Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Cold Coasts

In the next post, you'll find my translation of the first chapter of Sergey Lukyanenko's novel Cold Coasts (AST, 2000). Here's the cover blurb:

Two thousand years ago the Godman came into the world; he performed a great miracle and, departing, left the people the Word, with the aid of which it's possible to do the impossible. But the Word is not available to all, though many thirst to possess it. And often a terrible death is died by those from whom they try to discover the Word. So it was, however, that the Word was found by a boy -- a teenager who found himself in the hard labor hell of the Island of Grief. Many wish to capture young Mark, who could change the fate of the world; but only one wants to protect him -- the old lag Ilmar....

Taste of Russian Fantastica: Cold Coasts

I'd put most of this behind a cut if I knew how, but I don't so I won't. Once again, I present the first chapter of a Russian science fiction or fantasy novel. This one is from the first book of Sergei Lukyanenko's alternate world fantasy duology, Holodnye Berega (Cold Coasts). Enjoy!

CHAPTER ONE, in which I draw conclusions and try to believe in them.

The whip in the overseer's hands seemed to be alive. First she slept, curled up in the sinewy hands overgrown with curly red hair. Next she stretched lazily, almost without concern for the convicts' arms. Then, becoming enraged, she began to rush from side to side, tiny copper tip flashing.

And the face of the overseer was always dull and apathetic, as if he said, "This is not me, not me -- no offense, kids! It's her, her -- whatever she wants, she gets...."

"Well, robbers, killers...will we be rebels?"

A disorderly chorus of voices answered that no, we were in no way inclined to that.

The overseer pressed his smile. "Good, you gladden an old man...."

For the overseer was indeed old -- forty, perhaps. Rarely do they live to such an age in his work -- someone chokes them with a chain, tramples them with their feet, but they also leave on their own, taking their money from other sins. Better to march inside the system, or wander along the night streets in the thin breastplate
of a guardsman, than to have dealt with the ten other things ready for all such scoundrels.

But this one, with the rooted nickname Joker, was too careful to fall into the hands of the despairing, and clever enough not to unnecessarily anger a whole group of prisoners under guard. If the work is great -- to figure out who is guilty before starting with the whip or scolding the cook -- from the unstolen remains of the provisions, would he know how to make something edible?

But no...not everyone understands this. Now, in ships' holds, there also flare up such reckless riots, after which the bewildered officers can't find a trace of such a fierce, strong leader. So there's only one thing left for it -- hang every third man, though this will only calm the convicts for a time.

"And you, Ilmar? Haven't you disassembled the locks yet?" A heavy hand descended onto my arm. Oh, Joker's strong! I wouldn't want to anger him -- even without the chains.

"That's you, Joker. I don't have any teeth."

The overseer who hung over my cot -- honorable, nosy, with only one neighbor -- grinned.

"That's right, Ilmar...that's right. Only you still have a tongue behind those teeth. Eh? He could eat your Word, and on that Word -- is the key's bond hitched together?"

For a moment his eye stiffened, drilling into me. Dangerous.

"If I had the Word, Joker," I quietly said, "I wouldn't be hanging around a second week in this stink."

The Joker pondered. The hold's ceiling was low -- of what's already here, why do more for the convicts -- and he bent involuntarily so as not to bump the lamp dangling directly overhead.

"Also correct, Ilmar. That means it's your fate -- to smell shit."

He finally backed away, and I took a breath.

Shit -- was no problem. And they didn't suffer like that. It was another matter to smell my own stink; now I had to learn to breathe it all the time.

The overseer left, bustled with the bolt, and stomped his boots up the ladder. The hold immediately came back to life. The Joker was not one of those who pretend to go, and then listen under the door.

"Where's the deck done, Baldy?" Loki the pickpocket started to bawl, who'd been sent to penal servitude by some evil smile of fate. According to all the laws, all he deserved was perhaps a good whipping, yes, or it might be another finger cut off. But now, no -- the judge didn't fancy it, or he remembered the girlfriend
who cleaned out pockets in the market -- and all. Send him to the Islands of Grief, and hope that the youth will help lengthen the three years of his sentence. However, Loki didn't lose heart -- those like him never lose heart. He hadn't gotten his nickname in honor of the ancient northern god of tricksters for nothing....

"But you look, you also are our master," gloomily answered Baldy, a minor official who was sent to us for embezzlement. All was clear, today was not his color....

In the distant corner, Volli-Sweetvoice tightened the song interrupted by the overseer's appearance. His long tongue had taken him into penal servitude, but he hadn't drawn any conclusions from that. That is to say, they'd potted him for the third time, and Volli really should have had half a year -- they don't give more than that for rebellion, and he'd started old.

"The collector said -- a new tax.
Then I'll start to cry, I answered...."

He had a voice that really was good and plenty of boldness, but the singer here did not have more than a nothing soul. Probably they applauded him in villages and neighborhoods of craftsmen... however, he didn't search for other glory, either. I lazily listened to him about what product exactly the song's hero gathered into a large basket, after which he handed over this product, and how the stupid tax collector erred, throwing the basket's contents into the same cart as the taxes.

He would better have sung other songs, the fool... Of love, of the moon's path on the water, of the hidden Word. He would have lived comfortably, and he would have made people glad.

"News!" Loki began to yell. Today interested him. The fart might be guilty, but might have light fingers. Interesting that they play that -- from soldiering, from duty, from interest?

"Enough," I said, looking at the rocking wooden ceiling. The ceiling creaked -- someone was walking on the deck. "Shut up. It's time to sleep."

"Yes, Ilmar, I agree with you...." Loki started unexpectedly.

"Enough, I said!"

Commanding two ten-men groups of boobies did not particularly make me smile. But it was necessary to work on this -- otherwise, authority in the hold would be in the hands of the Sweetclub, a natural murderer, caught redhanded over a fresh corpse. One hundred kilos of muscle and bone, and nearly brain-dead under his broad forehead. I hoped from my soul that he would happen to fall under a loaded cart in the mines. I'd help it along, only I didn't have any desire at present to climb under the ground.

That means -- tomorrow I'd have to move. To hunt, run away, hide. To prove that not for nothing did I have a reputation as the most deft pilferer in all the Dominions. From the shaft you will not run very far -- my whole hope was in the short way from the port into the mountains.

I needed to get a good sleep....

I got up and snuffed the lamp's wick. It plowed into burning oil. In the darkness the splash of waves outboard immediately became audible, as if aggravated by rumor. The cots creaked; somebody hurriedly growled the prescribed evening prayers to the Expiator. Volli sung a song under his breath -- he didn't know how to stop in the middle. I didn't even start to scold him.

"But now I had a girl once...." Sweet started his usual nightly history. It was better not to talk about women while in prison -- people get burning hot toward the end of the second week, and start not eating. But I didn't smash Sweet -- all his stories were so dull and sickening that they worked better than the bromine medicine, which we assumed they added to our swill. Only Sweet was excited by them, and what's more, so actively that on the second day I'd advised the Joker to change around people's cots.

Now next to the Sweetclub lay a lanky, very strong and silent person from some Russian hamlet forgotten even by the most ancient gods. How he came to the Dominions, where he learned conversation, why he was sent to penal servitude -- I don't know. The fellow wasn't bad, and by his muscles -- another stronger than Sweet. It seems he was a blacksmith back at home. One piece of bad luck -- very inert already, submerged in his own thoughts. Before, he stood up for himself -- but here people do not stay in order.

The boy who first was put next to the murderer, I'd put on the bunk over mine, for my sins. Though as the Elder of the group I had a right to live in comfort, that way things would be calmer. And it seemed at that moment the Patron-Sister from the heights beyond the clouds was also looking at me...I did right, oh, so right.

