A dusty road laid white in between dark walls made of trees. Stars shined. Marina walked like in a
dream, stumbling over lumps of dry mud. She tried not to listen to strange murmurs of the night.
Such a fruitless attempt to keep an eye on her neighbors’ teens. Goodness knows where they are
all days and nights anyway, healthy, bright free-range kids during their summer holidays. There was
some special clandestine feeling about them through. The kids were up to something and she felt
obliged to find out if it was harmless or not while the neighbors were away for a few days. One of
the girls was her goddaughter but Marina never quite could figure out what to do about it. Surely
she wouldn’t be able to give any good “spiritual” advice. Finding what was going on in parent’s
absence seemed to be much more straight forward task.
Marina noticed a dead tree near the spot where teens were often seen. She switched on her torch
and stepped into the forest. Soon she came into a small clearing with an old lichen-covered shed in
the middle. On the door there was a rusty sign reminding a circle and an old fashioned telephone
receiver underneath. She pushed the door. It was dark and almost empty inside. Old bent fork,
strangely green Rubik’s cube and some other odd junk. Marina put her torch on a shelf and picked
up a cracked plastic disk with elegant patterns. “Kryukov’s Partnership” was mentioned in fancy 19th
century font. She picked up the aluminium fork and then took both pieces of junk in the same hand
to pick up the Green Rubik’s cube. But as soon as fork and disk touched each other, there was a
spark, the shed shook and creaked, she felt a blow of hot air on her face.
Smoke rose high over blackened ruins of a great city. Marina inhaled air full of horrible burning
smell. Somehow she knew how the city looked before it was destroyed. It was beautiful. And she
remembered how she went with a crowd from temple to temple praying to the Guardian Spirits to
teach their people how to save their home. All in vain…
Marina dropped her finds on the shed s floor and rushed outside through a door on the other side.
She stood here, looking and listening, but there wasn’t anything unusual. Apart from the her
suddenly blocked ears. She had some difficulty finding the road as she lost her torch. Finally she
stumbled out of the woods and hurried along the dirt tracks. Something felt very wrong. Suddenly
she noticed that she cast a shadow in front of her. She turned. Yellow glow appeared far ahead.
Was there a car approaching? But why she couldn’t her a thing, neither engine nor tires? Even night
birds gone quiet. She really wanted to hide but felt too paralyzed.
Over the treetops she saw an edge of a glowing disk, like the Moon’s but much bigger. It was rising
very fast. Sky become brighter, many stars disappeared. The strange moon was of irregular shape,
covered by enormous impact craters and long fissures. An unknown bird whistled loudly, another
replied from far away. Marina’s heart was ready to explode. She was in the middle of one of her
“astronomical” nightmares yet she was sure she wasn’t asleep. The planetoid was directly above her,
and ground was slightly shaking. In the bright light she noticed that somebody was walking from the
direction of her village, Voronino, towards her. Then the light was gone. The giant moon simply
disappeared before it reached the other side of the sky. The earth shake once more and everything
went back to normal. Apart from approaching footsteps. In the darkness she could see a figure
which changed from tiny to crooked, then to giant as Marina’s eyes adapted.
Only in a couple of meters away from her the stranger lit a bright lamp. He turned out to be an almost normally looking tall slender man wearing a light shirt, high waistline brown trousers, a silk vest and a small scarf.
Apart from the hand held brass lantern he carried an odd instrument reminding her a mini weather
station with an anemometer. Was there a fancy dress party somewhere near? Or did he escaped
from a period movie set?
– Good morning. Excellent conjunction tonight, – he talked with unusual accent but sounded very
– Good morning… – Marina managed with great effort starring at him, completely clueless.
– You haven’t got lost?
She thought for the moment. It could be middle of the night already but not the morning. At the
same time it felt like dawn. Right birds were singing, the sky slowly lightened.
– I don’t know…
– I am Eirik, the Observer from Voronino.
– Marina. I live in Voronino too.
He shook her hand. Normally Marina didn’t liked touching strangers but this time it felt especially
weird because they gave each other something reminding a slight electrical shock. He smiled looking
a bit confused too.
– You must be new. I haven’t seen you before. Would you like me to walk you home?
– Yes, please.
He passed fast telling her enthusiastically about the research he was doing tonight and how it
confirms some of the ideas of Professor Grabovsky. She couldn’t understand much. Sounded like
some sort of cosmology with lots of unfamiliar terms.
When they approached the edge of the field in front of her village the bright morning sun appeared
– and she gasped. Almost everything here looked differently. The wooden, stone and brick houses
were larger and far more lively than in Voronino she knew. All of them consisted of many parts
varying in style, colour and material like they were piled one on top of another since ancient times.
Eirik noticed Marina’s surprise. She hurried towards the village starring at beautiful woodcarvings on
balconies, verandas and window frames. Gardens heavy with fruits and flowers, some familiar, some
exotic. Dahlias and gladioli exploding in front gardens. People on the street wearing unusual outfits,
often exuberant and colourful and somehow a bit mid 19th century-like. They were saying greetings
in Russian but with the same soft accent Eirik had. She could hear dogs barking, babies crying, guitar
playing. Place was bursting with life despite early hours. In the centre of the village instead of
crumbled then rebuilt church was a fancy raspberry red brick tower surrounded by few building in
the same sort of medieval revival style. “Library”, “Museum”, “Raven’s Nest cafe” she read.
There wasn’t anything where her summer cottage stood in HER Voronino. The old tree with the
Tarzan swing was here, the pond was, but not her home. A bit further away down the street was a
plastered brick wall with Paradise Gardens written on it, tree tops behind.
– I am so lost… – muttered Marina.
