"Miracles and amazing events taking place with the main heroine of the book are woven from real episodes that took place in the life of the author of My Adventures After Death, and her loved ones. 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
"The path through the tollhouses is difficult and dangerous." said the Guardian Angel, "You must trust us completely if you don't want misfortune to befall you."
I willingly promised to do this. Grandfather and the Angel grabbed me by the arms, and we began to rise rapidly. In a few moments, the hospital chambers flashed by, which we flew right through; none of the patients noticed us. We went through the roof of the hospital and soared over it, climbing over the green hospital park. I saw Munich from a bird's eye view, and then as from an airplane, and then we went into the clouds because the day was cloudy.
We flew in silence for a long time through the shining cloudy void. When I wanted to ask Grandfather about something, he stopped me:
"Quiet! There are demons all around here, this is their element. The tollhouses cannot be avoided, but you should not attract demonic attention ahead of time."
I fell silent.
The fog ahead suddenly thickened and darkened. I thought that we were flying towards a thundercloud, and for some reason I remembered how dangerous a meeting with a thunderstorm is for aircraft. The Guardian Angel squeezed my hand and looking over my head, said to Grandfather,
"It's them! Get ready!"
A dark cloud was rapidly approaching, and soon a heavy and stinking smog enveloped us. In this semi-darkness, vile translucent creatures swarmed, consisting, as it were, of dense, stinking slime. Some of them looked like old "aliens", others like giant bats, and all these evil spirits spun around us, taking off and rapidly diving down, growling and squealing menacingly; this chaotic flight was accompanied by the rumble of either thunder or some kind of drums. The noise was incredible, worse than at the disco, and through this roar one could hear: “Ours! This soul is ours! Let's get her here!"
“We'll have to stop,” the Guardian Angel said. "Talk to them, holy one! And you, Anna, listen carefully, but do not enter into the conversation."
We stopped in the air. The Guardian Angel covered me with his wings, and it became less scary.
"What do you present to this soul, servants of the devil?" asked Grandfather.
Out of the swarm of demons one emerged, somewhat vaguely reminiscent of an administrative official. The demon was holding an open folder in his hands and was sorting through some papers in it.
"Here everything is recorded: idle talk, quarreling, dirty words, blasphemy and other verbal sins." Having read this in his grating voice, he closed the folder and shook it over his ugly head.
"Not all at once." Grandfather stopped him. "If you came to accuse her, then bring the charges one by one."
"No, right away! All at once! " the demons shouted all around. "Why should we waste time, everything is clear! We have no time. We send these talkers to hell in batches, we don't have time to grab them — they fly in flocks. Give her soul to us, and everything's done!"
"Bring your charges one at a time!" Grandfather stubbornly demanded.
"Fine! It'll just be worse for her."
The demon-official again opened his folder and began to mumble all the nonsense, curses, and obscene jokes that I had uttered in my life. He began with childish insults like "fool", "infection", teasing like "Nikky the fool smokes tobacco" and such nonsense. I guessed that they have everything written down here.
Suddenly, another one, naked, but wearing a pioneer tie, emerged from the crowd of demons, and squealed:
"The Pioneers are young atheists! They would say rhymes such as, 'The pilot flew into the sky, and he never saw God!' She has blasphemed since childhood. — Give her to us!"
Of course, I was a member of the Pioneers, like all our generation in Russia, but I had never uttered these words. I pulled Grandfather by the hand, and he understood what was the matter.
"Wait, when did she say that?"
The demon-official fussed, fiddling with papers:
"Just a minute . . . I have everything written down, wait a minute . . . Not that . . . Not that . . . Well, okay, she herself, we can say, did not utter these words, but she listened to them at the Pioneer meetings and did not mind. Did she object or not? That's it. A crime of complicity, as their criminal code says."
"Let's forget human laws — we are not on Earth. You had better tell me, devil, haven't you already brought these accusations against those who, with atheistic obscurantism, turned away innocent children's souls? I am sure that her unfortunate educators have already answered for this nonsense."
"Let's say that that's the case. But we will not waste time on trifles, we will find other materials on the same topic. Don't be cunning — It's not us, but you, that consider blasphemy to be the gravest sin. We only follow the traditions of the tollhouses. We ourselves, of course, are only pleased to hear this sweet childish spontaneity. From the mouths of babies, as they say, um . . . "
"And I know for certain that there are no special spiritual sins in her. All that you accuse her of is a bad upbringing, not a corruption of the soul. She chattered a lot unknowingly, just chattering. But I know, as you do, that when she became an adult, she paid for a truthful and honest word with her freedom — and that was an absolutely conscious decision!"