"But on the third day, when they came to clean her pigsty, I also came near, like as if by chance...." Sweet growled, choking up. "That skirt she started to kilt above her knees so as not to mess it up, but I stole up like...."

"Like how you talk about women!" the lanky blacksmith yelled from depression and muted fury. This was a sore point to him evidently in the furious edge between these two boss rams -- and it was necessary for the murderer to be twisted out constantly.

"What?" asked Sweet, with naive animal cunning. "I talk good! The granny was beautiful!"

"The woman!"

"Well, the woman...Her skirts, I say, started to rip...."

"You can't talk that way!"

"Why can't I?" Sweet was sincerely surprised. "Her legs were beautiful. Her snout...."


"Face, face...Her face, not at all, but her legs -- yes! Could it really be said -- that a woman is beautiful?"

"It could," said the blacksmith, thinking it over. "That's a good word."

"But that her snou... face was beautiful?"

"Could be...."

"And that her legs were beautiful?"

"That could be, too...." the blacksmith recognized with bewilderment.

"So I also say, the legs on her -- in! I stole up from behind, yes and slapped her...lovingly. She reached out as if angry, but that same snou...face she rubs, and she smiles!"

Baldy giggled; apparently Sweet's primitive idiocy was very amusing for the city official. He hadn't lost his sense of humor, hoping not without reason to spend the two years of his sentence in the dustless work of an accountant. The problems with him had turned out to be less bad than I had expected, and so I protected Baldy a little from danger.

One of the convicts, deceived in the course of time by his best expectations, spat with relish. He asked, "What you've got, Sweet, is all stories about grannies who fall into the mud...or do you have something a little worse?"

"Yes, I like it when a gra...a woman is closer to Mother Earth," the murderer acknowledged straight out. "It's the most...."

"Fine, everybody go to sleep!" I decided it would be a good idea to interfere. The blacksmith might see the murderer's words as an insult to the female sex and smother the fool right in his cot. That matter, of course, would be better, but not on the ship! Joker would finish it badly -- blood would spill....

"You've got no right, Ilmar, oy, no right!" said Sweet, cunningly, it seemed to me. "The kids in their flannel jammies want to hear something interesting, and you give orders."

But he didn't find any supporters. Those already in their flannel jammies were not at all entertained. Ha...he was trying to undercut the Elder. Not with his brain....

"Shut your trap!" I shouted.

And the blacksmith added willingly, "And I'll cork that up! You speak evilly in your heart!"

The murderer was instantly corked, and a beneficial silence began. Cots squeaked, from time to time, the deck was pressed in under who knows whose footsteps, waves knocked against the boards. The little ship was small, for the fast prison clipper couldn't carry our whole group. So it'd taken a long time to get here.

I lay muffled up in my jacket, sometimes twiddling my fingers mechanically -- as if putting a little pick into the lock. The dark was desperately deep -- the lousy wick's flame had long ago gone out, but we didn't get lighters. I would sleep and sleep...only now it wasn't possible.

Either at night it'd all begin to seem like nonsense, or....


No, it didn't seem so!

I heard how next to me metal barely, barely tinkled. And let others figure that this was the bronze chain clanking -- I already knew what a lock sounds like when a piece of steel tries to rummage around in it.

Completely weak, I lay and whispered mentally my gratitude to the Patron-Sister. She did not leave her foolish brother in his misfortune; she did not drive him down underground for seven interminable years! Sister, when I return to the Sunny Shore -- I will go to the temple, I will fall at your feet, I will kiss the marble steps, I will put five coins on your altar -- though I know money's nothing to you and it'll all fall into your priest's pocket. Thanks, Sister; you sent success to clumsy me!

Hey, yeah, the boy!

He'd come through, he'd gotten iron onto the ship with the group! Only, where had he hid it? The examiner was really skillful; he looked into places that were disgusting to remember. But all the same -- he'd gotten it through!

I'd searched the hold for a whole week to find whether there was any little present from the previous group or some random nail in the boards that was picked after them all -- only I didn't pay attention to the boy. I didn't know my luck was in him!

Yes, and who could've known?

A boy like the boy, barely the age to be under the edict "On the Eradication of Infantile Villainy" to begin to thunder about penal servitude. First he'd cleaned out someone important's pockets, then he'd climbed up into his house -- the young guy had turned out not to be a talker, he'd told us nothing about himself, and from the first I'd suppressed all questions about his business -- I shouldn't have assumed!

Maybe he'd swallowed some iron ore? No, he couldn't have; the first three days I saw he didn't get off his bunk; everything followed, if he didn't dig someone into his shit.

That means that it really was true -- Sister'd sent me luck.

Someone called out in his sleep -- maybe he dreamed of the mine, maybe he remembered his affairs -- and I needed the jangling to subside. Nothing, friend, nothing. Now I would wait.

...And nevertheless -- how did he carry the iron with him?

His breed -- now that's what had me on the alert. I could tell what type of boy he was -- face thin, features correct, gaze obstinate and steadfast. Boys like him don't earn money in the markets. Surely, someone's illegal son. Someone sent him to penal servitude, and someone else helped him. Gave him Joker's pockets, that and forgot about the regulations; brought in a skeleton key, and put it in the boy's hand.

Only thus, and not otherwise.

The silence had long ago regained its balance, and the boy was all hidden. Finally -- iron creaked. And at the same moment I jumped off the cot soundlessly, holding the chain tight in my hand so that it wouldn't clank.

But the boy heard. He jerked away, but too late -- I held him by the hand which lay on the lock, pressed down, and whispered in an undertone, "Quiet, fool!"

He froze.

But my fingers unfolded his hand, probed -- nothing.

I carefully unreeled the chain, and had already started groping along the narrow cot with both hands, hoping all the time that my fingers would feel the chill of metal.


I felt the lock, searched the bunks -- and I rummaged under the boy, and all around him, and then I searched his very self -- he slept, like everyone, in his clothing, and he could, which is no devil's joke, have hid the skeleton key in a pocket or cavity.


"What are you doing!" the boy protested quietly. And now he did this in vain. If he didn't feel guilty himself, and he began to suspect something bad, then he'd now begin to yell. Once it was hidden....

"Take your paws off me! I'll yell!"

Too late, too late. I'd figured out that I'd searched him for nothing, but too late... I stood up, holding the boy's hands and thinking feverishly. He didn't jerk away yet, but waited.

And now, when I was almost certain that the scared kid had swallowed the skeleton key, and there was nothing I could do now -- without ripping his belly open like the wolf in the fairy tale, or putting him in his bunk -- in the morning we'd come to the islands, and he'd have no time left... That's when the Patron-Sister looked down on me again. She shook her head, seeing how I, such a simpleton, held the answer in my hands, but understood nothing, she sighed -- yes, and she even sent me enlightenment.

In my agitation, I squeezed the boy's hand. Then I began from the beginning -- I took his right hand in my left, and vice versa. The boy remained silent -- obviously, he understood it all.

"You won't yell, buddy," I whispered. "You won't at all. Even if I break your fingers, you'll be quiet. Just don't fight me, kid, all the way now, now we're best friends...."

The boy's right palm was cold! Just icy! And here was the whole answer.

"But what are we doing here," I whispered, feverishly trying to remember what they called the boy. He'd introduced himself on the first day, but not since then; first I'd had to create order in the hold, and then everybody just called him Boy. "But what are we doing here, Mark -- let's sit down next to each other and have a talk. In a very quiet, friendly way...."

"I won't talk to you about it!" snapped Mark, when I'd raked him up off the deck and sat down on his own level. All around us, everything remained quiet, and if someone overheard us also, then he probably thought little of it. Let them think I wouldn't go with them to the trolley. Now I was sure!

"It's about that, Mark," I whispered in the boy's ear. "It is. You know the Word!"

He just jerked away, but I held tight.

