Authors: Vasily Klyukin
by Vasily Klyukin
This is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of
the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner, except my best friend,
an outstanding painter, Andrei Sharov. Any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
future is not what you think. That’s for sure. The past is a heap of errors and
distortions, where the truth is concealed beneath strata of ambiguities and
propaganda, the future is something completely different. You imagine it wrong.
We can’t predict what the world will look like in five years, and even less so
in 10 years. Even more difficult to determine is the path of our own lives and
the lives that surround us.
years ago, I was twenty-three, and a graduate of a highly prestigious
university. I had the whole world at my feet, and my whole life ahead of me.
Since being presented with a beautiful diploma with my name — “Isaac Leroy” —
embossed on it in gold, I haven’t come across any more gold anywhere. Back
then, it seemed like there was a whole ocean of opportunities.
family, concerned for the future, moved to Côte d’Azur while I was still
in school. We moved to the Principality of Monaco, not to the central district
of Monte Carlo, as one might imagine a foreigner may relocate. Hordes of rich
people and all sorts of brainy types live there, and it seemed like the best
possible place to build a brilliant future.
I’m twenty-seven, almost twenty-eight, and I’m an inventor and a barman. I
still live in Monaco, the European paradise. It’s not as big of a deal as you
might think, because I’ve got absolutely zilch money. The sun and sea are free
but everything else has to be paid for. Today is the last day like this, this
evening I’ll have stacks of money…unfortunately
I was a teenager I probably read too many Jules Verne novels and watched too
many movies, all kinds. I craved adventures and discoveries, envied the young
professor in the film Godzilla and the cool nerve of Jean Reno’s character. I
saw myself in the future, traveling through America, Kampuchea, Kenya, Belize,
and making appearances at scientific exhibitions and congresses.
not right to say dreams don’t come true. But the way they turn out can be very
different from the way you imagine. You have to desire something in precise,
concrete terms, sketching in even the tiniest details in your mind, or else. I
dreamt of America, and I got it, sort of like “The American Stars’N’Bars”. That
was the name of the bar in Port Hercules where I was working now. As it
happens, the owner looked like Einstein and had a temperament every bit as
ferocious as Godzilla. Dumb, like most bosses are, but somehow rolling in
been to Tunisia, England and Thailand, not as an explorer, but as a regular
tourist. I’ve never been to the United States, the most advanced place of all,
seemingly created for brilliant and talented minds. Even the Prince of Monaco
got his education there. I’ve dreamt and I’ve desired – but being broke is a
have had some good, even very good, scientific ideas. But I’ve only been
published in a University journal, and I’ve never taken part in a single
scientific congress or spoken at one. True enough, I have had moments of
genuine fame, although only among the student scientific community. But I’ve
been earning my living working as an evening barman
rolled out of bed in my cheap apartment on the boundary between Monaco and Beausoleil,
drank a coffee and immediately woke up. A view into nowhere from the window.
Although I liked my “nowhere” – the wall of the next building, covered in
cracks, which was the only “view” to greet me from my window.
the plus side, it’s shady where I live and not too hot which is important since
I only have a fan, and no air conditioning. The cracks in the wall are really
funky, practically a piece of art. They form a mysterious cobweb, like a tangle
of electric wires on a pole in Bangkok – intertwining, disappearing, twisting
and turning, and leaving you with the eternal question of the meaning of life.
Everything intersects with everything, everyone intersects with everyone, and
it’s all connected. You never know for certain which wire leads where.
of water – warm, hot, icy, then hot again – revived me. I hate my shower: it
has zero pressure and on top of that, the water temperature’s always changing!
