TurnipBandit, The Dramatist
Recent PostsColored Lines and Dark Tunnels on 2/26/2020 8:08:36 PM
Part 4: Next Stop, Pushkinskaya Station (c)
With that he turns towards the Guardsmen and gives them a nod. The Guardsman pull the ropes slowly until the men hang about two feet off the ground. They then tie the bottom of the rope to a loop at the back of the platform and step back. Samara looks away, tightening her grip on my hand even harder. I continue to stare at the bodies dangling from the ropes emotionlessly. Members of the crowd scream and jeer at the hanging men. Others are giving a salute, shouting “Slava” as they watch them hang. The guards in front of the crowed stand unmoving and expressionless, facing the crowd with little emotion. The hanging men writhe in the air with bulging eyes and a panicked expression. Tears stream down some of their faces and a few of them empty their bladders and bowels judging by the smell. After some time the writhing stops and their eyes roll back. They gently sway back and forth, their limbs dangling loosely in the air. The Captain makes his way back to the center of the platform and raises his hand, the noise from the crowd dying down quickly.
“These parasites could not help what they are. But Pushkinskaya, and indeed the entire Commonwealth, will not tolerate their existence in our stations and nation. All of us must play our part in combating these. As long as Pushkinskaya remains united, we will never fall victim to these parasites” he says the last part while pointing at the hanging men, “We will not fall. We will not falter. We will be victorious. Glory to Pushinskaya, and glory to our great Commonwealth! Slava!”
The crowd once again salutes in unison, shouting “Slava” towards the platform. I spare a glance at Samara and see her saluting. But the vigor is gone from it, her eyes looking towards the ground. Once the saluting was finished the two of us make our way out of the market. Samara continues to look at her feet during the walk, the two of us staying silent. Once we got back to my home I unlocked the door quickly and opened it wide. I open my mouth to ask Samara if she wants to come in but she walks into my home before I could speak. She makes her way over to the bed and sits down, still looking down at her feet. I close the door slowly and lock it. After a moment looking at her I begin to slowly move towards the bed. I carefully sit down about a foot away from her, unsure of what I should do. I start clenching and unclenching my hands and look down too while occasionally taking a quick glance at her. We sat silently for a few minutes before she starts to speak.
“They hung those people. And everyone cheered. They watched a child have the life slowly drained from him. And they cheered” she says, sadness dripping from each word.
“Yeah” I say quietly, unsure how to respond.
“I just stood there. I didn’t say a thing. I just stood by as people died. People we knew. What’s happened to us? All of us down here? Is this truly what we are now? Murderers, rapists, thieves. Where does it end?” she says while still looking down at her feet.
I don’t know what to say. Maybe there’s nothing I can say. I slide next to her and tentatively put my hand on her back, remembering what she did for me. I begin to rub her back awkwardly but she doesn’t seem to mind. She closes her eyes and puts her head on my shoulder, sliding a bit closer to me until we’re touching. I freeze for a moment before starting to awkwardly rubbing her back again. We sit like that for what feels like hours. Not talking but just sitting together. I feel her breathing begin to slow and her eyes begin to open. She looks at me for a few moments, her blue eyes looking into mine with an expression I can’t discern. She’s given the look to me a few times though.
“Thank you,” she says quietly with a slight smile on her lips, “Sometimes I feel like we’re the only sane people here” she states with a short and joyless laugh. I look at her a bit surprised. She thinks I’m sane? The guy who hallucinates and hears voices in his head? And who begs a plant to talk to him? I shake the thought away and look at her. I find comfort in seeing the smile on her face, however small it might be. After a moment she breaks eye contact, a slight pink color on her cheeks.
“So, did you name him?” she asks while looking at my desk.
“Name who?” I ask confused.
“Your plant. Every plant needs a good name. So what are you going to name him?”
“I don’t know,” I say with a slight shrug. “Plant I guess.”
“That is the saddest name for a plant I’ve ever heard. Okay, I’ll help. What about Paul. Like the apostle? He was probably the second most important person in the church’s history.”
“Seems a bit plain don’t you think? Paul the plant. Doesn’t really sound right.”
“Well, what about Alexander? Like Saint Alexander Nevsky. He was a Russian hero.”
“We’ll keep that in the ‘maybe’ pile.”
She sighs slightly. “Okay, Lazarus. Like Lazarus of Bethany. He rose from the dead four days after his death due to a miracle being performed.”
My eyes go wide at this. “Hold on. There was somebody named Lazarus? And he rose from the dead? Like, dead dead?”
Samara gives me a small smile, seeming happy with my excitement. “Yes there was. Do you like that name?”
“Yeah I like it! Lazarus already sounds great. But naming it after a guy who did that? That’s awesome.”
“Well I guess his name is Lazarus then. Maybe we can borrow something to write his name on the pot.”
I look at the plant and give a slight nod. Samara begins to stand up and I do the same. She looks at me and wraps her arms around my neck and pulls me into a tight hug. I instinctively tense up, my body still not sure how to respond despite the fact that getting hugs from her and her mother is a fairly regular occurrence. After a moment she breaks away from the hug and gives me a small smile.
“So, um, do you still want me to stay over tonight? I have this old cot at home that I can bring over. We don’t ever use it anyway. If we move your desk a bit it could probably fit right next to your bed. You could even keep it here if you want. That way you won’t fall out of your bed if you roll over. But I guess if you don’t want me to stay then all that talking was kind of pointless. Or not. I can still bring the cot over I guess. So, um, yeah. It’s up to you. I’ll do anything you want. With the sleeping over here or not I mean. So, um, please answer before I ramble more.”
I’m taken a bit aback by the speed of the words coming out of her mouth. After a moment to process everything I slowly begin to speak. “I’d like you to stay tonight if you’d be so kind. I think we both need some time where we aren’t alone. I’ll get everything in order here while you go get your cot and stuff. Or I can help you if you want. It’s up to you.”
