Copyright 2015 Ukvard Mil
Smashword Edition, Licence Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Translated by Sheila Sofrenovic
Cover picture source: Woman, Tomas Dratnal (Pixabay); Churning, Brigitte Werner (Pixabay)
All is quiet amid the date palms in the garden. All you can hear is a murmur coming from the white sandy beach that divides the vegetation from the water. It’s the sound of the sea, whose waves are breaking into foam in the shallows. Somewhere far away, on the line that separates the sky and the sea, a bright spot appears, the top of a large circle rising slowly out of the sea. It is daybreak.
The first rays of the morning sun sneak through the palms to the window of Adrian’s room. They peer inside and tickle the sleeping face. At the first sensation of light, the hitherto peaceful shape gives a little wriggle and then emits a long-drawn-out sigh. It is a satisfied sigh signaling a return from a pleasant slumber to an equally pleasant reality. Adrian opens his eyes, which blink, then begin to accustom themselves to the peaceful Caribbean morning.
He went out into the garden behind the house and plucked a banana. Anyone who has tried bananas from that garden knows that there is nothing sweeter in this world. He headed towards the sun, in his yellow bathing shorts, barefoot, peeling the fruit as he went. He walked down the beach into the sea and set off through the water, hugging the shoreline for his customary stroll. Whenever possible, Adrian would take a walk through the shallow water; the rustling sea foam swirling round his legs was a pleasure he’d never avoid.
There was one habit from childhood Lydia had never changed – she’d always wake up with the rising sun. Sunlight had just begun to spread over the island and she was already in the garden. Cheerful as ever, she went up to the table beneath the sea grape trees and kissed her parents who were already drinking their morning coffee. They’d get up earlier.
“This is how you like it, isn’t it?” her mother asked.
“This is the real McCoy, like a new moon.” Lydia took from the plate a slice of freshly picked coconut and headed for the beach.
“Are you going to Linea?” her father enquired, just to say something.
“Where else would I be going?”
Moments later, the perfectly formed figure was walking over the soft Caribbean sand towards Linea. Nothing lovelier had ever walked the island.
The island was of a peculiar shape. Perhaps it would be most accurate to describe it as an hourglass, or rather, its glassy part. If we imagine the narrow part of an hourglass to be much longer, then we get a good idea of what the island looked like. The two approximately symmetrical halves of the island were linked by a narrow sandy spit. It was not so narrow as to be called a path. Nor was it dry enough to be termed a beach. The water only retreated from it at low tide and then not always, as there were constant waves. While the sea around the rest of the island was fairly calm, this sandy spit offered a different picture. This was due to the constellation of sea currents and winds around the island. This sandy crossing, where the waves lapped all the time was what the locals called – Linea. In centuries past, it had gone under the name of Two Seas. Today, this term has almost been lost.
The winds and sea currents seemed to have come to an agreement about pushing waves towards this part of the island from both sides. Someone will probably recall: “But the waves actually collide at that Linea!” And they’d be right. People seeing this phenomenon for the first time usually say they have never seen anything like it in their lives. And the waves are by no means small. Nor they are so big as to make bathing at Linea dangerous. But they are large for children. “I can hardly wait to grow up and swim at Linea!” you’ll hear from children on the island. Bathing in that crater of churning foam is an experience that almost defies the imagination. Linea is the dream of everyone who likes swimming amid waves.
Almost in a trance and humming happily to himself, Adrian approached the spot where the shoreline curved gently to the left. It was here that the gentle, pleasant sound of the sea started to change and grow louder. On the curve itself you could already hear the roar of the waves that increased with every new step you took. The wondrous spectacle of two seas locked in battle now appeared before Adrian’s eyes. He went up to this scene that was taking place and lay down in a safe place on the sand out of the reach of the waves. He gazed towards the center of the fight where the two seas crash against each other, creating a whirlpool of foam. Just then, the fierce battle seemed to die down for a moment, as if the waves themselves were confused. Adrian shivered with joy and excitement, he stopped breathing and his heart beat faster. A heavenly vision appeared against the majestic white of the sea. The most beautiful word escaped Adrian’s lips in a whisper. It was the name of an angel.
Enjoy the scene or become part of it? This dilemma was resolved by the apparition in the foam that made a hand signal. Spellbound, Adrian jumped up and hurled himself into the waves. The waves were not best pleased by this and threw themselves at the newcomer. They wanted Lydia for themselves. But Adrian was in such a dreamlike state that nothing could stop him. And there, where sea fights sea, the two beings came together.
The sun was about halfway up the sky when other bathers started to arrive at Linea. Sandra and Roberto were among the first, unrolling their beach mats. They were a couple. And with them was Luna, Sandra’s cousin. She fixed her gaze on Lydia and Adrian who were coming out of the water. Roberto noticed that Luna was hypnotized.
“Best legs in the Caribbean!” he whispered.
Luna came back to reality. “I don’t doubt it…” she mumbled, bemused.
“And there’s something equally good,” Roberto couldn’t resist.
“Think so? Aren’t they maybe a bit fat?” Sandra said skeptically. There was nothing wrong with her hearing.
“I wouldn’t mind a pair like that,” her younger cousin ventured.
“What do you mean, you wouldn’t mind?” asked Roberto.
“Quiet, you two. Here they are!”
Lydia and Adrian came up and greeted their friends.
“This is Luna, Clara’s daughter,” Sandra introduced her cousin.
“Aunt Clara from New York?” asked Adrian.
