The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Author: Stirling Newberry Page 1 of 2

Spring Of A Down, Chapters XVI-XVIII

Королевство кривых зеркал[xcvii]

Hush. He will tell the story forwards, but it makes more sense in reverse.[xcviii]

He was at his house, leaving. He closed a red door and he thought “I must have it painted black.”[xcix]

His car was broken. It was a Mercedes Benz. It had been broken since 1969.[c]

So, he walked up the road. It was a long row to hoe and he would be walking for two solid days to get to where he was going.

And on that second day, the waters parted from the waters.[ci] The mirror crack’d from side to side as the man turned to the dirt path from the paved.[cii] There were trees crowded around the road and twigs dropped into the puddles from above. Again, he looked above at the clouded sky. There was no rain falling. Yet. But it was pregnant and foreboding. The late winter weather seemed waiting to drench him again. At least it was not snow.

He trudged along the basin. To his right, there were glimpses of a large reservoir. The reservoir was where the Dnipro and the Pripyat merged and converted. It was a Kingdom of crooked mirrors – which bank was which?[ciii] He realized he was more tired than he thought.

There was the quiver of spring, but not yet, not yet. Then ahead a yellow pickup truck was parked in the distance. Joy leapt from his heart. He ran very slowly because the trail was made of mud, and he had a long way to go. His eyes were fixed on the yellow back of the truck hoping that he could rest. Even if rest was in the back. Even if rest meant sitting in the rain. Anything was better than this. Anything.

So along he ran with drench green boots and tatter fur on the inside with brown coat draping and gray hat dropping. Then he saw, he saw… He saw nothing. The was no driver behind the wheel. It seemed as if the truck was abandoned. A crushing feeling made him feel more alone. He went walking; a sad walk at that.

Along the truck’s edge until he reached the driver’s side. There, there was a body. He could see red that exited towards the back. He did not see the face. It was a civilian – all the good that got him. Then he spied the keys still in the ignition. Never one to look at the teeth he opened the door and pulled the corpse out.[civ] For a moment he saw the wrinkled face. It had a white and black freckled beard. The man looked away, quickly. Very quickly. One should not look at a dead man. It would be irreligious and sacrilegious.

But in the driver’s seat, everything felt different. He felt a little bit in charge. He sat upright. His boots still felt wet and outside the precipitation went to ice, but these things did not matter. He checked the petrol and found it half full. He ignored the murmuring in his head that it was just too fortunate to find a truck with any amount of fuel in it. Coincidence.

The wheels slogged through the grime. It had been raining much of the time and the road showed the wear and tear of the late winter rain with a vengeance. He focused now on driving because his eyesight was not as it used to be. But he ignored glasses. Too fragile, too delicate, to easily lost, to easily forgotten.

He was a man, God damn it.[cv] Oleg was his God-given name.

Then up ahead there were men on the road. Infantry men. Green clad infantry men. Russian green clad infantry men.

There were only two choices, and he did not have time to choose either. The truck stopped.

The window was rolled down by inches which a manual window handle moved. Teeth.

The first man on the outside placed his hands over the door, and began to speak:

“What are you doing driving around here?” The face was young, the words were plastic. The young face stared blankly into his eyes with a brown surreptitious look.

Spring Of A Down, By Stirling Newberry, Chapters XIII-XV

Невідомі води[lv]

They watched the world wake-up from history, there was no place they wanted to be.[lvi]

Pockmarks over the sea air. Wisps and black cinders grew up, up, up to the air billowing мистецтво. The mill was the last refuge of Ukraine. Junk was the line. Z Goliath lined up tanks and self-propelled rocket launchers for rent, while the David took the underground. Close to the unknown waters the day the music died.[lvii] Spires multiple of factory smokestacks rising towards the tumble rubble dark air in space.

From above the destruction is immense: metal roofs shattered, cars dispersed as toys across the parking lots, all burning on the streets all mimsy were the borogoves.[lviii] Brick walls stand with nothing to guard. White dross of paper and wooden chaff of some blown maze where all of the denizens lie in wait. Cradles of the new dying fur and an aerie of fluttering wreckage.[lix] Even now, bands of irregulars hurled Molotov beer at the Russians in the corner of the Azov Iron Works. Judge Dredd might know this place: a riptide of industrial destruction next to the seashore with salt wind. The wind blew away the smoke of shells.

It was in these warrens that a few boys waited by the earthen trenches, at a point that was no more than single file dug, opening the sky and slithering in the mud. In the open warehouse, pipes ran everywhere – some drops combed off from somewhere, 20 meters up.

In the clouds a ray of moonlight pierced through. And one of the soldiers stood in the bask of it. With arms like a mother cross. Gentle and serene.

Краплинка.[lx] Pause. Краплинка. Pause. Краплинка!

It was Borysko the first to itch.

He felt the oil on his sweater.

“I needed a parasol every day.” He played with an unlit cigarette and then put it down.

