White (Belaya). Beginning
The forest was beautiful. The bright sun was shining through branches of age-old oaks and pines and it threw bizarre spots of light onto the emerald green grass. A gentle breeze carried the delicate scent of flowers from afar, insects scurried about the blades of grass and wild forest bees buzzed in the air. In the foliage of the trees, birds were chirping invisible to the eye as ants marched along the trunks in unison. Through this splendour, without haste, walked a traveller in a long grey robe with a hood thrown over his head, hiding his face. On his shoulders, swaying to the beat of his steps, rested a braid which he lightly grasped with his hand. “This is where you are, old devil” he whispered not noticing the beauty surrounding him as he carefully pushed the branches apart. He tried not to get entangled in the sticky labyrinth of web spread between the bushes and trees. The weary stranger looked around and sat down on the nearest tree stump. He slung his scythe to the grass and stretched out his legs, throwing the hood back from his head.
As if by magic, the forest fell silent. The sky darkened rapidly. Only moments ago the sun was visible, and now it was swallowed by a formidable darkness, plunging all living things into darkness. Nature was on guard, the birds fell silent, only strong gusts of wind, ready to pluck branches from the tops of the trees. Thunder struck with a vengeance and a torrential downpour ensued. The sky was covered with a blanket of haze., only the flashes of lightning composed with a crackling sound of thunder. Damn you ... - the traveller hastily threw the hood back on, jumped to his feet and picked up the scythe from the ground.
The thunderstorm subsided as suddenly as it began. The sky brightened, the flashes of lightning became less frequent, the peels of thunder went away. The first rays of the sun seeped through the clouds, brightly reflected in the shallow puddles. The summer forest`s life revived again. The birds chirped happily, animals and insects emerged from their shelters, and the first mushrooms started to sprout in the most secret dark places. The Stranger nonchalantly shook his head, saddened at the failed rest. His eyes flashed with a ghostly light from under his hood. Throwing the braid over his shoulder, he moved on fast. After some time, the traveller stopped near a huge oak tree. The branches seemed to rest against the sky and the roots curled like bizarre snakes along the ground. A tiny hut huddled at the foot of this giant oak. Leaning on one side, with a leaky roof and a door overgrown with greenish moss, it looked fused with the grand old tree. The Stranger tapped with the shaft of his scythe on the dim window with lopsided shutters. The sleeve of his robe was pulled up, exposing yellowish bones without any sign of flesh. No answer prevailed, so he confidently pushed the door ajar , bending down so as not to hit the low lintel and entered the tiny abode. At the same moment, the ticking of clocks deafened him. They occupied the entire space of an unexpectedly spacious room. Ancient and modern, wall and wrist, even alarm clocks, they all went on, making ticking sounds, which, merged into a continuous , deafening hum. The Stranger swerved, and, leaning his scythe against the wall, pressed his hands to his head. Frowning in disgust, he looked around the room and cautiously headed to the far corner, where a low bed was found. Heaped with old rags, under which the outline of a human body was barely visible. Throwing back, one by one, several shabby blankets, the traveller took a step back and, with a sceptical chuckle, stared at the relics of a once oxygenated body. The dried skin was wrinkled, tightly fitting the thin bones. Sparse patches of grey hair framed a mummified skull. Twisted fingers, convulsively intertwined among themselves, rested on a sunken chest attached to bony legs that protruded over the headboard. “How long will you play the fool” the traveller grumbled in a tired voice, throwing back his hood. In the dim light, the yellowish bone of a completely naked skull gleamed. The bed creaked and the mummified body slowly took a sitting position. “Oh, it's you,” it mumbled through its toothless mouth, “so what do i owe this visit”? “Make yourself presentable at least”, said the stranger as he sank into a chair groaning
“One might think it is pleasant to look at you,” the mummy grumbled, rapidly, metamorphosing.