“You know my Mom?”
“Only out of Sandra’s story; and she describes people so well I almost feel I know your mother.”
“Sandra and her stories. What’s the water like?” Roberto changed the subject. He was clearly itching to get in among the waves.
“Interesting,” Lydia said shortly.
“What do you mean, interesting?”
“The water temperature isn’t the same on both sides. First you get hit by a new cold wave, then a warm one, then they get mixed together, and off you go again. It feels strange, but nice.”
“Then we should give ourselves up to the sea as soon as possible. Are you two staying on?”
“We’re just off to Simon and Maggie’s to play some mini golf. We agreed last night.”
“Isn’t it a bit hot for mini golf at this time of day?” Sandra inquired.
“Not at Simon’s place, there’s plenty of shade,” Roberto explained. “What’s Simon been up to? I haven’t seen him for days now?”
“He’s writing a short story,” Adrian replied. “They come here, too, but later, after lunch. We’ll be coming back with them. Come on, quick, into the water. We won’t hold you up anymore.”
“Good luck with the mini golf!”
“Thanks. See you.”
“Say hi to Simon and Maggie!”
As soon as the wet couple started away, Luna moved towards her cousin. “That girl Lydia…” she began hesitantly, and then stopped.
“What about her?” her cousin asked. “You were gaping at her, if I’m not mistaken.”
“No, I mean…”
“Well, what do you mean?”
“Does she always go around like that?”
“You mean – without a swimsuit?”
“Lydia never wears clothes.”
“Not even in the evening?”
Before Simon was born, his grandfather planted twenty mango trees behind the house. Today they are part of the large garden and offer the greatest shade. The mini golf course had been laid out beneath this natural protection from the sun. Simon had built it a few years ago.
“Which hole am I aiming for?” Adrian was confused. The sun’s rays had managed to penetrate through the branches and were partly shining down on the spot where Adrian’s hole was. This play of light and shadow gave the illusion of two holes.
Lydia went up to the hole and stood above it, her legs apart.
“Now you know where to aim,” she said.
And sure thing, there was no longer any doubt as to where to hit the ball. Adrian took careful aim and – shot straight into the hole.
“With that kind of help, it’s impossible to miss,” Simon said cheerfully.
“Well, just to even things up, as I’m the worst player anyway.”
Later, as Maggie and Lydia were busying themselves with lunch, the men strolled round the garden. Adrian was in his usual good mood, but Simon was thoughtful.
“Are you breaking your head about the short story?”
“No, there’s something else bothering me…”
“What is it?”
“Share your trouble with a friend, you’ll feel better.”
“I shouldn’t be talking about it.”
“You know best. But I’d like to help if I can, to cheer you up. Is it about you and Maggie?”
“No, it isn’t.”
“But there is a problem.”
“Hmmm… Maybe it’s not exactly a problem… I’m not sure.”
“If it isn’t a problem, then there’s no cause for worry, is there?”
“Well… I guess not. Do you hear something? I think Maggie’s calling us for lunch.”
“Yeah, that’s her voice alright.”
They went off to lunch.
Stepping lightly and in good spirits, the quartet left the last shade of the cypresses and emerged onto Linea.
“Is that Luna?” Lydia asked.
“Who’s Luna?” Maggie was interested.
“The daughter of Sandra’s aunt in New York,” Adrian explained.
“You know Aunt Clara?”
“Only by repute. But it’s as if I know her. Sandra told me all about her…”
“I know, you don’t have to tell me.”
They went up to Luna.
“Where’s the rest of the gang?” Adrian inquired.
“We went home together, but they have a siesta in the afternoon.”
“Oh yes, they’re famous for that. So you too are here for the second time today.”
“The second, but not the last.”
“You mean, you’re coming again?”
“Yes, at midnight.”
The four friends exchanged looks.
“At midnight?” Maggie said. “But why, what will you do here at midnight?”
“Look at the sky. Conditions are ideal for that. I’m writing an essay on astronomy.”
“An essay on astronomy?”
“I study astronomy.”
“Why didn’t you say so?” Adrian rejoined cheerfully. “What year are you?”
“We can carry on with this in the water, can’t we?” Lydia reminded them.
So the five of them headed into the foam.
The night sky above the Caribbean. If you’ve never seen it, you can’t imagine the beauty of the sky at night. The air here is famed for its qualities – clearness, above all, which is why the stars shine brighter here than anywhere else. Just because of this special luminosity, these islands are threatened by complete darkness only when it’s cloudy. You can never get lost here in clear nights, even when there is no moonlight. The night was just such at Linea, clear and with no moonlight. And the air was warm.
Luna was lying on the sand, admiring the view. On the beach mat beside her there was a small handheld telescope, a notebook and pencil, and a lamp, in case she had to write something. The waves were still roaring, but were less turbulent than during the day. They were gathering strength for the morning to come. And there was something else, something unfamiliar. Out of the corner of her eye, Luna noticed a shape rising out of the waves. She stopped looking at the sky, switched her gaze to the sea foam and was seized with a feeling of fear. When the shape got a bit nearer and became clearer, the fear turned into another kind of excitement. The sort of excitement we all secretly wish for.
Lydia. She came out of the water and lay down on the sand next to Luna.
“May I watch with you?” she asked quietly.
Luna was so stunned that she couldn’t reply.
“There, that’s the Great Bear. But everyone knows that. You know so much more. Will you show me?”