"I know, I know, we have heard this defense before, 'just chatter!' Oh, and by the way, about the chatter. She is guilty of idle talk, gossip, and empty talk. She spent four years, eleven months, five days, six hours and thirty-six minutes in empty telephone conversations with her friends. Our account is as accurate as a bank!"
"And you're not ashamed?" my Angel interposed. "You yourself, being deprived of the opportunity to receive energy from God, impudently connect to telephone wires and suck energy from chatterers through them!"
But the demons didn't seem to listen to him. A new stream of insults, greasy anecdotes, slang words from the everyday life of the intelligentsia fell upon us. Grandfather did not have time to insert a word. Suddenly the sheets with accusations flew out of the demonic folder and rushed towards me, like cards launched by a magician from a deck. I covered my face with my hands, but Grandfather raised his cross and shouted:
"May all her sins of the tongue be consumed by the Savior's Cross!"
The air smelled of burnt paper and wool, the sheets of accusation crumbled into ash, and the demon screeched, throwing the burning folder away from him and beginning to blow on his burnt paws.
"Get away!" said the Angel menacingly, and the whole demonic pack shied away in different directions, clearing the way for us. We flew out of the stinking cloud and rushed through the thinning fog into the clear sky.
"It seems we've broken through?" I asked.
"Through this tollhouse - yes. But there are plenty of others ahead," said Grandfather. "Therefore, be careful and remember: DO NOT BE AFRAID, DO NOT ENTER INTO DISPUTES, AND PRAY!"
And again the flight continued in silence, full of alarm. I do not know at what altitude we were, but no birds flew past us, and I did not see or hear a single plane.
It occurred to me that the space we were crossing was not in the atmosphere or stratosphere, but in some other dimension.
Sometimes it seemed to me that we were hanging motionless in the blue. I did not feel the resistance of the air, and only rare pieces of unpleasant fog swept past us, and fiery wings rustled almost audibly, streaming behind the shoulders of the Angel.
And then it became clear that we were flying with incredible speed.
Soon the demons appeared again, but this time they were not so arrogant and noisy.
Again one of them appeared in front of us and began to accuse me of lying:
"She lied in insignificant matters, but all the time! She lied to her mother that she was all right when she was worried about her, and she herself was waiting for the arrest . . . She was tried “for slanderous fabrications”! However, we will skip this . . . She lied to her friends that she was happy with her husband, and that he was faithful to her."
He had many such accusations, but he listed them in a quick manner, without demanding an answer, and cautiously looking sideways at the cross in Grandfather's hands. We did not answer him and continued to move, but he flew from the side, fussing and shouting something completely absurd:
"She wrote rhymes, and the thought uttered is a lie! And in general, every man is a lie!"
Almost completely behind us, he shouted:
"She did not like to lie because of her pride! Let's see how she will answer for her pride!"
Then, when this demon completely lagged behind, another appeared, completely insignificant in appearance and not even terrible at all, and squealed in a nasty voice:
"Gossip girl, gossip girl! All women are gossips! How many times were the bones of her friends washed in front of her? Let her answer!"
The angel, without interrupting our flight, said over his fiery shoulder:
"Leave me alone, you infernal pipsqueak! You yourself know how many times gossip was stopped because of her, and how often she said only good things about people if they were condemned in front of her. Do you want us to number each instance?"
No, no! Tablecloth of heaven, open up and carry them away! Just keep in mind that she did this not according to your sanctimonious teaching, but according to her pride."
And we went on.
After a while, the Guardian Angel warned:
"Ahead is the tollhouse of gluttony"
"I haven't sinned like that at all!"
The Guardian Angel peered under his wing, and I fell silent, meeting his serious warning gaze.
We were surrounded by a howling crowd of demons, similar to beefy sows, but among them there were skinny specimens: in thinness they resembled yard cats of the era of early perestroika, but some of them had starchy white napkins tied around their skinny necks, and in their paws they held knives and forks. Almost all of them, both skinny and fat, were constantly chewing something, drooling and dropping pieces of food from their mouths.
"Stop, we've arrived!" announced an important fat demon who spread his paws, blocking the road. "This soul did not overeat and was not a gourmand (because of stupidity and poverty, one must assume). But she never fasted a single day in her life!"
Wow! Christian fasts . . . But there is really nothing to defend myself with against that.
But the problem was solved in a most unexpected way.
"She didn't fast, you say? And who spent three years in prison on camp gruel? Who gave their rations to hungry inmates when they traveled? And when she was released from the camp, wasn't she holding hunger strikes in defense of other prisoners of conscience? How many Christian fasts fit in this standing for the truth? Well?"