"No, don't hurry away," I continued to persuade the boy. "Think. You picked the lock the second night; you couldn't do a thing. But tomorrow -- the port. And then -- the mine. Don't think that you can get out chains like that there. There's one exit, and there are no locks in the mine -- guards watch there. I know; I was there. So you'll miss your chance -- the Word won't help you!"

The boy grew still.

"Well, and would you take off the lock?" I laughed to myself very quietly. "What more? Do you think I can't open it? Feel!"

I forced him to take up the hasp of the lock and rapidly pulled from my own pocket my hidden worst-case pick -- durable, good, just torn off from the cot -- and put it into the lock mechanism. The lock clicked very quietly, unlocking.


"Then why...."

"Why am I here? But where would I go? Let's assume I manage the bolt -- not much work. What more? Jump overboard?"

"The boat...."

"Yes, yes, row hundreds of miles in a boat. Smart guy. You want me to let you out now? Run... Only give me your iron ore... by the way, do you have it there?"

Mark tried to act as if he didn't hear the question. Or was he really thinking?

"Then what to do?"

"Wait till port. Run on the rope, the usual business. Well, and...on the whole, you can get away."


The boy spoke louder from excitement, and I stopped up his mouth.

"Quiet! How -- not your concern. The main thing is that that's exactly when the metal's needed. I can open nonsense like this with only a pick. But I need metal to unlock a good big lock. I need to unlock it fast!"

"With a knife -- would you be able?"

"You have a knife? Yeah...sure. Show me!"

I said it and bit my tongue; the request was too hard and sharp. And loud.

But Mark had decided. He whispered something -- under his breath; I caught nothing. And he extended his hand to me.

His palm was cold, as if the boy had held it on ice for several minutes. With a sinking heart I realized that right next to me -- he knew the Word! But here was steel -- warm, warmed by his hand. They don't say it for nothing -- the Word only freezes the living.

"Careful, it's sharp!" warned Mark, too late.

Licking my finger, I felt the knife with my other hand. A short, narrow two-edged dagger. A handle carved from bone. Good steel, it seemed -- the boy hadn't broken the point or notched the edge of the blade once, rummaging clumsily in the lock.

"Fitting," I said. "Give it here...."

Of course, he didn't give it to me. Of course, I hadn't counted on this. I held the blade for another second, and then it disappeared. It dissolved under my fingers, and I held air.

"You're going to have to trust me all the same," I warned him.

"Then explain."

There was no way out.

"Listen, I won't repeat it. We run on the rope...."

For ten minutes I made him understand, not forgetting to recall several times that he'd have to give me the knife anyway. The boy kept silent, but I got the feeling that he was agreeable.

"That means we're agreed?" I asked for clarity.


Correct. And where would he go? No fool; he understands that in the labyrinths of the old mines where thousands of convicts are crammed together, nothing good will happen to him.

"In the morning, stick together. They worm in, run on the rope they'll fix up -- start after me. As the time comes, I'll let you know."

"I can't go to the Islands...." whispered the boy.

"Right, you can't."

"You don't understand. I can't get off the ship."


"I...shouldn't have been in the prisoner squad."

Here it is! The old song. All of us here are loyal, innocent sons of the Expiator, unlucky brothers of the Sister. But around us -- are villains, murderers....

"They were supposed to have executed me."

I hadn't expected anything like that. The boy spoke with conviction, and no need to doubt him. Only they don't hang somebody for nothing; the judge may be a bastard, too, but they'd rather send a murderer to bake on hard labor or rummage around in the mines, than spend rope without reason.

If they don't take it to extremes, then they execute only convicts such that his fellow convicts would rip him up all the same. Well, if someone killed a woman bearing a child -- this was understandable, this the Sister left to us when they led her to the bonfire. To kill someone asleep or helpless -- also a mortal sin. If the known count of victims is over twelve -- and here the matter is clear; the Expiator truly said, "Even should he fell a dozen, all the same he is pure before me, if wholeheartedly he repents", but about the second dozen he was silent. Possible, of course, to have misbehaved before the House -- only what extreme could the boy have contrived to anger the House?

In any case, I moved back from Mark. If the young guy's head wasn't in order, then I'd have to watch myself. He only needed a moment with the Word to reach into the Cold and get his knife. But me against steel -- in the darkness, when you can't see your own nose?

"Fear not," said the boy, and I jerked up at this impudence. But I kept silent -- what to do? -- and I really did fear. Though there was barely, barely any light, though there was a chink in the deck and an icon-lamp on the other end of the hold -- I was used to it all. I'd crept through the Saxe caves, groped in Kirghiz barrows, cleaned out Chinese palaces by night, when one phosphoric light came from the ceiling of the heavens... But there was nothing -- but sit, wait, and if not, get a dagger stuck in my side.

"And what kind of business should they have hung you for?"

"My business."

"That's true. Only what are you afraid of now? The sentence was given, you got into a ship, they almost towed you to the Islands. You feel how the waves pound? This is already coastal tossing. The pilot is inexperienced; he's afraid to enter the bay by night.

"If they understood...there..."

"And what? They'll send out a clipper after you? A great bird! They will send it with an order to hang you on the spot, or conversely to send you back."

"Maybe a clipper, maybe a glider."

Well, well. That's so with everyone. I remember one little type who seduced a girl, shaking so in the chamber -- "They'll hang me, hang me"... But he got lashes, yes, he even got to go home.

"Go lie down and sleep," I ordered, as if Mark himself had gotten out of his cot in tears. "Tomorrow you'll need your strength. Consider -- you may have the cleverest cleverness, but if you don't know how to run -- that's the end."

I helped the boy back to his cot, chain jingling loudly, and already not even one convict woke up. They started to turn over, coughed, and groaned; someone cursed sleepily. But I lay down for a while, closed my lock at the right moment, and started to think.

Big stuff -- to know the Word. I'd never once seen anything like it; it usually took place over our heads. In war, when I was drafted into the army in my youth. Or in a dark corner in a strange house, praying to Sister that the owner would pass by and not force my sins to multiply.

But to be here that way, holding it in my hand when they whisper the Word and climb into the Cold -- never. True, there was Silent Gomez, who'd earned his name with heroic stuff, but not atrocities. And they drank together, and the revellers arranged it. But then they found him in an alley, so cut and stabbed all over that it became clear to everyone -- they'd asked him for the Word. The smile on Gomez' face was frozen, terrible, evil. Apparently, he'd endured everything, but not revealed the

But that boy, where did the boy know it from? Did his father give it to him? Then exactly -- he was of the aristocrats. Ah, Joker, he got used to me, he watched Baldy, and who was hiding the Word -- he didn't realize. That means, like your fart....

They fed us hurriedly and with what was obviously garbage. The sailors had gotten bolder; they no longer feared a riot. Joker himself brought a cauldron of kasha glue, not even fish-flavored, and a basin. He stood by the door and threw glances as the convicts, wincing, filled their bellies. He was lulled by the weaving. The ship rocked slightly on the waves, but lazily -- even those who labored under sea-sickness had cheered up. Making noise already, getting down the anchor and the capstan, and right next to it, the outboard, we heard muted voices. And that was right; they didn't just bring us, the worker cattle. They also brought provisions from the capital for the officers: weapons, clothing, tools. That town wasn't all that small anymore; there were many to feed near the garrison.

"Well, it's time!" The Joker put on his most polite smile. "I'm glad for you, and unhappy in grief. You will expiate your guilt in honest labor -- I must carry mine back."

"Just don't stay," growled Loki. Only yesterday, he could have gotten a lash for his impudence, but today he escaped their hands.

Joker moved along the hold, stopping by occupied cots and unlocking the chain. All the same, he was a man of great courage -- he wasn't afraid to take the fetters from twenty bandits all by himself. Though of course, he also understood what we all knew -- that the deck and the mooring now were watched by guards.