Again, Luna was lost for words. Lydia turned to the girl, who couldn’t stay silent anymore.
“Alright,” she stammered.
“Look at that star… there, at the end…” Luna began uncertainly.
“You mean the head of the Great Bear?”
“That’s the tail. Let’s go in order…”
And one by one, Luna showed Lydia all the stars in this great constellation.
“Incredible! And I thought the Great Bear has only those seven stars,” she said, pointing to the stars that shone brighter than the rest.
“I used to think so, too. Shall I show you the Draco constellation? It’s interesting and very pretty.”
“I’d love that! But perhaps you’d prefer to be writing your essay.”
Essay? Luna hadn’t given her essay a thought. What’s a miserable essay next to all this beauty? Step by step, she introduced Lydia to different objects in the night sky – Hercules and Lyra, Cassiopeia and Perseus, the stars Vega and Altair, and the Andromeda galaxy. She uncovered a whole new world to Lydia’s inquiring eyes. It was the first time Lydia had seen Mars and Jupiter up there.
“This is fantastic! Up to now, space has always been for me a bunch of bright spots. Who would have thought that mist is actually the Milky Way!”
“Your island is ideal for studying the stars. You can see the whole northern and part of the southern sky. That’s because you’re near the Equator. And the pure air and gentle winds offer perfect visibility. Back home in New York, I can’t see a tenth of what you can see here.”
“I want to ask you something.”
“Does it bother you than I don’t wear clothes?” she whispered.
Luna’s lips stuck together. She again turned to that same confused creature from the beginning of the conversation.
“I got the impression you were avoiding looking at me because I’m naked,” Lydia continued in the same quiet tone.
“Oh no, no…” Luna managed to squeeze out. Actually, I like your being naked, is what she would have said if she had the courage. “Are you always naked?” she said instead, this being all she could manage.
“Have been since childhood. I completely lost the habit of wearing clothes. And the climate is so great here that you don’t need them.”
They both fell silent for a while. Luna felt an inner churning. Her heart was thumping. For a moment, she imagined that this nocturnal incident was a fantasy from her dreams. What if Lydia is an apparition and will suddenly disappear? was the thought that flashed through her mind. The idea scared her.
“I noticed something today,” Lydia broke the silence gently.
“What was that?”
“Today, at the beach.”
“At the beach?”
Lydia turned to Luna and waited. Waited for Luna to do the same. They both now sat looking at each other.
“I saw you looking at me,” Lydia said in a muted voice.
Luna did not react. A new wave of excitement swept through her young body. She was all shivering, from a feeling she had not experienced before. Lydia grabbed her hand. Luna trembled with happiness. She squeezed Lydia’s palm.
“How long are you staying?”
“Till the end of the summer.”
Humming away as he did each morning, Adrian was getting near his favorite swimming location – striding through the shallows, of course. He reached the spot and scratched his head. There was Lydia lying in the sand. Adrian went to say something, but the girl beat him to it.
“She’s very pretty, isn’t she?”
“You must admit that she’s lovely. With those dark eyes that look at you mysteriously. Have you noticed that enigmatic look?”
“She’s pretty, I agree. I didn’t notice the eyes. But she’s smart, no doubt of that.”
“Very smart! You should see how well she explains things! She showed me some fascinating things in the sky.”
“Showed you? Wait a moment… You were with her?”
“Luna’s writing that essay, remember?”
“Oh yeah, the one on astronomy! She said she’d come here at midnight to watch the sky. So you joined her?”
“And I wasn’t wrong!”
“So you were here with Sandra’s cousin… How long did you stay?”
“We never went home.”
“But how… You mean you were here all night?”
“Well, where’s Luna?”
“She left a while back.”
Adrian thought for a moment. “But what were the two of you doing here till now,” he said. “She wasn’t showing you the sky the whole time, was she?”
“Well, no. Only at the beginning.”
“At the beginning? At the beginning of what? What did you do after looking at the sky?”
“Well… after that… you know…”
“After that, we…” Lydia repeated, then stopped again. She couldn’t finish her sentence. A blush spread over her lovely face. Her lips parted in a special smile, at the same time alluring, yet shy. It was the sort of smile that made Adrian’s heart dance. He sat down on the sand beside her.
“You don’t mean?!”
Yes, we did, all night, was the message from Lydia’s eyes. But she remained silent.
“All night.” Lydia finally put it into words.
“But that’s wonderful!” Adrian cried in delight. “And how was it?”
“How do you think it was?” Lydia came to life. Her reserve of just before had been spontaneous, but not entirely honest. It was simply part of her natural seductiveness. Adrian really liked this trait in her.
“Well, I guess it was better than good,” he estimated.
“That’s putting it mildly.”
“Oho! And Luna?”
“Luna nearly went crazy with happiness. She told me she had never experienced anything like it in her life. And that she was in love with me.”
“So I’m not the only one, then,” said Adrian breezily. He lay down, turned towards the girl and kissed her. Then he kissed both her hands, her forehead, and her lips once more. He fell silent. As if yielding to his dreams. “And how about you?” he said finally.
“Have you fallen in love with Luna?”
Lydia gazed at him with her big eyes, blue as the ocean. She blushed again.
“Yes,” she whispered.
Adrian took a deep breath and his eyes shone with joy.
“Lydia and Luna,” he uttered in a kind of trance, still trying to get his mind round it, as if the words made him drunk. “Lydia and Luna on Linea! All night! All night, you said! God knows you must be shattered! Do you want to take a nap?”