Wow! Well done, my grandfather, all this would never have entered my head.
"It doesn't count, it doesn't count!" the demons were disappointed, but Grandfather smashed their crowd with a cross, like an icebreaker breaks and disperses weak ice. We moved on.
The three years in the gulag prison camp helped me out in the next tollhouse of laziness. How everything suddenly turns around here: I thought that laziness was an inseparable part of me. No matter what favorite or important thing I was doing, I was always ready to leave it at the first opportunity and lie down on the couch with another book. But all this was buried under a mountain of cement, which I had thrown in the prison camp with a Soviet shovel. I really didn't expect it!
However, the camp let me down greatly on the next tollhouse of theft. The demons literally showered me with carrots, potatoes and onions: These were stolen vegetables, which I exchanged for tobacco from our prisoners who worked in the vegetable store. Buying stolen goods! They fought this off, recalling hunger and vitamin deficiency, the consequences of which made themselves felt for years.
Samizdat also let me down. The demons showered me with clean writing paper, carbon paper, and typewriter ribbons.
"Here! She stole all of this from her employer. She stole from her native state — a thief, a grabber, but she was called a human rights defender!"
I felt ashamed — theft is theft . . .
But it’s not my fault that the shops with the distribution of samizdat altogether stopped selling carbon paper, and the KGB authorized the sellers of stationery to keep track of who often bought packs of paper for typewriters. And some followed, and reported, and how many people got caught by this! But Grandfather and the Angel did not allow me to say a word in my defense. From the pocket of his robe, Grandfather pulled out a thin manuscript and showed it to the demons:
“This was printed on stolen paper and under a stolen carbon copy. Do you want to get to know this text better? — And he moved towards them, manuscript in hand. Thin grayish sheets suddenly lit up with a blue flame, and the demons rushed in all directions:
"We don't, we don't! We are not detaining you, get out!"
Ah, I remembered this text! These were letters from the imprisoned bishop from Solovki to his spiritual children. How much fuss there was over the verification of biblical quotations, with the spelling of words of an unfamiliar church vocabulary! I reprinted the text and with relief gave it to the believers for their underground magazine, Our Community. I didn't keep a copy, even though I usually took the last copy for myself. And here it is — it was these pages that helped me now. You never know where you will find help, and where you will lose.
We safely broke away from the disappointed black flock, then, almost without stopping, several tollhouses flew by in a row, during which petty demons shouted something about envy, stinginess, covetousness and about some kind of evil that I did not know about at all. All these were not my favorite sins, as Grandfather said.
When I had almost calmed down with these successes, it was no longer a dark cloud that appeared ahead, but a dense black wall with red flashes, as if an autumn night with a thunderstorm was approaching us. It became cold and eerie.
"What is it up there?" I asked in fear.
"The tollhouse of pride. This is where we will have a difficult time,” the Guardian Angel said worriedly.
This pride was given to them, I thought.
But the cloud came and went above us and became blacker and blacker. The evil faces of the demons were already distinguishable, their wolf eyes sparkled closer and closer, and the roar was such as if stones were falling from a height onto an iron roof.
We found ourselves in a dense corridor made of blue-black slimy bodies, and then Satan himself came out to meet us. He was handsome and well-dressed again, but now his beauty was, so to speak, demonic in nature, and the expression on his face did not bode well, it became haughty and sinister.
"Well, so we meet, as I promised you, Anna. Miserable priest's brat, didn't I, despising your low birth, lend a helping hand to you? Didn't I call you lovingly, like a lost child, promising you my high protection? But you rejected me, the Prince of the Earth and the Air! Now I will take you, no longer as a daughter, but as a pitiful slave, as a condemned prisoner, and your prison camp will seem like paradise to you compared to what awaits you in my GULAG!"
"What are you going to judge her for?" asked Grandfather.
"As if you don't know, you saint! For pride, of course."
"That is, for the very thing for which you yourself were cast out of heaven?"
"I honor and love pride, but only my own. The pride of little people, of this thinking earthly mold, is no less disgusting to me than to your Master, and I am glad that I can judge and condemn them for this."
“If there is a trial, we will need witnesses,” said Grandfather.
"Empty formalities! But in order to annoy you, crucified insignificance, I will present you with a witness that you do not expect. At my trial . . . Anna herself will testify against Anna!"
Still, Satan loved theatrical effects. He waved his hand in a red glove: demons came out of the darkness, carrying something like a shield on their heads, and on this shield, akimbo, stood a piglet in a skirt that was short, ankle-toed and patched. I didn't even recognize myself right away, because so many years have passed! And this funny creature suddenly says in my voice:
"I don’t understand how you can listen to the opinion of your parents in general! I am already twelve years old, and I myself am able to figure out what is good and what is bad. And they are a backward generation, commoners, and conformists. They have only work, family, and everyday needs on their minds - what can one talk to them about?"
