"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
We flew in silence for a long time. Then something in the surrounding emptiness changed. Little by little, the space began to fill with a golden mist. The faded clothes of the Angel and Grandfather began to brighten and soon became dazzling white, their faces were transformed: Grandfather grew younger, and the Guardian regained his shining serenity. Something huge and glittering was vaguely visible ahead — a mountain ... a cloud? ...
“The Kingdom of God is approaching,” said the Angel solemnly.
"Thank God!" Grandfather responded joyfully.
The shining space responded with a distant many-voiced echo: "Thank God ... to God ... be the glory! ..."
Then ahead, through the fog appeared a huge mass of white clouds with a golden border, and the sun's rays spread like a fan throughout the visible space because of them.
"My God, how much light, and what beauty!" I exclaimed.
"Yes, this is God's beauty, which will save the world," said Grandfather.
As we approached the clouds, they parted in front of us, leaving only a slight haze. Below us lay a wide meadow, onto which we descended.
"So we made it." said Grandfather. "How good it is to be back home!"
“Yes, good,” the Guardian Angel nodded. "Thank the Creator!"
Grandfather and the Angel knelt down and began to pray, while I just stood there, reasonably deciding that what they said about returning home did not apply to me.
They prayed for a long time, and in the meantime I looked around. During this time, the cloudy fog had time to dissipate. A clear yellow path wound through the meadow. I don’t know what gold dust looks like, but I figured that was exactly what the road was paved with. It was pleasant to stand on it barefoot. The soles of one's feet tingled from the grains of sand, as if invigorating healing currents emanated from it.
The path led to a wall of green trees on the horizon: judging by its smooth outline, it was a park, not a forest. It looked like there were piles of gigantic crystals towering above the green wall — either chalk mountains, or palaces. I was drawn there, as a person is usually drawn from the valley to the mountains, but I patiently waited for my companions.
Finally they finished praying and got up from their knees.
“It's time for us to go,” said the Guardian Angel.
"Where are we going now?" I asked.
"To worship the Lord."
"Does He live over there?" I pointed towards the park.
"What a silly question. He lives everywhere, but that is the place where the souls freed from earthly captivity must appear, so that the Lord can make His decision about them. Are you ready to go?"
We walked along the golden path. It was easy and pleasant to walk: I did not need air to breathe, but I enjoyed its freshness, filled with the smell of herbs and flowers, with all my being. We quickly reached the first trees, standing by themselves. I have never seen such trees on earth, although I have traveled a lot around the world. Their trunks were slender and tall, much taller than the gigantic Australian eucalyptus trees, and the leaves were striking in size, brightness, and shape. We walked three paces away from a large birch tree: its bark seemed like white satin silk, the black markings seemed to be traced with charcoal, and the crown was like soft green lace. I remembered the modest, earthly birch trees, and they seemed like inferior copies of this ideal birch.
A leaf flew off from above and, whirling, fell into my hands, which I had held out just in time. It was slightly smaller than my palm, and its surface was covered with the finest diamond dust. I brought the leaf to my face and breathed in a wonderful smell - both the smell of a birch, and at the same time something particularly fresh and slightly intoxicating.
“This is how a real birch on Earth should smell,” Grandfather said, noticing that I was reveling in the smell of the green gift that had flown into my hands.
"Why did earthly birches lose this smell?"
"Because of man's sin."
"How is that?'
"It's very simple: evil penetrated the Earth through man and distorted it and everything that exists on it."
"Something like that."
I let the birch leaf fly off my palm.
We hurried forward and soon entered under the arches of a park full of the same wonderful trees. I immediately noticed that not one of them was sick, and in their crowns I could not see a single dry or broken branch. Some of the trees were in bloom, others were full of fruit.
The path we followed soon turned into a rather wide alley, and then the gaps between the trees increased, and I saw other roads and paths flowing into it from all sides. People walked along them, accompanied by angels, and they all moved in the same direction, in the same direction as us. In the distance I saw people planting a tree.