The defective shower is just like my life, either scalding me with heat or
dousing me with icy cold. It is never possible to predict what will hit you
next while you are standing there, cringing in anticipation of yet another
glacial deluge. You just want to slice off the soap quick and jump out.
life was a stingy, defective shower today too. I’d been living for the last
five years with only a vague idea of my day after tomorrow. Maybe someone with
everything running calmly and smoothly might actually envy me a bit. After all,
it’s challenging not to have a plan of meetings set out for the week, or
weekends planned in advance, or a business development strategy set out by your
boss for years ahead, or working weeks with occasional patches of leave. But
living like I do is interesting for a week or a month, two at most. After that,
this kind of life can drive you nuts.
matter how any of us live, we all try to do what seems right. What a shame
we’re not insured against mistakes. Even if the soul is immortal, we can’t make
use of the experience of previous incarnations. They used to remove people’s
tonsils as being unnecessary. They even saw an upside to it – the chances of
developing strep throat were cut way down. It was cool, take out something you
don’t need and it does you good! But a couple of decades later it became clear
that tonsils were an essential element of the human immune system, and no way
should they be extracted!
that colossal breakthrough in technology, the Collective Mind, has put an end
to strep throat, amongst other things, without removing any tonsils, and
without disrupting the human immune system.
in human life is superfluous, nothing is unnecessary. There are things we don’t
understand the importance of, or we misunderstand it. Take for instance dreams.
They’re not useless. They affect our mood and prompt us to take action. But
what kind of action? I certainly wasn’t overjoyed about the action in store for
would think about anything, just to avoid getting dressed and getting to the
download center to submit to the damn procedure. I wanted to drag things out
since thinking is also work. My typical excellent displacement mechanism.
Thinking about dreams, the future, anything at all to avoid getting ready to go
but it’s time, unfortunately.
started lashing down. Goodbye, sun! Today is a day that will change my life.
Sadly, not for the better, and not temporarily, like the rain, but forever.
walked along the street, taking my time. Monaco stands on terraces above the
sea, but if you know the city, you can always avoid walking uphill, despite the
steep terrain. Just go down to the nearest lift, ride up from there and walk
down a bit again to the next lift. You can get right up to the top that way.
today’s stroll was the last time that I could walk along and ruminate,
imagining and fantasizing. I didn’t care that it was raining, a rarity in
Monaco, I was in no hurry to get where I was going. The route I took was by no
means the shortest. For the last time I walked past the Stars’N’Bars, where I
worked my final shift yesterday. They gave me a warm send-off, and even
Godzilla muttered something encouraging. Alcohol was off limits for twenty-four
hours before downloading, so everyone drank except me, wishing me good luck.
ahead was a very long stairway up the hill to the district of Monaco-Ville
where the Prince’s Palace is, as well as the Oceanographic Museum and Saint
Nicholas Cathedral where Princess Grace is buried. Miniature trains regularly
carry tourists up there. On a normal day, it would never have occurred to me to
clamber all the way up those steps on foot, but today it did. Today I walked
up, stopping at the observation platforms, admiring the view of the port and
the city. Everything appeared the same as usual. Lots of yachts in the port,
people walking somewhere and cars driving along. Heaps of tourists. I’d grown
very fond of this place, and now I was saying goodbye to it. According to the
contract, after I go through downloading I would at first live in a Belle
Provence guesthouse in France, not far from Theoule.
Ministry building, at the top of the hill housed a large number of various
local and international service agencies, including the Download Center of
UNICOMA and the UN Collective Mind agency. It was an inviting building on a
diminutive little square, but I didn’t feel like going in yet.
overcast, rainy weather reflected my state of mind. I didn’t want to download
my creativity, the creative action potential, my God-given power of original
thinking that was enhanced through years of schooling. But I didn’t have any
other way out, I needed money. The bank had given me a final warning and my
apartment had to be auctioned off. I had no way to pay, and more importantly,
Vicky needed another brain tumor surgery.
little gadget droned away quietly in my pocket. Apart from the people with
umbrellas, I was the only dry person walking in the street. The idea behind
this little device, which had not yet been developed to its full potential, was
unique: a direction finder caught and collected the energy of falling
raindrops, then used a mini-projector to generate around a person a small
magnetic field that didn’t allow the water through into the invisible dome. I
stood there in the rain, but remained absolutely dry. My only joy for today was
that I got to use my own invention. There would be money today too. The money
was for Vicky, but she would have done the same for me.