“It is the Champs-Élysées here all the time.” Neither Borysko, nor anyone else, had seen the boulevard in Paris. Though Borysko had tasted Gauloises, then made in France.[lxi]

Краплинка. Pause. Краплинка. Pause. Краплинка!

“It could be the Styx, or the paradise theater.”[lxii] Everyone looked over at Kostyantyn.

But it was Maksym that replied: “Nothing ever goes as planned.”[lxiii]

Borsyko laughed: “Just ask the other side.” There was nothing jovial in the way he said it. Then a wail peaked. His voice was annoyance, or perhaps his annoyance found an outlet.

Краплинка. Pause. Краплинка. Pause. Краплинка!

They all moved out from under the pipe making a bit of noise as they did so. Any awareness of the droplets erased from the boys’ minds. Boys will be The Boys.[lxiv]

Then another figure came up the tranche. He was bolder, once beefier, and bearded but spatter with grime. His name was unimportant, for all called him Starshyna. The boys shivered. The old man softly said: “Do you want to see the блакитний?”[lxv] All agree that they want to see the heavenly blue. Just. One. More. Time.[lxvi] Each one a siren sound, when each one may be your last. “Then keep quiet.” he added in a controlled tone of voice. He then thought a bit and lined them up, but quietly: “First. Second. Third.”[lxvii]

They lined-up, but grumpily.

The man they called Starshyna, old rank for Master Sergeant, was Bohdanko Petrovitch Mikhailov. He was born of a Russian mother and a Ukrainian father, back at a time when which language you spoke was seen as an indicator of your political leanings: Ukrainian was said to lead towards Kyiv and Russian meant towards Moskva. It was horseradish at the time, but much stronger horseradish. As a young boy, he burned at the insults, especially “Ублюдок” which was the equivalent of “Bastard.” He could not even make his mind up, in utero. But he never said “All Apologies”[lxviii] for the mixed-up tongue even over Pennyroyal tea.[lxix] Give Bohdanko a Cohen world every single time not a box of chocolates.[lxx] Everybody knows the dice are loaded with nirvana.[lxxi] He burned, and that is why he joined the far-right to expunge the sound, the sound, the sound of everyone else being gay. Then it was a natural expansion to the Patriot Ukraine to the Azov Regiment in 2014. All-natural and pure. It was the purity of essence that drove Bohdanko because there was so little of it around.[lxxii] A tourniquet of expiry.

Bohdanko looked back one more time. What he saw were kids who probably were not going to see daylight. He saw ghosts in their faces, turned in shades of grey with shrapnel sucking out the blood. Then he went off into the darkness. The trees denude, walls denuded, bodies denude, all along the bomb out streets.

Once he started to leave the boys whispered under their breath: “First. Second. Third.”[lxxiii] Once again, the insults came Bohdanko’s way.

Then 50 meters or so away Bohdanko looked back one more time. What he saw were kids who probably were not going to see daylight. He saw ghosts in their faces, turned in shades of grey. Then he went off farther into the darkness. He watched the plumes from the ships at sea torrenting the coronets skyward in a nascent display streak strophe splendor. He watched every burst, realizing one day he would be in the target zone.

He began talking to himself. “You should not be hard on them. They probably do know the feeling of being a father. Not the way you do. Remember holding up the soft flesh for the first time. So delicate and pure of essence to the core.

He looked out over the sea. Old man was now thin as he was once undefeated but now broken on the inside. An open door was waiting. A harpoon was aiming. He looked around because somewhere he knew a sniper was taking aim.

He knew that it was not him. He remembered the pouch of tobacco. Red was the glow of the match. The first light would be too short. The second light the sniper would aim. The third light – never three on a lucifer.

The shot called true. But it was a RAM grenade. Piercing slicing shell shock. Then all of them were dispatched. At least there was no agony or painpainpain.

Up above the oil went from a dribble to a spurt.

It was a lesson that you learned whatever your persuasion: you think you will live forever, when you’ve done a line or two.[lxxiv] They drill that out of you in basic but, for whatever reason, it crepts back in. It was a warning of universal application: quiet gets one killed last.

Pretty lights, beneath the stars and sea.

Spring of Down, By Stirling Newberry, Chapters X-XII

мене на могилis[xxxix]

Cry Havoc, Let slip the dogs of war![xl]

He let his voice slide into a whisper as he controlled the crowded cockpit. In his imagination he could see a drone’s eye view of the slag towers.


And he was in the best tank now in service – the T-14, whose low rumbling sleek military green frame was out on the battlefield in a pack of wolves over the land. Where the streets have no name, merely Number-Letters in an astute vision akilter. In Cyrillic, because they were Russian, he to flame out the old enemy. Without a trace. He looked across at the gunner, rotating through his list of targets. Burred with the taste of beardlets he concentrated Concentrated on  destruction by madness, on starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn.[xli]

This was the torture plain of Donbas. For now, the streaming gang of Russians mobbing the зелёнка, green scraggly brush meant to hide them from hidden opponents. Russian tanks poured across the disputed border – because, to the Russian, what is his but what is yours is negotiable – in number and scope.

