My Adventures After Death (Chapter 10)

"Julia Voznesenskaya . . . [writes] about our life after death, the knowledge of which is kept by the patristic experience and the Tradition of the Orthodox Church." — Olga Golosova

Previous chapters:

Chapter 10

We settled in a white villa on a hill, not far from the sea, and never parted with each other.

During the day we wandered around the city, walked in parks, and went to the beach. We threw off the disguise of a sporty handsome man and a sleek lady like boring carnival costumes, and walked through the city streets in our original form, looking like two old people who had escaped from a shelter. Passers-by looked at us in surprise, and some laughed openly and pointed their fingers at us. In a city where everyone could take on any appearance and change it as easily as a movie star changes their toilette, no one looked like us. But our former appearance was dear to us because our memory returned to us with it.

"You are very beautiful!" Lop-eared told me ten times a day, and his frog mouth stretched sweetly to his ears, and his eyes shone like stars. Every fold in his ridiculous ears was familiar and dear to me.

We spent the evenings, and often a good half of the night, on our veranda, sitting in wicker chairs, gazing at the sparkling city below and indulging in memories. We remembered our experiences over and over again: the eerie camp where we got to know each other, our escape and life full of dangers in the wretched stone shack by the black rock, then the long journey through the desert and our dull life in a gray city by the gray sea.

"Do you remember how angry you were when I said that the sea should be blue?"

"Do you remember our funny name for chairs, 'what people sit on'?" 

Our dangerous crossing on the bottom of the sea now seemed not so terrible, because in the end everything ended well. Lop-eared said that he then managed to get ashore himself and carried me in his arms. He took me out, put me on the sand and tried to revive me, but then he got distracted and left, forgetting me on the shore. He very much regretted it.

Lop-eared fell in love with my stories about Paradise, about life in the Valley, about my family in Paradise. He could listen to them endlessly, and I had to repeat them many times.

"But it's good here too, isn't it?" He invariably ended the conversations about Paradise. "Now we will never part and will live in this city forever, right?" But there was anxiety in his eyes.

I calmed him down as best I could. I saw that he understood that I didn't like this luxurious and prosperous city at all. If not for him, I would have left here long ago. I could scout, for example, what there is beyond the rocks that close the bay on one side. Or take a trip along the seashore, go beyond the chain of urban and wild beaches. But I was afraid to even start a conversation about it.

To me, both this city and this villa with stylish furniture, the garden and the swimming pool, seemed to be some kind of theatrical scenery. I didn’t like the inhabitants of the city either. They tried to enjoy life, they had access to everything that fit into the consumer concept of "a beautiful life", even their own age and appearance. They did not get sick and did not die, but they languished from boredom and idleness, from universal indifference to everything and to everyone. Nobody loved anyone here.

The couples somehow accidentally and thoughtlessly came together, sometimes they lived together for a while, languishing together with melancholy and a lazy scandal, then just as accidentally and unintentionally dispersed, and when they met on the street the next day, they no longer recognized each other. No one remembered anything about themselves or about others. Nothing at all.

"I see that something is bothering you" my friend worried. "Tell me, what do you need? You know, I will do anything for you, I will get anything for you." 

I knew that. Here anyone could "get" anything they wanted — it was enough just to think about it.

I once said that I missed books.

"Then we have a library!" Lop-eared exclaimed happily.

He immediately jumped up, grabbed my hand and dragged me to the door, which I still considered the door to one of the guest rooms, and threw it open. Behind it was a library with bookcases along the walls, large windows, a table in the middle, and two comfortable chairs beside it.

On one shelf were detective stories and women's novels, on the other were manuals for skin and body care, massage books, fashion magazines, cookbooks and other nonsense. An entire shelf was occupied by pornographic publications. This did not surprise me at all: I had long noticed that the souls here, in this city, deprived of the opportunity to sin bodily, were very often distinguished by some kind of heightened external lust. They were like voluptuous and powerless old men and women.

Another bookcase was filled with terrible Soviet waste paper, ranging from the fake memoirs of the maid of honor Vyrubova, the creations of Parfenov and Babaevsky, and ending with yellow autobiographies and simple biographies of the leaders of the era of perestroika.