Joker stopped near me and asked, "Should I take off the lock, or can you manage by yourself?"

"Take it off already," I asked.

Joker shook his head. "That such as you wouldn't know how to take off a lock with a woodchip, too...."

My heart missed a beat, but the overseer opened the lock and passed on. No, he suspected nothing. Probably disappointed that Slippery Ilmar had proved so simple to check.

Nothing. Suffer, friend. Soon you'll get your show....

Mark jumped from the top bunk, rubbing the wrist chafed by the chain. As it always is with boys; they forged it too tightly so that they couldn't get out of the cuff with a flexible hand. But the bleeding track didn't bother Mark. He came toward me with such a conspiratorial look that I instantly turned away. Joker was on the scent; it wouldn't be worth it to anger the Sister with my own stupidity in making trouble.

"One at a time, one at a time, go up!" cried Joker. "Move!"

I was fifth or sixth in line; after me came Mark. After ten days' imprisonment in the close, stuffy, and smelly box, the possibility alone of leaving the hold seemed miraculous, an unprecedented gift. It all gladdened me -- the little corridor, and the steep ladder, and -- here it is, happiness! -- a square of cloudless sky in the hatchway.

"Pass on, don't hang back!" they bellowed at me from the deck. Squinting from dazzling sunlight, I rose, got a kind but strong push in the back, and joined the group of convicts.

The ship on which they'd brought us to the Sad Islands was not large, but strong and tidy. The deck -- mast, sail - it is accurately rigged and set, all in their places. They all have a strict sea placement and incomprehensible name. If I weren't a thief, I would have become a sailor...

The ten-man squad guarding us seemed far more lax than the ship's sailors. Given that they were wonderfully well-armed -- both crossbows and bronze broadswords, and one even had a bullet-thrower in hand. On the other hand, they had a dirty look, sour mugs, and fat. You can't hide the truth with iron.

In front of the guards lay a coil of thick rope. Everything as I'd known it'd be.

This was good. I'd hoped for this.

Turning my eyes from the guards, I started admiring the islands. My eyes watered, but it was nothing. After the darkness of the hold, I remembered with surprise that in light, there's distance and perspective.

The Sad Islands -- three of them, but now we stood off the coast of the largest, the most inhabited, and the most beautiful. Rocky shores overgrown with lush verdure. brown hills in the distance, a fort on the huge steep rock towering over the bay, and a town squeezed against the port -- confused, noisy, and bright. Far off in the mountains rose the smoke of the furnaces... at half power -- they'd smoked far more strongly earlier on. It was beauty, and the beauty was that last dying loveliness that I love most of all... In the middle of the city, as could be assumed, rose the spire of the Expiator's church and the cupola of the Patron-Sister's temple. I jealously noted that the spire was far taller, and the the tree's gilding had recently been redone. Eh, Sister, should I live -- I'll bring you a present. It's bad that they're forgetting you these days.... The ship stood in its berth; the loaders scurried here and there on the lowered gangplank, throwing condescending smirks and glances at us. Fine. We'd see yet who'd be laughing last....

Mark came out, stumbling, barely finding his way. The guardsmen burst out laughing, looking at our clumsy movements, and clearly they didn't expect trouble. Someone among the convicts even fell; this provoked particularly wild merriment.

But I was delighted by the light. My eyes already were adjusting; in my line of work, you can't do without this. My chest couldn't not breathe in the sweet pure air. Even the guardsmen's abuse improved my mood -- after all, these were new people, not those snouts that'd become so loathsome to me during the week.

"To the rope," one of the guardsmen finally ordered. "C'mon, who's the brave one...."

And suddenly, Mark took a step forward.



I nearly started to yell "Stop!", but I couldn't attract attention to myself in any way. I couldn't in any way.

"Good boy," the guardsman, elderly and good-natured in appearance, praised Mark. "Follow orders, honor the Expiator -- you'll get back home...."

Dexterously, he threw around the boy's neck a loop of rope connected with a short rope to a second loop, quite narrow. He pulled a tarred rope end out of the coil, jerked it through the small loop, and announced thoughtfully, "Is it pressing on you?"

Mark shook his head, and of course he tightened the craftily connected loop. The guardsmen neighed with laughter.

The old guardsman slackened the knot and said didactically, "Don't pull your head, you'll be strangled... Next!"

My well-thought out plan had flown all to the Devil. And all the same, pushing back Loki, who'd already taken a step forward, I walked to the rope. I waited silently while they put the leash around my neck; then I bent down and started to uncoil the rope.

"Hey, what you doing?" said the stunned guardsman.

"It'll strangle the kid if he has to stand between two grown men," I explained to him. "He has to go first."

"But really...." The guardsman had fumbled this, in the convicts' view. Evidently, he would ponder who to put right after Mark, so the size increase would be a little less.

But the convicts picked out for him were tall. Indeed, I seemed like the shortest... especially now, when I was busy stooping.

"Fine, stand behind him," said the guardsman anxiously. "And walk carefully. Choke the boy -- you'll get lashes!"

Now there was no speech about what goodwill this was; Mark's small stature deprived the guardsman of his expected entertainment. They sorted the convicts by height, cursing the judge who'd put the boy into an adult troop of prisoners. Surely Mark was right in saying that he'd been sent to the mines by bad luck -- they usually exiled tall, strong men here. For children, there were punishments throughout the Dominions -- to sluice gold dust up north, or to find leftover ore in the tailings of old iron mines....

I stood behind Mark and, using the general noise for cover, hissed, "What have you done?"

"They said it themselves -- I'd strangle between two adults," answered the boy in a whisper.

He lied. He only thought that up after I said it. But what was the matter was something else -- he didn't want to let the knife out of his hands....

"The lock can't be opened!"

"Open it yourself."

I waited, seething with illwill. Finally, they'd strung us all onto the rope, and stoppered its ends with wooden bars and heavy locks. So... the key was big, two bits, three cuts, it turned to the left....

Twenty seconds' work, if by knife. Too long. I needed to be faster. Granted, the guardsmen here didn't give honor to the service. All the same, after twenty seconds, anybody would notice something wrong.

"Forward! You've loafed enough!" When we all had been gotten under lock and key, the guardsman's tone changed elusively. The ridicule seemed the same, but now it became nastier, more annoying. "Git!"

And we moved toward the ladder.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Twilight Patrol

It's not even 6 PM but I'm feeling pretty sleepy right now. I know why. It's because I got the bright idea last night to try reading Sumerechnii Dozor (Twilight Patrol), Sergey Lukyanenko's 2004 sequel to his awardwinning urban fantasy, Nochnoi Dozor (Night Patrol).

It's set three years after ND, and the good news is that Anton's managed to get married and have a daughter, Nadya (Hope). The bad news is that there's a rich and powerful normal human who's learned all about the Others, and wants to become one. He has no latent power. He doesn't want to be Initiated by a vampire or a werewolf. No, he's decided that he wants to become a Mage of the Light, and he's fairly sure he can force the Others to do that for him.

I wouldn't be so worried if the head of the Night Patrol didn't seem, reluctantly, to be taking him seriously.

Frankly, I'm not as interested in reading Alisa Donnikova's story, Day Patrol -- even though it apparently has more information on both her and Ali-Sher, the Night Patrol half-Other determined to avenge his father's murder at Alisa's hands, and even though it's written by another award-winning author, Vladimir Vasil'yev. But I sure I will eventually try it out. Still, I'm also eager to work my way through the Tanya Grotter books. I miss the little redhead and her buddies.

