a servant of the God opened the door, but only a skillful hypnotizer.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 23. The Installation

The cars lying upside down and trash blocked the way of the captured rowboat. Finally, the Soldier and the Stranger got to the half-drowned grand-stairway of the multi-storey building. Despite the minimal damage there was nobody inside. Perhaps the refugee, in fear of the flood, took the upper floors.

The Soldier’s behavior was strange. He looked as if sniffing something, then turned his head left and right, stood stone-still for a second, ran to and fro.

“What’s going on with you?” the Stranger asked.

“There’s someone else here.”

“It’s supposed to be so. In a building like this…” the Stranger was surprised but felt the scent of danger as well. Two tall and beautiful dark-haired women appeared in the hallway, they were dressed all black: jackets with straps, comfortable trousers with strong rivetedbelts. Heavy army boots on their feet. Two small black dogs followed them. The women looked at the friends with interest, trying to imitate smiles and even coquetry.

“Go back. You don’t have to…” the Soldier whispered.

But the Stranger just shook his shoulder and, waddling a bit, approached the animals – they did not move. He pulled his hand to the spine of the animal and the dog arched instantly, he felt heat with his palm… He looked at the women, ‘they did it – the dogs are obsessed.’

“Who are you?” the Stranger spoke with an effort.

He felt the power of the Wind enveloping him with the growing waves and was ready to fight. The women exchanged looks, made wry faces for a moment, and then went away lazily as if not willing to, and soon disappeared in the passages of the building.

The Wind was taking off gradually. The Stranger sat down on the floor, his body slightly shivered.

“What are they?” he asked and hearing no reply, said between teeth, “They are flesh and blood but not human beings. What is that supposed to mean?”

“It means what it means.”

“Are you afraid of them?”

“The wolf is not afraid of the dog but doesn’t like its barking,” the Soldier answered. “Get up! We need to hurry!”

The elevator not working, they had to go up at least fifty floors. They walked up the stairs keeping silent and concentrated. The door leading to the sky deck was closed. The Soldier smashed down the latch in a kick of the leg and the marvellous city view greeted their eyes.

“She is there! I am sure!” the Stranger pointed to the big supermarket.

“Correct,” the friend confirmed. “The locals got mad, they are about to tear the tourists apart. We’ll have to fight. Let’s spill some blood.”

“We’ll see. Let’s go!”

The ground floor of the shop destroyed by the disaster and people mad with fear was almost flooded, on the roof the friends could see the young man clubbing those other skin color, eye shape, and facial contours; the fight was accompanied by the rousing cheers and hysterical cries of the women. Armed by the steel bars, knives and clubs they wished to ‘taste the blood of the enslavers’, have revenge upon the humiliation and troubles caused by white people. Local girls who had dreamt to become top-models and had been ready to change their faces so that to become similar to the successful tourists, at that moment  screamed with joy seeing the broken noses and hammered lips of the white women.

There was just one blonde who turned to bay and yelled curses – a few young men dragged her tearing her clothes. The Stranger stopped for the moment, the anger blurredhis eyes.

The Soldier wheezed,

“No! You know the fight! Hit!!!”

And he attacked the villains with a cry that resembled the roar. From a high jump he punched the rapists to the head. The poor one fell on the concrete with his neck grotesquely twisted. The Soldier broke the neck-bone of the second one with a learned movement. The Stranger beat down the other two and thus did them a favor by rescuing them from the enraged Soldier. The maddened and covered with blood girl recognized the Stranger and cried with joy.

The crowd recoiled and then again approached them. The Soldier pulled out the knife defiantly, turned one of the rapists on his belly, pressed him with the knee and took by the hair. The Stranger could not believe his eyes, he tried to stop him with a gesture but it was too late. Without a shadow of emotion, as if he was cutting bread, the Soldier cut the throat of the live person and separated his head in a moment. The blood sprang strongly running all over the concrete roof. He took the dead head by hair and showed it to the crowd standing in a terror. And spoke to the people in a local language in a guttural croaking manner.

The Stranger turned back feeling sick. He was not scared of blood but upon seeing this insanity, even it was natural, he felt bad. The curtain opened a little and he felt even worse when observing the essence of the world…

He noticed the woman in the black uniform again. She came from behind to the black skinned beautiful girl in the white blouse and black elegant suit and clungto her. The Stranger realized, he felt it with his skin, that something very bad is about to happen. He stretched his hand with his palm forward as if trying to prevent the malefice. The body of the woman in the black uniform fell on the floor with a thud and the beautiful girl in the suit gave a Strangera changed imperious look. She moved her lips imitating a smile, turned and left gracefully as if walking the catwalk.

Meanwhile, people dashed off tripping over one another.

The Soldier put the head near the body and tried to wash down the blood from his hands by watering them with the liquid from the bottle. He managed to clean the palms but there was still the reddish stripe under his nails. He gave a wink to the Bird.

“I regret it myself, but there was no choice. I have to kill them and I hate the bastards for that,” he sighed.

“Is it necessary to do it this way?” the Stranger asked in a low voice.

“How else would you calm them down? Only by meansof codes burnt   into their ancestral memory.”

“It seems you know the codes. Aren’t they the doing of yours?”

“It’s no time to speak about it now, we need to hurry and we still have them here,” the Soldier pointed to the beaten agents of the Chairman. “Get out of here quickly!”

The agents went to the exit, exchanging glances, ‘It’s a pity we’ve lost the Hunter, he would shoot that reservoir dog, and we would reach an agreement with the kind Stranger.’

 

“We need to find that black skinned girl in the black suit and white shirt. It seems they like all black,” the Stranger said reflectively.

“It’s a matter of taste,” the Soldier answered between teeth examining the body of the beautiful strong woman. He went through the multiple pockets of her jacket and trousers. Nothing.

Two men and the blowzy girl left the shop with the new clothes and shoes instead of their wet and torn rags.

“Do you recall how we changed clothes in the Tower?” the Soldier gave a wink to his gloomy and pensivefriend.

“Barely,” the Stranger muttered. He stopped, took a deep breath and exhaled. “Do you know how to find her?”

“Do not meddle,” the Soldier warned.

“I guess I begin to understand…”

“Maybe. You saw the women in black, it means they were shown to you. What do we do with the Bird?”the Soldier nodded to the girl who was barely walking.

“You are right. Let’s get back to the plane,” the Stranger woke from a stupor. “Do you think they were scared of me?”

The Soldier looked at him skeptically.

“You? They are not afraid of men and do not respect them but your sword is dangerous for them.”

“I remember, ‘Our war is not against humansbut against the dark lords of this world, against evil spirits.’ The sword is a word of God,” the Stranger answered.

“A word without the power is nothing,” the Soldier specified.

The floods were gradually going down and it was easier to move around. The police and firemen stopped them several times and asked if they needed help. Finally, they got to the airport but to the total disappointment they find neither the pilot nor the plane.

“Will he not be back?” the Stranger asked his companion who was trying to clean the nails fiercely.

“He will. There is nothing else he can do,” the Soldier answered with his head still down. “But there is much more of those willing to get rid of here.”

He was right: the familiar plane came in for landing, and people were begging the pilot and promising everything under the sky if only he could take them away from this cursed place.

The Soldier ploughed through the crowd, carving the way for his friends.

“Can we take at least the injured children?” the Stranger asked the pilot.

“There is no point in it. The rescue crews will arrive soon. I have no medical supplies left. I have given them all.”

“Take off! We need to hurry!” the Soldier burst and gritted his teeth in anger. Shivering, he was clenching and unclenching his fists.

The Stranger looked from the cabin window, there she was – the dark skinned girl and the tall woman in the uniform nearby. They looked around anxiously and leered eye at the Soldier, with his eyes glued on them, clenching the arms of his chair.

When flying over the ocean, the Stranger saw the giant waves destroying the land fiercely. ‘The disasters happen where they are. They are swept off the face of the ground with fire and water but everyone is suffering: both the guilty and the innocent. What if my mission is to find them until the exterminators are here?  Is the Wind meant for that?’ he thought franticallyseeing the giant waves that reached the land covering the hopping figures of the men. ‘Confirming kill!’ the tears burned his eyes. ‘They decided to finish off!’

 

Chapter 24. The Time

Hearing a muffled knock, the woman rushed to open the door; she was not mistaken – the Seer stood on the threshold.

“Sorry, baby. It was a bad idea to stay with me. Now, we can leave the residence at any moment. Nobody holds us by force.”

“Why waste time?!” the captive exclaimed.

“It’s not all that simple. At home, more dangers can be reserved for us.”

“At home, nobody can dare to lay a finger on us!” the Medium resented.

“The isles just opened the way to new disasters. However, the forces exist, which don’t want the mechanism to start and try to stop the drive gears. I am very much in their corner!” the Seer sat down on the bed.

“The Chairman told me about the Researchers. He believes that they are the followers of the ancient anti-magicianpriests.”

“The Researchers, though made some progress in study of witchery, have nothing to do with anti-magicians. Probably, you have heard of “invisible warriors”, sophisticated wizards of targeted elimination? Their followers think that to attend paid-for courses, or run about the woods with darts wearing black uniform would be sufficient. Pimpled students obsessed with girls, gather in the kitchen to write proclamations, and introduce themselves as a secret order. Your colleagues construct a magic circle, conduct silly rituals holding hands, and sincerely believe that thanks to their ordinances, they can restore energy protection of the Earth or stop wars and disasters!” the Seer kept on mocking.

“You think, anti-magicians are invented,” the Medium sat down next to him.

“No. I know one of them.”

“So, that was the reason why you sent him as far as possible. But, what do you have to do with magicians?”

“Once, he was about to destroy us. That’s a given. The weapon that lives in his body, comes to light independently. I’m afraid, he will stop to restrain the force and believe in his alleged mission, that is, to clear the Earth out of people like us.”

“Do you really think disasters occur because of people possessing paranormal skills? Who decided on that? You think magicians and witches worse than child molesters, abusers, sadists, or murderers?” the Medium could not agree.

“Following the Researchers’ ideology, they are. A wizard can destroy a family up to the seventh generation,witch pestilence or plague. You did break hex spells, you know. Of course, magic is beside the point. All people possess energetic power. To reveal it, one should fall into a special state, or just be eager to do this. But magicians use special rituals to change consciousness. Any act needs belief. I know for sure that my skills are nothing but revelation of abilities hidden in every person, but I cannot exclude that the other world exists, living by its own rules.”

“You have always waived aside that world, while Ihave always lived with it.”

Somebody knocked carefully at the door, and then a young man dressed in a formal suit came in and invited them politely to the Chairman’s room.

“We’ll go together,” the Seer demanded.

“If you say so,” the secretary responded mildly. “The Holy man has no objections to.”