Her eyes seem to light up while also looking a bit surprised. After a moment she smiles. “No, that’s okay. I’ll get the stuff and be right back. I’ll have to tell mom where I’m going too. I don’t think she’ll mind. So, okay. I’ll be back soon.”
“And I’ll be here” I say with a small smile. Damnit. Her smile is infectious or something. Have to get vaccinated. She smiles and unlocks the door with her keys and heads out. I begin to move the desk a foot or two to the right, being careful not to knock Lazarus on his side. I move the kalash next to my coat rack. I place the box of ammunition underneath my desk and shuffle a few boxes around to make the room a bit more presentable. Finally, I take my jeans and shirt off, replacing them with a fairly large long sleeved shirt and a pair of faded and slightly worn out pajama bottoms. I sit down on my bed, absentmindedly looking at the various decorations on the walls. A light knock on the door brings me back into focus. I make my way over to the door quickly and open it. I’m greeted with a cot standing up vertically speaking in Samara’s voice.
“Hey Dimitri. I brought the cot. It was kind of hard to walk around with it. So, do you think you can give me a hand with this?”
The cot slowly moves backwards and I step out of the doorway. Samara is standing behind the cot with a small smile and shakes the cot a bit side to side.
“So, how are we going to get this inside?” Samara asks, looking like a person trying to solve a particularly complex puzzle.
“We’ll figure it out” I say slowly, eyeing up the cot as well.
After a fair bit of maneuvering, and a good amount of frustration, we managed to set the cot up next to my bed. It was a tight fit, but it fit nonetheless. Samara scratched her forehead a bit and said she’d be right back. I got out a few bits of food and put it on the desk next to the cot. I then took a seat on the cot, testing its strength and seeing how it felt. It was sturdy despite it’s age. Well made. It was a bit lacking in comfort though. At least compared to the padded bench I slept on. But it was nice nonetheless. There’s a slight knock on the door and the handle turns and opens. Samara is standing there with a large blanket and a pattern covered pillow I recognize as being from her bed. She puts the blanket and the pillow down on the cot and takes a seat.
“So, I guess I should, um, change I guess” Samara says with a bit of a red face.
“I’ll look away” I say and begin turning my head away.
“No. I mean, it’s alright. It will only be a second” She says with a deeper shade of red on her face.
First she bends over and unties her boots, taking them off and putting them neatly to the side. She slips off her socks and puts them on her boots. She then unbuckles her belt and begins to unbutton her pants. With a bit of shimmying and pushing her pants go down around her knees revealing a pair of faded blue shorts which end a few inches above her knees. She folds up her pants and places them beside her boots. Samara pulls off her sweater slowly, trying to make sure the shirt under it doesn’t come off too. It’s a loose white shirt with short sleeves that has a few holes in it. After folding her sweater and putting it with her pants she finally takes off her wool hat, revealing a head of messy red hair which she proceeds to shake a bit until the hair from where her hat sat is no longer pressed down.
She looks at me with a blush and puts her arms slightly out to the side. “Well. this is what I usually wear to bed. Not really that great looking. Or ‘flattering’ as mom would say. But it’s comfortable I guess. So, um, what do you think?
“I think it looks great. Perfect for one of those old fashion magazine. ‘Styles from the Bedroom’ or something like that” I say with a smile.
“Oh, shut up. Anyway, what should we do first? It will be a bit before we should go to sleep. So we can do some fun stuff until then. Like when we used to have sleepovers when we were kids. Remember those?”
“I remember your bed being bigger than mine is” I say with a smile, earning a slight roll of the eyes from Samara. “How about we eat a bit. I already have some stuff on the desk.”
“That sounds great” Samara says.
The two of us went on to eat the little bits of food I had on the desk. We talked to one another, from good memories like our sleepovers when we were young, to bad memories like past assignments that went wrong. I played my balalaika and she sat crosslegged, watching my hands intently. I gave her the instrument and let her play a bit. It produced some interesting noises. Finally, the two of us started to yawn and decided to go to bed for the night.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather sleep in my bed?” I ask Samara for about the third time.
“Yes I’m sure. Now lay down and put your blanket on.”
“What blanket?” I asked while lying down causing Samara’s eyes go wide.
“Wait, you don’t have a blanket?” she asks seemingly appalled at my lack of adequate bed coverings. I simply shake my head. “I mean, I never saw you use one. But I always just assumed you put it away somewhere.” she says with genuine worry in her voice. “Where would I put it away in here? Not a whole lot of room for me to hide it from you” I say with a shrug. But Samara doesn’t seem to hear it. “No, this won’t do. What if you get sick? And there’s no way that would be comfortable” she seems to be saying more to herself then to me. “Okay, we’re sharing the blanket tonight. It’ll be big enough for us both. Then tomorrow morning we’re going to the market and buying you a blanket. A nice one.” She nods to herself, seemingly deciding for the both of us that this will happen. I sigh and don’t try to protest or argue. She always ends up winning them.
Samara picks up the blanket and drapes it over me, looking at me to no doubt ensure I don’t try to take it off. She gives an approving nod before making her way to the light switch and turning it off. The room is plunged into complete darkness. I listen to Samara’s feet slowly make their way over to the cot before lying down in it. She adjusts her pillow and places the blanket over her body. I hear her say a quick prayer and then lies on her side facing me.
“Good night Dimitri” Samara whispers next to me.
“Good night Samara” I whisper back.
I feel her shift a bit closer to me. I listen to her breathing, finding it to be surprisingly soothing. I can feel the heat from her body and it covers me in a warmth that makes me feel calm. And for once I feel comfortable on this bed. Happy almost. I close my eyes and drift into darkness with a smile on my face.
