A night fell secretly and softly as if on cat’s paws. In the dusk the loudspeaker’s announcement of my destination echoed slightly muffled. A friend saw me off on the platform, so I was riding home!
…A bus proved to be rather comfortable, and the driver started light music. My trip was supposed to be short and pleasing. Some vacant seats were left there in the passenger compartment in spite of the New Year Eve coming. Perhaps that’s why the driver stopped in the middle of the winter way catching sight of some fellow travelers on the roadside. A half of the passengers were sleeping, but they were awakened by a command of the newcomers in a loud voice, “Sit still!” “Take your seat!” Then more threats followed, “We’ll take a new route”, “No objections” and a gun shot rang immediately as full stop.
Not a leaf was stirring. Shortly after the bus turned off to a country track with snowbound fir trees on each side, and in an hour it stopped. Everyone was put off by the masked newcomers at a two-storied hotel with a single lamp by the entrance. Two by two they locked the passengers in rooms, each with a neighbor one had been sitting next to. There were just single rooms of a common hotel: running water, a bathroom, a shower. An empty fridge could be found there and no TV, yet an old radio set turned up around. It wouldn’t speak though, and the New Year hour was coming in.
Nevertheless, a new command to sit and wait came over the radio. And more than an hour passed when the people were led out blindfolded. And those resisting were made to go out by force from a room, two by two in a long train. On the ground floor loud voices, some noise and confused fuss was heard about. There was no point in resisting. Blindfolded all the people were drawn up in the hotel hall. Everybody stopped dead in one’s tracks waiting there.
But then all of a sudden the Kremlin chimes began to resound loudly. And an order was heard to take off the blindfolds at once. The folks found themselves standing by a long rich New Year’s table with champagne. At the moment frightening fireworks were shot up in the street, and a New Year’s tree was lighted up there. A black-gloved man raised his first glass of champagne, “Surprise!”
…I was relating such a New Year’s party plot to my casual fellow traveler, a slim girl, sitting next to me in the comfortable bus, while I rode home through the night just the day before the New Year party. We were listening to a soft music. It was nice and comfy to sit there in the bus driving fast. The trip seemed to be pleasing. The passengers little by little fell into a doze. The girl gave me a pleasant smile and averted her face from me. She had such a slim neck!
And outside the windshield a row of snowbound fir-trees stood still there as a horny hedge, no, as if the barded jail wall. I had never observed on my route so many fir trees; actually, there was a New Year parade for Father Christmas. The full moon hung above the woods lighting up the deserted highway, neither a star nor a living soul present. There and then the bus engine sneezed, then stuttered and cut out in the midst of the bleak woods with a lonely moon beyond. One needed highwaymen to make things look more important! The driver got out into the wintry quiet, passed to the bus rear, for a moment he was clattering there, then swore up and was back. We set out again, but the forced engine was wailing dreary and with this strained tone the bus reached a settlement.
“Arrived, get out”, the driver announced aloud. It seemed to me that the engine utterly broke down. All the passengers left the bus, and then they quietly went away. Calmly it was snowing there right the night before New Year’s Party.
“Get off, get off, Kokshaisk…” reiterated a driver, getting out to the back for the engine. I had never been to Kokshaisk and never intended to visit it, particularly late at night before New Year’s Party. So the plot of my tale was coming true and approaching completion. I found myself at an unknown place, “Surprise!”
“And whenever you are departing back?” I asked the driver.
“Well, as soon as I do the necessary repairs”, he said.
The driver helped me out of trouble and gave me a lift back to the crossroad. Late at night on a frozen highway I stood there under the moon on New Year’s Eve. There was no bus to hope for at that time. A stray cat appeared secretly and softly as if from nowhere. The cat rubbed its neck against my legs that turned numb with cold. Oh, one is not to be so unsuspecting! With a swift gesture I caught the cat, then broke his neck and shook down my black gloves. The moon there was the only witness. It always had a strange effect upon me, and then I ever got a yearning for breaking somebody’s neck.
In some time the first passing car dazzled me with his headlight. On the off chance I stopped it hitchhiking. The car confidently had run past a strange night walker, then it slowed down, as if considering some time and went into reverse. Two guys drove to Moscow for some marketable goods for the New Year selling via my city.
The car proved to be comfy, and sweet music was playing about. A driver’s mate fell into a doze; his head was swinging from side to side, all according to my scheme. I pulled on my black gloves that I had taken off there in. This time my journey was not a long one…