The old man felt exhausted, with the burden of power getting heavier with every passing day. ‘I have not made radical decisions for many years, stuck in a routine. I could stall for time anymore; after all, I’m going to retire soon. But can I leave bewilderment behind? And is there anybody to leave to? The time has come when any initiative is killed. It is the time, when dry laws rule, not personalities. Political and spiritual leaders turn into advertising agents. Those who dare to leave the array will die, noncompetitive, or they will be beaten back into the single rank. We have forgotten how to take decisions, perhaps, because we have no reasons for decisive actions. However, this time is good enough, but it is coming to an end.’

A soft ting of a bell broke the train of his thoughts. The doors opened, the secretary let the guests pass. The woman settled herself down on the chair, bravely crossing her legs. The elderly man got down cautiously, making himself comfortable in the armchair.

“We have lost touch with our people. Can you say, whether they are alive?” the Chairman asked.

“I need their photos. It’s easier to work that way,” the telepath said and, not noticing the old man’s ironic smile, grunted petulantly at the pile of pictures, “Why so many?”

He peered searchingly into each photo, following the images with his finger, whispered something and turned his head round. A chill crept from some of them. Others, to the contrary, rendered warmth. The Seer put aside five pictures to deliver the verdict.

“They are dead. The rest are alive. The person shown in this picture will die soon, the emanation is faint,” the Seer turned the piece of cardboard over in his hands. “The photo is at least fifty years old. Wait a minute…” he looked at the old man closely.

“How long shall I last, in your opinion?” the Chairman smiled lightly. He looked calmed keeping apparent indifference, with his heart sinking, though.

“Everything in the lap of the gods,” the Seer shrugged his shoulders.

“Well then. Thank you. Can you tell us how our brothers died?”

“That one,” the Seer pointed at a photo, “was assaulted some years ago, the other killed a month ago. The rest have died lately.”

He peered into the images intensely. Visions and sensations arose echoing in his body.

“First, they were beaten, then…” the Seer gripped hands on his throat. It was difficult to breath for him. “They spluttered.”

The Medium took a photo of a gray-haired man, turned it over in her hands.

“I’m not sure, this man is dead.”

The Seer looked at her angrily, but restrained his temper and put it as mildly as he could.

“You are wrong.”

“So, maybe, you can tell how he died,” the Medium sniffed.

“He was squeezed, forced out…” the Seer’s forehead broke into a sweat. “Darkness came on him…”

“And what about the others?” the Chairman asked the woman gently.

“They are dead.”

“One more question. Where is the Stranger?”

“I will inform you as soon as I get the news.”

“May we leave the residence now?” the woman inquired.

“You are not prisoners, mind you. I just begging you to stay until your friend comes.”

“Begging…” she responded through her teeth.

The Seer rose from the armchair with effort, and the Chairman nodded to him father-like.

Now that he was left alone, the old man let loose his emotions. The word of quick decease went to his heart. He began praying devotedly. Slackness replaced fear, and indifference turned into hatred.

‘They wanted to deprive me of confidence on purpose. But doctors, the best ones, can see no danger to life. Is it possible that he counted upon my fear only?’

However, doubts were still creeping into the mind. ‘The Seer got everything right from the photos. He is a gifted mentalist, but a concerned person and a cheater as well. I shouldn’t have departed from divine rules. No sooner had I resorted to magicians than  I lost peace of mind. There is just one hope left, that he will keep the promise and bring the Stranger. For that, we have to bear with the bastards within these holy walls.’

 

Chapter 25. Poor People

A view overlooking the town named the Hill was returning the Stranger to a different reality.

‘Like any other place, here, poverty exists. But, at least, semi-lux poverty, two-star, nothing less. A poor person resides in a remote district, takes shelter in a small poorly fixed apartment, drives a used car or moves by public transport. He wears last season or sale clothes, buys food in cheap stores; falls into arrears with the payments for electricity needed for fridge, washing machine, and TV.

In the isles, where the population mostly dwells in slums, such a person would be considered quite prosperous, even an object of envy and eligible bachelor for local beauties. But poor people all over the world are united by a single thing, hatred to the rich, and pity for themselves. They sincerely believe that they are always deceived and skinned, that the haves live at their expense, and that is why it would be justly to expropriate their indecent wealth, or, to put it simply, to take away. Poor people are the best electorate for ‘folk’ politicians, and fuel for revolutions…’

The plane touched the landing site and stopped. The pilot shut down the engine, and, without saying good-buy, moved sprightly to the terminal building.

“Offended…” the Soldier watched him leave. “Let’s go. There is nothing to wait for.”

“It is chilly,” the Bird shivered.

“It is easy to breath, though,” the Stranger inhaled frosty air with full breast.

“We are closely watched. Perhaps, the Seer has betrayed us,” the Soldier d after the automatic door swung open for them.

“Shall we battle through?” the Stranger was not surprised.

“Only I can go.”

“Here they are!” the Bird exclaimed and run towards a not tall man walking arm-in-arm with a beautiful woman.

“Don’t you want to speak to your old acquaintance?” the Stranger laid his hand onto the friend’s shoulder.

“No time,” the latter snapped.

The Seer chunked the Bird under the chin, stopped, looked at the Stranger, and then shifted his glance at the Soldier. The Medium, to the contrary, was approaching decisively. The Soldier looked around, and gave a wink to the Seer. The Stranger made several steps towards the woman, they embraced. The Medium glanced at his companion, stopped suddenly, and nestled closer to the Stranger as if scared by the resurgent.

“Do not be afraid, beauty. It’s only me. Give me some money. Our funds are a little bit low,” the Soldier asked. The Medium held out the purse keeping silent. He fished out almost all cash.

“I must go now. Stand firm, bro. I’ll pull you through!” the Soldier said and vanished in the crowd instantly.

“Good thing that he went. An unpleasant guy,”  the Seer said through his teeth coming up.

“Peace be to you! Thank you for the plane,” the Stranger thanked extending his hand.

“And to you, good man. We have got into scrapes again,” the Seer stated. “They won’t let us go without answers.”

“I’ll stay, and you go back,” the Stranger said.

“By the way, I’m flying nowhere,” the Medium announced suddenly.

“You are flying with me!” the telepath barked.

“You may not command me!”

“Tell her to go away!” the Seer demanded.

“I cannot command her either,” the Stranger uttered embarrassedly.

The telepath looked at him in anger, turned sharply, and grasped the Bird by the arm. He could hardly control himself, rage and insult choking him, he wanted to cry out, yell at somebody, emotions needed letting out, and he spat with relish on the shining floor, squeezing the Bird’s palm heavily.

“It will be OK,” the girl babbled, wincing at pain. “She will return. Big deal. In the isles, we came through a true horror. Listen here!”

While listening to her blundering account of that terrible disaster, strange as it might seem, the Seer was calming down.

 

The Stranger palmed the Medium’s black curls.

“You’d better go. Things imply not questions only. I’ll be OK. After all, I must return to the City…”

Before he could finish, several men came up.

“Welcome to His Holiness.”

 

The Soldier felt somebody keep an eye on him. To avoid asking why, they won’t catch him at the airport, because they do no need row when bystanders began taking photos. He chose coffee on a drinks dispenser and looked around; generally, security officers are invisible, they not standing out from the crowd. He came into WC and stayed to wait. In a while, two young people, well-oiled, stumbled into the room. Clothes, caps – everything he needed. He fell one of the guys with his favorite blow in the neck, seized the other one by the arm, pulled sharply at himself, and hit him straight in the chin – knock-out. In seconds flat, the Soldier allocated the bodies in the stalls, stripped them of clothes, changed into theirs in haste, slammed on a cap, and left the toilet room leisurely.

“One has appeared, the other is still there,” the agent said keeping an eye on the monitor.

“Better see after the client,” his partner instructed.

“He is lingering about. We need check.”

“Something happened there. Send the men right now.”

Meanwhile, the Soldier left the building, holding a suitcase switched out of some idler, stopped a taxi, haggled for some time to disorient possible chasers, andplopped down on the backseat.

He left the car in a quite dark place, far from stores and banks, being aware of security cameras. Posters and lamp posts were pasted over with rent advertisements. He tore down one of them. An hour later, the man was feasting his eyes on the view of the street, inspecting the entrance to the roof and iron door secured with locks. It is difficult to find him without police. And they are unlikely to engage increased resources to catch him. He ought to rescue the Stranger. But how to steal into the closely guarded residence of the Chairman?

 

Chapter 26. The Energy Exchange

Trying to overcome the disturbing feelings, the Chairman took an antianxiety pill, emptied a glass of water and put on a screen of tranquility. A short-haired tanned man with bright and lively eyes and thick stubble on his face entered the parlor. After him, a familiar slender figure of the longhaired woman appeared. The Stranger looked into the eyes of the host, smiled a little and extended his hand for a handshake. The Chairman pretended that he did not notice it and simply nodded his head politely. The tawny man laughed good-naturedly, sat to the armchair without permission and asked,

“Would you be so kind to order to bring us tea or at least some water?”

The old man was taken aback, the impudence of that young man irritated him quite a lot. Who did he think he was that dirty, both literally and figuratively, vulgarian?

“You will not be left hungry and thirsty in our house. I would like to talk to you in private.”

“We shall talk in about three hours. I need to know for sure that my friends are safe and sound.”

“Good,” the Chairman said through his teeth and turned to the woman, “Why did you come back here?”

“I am ready to endure your company and this gloomy place for him.”

“A gloomy place?” the Chairman smiled subtly. “Do you feel the same?” he asked the long-awaited guest.

“I feel hungry and thirsty, and you are trying my patience,” the Stranger said.

“Patience can save one’s soul,” the host said with a sigh.

He did not like the guest. A dirty, unshaved, inconsiderate man. The Chairman was disappointed. It seemed that not only the tunnel story was the legend, but the rest of the miracles were a mere bluff.

“If you do not like us, get us out of here,” the guest proposed. “It will be good for all of us.”

“We need you for witness testimony. I don’t know if the stories of your amazing abilities are true or they are just stories. They say you have managed to become airborne. We are not surprised by that. For all we know, there were people that were able to levitate. There was a nun often seen floating in the sky. She described her state as follows, ‘Levitation was like a strike, unexpected and quick. I cannot get thoughts together, or think it over. It felt like a cloud or a mighty eagle was carrying me away. I realized that I levitated. After the levitation, I felt unusual lightness in my body as if I had no weight.’

Are these feeling familiar to you? Have you heard of the patron saint of the pilots and astronauts? That person levitated in the air and was able to get up seventy meters high. He was able to read thoughts, and he was a clairvoyant and lived an ascetic life. But his flying confused unripe minds of the monks and a special edict was issued “Of prohibition of levitation during the church service.”

“I am confused by his shrieks during the levitation,” the Stranger said. “He squealed like an obsessed. What are all those monks to me? A torch is not kept in the pocket. For whom will it shine there? The torch should shine the road in the darkness. One cannot subdue flesh without humbling spirit. Soul is humbled through spirit not through flesh. Could it be the reason of all those nasty things that take place in the monasteries or other restricted places? I shall not play by your rules, and your orders are not orders for me.”

“Good,” the old man said through his teeth. “You shall be taken to the lounge. If you wish, a small tour through our halls can be made, where you can see the archeological rarities, paintings and sculptures.”

In spite of tiredness, the sparks of curiosity flashed in the Stranger’s eyes.

“Can I look through the archives?”

“I cannot promise that. Have a rest.”

The walls of the commodious suite were painted thick white, while the paintings of the old masters with luxurious frames gave the feeling of the museum but not the place of rest. The woman was not bewildered with the interior though, she reclined upon the wide bed covered with the velvet dark-red bedspread.

The Stranger found new clothes and even the suit of the correct size in a giant bathroom.

“What a service,” he whistled appreciation, and jumped into the large old-fashioned tub with the ultramodern mixer taps. Despite stress, hot water got him drowsy, and he dropped off to sleep.

 

The Seer was irritated and silent all the way back. He was looking gloomily into the porthole, and saw the clouds, which resembled the sea foam beneath the plane. Sometimes, he closed his eyes, and terrible visions came to him, the dark fell down on him, he felt as if he climbed the tree, slipped and was falling down rapidly. The telepath woke up with a start. He was sure that the woman he loved and the man he was scared of would have sex. ‘She will start, she would do that, she has been dreaming for three years to touch him.’

The terrifying hidden presentiments tore his soul apart and were turning into reality that made him howl. He looked at the sleeping girl, ‘That’s what I call strong nerves. She survived a real horror and now sleeps like a top.’

The Bird stretched out and yawned covering her mouth with a hand.

“We’ll be home soon. You’ll stay at my place for a while,” the Seer said.

“Will he return to me?” the girl looked into the deep dark-brown and full of pain eyes of the Seer.

“The Stranger does not love you and he never did.”

“I know. He is not able to love. His duty is the most important thing for him. He rescued me because he followed his rules but not because he was afraid for me. The men sacrifice themselves. Even a male spider is ready to die only to have sex with a black widow,” she sighed.

“He is not a spider. There is no love between a male and female, there is only appetence,” the Seer said sadly. “Perhaps, the object was not appropriate for him, but it can be helped.”

“The Medium?” the girl drew tight. She was sure the Stranger has nothing in common with that witch. Now she questioned it. “Why did you let her go?”

“I cannot stop a woman in love. She’ll have swing and go back. Anyway, he will not stay long with her. He will not stay long here all in all.”

The girl said in a low voice,

“You sentenced him once.”

The Seer glared at her… and said nothing.

The Stranger woke up when he felt soft and gentle touches. He looked into the burning black eyes hazy with desire, then he saw the half-open, plush lips, and pulled the woman closer.

Least of all it resembled   the first passionate coition of the lovers. The visions floated in front of his eyes, he learned the new another world.The soft breath of the Wind enveloped his head. He passed into another state, he felt power and control. The woman started to breath in gasps, her body shivered with cramps, she clawed her nails to his body and… screamed.

That scream echoed not only in the hall where devotional silence had been kept for hundreds of years, but even reached the ears of the Seer, more than two thousand miles away from his heartbreaking love.

He grasped the left part of his chest, felt his pulse, no arrhythmia; that thought calmed him down a little. ‘There is nothing to be so tragic about,’ he decided. ‘This all might end with heart attack. If it becomes really unbearable, I shall noose her home.’

 

The Medium woke up, cuddled up the Stranger and caressed him with her long and delicate fingers for a long time, kissing his neck second by second. He put her aside mildly, and raised himself on the bed.

“You are the first man that made me feel so good.”

“No offence, but I treat these words with a large dose of skepticism.”

“What else can be better than love?”

“Love is an unsteady substance. Yesterday, they swore love to each other; today, they are ready to tear apart each other; tomorrow, they will forget the very image of their ‘eternal love’.”

“That is not the rule.”

“Love is an internal need of the human being, which is demonstrated externally. The object does not always matter, but it is desirable to find a considerable one.”

“What is a love between a man and a woman for you?”

“Learning and bonding, but first of all, it is the preparation for the mystery of conception.”

“I see. There was an energy exchange between us. I felt your power and gave you my power, and then I fainted. But why should we make things complicated and dig to the roots? I am tired of it. Now, I only wish to be near my beloved man and savor the moment.”

“Do you really believe they will leave us so that we could continue savoring? I’ve been near the beautiful blonde for three years, wiled and lounged away the time. Was I happy? Did my soul find peace and light?”

“You were with a wrong person in a wrong place.”

“Where are we now? The Seer loves you, and his pain darkens my mirth.”

“Let him alone to overcome it. We are friends, but not lovers. Do you regret?” the Medium was about to burst into tears.

“No, I don’t!” the Stranger snapped. “I like you a lot, and it was my fault that I couldn’t stop.”

“There is no your fault. I am the fool! Didn’t I realize that you are an incomer?”

“No. I am a human who tries to learn how to be a human,” the Stranger smiled and gave her a gentle kiss on the lips.

 

Chapter 27. Bloody Palms

The old man came to the Stranger in person to explain the situation; the Seer reached his house unhurt, but dodged phone calls.

The Medium was apparently nervous.

“He will call, when he sees fit. Talk to them, and get it over with.”

“Fine,” the Stranger agreed.

The authorities were talking over in a small voice, sometimes, they even chaffed with each other.

“Once, there was a story,” the Rhetor was telling. “One churchgoer, exulted, with his eyes glowing, described, ‘One day, sitting at table I carelessly swept an empty glass off down the stone floor. But instead of tinkle of falling glass, lo and behold, the glass was safe and sound. I told that story at the meeting, and everybody praised God for the miracle of the glass.’ I asked him, ‘Brother, do you think, an angel of God caught up the glass to prevent it from breaking?’ He said, ‘Indeed. God takes care even of a little something.’ I did not argue with him. That man had a plenty of miseries in his life, but the angel of God had never helped him, and at lastdeigned to catch up a halfpenny glass.”

The Scriber grinned.

“People need miracles.”

The Contemplator, smiling with slit eyes, uttered,

“There are no trifles in life, there are no halfpenny glasses – a small link will hold the entire chain. The glass might have broken, hurt somebody’s foot to cause blood poisoning and death. The churchgoer you are talking about is poor, sick, but he has a large family, sincere faith, and hope. He is not a figure of fun. Why an angel, when you are here? Maybe, you should spend less money for picturesque leaflets and more for help to those in need?”

The Scriber raised the index finger meaningfully and signified consent with a nod.

“You are simply kidding. We are so popular, because we conduct the right promotion. These days, it is a necessity to spread not only goods, but also ideas. You, monopolists, had no difficulties, but that time is over!” the young preacher rebelled.

One of the guards opened the door obligingly, and a light-limbed man of solid built entered the hall slowly. He was followed by the Chairman, but nobody paid attention to him. All eyes were bent on the guest, who stopped regarding the figures of authority.

“I have the honor to introduce the Stranger for whom we have been eagerly awaiting.” A somewhat offended old man ushered and asked the guest, who was standing hesitating, to take a seat of honor.

The Stranger nodded and sat down into the chair. A light breathing of the Wind was caressing his head. He was likely to need defense and inspiration.

“Glad to greet you. But, though I’m the person you are waiting for, what’s the good of me? First, almost all stories about me are nothing more than invention. Second, I have a dim recollection of the events you want to learn about. I believe the calamity that came to the islands is no less important.”

The Contemplator examined the Strangerclosely; his eyes seemed to scan the guest.

“Which religious principles do you adhere to?” The Rhetor inquired. “Whom do you believe in? Which traditions or ordinances do you observe?”

“My faith is a state of mind. I do not follow any traditions. Neither I wear special religious uniform. No rituals. In the ancient times, they were just prophetic symbols. For example, a yearly custom to slaughter a lamb and dip hands into sacrificial blood meant death of the Prince. Stuck, the lamb was bleeding, while people were putting their hands to the wounds, jumping, and dancing, showing bloodstained palms.”

“Do you believe in the Prince?” the Scriber asked.

“He is a messenger of God who showed benevolence, kindness, and justice of the Creator to the world,” the Stranger replied.

“May a good treeyield uneatable fruits? His followers did so many evil things,” the Rhetor said.

“This is a right statement. But, if you remember, the Prince could anticipatelawlessness for the sake of it, and repudiated wicked followers. People always try to justify their cruelty masking it under aiming for the truth.”

“Let’s get down to business,” the Chairman interrupted.

The hall fell silent. Given a leather folder with documents, the old manput on glasses, gave a cough, fished out one sheet of paper, and began reading.

“And the Stranger took to the street of the City,

And the Exterminators stood in his way,

Which were killing all those in their road.

But God’s muscle supported the servant of God,

And surrendered the Exterminators, and left the City soon afterwards.”

“What’s this?” the Stranger sounded hollow.

That voice made the Contemplator startle.

“A legend,” the Chairman responded. “A woman by name the Moon wrote that.”

“What’s the question?”

“The Exterminators… Who are they? What a purpose did they pursue? Why did they leave the City?”

The Stranger said nothing, a pause lingering.

“We are waiting,” the Rhetor could not remain silent any longer.

The Contemplatorhardly keptfrom a sneer. All those present were patiently and understandingly waiting; even the restless Scriber stopped fingering his beard and stared off into space.

“They came to destroy the citizens,” the Stranger responded somewhat hard. “I do not know who they are. Human beings cannot oppose them. They are spirits endued with power, and ultimately, endued with authority.

“Can we reach an agreement with them?” the Scriber asked.

“Can you agree with a speeding truck? You should make arrangements with the driver.”

“So why the Exterminators did yield to you?” one of those present inquired.

“Perhaps, they saw something in me. I have a dim recollection of those events.  Why do you want to know? What happens?”

“Is that man less worthy to know than the Seer?” the Contemplator dropped.

The Chairman chewed the thin lips, looked at the guests, and ordered to turn on the display.

Single pictures were flashing. Ball-like and disk-like apparatus were flying by low and high, moving along a zigzag trajectory, some of them changing not only the color, but also the shape. A few small illuminating spheres departed from a huge disk, flew apart, two of them combining for some seconds to come apart again.

Planes approached a hardly visible cloud, which despite strong wind stood motionless.

“You mustn’t come nearer. They did not invite you,” the Stranger whispered.

Two planes, losing control, were rapidly dropping. A pilot from the third plane recording what happened was able in a mysterious way to evade and keep control of the machine.

Satellite survey recorded a cigar-like vehicle several kilometers long moving fast along a straight trajectory.

The display showed an object in the shape of a mushroom cap, with indistinct contours as if surrounded with some glow.

In the next picture, a triangle flying machine was displayed, with four bright luminous circles at the bottom. It was about several dozens of meters long. The UFO descended over high-rise buildings, hovering for some minutes, and darted off…

The Stranger saw out the record saying nothing, thinking over something for a while, and uttered at last,

“If I got it right, you don’t have images of pilots or passengers. You do not know how they look, and which aims they pursue. You addressed to me because you believe that I have seen them. But you are wrong.”