I still really need to increase my Russian vocabulary, particularly when it comes to nouns. Although I can usually get the gist of what's going on, and occasionally I feel that I'm actually just reading, Lukyanenko still is using an sf/f writer's large vocabulary. Maybe if I were reading something aimed at kids, I'd be able to consult the dictionary less. Still, me for the 500 Russian Verbs book. Real Soon Now.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Matching Donations

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a big family company that had a big general office meeting. The company president called everyone to order and told them, "You know, we're having a big problem lately with our retirees. Of course we want everyone to be able to go to Many Mansions Retirement Home. But spots are always opening up so unexpectedly that some of the retirees don't get a chance to settle their affairs before they go. Even the ones who have time to pack up often don't have time to clean up their desks, so their files and accounts are a mess. What's worse, a lot of times they've damaged the equipment they had to sign for, so they have debts for damages. Which the CEO insists they have to pay, to the very last penny."

Everybody nodded, a little guiltily. They'd been hoping the CEO would just write off the problems. He was incredibly generous on lots of things, but he sure could be a stickler about others.

"So the CEO wants me to let you know that retirees with debts still get to go to Many Mansions, but there'll be a loss of certain privileges until they've worked off their debts. This can happen to any of you."

There was an unhappy stillness, followed by a worried murmur.

"Now, I know many of you have been doing your best to clean and repair things around here, and I appreciate that. Some of you have been helping the retirees work off their debts faster by sending them some of your own hard-earned cash. That's good, too. But I've decided that what we really need is a voluntary but organized program to handle this work and help out our retirees. Let us know that you're donating money to the retirees' debt, and this company will match it. You can donate to someone you know, whoever's in most need, the general fund -- or even to yourself, if you've already worked up a debt. Totally voluntary and totally confidential. But I'd like to see us do it. By working together, we'll be able to help out our retirees, just as we hope our future coworkers will someday help us."

Everyone clapped. It sounded like a really good idea. Also, it was finally time to get up and have a break. When the clapping petered out, they headed off for cookies and pop, feeling quite a bit better about the fate of both the retirees and themselves.

Meanwhile, though, one of the junior accountants was running a few figures through her head. She knew something about the kind of debts the retirees had amassed -- especially the ones who'd gone to Vegas not long before heading off to Many Mansions. She bit her lip, then went up to the front to talk to the company president. (It really was a family company.)

"Sir," she said in a low voice, "I've been thinking about the debt levels. Even if every employee here donated our entire salaries, there's no way we could possibly pay for fixing and cleaning and replacing everything!"

"That's true," said the president. "But that's what the matching donations are for. To be honest, it won't be half-and-half; it'll be more like 1% employee, 99% company funds. What's more, those company funds are either coming straight from the CEO's wallet or from friends he's invested in."

"Then why don't we just let the CEO pay for everything?"

"Teambuilding. Those of us who are still working can learn a lot by working to help our retirees. It's not a one-way street, either. The retirees are always talking to the CEO about us. Even the ones still working off their debt write him really nice letters about us. So working for them in return is the least we can do."


Sorry about all the financial language. Personally, I blame Jesus for talking about Purgatory with that "pay to the last penny" remark. But it's really a less disturbing image of Purgatory than the bit about refining fire and making yourself worthy to enter God's presence, or being saved as through fire.

(Yep, I'm opening a big ol' can of worms. Sorry, Joy!)

Basically, Purgatory is Heaven. Your sins have been forgiven. But it's the making them as white as snow that's the problem. See, just because your sins are forgiven doesn't mean their earthly consequences vanish. If you biffed Billy over the head with a baseball bat, and you apologized and Billy forgave you, and you both put the whole thing behind you -- well, Billy's still gonna have a lump on his head the size of an egg. Whatever happens with Billy and that lump you gave him is at least partly a consequence of your sin, and it will catch up with you. If not here (which it might!), then in Heaven itself. God is just.

You have a duty to try and fix those consequences as well as you can -- to make reparation. If you don't do a good enough job of it while you're alive, then you'll just have to let God purify them off you. God can and will do it. Since there's no time in Heaven, it will take place in an eternal instant. But the process will almost certainly be about as unpleasant as anything in a state of perfect bliss can be. After all, there you are in Heaven, and yet your temporal punishment is keeping you from full communion with God. Even for an eternal instant, that would be bad.

So when you go to Confession, you also get assigned a penance. It usually includes acts of reparation for what can be made right, and acts of piety and prayer for what can't be. Back in the old days, some of the penances handed out were really fearsome and long, especially those handed out to monks and others in rigorous spiritual training. Of course, these acts had no power in themselves. But with God lending them grace, His power could be put behind them. (And thanks to that binding and loosing power over sins given to the Apostles and their successors, people could be sure that God did put His power behind it.)

Also, the idea of praying for the dead and for their purification was already part of Jewish belief (well, at least for non-Sadducees!). It still is, as witness the
Mourner's Kaddish, which is prayed for eleven months after a death. Purification is "a vital principle of Jewish life, one that motivates and animates the Kaddish recitation. It is based on the firm belief that the living, by acts of piety and goodness, can redeem the dead. The son can bring honor to the father. The 'merit of the children' can reflect the value of the parents."

So just as folks prayed for the dead and living, some folks wanted to do penances for their dear departed, as well as for themselves. This was deemed a good idea. Gradually, all sorts of pious acts were granted equal power to make reparation by the Pope or the bishops. Systems arose which tabulated how many days of daily penance these acts were worth. All these acts, including the penance days, now were said to earn "indulgences". "Plenary indulgences" would pay off all of a soul's temporal debts and put them in the same state as just after baptism, while "partial indulgences" would at least take the edge off them.

Now, one of the pieces of news that folks might have seen about World Youth Day was that the Pope granted plenary indulgences today to attendees, and partial indulgences to those who prayed for them. And there was much snarfing about the whole thing, seeing as how Germany was the homeland of the Reformation, and the Reformation started about indulgences. Selling indulgences, to be precise.

It really wasn't supposed to be selling. Giving alms to the poor or the Church was a pious act, and some smart aleck decided that ought to earn an indulgence, too, especially if the Church needed money for some special purpose. (Funding the building of the new St. Peter's, in this case.) But it devolved into selling them, and that's what Martin Luther was complaining about. It was a legitimate complaint, too. The Council of Trent eventually decided to forbid granting indulgences for any purely financial act. But by that time, it was too late.

Still, people like to get indulgences -- mostly for other people. If you're worried about the eternal fate of a friend or relative who's just died, there's great comfort in knowing that as long as the person didn't go to Hell, they're definitely out of Purgatory on the wings of a plenary indulgence. (If the person was already fully in the bliss of Heaven, or sadly had gone to Hell, the indulgence is deemed to have gone to some other soul in need of it.) They're also a great personal help to people feeling a great deal of sadness and contrition for their sins, especially if there really isn't any obvious way to fix the results of what they've done.

(By the way, indulgences are only ever put in effect against things you or somebody else has already done. You can't bank up indulgences in the anticipation of sinning with impunity. Some people seem to think they work that way, but that was probably because of the now-extinct system of ranking them by days of penance. Also, other than to yourself, you can't apply indulgences you earn to the living. You can still pray for them, but they'll just have to do penance or get indulgences for themselves.)

So what can you get indulgences for? Well, there used to be a blue zillion things. But Pope Paul VI got bored with that right after Vatican II, and just declared all the old indulgences gone. (Simplifies matters, eh? The system of classification by penance days went away, too, though you'll still see some folks using it.) Then he declared a list of pious practices you could get indulgences for doing, most of which are pretty simple. Reading the Bible for half an hour, for example, or doing the Stations of the Cross. Some of them are more elaborate practices, mostly connected with feast days or important anniversaries. Some of them are single occasion indulgences, like the ones connected to the Jubilee Doors during the millennium year, or now the ones for World Youth Day. All these indulgences are listed in the Enchiridion/Handbook of Indulgences; there's about seventy of 'em (minus the single occasion ones).

