The smile of anubis, p.8
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       The Smile of Anubis, p.8

           Alexandra Serbay
 
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having clasped his hands on his back. With small steps and a meaningless smile on his face, the man was walking around from one group to another, peering over the shoulders, often blinking and nodding, interjecting in random conversations for a moment to immediately move on, not paying any attention to surprised looks that were following him all his way.

  Older Europeans was not a surprise to anyone in the South-East Asia for a long time now. Fit and relaxed like Benoit, still young in their bodies, but old in their souls like Thimeo, hiding from themselves as John-Jack, lost and having nowhere to go to as Frank – all of them were looking for the warmth they were getting from the local hot sun and some easy-virtue southern women.

  This man made Frank forget about everything. The hazy-at-first sense was getting stronger and spreading across his consciousness, filling him completely. He felt like he was looking at himself: a miserable witness of someone else’s life, eating scraps that had fallen to him from another’s feast. He had long had no feelings of his own, no plans, no ideas and only a stubborn ephemeral hope, and yet something incomprehensible had not let him see this.

  Every day he would take time, energy, emotions from people around him, while repaying them with strained jokes, outdated life experience and little money – with all he had. But soon this would end too, the emptiness would swallow him completely, and he would become this old man begging or snatching a crumb of life here, a crumb there.

  Frank stood still, not daring to move and break the cocoon of this mirage. It seemed that the earth was draining him of his last energy. Suddenly someone’s heavy hand lay on his shoulder:

  “Hey, buddy, have you gone deaf or what?” John-Jack’s sonorous voice brought him back to reality. “We’ve been calling to you for a couple of minutes and you were standing like an icy statue! What the…” The big man faltered seeing the eyes of his friend turning to him.

  “Are you OK, Frank?” Thimeo and Benoit, who approached them, asked in chorus.

  Having rubbed his eyes, Frank shook himself like a dog, pulled a smile on his face and said, “I’m ok, guys.” He peered around looking for the old man in the crowd, but he was nowhere to be seen. “I must have gotten overheated. Let’s go to the shade.”

  As they walked to the shady alley, Benoit ran to the tents with drinks and brought him a bottle of cold water. Frank drank it and grunted, looking into his friends’ worried faces.

  “Why look so scared? One can’t get a little bit too thoughtful without getting buried! I’ll survive all of you!” The three looked at each other in embarrassment, watching as Frank squeezed fun from himself.

  That evening everything was as usual: dinner, bar, dancing, a parody of love. Men are not inclined to dramatize and if a friend says “everything is fine”, then everything is fine. So everyone quickly forgot about the incident and enjoyed themselves. Benoit dazzled girls with his smile, Thimeo looked condescendingly as those around him, John-Jack was flexing his muscles, and Frank was being funny.

  In the morning, climbing the stairs, Frank did not see the delicate colors of a beautiful dawn that covered the sky with pink kisses. He passed by his favorite bench without even looking back. And he did not see the anguish on the face of Her, who was waiting to see him every morning with a silly ephemeral hope for something incomprehensible.

  Funeral music was playing somewhere nearby again. Very loud. As if defying the living. But it did not irritate Frank anymore. He surrendered. He became the emptiness.

  The Smile of Anubis

  Maybe life, maybe death, maybe dream

  And my trail on the snow getting cold.

  I am plodding to a remote gleam,

  Knowing nothing about what it holds.

  The smoked sky hung low, leaving only a small space between clouds of smog spreading high and the scorched ground. In the midst of chaos that the subsiding disaster left after itself, stood a hill on the top of which the darkness grew thicker, gaining volume and taking the form of a massive dog. The color deepened and the silhouette came to life, growing rough pelt that was darker than the pitch-black background. Only white teeth tore apart the gloom that absorbed everything, – Anubis was smiling.

  He had many names: Inpu, Upuaut, Duamutef, Bran, Emma-O, Hermes, Yama, Garmr, Sholotl, Simurgh, Simargl, Sarama… Some of them were so ancient they were totally forgotten. Others were never spoken or even known to people. He himself preferred to stay nameless, but when it was inevitable, he would remember how the ancient Greeks called him. He always loved the sound and depth of their language. This name matched him best, the sound of it sinking deep inside of him, merging with his essence and leaving an echo somewhere in the depth of his consciousness: A-nu-bis.