“Well, I might grab some sleep before the other bathers arrive. Hey, I’ve just remembered! Guess what Luna said to me this morning! Just before she left.”
“What was that?”
“You and Adrian are an item, aren’t you?” she said.
“Yes,” I said.
“Obviously, you won’t tell him anything about this?”
“Why shouldn’t I?”
“Because you’ll hurt him. He won’t like hearing it.”
“You must be joking! He’ll be thrilled!” I told her. She just looked bewildered.
“I don’t get it,” said Adrian, “I don’t understand why Luna thinks it would bother me that the two of you…”
“It’s not clear to me either. It seems that they look at these things differently over there in New York.”
“Yes, that New York is a strange city.”
“I think so, too.”
Maggie and Simon did something new that morning: they appeared at the beach. It was before the noisy crowd that came later.
“Wonders will never cease!” Adrian shouted merrily. “Or perhaps you just made a mistake. It’s not the afternoon yet. Go back home!” Adrian was in high spirits.
“No one should be a slave to habit,” answered Maggie. “Is that Lydia sleeping over there?” she lowered her voice.
“I told her to take a nap. She’s very tired.”
“From doing what?”
“From making love to Luna all night.”
“To Luna?” Maggie was astounded. “I didn’t know the two of them were an item.”
“They weren’t. Until last night.”
“Where were they? On the beach?”
“Yes. They had an unforgettable night.”
“Really? That’s great! I’m glad for both of them!”
“I don’t remember Lydia being so excited. They’re crazy about each other, it seems. Luna admitted that she’s in love with her.”
“Everyone’s in love with Lydia.”
“You don’t say?”
“Well, who wouldn’t be? Remember the photos I took last week?”
“I remember you photographing Lydia under the waterfall. Are those the ones you mean?”
“Yes, I made a big poster out of one shot, framed it and hung it on the wall of the bedroom. Is there any nicer present than that when you open your eyes in the morning! Lydia standing arms raised beneath the waterfall in all her staggering beauty… quite given up to the joys of the water flowing over her ample…” Maggie took a breath here and closed her eyes so as to get a better view of the image she was conjuring up.
“When are we going to the waterfall – in three days, isn’t it?” asked Adrian. The four of them were in the habit of going into the forest on a Saturday. Maggie didn’t hear him. She was engrossed in her daydreaming.
“Anyone coming in to face the waves?” Simon’s voice rang out.
“You go ahead, you two,” said Maggie. “I’ll wait here for Lydia to wake up.”
“OK, so we’ll head for the other shore, Adrian! Take good care of our angel, Maggie!”
Simon and Adrian hared down into the water and soon disappeared among the waves. It is an old island custom that swimmers race each other to Linea’s opposite shore, swimming the length of the line that joins the two seas. That race through the foam and the waves is always unpredictable and anything can happen. Sometimes, a person gets so lost in the waves that he swims back to where he started. And you can only race at high tide, when the water along the spit is sufficiently deep that you can swim in it when the waves recede.
“This is completely crazy! You don’t know where you are!” Simon said breathlessly as he emerged on the other side of Linea. “I didn’t even notice when you passed me.”
“The waves were on my side today,” Adrian replied cheerfully. “But what was that all about yesterday?”
“What do you mean?”
“When we were walking round your garden. You were lost in thought.”
“Oh, that. Nothing, forget it.”
“You said that what was worrying you had nothing to do with you and Maggie.”
“Does it have anything to do with me?”
“With you? Why would it have anything to do with you?”
“I don’t know. Does it?”
“Even if it did, trust me, it’s not worth arguing about. It’s a quite superfluous subject of conversation, even stupid.”
“So it does have something to do with me.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“But you didn’t say it didn’t, either.”
“Whichever way you look at it, it’s not worth scratching your head about. Shall we head back?”
“Whatever you say.”
It was Saturday. True to custom, the expedition was on its way to the waterfall. This time it numbered seven. The usual quartet was joined by Sandra, Luna and Roberto.
Over the past couple of days, Lydia and Luna had become utterly taken up with each other. The day after the magical night on the beach, Luna packed her things and moved in with Lydia. They had been inseparable ever since. Even Lydia’s meetings with Adrian, at his own house too, could not pass without Luna being present as well.
The company made their way slowly through the forest, in smaller groups. Maggie and Sandra were in the middle, the three men a few yards behind. Lydia and Luna went slightly ahead, hand in hand. They were both naked.
“I can’t recognize her the last few days.” This was Sandra’s voice. Maggie was listening to her attentively. “She swore she wouldn’t wear a stitch of clothing until the end of summer. ‘Lydia’s quite right,’ she said, ‘clothing is unnecessary.’ Just imagine, that’s what she told me. The girl’s completely lost her head.”
“Who wouldn’t with a goddess like that?” Maggie sighed.
“I wonder what will happen when summer’s over and she has to go back to New York.”
“Are you afraid she won’t want to go?”
“I already know she won’t.”
“What about her studies?”
“That’s what I mean.”
“There’s the waterfall!” Luna shouted and quickened her step. Lydia followed suit, as did the others. Soon they all found themselves in the little lake at the foot of the cascade.
“This is so refreshing, in the middle of the forest! Why don’t we come here every day?”
“That’s something to think about!”
“It’s great! I thought the water would be colder!”
Lydia swam about twelve yards until she was right under the waterfall. It was shallow here. She stood up and called to Luna to join her. In a moment they were standing next to each other, with the water splashing over them.