Earning a plenary indulgence isn't easy, though. You have to perform the pious act while in a state of grace (no mortal sins still on your soul); take Communion that same day (hence the need for a state of grace!); have a soul free from attachment to any sin (at least at that time -- and that's harder to achieve than a state of grace!); go to Confession (within a week either before or after the pious act); and pray for the Pope's intentions. Oh, and you have to be intending to get an indulgence. (But you can only get one plenary indulgence a day, so don't get overly ambitious.)

If you screw up on any of that, you can still get a partial indulgence. (But the state of grace and the intention are a must.)

There are plenty of things you can get partial indulgences for, and you don't have to be in quite as pure a condition. You still have to be in a state of grace and be intending to get the indulgence. (Well, and do the pious act, of course.)

So every Catholic schoolkid probably goes through a phase of collecting partial indulgences holy cards with saint pictures, really. Some older people get indulgences in that spirit, too. This is probably not the best way to do it, but it beats doing nothing. If thinking of helping folks as a sport gets you to help folks, then go for the sports! But really, any pious act should be bringing you closer to Jesus and the rest of the members of the Body of Christ, and inspiring you to live a better life and to work for others. You should do it in a spirit of love, gratitude, contrition, and determination to do better.

But there's no reason to be ashamed of working for indulgences. I know it's been years and years since I've tried to get any, though I've been glad to take them when I've been told I was eligible. Now that folks have been posting about them and I understand their workings a bit better, I'm ashamed that I haven't been trying. Given all the departed friends and folks I worry about who probably need prayers and spiritual help, and how much time I've spent praying and offering things up for them without even applying for this extra help, I feel like slapping my forehead and yelling, "Doh!" (Especially since even the departed in Purgatory can pray for us still on earth, and the departed who get to Heaven can pray even better.)

However, there's no reason not to start collecting indulgences again today. The special World Youth Day partial indulgence is available to "all the faithful, wherever they may be", during all the days of World Youth Day, from August 16 to August 21. All you have to do for this one is to have a contrite heart and pray fervently for Christian youth everywhere to be strengthened in the profession of the Faith, to be confirmed in love and reverence toward their parents, and to form a firm resolution to follow "the holy norms of the Gospel and Mother Church" in living out their present or future life in their family, and in whatever vocation to which they are called by God.

Obviously you don't have to do this stuff to be Catholic, or even to pray and help anyone. But personally, I planned to pray for the kids at World Youth Day anyway, and widening it to all Christian youth is no skin off my nose. So why not take advantage of this voluntary matching program?

Biblical basis for indulgences, via Jimmy Akin.

More indulgence info, including a discussion about how not to be superstitious about them.

Ways to get plenary indulgences.
Ways to get partial indulgences. Collect 'em all! :)

On Singing Schubert's "Ave Maria"

Another musical post! This is a pretty odd lead-up to my bloggiversary, but it seems to be where this week keeps pointing. I had some interesting news the other night which I cannot post, alas. Kresta on EWTN radio keeps broadcasting John Michael Talbot, or whatever his name is. So now this.

I meant to post about this on Monday night, since the cantor at the evening Mass for the Feast of the Assumption sang the "Ave Maria" sometime during the proceedings. But today I was listening to Fr. Roderick Vonhoegen's wonderful Catholic Insider podcasts. His August 15th podcast has a wonderful live rendition by a Canadian pilgrim to World Youth Day, about three minutes in; and that reminded me.

If you are a singer and especially if you're female, you will probably someday be asked to sing Schubert's setting of the "Ave Maria", and if you are Catholic you'll be asked to do it for weddings and funerals and all sorts of Marian occasions. So if you don't know it, you probably should learn it. It's not really all that hard to memorize. You also get double the use out of it, because then you'll also know the Latin words for praying the Hail Mary; and that might just come in handy.

My basic recommendation for learning it to find a really good recording and a copy of the words, and listen to it about five zillion times. Then sing it reallllly slooooowly about five zillion times. Once you're note-perfect on it, then you can speed it up. Sing it at faster speeds note-perfect, until you can sing it note-perfect at the actual speed every time.

Next, practice it while doing something that needs a lot of breath, like walking or jogging or lifting weights. *g*

See, the "Ave Maria" needs a lot of breath for those long held-out phrases. It doesn't seem like it's too hard when you're singing it all by yourself, because you're relaxed and using your air efficiently. (Not to mention using good singing technique, which means you're not letting out much air.) But when you're doing it for a close relative's wedding, and every relative you have is in the building listening only to you, and you suspect the bride is freaking over whether everything will be perfect, and you really want it to be perfect, too... well, you might just have a tad bit of stress hurting your technique, and thus need that practice in singing without air. Especially if the ushers take their time bringing the mothers up the aisle, and you're swinging into your third time through the whole dang song!!!

(Not that I have any personal experience in singing the "Ave Maria" three times in a row. Oh, no. I'm pretty sure it was four.) *g*

The really important thing is to try not to push. Not your voice, not the words, not the song. The song is supposed to sound humble, like someone praying, but also glorious, like praying. It's supposed to suggest, and with grace even open the way to, a religious experience for both musicians and hearers. If you are truly singing while knowing you stand in the presence of God, and are speaking to your friend, mother, and prayer warrior Mary, then you should sound like it. Don't be bombastic or forceful. Just let the song float on out, and do your best to trust both Schubert and your voice. It's honestly much easier if you just let go.

(After the aforesaid zillion times of practice, of course.)

So yes, if you know the song really well, you'll realize that that Canadian pilgrim did cut some of her phrases a bit short sometimes, and maybe didn't do it perfectly as written. But even if you noticed, did you care? No. Of course not. You can't hear her heaving for breath, which is probably the most common problem. But even if she'd done that, if the vocal quality, the words, the melody, and the prayerfulness are all there -- and they are -- then nothing else really matters.

(Though it's much easier to get people to pray if you're not panting, so you should practice the song a zillion times.)

Nochnoi Dozor Soundtrack Translations

Over the last couple days, I've been posting translations of most of the songs on the Russian soundtrack album for the urban fantasy movie Nochnoi Dozor, aka Night Watch (2004). You will find them below.

Why did I do this? Partly because I finally got ahold of the soundtrack only in the last month or so. Partly because I was going crazy singing along with songs when I couldn't quite make out the lyrics, or didn't know the words I was singing. But mostly because I could and felt like it, having finally finished unofficially translating the 1998 novel by Sergei Lukyanenko on which this movie (and its in-production sequel, Nochnoi Dozor 2: Chalk Circle of Fate) are based.

I was ecstatic to find that the novel, and our friend Anton, actually has a happy ending! Not a foregone conclusion for any Russian novel, and especially not for one with as many twists and bad deals for the main characters as this one.

As those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may know, I like this movie and book quite a lot. I like the soundtrack, too, especially in its extended "unofficial version", which you can buy in mp3 form at It's a unique mix: Russian classic rock with tubas cheek by jowl with balalaika hip hop, techno, R&B, singer-songwriter angst, a Queen remix, a filksong performed by a fantasy writer friend of Lukyanenko's, and Arab/Celtic Renfair music from Richie Blackmore! It's fun and musically inventive, with something for everyone. Even my dad didn't find it too hateful, and he's the king of turning off tunes.

But Russians love poetry, and thus really appreciate music with strong lyrics. Notice how the vocals aren't generally mixed down as far as in American music, and how clearly singers tend to enunciate. Lukyanenko really believed in that, too; the lyrics of the songs that came up on Anton's player were important elements of the story he was telling. So the album's even more enjoyable and topical to the movie and book if you know what's being sung.

So I've translated a few of the songs so that they can be sung, but I tried not to sacrifice meaning to rhyme and rhythm. The others are as literal of translations as I thought I could get away with. I hope you find them helpful and interesting. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Nochnoi Dozor Soundtrack: "Come, I Will"

Ilya Lagutenko not only sings on the soundtrack; he also plays Andrei, the vampire hairdresser with the skanky girlfriend. He's also the lead singer of Mumiy Troll.