I was amazed by the contents of a small carved cabinet, which stood in the very corner. At first I did not notice at all. It had two compartments: in one there were old tomes in leather bindings with gold embossing, in the other there were thin bright brochures. Both of them turned out to be manuals on black magic, witchcraft, the works of occultists and famous psychics.

I started working on the women's novels, and Lop-eared started on the detective stories.

That was enough to fill many long evenings. Then we switched: I began to read detective stories, and Lop-eared diligently studied the ladies' novels.

As a result, for two weeks he spoke to me like this:

"My dear! You reign supreme in my soul. You are the woman of my dreams. I love to watch you straighten your hair with that timeless feminine movement. I will never comprehend the secret turns of your feminine soul. I love you like a bird loves the sky! Only death can tear us apart!" 

He did not understand why I laughed, listening to his exquisite compliments. He was trying so hard to comprehend the secret turns of my soul!

In the end, reading got boring too.

One morning, unable to bear the deadly boredom, I started reading the textbooks on black magic. In one of the books I saw an old engraving depicting "The Triumph of Lucifer". It was as if I was hit on the head: I had seen this disgusting face before, and not in a book, but somehow more vividly, either in the movies, or on television. But I didn't want to keep it in my house! I tore the page out of the book and turned to Lop-eared:

"Do you have any matches?" 

"You want to smoke? You don't smoke!" 

"Don't ask, just find and give me some matches..."

He was just sitting near a smoking table, on which lay cigars, cigarettes, pipes, and, of course, there must have been matches somewhere. He found them and tossed them across the table to me. I crumpled up the page, put it in the ashtray and set it on fire. It flared up, and the flame instantly flew up to the ceiling, darted across it towards the window and enveloped the light silk curtains.

I grabbed Lop-eared by the hand:

"Run! Quickly, otherwise we'll burn!" 

We barely managed to jump out of the doors of the villa. The fire was chasing us like a fiery dragon. We ran out onto the veranda and raced down the stone stairs to the gate where our car was parked. We were still in the middle of the stairs when there was a crash and a smell of heat came up to us from below: it flared up and exploded on our Chrysler.

Lop-eared grabbed me in his arms and, jumping over the railing, rushed straight through the rose bushes to the side of the stairs, along which a stream of fiery lava rushed from the door of the house with a loud noise.

He made it. All my eyebrows and eyelashes were burned, and the hem of my dress, but he only scratched himself against the thorns, making his way through the bushes, and slightly singed his white suit.

We ran to the water, frightening the people on the beach, and rushed into the sea. 

In the water, we threw off our burnt, tattered clothes and hastily made our own bathing suits. Then we went ashore on a completely different side of the beach.

"What have you done? Why did you want to set fire to our house?" Lop-eared asked when we lay down on the sand and calmed down. Long-forgotten, aching intonations sounded in his voice.

"What, are you upset?" 

"Of course I'm upset! We will never have a home like that again . . ." 

"You always say that! And then it turns out that everything is for the best . . ."

He fell silent, and then offered something sensible. I was even surprised:

"I am afraid of the police: after all, we started a fire. Let's change ourselves back to the way we looked when we met."

"Well thought of!" 

We quickly regained our youth and beauty, I didn’t even forget my own violet eyes. Lop-eared looked at me and winced.

"What's the matter?"

"You look like a refined whore." 

"And you look like a resort gigolo! So you and I are a couple." 

"We must leave this city," he said. “Everyone here remembers the two funny old people we were." 

"Wow, what progress!"

But then he explained:

"I can't stand seeing you look like that." 

"But what about the secret turns of my soul? This look is very consistent with the heroines of ladies' novels." 

"Let them go to the devil!" 

"Hush!" 

"Why are you scared?" 

"Why did you say that? Just don't repeat it. Just think and tell me, why did you send the heroines of women's novels to that place?" 

"I don’t know. People just say that, that's all." 

"No! You named a certain person. Don't call his name again! I know for sure that it is dangerous. And I also seem to be starting to figure out one very important thing . . ."

"And once more you've thought up something!"

I thought as I walked next to him. He tried several times to talk to me, but I waved my hand at him: don't bother me while I'm thinking!

Then we decided to have coffee and sat down at a table in a street cafe. Lop-Eared got a double espresso for me and a large mug of plain coffee with milk and sugar for himself.

