I hear the boots scuffing on the cobble stones and I believe they have come for me.
Perhaps the sound has been there all along but I missed it for the pounding pain in my head – thoughts crashing together like colliding particles.
I keep thinking of Einstein’s fear about God playing dice with the universe and other quotes from after the Americans first dropped the atomic bomb.
I stumble through alternative pools of darkness and light like a drunk though not taste of Vodka has touched my lips tonight.
Not yet anyway.
I move in the general direction of a tavern where I know I shall indulge in more than a little
To wipe my mind of the chores my government expects me to perform.
To east the fear of their wrath when they discover I have not performed them.
“They will kill you,” Vlada, my assistant said, her words still rolling around inside me like as-yet unexploded bullets.
I know she is right.
We live in a world with only two directions: East and West.
Our lives are determined by which direction we choose.
As are our deaths.
Here in the East a man’s life is determined by duty, and once duty is violated, he has no life.
The thud of boots grows louder, closer, more hurried, as if the echo of my pounding panicked heart.
If is all I can do to hurry my own step and keep the thudding boots at the same distance.
I am not a violent man.
My weapon in life has always been my brain – science serving as my defense against the vulgar and insane ambitions of the political forces of my time.
Yet fear reverts me to my most primitive form, and I stop, pick up a stone and carry with me, sorting through the rush of though as to what I might do with it and how I might manage to use it when the time comes.
My step increases so that I am practically running.
If I can get indoors, around other people, death may be less quick in finding me.
Authorities here kill in dark, in secret.
It is how they spread fear.
Kill after dark and we hide like children, waiting for the worst to crawl out from under our beds.
I come to a place where the pools of light vanish for more than a block, the only light washing over me from the passing cares.
I turn, look and see these same lights illuminating the shadows that hunt me.
Two tall men step into a doorway to avoid the notoriety and I move on.
Dogs howl from out of the mouth of an alley I pass, and I hear in their howl the word “traitor.”
A woman’s brown face appears at a window, her harsh voice demanding to know why I am lurking here.
I ache to beg for her protection – but there is none here, only the perpetual grind of the government’s gears.
I drop my stone, apologize and move on again, almost myself, as I see the dim glow of the tavern sign and rush to it, and through the door beneath it, where a mob greets me with their sweat and their loud voices.
I put rubbles down on the bar and order a drink.
I feel the window on my back as I drink and know that the angels of death have come into the tavern too, behind me.
I need not look.
The face of the bartender and others near me tells me all I need to know.
So does the sudden silence and the click of heals of the tall men approaching me.
My head buzzes with the confused thoughts: east and west.
Our bombs are not as good as their bombs.
Neither are our missiles.
Schools or factories.
And I do not wish them to be.
Traitor, I hear my own inner voice snarl, as a man’s hand settles on my shoulder and a man’s voice tells me to come along.
I glare around at the others for help, but they divert their gazes.
I go along, knowing no one will see me again, but feeling the slow comfort of the drink that turns my insides numb, even at the concept of death.