Idi, Ya Budu (Come, I Will)
Artist: Ilya Lagutenko
Album: Nochnoi Dozor, 2004
Translation: Maureen S. O'Brien, 8/17/05

And I will, and I will,
I will steal you away.
Bitter is my candy.
Light, Light-light-light-light-light, Light!
I see the way,
Aroma clouds my mind, goes to my head,
I can't breathe...

Come to me, I will be
Like your life...
I will be yours I'll be.
And I will kiss you,
And catch cold.
Come to me, I will be,
Come, and I will...
Come, and I will...

From there, from where
These fragrant oils flow,
Sipping a taste of an unknown cola,
Sweet defects
Sting down the veins
With thorns of universe.

Nochnoi Dozor Soundtrack: "Dark and Light"

Zhanna Friske is a Russian singer who also plays Alisa Donnikova, a Day Patrol witch (ved'ma), in the movie.

Tyomnie i Svetlie (Dark and Light)
Artist: Zhanna Friske
Album: Nochnoi Dozor, 2004
Translation: Maureen S. O'Brien, 8/18/05

There'll be night, we'll get through it,
Changing to dark from the light.
Until the morning, all's as if leaving,
The city looks just like it dies.

But once again the faces on the sleepy streets
Only seem speechless to us.
Even from silence, you won't hide
The city's dark, our thoughts...

Both the Dark ones and the Light,
Both in the day and night, they are patrolling you.
Both the Dark ones and the Light,
Both in the day and night, they are controlling you.


There'll be new day after the night,
And the dark will once more be bright.
And with the light, opening our eyes
We'll see them all for ourselves, as they are.

Who our friends are, who our foes are,
Who is good and who is bad.
There will be light; then we'll decide
Who are strangers, who're our own.


They are controlling you, controlling you,
The Dark ones and the Light, they are patrolling you, controlling you...


Both the Dark ones and the Light...
Both the Dark ones and the Light...


Nochnoi Dozor Soundtrack: "And I Flew and All"

This is the song Zhanna (playing Day Patrol witch Alisa Donnikova)
sings in the movie's concert scene. An extremely hummable song.

A Ya Vse Letala (And I Flew and All)
Group: Zhanna Friske
Album: Nochnoi Dozor, 2004
Translation: Maureen S. O'Brien, 8/17/05

So it's all for nothing that I
Thought I'd get all of what I want.
Day and night in all of my dreams,
Up in the clouds I flew.
Me and you, we'd walk through the stars --
Us and our love, yeah, only us two.
And you just take me by the hand --
I'm in the clouds anew!

And I
Flew and all
But I
Knew and all
Dreams are
Just too small
For love.

And I
Flew and all
But I
Knew and all
Dreams are
Just too small
Small-la, la-la
La-la, ly-la, la-la

Just like always, through clouds I sail;
You melted away and left me alone.
You know, you think back how we were.
I'm storing up our love.
No you's like a sky with no moon;
Night is so dark, and I feel cold too.
But don't think I'll just grieve for you.
This is how I'll get through:

And I
Flew and all
But I
Knew and all
Dreams are
Just too small

Flew and all
Knew and all
Flew it all


And I
Flew and all
But I
Knew and all
Dreams are
Just too small
For love.

And I
Flew and all
But I
Knew and all
Dreams are
Just too small

And I
Flew and all
But I
Knew and all
Dreams are
Just too small
Small-la, la-la.

Nochnoi Dozor Soundtrack: "The Choice"

Yuliy Burkin's a frequent Lukyanenko co-writer, and a few related songs appear on Lukyanenko's website. Actually, so does Burkin himself -- in a guest appearance as a character in the sequel to Lukyanenko's cyberspace masterpiece, Labyrinth of Mirrors You can download many of Burkin's songs from his own webpage, too.

Vihbor (The Choice)
Lyrics and Music: Yuliy Burkin
Album: Nochnoi Dozor, 2004
Translation: Maureen S. O'Brien, 8/17/05

Between the Light and Dark
Your path and mine is marked;
And there's nobody with us,
No advice and no order....

But you have to know
You have to make your own choice.

From time immemorial
We've been in a Patrol.
Who's in Night, who's in Day,
Each ought to have -- their own....


He fell, his pain not hiding,
Into the void of unbeing --
He who'd looked for truth here
Gazing into false mirrors.


What's good? What's bad? To discern
We don't have the luck to learn.
But in play, in mirages gone through
Life is reset anew...


Between the Light and the Dark
Your path and mine is marked.
Between the Light and the Dark
Our path on Earth is marked....

Nochnoi Dozor Soundtrack: "Be My Shadow"

Bud' Moey Ten'yu (Be My Shadow)
Group: Splin
Album: Nochnoi Dozor, 2004

On this night a fern will dissolve with wondrous hues,
On this night the domovois will come back home...
Clouds from the North, wind from the West,
That means soon a witch will wave to me...

I live expecting marvels, like a Mauser in the holster,
Like a spider in a spiderweb,
Like a tree in the desert,
Like a black fox in its hole....
It's cold in the room for me, the door they won't open,
Keys at the shrine, and the shrine at the mountain.

I ran through telescopes from children's frightened eyes
I wanted to sleep with a mermaid, but didn't know how to be with her,
I wanted to get off the tramcar and come in through your window
Wind blows from the borders, still with us all the same
Wind blows from the borders, but it's with us all the same

Be my shadow, squeaking step,
painted Sunday, sunshine rain.
Be my god, my birch beer,
electric current, curve of arms.
I was witness that you're the wind,
you blow into my face and I laugh.
I don't want to part from you without a fight,
so far I dream of you.
Be my shadow....

It's good to dance on coals with those
With whom it's like pine tree sap;
It's good to pour milk for young bodies;
It's good to get off the tramcar and come in your window.

Be my shadow.
Be my shadow.
Be my shadow.
Be my shadow.
Be mine.

Nochnoi Dozor Soundtrack: "Who's Guilty"

Another song that's in the book but not on the soundtrack.

Kto Vinovat (Who's Guilty)
Lyrics and Music: A. Romanov
Group: Voskresenie
Album: Kto Vinovat, 1979
Translation: Maureen O'Brien, 2005

Whose fault is it, that you got tired
And didn't find what you looked for?
Everything's lost that you searched for;
You climbed to the sky -- and you fell...
And who's to blame, that day by day
Your life goes off another way
And your home becomes more alone,
And behind your panes, noone's home...

And the light shades, and the noises fade,
And your hands feel for new pain,
And if your pain subsides today,
It means new bad luck's on the way....

Whose fault is it? You tell me, bro.
One's filthy rich, another's wed,
One is in love, another jokes,
One is a fool, and one's your foe.
And who's to blame, that here and there
They lay in wait, and that they live;
But day's a bore, and night's a void,
Both hot oppressive places...


Whose fault is it -- and the secret's that
There is no grief and no gladness,
There's no victories without defeats,
And good and bad luck count the same.
And who's to blame that you're alone,
And life's alone, and it's so long
And such a bore, all you wait for
Is that sometime you're bound to die...


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Nochnoi Dozor Soundtrack: "Interesting"

This is also in the book, but not on the soundtrack.

Interesno (Interesting)
Lyrics: Edmund Schlyarskiy
Group: Picnic
Album: Rodom Niotkuda, 1988
Translated: Maureen S. O'Brien, 2005

I wonder, I wonder -- not having it -- what you want.
Watching how you play with grass
Blades lazily, sleepily.

CH: Interesting to be born again
In a silver lotus, expecting a miracle
As freely to release the heart
People born from nowhere.