“And what about the Hermit’s records?” the old man interrogated.

The Stranger startled and looked at the Chairman bewildered.

“The Hermit died in the City. The burial place of his is sacred. People from every corner of the world come to lower their head to him, beg for healing, advice; on his grave, the believers attain favor. The holy man left records behind, which, among others, narrate about your facing ‘the Aliens’,” the old man explained.

“Read aloud,” the guest asked.

“Sure,” the Chairman stretched his thin pale lips. He called the secretary again, and the latter found the text required quickly.

“He was wandering over the desert,

And saw them in the moonlight…

They were walking smoothly and noiselessly…

They were sneaking like a thief.

The man stopped and looked at them.

And they got a sight of him,

Their name was the Aliens.

At the news of them, everybody will lose heart.

Do not walk the road of the desert,

Stay away from the City,

Death and horror all round.

Destruction and misfortune coming on the neck of another,

Peoples of the Earth will have their hand unsteady,

But the Stranger’s fingers did not shake,

His knees did not double up under him.

He was standing and looking at them,

For he is belted with a belt of belief,

For God’s power is in him.”

“This is not a proof. This is an allegory!” the Rhetor exclaimed.

“Right!” the Stranger agreed with the young preacher.

“The Hermit told a lie, didn’t he?” the Chairman asked.

Memories of the friendsuffocated the Stranger, and, despite the Wind breathing, which arose when he crossed the threshold of the hall not to leave him throughout the gathering, it was difficult to talk for him. His memory of the meeting in the desert was very much indistinct, like a dream. However, at that moment, inhuman passionless faces of three travellers burst upon the eye.

“I want to speak to the Seer,” the Stranger repeated the previous requirement.

That time, the famous person established contact and reported that they were all right.

“Show the masks on the wall,” the Stranger asked.

Saying nothing, the Seer got up and pointed the camera at his artifacts. He stopped at one of the masks of some idol. A pale face, high and wide cheekbones, big oval black eyes, straight nose, thin lifeless lips, and self-confident contemptuous air depicted by an artist skillfully.

The Stranger tensed up, the Wind making a sharp comeback slightly shaking the man. Atmosphere became inflammable. Mind surrendered. “Look at nobody, talk to nobody,” flashed through the mind blacking out. The Stranger felt easiness in his body and realized that he is leaving the ground; suddenly a clap was heard, the world went dark before his eyes, and he fell.

Everybody sprang up from the seats except the Chairman. A dart projected from the Stranger’s shoulder. Shortly after that, a man with a gun appeared and bent his head to His Holiness.

“Do not worry – It’s just a sleeping pill.”

“You’ve been doing some homework,” the Scriber grinded his teeth. “Shot him like a stray dog. Maybe, you will send to sleep all of us.”

“His disastrous power appeared.A very little more and it wouldgo hard with us. He lostcontrol andbecamevery dangerous. We had no other native,” the Chairman explained.

Some religious figures of authority left the hall as a sign of protest.

“What has happened? What’s got him?” the loudspeakers sounded with the Seer’s voice.

“Don’t worry, nothing threatens to him. He will receive competent medical aid,” the Chairman assured him mildly. “Will you do us a favor to show us the mask the Stranger noted? How did you come to get it?”

Everyone saw again that seemingly commonplace artifact.

“This relic was found in the Silencers’ Desert, a survival of the idolatry times. Want to get it for your museum?” the annoyed holder of the artifact asked.

“Undoubtedly! Our people will get in touch with you to discuss the price.»

“It will be costly!” the Seer disconnected.

“Aren’t you afraid of the Stranger?” the Scriber inquired gloomily.

“No! He is neither the first nor the last one. For us, he is a mere witness of significant events,” the Chairman, who cheered up, answered.

“At all times, witnesses, like seers, were burnt,” the Scriber dropped completely.

“How do the Stranger’s testimonies and this doubtful mask help?” the Rhetor got up nervously, walked around the hall, and sat down into the chair again staring at the old man.

“His power appeared, when he saw that aloof face,” the Chairman said coolly.

“You are likely to get an image ofone of them,” the Contemplator grinned.

 

Chapter 28. Connection

The Seer took the notorious mask off the wall and looked at it: ‘Nothing special. But why do they need it?’

Turned the cast and took a closer look to the lifeless gypsum: ‘The image used to terrify people.’

He tried on the mask, peeped out of it: ‘The face is peaceful, confident, strong… A masterpiece.’

He ran his fingers on it: ‘The mask is ancient. It was found in the graves located in one of the caves.’

He looked at thegypsum image again: ‘It is not the deity,’ he rubbed his head furiously. ‘He walked the land, people saw him, he looked from above…’

His thoughts were interrupted with a phone call. The Seer listened to the terms keeping silence and agreed to give the artifact without any doubts. He would give not only that mask but a whole collection of the trifles for the price proposed.

A nice melody started to play. ‘Here you are. They kept their word,’ the Seer swiped the screen of the phone excitedly.

“Hello,” he heard, and his heart fell down from its usual steady rhythm, but he said in his calmest voice:

“Hello to you too, woman!”

“Something has happened to our friend. They made me leave the residence and told to be quiet.”

“You must go back immediately!” the Seer demanded. The burden was leaving his chest gradually, he cheered up. “They won’t do him any harm! I know what you think – the media will be of no use. As soon as you draw attention to this case, they will kill you without hesitation. No one will be near to rescue you. Listen to me!” he raised his voice and gathered all his strength. “You are going to the airport! I will book you a ticket to the nearest flight. You will be met at home.”

The hypnotist took a piece of dark chocolate trying to restore the energy spent. ‘I will need much more strength soon.’

The Medium was kicked out of the residence without even letting her take her coat. Despite the dank wind, she did not notice the cold and wet clothes, but she was totally aware that she must get to the airport. Somehow she was walking for quite a long time. Finally, a brilliant thought came to her head – a taxi. She stretched the thumb and stood like that with her arm up for several minutes until a car appeared. She flopped down the back seat and said one word only: airport. The driver looked at the mad woman suspiciously and asked for the payment in advance, the Medium gave him all the money she had. He shrugged, took the needed sum, and pulled away.

The woman was haunted by one and only thought – to leave as soon as possible and, what is more important, do not stop anywhere. She saw the shop-windows and the billboards that seemed to confirm her wish. The store sign ‘Welcome to our house’ brought to recollection the home that she had to be at. A song started playing on the radio.

 

“Someday, one day

On a rainy day I’ll leave, I’ll leave.

And they will tell you: ‘He’s here no more!

He’s left, he’s gone to see the sun again.’

The time will come, the day will come,

And the rain will pour in the morning,

And I shall say: ‘Farewell, it’s time…’

And you will know and you will sigh –

And only rain and wind will answer you.

I’m here no more, I’m here no more!

I left, I left to see the sun again.

I left, I left to see the sun again.

 

‘I’m here no more. I left, I left,’ the Medium repeated after the singer. She jumped up and down with impatience and hurried the driver who silently endured her prodding. Suddenly, she recalled the Stranger: ‘He stays and I leave? How is that?’

A compelling force carried her away from the person she loved so much a couple of hours ago.

 

He did not want to wake up. What for? It was so nice and sweet. The worries were gone, stress left his body. ‘Good,’ the Stranger whispered and opened his eyes constrainedly. ‘It seems I was over-medicated.’

A doctor entered with a blood pressure meter in his hands. The Stranger looked at the digits that flashed at the display. He tried to get up. He felt vertiginous, the walls danced around him. He remembered a sudden prick in his shoulder. He touched the hurt place, took off the band aid and observed the slightly seen needle mark. He wobbled to the wall, leaned against it, opened his mouth with a great effort and asked the Chairman to come and see him.

The doctor shrugged his shoulders, and knocked at the door. The patient rushed after him clumsily, but the medical man moved him away unceremoniously. The prisoner could not fight him: his arms and legs were numb.

‘I need to pull myself up. Wind!’ he listened to his feelings. ‘Nothing. I need a right code and it will come.’

Two able-bodied men burst into a room. A new pinch, the Stranger slackened, sank down the wall, closed his eyes…

“Your holiness,” the doctor told the Chairman. “I wouldn’t recommend giving him such doses. He cannot resist drugs. He’s got extremely slow pulse and low pressure. It could end with a collapse.”

“It will not take long. Look after him. We need him alive. Soon we shall ask some questions and let him go.”

The Chairman spoke to the elders of the order and they decided that the interrogation should be conducted by the third-party specialist who had never heard of the patient so famous in the religious world.

 

The psychotherapist Perforator successfully used the hypnosis methods. He believed that it is the hypnotic trance makes the witness tell all the truth. The doctor hypnotized people who ‘contacted’ the UFO but only a few deserved at least some interest not to speak of trust. The Perforator willingly shared the ideas and the pictures he heard fromhis patients with his friends-writers. But here was the totally new case – the patient hides the information of his contacts or he indeed has the loss of memory. Anyway, hypnosis may help reconstruct the blocked memory fragments protected by some sort of that the brains cannot present openly.

 

The Stranger slept for several hours again. ‘Can I afford myself to have some rest and get enough sleep?’ he thought. The door opened again. ‘I don’t think so.’

A sturdy middle-aged man with deeply set small eyes entered the room. He quickly came over to bed, took the patient’s wrist, felt the pulse, moved the forefinger up and down, left and right, and tapped the knees of the patient with the reflex hammer – minimum of reflexes.

There was a plastic water bottle on the table, the Stranger reached for it, but the Perforator took his arm, and peered with his small eyes to the eyes of the patient. He Stranger sighed, pulled out his wrist through the gripping thumb, at the same time undercutting the pivot foot of the psychotherapist. The doctor fell on the soft floor but jumped up at once, with his face distorted with anger, ready to set upon the patient with blows.

Meanwhile, the Stranger drank off the bottle of water, and his consciousness cleared up at least. The anger against the man who broke the xenial customs inflamed him.

“I know you can hear and see me!” the Stranger cried. “Do you think there is no God, and thus you can sin against the laws? Or you play God? You are a human being and you die as a human! You will not be allowed to the light! The doors of the God`s adobe are closed for you!”

The guardsmen who entered the room stood stone-still unable to move a muscle. Even the psychotherapist who believed in nothing huddled himself up in a corner, eyes closed and ears stopped. The Chairman lied on the floor and, unable to utter a word, pointed to the screen mumbling, somebody ran up and turned the monitor off…

 

The Stranger was walking the halls, and no one stopped him. He felt the Wind with all his body, it seemed that the skies were about to open and the ground was about to crack. He even waggled upon feeling the force that almost captured him. ‘No!’ he shouted and put a barrier for the shooting flow.

After such a strong outpouring of the Wind a man loses his physical powers quickly. A sharp sting again. The ceiling turned upside down once more. With the remains of consciousness, the Stranger heard some words, he felt as if he was flying, though he was dragged along the floor.

The questions asked in a monotonous voice appeared to be interesting so he was glad to answer…

 

“You’ve been of great help for us,” the Chairman thanked the psychotherapist.