“This is fantastic!” Luna shouted. “It doesn’t get any better!”
“Yes, it does!” Lydia said. She grabbed Luna round the waist and pulled her close. Luna was a little confused at first, but only for a moment. This split second was enough for Lydia’s free spirit, which was infectious, to pass into Luna. She snuggled up to Lydia and embraced her firmly with both arms. Their lips met. Beneath the curtain of water they became one body, two girls who had somehow melted into each other. It took quite a lot of water flowing over them before they relaxed their embrace. Then, as if under a magic spell, bit by bit, the girls threw off all their restraint and abandoned themselves to their innermost erotic instincts and desires. The most passionate loveplay unfolded before the eyes of the spellbound observers.
“How’s the story coming along?”
Adrian emerged from the water and went up to Simon, who was sitting on a rock by the pool. The others were still swimming.
“I’ve finished it.”
“Bravo! When do we get to read it?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t think you’d like it.”
“Why wouldn’t I like it? What kind a story is it?”
“Then I’m sure to like it! Why are you sitting here on your own? Are you still getting those thoughts?”
“I just got to thinking.”
“Oh, no. That thing is still bothering you. I can sense it.”
Simon said nothing. Instead, he stared towards the little lake.
“And it’s got something to do with me. Admit it!”
Simon did not say a word.
“Just tell me that one thing – has it something to do with me?”
Simon turned to Adrian and fixed him with the stare of a man who has some hidden problem. His lips were still firmly closed. Now Adrian was silent too, trying to fathom what cannot be fathomed: what did Simon’s mysterious expression signify?
“Yes, it is something to do with you,” Simon finally let out.
“I knew it! For God’s sake, what is it? Talk to me!”
“Listen! You asked me to tell you just one thing and I’ve said it. Don’t ask me any more questions.”
“Hang on! We didn’t understand each other! I didn’t mean just that one thing literally. And how come: ‘Don’t ask me any more questions?’ Why shouldn’t I go an asking if the matter concerns me personally? Sure, I’ll go on asking!”
“Let me put a question to you, Adrian.”
“Go ahead, at least you’ll get an answer! I have no secrets from you.”
“How do you rate your life on the island?”
“How do I rate it? Well, I don’t ask for anything more than what I have.”
“Is there nothing else you need?”
“It’s a perfect life, then.”
“If you say so.”
“So is it worth spoiling that life with some disturbing information?”
“You should never avoid the truth. If it’s disturbing, what can we do – let’s hear it! We’ll be shocked and we’ll simply go on. The worst thing is to live in ignorance.
“So you’re dead set on having things your way?”
“Simon, just spit it out! Get rid of the burden! I’m absolutely ready to hear it whatever it is, trust me.
Simon picked up a pebble and threw it into the water. Then, he turned to Adrian and gave him a long look.
“You asked for it!” he relented at last, with an unwilling sigh. He thought for a moment, trying to find a way to phrase it and found it.
“Look at those two bare butts over there!”
“Bare butts? I’ve not heard that expression before. What does it mean?”
“It means their asses are naked!”
“Yes, that makes sense. I like the expression. What did you want to say about… bare butts?”
“There they are kissing shamelessly in front of our very eyes and heaven alone knows what else they’re doing – I’ll spare you the details.”
“It is a marvelous sight, you must admit.”
“Is everything normal to you here?”
“Are you joking? Two beautiful bare butts making love – what could be more beautiful or exciting! And everyone’s happy – the two of them and we who are looking on. If that’s abnormal, then I’m an idiot!”
“Doesn’t it bother you that your girlfriend is kissing Luna? Doesn’t it get to you that Luna’s moved in with her, that they made love the whole night, that they’re always together?”
“Do you know just how much I love Lydia?”
“Yes, I see that you’re in love up to the eyes.”
“That’s right. We’re like one being. And if you love someone that much, then it matters to you that she’s happy, that she’s enjoying life. Lydia is crazy about Luna, we can all see that, she’s walking on air. And that’s supposed to bother me? I tell you, I revel in her happiness and I’m walking on air, too!”
“But wait a minute, here we are talking about bare butts and you were supposed to tell me your secret.”
“That’s what I’m doing, but I’m in no rush.”
“I see. You won’t shock me all at once by revealing the answer, but lead me up to it bit by bit.”
“OK, get on with it.”
“She’s the most beautiful woman in the Caribbean and she always walks around stark naked.”
“Lydia doesn’t like wearing clothes.”
“She’s been parading round the island with nothing on for twenty years now.”
“That’s right. But I just don’t understand what you mean.”
“She’s bare in the store, bare on the walkway and you don’t find that all a bit strange?”
“Why would it be? The temperatures here are such that you don’t need clothes.”
“Why don’t you go around naked, then?”
“If I were as good-looking as Lydia, I would for sure.”
“But you are good-looking.”
“You can’t measure women’s beauty against that of men.”
“So it’s all about beauty?”
“There’s a kind of beauty that it’s a sin to cover up. This waterfall is beautiful, isn’t it? Let’s go and cover it up, so no one can see it! That would be crazy, wouldn’t it?”
“I simply don’t get what this story is all about? Where is it going?”
“I just wanted to point out that there’s something strange about the whole thing.”
“Well, you’re not doing a very good job!”
“In other places, people look at these things differently.”
“In New York, you mean?”
“Not just in New York, everywhere in the world.”
“And how do they look at these things?”