We came to a river, across which a white curved bridge was thrown, carved, as it seemed to me, from ivory. I stopped, leaning on a light rail, and looked down. White, pink and blue lilies swayed in the calm water, and between them scurried ... no, not gold, but sparkling fish, and each one looked like a jewel. I probably would still be standing there now, admiring them, but the Angel touched my shoulder, and we went on.
Then we came up to fountains made of giant pink pearl shells arranged in several tiers like Roman fountains. There were wooden benches near them, and they seemed to be begging us to sit on them, but once again I was not allowed to linger, although I so wanted to stay here and admire the streams of water soaring up and falling into mother-of-pearl bowls, and to enjoy their gentle and soothing murmur.
"This is a real paradise!" I exclaimed.
"No, my dear," said Grandfather, "this is not Paradise. It is only its most modest suburb."
"If that's the case, then I do not need any other Paradise, I'm fine with living in the outskirts!"
Grandfather and the Guardian Angel looked at each other.
"What, did I say something wrong again?"
"Sort of," said Grandfather. "It is not for you and not for us to decide what 'outskirts' await you."
There was nothing I could say to that.
The park gradually turned into a luxurious garden, in which there were flower beds of various shapes and sizes, full of flowers that were for the most part unknown to me.
But the familiar flowers differed from the earthly ones more strikingly than the alpine flowers differ from the usual ones: for example, heather bushes as tall as me, strewn with bells the size of an average champagne glass.
I was completely stunned by the pink and lilac trees with good-sized trunks and whole clouds of flowers in the sky.
Long garlands of multi-colored wisterias went from one tree to another just above the alley, huge fragrant tassels hung directly above us, and the Angel, who was much taller than Grandfather and I, brushed them away from his face with his hand. The scent of billions of flowers would have seemed overwhelming if the garden had not been swept by a cool breeze.
The trees were full of birds, breaking the silence there with soft, melodic singing. Sometimes butterflies flew very close to me, smoothly flapping their wings, huge, like painted Japanese fans. Every now and then I stopped to get a better look at either an unusual flower or a crystal dragonfly, while Grandfather and the Angel urged me on.
The road made a new turn and became even wider. Now people and angels walked beside us, in front of us, and behind us. The angels were as tall as my Guardian. Their faces were different, but they were all equally beautiful.
Angels led many people by the hand, the way fathers take their children to kindergarten in the morning — this was approximately the difference in height between people and their guardians — it was not difficult to guess that they were tied by the same bonds as me with my guardian. Some, like us, walked three together: a man, an angel and a saint. And some souls were accompanied by a whole group of saints, but these were themselves like saints, their bodies were not dimly transparent like mine, but were filled with light, like Grandfather's.
Among the people there were old people, children, and mature people; judging by their clothes and faces, they belonged to different peoples of the Earth.
But in appearance next to the angels and saints, they most of all resembled figurines cut from black and white photographic film. I looked at myself and was convinced that I looked no better than the others: I was gray, like a very dirty porcelain figurine. I still had nothing on except a hospital sheet and a cross, though now it shone like a real, material golden cross. In general, clothes did not have much significance here, since they consisted of the same substance as bodies, merged with them, as is the case with sculptures. Some people were naked, but this did not seem to bother themselves or those around them.
"Grandfather! Why are the souls so different? Some glow more, others less."
"People are different too, after all! You yourself are a little dark one, darling." smiled Grandfather.
It was easy for him to smile, he himself was all so glowing, as if a thousand-candle lamp was inserted inside him, and it was better not to look at his face — such a radiance spread around him.
I decided that it was time to show some character:
"And you, Grandfather, shine so much that when you leave the house to go for a walk you should put a lampshade on your head, otherwise people might go blind."
That very second I found myself lying on the golden sand of the path with the back of my head smarting: my Guardian Angel had slapped me upside the head!
Amazed, I sat down on the path and decided that I would not move from that spot until he apologized.