I could not resist and burst out laughing.
"You see, Satan, today she herself laughs at herself then," said Grandfather. "You do not have a large stock of accusations if you are trifling and collecting children's sins."
“At that time she didn't know how to laugh at herself, thankfully for me,” muttered Satan, somewhat discouraged by my laughter. "But let's continue. I remind the distinguished defender that according to the rules of the institution he represents here, children are responsible for their sins from the age of seven. But I accept the amendment and pass to later times."
He waved his hand again, and on the dais I turned into an adult girl, beautiful and dressed not at all badly. Looking thoughtfully into the distance, she spoke meaningfully and seriously that she believed in the unlimitedness of the human mind, in the correctness of self-esteem, and that only one's personal conscience should be a moral law for a person, and his primary need is self-respect and self-expression. Another wave of Satan's hand, and the girl turned into a mature woman, and her speech became even more convinced: "I trust only my principles . . . the main thing is not to lose my self-esteem . . . yes, I am proud of belonging to dissidents, because I consider them to be Russia's conscience . . . "
Anna was growing up on the dais, never ceasing to speak, and since her speeches were well known to me — and even now I was ready to subscribe to almost every word of hers — I looked at her more than I listened: it's quite interesting to see myself growing out of a girl into a mature woman in a few minutes.
Finally Anna on the dais fell silent and froze, like a doll whose batteries ran out.
"Do you have an answer to all this?" the Guardian Angel asked me quietly.
"Do I have to answer for any of this? He hasn't made any accusations of pride yet, as he promised."
"Don't you understand anything? All of your speeches," he nodded towards the figure frozen on the platform, "this is evidence of your pride."
I looked at the Guardian Angel, but his face was sad and he did not look at me.
But Satan was jubilant. It's a strange thing, do they all three see pride in these views of a completely ordinary modern intellectual? What was so special in what they heard?
And while I was perplexed, the dark corridor on both sides of us began to narrow, and I felt a fierce cold wind blowing from these walls, roughly molded from demonic bodies. I began to grow numb, my hands, with which I held onto the Angel and my grandfather, unclenched by themselves because of the cold. Then a rough paw grabbed the back of my head from behind, and I was dragged away from the Guardian Angel and Grandfather.
I tried to call them for help, but my voice did not obey me, and I could not make a sound.
As soon as the merciless force tore me away from my defenders, I was immediately covered with dark elastic bodies from all sides.
They wrapped my head like a wet cotton blanket, and I could no longer see, hear or say anything. With horror I felt how the cold penetrates into my consciousness, freezes it, and it fades as the pulsating mass that clung to me becomes denser and denser.
And then I remembered the words of Grandfather: “Don't be afraid! Pray!" I tried to pray, but I could not remember how and to whom to pray.
Then I strained my dying consciousness with all my might and tried to imagine the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, which was hanging in our Moscow apartment. Once my husband bought it on the occasion of a filming somewhere in the provinces and hung it just like that, for the interior — no one here prayed in front of this icon. I tried to recall the face of the Mother of God and mentally screamed to her: "Help me, please, Mother of God!"
At that very moment, my head was free, although my body was still covered with demons. Now I was able to repeat my prayer aloud, at first in a stifled whisper, overcoming the terrible tension in my throat, tongue and lips, and then louder, squeezing out the syllables: "Help...me..."
Disgusting cold creatures unclenched the ring of their bodies and slid off me. I continued to repeat my prayer incessantly. They moved away, but did not leave, moving expectantly very close to me. Now I was hanging in the center of a living cylinder, cobbled together by their bodies, and its walls were ready at any moment to shrink and swallow me completely.
And then I decided to do what I had never done in my life — to cross myself. Putting the fingers of my right hand together, I wanted to bring them to my forehead, but my hand did not obey me. Then I supported my right hand under the elbow with my left hand and with the efforts of both hands somehow brought my fingers to the middle of my forehead, and then lowered them to the middle of my abdomen. It was still difficult to raise my right hand to my right shoulder, but it was no longer so difficult to move it to the left - and I did it! I managed to cross myself!
The cylinder walls flashed crimson and parted, a gray circle of sky appeared over my head. I lifted my head and, continuing to cross myself non-stop, I yelled without a break: "Mother of God, save me, save me, save me! . . . "
I don’t know how long I screamed like that, afraid to be silent even for a moment. Suddenly a terrible ring began to revolve around me, uttering a terrible howl, growing with acceleration. These sounds not only drowned out my voice, they penetrated into me and caused great pain. And all the same, I continued to scream, not hearing myself at all, and to cross myself from fear with both hands. It seemed to me that hours had passed since I started shouting my prayer . . .