Colored Lines and Dark Tunnels on 2/26/2020 8:04:41 PM
Part 4: Next Stop, Pushkinskaya Station (b)
I nod and head towards the door, walking back into the Militia Headquarters. Everyone is as busy as ever. I make my way towards the door quickly hoping to escape the sound of machines buzzing and people talking. Once outside I lean against the wall and put my head against it. Getting chewed out and having a heart to heart. What a combination. I wind through the narrow passages, dodging the crowds of people and Labor Battalion workers along the way. Pushkinskaya seems livelier than normal. People talk loudly and with either excitement or fear. The Guardsmen look slightly on edge, looking around frequently or fiddling with their gear. One of them catches my gaze and motions me to move along. I nod and make my way towards my home.
When I finally reach my door a wave of relief flows over me. I take out my keys and open the door. Home sweet closet. I flip on the light switch and the single hanging bulb lights up the room. The drawings and posters still hang on the wall. An old calendar hangs at the foot of my bed, with the current month having a faded picture of some place called Leningrad. A large bolded “November 1984” sits on bottom half of the calendar, above a bunch of boxes with other numbers in them. I look at my bed and see my gear placed neatly on my bed. A note sits on top of the armored vest. I pick it up and read it, smiling slightly at its contents.
“Hope the Commander didn’t bust your balls too hard kid. He’s got a way with words. You’re gear is all here, as well as a few other odds and ends your friend from Vladimirskaya had the boys put in the railcar for you. Also, hope Pavel didn’t talk your ear off. Damn comedian likes to run his mouth. Anyway, enjoy the gear and goods.
I sit on the bed and begin sorting through my gear. I pick up my old rifle and pull the bolt back making sure it’s clear. I then hang it on a long nail protruding out of the wall. Finally getting some use out of that thing. I then place my old helmet under my bed and place my backpack and armor against the wall. I hang my jacket on my makeshift coat rack and put my new helmet on top. The kalash is placed against wall right next to my bed, loaded but with the safety on. Excess magazines are tossed into the box of ammunition lying next to my desk. With that out of the way I turn my attention to a good size wooden crate sitting next to my bed. A note is nailed to it:
“From Vladimirskaya with love!”
I smile at the note and put to on my desk, planning to hang it on the wall later. I open the crate and look inside of it and am caught off guard by the contents. Ammunition, food, water, some money and even a pistol. A neatly folded Militia jacket sits neatly folded inside with a white armband sitting on top. But by far the most curious item was a potted plant. I carefully took it out and examined its green leaves stems. Little white flower buds sit on the stems. I carefully pick it up and clear a corner of my desk before gently placing it back down. Never had one of these plants before. Not really sure what to do for it. Or what it wants from me. I carefully rotate the plant, examining it carefully but not getting too close. Hesitantly, I poke one of the leaves and quickly draw back my hand. No pain or numbness occurs in my finger. Well, not poisonous at least. I turn my attention to the other contents of the crate, putting the items in their new areas and sometimes finding new items I hadn’t seen the first time. Like two grenades wrapped in cloth. Good thing they didn’t throw this crate around too much. After everything was finally put away I take a seat at my desk and open the drawer. I take out a small picture of a women in her mid 20’s with flowing brown hair and kind eyes. Her lips are curled in a smile as she looks at the camera.
“Hey mom. I hope you’re doing well. Wherever you are. We had a close call on our last assignment. Even fought some Reds and saved a station. But I don’t know. I don’t know if this would make you proud. Or if you’re proud of me at all. The headaches are getting worse. So are the visions. I almost couldn’t take it on this last mission. It was too much. But Samara saved me. Maybe you remember her. I don’t know if you do. Anyway, her father gave us an earful when we got back to the station. But it ended up being okay. I guess that’s all really. I wish I could hear how your day was. Or just hear you. But I hope your world is better than mine. Wherever that world is. Bye mom.”
I put the picture back in the drawer and put my head on my desk. I look over at the plant and stare at it. “So, what do you want? Water? Something else? Talk to me. Somebody here talk to me. Why are you all so quiet? Why is it the only fucking voice I hear in my head the one that hurts me? Talk to me, anybody! Please, just talk to me.” Tears begin to form in my eyes and drop down on to the desk.
I hear a scraping sound on the door and a rattling of keys outside my door. The lock turns and the door opens quickly. I don’t even lift my head up. Not like it could be anyone but her. I lift my eyes up for a second and see Samara in the doorway. I put my eyes back towards the plant as she begins to talk.
“Whats wrong? I heard yelling. Are you hurt? Why’s your head down? Are you upset? Can I help you? How can I help you?” She asks each question in quick succession while making her way next to me. She lightly grips my shoulder and starts looking on me for signs of injury. Apparently satisfied that I’m not at immediate risk of dying she takes a spot next to me. “Can we move to the bed please. Is that alright?” she asks softly. I pick my head up and make my way to the bed with her right behind me. I sit down on my makeshift bed and place my head against the wall. Samara takes a seat right next to me and touches my back, looking at me for any signs she’s overstepped her bounds. When none is shown she begins to rub it slowly, her body slightly turned towards me. I feel a sense of calm wash over me. Warmth. Something else I can’t put my finger on. I reach my hand over and touch hers and she quickly holds onto it.
“Can you tell me whats wrong? Please?” Samara asks softly. I sit there for a second, not sure what to say. Finally I open my mouth.
“I feel like in a station full of people I’m alone. I walk down the halls and nobody spares a greeting or a glance. I sit here in this room and there’s nothing. Monotonous activities and monotonous nights. I barely sleep anymore. Every time I sleep it talks to me. Every shadow looks like it. Every time I close my eyes I feel like they might never open again. And I don’t want them to open again. And the only one who seems to truly care is you. It’s all to much.”
Samara rests her head on my shoulder and wraps me into a hug. We rock back and forth and she closes her eyes. “It sounds like too much. You’re tired and these voices and visions are hurting you. I don’t know what to do about them. I pray but they still happen. I don’t know what’s causing them. Lack of sleep hasn’t caused them, they caused your lack of sleep. But you are right. I do care about you. So much. I…care about you” She says the last part quieter than the rest with a barely noticeable pause. “And you aren’t alone because I’m here. And I’ll be here as long as you need me to be. Even if you, you know, want me to stay over here or something.” I look down at her and notice the blush on her face. I place my head back against the wall. “That would be nice” I say quietly and feel myself starting to drift to sleep.