  Even his eyes could not penetrate the murk far enough, but he knew that she was somewhere out there on the way to sunrise, stubbornly taking step after step towards her goal. Her long hair disheveled, her skirt beating her feet obeying the wind, tears running down her cheeks, drawing uneven lines on her tired dirty face. Her sincere and intent plea continued ringing in his head.

  – You were heard. – He has been whispering to her every night while watching her sleep, but she did not believe herself. And sometimes, just for a moment, she would feel a burning desire to embrace and accept the oncoming inner madness as an escape from the outside madness; from the madness that was ripping apart the usual picture, smashing the whole world into smithereens, grinding reality with its implacable heartless jaws.

  He was worshiped as God and Son of the Sun; he was feared as the Destroyer of Life and the Lord of the Sacred Land; he was called the Protector of Tombs and The One Who Knew Mysteries; he was appealed to as Guardian from the Enemies and The King of Justice; but only those were right who considered him the Messenger, the Executor of the Father’s Will and the Opener of the Ways.

  – You were heard, child. And I came. –

  It was a beautiful morning: the sky was being covered with light pink brushstrokes. Soft morning sunrays were flooding the room, slowly getting closer to the bed. Birds that besieged the trees in the yard were chirping outside the window.

  She loved getting up at sunrise, breathing in fresh, not yet pervaded with dust, air and doing her chores while the sleeping city was watching its last sweetest dreams. But today she had no desire to get up at all. Having pulled the covers to her chin, she had a sweet stretch and decided to slacken in bed a little bit longer - just a few moments more.

  When was it? Today, three days, a week, a month ago? The black clouds that spanned the whole sky destroyed time: the lightless world had frozen and then gone mute, losing the last crumbs of life.

  The boom struck her ears. Having jumped up, she saw how an invisible hand wrested away a piece of the building across the road, then another, then one more. She was standing and watching the remains of the high building sinking down cloaked in the vortex of shiny debris, and could not comprehend what was going on. And then there was no time for contemplation.

  How she managed to get dressed and stumble outside she did not remember. The street was full of wreckage and scared, running people. Her hands were clenching the useless cellphone. There was no signal…and no thoughts either. Suddenly it flashed across her mind: “The subway would be a good hideout”, but it was too far. Something caught her eye while she slowed her pace, trying to make her head work. It was a drainage manhole with a broken hatch. She rushed to it, climbed down and managed to take a couple of steps when the ground started dancing and whisked her away, as a beautiful girl would whisk a speck of dust from her best outfit.

  What was pushing her to keep walking? What was making her wake up after a short full-of-nightmares sleep? What was stopping her from dying when everyone dear to her was dead? What was forcing her to continue living, when she had no reason to? Hope? No, rather the limitless stubbornness, which was her distinctive feature almost from birth.

  Something squeezed her hand, bringing the girl to her senses. Having opened her eyes, she was surprised to see a huge dog
of an inexplicable breed. It seemed that the dog was looking into her face, carefully clenching her hand in his teeth. It took her some time to understand what amazed her more: what she saw or that it did not scare her at all. Time stood still while the dog and the girl stared at one another. Then the dog opened his mouth, spit her hand out and sneezed. The girl sneezed back at him and looked around.

  The sewer well was dry and dark. It looked like a water drain, but the summer had been arid this year. She had no time to try to close the hatch, and she most probably had not enough strength for it. She was lucky to move away from the manhole as it was pierced to the ground by a slab of concrete wall. The block was crumbling, filling up the air with multiple pieces of its burly body and turning the air into a dusty molasses.

  “Good gracious, what happened?” the girl tried to say, but only a wheeze and a cough came out of her parched throat.

  The dog barked softly and impatiently stomped his paw, as if demanding her to stand up. For some reason she could see him clearly, unlike everything else. She stood up, shook off some dirt from herself and followed her strange companion through the blazing, ruined city.

  As she trudged along the devastated grounds, she muttered to herself, “Well, I can understand the war erasing cities and
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