“This is an unusual patient. Trust me, he is not a deceiver, he genuinely believes that he had met the ‘others’.”

“Don’t you believe that there are those who look at the stars from the other side?” the pale and tired Chairman smiled a little. He was exhausted for the last few days, and now, his health declined considerably, but he managed to bear up due to his amazing will power hammered by the long fasts.

“I admit there may be life on the other planets, but I never saw an alien visitor, so I do not believe. We need very clear evidences. The story of the patient is interesting, detailed, and true. Still I guess he told us his dream and nothing more. Such things happen.”

“Is your fright and the stupor of the well-trained guards just a dream as well?”

“I did not take measure. He is a talented hypnotist… Perhaps, he is better than me. And one more thing…” the doctor stopped for a moment. “He is a good man, it is clear. Please, do not torture the guy and hook him on.”

The eyes of the Chairman flashed with anger, he felt a wish to raise his voice to the presumptuous vulgarian: ‘Who are you to teach me the morals?’ but he controlled himself and said coldly, “You will be shown the way out.”

 

Sulky psychotherapist was walking back home. Out of habit, he threw back his head so that to see the windows of his flat that used to be lit in the evening. But they have been dark for two month already. His wife took their child and left the family nest, cleaned up their bank accounts and safe deposit boxes with financial documents in advance. The Perforator did not want to litigate, he had the roof over his head and was thankful for that. As for the money, he could earn enough to live as the number of mentally disturbed people grew more and more. Still what was in money? The life without the child’s laughter became empty and pale, and the bed without the beloved wife brings only coldness, melancholy, and loneliness.

Surprisingly, the windows were lit. The Perforator could not believe his eyes, forgotten of the elevator he rushed to the fifth floor. ‘She is the only person who has the keys!’

With a shivering hand he opened the unfastened door. Nobody in. Could it be he had forgotten to turn off the light and lock the door? Hardly. A robbery? But there is nothing valuable in the flat. Disappointed, he shuffled off to the kitchen; his jaded nerves needed some beer. He opened the fridge. Strange. He definitely had a couple of bottles yesterday.

“I am sorry,” a gruffish voice sounded from behind. The Perforator startled, bunched fists, ready to fend off an unexpected guest.

A slab-sided withy man gave him a sharp look. The psychotherapist stepped back, pulled himself up.

“Who are you? How did you get to the house?”

“Stop popping your eyes out, your hypnosis has no power over me, I can do the same. I am here for my friend, the Stranger. You are pale. Take a seat. I will not do you any harm,” the Soldier pointed on the chair.

“It means he is right and might have seen something, indeed, if you are here,” the bemused doctor mumbled.

“It’s none of your business, what he saw. Your task is to take him out of the residence.”

“What if I do not agree?” the Perforator tried to avoid looking into the sharp eyes of the guest.

“I shall find another way to free him, but you will agree for I know how to bring peace to your soul – your wife and child.”

“How should I take him out of the residence? It’s perfectly secured.”

“Who is the hypnotist here?”

“You know what the hypnosis is?” the owner of the house, still puzzled, asked.

“You know,” the Soldier said lazily and looked at the ceiling.

“Yes, this is the ed state of consciousness. We all can be hypnotized and we enter this state when we are about to wake up and go to sleep. A patient is more amenable in this state and he can take on faith many things. Some are opt to believe that a person cannot perform an action that contradicts their moral principles. But, unfortunately, it is not the rule. Though there are some individuals that can resist the external interference. The low-hypnotizable people are employedto the security of the Chairman,” the psychotherapist explained nervously.

“Do you believe there are peculiar knacks like pendulums, fast or monotonous words, passes needed?”

“Sure. All the methods work but not for all the patients. Still I believe everyone has their own key, all we need is to find it.”

“So, everyone can hypnotize anyone?” it was not clear why the guest started that talk.

“Not everyone,” the Perforator shook his head. “Only a few can rise to eminence. And the top-professional is the Seer. Somehow he can hypnotize people remotely.”

“Aren’t you able to do the same?”

“I need to see the eyes of the object…” the Perforator hesitated.

“I understand. By the way, I know the Seer,” the Soldier opened the fridge as if he owned the place, took the red apple, bit off a piece and chewed. “He believes that the hypnosis is just a connection. Say, you turn on the computer but there is a that you do not know. One of the methods – you need to enter the ‘safety mode’ and perform some manipulations, for instance, you can take off the battery from the motherboard. Anyway, you need to know for sure what you are doing. After you get rid of the password, you can browse files, install or remove the apps. You can do whatever you want, only if the capacity of the computer allows. If you grasp the very idea of how you can infiltrate to a person, you can engraft any idea in his mind. But let’s go back to business.”

“Who are you? I need to know this,” the Perforator dropped eyes.

“Haven’t the Stranger told about me? I am his friend.”

“How can you bring my family back to me? What are the guaranties?” it seemed that the psychiatrist, seized an illusory chance.

“My word is the best guaranty. But there is one condition.”

“What condition?” the Perforator asked lively.

“You will agree to take back your wife in any state.”

“I agree. I only wish my daughter could be with me.”

“I’ll bring back both your wife and daughter,” the Soldier returned to finishing the red apple.

 

Chapter 29. Memories

A swarthybut pale gentleman with sharp features was lying on the bend, with his eyes half-closed. A wide-shouldered black-haired man of about forty five was sitting near him. Small coal-black eyes stood out on his face with high cheekbones.

“Have you seen the others?” he asked the Stranger mildly.

“Yes.”

“What do they look like?”

“It depends. I saw beautiful tall fair-skin brunettes all in black. It looks like when the creatures enter female bodies and displace or suppress their souls. When they moved to another body, their previous shells die. But where is thesoul? Where is it?” the patient raised himself upon elbows and dropped onto the pillow again. “They are no different from ordinary people. However, I can identify them because of strange behavior,” he stopped speaking for a while, and added, “But their eyes, non-human eyes, are above all.”

“You came cross them in the desert, didn’t you?” the hypnotist kept on.

In the desert I met others. Very tall creatures, probably men, without traces of beards, pale thick slightly yellowish skin, black long-drawn eyes, thin lips, small mouth, totally dressed in black. Their clothes is very strange as if fused with the bodies, neither dirt nor dust sticking to it. Their faces resembled masks. They were three, one of them passed by me on the right, just on meter away. It glanced at me with a haughty scornful appearance. Maybe, I did not see but felt its contemptuousness, since their faces had no mimic we got accustomed to. The creatures were moving very firmly, smoothly, and fast – they were in a hurry…»

“How did you passed through the Tunnel of Death?”

“I was assisted.”

“Who assisted you?”

“No matter.”

“What happened in the City?”

“The Exterminators were hunting. I got in their way. Wrongly. Now, it is going to get worse,” the Stranger was speaking jerkily.

“Is that true that you killed a man?”

“I did not kill people. The Enemy is not a human. He killed my friend. He will find you…”

The Stranger switched off muttering something in an unknownlanguage. Only the Scriber could understand  some husky words. He was listening attentively to the patient’s ramblings, half-rose, and began fingering his beard.

“What does he say?” the Chairman asked and stopped the image.

“Very difficult to catch. This  is a kind of a dead language. Looks like a prophecy.”

Bewildered silence hung over those present interrupted by the Rhetor speaking indignantly.

“Can be that the aim of our stay? Did we waste our time, efforts, and money for this delirium?”

“I do not regret,” the Scriber d. “It seems like the Stranger is the very person to recognize them. And we have got an indirect proof of their being dangerous and hostile. But what should we do with the information?”

“There is nothing to do, indeed,” the Contemplator said. “After all, we are not going to hunt the people in black. In fact, it is not necessarily the case that all of them prefer dark clothes. Innocent people may suffer. And the Stranger will not help us. By the way, who is his friend who was killed?”

“This is just a delirium of a zonked person!” the Rhetor boiled over.

“We know two killed friends, the Soldier, and the Hermit,” the Contemplator was reasoning, ignorant of the young theologian’s replies. “And, you know, people under hypnosis never speak so.”

“The Hermit is belowground,” the Chairman responded. “However, we know nothing about the Soldier. According to the Seer, he was killed. Nevertheless, our agents saw a man who arrived together with the Stranger. He was able to escape though being followed. Perhaps, like the pilot, he was hired by the Seer.”

“We must find the pilot to question him,” the Rhetor frowned.

“You have gone too far. It will turn out badly. Let the Stranger go wherever he likes,” the Scriber insisted.

“Do not be afraid!” the Chairman elevated the voice. “For many centuries, we have standing sentinel over law and order. Our archives safeguard information on people like him. We worked out the matters and generally delivered a right judgment.”

“But what about inquisitions?” the Rhetor squeaked. “How many gifted people  were plagued to death by you? How many ‘disbelievers’ were burnt at the stake?»

“We martyred heretics’ flesh for them to be forgiven and admitted to the heavenly dwelling place.We had it on our conscienceto save sinners,” the old man’s pale face broke out in red patches.

«Then, why don’t you do the same? You repent your fathers’ sins! Make excuses in public! Never oppose the government! Kiss ass of the secular world! Yes, you heard me aright!” the Rhetor cried.

“We abide by the moral laws, while you pollute them! How can you abet homosexuals? To stand for same-sex marriages thus trampling upon the sacred institution of the family? Marriage is a union of a man and woman, father and mother. The pledge of love is a child born from husband and wife! Let man alley to woman to become a united body. Can there be two right hands? You support disharmony in the world! For money, you are ready to make a deal with the Adversarywho welcomes filth and abuse!”

The Scriber could hardy keep smiling – two snakes butted heads. The Contemplator was cool and estranged as always, however, he was contented too.

“You know nothing of these people! You do not understand how dangerous they are! The Chairman roared. “They slaughter not only with a knife or bullet, but with a spell for death. We investigated the cases thoroughly. Those who were merely fooling around with no harm to people were released!”

“What about scientists, philosophers, other-minded persons? Didn’t you destroy the rich for their wealth?” the Rhetor even stood up, with his chest thrust out.

“The punitive system cannot be perfect. There is a human factor; errare hummanum est. We destroyed only those scientists involved in magic and witchery. We were fightingblasphemers for God not to be angry to accurse the Earth because of those black sheep!”

“Begging you,” the Contemplator interfered. “Our cooperation is at threat.”

“Do you have any proposition?” the Chairman asked calmed down a bit.

“Brother Scriber does,” the Contemplator replied gently.

The Scriber bowed as a sign of respect, and said,

“Thank you for trust. As clever people say, if not knowing what to do, go to bed.”

“What do you mean?” the Rhetor was at lost.

“There is nothing to do. I’ll repeat it once again that we mustn’t keep the Stranger in. Let him go his own way.”

“Who can hold him!?” the Contemplator uttered, and looked closely to the old man’s painful face, added in a low voice, “I think, it’s time I was going too.”