Banging on my door makes us both sit up quickly. “Pushkinskaya Guard. Open the door.” I look over at Samara for a moment then make my way over to the door. I unlock it and open the door a crack, seeing a familiar Guardsman standing outside. I step back and open the door the rest of the way and the Guardsman steps forward. “Hey Dimitri, everyone not working is to report to the market.” He looks behind me and sees Samara sitting on the bed. “Sorry man, didn’t mean to get you two out of bed. But I have my orders. Both of you report to the market. You can pick up where you left off when it’s finished.” He tips his hat and walks away. I look over at Samara and see her furiously blushing and looking down. “Guess we should get to the market” I say. She nods and makes her way out the door behind me.
There is a good amount of traffic heading towards the market. And just as many leaving it. Shoppers, Labor Battalion, stall workers, and children all stream out of the market as we head in. The market isn’t as crowded as it would seem with most of the working people having left the market. What is odd is the platform sitting in the center of the market. About three feet tall and with a metal beam about five feet tall and ten feet long protruding from it. Two Commonwealth flags sit on the platform, one on the left end and one on the right. Two guardsman carry a small stair set and put it on the right side of the platform. The majority of the crowd gives confused murmurs while a few older people are stone faced. A man in a Guard Captains uniform makes his way up the small set of stairs and walks to the center of the platform. He raises his hand and the crowed slowly quiets down. I look at Samara next to me and she moves a bit closer to me. “What’s going on?” she whispers. “I don’t know but I think we’re about to find out” I whisper back.
“Ladies and gentleman, good citizens of the Commonwealth. As you all know, we are in a time of strife. War between the mutant Reds and our brave soldiers rages in the eastern stations. Vladimirskaya was almost lost to the mutants. Only the bravery of their soldiers and the work of two of our stations fine Pathfinders managed to hold off the mutants until our men could arrive. But this was but a battle in the bigger war. The Reds still control many stations. All of the Commonwealth must be united if we are to defeat this enemy. We cannot tolerate dissidents and subversive elements! We will stand united and crush the Reds like the parasites they are! Slava!”
“Slava! Slava! Slava!” the crowd roars in unison, outstretching their arms from their chest during every cry. Instinctively Samara and I do the same, holding our clenched fists over our hearts before straightening our arms at an angle and holding our hands out straight.
“Yes, the good citizens of Pushkinskaya will always be loyal to our great Commonwealth, for we formed it with our blood and sweat. But there are those who wish to destroy our nation, both with weapons and words. Four of them are here today. Bring them to the stage!”
Samara and I look to the right as four people are brought towards the platform with bound hands and at gunpoint. Cloth gags are in there mouths, likely to keep them from speaking. They slowly walk to the stage and line up underneath the metal bar. Samara tugs at my hand and points to the stage. “Look, its that preacher guy. And Chernov. What are they doing here?” she whispers to me. I simply shrug and look back at the stage. Two other people stand up there with them. One looks odd, with thin eyes and darker skin than the rest of us. The other couldn’t be older than 12. Tears stream down his face and a piece of red cloth is wrapped around his arm. The Captain looks at them briefly and turns back to us.
“These four individuals have attempted to harm our great nation either through physical or subversive means. They are parasites, the lot of them.” He walks to the monk first. “This one has attempted to spread lies and subversive information in our great stations halls and markets. His ramblings are those of an unrepentant madman. Any who may have been influenced by his lies are worse off for it. This man is a parasite.” He walks up to Chernov next. “This one has attempted to harm citizens of this great station through assault and petty theft. Our governments mercy game him another chance in the Labor Battalion. And despite being granted this mercy he once again assaulted two citizens of this great station. This man is a parasite.” He moves on to the odd looking man. “This one attempted to enter our great station illegally. His inferior genetics and primitive culture threaten to sully our women and pass on inferior genetics to the next generation of citizens. The safety and purity of our women and children are the highest concern. We can not allow primitives to taint them as this one no doubt planned to do. This man is a parasite.” Finally he walks to the child at the end. “This one is a Red. He was caught trying to escape Vladimirskaya with other Reds. He was the only one who surrendered. Not only is this individual an enemy of the state, a danger to our great nation, a subversive element, and a mutant. He is also a coward, unbefitting of either pity or mercy. This boy is a parasite.”
Samara grabs my hand and squeezes it tightly as four Guardsmen step onto the stage carrying ropes. They toss the ropes over the bar, giving a clear view of the noose at the end. Another four Guardsman then place the noose around each mans neck before taking their place next to the one holding the rope. Tears run down the faces of the child and odd looking one. Chernov eyes the crowd with utter hatred. And the preacher looks almost serene. The Captain looks back at the prisoners for a moment before returning his gaze to the crowd.
“These four individuals are nothing more than parasites eating away at our great nation. And like all parasites, they can’t change their nature. They lack the ability to help or improve our station and our nation as a whole. There is only one cure for a parasite. So we can only do one thing. Kill the parasite.”
Colored Lines and Dark Tunnels on 2/26/2020 8:01:57 PM
Part 4: Next Stop, Pushkinskaya Station
The wheels of the railcar clatter and squeak as we make our way back home. The tunnel, a dark and quiet place just a few hours ago, is nearly unrecognizable. The lanterns are now lit, bathing the tunnel in a bright orange glow. Squads of militiamen march in formation towards Vladimirskaya while singing of battles I had never heard of. Members of the Labor Battalion scurry about under constant surveillance. They hang posters and banners along the tunnel walls and carry supplies to the troops. A few of the militiamen salute the railcar as it passes and I return an informal salute back to them. An acrid smell assaults me and I turn around to find the culprit. The door leading to the spiders nest lies open ahead, an orange glow emanating from inside. The rail car slows down slightly as I watch a militiamen armed with a respirator and flamethrower give a thumbs up to another soldier and steps inside. The other militiaman quickly closes the door and takes position close by, giving the railcar a quick nod.