There was occasionally even some semblance of moderate military discipline. A hate-filled gas of iron, germs, and bad tactics.

He focused, focused, focused. Focus on the dawn which was now breaking along the distant trees on the sullen horizon. Love turned to rust on the guts of red. Kostik moved his head to shake out his tinnitus but quickly turned back to sight, not sound. It was a sight that killed you. He knew that, at least in the front of his skull.

The land was empty of wheat and fodder for hoofed beats, but its’terrain was what the tank was designed for: a thoroughbred of orthogonal grace. It was quiet as the three watched their stations.

But finally, the driver, Kostik, uttered: “They are burning their money in wastebaskets.” He spat on the running floor where everything moved in staccato.

Driver Lyonya startled at first then composed. “Whatever do you mean?”

“The fuel is the commodity. Burning it like trash that warms the caliber.”

“If they get hits, it does not matter.” Lyonov wished for nothing more than to wait in the sunlight and drink coffee and talked for hour after hour. He said none of this, now or any time.

“We are the terror through the wall, creeping up by Wolf’s tail for surprise.” Kostik then beaded his eye through the tube sensing that there was a Javelin man in the rubbish bushes. He swiveled and searched – but did not find what he was looking for. Dull roots with spring rain dappled the escape. When searching for the acute angle,  man and machine are one. Where the dead tree gives no shelter.

But inside he was hungry, for Kostik’s stomach growled. Stale borscht without enough beef or sour cream. It was harder to kill, not having enough to eat. Even wisps of odor turned rancid in the cheap cologne and stale soap.

Kostik waded his dry tongue over a dry inner check. Dry stone, no sound of wate,r even the shadow under this red skin.

“Why do they fight this way?”

“They fended off Kyiv. Why not hold their ground in the disputed territories on the free regions?” By this Lyonov meant the two nations which Russia recognized. Both men thought ‘Know respect for the near abroad.’ That is why the DEFCON was raised. This was a Russian police action.

Kostik strained his neck. Bleary cheery fatigue had set in. He thought: ‘Open your eyes!’ It became a kind of chant in the heat of the moment. Pies Iesu Domine. Dona eis requiem. Thunk.

Du hast. Du hast. Du hast.[xlii]

Would any name of the rose be so logical in the swing of Foucault’s Pendulum?

Search and Destroy. Or be destroyed.

Spring of Down, Chapters VII-IX, By Stirling Newberry

קטרילבקה קידמה

The show must go on. There must be progress – in costumes for example.[xi] She twirled to see the whole of the outfit. Serafina was truly unhappy.

Not that she didn’t have reasons – unhappy from inside to outside. Ukrainian in a country being overrun by Russian forces, Jewish in an Orthodox Christian nation; acting in a town of straights, and an atheist in a land of believers. The president’s face looked at her from his portrait stuck on her mirror.

She looked at her face. Did it show? Jewish did – there was a lilt to her features – nothing so gauche as a crooked nose but a sweep to her cheekbones. Some of the young men worshiped that. She thought: everywhere there are those who want something different. She was thin and there were those who felt she was attractive. Who is she to judge? She glanced at the other chair that had a man’s sweater.

“Are you ready?” The voice came from behind. It was the techie – the man who could get you anyone, but for himself, nothing. The paunch said it all. Likes women but indulges in latkes. The second let you down easily and was eager for late nights. Unlike Serafina. He had tried. Repeatedly.

“I’m only me when I’m acting.”

“Limelight is in 5.” He placed his fingers like a pistol.

She thought: “What an Imaginary Invalid.” But out her mouth came: “Break a leg.”

“Toi, Toi, Toi.” He tried to pinch her … anywhere.

She looked to the stage at Kolesca Theater -it was an Academic, part of the gaggle of theatre, schools, churches, museums, coffee bars, and wine hangouts. People needed to be picked-up or gently let down. She glanced over at the audience, who were quieting down. The pale-yellow bricks with white arches had attracted the weary to the street curved near the thicket of woods. She blinked.

And within the blink, she remembered coming up the Funicular – a cable car that went up and down. It was a freezing day, it was січень, the month when the Orthodox Christians celebrated what they wished to be on a child. She saw a young man reading a novel, patiently lost in thought. She envied the book – to inspire such attention.

But then, in the present, she moved to her position. The wheel of dialog had begun. The nylon curtain had begun. A steam whistle from stage right called. She waited while the lead played out the opening with his pharmacist then the lead rang a bell. It was almost time for her entrance – but she had to wait for him to shout. The script had an exact number but the director left the exact number to the lead. The director thought it would be more pressure she had to listen; she rememberedthe director admonished during the first rehearsal “She comes out of her room only when it is clear she must go.” To have a room of our own – she thought that would be heavenly.