“There are certain rules of behavior.”
“Rules? What rules?”
“Well, for example… women don’t walk around the streets naked.”
“Don’t they? Why?”
“It’s hard for me to explain it to you at the moment. I don’t even know if I could.”
“Will you now tell me what that secret about me is?”
“There’s no point, I’ll have to do it this way,” Simon said. He lowered his hand beside the rock, picked up a notebook, found some text inside and began to leaf through. Once he found the page he was looking for, he turned to Adrian:
“Give me that pencil.”
“The one you hold in your hand.”
There was indeed a pencil in Adrian’s hand.
“In my hand? What the hell… What’s it doing in my hand?”
“You’ll get it later. Give me the pencil.”
A confused Adrian passed him the pencil, and Simon copied something from the notebook onto an empty sheet he’d ripped out of the middle. He folded the piece of paper and handed it to Adrian. “Don’t read it,” he said.
“Is this some kind of game?”
“What’s the name of the island?”
“The island where we live. What’s it called?”
“It’s called… um… just a moment.”
“Yes. What’s it called?”
“What is this? I don’t understand why I can’t remember the name of the island!”
“Now open the piece of paper and read what it says.”
Adrian unfolded it and began to read. It said: What is this? I don’t understand why I can’t remember the name of the island!
“Ha, ha! How did you do that trick?”
“Give me the paper!”
Simon looked again at his notebook and wrote something on the paper. He folded the sheet and put it into Adrian’s hand again.
“Come on, say something, anything that comes to mind.”
Adrian clutched the paper tightly as if it were a valuable object. You won’t fool me this time! he thought. He said nothing, but opened up the piece of paper. And – there was nothing there; except this previous sentence scribbled over.
“Incredible! Do it one more time, please!”
“No problem.” Simon repeated the procedure and the paper once again found itself in Adrian’s hand.
“Lydia and Luna on Linea,” he said. Then opened up the piece of paper.
Lydia and Luna on Linea! it was written.
Adrian turned pale. “I don’t get it. What’s going on?”
“Here, you read it! You’ll get the message.” Simon handed him the open notebook.
“You’ll see. Just read it.”
Adrian started to read. With a shade of sadness and regret in his eyes, Simon carefully studied the reader’s face, which began to change. Every trace of cheerfulness and high spirits had been wiped from that face. Droplets started rolling down onto the notebook pages. Droplets of icy sweat from Adrian’s forehead. His hands were shaking. However, he somehow managed to thumb back through the pages to the beginning of the text. His face was distorted in horror. At the top of the very first page stood the title of Simon’s short story. Linea.
Under circumstances that he never fully understood, leaves the engineering job and embarks on the adventure of writing. Such developments were less clear to those who knew him.
The beginning of the adventure took place in a strange atmosphere: whenever he sat down to write, the folks would exchange puzzled glances. “Are you now some kind of writer?” his wife questioned him on one occasion. “I thought you were an engineer.” The children asked him: “What are you, dad?” The answer was: “I have no idea!”
As matters stand now, chances are we have a writer here.
, short stories
[* *](Serbian edition), novel
(Serbian edition), short stories
Late in the afternoon, two days before publication of Outsmarting Time, I was marching briskly down a street which did not bear the name of a national hero. I was hurrying not without reason, as I wanted to duck the oncoming storm snapping at my heels and not be late for a gathering at the home of a dear friend. I also didn’t want to miss Mrs. Katich’s baked potatoes which are at their best when eaten hot.
I was quite dry when I entered the apartment on one of the higher floors of the building, in contrast to the unknown person who came in after me. While Filip hung my coat on the rack and his wife, Natasha, who had come to say hello, was on her way back to the kitchen, I peered over her shoulder to the location which interested me. The indicator light for the oven was lit – a good sign.
The first thing I saw as I entered the living-room was the pensive face of Trivun Markov. His expression didn’t change as we shook hands, or later. If you ever come across that face in the street or anywhere else, you won’t discover anything new: it’s always like that. You’ll think: This chap’s deep in thought, or: his thoughts are elsewhere, or even: he’s with the birds. None of it would be quite true, however. Although he doesn’t appear to be, Trivun Markov is highly aware of what’s going on around him as I’ve had ample opportunity to see for myself; his calm and seemingly uninterested eye takes everything in. He is also a very good listener. Whatever you ask him, even if the question is out of the blue or unimportant, he always had a ready answer. And his face – well, that’s just the way he is. His features are permanently settled in a thoughtful expression and – that’s all there is to it. Perhaps sometimes he is actually thinking about something; in fact, it’s quite certain that he does from time to time. On this state of mind, however, don’t look for confirmation in his appearance. Jeremiah Wilson once said: “Even when Markov laughs, he laughs in a thoughtful sort of way.” Of Jeremiah, more later.
Markov was sitting on a chair opposite the door to the room, and on the sofa to his right were two women, one of them exceptionally beautiful. Why did she lower her gaze a little as I came in? Her lovely eyes moved only slightly, but I caught that. I wondered how I would have felt about this if Selcuri had not informed me that the particular lady was, in fact, interested in me? Her name, as has already been said, was Irena.
Had Selcuri been speaking the truth? Well, yes, he had. The conviction I had taken away of the man did not allow me to think otherwise. I had had only one encounter with him but that had been enough for me to judge him as extremely serious and well-intentioned. It was, as I said, a conviction, not a vague impression.