The Angel immediately bent over me and said:
"Forgive me for God's sake! I couldn't resist. I have wanted to do this so many times during your lifetime, but there was no opportunity: so I did what I have dreamed of doing for almost forty years," and he held out his hand to me.
I laughed and stood up, rubbing the back of my head. My grandfather, it seems, was not offended at me, but was clearly pleased that I had got what I deserved from my Guardian Angel.
The Angel continued:
“Your idle talk could ruin you, Anna. Your grandfather has a martyr's crown on his head, which even the angels envy. We heavenly spirits honor the saints, and you allow yourself to make fun of them. What fearlessness!"
"Is it bad to be fearless?"
"It is bad not to have the fear of God. That is worse than shamelessness."
"How can you be afraid of God if He, as you say yourself, is merciful and loves people?"
"It is possible. You can love and be afraid of upsetting the One you love. The Lord is merciful, but He is also just. The universe was built by Him on the strictest laws of harmony, love and justice. The world is a symphony composed by God, and you were meant to sing only one note in it — your one, only life, so short and so irreplaceable. God is merciful, but if you sang it out of tune, then you cannot be a part of God's music, you will simply fall out of it. Here we are going to the Creator to find out His decision about you, and you feel neither fear nor awe. What a spiritual emptiness has accumulated in you! How you have lived . . . how you have lived!"
Everything rose up inside me from these words, I wanted to declare my dislike for choral singing, my desire to "return the ticket", and just rebel, finally! I was gloomy in silence, and the Guardian Angel looked at me with a smile, like an adult looks at a sulking child. "He's laughing at me!" I thought.
"Calm down, I'm not laughing at you. We angels don't laugh at all. Laughter is given to people to protect them from fear — it is just medicine. And we know neither fear nor illness."
"But you're reading my mind!" I was indignant. I wanted to stop right there and turn back. But where?
"And don't get darker, please! I don’t read your thoughts, there is no need for that — they are all written on your face.
Not fear, but beauty kept me from turning back: the garden through which we walked became more magnificent with every step, the birds sang more and more joyfully, and I was sure that it would be even better ahead. How could one walk through Heaven and refuse to go on? Well, I could not! I pretended to be distracted by staring at the tulip tree at the edge of the path, and then meekly trotted onwards.
Another turn, and in front of us a road unfolded so wide that its edges could not be seen because of the many people and angels walking along it.
"Look, Annushka! These are the souls of people who died at about the same time as you."
"Are these the people who have successfully gone through the tollhouses?"
"Everyone who believed in Him gets to worship God, and those detained during the tollhouses can get here later, if people and saints pray for them."
“So, there is not a single unbeliever among these people?"
"What about me?"
“You weren't an unbeliever — you were stupid."
"Well, I didn't grow up in the forest, I even read the Bible. And . . . I also had believed in a higher consciousness, and in the existence of higher life forms in space . . . "
"It is for such silly heads that the phenomena of all sorts of aliens are designed."
There was nothing for me to say to that, I had to show humility again.
"Listen to me, Annushka!" Grandfather stopped and leaned towards me. I felt hot and embarrassed by the crown burning above his head, and I slightly moved away. But he continued to hold my hand tightly and did not let me leave.
"Listen to me, my poor child! What is happening to you now is just the languor of a sinful soul before meeting with the Creator. This is not surprising or even too bad. But you must make an effort, control yourself, reject ridiculous thoughts and fears, and leave your empty human conceit. Look ahead!"
I looked where he was pointing. The road along which we walked rested against a high mountain, the top of which was hidden by a shining cloud. A wide white staircase led directly to it, along which people climbed, accompanied by angels. A huge cross shone through the cloud.
"We are going there. God is there," Grandfather continued. "He will see you as you are. He will evaluate your soul and your thoughts, reflect on every day you have lived, and determine your fate until the Last Judgment. Leave your wisdom and focus on that. Collect all your spiritual strength, Anna! This is much more serious than you can imagine. Pray if you can. And don't keep me and the Angel from praying for you."
"Okay, Grandfather, I will try."