A bright radiance enveloped the wrinkled flesh, the body rapidly decreased in size, and a few moments later a tiny, pink-skinned baby with a light fluff on his head lay on the bed. He hummed cheerfully and smiled broadly with his toothless mouth. The traveller grunted in surprise, continuing to watch the transformation. A bright flash - and the baby disappeared, giving way to a cute little boy about five years old. A couple more moments, and the boy transformed into a teenager, then into a fully formed young man. The young man mischievously winked at the traveller with a green eye and, waving his hand, changed again. Now he was a mature man with a thick shock of dark hair on his head. “Maybe enough”? The stranger said, puzzled. “I’m not used to your tricks.” “Patience, my friend,” a cheerful voice sounded. The bright radiance finally dissipated, and a grey-haired old man appeared , on whose face green eyes shone with youthful radiance. His long hair was pulled back into a low ponytail, and a simple linen shirt and grey homespun pants emerged from his clothes. “That's better” said the grey-haired man and jumped out of the bed. - Quite another matter! “Greetings, buddy”, the traveller held out his hand, and the men exchanged a strong handshake. The visitor glanced with irritation at the numerous clocks that continued to tick deafeningly from all sides. “How do you live in such a noise? Let them shut up, ”he said. The owner of the house raised an eyebrow, and the clocks immediately stopped. - “Thank you”. - “What do I owe to your visit, Old Man”? the host asked. “Cynic! Am I the Old Man”? - the traveller snorted indignantly. Who are you then?” Hmm ... This is a philosophical question. I have not thought about this for a long time. So what brings you to me, old friend”? “As if I can't come just like that, without a reason,” an offended tone heard in the guest's voice. “In that case…” the owner of the house began, it was, then suddenly a heart-rending meow was heard from behind the door. “You sensed it, you rascal,” the grey-haired man said delightedly, opening the door.
The charcoal black cat flew into his arms in one leap. He began to rub his forehead against the man's chin, purring as he did so. Well, that's enough, that's enough, - he laughed. He scratched the feline behind the ear and lowered him to the floor. Better go and say hello to the guest. The cat flashed yellow eyes towards the figure sitting motionless on the chair and slowly walked towards him. Having carefully sniffed the hem of the grey robe, he jumped onto the lap of the stranger and, comfortably settled down. “You recognised me” the guest smiled and stroked the feline on the back.
In the meantime, the owner was arranging a simple treat on the table, which he took from the old sideboard. A lump of grey bread, nuts, honey and a bowl filled to the brim with fresh berries. Lastly putting a decanter of dark liquid and two pot-bellied glasses, he grunted with satisfaction and made an inviting gesture.
After a while, when the decanter was empty, and the ghostly gaze of the wanderer softened a little, the grey-haired host again asked his question: -“ What happened friend, If I can help you “... “The most you can do is listen to me,” said the guest. He rubbed his temples wearily and began his story: -“ I almost broke the Rules ...” -“Can not be! You know what this threatens “!!! - the green-eyed old man arched an eyebrow in amazement. - Yes. and, nevertheless, it is so, - said the traveller. -“ Sorry, I interrupted you”, - the owner of the house raised his hands in a conciliatory gesture. - “Do you know my friend,” - as if by force the guest continued his story, - that in the world of people there are houses where children live, abandoned by their parents? Don't ask me what reasons make people do this with their offspring, I don't know why ... honestly, I never thought about it. The Stranger went silent. His host sat motionless. “I recently visited one of these houses,” the traveller spoke again. - A lot of children`s souls went with me that day. There is such a trait in people, they call it carelessness, but I would put it differently ... He fell silent again. - “That awful night there was a terrible fire ... No one was left alive .”