He did not know the reason for the fear, nor the cold which gripped his body. He woke up like any other day, made breakfast, showered, and went to work. At work, he took his place in the assembly line, greeted his colleagues and worked. Yet as the shift was coming to an end, Fedj Hostapovich was gripped by a strange, alienating terror unknown before.
The terror of being the only being in the world.
It was a mad, gripping fear which he could not explain. He only remembered the fear, as his mind stopped with a short sentence.
I will die truly alone.
This sentence was followed by widened eyes and a strange, disturbing comprehension of the reality of his life. After all, Fedj Hostapovich is nearing thirty. No mother, no father. Worked all his adult life. He remembered his father’s warning – beware of going all alone through this life. It will kill.
Fedj Hostapovich was never a religious man, yet a feeling gripped him every year, on a particular day. It was the day of St. Sergey and Elijah, the local saints, and the patron saints of his family. As is custom, the priest would come, sanctify the house, bless the dwellers, break the bread and wait a little bit, to be paid, get fed and drink.
Yet the last time for Fedj was three years ago. The last time he wanted to make a feast a painful realization struck him – he had no one to call. No friends, no family, and no wife.
On certain days, Fedj Hostapovich would daydream of meeting a cute, simple little woman. He would meet her at the grocery store, in a pub, at work. These delusions dwindled however, as Hostapovich never drank or left the house, was silent at work and found dull by co-workers, and the last time he went to a grocery store he barely even spoke.
And what of God for Fedj Hostapovich?
He knew of no God, no afterlife glory, it was always a strange and distant tale, he wished to believe there is something “beyond”, yet all human experience was dull, numb, and eternally repetitive. When was the last time he was truly happy for an entire day? Fedj Hostapovich is content – through things to read, movies to watch, video games to play.
Yet even these things became strange and alien over time, and less and less could they fullfill a strange, painful emptiness inside him.
It was nearing ten, the moon obscured by a fog as Hostapovich left the bus and started going home. Renting all his adult life, Fedj Hostapovich now neared a decent savings account, yet felt a small amount of joy at the thought of owning a house.
After all, the only house he could buy would be out there, in the surroundings of the town, where unwed men are surrounded by families, with children walking around laughing, and playing, and making fun of “weirdos”. After all, he did too, to the local bachelor when he was a kid.
So he would buy a house, and go to work, for years, until he becomes another of the “strange ones”, those men incapable of marrying, and would become the local carricature, so the whole point of buying a house out there is pointless. At least in the city, you can disappear.
As Fedj Hostapovich went inside his apartment, he could hear the voices nearby, all around him, of people. His apartment always unlocked, was clean, and chilly. Old construction with high ceiling and spacious, but always silent, and cold. The cold was the worst. He could swear his immunity dropped since he always shivered when he went in, even if it was warm outside. Blasting the stove, he would heat it up and go online. Watch funny videos or movies, read up on world affairs, but this night was different.
It was silent, and unknown. And the thought he had in a glimpse of terror never left him. You will die alone.
You will die alone Fedj Hostapovich, and no one will remember you.
Frustrated and sorrowful, Fedj Hostapovich laid down on his bed, to sleep the night away.
Staring at the ceiling. The walls, high and cold, and the nervousness. Grim, dark thoughts. They will find me like this, he thought, one day, in my bed, i will be found by the locals, rotting. There will be no one at the funeral. My house, if i ever get one, will be taken over by the government, or rot away like many empty village houses now do.
All the things around Fedj Hostapovich are cold, cold and distant.
The computer hums – he never turns it off, finding the noise of the fan comforting. It has gotten harder to sleep the past few months – in the dead of night he would end up feeling thirsty, wake up, drink a few mouthfulls and go back to bed. A sudden urge would attack him, and he would wake up.
Dreams? Dreams… Fedj Hostapovich always dreams disturbing things. Falling, getting buried alive, his patron saints looking away from him.
Unable to fall asleep, Fedj Hostapovich, staring at the ceiling, feels a sadness overwhelm him unlike any other. What is this? What am i doing? I should have had a wife at least, or a child? Is this all there is to life?
Occasionaly, his body would twitch and spasm, and he would whip his head sideways for unknown reasons.
But the ceiling beckons, gets drawn out and elongates in his vision. Seems distant a thousand steps and more and it is also right there. Cold, distant, unwelcoming.
And then it swerves.
And Fedj Hostapovich, feeling the world swaying, starts breathing faster and faster. The ceiling is spinning and no human voice is heard. In the darkness of the room, his breathing quickens until his twitching form is shaking, and Fedj Hostapovich begins to silently weep.
Ah, this is death, he thinks. This is death!
Not just any death, but a lonely death! I see it in advance, in fact, i am already dying! Whatever is left of my soul is dying this very moment. All that is left will be a sad creature, a former Fedj Hostapovich!
This elates him. A kind of a joy beyond all sorrow, a mad joy, that he is truly insignificant repulses him as much as it encourages him, gives him joy. What point is there to disappearing since i already am nothing?
Ah, if only there was a God! Truly, if there was a God…
You will die truly alone.
Why? Oh, God, why? What have i done wrong, Hostapovich ponders? Sure, i am dull, but don’t dull men deserve a look? I am ugly, yes, i am also one could say evil? I always vote for my own good. I vote for either nationalists, or communists, whoever promises more. I don’t like foreigners, i don’t like the world… but the world doesn’t like me too? Is this punishment?
Ah, but… punishment! Happy people make happy families, and there is no Heaven nor Hell… then what of us, the unhappy?
I see. Then, all of us alone, death? And nothing.
Death and nothing Fedj Hostapovich!
Death and – nothing!
But i am still young! Still… why am i sad anyway? What is there to life?
Fedj Hostapovich closes his eyes forcefully, attempting to think happy thoughts and realizes – there is nothing there. No particular thought emerges. Neither do good memories. Neither the bad ones. Simple… work. Work and eating.
The cold almost palpable makes him shiver. His whole body twitching, Fedj Hostapovich jerks up, breathing heavily, stands up and stares at the empty room like an enemy in the dark, feels it menacing and distant.
By some sudden urge, going into the hallway, grabbing his shoes and jacket, he leaps outside and stares at his place. Distant, unknown fear grips him, of a trespasser, a thief, as he stares at the place he lived in for nearly ten years.
Has he ever “made home” inside of it? No! It was always on borrowed time! But this borrowed time was less worthy than the neighbouring Gypsy family which liked to drink and shout until late in the night – they were happy! Sinful and stupid, vile, they were human! Ah, that is happiness! To have each other!
At this idea, Fedj Hostapovich started walking out on the street, telling to himself – tonight i will meet someone. Tonight i will meet a good, simple woman and start a conversation. I will start to talk with a stranger and make a friend.
With this idea, Fedj Hostapovich went to the city centre. The pubs were closed, with very few people on the streets. And he understood how difficult it is for him to simply do something without a direct order. Go? Go where?
Why not go back? But… the fear is still there. Of that alien, disgusting place. That dark, chilly hollow.
Fedj Hostapovich does not know how people speak anymore. How could he? What is there to speak? Of life, there is work, and bills. How do they do it, all these people? How do they meet, chat, make love, have children?
As desperation sets in, Hostapovich sits at the bench in the city centre, staring around, waiting, if nothing else, for someone to pass by. But even as they pass by, they are too young and beatiful, or joyful, and look at him strangely, gesturing, probably having rude thoughts? What did i do to you?
So, no one will even talk to him. Why are you sitting alone, no one will ask.
My old man was right, he thinks. Truly, i will die alone.
And then Fedj Hostapovich stands up, sighs heavily, and goes towards the nearest church. The church, interestingly enough, has a children’s playground. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Go home, Hostapovich, this place is not for you, says his mind. You do not believe anything. And no salvation comes your way.
As Fedj Hostapovich makes his way home, and feels the fear rising of that place which feels cold and dead, stopping dead in his walk, staring into the distance, a sense of joy envelops him, a bitter, pointless joy.
Only i will ever know i lived and who i truly was.
With this thought, Fedj Hostapovich utters a silent prayer for all, and makes his peace with life, going back home.