And suddenly, from somewhere very far away, I heard one long and clear sound, just one note, sung in someone's beautiful, unfamiliar voice.
Immediately the demonic howl ceased, and the rotating cylinder of their bodies stopped and began to melt, scattering into separate creatures. A moment later, the wonderful voice sounded again, and I was relieved to see that the demons began to move away and, one by one, melt into the fog. Then the voice fell silent in the distance.
Before I could look back, Grandfather and the Guardian Angel were next to me.
"My dear, smart granddaughter!" Grandfather exclaimed, pressing me to his chest. His face was flooded with tears.
"Did you pray for me, Grandfather?" I asked.
"How few people I have had to pray for. Did you realize that your pride almost killed you?"
“Don't torment her now,” said the Guardian Angel. “She managed to save herself, so it's alright."
"She didn't save herself, she was saved by the Mother of God." my grandfather corrected.
"Great is Her mercy to poor people!" exclaimed the Angel and crossed himself. I carefully watched how it was done correctly: what if it still comes in handy?
"Are we no longer threatened with demonic attacks?" I asked hopefully. "Are there still tollhouses ahead?"
"Quite a few. And not a single soul will be able to pass them. They must go through all of them, from the first to the last — if they aren't cast into hell first. Only the saints fly right through them. And we have passed only half of them," said Grandfather. “We still have to fight the demons."
He was right. Before I had time to move away from the horror I had experienced, the demons attacked us again, accusing me of the sins of anger, rage, and rancor. But here they weren't able to pin enough on me, because during my life I was a very light-hearted person. I easily forgave offenses and soon forgot them, and my sense of humor helped me to see my own guilt in all quarrels.
The Guardian Angel helped me a lot with this: he presented them a whole heap of some nonsense "good deeds", like the pay given to the family of a deceased colleague, or the last ruble that I gave to some beggar. Oddly enough, such little things were quoted here. Even the forgiveness of the sins of my spouse helped me — I would not get a divorce! The angel called it "almost humility".
Then I was ordered to remember the names of the people who offended me, but I thought and thought, and then waved my hand — "I don't remember, and that's all, and do what you want with me!" It was then that they let us through.
But that which awaited me at the next tollhouse, I am afraid to remember to this day.
“The tollhouse of murder lies ahead,” the Angel announced.
“We’ll get through,” I assured him, inspired by past successes. "I haven't killed anyone in my life, except for flies and mosquitoes."
"They can also put flies on your account. Do not joke about it. This has happened." Grandfather frowned. "Is there really nothing against her?" he asked the Angel.
"There is something against her!" the Guardian Angel answered shortly.
Grandfather looked at me reproachfully and took hold of his cross with his right hand.
Another stinking cloud was already floating towards us. The grimly grinning demons were dressed in caricatured medical gowns and bloody oilcloth aprons.
"Accused of the murder of her son Alexander and her two daughters, Tatiana and Anastasia!" The chief demon said solemnly and raised up his bloody paws.
"What nonsense!" I yelled. "I never had children!"
I did not explain to them that at the age of eighteen I had an abortion, and since then I could no longer have children.
"We will introduce Alexander to you now. Tatiana and Anastasia were supposed to appear according to the plan of your Master, but you ordered it in your own way."
Demons in bloody robes tore me out of the hands of the Angel and Grandfather and dragged me somewhere along the foggy corridors, mockingly saying: “Now you will see your son, loving mommy! You will be delighted! "
We found ourselves in a large room with tiled walls and a circular concrete pool in the middle. Steam rose from it and a sweetish sickening smell flowed.
I cannot and will not describe the horror that opened up to my eyes when the demons dragged me to the edge of the pool and forced me to look in there.
When I woke up, I saw Grandfather's face above me. The Guardian stood silently beside him.
"You'll have to endure a little more, Annushka." whispered Grandfather.
Yes, that was not all.
"Let me invite you, madam, to view your failed life!" the devil said mockingly and waved his bloody paw.
A white screen appeared in front of us, and on it was a beautiful old house on Izmailovsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg. Once it was the Cadet Corps, in which Lermontov studied, and under the Soviet regime, a maternity hospital with an abortion clinic in it. The image came closer, and I saw a young, frightened woman, almost a girl, hugging an older woman. Yes, I remember my mother accompanied me to the abortion. Then I pulled myself together, resolutely climbed the steps and entered the wide-open doors.