As her left hand waited to make an entrance, she again recalled the young man and the very moment that he looked up with his narrow dark-rimmed specs. It was an inner event in her mind, a flight that still had shades.

Back in the present, she saw the tiny audience and then turned to the lead and said. With. Dead. Pan. “Coming, coming.” She waited for the lead’s abuse, which was more than an act. He had tried, too. He tried cold Northern tears to get his way but in theatre, everyone knew what was live and what was Memorex. He wanted the “Ohs” to be with exclamation points.[xii]

“Oh.” She acted in the present. With deadpan.

“Oh.” When her line came up. With sarcasm.

“Oh.” Remember a different moment. It was later and night wrapped its dirty blanket as they went inside to the bedroom which she borrowed. Here were all the exclamation points. They went out. She wanted to show him where she worked.

“So, what do you think, Kuzma?”

He examined the building. He nodded. “Lots of yellow going up the slope.” He looked at all the quaint builds out of a different century, and an age of asymmetry with arches.

“I come every day from below to see the tree in the backdrop.”

But the present interrupted her memories of lines that were read. Then another verse, a little bit louder and a little worse, of the refrain: “Oh!” With feeling.

She knew that she was a bit player. She knew she was not doing well tonight but the memories kept intruding. Earlier that night they had wandered. Up a gentle hill, they reached a statue – of a clown. A tear ran down the statue’s cheek. His paperback book, all torn from reading, was upon his chest, it read: Demons – in Russian of course.

He turned to her looking at the statue: “Do you know who he was?”

“Yes. Do you?”

“Yes, yes, yes, yes. He was Aleksandr Vertinskiy, the Russian clown.”

“A Jewish clown.”

“Are you Jewish?”

She looked up and down, then giggled. She covered her mouth with both hands. “As the saying goes: only on my parent’s side.”

“What does that mean?”

“I am descended from Israel, but I do not believe.”

He closed his mouth rightly. She could see a decision being made. He straightened in his pinstripe pants and there was a tightening in his navy jacket.

“I do believe either.” His breath left a frost in the air.

“When did you make up your mind?”

“Now.” He waited with an intense gaze. “It is a struggle.” He held up his book. “My favorite author believed.” Then he put it into his jacket pocket.

She dropped her hand, finding another close to hers. They linked and then she said: “Do you want to see where I work?”

Then in the present again, they were taking their bows. She was acting by rote.

Then the ultimate memory: if it was in the acting room she borrowed, again.

She roused herself from the quilted bed. It was morning and sunlight gazed through. There was straightness to her midsection.

“May I ask you something, my Kulbaba?”[xiii]

She looked around at him with suspicion.

“Why do you have no curve?” Though it was intimated there was no hint of evil in either his face or words.

“It is a secret. But like Screwtape, it is obvious if you think about lower down.”[xiv]

“If you tell me that, then I will as well.”

She halted. She hesitated. Then she began: “I was pregnant. My father insisted that I keep it. They are Orthodox and my father’s position is that it is forbidden. Then he gave the child away. I left. Now you know.”

He straightened to sitt. There was no hesitation. “I got a letter yesterday. I have been called up.” He reached out and snagged a sweater and offered it to her.

“If I come back, I will offer you a room of your own.”

She look away towards the promenade, her heart skipped in five, and dreamed of the day.[xv]



You will not find this in any Encyclopedia of the world.[xvii] Try as you may, it will elude you. And yet it is – existence as yours, as unreality. And yet by habit, it will sound strange to you when I tell this story. On a road with many writers, one of them stopped to capture the dull brown grass at his feet. It was wartime and he realized that many people would not recognize the subtle shades that brown could muster. Brown sky over the city made of brown smoke.[xviii] Pounding with violence on the Sea of Azov.

Spring of Down, Chapters IV-VI, By Stirling Newberry

На крилах пісень[i]

The soldier came knocking upon the Queen’s door.[ii] With the twiddly branches of old white oak trees planted a long time ago on wide boulevards hanging delicately over streets whose names had been forgotten. The streets were brightened by crossings lattice lines of electrical round lights with the patina of old bulbs – the new kind which made less heat were still being debated in the council chamber. Now one spoke over these wires. In the distance large rectangular office buildings humped in the skyline. It was the largest creation of humanity in the land now called Ukraine.

The soldier came knocking with ill intent. In the soldier’s mind, he was a conquering hero who would be venerated by his citizens. But the citizens did not see him that way and so the soldier came crashing down on the Queen. A Queen that had been known for her wit. Many thought that she would bend and break when threatened by so much as a glower. Threads across the boulevards were no match, so it seemed, for the brutality and bluster of the soldier.The sun rose, and the day woke up clear. It was the kind of spring where the buds start their inexorable march towards unfolding. A man looked up from the sidewalk and merely stared at the loveliness that surrounded him. Spring does not care for the goings-on of soldiers.