I really did try to put all my thoughts aside and even tried to pray with these words: “Forgive me, God, but I didn't mean anything bad! I don't know why I should be afraid of You, and I'm not. Take me to Your beautiful Paradise, just let me, please, be myself!"
I was very surprised when we came closer to the mountain: its appearance did not match the surrounding splendor at all; it even contradicted it. Except for the wide staircase, the side of the mountain was wild and bare and covered with fragments of yellowish stones.
Here and there ugly thorns clung to them; their serpentine thick stems were covered with long thorns, and among them were small scarlet flowers, like drops of blood. The mountain seemed hot, lifeless, and it was obvious that it was impossible to climb it except by the stairs.
The wide and steep staircase, divided by several platforms, was made of rough stone slabs, some of which were chipped from antiquity. Approaching its steps, many people knelt down and kissed the stone reverently. Some of them remained on their knees as they climbed the stairs.
Grandfather and the Guardian Angel also kissed the yellowish slabs and ordered me to do the same.
“This is Golgotha,” said Grandfather.
Symbolism again, I thought, since I knew that the real Calvary was in Jerusalem, but I obediently kissed the hot stone, and we began to ascend the wide steps.
As we climbed the stairs, it got hotter, hot air flowed over the steps, and such a blinding light poured from the top of the mountain that soon I could no longer lift my eyes from the steps.
With difficulty, I reached the first platform, where many who had already climbed the stairs stopped to rest.
"Are you tired, Annushka?" Grandfather asked.
"It's very hot and my eyes hurt from the glare. I'll sit for a while . . . "
I noticed that some people were sitting, leaning against the stone railing of the stairs, as if in search of shade, although there was no shade here. After sitting for a while, I got up and said that I was ready to move on, but as soon as I set foot on the first step of the next flight of stairs I was extremely dizzy and had to stop.
"Can you go any further?" the Guardian Angel asked anxiously.
"I can't seem to. Such heat is blowing up there that I don't have the strength to endure it!"
My grandfather pulled me to him and covered my head with the wide white sleeve of his robe. It became a little easier to walk. With great difficulty, stopping at almost every step, we made our way to the second platform, and then I sank helplessly onto the burning stones.
"Do what you want with me. I can’t go any further! . . . "
Grandfather and the Guardian Angel stood over me with bewildered faces. Then the Angel said:
“There’s nothing more we can do but beg."
They stood side by side and began to pray, fixing their eyes on the cross in the blinding cloud. I had a ringing in my ears and I could not make out the words, I just heard something about "a deceived lost soul" — about me . . .
They were joined by other angels, whose wards confusedly stumbled or lay on this platform, like me.
They sang beautifully, but it didn't make it any easier for us. Meanwhile, other angels led their briskly walking wards past us, looking back at us with sincere sympathy. However, there was another platform higher up, and there were also a lot of people stuck there . . .
When the angelic choir fell silent, a sound like fanfare, loud and solemn, was heard from above, and then there was complete and absolute silence, and in this silence someone's calm voice said only three words: "THEY AREN'T READY." There was no denunciation in this phrase, it did not sound like a sentence — only clarity and regret. Again there was the affirming sound of the heavenly trumpets, and then another voice, young and sonorous, added a few more phrases, the meaning of which I did not understand, but my companions understood. They rose from their knees, and so did the other angels and souls.
"Come on, Anna," said the Guardian Angel, "God has made His decision about you. A respite will be given to you — glory to His mercy!"
I had been given a reprieve — from what? Everything was vague and incomprehensible, but I was pleased that now I could descend from this terrible staircase.
We went down, then we went around Golgotha along some side path and found ourselves in the shade of tall cedars. Angels and people disappeared behind their dark trunks, scattering through the alleys of the park.
Passing through a cedar grove, we got into a thicket of flowering rhododendrons, passed them, and then the path dived under the soft green canopy of fern trees. It was fresh and damp here, one could tell that water was near. Soon we found ourselves in a small shady gorge with a narrow stream, clean and gurgling. Here we sat down by the water.