But in this film, it was not at all like that.
"I will not kill my child!" shouted the girl who was me, and rushed away from the terrible mansion. Mom, wailing and crying, ran after me: “You will ruin your life! Come to your senses, daughter! Be patient a little, and you will be free . . . ” — but I stubbornly walked away.
And now a completely different life of mine began to flow on the screen. I had a boy. I named him Alexander. My irresponsible lover was suddenly delighted with him and came to his senses. We got married, graduated from pedagogical institutes and went on assignments to teach at a provincial boarding school. In some quiet town on the bank of a large river, we had a cozy house with a vegetable garden, a cat, and a dog. Living peacefully and happily, we had two more girls, Tanechka and Nastenka. My son Sasha grew up, believed in God and became a priest — Father Alexander. In this other life, my mother lived with us and helped take care of my children. And then I saw my grandchildren: Sasha married a sweet, calm girl, and they had four children, two boys and two girls. Gradually, all of us, including my mother, became believers under the influence of Sasha.
Mom was healthy.
The film stopped at the frame where the whole family is drinking evening tea at a large round table, and behind us on the wall is a tear-off calendar and on it the date: July 21, 1990 — the day of my death in real life.
"Not to be continued!" the demon announced mockingly. "If a living heart beat in my translucent chest, it would burst from despair and hopeless regrets about a ruined life, or rather, many lives. Oh Lord, and we called this 'a little patience and liberation!' "
“She's punished enough,” said the Guardian Angel. "You see her tears."
"Hell does not believe in tears!" the demon laughed. "Also, she cries for herself, she pities only herself, poor thing . . . "
"That is not true." Grandfather stood up for me. "She repented of what she had done all her life."
"She — repented?! When and in what church?"
“She repented,” the Angel confirmed. "Look, devil!" The Guardian Angel waved his hand, and the screen appeared in front of us again. I recognized the kindergarten not far from the house where George and I lived. On the landing in front of it children were frolicking, and behind the fence I stood in the shade of the bushes, furtively watching them and quietly crying hopeless tears.
The scene changed. I stood in front of my husband and angrily reproached him for another betrayal.
“She told me that she was expecting a child from me,” said George, hiding his eyes. I slumped and sat down on the sofa. After a pause, I told him: “Go and be happy. The child is the most important thing.” The screen went out.
Everything really was like that. George kept running away and running back again. We didn't talk about the supposed child that time.
I didn't even know how it ended, or whether this child was born or not. George categorically refused to talk to me on this topic. But, once frightened, I saw him off on every film expedition with horror. Every film he shot — and he worked as a cameraman — was a tragedy for me. "What if he starts an affair again? And if in fact a baby is born, do I have the right to deprive him of this happiness?" After all, for myself, I firmly decided: if there is a child, I will let him go.
It became a little easier for me in emigration. In the Russian-speaking wilderness, you can't have affairs if you intend to hide them. But then they began to let emigrants go home, and George went frequently to Moscow, as if restoring and re-establishing connections in the Russian cinema. He was restoring connections, sure, but whether they were cinematic . . .
"He was careful, her husband! Although he made his mistakes . . . " the demon grinned. "Okay! Take your idiot and get out. She was punished for this sin. But something else awaits her ahead of here — she won't get out there!"
We moved on. I continued to grieve about my failed wonderful life, in which there was no prison camp, no emigration, and no human rights work, but there was something much more important and necessary: children and the Church. Neither Grandfather nor the angel comforted me.
Fog thickened ahead, and in it a high arch appeared — as it seemed to me from a distance — of pink stone, decorated with sculptures. The inscription "Welcome!" was above the arch. It was sparkling with colored lights, and from the depths some filthy music could be heard.
We approached the arch and I was embarrassed: it was made up of living male and female bodies having sex. But the faces of the lovers were distorted with suffering and pain, their mouths opened in a soundless scream, their eyes bulging with intolerable anguish.
Streams of tears ran down the walls of the arch.
"The tollhouse of fornication." Grandfather announced.
"I'm not guilty of this, not guilty!" I tried to calm him down. Of course, I had close relationships with men, but it was always a sincere and pure feeling.
For some reason, Grandfather was still not happy.
“Alright,” he said, removing his cross from his chest, “I’ll probably stay on this side of the gate and pray for your deliverance. I will hold my cross in my hand, and you grasp the end of the chain and try not to let go of it: I will try to pull you out of there, if the Guardian Angel cannot beat the demons off of you.
"But the chain is short!" I doubted.
"Let's hope that you didn't go too far in your “pure love”, otherwise it might really be too short."