A ray is where a spark pours but Aleksander was not in tune with the season, instead he brooded on the days yet to come when the Russians would strike with all their might against Kyiv. He knew he would be at the front because of his long days of training over the last several years. In that time, he had grown used to an overbearing demeanor and crisp sharp commands. He had also been given trust over those he commanded because there was nothing that he asked of any man that he would not do himself.

He looked down at the sneakers and stretched out his toes. It was a morning off before he went back to the area that had become the base. But Aleksander found nothing but time to brood on the coming night’s events. Though he would not pass the words over his lips, he was afraid, deeply deathly afraid. So, would be any man who knew rivals were trying to find their foes and that rockets were landing a higgedly piggly to turn over the earth and scatter its contents hither and yon.

He looked up and down the boulevard with no cars, people, trucks, or dogs. Only the cats were scattered over the asphalt, and most of them were retiring. It felt serene. And it was serene most of the time, but rockets’ red glare had intruded a few times in the night. They ripped down concrete walls and huge windowpanes. He saw one just down the street.

Then up ahead, he saw a young man with black hair. He would see that man in uniform very soon because the young man was part of his company.

Of course, being an officer, he spoke. “Greetings.”

Leo looked up; it was clear that he had been distracted by his thoughts. “Kapitan.” A clear smile lit up the young man’s face. “I would not have taken you as a man who would spend any time wandering the street. Are you going to be ready for tonight?” And then hastily: “Sir.”

Aleksander smiled. Leo had only been promoted to Serzhant recently. It was still a junior non-commissioned officer rank.

“Serzhant, I will tell you a small secret: we must be ready to do our duty but realize that we are never truly prepared for any eventuality.” The words came out of his mouth, and they formed a regular type of dialogue that he had mastered in his time in the Army.
Leo nodded.

Sometime later Aleksander was controlling a tank, and Leo had the helm. It was dark, and dark clouds still overhead. They were in the woods with trees crowded around them. It was auiet, and the wind did not blow on Aleksander. It was is reaching for other lives: a pot on the fir git ground; a ripped up pooh now distend out of pooh corner; lingerie divinized with no one left to wear it.[iii] Shredded bags and torn blankets skiterred. Only the hut is white.

There was an urgency. Into the night munitions fired and detonated. Aleksander looked up, down, and all around.

In a flash, he saw a weapon. In the bushes. Aiming; aiming for him. There was a moment of panic. But only one, because without realizing it his pistol was locked and loaded. Both men fired. His enemy missed.

Aleksander did not.

The soldier was killed.[iv]

Off in the distance, a helicopter bloomed white and exploded. Crash, beep, beep.[v]

Without realizing it, he went through the motion of halting the tank. Then he slung over the side with Leo watching his commander’s coolness under fire.

Aleksander went on all fours and examined the kill. It was a Yefréytor – a private first class. He too was young. As were the young men he protected. Waste of life otherwise. But his charges would come home, to their mothers and sisters.

“Sometimes nothing happens like on the wing of songs.”[vi]

Then looking down at his work.

“Sometimes I dig the grave.”

[i] On the wings of song.
[ii] An allusion to Vega, “The Queen and the Soldier”.
[iii] An allusion to Milne , “A House at Pooh Corner.”
[iv] An allusion to Vega, “The Queen and the Soldier”.
[v] The Playmates,“Honk, Rattle, Crash, Beep Beep”
[vi] Lesya Ukrainka (Леся Українка) – Book of poetry. Title.

Вечер накануне Ивана Купала[i]

There are moments that un-terrorize visions of horror. Twisted metal burned on a stroad with houses, one touched to another, in this, the East of the West. Bucha was a name that few people heard of; it was a point on a map outside of Kyiv. Even the few who had heard it had heard it almost recently on charts of a faintly military hue. Gogol would be proud of the objective – all Slavs.

Spring of a Down, by Stirling Newberry, Chapters 1-3

я знаю місце1

(Read the Prolog)

She looked out over the land coming spring. Rather than domes and spires of Kyiv, here there were roofs to keep the hearth warm. But was forward to the eye was the fuzziness of the trees because the buds were forming across a flat plain. Life bloomed, over and above the plains north of the capital the river flow in.2

She turns to sweep out the broken glass from the boards of the floor. Too much mess but one had to start someplace. “Maria you must keep to your duties, not look outside.”3 Maria was very practical. Unlike her sister.

The sister and her two young daughters were 2 kilometers away, still above the ground facing the heavans. The dead eyes see the days like acid rain.4 A wider look at the world beyond the cross.

Work to reach the corners and cracks. Stay focused. Down, she must turn down. There were so many dead. She remembered how the war began. It was a gloomy winter day when the world turned upside down.5 Then in the hazy snow-soaked sky, she heard bombs come blimping blinding down. She hid underneath her bed, death and life alternated between her children, and the two were mixed with feelings of pity and sorrow. It was a vision of Hell brought to the waking world.6 She looked over her bed to a burned-out candle.