“You can take a drink and wash yourself,” the Guardian Angel said. "This is holy water."
"Take a drink? How can I drink?" I was surprised.
"Try it." said Grandfather.
I scooped up cold water with my palms and gently brought it to my lips. I took a sip, then another, and a sweet coolness spread over my exhausted body. I immediately felt good, and it became easier for me, but weakness and a slight dizziness remained.
"I can drink!" I was delighted.
“You can also refresh yourself,” said the Angel, and plucked a branch full of large red berries from a bush bent over the shore. I took the outstretched branch and tasted one berry: it tasted like wild strawberries, and in size and shape it resembled a large cherry. It was incredibly tasty, but I only ate the second berry because I had managed to take a bite of it.
"Can I take the rest with me?" I asked.
"What for? There will be a lot of different fruits and berries ahead. Put these in the water — let the fish rejoice."
My grandfather took the branch from me and let it go with the flow. I managed to notice a school of fish rushing after it. Then I sat by the water and rested, and Grandfather and the Guardian Angel talked about something among themselves without words. I noticed even earlier that they spoke out loud only when they wanted me to hear them; at other times they communicated in some silent way. But I understood that they were talking about me all the time, and this calmed me down: let them think and come up with something, but for now I will take a nap . . .
They gave me a rest, but not for long. My grandfather said that he wanted to go away and pray alone, and the Guardian Angel lifted me up, ordered me to wash myself with holy water again, put me under a bush and began to educate me, the poor one.
From his words it turned out that I had lived wrongly all my life and in general I was no good at all.
This sounded offensive, but from his point of view, it was probably correct: I believed vaguely in God, I considered Jesus Christ the great enlightener of antiquity, and the Church was an organization that was supposed to protect traditional moral values. My angel declared that without sincere faith and without a full-fledged church life, and most importantly, without repentance, all my good deeds and kind heart (he said that) cannot save me for eternal life with God. Moreover, it somehow seemed from his words that it was not God who rejected me, but I Him! How could I reject something that I had no idea about?
"Explain to me, why is God cruel to me? I went through the tollhouse and I look no worse than the others. There were so many souls on that staircase that were much darker than me!"
“You are brighter than them only because the martyrdom of your grandfather enlightens you. This is the special grace of Russians, but not all souls are worthy of this gift, and therefore you cannot be saved by them."
"Well, so it turns out that we Russians have a special honor in Heaven? Some sort of Orthodox chauvinism . . . "
"I seem to remember that you were not at all surprised when you were told that the blood of your grandfather washed away the sins of his ancestors and his descendants."
"I remember that. But what does Russia have to do with it, if it was about our family?"
"There have been more martyrs in Russia over the last century, than in the entire history of the persecution of Christianity. You are lucky: in almost every family there was a new martyr or confessor, after all, thousands of them were killed for their faith. And above all Russian martyrs stands the Sovereign-Martyr, the tortured and murdered Tsar-Father of the entire Russian people, an intercessor and supplicant close to God for all of you. And all of them together have surrounded the Throne of God and pray continuously for the salvation of Russia. But there is one very important detail: no one's prayers can be accepted for someone who does not pray himself! And you are busy with anything but your personal salvation."
"What if you and Grandfather just took me in your arms and lifted me to the very top, to God Himself, and begged Him for me?"
"You would melt, approaching Him, like a snowflake brought to the fire."
"And you and Grandfather are not afraid of this fire?"
"He nourishes and warms us, loves and enlightens us."
"So what will happen to me now?"
"Now an undeserved consolation awaits you: we will take you to the heavenly abode, where you could go if you had lived a decent life. You will stay there for six days. On the ninth day you will go to the place prepared for you in hell, where people like you — who escaped the terrible hellfire or Gehenna, but are not worthy of Paradise — await the Last Judgment or pardon." ***
According to the teachings of the Orthodox Church — by saints such as St. Macarius of Alexandria — the soul after death on the third day ascends to heaven, going through ordeals, and comes to God for worship. After worshiping God, the soul is shown the various abodes of the saints and the beauty of Paradise. This continues for six days. Contemplating all this, the soul changes and forgets its grief, which it had while in the body. But then, having seen the life of the saints, if the soul is guilty of sins, then it grieves about its carelessness, about not knowing God as it should during its lifetime.