.. - the guest tightly grabbed the glass with his bony fingers and, with regret, stared at the empty decanter. The owner, understanding everything without words, snapped his fingers, and the decanter was refilled. “You are impressive! Straight wizard! “- the guest smiled gratefully and poured the dark liquid into the glasses. – “One soul could have been saved, but at the last moment the term of her earthly life was changed. She bravely rushed into the fire after the kitten. He was her friend, it turns out. She threw the animal out the window, but she herself could not jump out.” The stranger, in one go threw the drink into his mouth and suddenly hit the table with his fist. The teacup, with a pitiful clink, rolled to the edge and, unable to resist, fell down. The black cat, peacefully dozing on the bench, shuddered and raised its head. The men paid no attention to the broken cup. “For what? “The traveller looked inquiringly at the owner of the house, and immediately answered his own question, -“ Self-sacrifice! Could you give your life for me?” he asked, “oh yes, we do not live, but we exist .” He swung, intending to hit the table again. “Hey, hey, my friend calm down”! The green-eyed wizard sat down next to him and hugged the guest by the shoulders. “Why are you so worried about this situation? You have always been famous for your lack of emotion.” “I don’t know”. The Stranger icily gazed on his friend's face. He shuddered. “She sacrificed herself, for the sake of some animal…” the traveller continued, but, catching the reproachful glance of a black cat on himself, he hurried to correct himself. “Sorry maybe it was worth it ... probably.” The cat screeched knowingly. “Do you know what she said when I led her to the crossing”? The host shrugged vaguely. “She said: "Grandpa, I saved him!" whilst her little eyes are still shining. “The stranger poured himself another glass. “Grandfather”? The grey-haired man asked in amazement and thought about something for a while,” but, you said that you almost broke the rules. How did this happen”? “ I didn’t want to let her soul go into the passage”. The guest ´s voice saddened. “If you did that, you would have doomed her to eternal wandering between two worlds, and you would have suffered a severe punishment”. The owner of the house put his chin on his intertwined fingers and stared at the stranger with interest. “However the soul is already in transition, I can feel it.” “Where will they send her”? The stranger jumped up, grabbed the grey-haired host by the shoulders and shook him vigorously. “Take it easy, old man! I have no right to talk about it, you know the Rules”! “I'm sorry ... of course, you can't”, - the guest said dully and sank back into the chair. “One thing I can tell you. The soul is still in transition. It is not defined anywhere yet”.
The traveller nodded and got up heavily from the table, “I have to go. Thank you for listening.” He swayed slightly and took a few unsteady steps towards the door. “No, you are not going anywhere In this state”. The wizard took the guest by the arm, led him to the bed and pushed up the mountain of old blankets. “You need to rest,” he said carefully, hiding the stranger and belatedly asked, “who is watching your business”? “There are many helpers” muttered the traveller, falling asleep. The blue lights in the depths of the empty eye sockets were extinguished, now from there only impenetrable darkness looked at the man. “Well, that's nice. Rest for now.” Stepping silently, the owner of the house went out into the street, closing the door tightly behind him.
..... The stranger did not want to wake up. Consciousness clung to the last remnants of a dream. He rolled over and pulled the covers over his head. “You are a heavy sleeper!” - there was a mocking voice nearby. The stranger reproachfully glanced at the owner of the house, who was comfortably seated in an armchair with a book in his hands. “How are you?” the wizard offered sympathetically. “I haven't rested like that for a thousand years,” the stranger smiled. He slowly got out of bed and stretched his torso. “What did you put in my drink, you homemade alchemist?” “Don´t worry nothing special”. The owner of the house closed the book and easily jumped to his feet.” You should come more often especially when you have hard emotional distress”. He went to the table on which stood, blazing with heat, a samovar,” lets have tea”.
A few minutes later, the traveller blinked contentedly, sipping a fragrant herbal concoction. A faint sunbeam penetrated through the dim window, in which the room was danced by specks of dust visible to the eye. The black cat sprawled at ease on the table in the immediate vicinity of the hot samovar and purred softly, covering its yellow tiger eyes. “Its idyllic. I don't even want to leave”. The Stranger finished his tea and put the mug aside.” Come more often, you will get enough sleep here”.
“Thank you friend, it's time for me to go then.. Where is my instrument?” The guest looked around, and, seeing a scythe at the wall, headed towards it. “Wait, I have a gift for you”, the host said. In his hand, mysteriously materialized a small bundle, tied in a linen rag. Your gift. The amazement of the traveller was genuine. “People would give anything to get it”. -“I know! They keep coming and asking ...I am tired of them ... That is why you met me in such a disguised state?” The owner then handed the bundle to the guest.” So you like to deceive them”. he smiled.