Finally, when we had finished the coffee, he couldn't resist saying:

"So what are you thinking? Are you planning the route for a new trip?"

"Nonsense! Here's what I've been thinking about. Do you remember the soul-eaters in the camp and in the gray city?"

"Why wouldn't I? Of course I remember!" 

"Do you remember that they had their own hierarchy there?" 

"Yes. Some were small, who turned into soul-eaters because of the especially vicious barracks that they lived in, while others, the more terrible, flew in from somewhere to the side. There were also wild soul-eaters..." 

"We're not talking about them! Now I know who was in charge over them, who is the master over all these parts: the desert, the Lake of Despair, the camp and the gray city..." 

"But surely not over this city too?" he asked with pitiful hope, already knowing the answer.

"Over this city too." I replied mercilessly.

"How awful!" 

"Yes, but that's not the point. The fact is that there must be another side of the world, and above it — another master. Listen: there is Evil and a master over it. But you and I have always felt that it is hostile to us, that we do not want to live under the rule of Evil. Right?" 

"Let's say that's the case." 

"And it is absolutely clear to us that besides Evil there is also Good, right?"

"Only very little of it."

"That isn't important now. Listen to me. If Evil is subject to the one whom you just accidentally named, and this is the same creature whose image I burned, then you and I know that it is a terrible force." 

"Better not to think about it!" 

"We must think, Lop-eared, we must! So what does that mean? If Evil and its creator exists, then if Good exists it must have an even more powerful ruler!" 

"Why?" 

"Well, because even here, where Evil clearly reigns, you and I, two fools, strive for love and good. Is that clear?" 

"Not really, but well done! You're so smart!" 

"Leave it. Now we need to think about how to find the One Who rules Good! If only I could remember who He is and what His name is? Then we would be saved." 

"Well, do you know how?" 

"No, I don't. Let's try to ask the people in the city: what if someone else knows?" 

We hastily drew up a plan of action and set off for the city. We wandered through the streets and parks, approaching different people and asking them the same questions:

"We are conducting a sociological survey of the residents of our city. Tell me, do you like it here? Are you bored? Would you like to leave here?" 

The townspeople, who were greedy for attention, submitted to the survey with pleasure. Most people were completely satisfied with life in the city, but some complained of boredom. Only one young man said something encouraging:

"I heard that there are other places where people are not so indifferent to each other. But I don't know where they are." 

"Would you like to know?"

"What for? I am used to living here, I have a house, a car, and a lot of girls. No, I am not thinking of moving, sorry." 

And he hurriedly walked away, clearly suspecting something was wrong.

When asked who ruled this city and whether the respondents were satisfied with him, almost everyone simply shrugged their shoulders or said that they did not care. We only managed to reach the last questions of our "questionnaire" with one lady. She was unhappy with everything and everyone.

"Our government is no good either!" 

"Do you know anything about there being a different government in other places?" 

"Yes, of course I know! And if they knew what was going on here, they would send UN troops here! Drop a hydrogen bomb on this damn city!" 

There was no point in continuing the conversation with her. In our useless walks we reached the street where my boarding house was.

"Let's go in and ask if there is mail for me." 

"Are you expecting a letter from someone? You didn't tell me anything about it." 

"No, I'm not expecting anything definite." 

I just have a vague feeling that one day I might receive some important message in the mail.

We went into the lobby. Seeing me, the receptionist smiled:

"Madam, finally! There is a package for you. Please take it." 

Dumbfounded, I took a small parcel from his hands. We left the guesthouse and sat down on a street bench. I unrolled the brown paper in awe. It contained a wooden box tied with twine.

Having untied the string and opened the box, I saw a small round white loaf. It consisted, as it were, of two circles, and on the top was an image of a Woman with a Child.

"Do you know who this is?" I asked Lop-eared in a whisper.

"No. Do you?" 

"Yes. This Woman is the Theotokos, and this is Her Son." 

"What are their names?" 

"I do not remember. But I think that this is not the main thing. We must call them for help." 

"How, right here on the street ?! We will be taken to the police for disorderly conduct." 

"You're right,” I said, and stood up resolutely, closing the box. "Come on, I know what to do!"

"Clearly, move somewhere else again. Well, let's go . . . But this is the last time!" 