On the ninth day after its separation from the body, the soul is commanded to see hell and the torments there. For 30 days, the soul is able to see hell. Finally, on the 40th day, a private judgment takes place over the soul, where the fate of the soul is determined in the afterlife, before the Last Judgment. If we turn to the divine service of the Orthodox Church, then we will notice the correspondence with these dates, since it is on these days that the commemoration of the dead is performed.
It is also customary to perform commemorations throughout the year, since the soul of the deceased is still in an indecisive state, and therefore it is possible to alleviate its fate beyond the grave by bringing a Bloodless Sacrifice for the soul, that is, by commemoration at the Liturgy.
"Is it a very bad place? Will demons torment me there?"
"The place is not enviable, but the power of demons there is not unlimited. You can pray there if you manage to. But do not lose hope: the whole Church will pray for you."
"My grandfather said that there is no one on Earth to pray for my mother and me."
“I said 'the whole Church,' that is, both its earthly part and its heavenly one. The Church is one on Earth and in Heaven — do you understand? The Savior has already completed and continues to do everything necessary to help you, and we only help Him with our small forces."
And then I thought that maybe the place where I have to go will not be so bad, since souls like me go there. We will have our own company there, we will establish some kind of social life: we can arrange, for example, a religious and philosophical seminar to discuss the new reality that has opened up to us.
And there is nothing to be afraid of, if the demons do not harm people there. I have lived in a prison and in a zone. I even lived in a communal apartment . . .
Grandfather finished his prayer and came up to us, and we immediately went further along the path by the river. On the way, we met small waterfalls, rustling and sparkling among the moist lush greenery of ferns, lace asparagus with red beads of berries, lady's shoes and mosses of various types and colors.
The forest came close to the banks, in some places the path ran into it, and then returned to the water. The flowers of lianas and epiphytes glittered in the foliage of the trees, and among the roots in the moist moss orchids were blissful, which were probably better represented here than in Nero Wolfe's greenhouse, in those Rex Stout detective novels I used to read. The path wound for a long time along the bottom of the gorge, and then, somehow immediately and unexpectedly, brought us into a wide valley lying among mountains with snowy peaks. I lost my breath, if one could say that given my current nature, from the splendor of the picture spread out in front of me.
Directly in front of us, a river flowed slowly, taking into itself the smaller river we had been following into the valley, as well as many other rivers, streams, creeks, and waterfalls that flowed, running down and falling from the green mountain slopes. The river abounded with islets: some were tall, rocky, overgrown with flowering climbing plants, others lay gently and on them grew silver and golden willows, and shone against the background of dark emerald grass, and some islands, overgrown with spruce and cedar, lay like dark loafs on a blue silk tablecloth.
Trees in the valley grew in groups — first lined up in rows along roads and paths, and then suddenly heading into the groves. Solitary trees were especially tall, striking one with their regal shape and size. Without exaggerating, I can say that many of them were as tall as a TV tower.
There were a lot of roads, but not a single asphalt one or one covered with concrete. They were mostly unpaved, or paved with white limestone slabs and rectangular bars of multi-colored granites, and this granite was closer in color to jaspers and agates than to the best granites of the Neva river embankments.
At the far end of the valley, the river emptied into a large blue lake. On its hilly banks stretched either a large village, or a small town, all shining with golden light, but itself white and white, with a high bell tower in the center.
"We are going there!" Grandfather pointed with his hand towards the town. “You can see the bell tower of the church where I serve over there. Next to it is the house where our family lives."
"Yes. My mother and her sister. You did not have the opportunity to meet them during your lifetime — they died before you were born — so now you will meet. And there is another person waiting for you. You will be very happy."