“Looks like we’ll be having roast spider for dinner”, our driver says to the man with a smile, “Hopefully you guys roast enough for seconds!”
Samara looks over at me and I simply shrug. I look back at the tunnels as Samara starts talking to our driver, who seems more than happy to talk to us.
“So, um, I don’t think I ever caught your name” Samara says to the young driver.
“Ah, sorry about that. My name’s Pavel…er Private Pavel Volya, sir! I mean ma’am!”
“Relax Pavel. No need to be so formal. I’m Samara and that quiet guy over there is Dimitri. I don’t think I’ve seen you around Pushkinskaya. Are you from another station?”
“Yes actually! Narvskaya, a fair bit down the line.”
“What’s it like there?”
“Oh it’s a pretty station. Whoever built it sure like hammers and, ah what’s the word, scythles? Cycles?”
“Sickles?” I ask, watching as Labor Battalion members scavenge the material from the now destroyed barricade that blocked us before. The door to the service tunnel lies closed with a soot covered militiaman leaning against it and drinking from a canteen.
“Yeah that’s the one! Anyways those things are all over the place. Lots of fancy stuff on the walls too. I heard some guys from Tekhnologichesky Institut came by when we joined the Commonwealth and took a bunch of old papers and some of the plaques out of there. Something about “Red propaganda”. Didn’t think the Reds were ever at Narvskaya. Anyway, it isn’t a Home Station like Pushkinskaya either, so a lot of people wind up trying to join the Militia there. “Citizenship through service” and all that. Mom said I’d make a better comedian than soldier, but hey, beats shoveling shit or mushroom farming. And pushing the lever on a railcar beats getting thrown at the Reds haha!”
I turn back towards the tunnel. The derailed train car sits beside the tracks. I feel a slight pain in the back of my head. Looking towards the train car I notice little faces looking at me from the windows. A black silhouette sits atop the car, watching the people scrambling around the tunnel. As we pass by the car the silhouette looks at me and I feel a sharp pain at the back of my skull. I close my eyes for a moment, and when I open them both the silhouette and the faces are gone.
“Hey, you all right chuvak? Man, there’s some bad mojo in that place” Pavel says, eyeing the train car.
“Tell me about it” I say quietly.
We arrive at the barricade quickly. It appears much different than when we were here last. The once abandoned fortifications now stand occupied, with members of both the Labor Battalion and Militia bringing supplies and weaponry to them. Militiamen patrol the length of the tunnel and engineers are looking at the barricade and talking amongst themselves. A sharp whistle from up ahead catches my attention and I see Ivan waving from up ahead. He walks back through the gates and steps onto the platform ahead, with us close behind.
“Ladies and gentleman we have arrived at our destination. Please keep your hands and feet inside of the railcar until it comes to a full stop, and make sure to remove all guns and armor from the railcar upon departure. And thank you for being such wonderful passengers on the Pavel Express!”
Samara and I say goodbye to Pavel as we grab our gear and step onto the platform. Ivan looks over at Pavel briefly before turning towards us.
“I’ve been ordered to bring you to Commander Fedorov. He’s pissed.”
“Why?” Samara asks, confused.
“Don’t know. Guessing he’s not happy about your firefight with the Reds. I’ll have some men deliver your gear to your homes. He want’s to see you now.”
“Alright. Best to get it over with.” I say with a sigh.
Pavel gives us a quick tip of his hat and a sympathetic look as we walk away. Samara gives him a wave and I give an informal salute as militiamen grab our gear and he begins traveling back towards Vladimirskaya. The familiar halls of Pushkinskaya are comforting after the veritable hellscape that was Vladimirskaya. We make our way through the bustling hallways towards the Militia HQ. Located in a large room in the Government Sector of the station, the HQ was often times a hectic and busy area. Maps of the metro covered the walls, both hand drawn and pre-apocalypse. Radios are set up to communicate with the rest of the stations in the Commonwealth. Secretaries and staff are constantly analyzing and filling out reports, detailing troop movements, and updating the largest map on the wall with information. Ivan leads us through the scurrying Militia members towards a door in the back of the room. The name “Commander Alexei Fedorov” is painted on the door in red letters. Ivan knocks on the door. A voice from inside calls us in.
The room was fairly spacious. Filing cabinets sat along the wall to the left, some of the drawers missing or askew. Some boxes were sitting on the right side wall as well as an old cooler. A tattered rug with faded patterns lay on the floor in the center of the room. The back wall had a large flag on it. Three bars going horizontally down the flag. The top white, center blue, and bottom red. A black symbol lies in the top left corner. What looks like an x with lines jutting out an the right sides of the lines, slightly below the end. Around it lie a black thin circle. The flag of the Commonwealth. And large desk sit near the back of the room littered with papers and pencils. Two chairs sat in front of it. And an angry man sat behind it. Commander Fedorov
“Sir, Guard Captain Ivan Petrov reporting! Dimitri Koslov and Samara Fedorova have been brought to you as ordered” Ivan says with a crisp salute.
“You are dismissed captain” Commander Fedorov says, his eyes never leaving ours. “You two. Sit.”
Ivan turns and leaves the room, shutting the door behind him. Samara and I take a seat in the chairs and look at Commander Fedorov. His brown eyes look back at us and his face betrays no emotion. Samara begins to squirm in her seat a bit, clearly uncomfortable. After a few minutes Commander Fedorov breaks eye contact and looks down at his desk. He taps a piece of paper a few times before looking back at us.
“I had a very interesting conversation with Vladimirskaya’s quartermaster. A man named Kuzmich. But I suppose I don’t need to tell you that” he says with a steady voice. He picks up the paper and looks down at it. “Lets see here. ‘We found the two of them in a residential area near the loading dock.’ Hmm what else? Ah, here we are. ‘Eliminated Reds at the loading dock.’ This ones my favorite. ‘Took part in a strike team operation to take back the listening post from Red forces.’ Oh and ‘Assisted in holding off an overwhelming amount of Red soldiers at the armory until help arrived.’”