"I hope that will be true." 

"Where are we going?" 

"Let's go along the sea and try to get out of the city." 

This turned out to be easier said than done. We moved to the end of the bay where the city's beach turned into a wild one, and a strip of bare sand stretched to the very horizon. We only took a bottle of mineral water with us from the beach kiosk and my box.

At first, it was simply difficult to walk on the sand: it was very shallow, and my feet sank in it to my ankles. We passed the last beach and moved on. There was no chase after us. Several times we sat down and drank water, but it became harder and harder to walk. After walking about two kilometers on the hot sand, we realized that we were in trouble.

Our legs began to sink a little deeper. At first, I did not understand that we were in a wild place. Looking around and seeing that the circle was full of bumps overgrown with hard gray grass, I said:

"You can jump from bump to bump until we jump out onto a solid place." 

We tried, and at first we succeeded, but then, when Lop-eared fell in knee-deep, we realized that we were in a lot of trouble. 

"Quicksand!" I shouted. "We have to go back!" But we couldn't. I tucked the box into the neckline of my dress to free both hands, and helped Lop-Eared out. 

But then I fell in waist-deep myself.

"Look for some stick! Don't come near me with your bare hands! Look, there are some bushes over there. Go to them, but only carefully, along the edges. Try to get close to them and break the branches, and from there throw them to me. Just go carefully, don't rush!" 

That lop-eared fellow rushed headlong towards the bushes and fell in chest-deep a few steps away from them. 

"Ugh! Now we're in for it." he shouted. "I told you we shouldn't leave!" 

Yes, it seems our long journey has come to an end. But there was one more, last hope . . . While my hands were still free, I took the box out of my bosom and took out the coveted loaf. Looking at the embossed image, I whispered:

"Dear Theotokos, save me and my friend. Please save us!" 

At first nothing happened, but then it seemed to me that my feet touched solid ground: in any case, I did not sink deeper. But Lop-eared was sinking into the sand before my very eyes. 

Then I screamed with all my might:

"Save us! We're dying!"

"Stop yelling, nobody hears us," Lop-eared croaked. "You had better look at me and say goodbye to me." 

My God, only his ears are visible now! What did I say? My God? My God — that's Who can save us! I raised my head to the sky and screamed:

"Oh my God! Our God! Our Savior! Save us!"

A white bird circled high in the sky above us. It reminded me of something from my former life with Lop-Eared. I looked at my dying friend. He twisted his head and threw it back so that the sand would not clog his nose, but he could no longer speak — his mouth was covered with sand. His eyes were filled with horror. Then his eyes closed and he sunk into the sand. Only a small funnel remained, and some brown bug with black specks on its back was already crawling along its edge. Now he will sink all the way down, and it will cover him. I pressed the bread with the image of the Mother of God to my chest and closed my eyes.

And then I heard the sound of wings over my head. The white bird, which turned out to be huge, flew to the sand and began to rake it away from me with its wings and throw it aside. The sand dusted my eyes, and I almost went blind.

"Save him!" I shouted to it, pointing to the side where Lop-eared had just been.

But it freed me first, and then I myself crawled to save Lop-eared. The bird outstripped me with one powerful movement, raised a sand whirlwind with its wings, and now Lop-Eared, unharmed, lay on the sand, and above us stood . . . an Angel!

My dear, my beloved, my own Guardian Angel! I rushed to him, buried myself in his shining hem and sobbed.

The angel carried me, and then the insensible Lop-Eared, into a thicket of some thorny bushes, where the sand was tied up in the roots. You could even stand there. Then he said with concern:

"We must hurry before they find me: I am here on foreign territory. But I can only carry one of you. Your friend will have to be left here."

"No, take him! He is small, he is weaker than me . . ."

"Anna! Are you sure you're ready to sacrifice yourself for him? After all, you can't get out of here on your own." 

"My Angel! When he is safe, tell him that I loved him very much. Take him away quickly, take him away! Otherwise he will wake up, and then . . ."

"Alright. It's your choice."

He kissed me on the forehead, picked up Lop-eared and flew towards the sea. He still flickered over the blue surface, like a small sail, and then disappeared into the distance.

Then I could cry.

Next: My Adventures After Death (Chapter 11)

Source: Мои посмертные приключения (Russian)

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