 

The Perforator called to the Chairman’s office for a pass to the residence,  got a positive soon.

“One more plea, find the Chairman’s photo. Come on,” the Soldier smiled at the psychiatriststared at him hesitating. “Can one kill a person, especially like this one, using just a picture?”

“See it yourself,” the Perforator nodded at the computer. “I’ll go. No time.”

“Good luck!” the Soldier was already running fingers over the keyboard.

He crumpled up the printed image of the holy old man and threw it carelessly to the bin.

 

Chapter 30. The Grace

She could hardly realize the reality. She passed the customs control as if in a fog and automatically gave her documents in the office of the passport control.

“Welcome back home!” the pretty lady officer smiled.

Near the airport building, the Medium saw the familiar woman in a formal suit.

«Boss asked me to meet you.»

Doddering along the secretary, the Medium looked around in surprise.

Two hours later, the Seer, hobbling, walked towardsher in the garden alley.

“Is it your job?!” the woman said sadly.

“I have rescued you.”

“I didn’t ask you to. We left him like a lamb for the slaughter.”

“He will be taken care of. The Chairman is in critical condition. The official statement will come in several hours.”

“What is your verdict?” the Medium cheered up.

“He is palsied. He will live for a while, poor one. Anyway, at the moment, no one cares about your boyfriend,” he stressed the word ‘your’.

“You know that as well,” the woman said slowly. “I’ve been dreaming of him for a long time and I regret nothing. You are trying to keep me on lead,fending the men away from me. You’ve been trying to endear yourself to me so many times, but it was useless because this feeling lies so deep in the subconscious that even you cannot reach.”

“I believe that it is despicable to endear myself to you. It is not difficult to conquer a woman – money, success, fame, some warm feelings and understanding: and a woman is totally committed to a man. Do I lack some of the above mentioned? As for the infusion, I can put anything into anyone’s head. Look!”

He made a phone call. A young lady assisting to him appeared and looked at the Seer’s concentrated face questioningly.

“Lie down!”  he ordered sharply.

The beautiful woman lied on the grass in her expensive suit without a word. The Seer started whispering something with lofty and confident mien… The womanraisedher skirt, showing her slender legs with round knees, and started to caress her thighs, biting her lips and uttering short moans…

“Now she is going to tell that I made her feel unbelievable, fantastic orgasm. Would you like to check?” the Seer asked.

“No!” the Medium all blushed answered. “Please make her forget everything.”

“Ok. I don’t need such fame,” he clapped his hands and ordered in a powerful voice: “Wake up!”

The woman’s look became clear. She examined herself perplexedly. The Seer came to her and helped her to stand up.

“You slipped and fell down, it was my fault. We will reimburse your suit.”

“Thank you,” the secretary looked passionately at her mysterious boss whom she wanted from the moment she met him. “I need to change the clothes, excuse me.”

“Do you still believe I couldn’t conquer you?” the tired Seer smiled and gave a small bow to a woman with his palms theatrically put together.

“People are trash for you. Do you think you have the right to control bodies and souls?”

“Not at all. I simply demonstrated my abilities. I shall give the girl a bonus, she will be happy. And she is indeed happy now as well.”

“Is the Bird here?” the enraged woman asked. “I want to talk to her.”

“She is a rest. I would like to talk to her as well. Guess, who will be the subject of our talk?”

The Medium groaned.

“He became a new man, even his appearance changed, but he is still recognizable.”

“The Soldier is connected, and it is not possible to figure out his thoughts and actions until they open the access to the information.”

“Who are they?”

“Those who breathed a new life into him and now control him. We are not alone in the Universe, babe.”

“Do you believe a possessed man can help the Stranger?”

“He lives by the rules that reflect his previous world view, it’s just the accents that changed a little. The battlefield has extended. He is quite an independent personality. We walk through the hall, passing the adjacent rooms. The Soldier left one room and entered another. But I am stuck…”

“I acted as my heart told me but I forgot how it hurts you,” the woman looked into his wan eyes.

“The dreams come true, especially the wicked ones.”

The woman wanted to answer back but kept silent, took the Seer by the hand, and they walked the gritty alley covered with the autumn leaves.

 

The Seer was right, the Stranger was totally forgotten. The Perforator entered the secured building without extensive effort and found the patient fit as a fiddle. They walked into the hall where even the white walls seemed to darken with grieve.

“Have you heard that the holy elder had been seized with apoplexy? Furthermore, he fell down awkwardly and broke the femoral neck,” the psychotherapist whispered.

“I saw in the mournful faces of the servants that something bad had happened,” the Stranger answered indifferently. “I do not wish him being tormented. He is not the worst person. The God is merciful.”

“I know who was in charge of that tragedy”, the Perforator said in a conspiratorial tone.

“It was not me,” the Stranger spoke low.

“It was your friend, the Soldier.”

“How did he do that?”

“By a photo.”

The Stranger shook his head discontentedly, ‘What a nonsense.’

“By a photo? How’s that?”

“I’ve heard of such kind of magic but I was sure it was all tales. Anyone can be put out of the way like that!”

“But not anyone can do that,” the Stranger corrected him.

They were stopped several times but the hypnotist was at his best and they left the residence left all the obstacles behind.

There were two men sitting on the bench in the park with sculptures and talking. The Stranger recognized them and came closer. The Perforator waited aside politely, pretending that he was examining the statue of the naked philosopher athlete.

“It’s breezy”, the Stranger breathed the sharp air deeply.

“Quite cold,” the Contemplator shivered a little.

“Do you need help?” the Scribe asked. “My duty is to help you,” and he gave him his business card.

“It’s time for me to come back. Is it true that I am d an outlaw at home?”

“You are forgotten. There are only wild rumors left. Your name can be found in the folklore of the rare mad sects. But my advice to you – do not announce yourself. You’d better leave rather far off and keep low,” the Scribe said.

“He’s right,” the Contemplator started speaking. “You’ve got a really good intuition but it can let you down as well. Listen to the wise man. They will not let you go away for the second time.”

“The intellect is not the best adviser when there are not enough facts for the analysis of the situation,” the Stranger objected.

“There is a lot that we cannot see and will never be able to see. It is not possible for us to understand the system that rules the universe,” the Scribe smiled.

“The intuition fills the niches that reason cannot realize. The intellect is not the strongest attribute of the human being for it consists of our knowledge, stereotypes and experience, which is restricted, while intuition has no limits. In the world of fantasy and dreams, one can the reality of any kind. The ability for creative work and conceptual thinking is put into us. Everything is possible but we lack belief,” the Stranger said.

“Intellect is the guardian that protects us from ourselves. Without the strict rules, a chaos will reign,” the Scribe sighed.

“That’s true but the rules should be written in the hearts as a guideline to follow.”

“But as for now, we still need the testimonies,” the Scribe made a helpless gesture.

“You are a man of the future. Your time has not come yet,” the Contemplator looked at the Stranger ruefully.

“I have no time to wait for my time to come,” the Stranger played upon words and took a quick look at the dejected psychotherapist standing aside.

He thanked the Scribe for the business card and extended hand for a handshake with the Contemplator, the latter jumped,grasped the hand with both palms and gripped it firmly.

“I’m sorry,” the Stranger came to the Perforator. “I am delighted to leave this terrarium. Pity, they didn’t allow me to see the archives.”

“They wouldn’t let you read the secret information anyway. At the best, they allow to see the things that are well-known to everyone.”

“You were denied this,” the Stranger said slowly.

“Yes… I wanted to read the cases of the healers who cured with the hypnosis. It’s well-known that even the hardest illnesses can be cured not only with the medicines but with the hypnosis that strangely enough can influence the tissue in some mysterious way. It means the spontaneous recovery may be connected to some substance existing in our bodies. We just need to find the way of triggering it, we need to form a certain condition or, it is better to say, situation. For instance, a person turns gray, the process may last for years, it depends on the gradual melanin loss. Though sometimes, as a result of the heavy stress, the hair can go gray instantly. I am sure that our bodies have the capacity not only for destruction but for the creation as well.”

“Do you think the ancient healers knew the formula of turning gray hair back to normal without using hair-dye?” the Stranger smiled.

“I do believe,” the Perforator stopped.

“The world got used to hair dyeing. It is difficult to break the stereotype of thinking. I believe that a man can do a lot in case he realizes the true nature of things. When a competent doctor tells – you are terminally ill, the person indeed becomes ill. The tokens of a disease appear, he changes his way of life and waits mournfully for his time to come. We are predisposed to trust the authorities and even if the doctor is right, there is always a chance to be healed,” the Stranger said.

“What are you getting at?”

“We need to bring the people back to the Origin. There is no point in painting the wall rotten inside. We need to heal the soul and the soul will cure the ill body.”

“But how? How?” the psychotherapist grated teeth.

“We need to realize who we are. To learn our purpose.”

“What are we?”

The Stranger stopped. The Wind covered his head. The psychotherapist shivered a little.

“What are we? What are we…” the Stranger repeated several times. “We are different. We all are very different, and everyone has their own reason for being… I’m sorry,” he noticed the Perforator’s condition.

“Was that hypnosis?” the psychotherapist asked in a piteously voice, wambling.

“No, it wasn’t”, the former patient answered in a low voice. “Let’s go, it’s late.”

“You can stay overnight at my place,” the Perforator gave him a small bow.

“Does something press upon you? Matrimonial difficulties?”

“You have hit it. Your friend promised help.”

“He may help but what sort of help it will be?” the Stranger frowned. “You may regret it yourself. I would like to stay alone, ramble around the streets, and see the night of this old city. Thank you for everything.”

“Take some money for tea, the nights are cold now.”

The Stranger sighed embarrassedly, put some cash to his pocket, said goodbye, and left.

The Perforator looked at his palm that was held by that person and felt an impulse to cry something good to a man going away. He was standing there for a long time and watching him go. The doctor felt joy and peace as if grace fell upon him.

 

Chapter 31.  Depressive Psychosis

A young man with a face of an actor and rather attractive forty years old woman sat on the balcony, looked at the stars and admired the full yellow moon. They drank tea. The woman was happy, even the persistent thoughts of her former husband took backseat. ‘The main thing is I managed to escape that kind monster, hypnotist who used to look at me with his small eyes like theboa watches the rabbit,’ she was thinking. ‘The girl loves her father but if mother is unhappy, she will suffer as well empathizing me.’

She would not leave probably but she met a tall handsome man with curly hair, a sexually charged brunet who looked as if just stepped out of the TV screen. She met him at a banquet where she shined in her evening dress. He engaged her for a dance and held her tight. ‘A villain’ dared to place his palm far lower her waist on the curves that she was so proud of, honing the body with exhausting trainings. The brunet looked at her gently, passionately and – what was most important – with desire. She sank in his lusty eyes and was ready to jump off the deep end only to continue this ‘passion voyage.’

When the party was over, they exchanged their telephone numbers, and there was no going back. Constant messages, calls, secret café meetings, and then that happened… He took her rudely and strong without the foreplay just as she was dreaming about secretly. The Perforator’s wife found the long-forgotten feeling again – she was desired.