“Yes” the green eyes flashed mischievously from under bushy eyebrows. The reaction of them to my appearance is quite funny. “.Thank you, friend “ the traveller said and nodded at the bundle in his hands, “when should I open it”? “When you reach the edge of the forest then you can open it” - said the owner of the house and waved goodbye, watching the lonely, slowly receding figure. As soon as the traveller disappeared from sight, a barely noticeable haze enveloped the man. A voice out of nowhere was asking the host “are we not committing a mistake”? The grey haired wizard showed no signs of concern, as if he expected this question. “I don’t think so. That old man has been doing his job, for how long? “He moved his lips, counting something in his mind ,” But it doesn't matter how long. He deserves a gift anyway.” “True” answered the voice after a little hesitation.” We will observe them, it should be interesting.” “We will definitely not be bored! This will be the beginning of a new story”. The owner of the house sat down on the porch and closed his eyes dreamily.
Clutching the gift to his chest, the wanderer hurried out of the forest. The thrown back hood was dangling behind his back like a grey rag, and the braid, casually thrown over his shoulder, strove to slip off with every step. The foliage rustled softly, parting in front of him, the emerald grass was like a carpet under his feet, the voices of birds, rushed after him, and above his head, a bright butterfly circled, every now and then, trying to fall on his shoulder. Having reached the coveted forest edge, the traveller sank heavily into the tall grass. Holding the package in the palm of his hand, he froze, not daring to unfold it.
Finally, gathering his courage, he pulled the string that released the knot. The linen rag opened, revealing to the wanderer a snow-white egg, slightly larger than an earthly chickens. It sparkled softly in the rays of the setting sun, bewitching and attracting the eye. Well ... And what should I do with this? grumbled the traveller, gently touching the egg with his index finger. As if responding to a touch, it shimmered harder, and a crack ripped along its side. The Stranger froze, afraid to move. Now many small cracks covered the surface of the egg, and he carefully lowered it into the soft grass. A quiet "crack", one after another made shell particles fall off, and a blinding light poured from the openings formed. What is it? The traveller covered his eyes with his hand, unable to bear the overwhelming emotions. When he regained the ability to see, the egg disappeared. Instead, a small figure appeared in a light grey robe sitting on the grass. Leaning low to the ground, she hugged her shoulders with her arms. A deep hood hid her face. “Where am i?” A gentle voice sounded, “what am I?” The figurine slowly straightened up, the hood fell on her shoulders, and the traveller was amazed to see a small copy of himself. Amazingly beautiful eyes stared at him trustingly. Crystal clear, transparent blue, they shone brightly in the holes of the eye sockets. “ Welcome, baby “ the astonished wanderer suddenly felt a pleasant warmth spread in his chest. For several moments she carefully stared at the traveller. He was slightly embarrassed under her naive, completely childish gaze. "You are handsome ... and you look like me," she said finally. “That’s right”, he moved closer and touched his hand to her thin wrist, “we are alike.” “Only I am white, and you are not,” - the little girl ran a finger of her other hand over the yellowish wrist of the traveller. “It’s because I’m many years old, and you’re very young,” he explained. “What is my name”? she, trustingly pressed to his side. “I will call you White,” the stranger said after a moment's thought and stroked her head. “ Why- ytt… “the baby said in syllables, - “A little strange name, but I like it!” -She got to her feet and took a few hesitant steps. “I agree to be White!” Sitting on the ground, the traveller enjoyed watching her movements. “You old schemer,” he muttered with a smile, remembering the slyly narrowed green eyes of the grey-haired wizard.
“ And what is your name”? White came up audibly and touched his shoulder. “Call me Grandpa,” the stranger smiled broadly. “Grandpa,” as if tasting the word, said the baby. This is a very beautiful name!
The traveller sighed with relief and got to his feet. The small figure barely reached his waist with the top of her head. - “Let's go, granddaughter”? He said, holding out his hand to her. “And where to”? White, looked inquiringly at the stranger. “Home,” he replied. White trustingly put her hand in the palm of her grandfather. “What a good word, home. It's warm and smells like jam, ”she smiled. “You will have some jam”, said the Traveller, and two figures slowly moving away, melted in the rays of the setting sun .
(с)Adalinda Анна Никольская