He slowly puts the paper down on his desk and taps in a few more times before looking back at us furiously.
“Would either of you kindly tell me what the fuck you were thinking?! Your orders were to scout the station and find out what the problem was! The moment you saw the Reds on that platform you should have gone back the way you came and reported back to Captain Petrov! Not go running around fighting Reds like you’re goddamn Spetsnaz operatives! Well?! Speak up!”
Samara jumps in her seat, a mix of surprise and fear on her face. I instinctively tense up, my back straightening and my hands clenching tightly. I look into Commander Fedorov’s eyes and he turns his gaze squarely on me.
“Do you have something to say about this Koslov? If so do tell.”
“We didn’t have a choice” I say quietly.
“Speak up Koslov!”
“I said we didn’t have a choice” I nearly shout, “The way we came was a service tunnel infested with spiders. A barricade blocked the tunnel. We couldn’t have gone back even if we wanted too. And the Reds on the platform were raping one of our soldiers. We couldn’t just sit there and watch. We couldn’t go back and we couldn’t sit around. So we had to go into the station. All of it was necessary.”
Samara nodded her head to my response vigorously. Commander Fedorov looked over at his daughter and she froze in place.
“You agree with him?” he asked, tilting his head towards me. “You think taking part in a strike team operation and siege defense was necessary? I expect that kind of stupidity and recklessness from Dimitri, but my own daughter?”
Samara tensed up at that last sentence, her brow slightly furrowing and biting her lower lip hard. After a moment she spoke.
“Y-yes I agree with him” she said in a voice that was both angry and frightened. “What were we supposed to do? They needed our help and we couldn’t get back home! Don’t just blame him for this! I agreed to go too. And if we just sat around or tried to head back like I suggested we would have died. Dimitri wasn’t stupid. He was brave. And he’s why I’m even alive right now.”
I look over with her with wide eyes and an open mouth. I’d never heard her talk back to her father, let alone yell at her. From the Commander’s face it would seem he was equally surprised. Samara continued to look at her father with anger etched on her face. After a moment Commander Fedorov spoke, much more subdued than before.
“It was dangerous. You could have been killed. Both of you could have been killed” he says in a much quieter voice than before. Samara keeps looking at her father, her face softening but with anger still showing.
“Everything down here is dangerous. You don’t need to be fighting Reds to get hurt. I know that plenty well” Samara says, brushing her hair aside and showing the scar on her face. Commander Fedorov looks down at this, slowly raising his eyes but still not meeting hers. “This is my job dad. This is our job. It’s dangerous, yes. But so is everything. And he’s always there to watch over me. Every day. You can’t keep treating the two of us like children.”
Commander Fedorov looks over the both of us for a few moments before lowering his eyes. He sighs quietly, his face looking resigned and tired. Only now do I see the bags under his eyes. He was worried. Probably hadn’t rested since we left. Probably before that. He looks back up at us and speaks softly.
“Kuzmich told me about the spiders nest and the barricade when we spoke the first time. I know you couldn’t come back. And you couldn’t have stayed. I still don’t believe you should have taken part in that strike team mission and defense. But I understand why you did. Samara, you’re my daughter. I never want to see you put in danger. And Dimitri, you’re like a son to me. I don’t want you to get hurt either. Every time I send the two of you back I wonder if I’ll ever see you again. And this assignment could have taken you from me. But I understand that this is your job. And I doubt either of you would stop even if I asked. So the best I can hope for is that the two of you promise me you’ll be careful. Please.”
The two of use look at him with surprise. The anger on Samara’s face is completely gone. “I promise” I say to him, the two of us looking each other in the eye. “I promise too” Samara says, wiping away tears from the corners of her eyes. Commander Fedorov nods slightly at us and straightens the papers on his desk.
“In that case, you’ll probably be assigned a new mission in a few days. Something safer than the last one. Away from Red territory. But for know, you are dismissed. Samara, head to your mother straight away. She’s been worried sick about you. Dimitri, hold back for a second.”
Samara stands up and walks towards the door. She gives the two of us another glance before stepping out and slowly closing the door behind her. I turn back to Commander Fedorov and he looks into my eyes.
“Dimitri, I want you to make me a promise. That you’ll do everything you can to keep Samara safe. It’s a dangerous metro. We both know that. And Samara knows that too. You’re a team out there. You help one another to survive. And to stay sane out there. This mission was dangerous. Risky. But necessary. Rely on one another. I know she’ll do everything she can to get you back home. So you make sure she comes back home.”
“Yes sir. I’ll do everything I can” I say with a nod. I’ll do whatever it takes.
“Good. Thank you. Now, you’re dismissed. No doubt we’ll see one another soon. I’m sure Sonya will want to have you over for dinner before you head out again. Head on home. I’m sure Samara will be over later. Oh, and there’s going to be an event in the market tonight. Can’t tell you what it is but be prepared. I’m sure the Guard will have you and Samara go. Dismissed.”
Colored Lines Holiday Specials on 1/2/2020 12:23:23 AM
This man is real and not a gimmick on 12/10/2019 1:47:29 AM
This man is real and not a gimmick on 12/10/2019 1:42:46 AM
This man is real and not a gimmick on 12/10/2019 1:28:32 AM
Colored Lines Holiday Specials on 12/7/2019 3:49:04 PM
Colored Lines Holiday Specials on 12/6/2019 4:22:40 AM
Mythical Birds and Foreign Traditions
The soft humming of the light and the distant sounds of music fill my ears. Cloth runs against smooth wood and cold metal, and a faint smell of oil fills my nostrils. I pull the the charging handle back once, twice, three times before releasing it and listening to it slide back into place with a satisfying snap. I put the Kalash to the side and pick up a few magazines as well as a bucket of ammunition, absentmindedly reloading them and placing them into a neat stack. A light knock at the door brings me back into reality. I slowly stand up running my hand over the handle of the blade on my waist and make my way to the door. Another knock, this time slightly louder, comes from the door just as I open it. The person jumps slightly with their hand still raised.
“Oh, Dimitri! I wasn’t sure you were home. I’m so happy you are though. I have something exciting to show you! Can I come in?”
Samara Federov. Who else would it be? I take my hand off of my knife and step aside, allowing her to walk into my small home. Well, more like a small room with minor furnishings. Stone walls with a few scattered posters and drawings. A desk with books and papers strewn about with a potted plant sitting on in it. An old bench seat scavenged from one of the derelict train cars serving as a bed. And several small boxes and bags filled with various odds and ends. A lone lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. Home sweet home.
“You know, we really need to get this place decorated for Christmas. It’s only a little over a month away you know”, Samara says while looking around. “Put some colored lights up along the walls, maybe hang some decorations from the ceiling. Oh, maybe we can even put some ornaments on Lazarus!”
I look over at the potted plant on my desk and try to imagine it with ornaments. I shake my head slightly and look at Samara, unwilling or unable to curb her enthusiasm.
“Maybe later,” I say carefully, “But didn’t you say you wanted to show me something?”
“Huh? Oh right! Sorry, Christmas time is just so exciting. Okay, have you ever heard of the holiday Thanksgiving?”
“No.” I say after a bit of thought.
“I didn’t think so. Nobody else has. But I found this book, see,” she says, taking out a book. The cover has two groups of oddly dressed people eating some strange food on it. “It talks about a holiday they celebrated in America. These two groups on the front were apparently the ones who started it. And families would all come together and eat a ton of food like potatoes that were hit with a hammer, brown sauce…stuff, gelatinous red stuff made from something called a cranberry, and turkey.”
“What’s a turkey?” I ask with interest.
“It’s apparently some kind of big bird that walked on the ground.”
“Like a bat? They have big, walking land bats on the surface? No wonder we aren’t allowed up there.”
“Well, apparently they would kill them and then…um…stuff their backsides with food before cooking it.”
“That sounds barbaric!” I say, slightly taken aback.
“Well, apparently it was tasty. Anyways, Thanksgiving is apparently celebrated on the last Thursday of November. Which means we missed it! But only by a week. So I was thinking that we could celebrate Thanksgiving today. You, me, and mom. Wouldn’t that be fun?”
I look at Samara’s smiling face and I sigh. Arguing would be pointless. She’s already made up her mind. After telling her it sounded like a wonderful idea we agreed to go to the market to try to find some food for our Thanksgiving feast. I stood up and grabbed my old army jacket and ushanka. After putting them on Samara and I walked out of the door and began making our way to the market.
The Labor Battalion was busy scurrying around the hallways under supervision of a few guardsman. They were carrying boxes filled with decorations and ornamentation as well as various posters and banners. They were stacking them along the side of the hallway before heading off to the storage rooms to get more. I look inside one of the boxes against the wall and see coiled strands of Christmas lights and garland. Two guardsman are talking among themselves at the entrance to the market.
“Did you hear? The boss says they’ve gone all out this year for the holidays. They’re even going to set up a big tree in the market. Light it all up nice,” the first guard says.
“Where the hell are they going to get a tree?”
“Oleg said they were making it. Out of wood and metal. Then they’ll paint it green.”
“Ah, what the hell does Oleg know? I just hope we finally get the day off this year. Damn war has us stretched thin. I’d like to spend the day with my wife.”
“Yeah, so would I.”
The two guardsman laugh as we pass by. The market is as bust as ever, with stalls and stands pack to the brim with all number of goods. Shops selling trinkets and toys are much busier than usual, while the shops selling food are sparsely occupied. People are buying gifts for their families, and the market seems a bit happier than usual. I look over at Samara who appears to be eyeing the various food stalls, squinting her eyes in concentration. I clear my throat slightly and she jumps.
“So, what’s the first thing on the list?” I ask.
“Well, I’m guessing potatoes would be the easiest to find. They usually have some at Babushka’s Pantry.”
We make our way over to Babushka’s Pantry. Assorted jars, boxes, and cans filled with produce sit on the counter of the shop. A sign sit’s above it with “Babushka’s Pantry” painted on it in simple lettering. A kindly looking old lady, Babushka, sits behind the counter on an old wooden chair. When Babushka see’s us she smiles warmly and stands up.
“Samara my dear, how good to see you. And Dimitri too, my, what a pleasant surprise. What can I help you two with today?”
“We were hoping you had some potatoes ma’am.” I say politely, garnering an amused smile from Babushka.
“Always so polite. Why yes, some potatoes actually just got here from Tekhnologichesky Institut today. I’d be more than happy to sell you some.”
“Thank you very much. We’ll take three please.” Samara says with a smile.
“Ah of course. And because you’ve been such polite young folks, you can have a fourth one on me. What do you say?”
“Thank you so much. God bless you.” Samara says shocked.
“And you as well dear. Now run along, I know how busy you young people are.”
The two of us take the potatoes and make our way to a fairly calm area of the market.
“Okay, we need to get the next item. Hmm, I don’t think they’ll have any turkeys down here. But we can get some pork. It’s probably just as good. I think we can get some from there, “The Scullery”.” Samara says.
We make our way over to a small store a bit away from the last one. Fresh and dried meats are displayed on the counter. A sign hangs above the counter with the words “The Scullery” painted elegantly on it. Another smaller sign sits next to it, reserving the right to refuse service to customers for any reason. I look behind the counter and see an elegant looking red haired woman looking at the crowd with a bored expression on her face. When she see’s us walk up to the counter she raises an eyebrow before standing up straight and forcing a smile.
“Welcome to The Scullery. Is there something I can help you with? Since my employees are apparently worthless and can’t be bothered to do even show up to work, let alone do what I ask?”
Samara and I are both taken aback a bit. The woman maintains her smile, but her eyes seem to be daring us to say something wrong. Samara is the first one to speak.
“U-um, we were hoping to get some pork, if that’s okay with you.”
The woman eyes soften and she seems to relax a bit.
“Sure, I’ll get right on it. How much do you need?”
“I guess about two pounds? Please.”
The woman nods her head and after giving her the money, begins skillfully cutting the meat with a large knife. Seeing this woman brandishing a knife sends chills down my spine. I really don’t want to get on her bad side. After chopping up the meat she wraps it up and hands it to us. Samara and I both thank her as a begins yelling outside of her store. The woman sighs and begins walking out back towards the child and the two of us leave quickly before things escalate.
The two of us make our way back to Samara’s home. It used to be an old office and if fairly large by station standards. Homemade Christmas decorations already hang outside of the house. A guardsman is stationed nearby, nodding to Samara and staring at me as we make our way to the door. Samara knocks on the door lightly, and a woman’s voice can be heard saying “Coming!” from inside. I hear the door unlocking and soon afterwards it swings open and a woman in her mid 30’s stands in the doorway.
Sonya Federov, Samara’s mother. The two look strikingly similar, down to the red hair, freckles, and even the same height. She makes a noise that sounds somewhere between a gasp and a squeal when she see’s me, quickly pulling me into a tight hug. I instantly tense up, becoming rigid as Mrs. Federov slightly sways from side to side while hugging me.
“Dimitri, it’s so good to see you! Ah, I’m so happy you’re here!” She slowly releases me with a beaming smile. “Please find a seat! Oh, look at this mess. I can’t imagine what you must think about us, haha. We’ve been trying to get all the Christmas decorations set up, but between you and Samara doing errands and my husband busy all the time it’s been slow going. But, enough about me, what about you? Samara said you were getting the supplies for this holiday thing?”
“She already told you?” I ask, somewhat surprised.
“Oh yes, I’m rather excited actually. I’ve done my best to make what Samara was asking for. I’ve made the brown sauce with meat drippings and I wasn’t sure how to make the red cranberry sauce without cranberries so I just did what I could with mushrooms. Now that you guys are back I can begin cooking the pork and potatoes.”
I nod to her as I feel my stomach growling at the thought of a good meal. I look around briefly as Sonya starts preparing the potatoes and meat under Samara’s supervision. Contrary to what she had said, the house was hardly a mess. A few boxes were scattered about, filled with decorations and the like, but both the floors and walls were very clean. To the left of the doorway was a small living area. I walk over there and take a look around. There is a small and worn couch with a table next to it. A small record player sits on the table, quietly playing an upbeat Christmas song. Some framed posters sit on the wall, along with a tricolor flag. White, blue, and red stripes going horizontally. A small kitchen area sits on the opposite side of the living area. Sonya and Samara are happily chatting while cooking over there. A small eating area sits near to the kitchen with four chairs and a simple table for eating. Parallel to the doorway is a new addition. Wooden walls split the one large room into three, with doorways leading to Samara and her parents rooms.
I decide to make my way over to Samara and her mother, offering to help out however I can. Sonya asks me to set the table, directing me to some silverware, well, tin eating utensils, and plates. I place them down around the table and make my way back to the kitchen. The food smells wonderful, and the rumbling in my stomach is a reminder that I haven’t eaten yet today. I begin taking the food to the table with Samara, putting some on the plates and then bringing the dish back to the kitchen to save room. Finally all the food is on the plates and the three of us sit at the table together.
“So, I guess I’ll say grace.” Samara says, looking around at us. Samara and Sonya close their eyes and clasp their hands together, reciting the prayer I’ve heard so many times during meals with Samara. While I don’t take part, I sit patiently for them to finish, watching as Samara finishes the prayer and makes the sign of the cross. I pick up my utensils, ready to eat, when I hear Samara softly clear her throat. I look up and see both her and Sonya looking at me and I begin to feel extremely self conscious.
“What?” I ask with genuine confusion.
“It’s Thanksgiving. We have to all say what we are thankful for before we eat.” Samara says as Sonya nods slowly. I put my utensils down and they both nod.
“Well I am thankful that you two are both here with me. That you are both alive and well. And I’m thankful for the metro, and all it does to protect us from the surface. And I’m even thankful for my husband, as busy and stubborn as he is.” Sonya says before gesturing towards Samara.
“I’m thankful for my family. And I’m thankful for Dimitri too. I’m thankful that no matter how bad it might get, I have my best friend looking out for me. And I’m thankful for God and all of his gifts.” Samara says with a smile before nodding towards me.
I think for a moment. “I’m thankful that there are those who think of me as somebody who matters. I’m thankful that there are those who care whether I live or die. And I’m thankful for all that you have done for me. You’ve done more than I think you truly know.”
Samara’s cheeks turn a slight shade of red and Sonya’s eyes begin to tear up. “That was beautiful,” Sonya says quietly. I shrug slightly and pick up my utensils and begin to eat.
Everything was wonderful. The pork and potatoes were fantastic and the mushrooms were cooked just right. The brown sauce that Sonya made was delicious, and she was extremely excited to hear it. Samara looked like she could hardly lift her fork and Sonya looked the same. I, on the other hand, felt good. Like I had just eaten a proper meal for the first time in weeks. That might actually be the case, I thought to myself.
After cleaning up the table and enduring another round of hugs from Samara’s mother I went to make my leave. Samara made her way over to me and stopped me at the door. She seemed to stare at me for a few seconds before giving me a light hug.
“Thank you for helping me with this. It means a lot.” She said softly before releasing me.
“Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I’m a bit disappointed we didn’t get to eat a land bat, but that’s alright. We should do it again next year.”
“Haha, that sounds great. And I’ll be at your place bright and early tomorrow. We need to get that place, and you, into the Christmas spirit!”
I let out an audible groan, garnering a laugh from Samara and her mother. I make my way out the door and begin the walk back to my home.
Stories of mythical birds and foreign traditions. What a day.
Colored Lines Holiday Specials on 12/6/2019 4:17:53 AM