Soon, the young man confessed that he cannot simply be her lover as his family is famous for strong traditional virtues, and to sleep with a married woman was a sin, and it was only the power of love that made him act that way. The disparity of years was not a barrier, and the young man demanded her to dare for the profound changes. As if waiting for these words, she emptied the family bank account, took the furniture and almost all houseware and flatware, but left a tin-opener hoping that the ex-husband will slash wrists, and thus she will elude endless court proceedings. Meanwhile, the woman in love settled with her lover, temporarily unemployed for several years, in a posh neighborhood.

Suddenly, she felt a dull pain in the lower part of her belly, jumped off the chair and went to the bathroom.  She examined herself and found a small limp in her pelvic area, sat on the floor and burst into tears. ‘A catastrophe. I need to go to the hospital. Who’s going to stay with the child at night? I cannot find a baby-sitter now, it’s impolite to ask the friends.’ After a moment’s consideration, she decided to make a phone call.

The Perforator startled with the call. Slowly, as if being afraid to be disillusioned again, he looked at the screen of the mobile phone and grinned victoriously. He waited for a couple of seconds, answered in his most indifferent tone, offered his help and ran out to the street looking for a taxi. He needs to go home immediately, his girl whom he haven’t seen for three weeks will be brought soon, but what is most important — he will see his wife.

‘What if she cheated and she is not ill, simply wants to get rid of the child? Perhaps, the girl hinders them in sex?’ he grated teeth. ‘I must have been sick if such thoughts come in upon my mind.’

 

The evening street breathed the late autumn, water from the sky, spreading around the pavement, reflected the light of the street-lamps. The Stranger strolled along the empty streets, ignoring the puddles.

 

Red and yellow leaves,

Traffic lights and squares,

There was a time I wished peace,

And now I don’t believe that everything will change,

But I am sure that it will be over.

 

And the crows cry through the cracks in the sky,

Only rains, clouds, and illusions under them.

Here is an unknown woman near the door,

Her look is as indifferent as the mummy’s one…

 

I trust the bad weather,

For the rain is euphoria too.

I feel that time is leaving

Turning into the last train…

 

The night is counting the puddles

With the light of the leaving stars

Nobody needs me…

For real…

 

‘What is the matter with me?’ The Stranger took himself up shortly. ‘Despair is disgraceful! If I despond, it means I stopped trusting the divine disposal. Perhaps, I got addicted to thesoporific drugs,they were giving me. Perhaps, the drugs have an impact not only on the body buton the soul as well? For the soul is connected with the body as the child with his mother via the navel string. The good and the evil go throughout the navel string. Filters are still there but they cannot stop everything, they got dirty. And they need to be cleaned. Here, I have the filth that influences my mind.’

 

There are a lot of law-abiding citizens,

And each of them requires narcosis…

Long, long thirst

Depressive Psychosis…

 

The trees will turn to ashes,

The debts will turn to dust,

And the new trust will be built

On the nameless bones…

 

Two thousand years of loneliness,

Come out of the blown up veins.

I guess,

I have already been here…

 

‘What a burst,’ the Stranger laughed and hasten steps. He felt easier with every movement. He got to the small brightly lit square. There was a crooked tree supported by a small pole and a fine sculpture of a woman with a jar in the middle of the square. Every metal table has a couple of chairs near it. The guest sat down to the outside table. A tired but still smiling young girl came up to him.

«One coffee and a chocolate tart, please,» the Stranger made an order.

«An adjustment: two coffees and two tarts,» said a familiar voice thatmade the visitor shiver. The waitress staggered back as well.

«I decided to bear a company to you as in good old times,» the Soldier dropped into the chair blithely.

«What are you doing, man?» the Stranger shut lips tight.

«What are you talking about?» his friend was surprised.

«You are killing people. By what right? Who are you?» the Stranger started speaking his mother tongue.

«I killed a pogrom-makerand rapist. I stopped the mad outraged crowd without much pain. It is our task to stop outrage. People cannot do whatever they want. Sometimes you need to be reminded about it. Otherwise, the vultures will come and claim their rights, and we will not be able to protect you. And to settle it with them is a thankless task.»

«I am talking of the Chairman. Is he a pogrom-monger or rapist too?»

«It was you who drew troubles upon him. Still, it is him to blame for he broke his commitments and xenial customs, what a viper.»

«What about the photo? Did you learn from the island magicians to poke needles?» the Stranger could not stop resenting.

Meanwhile, the waitress brought coffee and tarts on the tray. The Soldier gave her a passionate glance that made her blush, she could not hide that she was pleased with that and answered him with even hottest look.

«The Perforator should have guessed whom he is dealing with. In order to get what they want, people are ready to make a contract with the darkness, being totally aware of what they are doing. For their passion, they are ready to poke the needles not only into the image but into a live person as well.»

«Who are you?» the Stranger repeated his question again tiredly. «I do not believe that you are a God’s angel.»

«You grew up on legends and that’s why you know not much of the core of the things. You have to understand it yourself, at least those pictures that were shown to you,» the friend snapped merrily. «Someone is waiting for me. I’ll be back soon.»

He rushed to the girl sitting on the steps near the restaurant entrance.

The Stranger’s first impulse was to run away from this place and stay away from the person who fantasized himself a somebody, but his researcher’s mind made him pause to think: ‘The Soldier is trying to break the mold of my way of thinking. Why?’

«Do you deprecate?» the Soldier asked sipping the cold coffee.

«No, I don’t. I have not the right to, but I cannot understand.»

«You are narrow-minded. You think, there are only holy angels and evil demons. The world cannot be divided into black and white. A total color-blindness at the physical level is very rare, but it’s pretty often at the spiritual one. There are two types of the receptors in the light-sensitive layer of the retina. The cones are in charge of color perception. They work if the colors are bright enough. In the twilight the cones do not work. There are other receptors — the rods — can perceive the black and white picture only. They are more light-sensitive.»

«It’s twilight now,» the Stranger said impassively. «What are you going to do with her?»

«It is a pleasure for me, an adventure for her, and the high-quality offspring for them. Actually, you are going to have problems with the reproductive function soon. You absorb too much radiation and eat too much of junk food.»

«Perhaps,» the Stranger pursed lips. «But I don’t want to be like you and I will not be like you. Life is a pool, and we have a choice — to pollute or to cleanse it.»

“Maybe it’s better to stay away if you do not know how to cleanse?”

“The main thing is to know what exactly pollutes, and stay away. Do you want a tip of advice?” the Stranger asked.

“Sound interesting,” his friend gave him a broad grin, showing perfect even teeth.

“This world does not belong to you. You showed up when all hard work is done, do not act as if you were our masters:It is no you to choosefor us what is good or what is bad. Never place or support men that are pushing your ideas, and spill our blood…”

“The house was neglected and abandoned,” the Soldier interrupted him. “And it is definitely not yours. And you were just one step removed from the wild world. Trust me, it was not easy to adapt you, humans, to the environmental conditions. Not to mention teaching you to speak not on the level of learned reflexes. It was we who put a capacity for the creative thinking into you.”

The Stranger gave the Soldier a long look, then smiled and shook his head:

“One should not trust every spirit. It was not you who put into us a capacity for abstract thinking and creative work. We had this ability, though embryonic, right from the beginning. Perhaps, you have corrected us, but, in fact, the correction was not perfect. Unlike‘our minors’, we can break a leg on a flat surface. Without creative abilities, the cave-dwellers would not be able to cut or tie fringe so that it would not obscure the view when covering eyes. They had no fur so they had to cover their bodies with clothes that would save them from freezing. They had no sharp fangs, but people invented knives and spears, and again a creative ability is required for that. Our weaknesses made us the strongest among the living creatures on the Earth.”

“People are not perfect but one should read manuals carefully. You should evolve and reach the proper level. We helped you to survive, but then they came, and everything changed. They liked your bodies; your spirit – the energy of life – is of great for them.”

“And what about you?” the Stranger asked.

“We it as well, but unlike them we do love you because you are our brothers. A human being is like a mobile phone. His body is a case, the battery is a spirit. The more powerful the battery is, the longer the phone will work, but the most important is the SIM-card. The case can be improved, the battery can be changed, but the important information is stored on the SIM-card, i.e. in the soul.”

“But information can be stored on the case, as well?”

“Yes, but the case is vulnerable, it should be handled carefully, because it is just a protective shell. There are advanced multifunctional cases, but they require a powerful battery.”

“You did not answer my question.”

“The SIM-card was not made by us, but we corrected it and improved the case.”

“But the SIM-card can be replaced or one can modify the information that it stored on it.”

“If the SIM-card is replaced, the identifying number of the mobile phone will be changed, and if the modifications are made to the software, the unique data will be modified as well.”

“I guess I saw the SIM-card being changed,” the Stranger recalled. “What did happen to you, my friend? Did they leave your case to you but changed the identifying number?”

“I remember my previous life but I do not identify myself with the person who stayed in this body before me.”

“Do you know how you lived in that world?” the Stranger held ground.

“I know, but I don’t remember,” the Soldier answered stubbornly.

“Well-well,” the Strangers eyes flashed with merry sparks. “I shall pay the waitress.”

“Ok. Let’s stay overnight at the girl’s place. She lives in lodgings with her girlfriend,” the restless friend winked.

 

The Perforator jumped over the flight of stairs at once, and flew into his apartment, which was unlocked. The guest has gone without leaving a note. The scared woman appeared at the door, she was holding a sleeping baby in her arms, looking pitifully at the former husband. He took the daughter gently.

“Take care of her. I’m going to the hospital. My heart misgives me,” she said hiding her head. “I’ve caused a great deal of sorrow to you, and now, it is judgment on me for that. I wish you would forgive me.”

“I have no ill will. The only thing that matters is your health,” tears welled in his eyes. “Perhaps, it is not all that bad. You may exaggerate fear. Let me know as soon as you get the results.”

“Sure,” she smiled embarrassedly and went downstairs.

He brought the sleeping girl to bed. ‘When the angel comes back, let him settle on the sofa, I’ll be sleeping on the floor. However, he is unlikely to return. He did keep his promise, but I don’t need it at such a price. It doesn’t matter, who is that scoundrel to be with her, I only hope she will be alive. I have to find the Soldier and demand that he would cure her. The Stranger was right. Messengers of God do good, without seeking to profit, hurting no one. Oh, my God, what a mess I got into,” the Perforator was sniveling. “Where should I look for him now?”

He made up his mind to be kneeling all night long in prayer for his wife, and to seek advice from a priest, but his thoughts were interrupted by a phone bell. He rushed to the telephone.

“Where are you? Why did you leave? I need your help!” the Perforator was crying. “My wife came to leave the baby. She is likely to be death sick. I don’t need the problem to be solved at such a cost!”

“We have come to an agreement. But how do you know she is seriously ill? Now, this can be cured.”

“Cancer is the most dangerous disease. The road of sorrows,” the therapist implored.