"Is it really my brother Alyosha?"
"Let's go, let's go to him quickly, Grandfather, dear!"
We soon reached the lake itself, and then my Guardian Angel suddenly said:
"I will not go further with you. It's better for you to spend the first day in your family circle. What are you afraid of? Here you are completely safe and you do not need a Guardian."
“I'm not scared at all, but I'm used to you being here."
"Tomorrow I will visit you."
His beautiful light-fiery wings rustled, he soared upward, blowing the breeze over us, turned into a wonderful white bird, made a circle above us and disappeared into the azure. And Grandfather and I, holding hands, walked briskly along the road to the town.
Near the first houses, a young man and a girl were sitting on a bench under a large, spreading elm tree. Seeing us, they got up and hurried to meet us. I froze in joyful hope.
"Hello, little sister!" said the young man and held out both hands to me.
Is it really Alyosha? There was something very familiar in his face, but it was difficult for me to immediately recognize in this slender handsome man the former chubby little brother. — He and I had been like two drops of water in childhood. We had even worn the same bangs; he only lacked braids. — And now in front of me stood a young man with a short, fair beard and long curls, my twin brother, but much younger than me. He was dressed almost like Grandfather, only without a cross on his chest.
We hugged and stood for a long time in silence and in shock.
"Are you here for good, Anya?"
I shook my head.
“We’ll tell you everything later,” said Grandfather. "Introduce Anna to her grandmother, Alexey."
Grandmother? Although I did not know my grandmother, I knew that she died at more than fifty years old: how can this blooming young woman be my grandmother?
"Does it surprise you that you have such a young grandmother here?" Grandfather smiled. "Get used to it, here all people are of the same age — we are all thirty-three years old. Children grow up, and old people grow younger until the age of Christ. Your grandmother's name is Catherine."
"You can just call me Katya," said my young grandmother, and she kissed me three times. "Welcome, Annushka!"
"Why isn't Nina here to meet us?" asked Grandfather.
“She is baking a cake for a meeting with her dear guest,” Katya said, and for some reason they all laughed.
We walked along the main street of the town, passed a square with an old mossy fountain and came to a church. My grandfather said that he wanted to go to the temple, and he told us to go to the house without him.
Katya, Alyosha, and I went to a white two-story house under a green roof with a triangular pediment, which could be seen in the depths of the church garden. Six columns along the facade separated the veranda from the garden and supported the bay window of the second floor.
When we came up to the house as we were talking, a beautiful young woman in a white apron and a long blue dress with rolled up sleeves came out onto the veranda. I guessed it was my grandmother's sister Nina. Stretching out her flour-stained hands to me, she exclaimed:
"My niece! Annushka! At last!" and briskly running down the steps, she hugged me.
And I had to call my great aunt just "Nina", as well.
They took me into the house and showed it to me: the interior decoration reminded me of old Russian estates. I was assigned a room on the second floor. Like all the rooms in this house, it was overlooking the garden.
Then Grandfather came in. Nina announced that the pie was ready, and called everyone to the table. We sat on the veranda at a large round table, eating cherry pie and drinking tea. It was strange — I kept secretly looking to see if the cherries were showing through my transparent body — but everything was in order: they just disappeared into my body without a trace.
At tea, Grandfather explained the situation in a few words. And everyone, naturally, was very upset for me. Alyosha, who was sitting next to me, did not let go of my hand during the story.
After tea I was offered a rest, which I really needed. As I found out later, no one sleeps in Paradise, because there is no need for it. Therefore, there were no beds in the house. But in my room and in other rooms there were couches and sofas, on which you could lie down to relax.
When I was left alone, I lay down on the sofa for a while. But then I got up and sat by the window, putting my hands and head on the windowsill, just looking at the lake in the distance with swans and ducks swimming on it, at the islands, at the lone sail on the distant shore . . . I didn’t think about anything, didn’t want anything, and didn’t even regret anything, I felt so good and calm . . .
Source: Мои посмертные приключения (Russian)
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