She tried not to think of it again but the harder she fought the more vivid the movie it was.7

“Maria?” A call from the door. “Maria Petrenko? It is me, Pavlo Pavlenko.”8

Yes, she remembers who he was. At other times she would think little of him because he was a skinflint. But that was then this was now. She stood up and brush her light blue dress off of soot and coal. “It will take me a moment.” There was a door, but it was clear not locked, or even closed.

From below she heard: “Everything is moving more slowly.”

Down the curved steps, she went with a new curve to her back. At the last steps she saw the back way and the white-bearded face was brought into view.

“You have come some way to get here.”

“It is true.”

“What brought you here?”

“The hammer banged reveille on the rails, and I had to get up.9 I had to get up a set my life in order on this fine day.”

He stood there wavering.

“That is quite stark – whatever do you mean?”

“I am dying. I was before the war, but I did not know it.”

“What happened?”

“You know the office in the center of town?”

“Which one?”

“A doctor has come a set up a waypoint for people to flee.”

“I know the place.10 But are you fleeing?”

He hesitated. “Could I come in and sit down?” A smile played with the edges of his mouth.

“You will have to sit on the stairs because the is no chair.”

He shuffled to the stairs, remembering a time when they had been carpeted. “I was thinking on it.”

“Why did you stop thinking on it??”

“I was told by the physician that I was dying, and quickly, so.”

There was a rich pause because in the old days she might have wished for this, were she was honest with herself. Which she often was, when alone.

Then the heard a flowering like popcorn, only from the trees.11 Pop – pop – pop. The room tilted by some fraction of 90 degrees as if the rhyme was helter-skelter with a drone of bass climb underneath. The sky was above in blue synergy holography from light to dark, tripping the light fantastic.12

Then they were falling and, flailing, grabbed at each other, winding up in what amounted to a hug.. All went dark for an instant.

She tilted her head, seeing, finding something almost fetching in his visage though not his face.

And then an instant later hey both looked up. The roof was ripped from below as a bomb had exploded mere meters awat. The plane moved on with thrust.13

Quietly she spoke: “That was close.”

“It matters little to me, a reprieve from the death which is soon to come.”

She skipped a beat. “I am sorry”

“Now you are.”

“Forgive me for the transgressions I may have committed.” She looked into his face but no glimpse of what lay beyond was forthcoming.

“It is not important – at least not to me. Instead, I will see the dead.”

“Who is to bury you?”

“That is why I came. I want you to make sure I am lain to rest.”

“Why me?”

“Because I am sure that you will do this as you did with your sister.”

“How do you know what happened to her?”

“That is the secret I wish to confess to you.”

Her heart clenched.

He continued: “I was having an affair with her. Anastasiya was going to me.”

“What about her daughters?”

“She was dropping them with her friend, the Doctor.”

None of this she knew. “So, you wish me to bury you for the sake of my sister?”

“Most people do not care for the testament which binds us.”14 And he continued, “Everything in the world is coming to an end.”

“I will do this even to the apocalypse.”


It was daylight and the birds did nestle among the cold stone fascia of the many buildings that lined the Rynok Square, to the English tourists Merchant’s Square. one of many in the town once called Lviv. He wondered why someone would name a town after Leo when it was so peaceful. His eyes moved the many statues of real, legendary, and mythical figures which dotted the observation tower which overlooked the host of old, even aged, splay of buildings in this now wartime city. It was of course not supposed to be this way and at the same time, it was the way it had been since 2014.16 As it would be, so it seemed, for some time to come.

Prologue of Spring of a Dawn, A Novella By Stirling Newberry

“I sit in one of the dives

On Fifty-second Street

Uncertain and afraid

As the clever hopes expire

Of a low dishonest decade:

Waves of anger and fear

Circulate over the bright

And darkened lands of the earth,

Obsessing our private lives;

The unmentionable odour of death

Offends the September night.”

W.H. Auden “September 1, 1939” Lines 1-111

Червоний ліс2

The road was green and bloomed with fresh ruined gray high rises. Trees were thick with abandon and squirrels played along the conifer branches. In the center of the overgrown city square a hammer and sickle taller than any other logo stood atop the rectangular office building. The hammer had fallen out long ago.3 Along the road into the complex were mechanized infantry carriers with the loud “Z” on the sides of each and every one.4 Red rain came pouring down all over them.5 μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος.6

None of the MBTs even slowed at the barrier.7 Snap.

In the fifth carrier was a Russian infantry officer, his head masked with a helmet and goggles. The uniform was black with blotches.8

“Get the guard out here, or we will do to you what we have planned for Bucha.!”9

Slowly the guard station popped open to reveal a helmetless man. The Russian officer bellowed, in slang: “Are you drunk?10 I am not paying grandmas for your time.11 I don’t have time to waste.” The peacekeeper came up to the side and was truly ready for a Russian tirade. He almost got it in heaps and gobs – but the infantryman behind the officer put a hand on his superior’s back. The officer swatted away the hand but did not castigate the peacekeeper. The power of slang remained dry.

The peacekeeper eyed the Russian officer. Behind him, in the distance, was the tall white smokestack that marked the corroded nuclear power plant. The peacekeeper shivered – it was official now, a war, whatever Putin called it.12

“I am warning you that there is radiation.”

“Stuff it.13 You are now under Russian control.”

The peacekeeper blinked and then said, “I understand.”

“Even a horseradish will know it.”14

“That is the Red Forest.15 It is the dangerous region here.”

“Let the anesthetic cover it all. 16 Get the chief on the phone.”

The peacekeeper moved past the guard, there were wires on the doors. Going through the wires, he reminded himself of when he was a child learning the game of hide-n-seek: the trick was to pick the nastiest way to go. Days later he played with an uncle and found a plum. And he was then barely sixteen years old. He pick-up the phone and dialed the undialable: never had he summoned the head office.

“Yes.” He could feel discomfort coming down the linesr.17

“Chornobyl is being overrun by Russian troops.”18

“Are you sure?”

“The lady mercy won’t be home tonight.”19

“History won’t be kind to us.”

“History won’t care at all.”20

It was along the Red Forest in a Russian troop carrier. The trees were all the same size, an indication they were planted together.21

Two Russians were blabbing:

“See the outside is chromoplast goulash.”22 Ivan was satisfied with his joke.23

“Not like those grew up and proud under the mushroom cloud.”Egor who calmly replied. The spruce trees danced by outside the small window as they sped towards Chornoby.

“We are going to make black bombs with dust.”

“Still a little piece of me dies.”24

“Better than the whole body – which we will do.”

“Our officer should not have screamed out our plans.”

His friend picked lint from his black uniform. “They won’t live to tell. The operation is go.”25

They plodded through the dilapidated dachas in the Red Forest – or was it Rad?26 Red dacha roofs with ivory plaster stucco and lawns festered with new white birches cloying to the sun. As yet, there were no leaves. Orb webs grew on the boughs. Then fields with high grass and the dead trees took over. The dust clung up and bunch up in the front of the vehicles from the road. A driver dodged a rabbit on the road. Build your muscles as your body decays.27

Then they were at the full enclosure. Egor looked but Ivan talked first:28 “We need to get what we came for.”

A lump grew in Igor’s throat.

Then Ivan looked at him. “Are you worried? All the lies they tell you about this place are eating at your brain.”

Egor looked at the semi-cylindrical shape, on its side longer than many football pitches. “I am long past worrying.” They rolled out and took positions. Their officer was at the front. Konstantin was always straight and upright with a proud jaw.29 He paced to the gate. Long cranes still dotted the outside. There was no vegetation, just ivory concrete.

Konstantin went up to the guard. “This area is under Russian protection. Get the officer in charge. Face to face.”

The guard only nodded – he was informed and would obey – what else was there to do?

In less than half an hour black infantrymen held all the gates. Only then did men enter. They passed the sarcophagus which some knew was collapsing.30 Flourescent lights stained the walls. The infantrymen put on hazmat suits and went to work. Within 2 hours trains were packed with brown boxes to go out the tracks and over the bridges. Then they went and dug foxholes in the forest.31

A day later, green infantrymen replaced the black.32 None of them said anything about the op. They may not have known.

Back in Russia, Egor was back on base. His right hand was red.33

(Footnotes are after the jump.)

The Theocratic Mantra Of Our Age

Article by Stirling Newberry

It is difficult reaching the impossible to critique the theocratic mantra of an age. This is true because the raison d’être for engaging in a debate must be that the joint assumptions of the political spectrum are true.

This is not, then, a political argument about two differing sides but about the ur-narrative. Certain assumptions cannot be questioned, those questions which are part of the theocratic mantra of the age. But this means that on any given issue, most members of the elite, whether intellectual, sociopolitical, economic, or literary, will not be able to oppose certain actions because they will not be able to articulate a reason why.

This was the case in 2001 when the bombing of the Twin Towers and assorted other targets was juggled into a war against Iraq. The Iraqi leader the time, Saddam Hussein he had escaped certain destruction in the previous war because the then-president counted in the costs and made a reasonable decision that, on balance, it was not worth the cost for the extraction of one leader, given what had to be the outcome in Iraq of chaos, which was then then the opinion of a great number of experts in the middle east. When in 2001 the chance of erasing the failure to eradicate a dictator was brought up again a very different president was in office, and a different equation was laid for the American public.

Remove Saddam Hussein, and set up a democracy.

This narrative had to be looked at as reasonable even though the premise was completely absurd. Several people left because they could not enunciate the fundamental absurdity of a democratic Iraq. There was no democratic Iraq on the table, nor was there a Democratic Libya—nor a Democratic Egypt.

Once one looked into the mouth of the dragon one would see that for a very long period the choices were an absolute dictator or some version of breakdown into madness. The only possible road was to create the preconditions for a dissolution of the Iraq state into more congenial regions. The results of the war to unseat a dictator was exactly this: since there was no dismantling of parts then the result was a controlled dissolution. The word ISIS had not been invented but it is concept was already staring back at anyone who looked at the map and who read the relevant papers.