Eirik stopped in front of an old wooden gate with the bright blue word Markizovka.
– Let me offer you some breakfast and you’ll tell me what is going on, – he said.
Along a winding garden path they walked to the vine-covered veranda where warm morning sunlight
lit shabby wicker and wood furniture. Glass doors opened into a large dining kitchen. She noticed
dirty plates and burned out candles everywhere, a guitar on the table, a tambourine and a flute on
the sofa and colourful silk scarves dropped here and there.
– Sorry, we were performing till very late yesterday.
He gave her a chair and started tiding the table and fiddling with great unusual ovens and fridges
reminding some crazy early scientific instruments with dials and brass buttons.
Marina heard voices and laughter in the garden, then three more people (a man and two women) entered through the French doors. Just like Eirik they looked like they were in their 20s–30s. They wore linen-colored shirts and trousers, had wet hair and carried a bunch of colourful towels.
-The water was perfect, – said the yellow haired smiling young man.
Then they noticed Marina.
– Both right and wintry! – the red haired women clasped her hands (Marina had no idea what that
expression could possibly mean).
– Asha Panfilskaya, – introduced her Eirik.
– Oldest in this bedlam. – she said. – I am also known as Marquise.
– Gali Shaniko, – Eirik introduced another woman, darker than everybody else, with unusual dark green eyes.
She nodded her head.
– Orlan Chionesu,- this was the youngish looking man.
– At your service, – he said gallantly but with a broad mischievous smile.
– Eirik Patridov, – Eirik pointed at himself.
– Marina Ardelia.
They seem to have much more varied ethnic origins that Marina’s neighbors from her Voronino.
Bells sounded from the direction of one of the ovens.
– Breakfast’s done, – said Eirik.
They all helped him with serving the table, offered Marina her share: a piece of something reminding
an omelette, fresh bread, cordial and an apple.
– Oh, yes, – Asha got from a shelf a red necklace made with artificial flowers and, looking suddenly
very serious, put it around Eirik’s neck.
He didn’t looked pleased at all. When she and the rest of them sat down he said quickly, still
– Let’s make Peace, Reason and Love reside in this house, – as soon as he finished he has put the red
They had the food (it was delicious), Gali brought tea and coffee and Eirik turned to Marina.
– So, please tell us what happened to you tonight.
She told them as much as she could remember. Their faces lit. They looked
at each other with excitement, speechless.
– Come on, – finally said Orlan, – this sounds like the event we were waiting for.–Lets get our equipment and investigate that shed.
Eirik opened the door to the next room, which looked like an overflowing library. He turned to
– Please rest and read something while we’ll pack. I’ll try to explain on the way.
They scrambled through another door. Marina moved to the library. She tried books but could
understand very little. Not because of the languages, but it seems that whatever place (or time?) she
was in, it had a very different history and everyday life to her own world. She found some magazines
on a small table. One of the first articles she’s seen had a photograph of a group of people hugging
each other, the lady in the middle had a red floral necklace like Eirik was wearing briefly at breakfast.
“She was gone within a week… How can we cope?”–said the headline.
Page after page showed her strange glimpses of another world. Joys, tears, passions…
She looked for the date on the cover. July 2243… Was she really in the future? Another page suddenly revealed a
piece of truly bizarre erotic fantasy art. Just like that, between a gardening advice and some weird
– OK, we are ready, – Asha was standing in the doorway.
Marina quickly closed the magazine and followed outside. Everybody had small backpacks and
wore more practical outfits, although they still looked a bit like the most moderate part of the Steampunk community. They walked back to the woods, Eirik beside Marina.
– It looks like you jumped worlds somehow.
– Could this be time travel? It’s only 2012 back home, – said Marina.
– Counting from the Triumph of Socrates too?
Marina was feeling like the earth was collapsing under her feet.
– No, I think he was executed… What was that strange moon in the skies at night?
– Lucky you don’t know, – muttered Asha
-It’s the sign of our peril…–said Orlan.
– Our world is colliding with another one. Has been for millenia.–Explained Eirik.–People and
things are disappearing, that moon and deadly asteroids appear. This planet is doomed. We are
trying to find the way for our people to escape into safety. Into a third world, not affected by this
The landscape was beautiful. Sun shinning, birds singing. Marina thought about all this friendly
people she’s seen so far. This wasn’t fair. When they reached the place, she suddenly though that
her people might not be very happy if huge amount of otherwordly aliens suddenly starts pouring
out of an old shed in the middle of the wood…
But she didn’t want to worry them. Instead she said:
– I think it happened when I touched these two objects…–she looked inside but the shed was
Eirik, Orlan, Asha i Gali unpack their strange looking instruments and started walking around, measuring something, looking through some sort of cameras. Suddenly Orlan,who was on the other end of the clearing, called for them.
– Look, look–he gave each of them in turn his camera. Through the viewfinder, there wasn’t any
shed in sight. It was one of the legs of enormous submarine-like craft standing above the tree tops. Dull bronze shine, rivets, portholes and elegant curves.
For a long moment they just looked.
– Some sort of camouflage?–suggested Eirik.
– Very advanced, – said Gali.
– I could feel the old wood of that shed!
Marina already lost any sense of reality was taking everything as a crazy dream. Eirik played with everybody’s
cameras and they went back to the craft, looking through the viewfinders. They stepped inside the metal leg
and there was a door. It opened when Eirik touched the surface. Elevator, of course.
They all hesitated. A slightly mechanical voice suddenly announced:
– Captain Eirik Patridov, doctor Gali Shaniko, provisioner Asha Panfilskaya, researchers Orlan Chionesu and Marina Ardelia, your genetic signatures has been identified. You are welcome on board.
They looked at each other, clueless. And in they went.