felt bitter having to sell my creativity when I was so close to my goal. The
“V-Rain” prototype was ready. But as usual, there wasn’t enough time. The
surgery was scheduled for Monday, but no funds had been transferred to the
clinic yet. The payment wouldn’t appear out of nowhere, so I had to get hold of
some money. I’d already been to a consultation and preliminary assessment, and
I knew I had a very high creativity index. If sold, it would bring enough money
to pay for a house or a guest house, and the surgery. And all sorts of things
I’d have absolutely no need for any longer.
has been almost two years since my university friend Pascal sold his
creativity. We always sat next to each other at lectures, designed all sorts of
gadgets. We would go out clubbing together, pickup girls, smoke grass and race
about on our bikes. We spent hours and hours together in Professor Firstein’s
lab where I invented the principle of collecting the energy of falling drops
and the repulsive field generator. But without Pascal’s amplifier, I couldn’t
have combined the inventions into the end product. That was my former friend’s
months before Pascal offloaded his creativity; he met Eva and fell head over
heels in love with her. The beautiful, leggy brunette’s blue eyes literally
drove him out of his mind. And I must admit she was quite a sight. I’d never
have had the nerve to approach a girl like that. But Pascal got to know her
immediately, he was never afraid of losing. “The guy who loses least often is
the one who never tries,” that was his favorite expression.
abandoned his studies, stopped coming to the lab and started looking for ways
to earn money on the side. He took to drinking. Too many rich guys were hanging
around Eva. There’s no shortage of them in Monaco, competing with their
resources to give her lush presents, taking her to the best restaurants, or
suggesting a trip anywhere on earth. It was just too tough, even for a smart
guy like Pascal. Pascal and Eva dated, and even started living together, but it
obviously wasn’t going to last. Romance fades rapidly in poverty. Eva was
finding less and less time for Pascal, she just couldn’t make her mind up and
move out and kept putting it off. Basically she was a really good girl, but who
can resist temptations? Why on earth would a beautiful young woman sit in a
cheap bar with Pascal, when her suitors were showering her with invitations to
hot clubs and yacht trips? Pascal sensed this, Eva drove him wild with
jealousy, and he started getting drunk regularly.
felt guilty because I wasn’t able to stop my friend from deciding to sell his
creativity, even though there was nothing in particular that I could have done.
Every conversation we had in those final weeks ended in a quarrel. In the end
Pascal simply swore at me and threw me out, like he was totally insane and a
week later he sold his creativity. Even though we were friends, we never really
got to say goodbye and that drove me crazy. They gave Pascal a massive payment
since he had the highest creativity level at an important University. As part
of the contract, UNICOMA gave him a swanky townhouse in Rocquebrune, in the
brand new Rocks residential estate, beautiful furniture, electronic gear, a
brand new Maserati, a few classy pieces of jewelry for Eva and that was it.
included in the list and stipulated in the UNICOMA contract was delivered
impeccably. A substantial sum was deposited into Pascal’s bank account. Only he
couldn’t spend it, now that he’d been left with the imagination of a truck
driver. Inventive, impetuous Pascal instantly transformed into a boring,
primitive individual, a “Veggie,” as we called them. He didn’t need money any
more, he simply couldn’t think of anywhere to spend it or anything to spend it
on. He didn’t have ideas any more, his ideas had been sold. And yet Pascal
appeared very content. A Happy.
left him two months later. At first she couldn’t believe what had happened to
her Pascal! That sparkling wit and subtle sense of humor had evaporated in an
instant. Pascal had fizzled out and no vast amounts of money and luxurious
apartments could compensate for the nauseating boredom that had erupted into
their relationship. Eva couldn’t believe this transformation, she loved Pascal.
For the first month she fought it, trying to find an answer, and for the second
she simply cried her heart out. And then she left. When it happened, Pascal
wasn’t upset at all; he just asked if she’d be back tomorrow or not. Eva said
no. Pascal just smiled and said: “OK!”