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1 May, Ursula

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  • Аннотация:
    Сон, который одновременно видели Урсула и Франческо.

  The screen was a blinding blue blur. Beside me, I could see the lava lamp with its colorful moving blobs of orange and yellow wax, amidst the all that sterile whiteness of the office furniture, the computer, the blinds on the windows, the papers scattered on my desk. I opened MSWord and stared at the blank white, then at the papers on my desk again, unable to really type anything. I hadn't slept for something close to a hundred hours, or maybe more, and it showed. The weakness was overwhelming, and I felt like burying my face in my arms, right there at the desk, and allowing it to get the better of me.
  
  With each day, the languor that stole over me was becoming deeper. While the sun was coming up, the blood coursing through my body seemed to slowly turn into lead, and my eyelids, too, became leaden, so that it was a struggle just to keep my eyes open. Things would become clouded and chaotic, as they are for someone who is running a high fever and perceives only separate moments, snippets that do not connect into a coherent sequence. Some mist would wrap around me, separating me from the world, which came to me only from a tremendous distance; I would be detached like a truly lifeless thing, and hardly capable of thinking. Even the pains, or the feverish chill I felt no matter how hot it was outside, would become too distant for me to care. Up until sunset, I would move as if in a slow-motion movie, - mechanically, only dimly aware of what was taking place around me, and most of the time able only to sit and stare thoughtlessly into space.
  
  But the thought of going to sleep during the day was terrifying. As soon as I closed my eyes, a tremendous weight I couldn't support would suddenly be upon me, and I would strive to throw it off, knowing all the while that I won't be able to; and then, against my will, I would be thrust deeper and deeper into some dark tunnel, until there was complete oblivion. It was too much like death, and each time I dreaded that I would never wake again. So I preferred to wander around my apartment, or my office in the headquarters of the order, like a silent shadow, rather than succumb to that inhuman heavy sleep.
  
  I did not want to yield to it now, either. Except I was so weak I could barely walk, and I simply had to lie down. I won't sleep, I told myself. I will just close my eyes for a little while; then I'll make myself open them again, and stand up and continue with that typing, no matter how hard it would be. Holding onto the desk and the chair for support, I stumbled to the portable couch that had been placed in my office since I had started to change, and collapsed onto it. Things were swimming, - a bright glowing orange against the whiteness, - and I was shivering and sick, and really wanted to shut my eyes and lie still. With the last strength I had, I reached for my trenchcoat, which was hanging at the foot of the couch, and pulled it over myself.
  
  ...The water surrounded us. Its immense weight was upon me, so that it was difficult to make even the slightest movement; its cold seeped underneath my skin and seemed to reach my very bones, and I could only shiver helplessly as it invaded me, making me feel as if I were being turned into ice.
  
  The darkness we were immersed in was broken only by a very dim green light, which came from who only knew where. We held one another in our arms. I could only see the black woolen fabric on his chest; a thread had come loose where it was torn, and moved in the water in a mesmerising, slow manner. But his face was obscured by the darkness, and I couldn't make it out. Yet, one thing I was sure of: it was Francesco.
  
  Before, there had been many hours of sinking through the chilly grassy green, filled with a pale radiance that seemed to come from everywhere at once. The water tossed and tilted me hither and thither, and there was a melodic singing sound in my ears. It was not too late yet. I could still swim up to the surface and then back to the shore, if I wished. I wondered if I should do it, but there was something that made me hesitate and choose to continue sinking, - something important that had to be done down there, below. With each moment, I sank deeper, and struggling upwards towards the surface through those cold waters became a greater and more arduous task. Yet the moments passed and I was still painfully undecided, and I think inside I knew already that I wouldn't try it. The greenness condensed until it was nearly black, and I understood I had gone too far, and wouldn't be able to emerge ever again. I had only one way to go - down and down and down, until I hit the gray sandy bottom.
  
  Then, almost blindly, barely able to see the dark gray sand beneath my feet, I made my way through the thick body of water, - thick and cold, so cold that it made me want to curl up on the ocean floor and stay motionless for the ages to come. I breathed in water, too, and it came natural as though I were some sea creature, except that I could never get enough of it. It never sated me, and I knew only air would, - and air was all I wanted, but there was none and I knew there was no way for me to get any again. But I had to walk on. I needed to find Francesco, no matter what it would take me. Something would happen to him if I didn't manage to do it, - I couldn't exactly tell what it would be, but the very thought of it filled me with dread. I were there with him, that terrifying thing would never be.
  
  And I found him. He was here, I was holding him; and it was all that mattered.
  
  Far away, a faint light was born, and as I watched, it grew steadily. The darkness began to dissipate, first in that spot on the very periphery of my vision, and then all around us as well; the green of the water was growing brighter, and I could only watch in wonder as the dawn of something new and altogether indescribable descended on us.
  