I greeted all those present, kissed the parakeet with gusto and dropped into a comfortable chair taken from the dining-room set.
“Now, what were we… ah, yes, very well, you’ll agree there’s no use in wasting more words on the subject. So…”
This was Tamara Isakovich, the other woman on the sofa beside Markov. She had a pretty face, but not like Irena’s. She was slightly plump. She was now obviously continuing a conversation which my arrival had temporarily interrupted. “I’d like to point out a certain imprecision in the literature dealing with time travel.” She paused, apparently to give her already formed ideas their final shape.
“A splendid lecture, Tamara, splendid! It’s a long time since you’ve been so persuasive. And now, as you’ve finished, I’d like to address this honorable gathering,” said a man as he rose from his chair. “I’ll do my best to be brief. Now… if we take into account that…” He began to walk about the room, hands in his pockets. “Yes, yes, that really could be taken into account…” he went on reflectively, pulling at his chin. He opened his eyes wide, as if he wanted to point out something of particular importance. “With reference to this fact which seems to be concealed, but everyone is well aware of it…” He swung his head a little like a pendulum, then his index finger which was now held aloft. “Considering the other possibilities here, and we know what they are…” he went on in the same manner. “Even if it were possible, with a fair amount of caution of course…” he said squinting, as if deep in thought. “And finally – there you are, the conclusion is right here in front of us! Now let’s have some discussion of the problems I’ve raised. Come on, who’ll ask the first question?”
It was our friend Jeremiah Wilson, known to the public at large as a joker. I was very fond of him. Once I told a less-informed person that Wilson was actually an engineer in a firm that fitted and tested electrical equipment. The reaction was:
“You’re joking! Impossible! He’s such a leg-puller! Are you telling me the truth? I can’t believe it. Who’d ever think that chap could do anything serious?”
It was always entertaining to talk to Jeremiah. His ability to turn anything into a butt for a joke was so developed that almost any sentence he uttered contained a catch, a double meaning, an adept allusion or something else. Whatever you asked him, the answer always came back as an unexpected gag. As for his name, so untypical in these parts, it wasn’t his real one. A long time ago he had begun to introduce himself as Jeremiah Wilson, no one knew why. The name caught on gradually, first in our circle and then beyond it until eventually there were very few who knew what the good-hearted prankster was really called. The clown actually went through the trouble of changing his name by deed poll and now his ID formally proclaimed him to be Jeremiah Wilson. I once asked him why he had done it, to which he replied: “Haven’t a clue!” When I enquired why he had chosen that particular handle, he hadn’t a clue about that either. It’s quite possible that the joker changed his name for the mere sake of causing the curious to wonder what the reason may have been. Filip once said that he’d give a prize to anyone who found Jeremiah Wilson in anything approaching a serious mood.
After this brief diversion by Jeremiah, the previous speaker continued: “Strictly speaking, a time machine is a mechanism which enables us to arrive at an arbitrary point in the timeline. In spatial terms, however, the place remains unchanged; so same place, different time. Now let’s concentrate for a while on the destination of our journey, the position where we will come out; in spatial terms, a spot identical to the one from which we started. What is that place, in fact? I think you’ll agree that it depends above all on the reference system to which the time machine belongs. If we assume a best-case scenario, that this system is of our planet, then from our point of view it’s the very same location from which we started out. But what if our machine is coupled to a solar reference system, for instance?”
Tamara Isakovich has the gift of delivering a clear and fluent lecture, her observations are usually acute and intriguing; moreover, the subject interested me. It was this that managed to hold my attention, although part of my mind was focused on the person sitting next to her. Filip told me later that the subject had not been raised ad hoc. Before I arrived, he had read out a piece from an article which was to appear in his magazine within the next two days and which dealt with these problems. It was my article.
“In the case of a solar reference system,” Tamara continued, “it is quite certain that when we overcome the time barrier, the Earth will not be in the same place on its ecliptic, its special path around the parent star. The rotation of the Earth should not be forgotten either, and especially the fact that the ecliptic plane shifts in space. Be that as it may, the device’s – and therefore the time traveler’s – position in relation to the sun will, unfortunately, remain unchanged. Travel of this kind would inevitably take us into some unwished-for and desolate corner of the universe. Even if the device belonged to the Milky Way system or maybe a galaxy cluster, what then? And finally – I don’t even dare to think of it – what if it is linked to the Universe itself? What would become of us then? In what forlorn cosmic region would we end up? If anyone is interested they can ask Professor Markov about the speed of our local galaxy cluster.”
Trivun Markov, of course, still appeared to be lost in thought. That man, Markov, had been working with Katich’s magazine for a little over two years now as a consultant in astronomy. During the same period – a little over two years – the astronomer with a thoughtful face had been a regular attender at our little gatherings. He might be said to have fitted in well, as if he had always been one of us.
The Katich’s living-room had a door leading to a balcony and beside it was a large double window. Outside the window a storm was raging, the one I had just escaped when coming here. I mentioned that someone came in after me, someone who had not managed to dodge the shower and whom I did not know. That drenched person and what seemed to be a close friend were seated on the couch by the double window, chatting throughout Tamara’s talk in a tone inaudible to the rest of us. It did not seem to me to have anything to do with what Tamara was saying. The facial expressions of both men and the slight gestures of their hands led me to think that they were swopping their impressions of the looks of the ladies present. For some reason I suddenly remembered that Irena was Tamara Isakovich’s cousin. Filip had told me so at the last party.
