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

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.


He took a drag on his cigarette, an American brand called “Camel” that he was used since the time he was in love with a girl from that land.17

The urge to snuff out the cigarette was almost compelling but the tendrils of being the fag kept calling to him and he then took another smoke. Habit won out.

He saw few other people, the chance of random death kept most of them home. A few needed to see something other than the inside of their homes or to have a smoke brought a few outside with him.. He was here every day. The habit had him. Like remembering Greyhound buses at night on a trip to America.18

Everything was different now, originally when the war between Ukraine and Russia broke out this was seen as a place of relative safety. Rockets did not land, nor were their planes overhead. But that had been a respite.

He drew another breath from the cigarette. He watched one male pigeon attempt to seduce a female to mate with him. Or at least that is how the male saw it, the female saw his advances with a somewhat more threatening attitude.

Even looked up towards the observation tower and remembered all the times he had climbed up to look over the entire city. It was an experience that told him that he lived in a different time. It was no longer the time when his country was the Ukraine, a territory of the USSR, which in Russian was the CCCP, nor a satellite republic under the control of a Moskva-friendly tyrant, but now truly free.19

Except for the corruption and discontent which constantly plagued the country. He missed the complaining os such things, which seemed trivial now.

He glanced upwards to the heavens and then down to the ground, wondering when he would eat next. The last had been breakfastthe day before. Perhaps he’d get dinner tonight, but he doubted it.saw an older face.Long ago the man had been in his teacher.Literature. In what in America would be called “High School.”

He began because it would be impolite. “Доброго ранку.” Good morning. In all Slavic languages, the word Dobroho was the centerpiece of the greeting.

His old teacher replied, “And the same to you.”

He took on another drag on his cigarette. There was a pause because each man knew that what was truly important was to find and each one knew that the other one would not have any. Their cheekbones were gaunt on their faces.

Then the older man began: “I hear that the Russians are pulling back from Kyiv.”

“That may be the truth but there will be many refugees from various parts of the country arriving over the next week.”

Then there was quiet, and the old man spoke:20 “I should not be telling you this, but the girl that you have been seeing has been observed with other old men.”

“So, what of it?” He looked beyond the old man up to the statue of Neptune with a trident gleaming down.

“She takes care of theirr needs for a slice of bread.”

There was a pause.

“We do what we have to do in order to live.”

“She can give them to the old man, although a smart girl will not do it.”

“I decided that this was not a thing to ask after.”

“Better to go to sleep hungry rather than full – only foolish and greedy children do that.She is smarter than you or me because she went to sleep last night with a bite of food in her stomach.” He looked at his elder friend and realized this was the reason his friend was here.

There was quiet. Then his friend needed to move on because the scent of bread filled his nostrils. “До побачення.”21 Good-bye.

Up in the sky, a fire gleamed and he was barely able to make it to cover before it landed. Not very far away. And then came roar of sound he expected Such was the effect of missiles that went faster air could transmit it: the flash happened before thunder. There was nothing he could do the Sirens that went with the rescue workers were still not audible, but he knew that everything that could be done would be done. His friend brushed himself off and went on his way.

It was at this moment that edging around the avenues of his town was no longer sufficient. He thought “The people who would destroy our place of living will be locked in hatred. We will hate them fiercely and will never forgive them.” It was then that he turned to a recruiting office. Better to be free and dead than be a slave to living. The tango of life ends with the tragedy of the absurd. If only Putin, king of kings, (look upon his mighty works) could grasp at that truth.22


She saw straight lines where once there were flowers.24

Lines of columns and lines of metro trains in orthogonal cubes, like a cross of perspective in a course in drawing. Lives left behind to eke out an existence here. She sighed, thinking “my string will be the first to ring. From the first to the last. Α to Ω ” Once the first day when she came till the last day.. The one is past, the other future. Her husband was in the past – they found him with a desiccated daffodil.

He had survived till spring. Undergrowth with two figures, lying together on the street. He had a bottle of Vodka in his left jacket pocket. He was an official and he looked the part. His dream, when he was young, had been to be a concert pianist – but being an official paid better. The death ohis dream was his first death.

She sighed again. Several men were leaning against columns while at their feet women rested, some with children at their bosom. There was a range of clothes from overalls to suits. One came from the Assumption Cathedral ladled with layers of the church steeple. Her outer layer were fine, probably her best closthes, all the others were drab. She could tell this from her bra, which was worn on the straps. She slept beneath her man.

Sleep little one.

A young man stared, then he spoke: “My name is Narcissus.”25

“Nice to make your acquaintance.” But she said it with no feeling.

But still, he continued: “I have seen you here before.”

“My husband ordered me down on the first night of the war. He knew that the Russians were coming full on.”

“I know little of the war. I come from the Engineering School.”

“Close to the cathedral.”

“Yes, with its high pediments.” He waited. “I did not catch your name.”

“I do not think I said it.”