“Cancer is curable as well. But it is not cancer, you know, it’s just syphilis,” the Soldier burst out laughing. “And remember – you ought to take her back.”

The receiver gave short blasts. The Perforator sank helplessly onto the floor. The flush of angered shame rushed into his face. “Ok, bitch, I will take you back! But I’ll make thing so rough for you that you should have rather…” he suddenly looked at his hand and felt ashamed.

 

“You have a quirky sense of humor,” the Stranger who heard the conversation remarked. “You are cruel. Have you the slightest idea of how they will live together?”

“We are fair-minded,” the Soldier disagreed. “Each of them has met with their deserts.The Perforator thought himself to be kind and loving. His wife ignored the fact that one cannot build happiness from betrayal and dishonesty. Things do not just happen, at least to those under the optical gun.”

“But how about the seducer? Is he yours?” the Stranger narrowed his eyes apprehensively.

“Certainly not. He just works for us unconsciously. We leave him alone, and even guard him until there is the need for persons like that. However, everything is until the time comes. At the end of the road, he will have to pay for everything.”

“I don’t like your system,” the Stranger shook his head.

“There will be total chaos without it,” the Soldier snapped.

 

Chapter 32.  Firebrand

The Seer was in a good mood. Even the vigorous Bird did not annoy, but rather amused him.

‘Luxury against the background of poverty weakened her. She has acquired nothing for three years. She betrayed the Stranger through stupidity, thinking that she was acting for good. But good intentions of not righteous people lead to hell. Personal traits determine the outcome. The Medium is polite to her, but she is jealous at the same time. When it comes to the Stranger, her black eyes light up. What if I carry out a psychological experiment..?’

The Seer even smiled with pleasure in anticipation, when the young girl came in. ‘Talk of the devil and he will appear, as they speak…’ he rubbed hands in his mind. He put on an austere and sad appearance.

“Are you OK? Something upset you?” the girls asked.

“No big deal. Nothing of any substance.”

“Does that touch us?”

“To some extent. Well, I’ll tell you. To bear pain is harmful. Your friend and the woman I love for many years…” The Seer hesitated and shifted his glance.

“He could not!” she flared up.

“Perhaps, they love each other.”

“The Stranger loves nobody. And she got used to get everything she wants,” the girl could scarcely hold fury.

‘She is not so stupid, I suppose,’ the intriguer was quite satisfied.

“How do you feel about decent handsome young men? I can meet you with some,” the Seer proposed.

The girl hold pause.

“Not yet, I think. I’m not ready for new relationships. We got through a true nightmare on the isles. I shudder at the memories. Several times a day, I take antianxiety drugs to off.”

‘Grass is what you need,’the Seer sneered inwardly, but shook his head compassionately.

The Medium came in carrying a cup of steaming chocolate, summed up the situation at a glance, and burst out laughing.

“Want to take revenge, old provocateur?”

The master of the house turned to the window discontentedly.

“You cannot abuse him, nasty bitch,” the Bird wound up.

The Seer revived and looked at the girl in surprise. ‘I like her more and more!’

The Medium almost choked over with indignation, while the Bird sprang to feet and went on,

“Is that true? You were with him, weren’t you?”

“I fell in love with him at first sight,” the woman answered calmly. “You deceived him. He did no remember you at all. And now, this youngster in love,” she nodded at the Seer, “tries to seduce you to wind me and your former boyfriend up. What naivety, stupidity, and dirt!”

‘She has overplayed me,’the Seer sighed. ‘Such a woman needs to be dealt much more delicately.’

Despite excessive emotionality, the Bird also noted something wrong.

“I think I have to leave your hospitable house. I’m not wanted here. The only request… if you please, borrow some money for the first time. I’ll find a job and pay you back.”

“You can’t do this to the girl!” the Medium swung right round and left the room.

“You must stay here,” the Seer demanded. “I promised to take care of you. I feel good when you are nearby. You have a lot of life and light inside.”

He stroked her blond curls, slid his finger along her cheek, and looked in her eyes, and thought, ‘Too much.’

The elderly man, who was the owner of a strong omnipresent glance, grey hair thinned out slightly, fleshy nose, and plush lips gave rise to a flush of delight in the girl. She took his hand and kissed it. The Seer looked at her gently and went to the garden to consult the trees.

The Bird was staring fixedly in front of herself. Then she went to the kitchen to bring a bottle of vine in tap.

“No need to apologize, yet, we may drink,” the Medium poured out the dark red liquid of fine bouquet in glasses.

“I have been too hasty. Nervous wreck. Sorry,” the girl sighed.

“Look, stop it. Be happy,” the Medium took wineawkwardly,some beverage spilled.

“Happiness and I are incompatible. He will never come back to me. Perhaps, you have inspired him with a glimpse of love? However, it sounds like a miracle.”

“Not sure. To be honest, we made love. And you can hardly imagine, where,” she snickered. “In the Chairman’s residence. He is cold, neither passion, no fire.”

“Yes. That’s him all over,” the Bird uttered. “It seems to me that I fell for the Seer. Is that bad?”

“Mind that he can easily infatuate just to stretch out.”

“But he failed to infatuate you, right?”

“He needs a sincere feeling from me. I’m afraid, he will stay too long without ‘the real thing’ and switch to us. Strange as it may seem, he is so wise, but acts like a naïve youngster in love affairs. Earlier, he could do without my presence. Now, the Seer is a changed man.”

“All of us have changed,” the Bird agreed.

“And the Soldier is even more so. Have you communicated with him? Do you think he is our old friend?” thewoman took one more drink.

“I’m sure. Though, his appearance has changed radically, his hair became thicker and darker; say nothing of his eyes, they are terrible to look in.”

“Perhaps, spirits use his body,” the Medium suggested. “Why did the Stranger believed him?”

“The Soldier helps him as if he were his body guard,” the girl shrugged her shoulders. “Fancy that he cut off some bastard’s head.”

“Cut off the head?” the Medium was horrified.

“With a knife. For a pair of seconds. He showed it to the crowd, snarled out something, and everybody flocked from the roof.”

The woman darted out of the kitchen. In the garden, she found the desolated Seer sitting on a bench.

“What’s happened again?” he asked at her excited look.

The Medium told him what the Bird just narrated.

The Seer responded surprisingly indifferently.

“Big deal. They always cut off sheep’s heads. Who cares? The Soldier computed unconscious codes of the crowd. In ancient times, winners did the same, I mean, cut off their enemies heads thus dispiriting the crowd. Old forgotten practice.”

“You are missing the point,the replacement took place.Thereis a different in his body,” the Medium was speaking too emotionally.

“The Stranger and the Bird did not see the change, you think?”

“One of them does not remember the original, the other is inexperienced in such affairs.”

“It is him. No doubt!” the Seer’s voice changed, his forehead broke into a sweat. “The guy is still in the former body. They decided upon changing the rules. Why?”

He stopped short. Drew a deep breath.

“Day by day, it becomes more difficult to work.”

“We’ll get it over. But if you want me to stay in your house, stop your nasty experiments.”

“It is useful for the girl to distract herself. Passion is a great thing, somewhat wild, primal. It is amusing to watch family men running through fortune in a casino. Women leaving their husbands falling in love with love mates who cheat them out of their money. The ladies can see the unfair game but still believe and hope captured with a syndrome of negation. A miserable person in love can neither eat, nor drink; he cannot sit still, the world breaking down, when the object of passion disappears. Such a creature is very vulnerable and controllable. However, strange as it may seem, it is passion that makes human a human. Without that fire, we can turn into heartless robots. A thin line between impassion and indifference. Lust for life, by the way, is also a kind of passion. I have experience and knowledge unwanted for a human being. In a concentration camp, I saw people to be thrown into a deep pit to be filled with gas. Men were trying to climb up on the women and children’s heads. All of them died, both strong and weak. Children and women lied at the bottom, men on top. There was a chance to escape if it had dawned upon them to build a life ladder, like rotten rats would do. At least, the children might have survived.”

“Can a human beat the passions?” the sulky woman inquired.

“Then, he is not a human any more. Do you know at least one like that?”

“Maybe, the Stranger?”

“You are wrong. He is subject to the same passions like anyone else. He is made of the same construction material.”

The Stranger ignored the affection shown by the barmaid’s pretty girlfriend. The maiden added vine to his glass, squeezing up with a hot thigh against the man, the dress straps slipped down ‘by accident’. After the Soldier retired in another room with her companion, and sexually explicit sounds were heard, the young person could not stick it any longer and tore into the Stranger. She armed his head, closed her eyes, and half opened her soft mouth for a kiss. A hot wave embraced his body, the mind stupefied with drink misted. But the Wind, which appeared suddenly, threw cold water on him. The Stranger caught the girl by the shoulder and moved her aside. She was looking at him appealingly, but, all of a sudden, she stood motionless under the steel imperative look of the guest who transformed unexpectedly, and shrank in horror. The Stranger turned away, went to the balcony and began drinking frozen air. The Soldier appeared.

“Is she worse than the witch?”

“I know that I was wrong,” the Stranger gave a sigh. “We have no common future with the Medium, while futureless act is senseless.”

“An individual lives not for profit,” the Soldier smiled ironically. “Via the mucous membrane you have obtained a marker, which will be of service to you some day.”

“What marker?”

“Camouflage,” the Soldier answered recollecting something. “Don’t take this wrong way. There must not be undesired connections, but human intuition is undeveloped to make the right choice.”

“I have always wanted to ask you something, but hesitated,” the Stranger was watching the night starry sky.

The Soldier encouraged him with a nod.

“Do your… colleagues trust in God?”

“We can see only prints on the sand, but cannot explain their origin. So, even over there,” the Soldier pointed at the stars, “they doubt.”

“I have no doubt! I say, no doubt!”

“I have saved your passport,” the friend had a joyful twinkle in his eyes. “Let’s go to the airport, I’ll see you off. The ticket is reserved.”

“The Scriber promised to help.”

“This is a trap. Live free,” the Soldier smiled sadly, taking the business card from the Stranger.

 

arrived to the half-empty airport, the Stranger passed the passport control without any delay. The friends waited until the flight was ready to leave and said goodbye to each other.

“Why don’t you fly with me?”

“I have several things to attend to.”

“Yeah. Several things…” the passenger uttered sullenly. “Why did you helped me? Why do you need me?”

“Ours are beside the point. I heard the Voice telling ‘Pull him like a firebrand out of the fire.’ I’ve fulfilled the task.”

“Who told you?” the Stranger’s voice sounded hollow.

“Don’t know… I could no disobey,” the Soldier smiled. “See you around some day.”

He swop his hand, the Stranger caught and gripped it firmly, looked in his eyes and… started back. Stood for a while memorizing the look. Turned away and made for the duty-free to stock up with chocolate for a journey.

For two hours, he was looking steadily out the illuminator until familiar light of big cities twinkled in the distance. His heart was beating with delight, tears welled in his eyes.

“I am home again!”

 

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