A company of completely naked demons fell out from under the arch, dancing. — Before this tollhouse, I had never seen female evil spirits. The females were even nastier than the males.
"You are welcome, dear, to our warm place! Come on in, don't be shy! Here you will not get bored and you will see plenty!"
The Guardian Angel and I entered under the arch. What was going on here? There were coarsely painted booths, wild music, and blazing signs with obscene inscriptions. A noisy crowd of men and women, interspersed with demons, danced, ate, drank, shouted, and engaged in the most unbridled sex in front of everyone. Vile couples and groups in sin were nauseating, but the vilest of all were those who made love to demons.
A fat devil rolled up to me, looking like a toad with a shark's mouth, naked and in boots on a monstrous platform. She slapped my backside with a webbed paw and yelled joyfully:
"Aha, a new one for us! Pretty . . . Well, are you staying with us voluntarily, or what?"
"What do you have against her?" my grandfather asked Toad.
"Me? Absolutely nothing! I don't give a damn about her, I'll finish my job and say goodbye. She acted like a whore, and I specialize in lesbians. But there have not been enough of these little ones today, and we are overextended with the harlots — there are not enough personnel. So they threw me into the gap. Now we will quickly count her husbands, add her to them, and send her where she belongs."
“There’s nothing to count and add here,” I said, emboldened by the resemblance of the demon to the camp lesbian cobbles, whom I could not stand, but never feared. "I had one husband!"
"Ha! We have seen such disposable fakes! Real one-husbands fly past us like meteors. Now we will count — count and add your husbands . . . "
She fanned out a stack of pornographic postcards depicting me and my beloved. I wanted to fall through the sky. My Guardian Angel stood with his back turned.
"Here is my husband!" I pointed at the photo with George and me.
"And the rest are not yours, or what?"
"These were affairs, distractions."
"Yeah, that's what you call it. But this does not change the case! Let it be known to you that every fleshly union of a man and a woman is already a marriage — that is, the fusion of flesh and soul into one. And, moreover, forever. Look!"
The toad thrust a green palm under my nose, and I saw on it a small white and pink nude figure.
"Do you recognize this?"
I looked closely - the figure depicted me in my youth.
"Now look here!" On the other palm of the Toad was a figurine of my first lover. "Now you have decided to copulate — whopla!" she brought her palms together, and the figures joined in an act of love. It was even beautiful, we were young and full of tenderness.
"Now that they ate each other, they think they can scatter and again become each their own. But it was not so!" she spread her palms, but on each of them there was a fused double figure.
"For now we will remove the handsome man out of sight, let him take a walk for the time being!" she disgustedly shook off the double figure from one palm. "And now the second act!"
A figure of my second man, then a famous young poet, appeared on the empty palm. It was a short-lived romantic relationship, he even dedicated several poems to me, which were included in all of his collections. But what was happening now on the demon's paw was disgusting: my body, fused with the first man, made love to the second.
Then the demon clapped her palms again, and I found myself merged with two men.
"And so it was every time: you converge for a while, but in your soul, whether you like it or not, you are tied forever. Eh, one more time! Many, many more times! Well, now they got to your hubby..."
A small, many-headed, many-armed and many-legged monster with a common body was crawling over her palm, their heads screamed at one another, their hands tormented other people's bodies, trying to tear them away from theirs.
"But . . . it's figurative, it's symbolic, right?" I stammered in horror.
"No symbolism — we have everything without deception! But before you get the appearance that you have earned, you have an audience with our Prince. You are welcome, your dark highness, her soul is ready to devour!"
The toad fluttered in a low bow before a crimson cloud that swam towards us, surrounded by ominously flashing lightning. The cloud burst open and a smiling Satan appeared. He was naked, and his dark gray body showed a picture of the most hideous lust.
"Well, come to me, my little stubborn one! Let's merge in ecstasy and rub the nose of both of your saints."
"Guardian Angel!" I screamed in horror.
"Don't bother, he doesn't hear you anymore. His purity deigned to get away from here, his angelic nose could not stand the local spicy aroma. Well, come to your loving daddy!"
I recoiled from his outstretched paws and felt the chain of my grandfather's cross tighten in my hand.
"Let go of your trick!" Satan growled and stepped towards me. Without hesitating a second, I grabbed the chain with my left hand away from the loop, which I was holding on, and hit Satan with the free end of the chain. A chorus of devilish voices roared around me, but at the same time the chain jerked so that I was instantly pulled out of the cloud, pulled under the arch and thrown out. The newly appeared Guardian Angel swiftly flew after me, covering me with flaming wings from possible pursuers.