“You don’t need to worry about me. I will tell you a secret – my wife works at the Psychiatric Hospital. I am waiting here for a little while and then head to her.” He looked at the Soviet-style blocky trains. They presented well but smelled bad.

“Good for you.” Her face had straight lines. She imagined the washed-out pink bricks on the Psychiatric Hospital. It was from the 19th century, with classical style. Only its name was recent: they called it Psykhon. It was short with three levels at most. And crowded: there is not a straight line in there, except for the architecture.

“What do you do?”

“I am a Doctor.”

“How amusing. Not with the Hospital.”

“No.” At present.

Then heard a flute. It was being played, rather simply, by a member of the Philharmonic Society.26 A few musicians played concerts here on the frozen earth. One opened with Dvorak; the sweet melodies of a distant home. The concert was played upstairs in the marble not down here in the concrete.

A glance over at the flutist reveals a thin woman in street clothes. There was no sheet music in front of her. It was the national anthem. n a slow and deliberate wayit snaked up and down. Finally it ended solemnly, leaving a pool of quiet.

The tune had quieted the conversations down. Then there was applause.

“That is more lovely than it had a right to be.” Then she wept.

“I never liked the tune until now,” he admitte. “Now, these are the rays that helps the soul to survive.”

“It will give us courage.”

“I heard the Prime Minister of Great Britain; he was speaking Russian.”

“What did he say?”

“It was about the atrocities.”

An old lady piped up: “We know them well.”

“The Russians will not care until we are all dead.”27

The old lady grimaced. “Have you lost anyone?”

“My husband. He was found along the street by the Metropolitan Station.”28

The old lady grew silent. Then prayed “To you, Ukraine, our helpless mother.” The old woman left.

“You did not tell me he had passed.” He fumbled for a cigarette only to find the package had none left.”

“You should not smoke down here.” There was a hard edge in the Doctor.

“I suppose not, but who is to care?” But he fumbled because he had heard a tone of warning warning, which he had gotten used to from his woman.

She glanced over the right side. “The flutist for one.”

He looked over to the middle-aged woman who started to play again: Bach, the famous Badinerie of Bach’s late age. A few people bounced their heads in unison. It was a tease but a tasteful tease.

She hummed a menuetto from Dvorak.

“What instrument do you play?” Because almost everyone played an instrument.

“I scratch out a few phrases on the violin.”

“My girl does the same.”

“She is still alive?”

“Yes, most definitely.”

She looked at his face and saw something off in it. “I am sorry.”

He admitted the foible. “Don’t be, I’m used to it.”

Then the flutist moved in their direction and halted within the sphere of conversation. “You do not know me, but I know you. My name is Kira.”

The woman raised her head. “I hope you are not about to reveal a secret.”

The flutist laughed. “That your husband drank? That is hardly a secret.”

“He drank to excess.”

“Yes. He showed me your picture because he was so proud of you.”

“How do you know him?”

“He often played the piano. He was very good. We had a group known as the Cathedral. We thought of playing out in spring.”

“He could ring out what was beneath the straight lines.”

“Anyway, my condolences on your loss.”

“Thank you very much.”

With that, the flutist turned and went away.

There was a blackout for a minute, a pause. Everyone was on edge.

The two huddled near the floor. Amidst the smells. Amidst the fiery reek.

Then she said to him: “You may call me Echo.”

“That is not your real name.”

“Nor is your Narcissus. But it was what I called myself. I knew of his group. It played at the Psykon to give the crooked lines some respite.”


“There was music and vodka and two figures by night.”29

1I know the place. While in English we know it from Pinter it is also found in Shevchenko,“Hupauvshchina” much earlier.


3Maria is both the mother of Jesus, as the story goes, and Maria Magdalena. The original name was “Miriam” which means “bitter.”

4Acid rain falls near industrial plants.

5Yang Jisheng “The World Turned Upside Down”

6Heavy on the foreshadowing.

7Reference to Pink Floyd, “Yet Another Movie.” The rump band, in 2022, released “Hey, Hey, Rise Up!”

8The reference is to Peter and Paul in the Bible.

9Solzhenitsyn, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich translated by H.T. Willets, 1.


11Anarchic System – “Pop Corn”

12Trip the light fantastic – John Milton “L’Allegro”

13Pun intended.

14Shevchenko, “Testament”


162014 is the date of the slow conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

17A reference to le Carré, Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy.

18Brainard, “I Remember.”

19CCCP – Союз Советских Социалистических Республик the old name for what in English is called USSR. Title.

20Many time “the old man” is a hat-tip to Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea.

21Do pobachennya.

22Shelley, “Ozymandias.”


24Vega, “Straight Lines.”

25Which is another name for Daffodil.

26Best orchestra in the city.

27Queen, “All Dead.”


29VanGogh, Undergrowth with Two Figures.


We Are Going To Go Thru Hell, So What Now?


How Gunpowder Ended the Middle Ages

1 Comment

  1. Soredemos

    I can’t tell if these posts are long-form sarcasm or not.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén