Varun 10B2 | October 28, 2014
“There are only two worlds – your world, which is the real world, and other worlds, the fantasy. Worlds like this are worlds of the human imagination: their reality, or lack of reality, is not important. What is important is that they are there. These worlds provide an alternative. Provide an escape. Provide a threat. Provide a dream, and power; provide refuge, and pain. They give your world meaning. They do not exist; and thus they are all that matters. ” ― Neil Gaiman, The Books of Magic.
Verkoyansk; Siberia, Russia.
The magnificent, luminous rays of sunlight assaulted his eyes, as he reluctantly arose from his sleep, to bask in the warmth of the fresh summer.
“Get up! The wolves are here!” was all Nikolai could comprehend in the violent commotion that ensued, as he lethargically came to his senses.
He could see the faint silhouette of Vladimir grabbing his revolver and hastily firing a few inaccurate shots in panic, as his eyes slowly adjusted to the minimal ambient light in the Siberian desert.
The rush of adrenaline overcame his senses, and Nikolai un-holstered his own 9 mm Makarov and rapidly squeezed the trigger over and over with his frost-bitten fingers, blind firing aimlessly in the direction of the bloodthirsty creatures.
Vladimir ran, as the last shell casing in the chamber of the revolver hit the ground, hoping to outrun the vile creatures. Alas, it was a futile effort, as his horrifying screams chilled Nikolai’s blood as he helplessly watched the hungry animals devour the mutilated body of his comrade. The beasts ripped his corpse to shreds with their sharp canines, remorseless, as the last vestige of life departed the unrecognizable carcass of Lieutenant colonel Vladimir Markhov.
The wolves finished off the last remnants of the corpse and their blood stained countenances were now facing Nikolai, as they crept forward stealthily.
It was a miracle. All the years of training, firing 20 pound rifles in the blistering cold back at boot camp, came back to him when it was a necessity. With expert precision, he took out the bloodthirsty creatures one after the other, fueled by the anger and the thirst for vendetta of his dead comrade.
Nikolai was sweating, despite the sub-zero temperature. It was sweat filled with remorse and intense anger, as he dropped to his knees beside the mutilated body of his dead comrade. A twenty year old friendship, defending each other in the harshest wars in history, now buried in the icy Siberian wilderness.
The reality is harsh. There was no luminous sunlight, No warm summer to bask in. The comfort of his summer house in California and the sweet smile of his wife were just a thought to reminisce upon. There was just the icy, heartless frigidity in the middle of the Siberian desert, thousands of miles away from the most rural civilization. An indiscriminate wasteland, bestowing the morbid cold upon a lost soul, regardless of whether they are rich or poor, king or peasant. It had been 4 days since the missile train had been derailed on its journey to Krasnojarsk. Nikolai and his dead comrade were the sole survivors of the accident.
He recalled the fateful day that Major General Borisov gave him and Vladimir the responsibility of escorting the train and its , volatile cargo to its destination, along with ten other young new recruits whom they were to supervise as old experienced veterans. Despite having retired, veterans of the red army never turn down a chance to serve their motherland. The salvaged supplies from the wreck were running out and the gangrene on his right foot was getting worse. Nikolai had no regrets. If he was to die, he would die an honorable death, serving his country.
The days passed, slowly, ensuring that Nikolai felt every bit of his suffering, letting it seep into his soul. He had rations to last another two days at most. As each day went by, Nikolai gave up on his dream of going back to his family and began to accept life as it came. They say that one values their life the most when they’re about to lose it. Nikolai began to cherish the mere memories he had, of the people he loved. The thought brought him joy, despite the abominable circumstances. He whiled away the hours through introspection, analyzing his own life, his character, his entire existence. “What is my life worth? Do I have a purpose? Was this the way I was fated to die?” These are unanswered questions posed to every human being on the planet.
Nikolai was dying slowly. Malnourishment and the deadly gangrene in his foot proved to be fatally pestilent. He cherished every minute he possessed, as any one of them could be his last. “There is more to life than comfort…” He thought to himself. “Maybe this is what was fated for me. This is how I am meant to die. This is my purpose. I have served my country selflessly and I have no regrets. I have lived my life to the fullest. What more can I ask for?
The true purpose of one’s existence is indefinite, but one thing is for certain. Every human given the gift of life, must live every moment to the fullest. That way, when you die, you have no regrets.”
Even a hardened veteran of the Red army can be philosophical in dire times.
Nikolai no longer had the energy to move. He lay in the ice, his body almost entirely frost-bitten and the gangrene now consumed his entire leg. He was on the verge of death, yet his mind was at peace, now remorseless. He had let go of the burden of craving material comforts and human relationships. We all live and we all die. What matters is whether we have justified our existence on this planet and made a difference, big or small. Nikolai believed he had lived an honorable life, a life of service and pride.
With the last remnants of energy he possessed, he shut his eyes and recollected the most cherished moments in his life, in retrospection, and with that, he left the rest of his life up to fate, and embraced his destiny.