Grandfather stood in front of the arch, resting his feet in the void, and pulled with all his might on the chain, gripping the sparkling cross with both hands. As soon as I was next to him, the saving chain turned into an ordinary gilded chain, and Grandfather immediately put it on.
Grabbing me from both sides, Grandfather and the Guardian Angel drew me away from the filthy gates.
When I more or less came to my senses, they warned me that the last tollhouse remained ahead — the tollhouse of mercy. I mentally decided that we would pass it, but I didn’t say anything out loud. And I did the right thing.
I never passed a beggar without giving him at least a coin, I was always ready to help friends in trouble, I easily gave anything if someone needed it. I was also engaged in direct deeds of mercy: helping the families of political prisoners during the time of political terror, helping the Chernobyl refugees and victims of the Armenian earthquakes, and during the years of perestroika I was engaged in humanitarian aid to pensioners in Russia. Imagine my amazement when, during this ordeal, accusations of "hardheartedness reaching cannibalism" flew at me.
The evil ones with their technology again showed me scenes from their fiscal films. So I argued with my father about politics, I berated him with quotes from the classics of Marxism-Leninism, whom he, the poor man, knew better than me, I read the Declaration of Human Rights to him, and explained that this is an international document signed by the USSR, and not at all anti-Soviet samizdat, like he thought. While I was arguing with him, two shadows appeared behind us — his and mine. And my ominous shadow, with its long sharp teeth, bites deep inside my father! I really knew how to get him in the gut.
Almost the same scenes were repeated with my husband. Once he was lying in the bathtub, with a cold, sick and unhappy appearance, and I, taking advantage of his helplessness, stood at the door and gnawed, gnawed, gnawed at him, listing all his real and alleged betrayals. "Go away, go away, go away for God's sake!" shouted my unfortunate husband, but I did not stop.
On the screen, the water in the bathtub turned pink from my words, then turned red, and eventually gushed over the edge in a blood stream.
And such episodes of my life were enough for a dozen bloody short films. I stood and did not know what I could object to all this. All that was left was to hope in my Guardian Angel and Grandfather.
And they helped me out. Parcels from Germany to Russia were also presented to the demons, and this was very humanitarian aid, although the demons rightly noticed that half of it was stolen by the thieves of new times. The drape coat of my pensioner aunt, a communist with forty years of experience, saved me.
It was a funny story. For many years my aunt had not come to visit us, so as not to meet with the family freak and the unfinished anti-Soviet woman, that is, with me. Mom, of course, went to her and helped her as much as she could. And so I was going to emigrate. My aunt found out about this and showed up at Pulkovo airport to publicly curse me with the last party and family curse. She stood in a pose in front of the crowd of friends who accompanied me and began loudly to disown me and demand that my mother do the same — now and immediately!
It was an utter disgrace, I did not know where to go, and the escorting KGB officers climbed out of their corners and stood around, grinning approvingly. My aunt got to the point of having a heart attack. George and my mother and I had to drag her to the infirmary. My aunt was stripped, her blood pressure measured, and an injection given. The hardened party member quickly came to her senses and rose to leave irreconcilably. I took her coat from the couch, wanted to help her dress, and felt the exorbitant weight of the batting and drape. And I was wearing a brand new mink coat, recently sent by a friend from New York. How could I make my aunt take it instead of her thick drape? Time was running out, I had to go recklessly:
"Aunt, dear, forgive me! I understood everything, I will stay and improve! Zhora and I went to return the ticket, and you and mother can go home. Put on my fur coat so as not to drag this weight on your shoulders, otherwise you will fall down on the road. Then I will come to you, and we will change coats again."
My completely stunned aunt let me dress her in a mink coat, my mother took her away by taxi, and George and I rushed off to customs inspection. But you have to imagine the faces of my friends and various correspondents there when I appeared at the Vienna airport in my aunt's draped coat with a bald rabbit collar! Now my aunt goes to her communist rallies in a mink coat and does not freeze.
The Guardian Angel suddenly took out this awful aunt's coat from somewhere, covered me with it over his head and thus brought me out of this last tollhouse! Then the coat naturally disappeared.
"Is that all? Grandfather, dear! My angel! Tell me is it over already?" I asked when we moved away from the last demons. They reassured me, but did not want to engage in conversation with me.
During our wandering through the tollhouses, Grandfather had grown older and now looked fifty years old. Even my Angel's beautiful face looked tired. I should have thought, tried to comprehend what I experienced, tried to understand something, but I didn't have the strength for that. The fear was gone, but a huge emptiness remained. I didn't want to talk, think, or ask about anything.
Next: My Adventures After Death (Chapter 3)
Source: Мои посмертные приключения (Russian)
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