  I raised my head to look at Francesco. I could see his face very clearly now; he was smiling, - a gentle, glowing smile I'd never seen before. But I could've sworn he had never been any other way. Fighting the resistance of the water which made his movement seem almost awkward, he ran his fingers along the edge of my face, and through a strand of hair; then he hurried to put his arm around me again and press me close to him, as if fearing to lose touch with me for too long, lest I be torn away from him forever by some superior force. It was only right, after all, we were one single thing, weren't we. As our bodies touched, our arms twining, I had difficulty telling which one of us was which; and yet I felt more myself than ever before, and knew most fully what it meant to be *me*, Ursula, someone who isn't like any other person in the whole world.
  
  The ocean was transparent now, becoming greenish very far away. If I looked very closely, I could make out a faint line there, amidst what seemed to be soft clouds suspended in the water. Suddenly, it occurred to me that I was looking at the horizon, just as it would be on dry land, - except there was water everywhere, as far as eyes could see, and we were two creatures buried at the bottom of the ocean. The waters were becoming brighter and brighter still, and as I looked into the undulating, shimmering distance, I kept asking myself - what is this?..
  
  The sun was coming up.
  
  The edge of it struck the murky horizon, and threads of light penetrated the moving water, branching out into smaller and smaller ones. They reached us and seemed to tangle around us, forming a tender living net. The clouds caught the light, too, so that their milky whiteness was now soaked with gold; they morphed slowly into wild, mythical shapes, that changed and merged with each other, or melted into delicate wisps of mist which would then drift away, and dissolve.
  
  I wondered, and I did not understand. Then it dawned on me, and I looked up at Francesco with a feeling resonating in some secret corner of me that was ecstatic, but also tender and in some strange way, shy. The glory of it, - why have you thought it would never happen? Francesco's eyes sparkled like two green jewels, while a web of golden streaks throbbed within them; soft shadows shifted on his face, and when they left, quivering lines of shining gold took their place. His features were transfigured by the triumphant joy which I, too, felt and shared, and which made him look altogether like a new being.
  
  It shines. It shines, and you are not hurt, and neither am I. Look, Francesco; it shines for us, too.
  
  I thought of the sheer vastness of it all, and there was a sudden surge of panic. I realized that what I'd left behind was too far from me, and I would never make my way back again. I was here forever. It was a frightening word, that, and for a few moments I wished desperately that I could be back in the world I'd always known, while at the same time the realization was settling in that this was never to happen. But the fear subsided soon. I had Francesco now, and this was the single important thing; and he had me. And, even though, still living, we were entombed within this cold mass of water, miles and miles away from the land of the other men, it didn't matter. We were together, and we would confront whatever came our way together, too, and the cold and the loneliness weren't half as terrifying for two as they would be for one.
  
  The sun swam up, and everything around us exploded with its light. An exuberant chorus of many voices, much more sonorous than those of any man, were singing in my ears; it seemed they were accompanied by music - what? lutes? violins? flutes? I couldn't tell. It seeemed to be calling us by name, as if trying to tell us that all this was meant especially for us, and we had to watch and to be happy now. And I also thought there and then that the two of us had to be together to witness this majestic, overwhelming sight, and that we'd never be able to see it if each of us was separate.
  
  ...Holding me, shaking me. A voice saying something, so far away, - what?..
  
  I struggled to make sense of the words, and the language. My eyes would not open, and I was trying hard not to let myself sink again, latching onto every sound and every sensation that came to me from the world which I strove to enter once more.
  
  'Can you hear me? Try to wake up, friend. Please, try to wake up.'
  
  I made a desperate effort and opened my eyes. Through a thick haze, I saw the office, the white desk with the heaps of papers, the computer that gave a soft, steady buzz. The familiar face was bending above me, - the calm face of a wise child in John Lennon glasses, his hazel eyes warm and concerned. Jim.
  
  'I hate to have to wake you like this. I know you need to sleep now. I wouldn't be doing it if Lucio wasn't insisting so bad on seeing you. We'll just go there and back again, and then you can sleep all you like. Okay? I'll help you.'
  
  I was shivering very badly. The sheer incogruity of it all made me smile. To be suffering from cold at a time when the rest of the headquarters is using air-conditioning, and won't know where to hide from the heat before long. There was a sense of disgusting tight pressure in my throat, and just beneath my tongue, and sickness rose in me in waves; when an especially strong one came, a spasm went through my body, so that it tensed and stretched painfully. I had to grasp the edge of the couch. Why, this beats having a bad flu with viral pneumonia as a complication, I thought. You do not really get either of those for several months on end. Or have them go with symptoms of arsenic poisoning.
  
  Before I knew it, Jim had wrapped up one of my sweaters into a makeshift pillow, and placed it underneath my head, so that I was propped up in a half-reclining position. Then I saw a plastic cup filled with steaming broth before me. I took it gratefully, feeling my cold hands warm up. The sickening pressure under my tongue would not go, and my jaws were locked so that it took some time before I could actually drink. Even then, my teeth hit the cup a few times in a nasty way, and I had to keep fighting back the sickness. Gee, what a mess I have become. But as I sipped the hot salty, spicy drink, the illness seemed to recede somewhat, and I felt much more tolerable.
  
  But there was something else as well. A little later, when I stood in Lucio's office and heard him going on and on about something, - as always, irritated and in a raised tone, - but not really listening, I could not suppress a warm feeling that had nothing to do with him, or the office, or anything that was happening then. Yes, everything would be well.
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