“So much for reference systems,” Tamara went on. “And now,” she took a sip of water, “let’s dare to surmise which of them would be the most logical for our time machine.”
“I suppose the rest of us are not banned from putting our oar in?” called out Bogdan the Lemon, always with an edge to his questions. As usual, he was wearing a suede vest of many pockets with his shirt sleeves rolled up to the elbows.
I might as well say that Bogdan, Filip and Jeremiah have been pals of mine since childhood. We left for college from the same class in high school: Bogdan to study physics and the rest of us electrical engineering. One of the best students in his year, after graduation Bogdan stayed on to work at the university. Filip, too, sailed through college, no wonder for a person who as a child had made friends with the enchanted world of math and physics. What happened to Filip afterwards, however, surprised us all. Although it would have been natural for such a fun of science to remain on to work in his profession after finishing his education, it was not what transpired. Instead, he did a complete about-face and took up journalism. As an old friend, I was understandably curious to know what had driven him to abandon his dreams of scientific research and led the conversation round to this on several occasions, but without ever getting a definitive answer. Katich’s going into the newspaper world, therefore, has remained a never-ending enigma for me.
Bogdan had jumped into Tamara’s lecture on time machines and reference systems and all eyes were now on him. “There’s nothing there to surmise,” he said rather irritably, “the device, like any other object whose behavior is vitally affected by the gravitational field of our planet, would indubitably be governed by the Earth’s reference system.”
“At first glance it would certainly seem to be,” said Tamara tranquilly, as if she had expected a reaction of the kind, or even wished for it. “But should we assume our device to be like all other objects? Can we say that all the usual principles apply to it? Or does its very nature perhaps tell us that matters stand otherwise?
“You see, a time machine by definition is a piece of equipment which transfers you to some arbitrarily chosen moment in time. But what would happen if we were to dare go back into a past that was too ancient, a time when our planet – let’s take this as an example – didn’t even exist? Where would we be then would you say? A paradox arises, doesn’t it? Can our machine belong to the reference system of a non-existent object? Could it by any chance work within the scope of some sort of universal system?”
“Where would we be? We’d be nowhere, the machine would fall to pieces!” Bogdan wasn’t giving up easily. “It’d fall apart before we’d even get to where we couldn’t possibly get to.”
“And what forces would destroy it, I’d like to hear?” said Tamara, visibly not quite so serene as she had been.
“First you tell us what forces would prevent the machine from disintegrating.”
“Oh, give him a lemon, someone, please!” Tamara could bear it no longer. “Let him suck a lemon so the rest of us can talk like human beings!”
Just to clarify the reasons for the quarrel, you should know – if someone hasn’t already told you – that Tamara Isakovich and Bogdan the Lemon were husband and wife. Bogdan’s name was actually Isakovich and the Lemon was a childhood nickname. While the other children on the block ate apples, bananas and apricots, Bogdan was most often seen with a lemon clutched in his grubby fist.
The Isakoviches were well-known for their constant sniping at each other. Wherever they happened to be, at home or abroad, they always seemed to find a way of coming to verbal blows. They never agreed on anything. If one of them were to say: “What a lovely day!” as the sun’s rays caressed their cheeks and the perfumes of spring filled the air, the other was bound at the very least to say: “I’ve seen better”, or: “Look at that ghastly tree!”
I don’t know how the Isakoviches’ quarrels end when they’re alone. When they’re in company, they always fall silent when someone else intervenes. This time the lot fell to me. I decided simply to continue the conversation, ignoring the conjugal tension.
“Yes, it’s certainly a tricky question, the reference system,” I said. “Let’s go back for a moment to the desirable possibility, the least painful option, a time machine coupled to the Earth. I won’t say it’s the most likely of what’s left, I just want to point out that even this scenario, though it may be the simplest, is not exactly risk-free. The location of the destination point is still a very ticklish question. Imagine the following situation: here, in the living-room, right here between the couch and the table with the bird-cage, stands the latest model of a time machine that Filip picked up in the local shop. Let’s assume that it’s adjusted to take our venturesome traveler twenty years back in time. The question is, who would be brave enough to try it out in those circumstances? I’d like to hear the name of that person.”
I was quiet like an angler, waiting, waiting for a nibble at the hook… And I got a bite. It was the man who got rained on, speaking from the couch framed by the stormy background outside the window, while his companion frowned slightly, apparently displeased that his damp friend had cut short their discreet conversation. I was pretty sure that the subject of their whispering was Tamara’s cousin Irena, so I was glad that one of them had fallen into my trap.
Adrian’s girlfriend is as beautiful as an angel. The beach they swim at is a true wonder of nature – where the waves of two seas meet. There’s the mini-golf course at Simon and Maggie’s, in the thick shade of mango trees. At weekends, they go to a magnificent waterfall, hidden inside the forest. In other words, Adrian's life is perfect. Only one thing mars this perfect picture. It's Simon’s secret. Extra information “Where does the best papaya grow?” If you ask this question to anyone on the island, the answer will be: “In Adrian’s garden.” “And where can I find the tastiest avocados?” The response to this question will be the same. “What about mangoes, dates, pineapples?” Same answer. For some unexplained reason, the most delicious fruit on the island grows just there, on Adrian’s land. The same goes for the vegetables. And it all grows in abundance. Roberto thinks that the explanation lies in some specific quality of the soil around Adrian’s house. Yet he can’t describe what that specific quality is. Nor can he fathom what makes that soil so different from any other.