In other words, the entire idea of removing a dictator and setting up a democratically elected alternative was simply not possible in any realistic sense. And as a result, the questions which had to be answered were never even asked. One could gloss over an op-ed but the real question was simply not to be considered in any believable way. The longest war in American history was spent avoid thinking the real question.

When I say the theocratic mantra, I mean that quite literally. We believe in a neoliberal neoconservative economic system which has as its roots a neoclassical vision of a mass of humanity making logical economic decisions. This vision is absurd and the vision must be taken on a force of logic to an unparalleled Truth. This does not mean that all other forms are rational: many of them are equally irrational in different ways. One can look at numerous Marxian ideas. They have a different irrefutable logic which is also wrong but to argue from 1st principles as to why it is wrong would take a dissertation.

What happens then is the realistic numbers of society drop away one after another when some specific rule that they know must be true and yet cannot be admitted has to be broken for the sake of the bedrock rules that govern debate. You must be Civil and reasonable within the context of an uncivil and unreasonable system. The men and women who can do this can write several articles a week or do a paper per semester or some other measure of output per unit input. However, the end comes when the substructure of debate is proven to be false. This has happened with the Great Recession over 10 years ago, but the system which runs debate has continued and only become more ornate and Byzantine as it has done so. There are enormous numbers of people who believe in a dead system because they want something which that system allows. Oftentimes that belief is not possible under the rules of scientific or practical elucidation.

When you have at least 40% of the population wanting to believe irrational things, and another 40% which wants a logic which is not functional, there is a great deal of logically valid and scientifically correct data which will not be allowed as a given.

In short, we argue over things that have already been proven to be true. I do not need to listen to President Trump to know that he simply lies. However, his overt lies are a result of the fact that there has been for 40 years a gradually building consensus for a covert set of lies.The system which created the confluence of events which led to him taking the oath of office is in no way related to any system of reality worthy of attention.

An example is the data that oil is producing negative value every single day.

The reason it does so is also well known: a few benefit tremendously while the vast majority pays a small consequence which when summed is far greater than the benefits to the few. On the scale of a global population, there is no other answer than to wind down most of the fossil fuel. But there is a large population of elites who own their tranche by holding some bottleneck in the fossil fuel economy, even though it may be several steps removed. The reason Americans are fat is that it is much cheaper to import vast quantities of calories than to do other things to make us happy. It is a gourmand oriented system rather than a gourmet oriented system.

This means that what qualifies as our society’s argument is anything but, instead it is trying to avoid the fundamental questions so that the argument can go on. This does not mean removing fundamental tensions and maladaptations will make everything harmonious or arguable. Europe has a great deal of tension in its debate and has a number of glaring errors in basic areas: health science, transportation, and locality in specific.

People who live in a particular area to not want to see their livelihood vanish in a puff of smoke, even though on the net they are actually producing devaluation. The reason they live where they do is that otherwise everyone would live in a few cities to the point where it would be a Metropolitan conglomerate separated by rural hinterlands. It is better to allow them to produce nonfunctional products and live outside the Metropolitan areas than to force them to agglomerate themselves into the hive, or at least a slow process is better than rapid progress.

Here in America, the basic problem with the system is the capitalization of non-capitalizable functions, such as public health and a basic living standard for individuals. There is a reason why the rest of the developed world realizes that only at the very low end of the spectrum is their profit to be made from such activities. The reason we do so is that there needs to be one military power to enforce stability. This is again a cost-benefits analysis subject: there are 3 methods.

A great powers systems rely on many factors and each one can secure, and this means by force, a coterie of followers who rely on a secured benefit. Then there is the duopoly most recently seen in the Cold War, where slightly over half of humanity is better precisely because the other half runs affairs in a different way. Then there is the superpower system where one country supplies the military stability. It is no accident that the British Imperial system has been duplicated in the American Empire – they are both superpower systems.

What this means is that the supreme military system actually lives worse outside of the various centers. This become especially true when the fundamental axioms of its argument are proved wrong but must still be abided by. This happened with World War I in the British Imperial system, and it happened with the Great Recession in ours. But as the saying goes “just because a problem goes away does not mean the people tasked with solving the problem go away as well.” Thus we have capitalizion of non-capitalizable assets as the road to financialization profits, even though it does not work. (A friend has written Goliath on just such a topic.)

The system itself will fall not because of its components, but by the nature of its assumptions. The assumptions are not just wrong but wrong-headed. And the way to keep one’s place in the melange of discourse is to bury one’s head in the sand to clear objections. One must also leave in place the substrata of the world economy and its intellectual basis, which are not wrong but they are assumptions, not facts.

Thus the world is changing from a single superpower to a duopoly even as we speak, it will be a long time before it makes the transition, but the time is a great deal shorter than it was in 2001.


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