I wonder, I wonder: To lose yourself at dawn,
To knock on the see-through doors
And know that nobody'll answer.


Nochnoi Dozor Soundtrack: "I'm Invisible"

This is actually not on the soundtrack, but it's in the book.

Ya Nevidim (I'm Invisible)
Lyrics: Edmund Schlyarskiy
Group: Picnic
Album: Rodom Niotkuda, 1988
Translated: Maureen S. O'Brien, 2005

All will be decided then, for alone he's nobody,
To me -- Gospodin.
I stand in darkness, for alone I'm like shadow,
To others -- I'm unseen.

I, I, I -- I'm invisible.
I, I, I -- I'm invisible.
Our faces like smoke, our faces like smoke,
And how we win, nobody knows....

I don't dance in step, I didn't do it all that way,
Not regretting that.
Today I'm like receding rain,
An unbloomed flower.


I call you ice, only it's not a matter
Of which of us is colder.
I don't understand at all what's closer -- the earth
Or the cracks within her.


Nochnoi Dozor Soundtrack: "Little City"

Gorodok (Little Town)
Lyrics and Music: Konstantin Nikolskiy
Group: Voskresenie
Album: Nochnoi Dozor, 2004
Translation: Maureen S. O'Brien, 2004

That little town was as small as a kid's toy;
For a long time, it didn't know disease or war.
On the serf's tower the rifle rusted quieting
And they put the paths of journeys to the side.

And so year on year, without holidays and workdays --
The whole city slept.
In dreams he saw the city land unpeopled
And dead cliffs.

Between cold cliffs, the music rang out
And the city slept.
Which way'd it call? Who did it search for?
Nobody knew.

A musician played under the windows
A simple melody.
Nobody could recall it.
All the city slept.
He was free and happy;
He did nobody wrong.
He only sang, although to him
Nobody called out.

Who in the night's heat didn't shut the window --
That one's not there.
They've gone into the country, where life is full of life,
Following the song.


Nochnoi Dozor Soundtrack: "No Shores"

Nyet Beregov (No Shores)
Lyrics and Music: Edmund Sklyarskiy
Group: Picnic
Album: Nochnoi Dozor, 2004
Translation: Maureen S. O'Brien, 8/16/05

Keep dead silent again, all about one thing:
Today, the Lepers' Club is open season.
Only whisper to doors, the doors of houses.
Only footfalls' rustle, footfalls' rustle.

The purest herbs, they have no roots.
The cleanest rivers have no shores.

Oh, no shores.

You will leave shelter, step over the doorsill
Past the gray shadows and sad courtyards.
Oh, Ma-mama, oh, Mama, oh,
Past the sad gray courtyards.

It'll all blend, all blend into one;
As many eyes see, but
Only the Sun remembers, only the Sun,
Only the Sun:

Oh, no shores, no shores...

It'll all come back, and you'll put up again
Your own two flags: Grief and Love.
Go seven hours or seven centuries,
It will be all the same: Grief and Love.

Keep dead silent again, everyone, about one thing:
Today, the Prankster Club's season opens.
Go seven hours or seven centuries,
Only footfalls' rustle, footfalls' rustle.

No shores!

Nochnoi Dozor Soundtrack: "Hieroglyph"

Ieroglif (Hieroglyph)
Lyrics and Music: Edmund Sklyarskiy
Group: Picnic
Album: Nochnoi Dozor soundtrack, 2004
Translation: Maureen S. O'Brien, 8/16/05

My name -- the Hieroglyph Erased.
My clothing, patched with wind.
What I bear in my closed palms
They don't ask, and I don't answer.

And as before a battle,
A decisive battle,
I stand at each crossroad.
On an asphalt sea, I see my own shore,
Its scattered blue.

At all the questions,
I break out in quiet laughter.
To all, all the questions
A reply there won't be.
Really, my name is -- Hieroglyph.
My clothing's patched with wind.

Nochnoi Dozor Soundtrack: "Demons"

Besi (Demons)
Lyrics and Music: Vyacheslav Butusov
Group: Nautilus Pompilius
Album: Nochnoi Dozor soundtrack, 2004
Translation: Maureen S. O'Brien, 8/16/05

I ripened spiritually through the bright,
Bright and clear days.
My gaze turned white as a monastic bed.
I bear his fire, not hiding, not fearing to be burned by him
But hear how terrible it sounds as he knocks on the window
Blizzard --
Every tangle of snowstorm, this snowstorm is alive.
The lamplight's reflected by evil icechip eyes.

Demons call out in the cold to go out with the snowstorm
There where dead water is, there where gas clouds the mind.
White walls, keep us, save us
Without a mirror, in which be temptations
Without words, in which be misfortune
My silence -- my prayer
Darkness -- my sick sister
While I live, while I live they won't enter here,
They won't enter here...

Demons ask to serve, but I serve noone.
Even you, even myself, even those of authority,
And if He still lives, I don't serve Him either.
I stole exactly enough fire not to have to steal more.
Demons crash on the roof, on the roof. A night like this
Is a long night for him, for him who cannot wait.
But she flies off quicker, quicker than a bird.
If I hadn't known for sure, I wouldn't have begun to guess.

White walls, keep us, save us
Without a mirror, in which be temptations
Without words, in which be misfortune
My silence -- my prayer
Darkness -- my sick sister
While I live, while I live they won't enter here,
They won't enter here...

Nochnoi Dozor Soundtrack: "Fallen Angel"

Padshiy Angel (Fallen Angel)
Lyrics and Music: Vyacheslav Butusov
Group: Nautilus Pompilius
Album: Nochnoi Dozor soundtrack, 2004
Translation: Maureen S. O'Brien, 8/16/05

The dogs left me. The beasts left me.
I dreamed that creatures with eyes like lamps
Grabbed me in their wings in the highest heaven
And I tumbled down as foolishly as a fallen angel.

I don't remember the fall; I only remember
The dull blow of cold stone.
I could really start to fly so high
And slip as badly as a fallen angel.

Straight down.
Back to where we left from, hoping for a new life.
Straight down.
Back to where we looked up, hungry for dark blue heights.
Straight down.

I tried to be fair and evenhanded,
And to me it didn't seem so terrible, so strange
That on the earth below me collected multitudes
Come to see just how there falls an angel.

And into open mouths, pasted by the wind
Either with white snow, or with sweet manna,
Or just with feathers, flying in the wake
Of what came tearing down, like a fallen angel.

Straight down.
Back to where we left from, hoping for a new life.
Straight down.
Back to where we looked up, hungry for dark blue heights.
Straight down.
Back to where we left from, hoping for a new life.
Straight down.
Back to where we looked up, hungry for dark blue heights.
Straight down.

Will You Have Any Stars in Your Crown?

Yesterday was the Feast of the Assumption. It fell on a Monday, so as usual, the American bishops made it not a Holy Day of Obligation. But my parish had three Masses yesterday anyway, and I went in the evening. After all, Mary's my patroness -- and there's little doubt that the readings are some of the coolest of the year -- and, well, it's just one of my favorite holidays.

Besides, I really need the exercise of walking to church. You have no idea how much.

I couldn't hear much of the homily for the screaming little kids (you could definitely tell this was a feast of the Mother of God!), but the new priest said, among other things, that Mary served God body and soul, and that's one reason why Jesus brought her to Heaven, body and soul. I thought this idea worked pretty well for lining her up with Elijah and his chariot, and Enoch, who walked with God and then vanished because God took him. He didn't mention that bit, but he did talk a little about how Mary's assumption is a foreshadowing of the glories of Heaven that we all hope to see. She is crowned with twelve stars -- but as one old English folk hymn tells us, we can all work for stars in our crowns.

It's logical enough that Jesus should take Mary as the first fruits of His Church. Mary was the proto-Christian, Jesus' first follower. She carried the Word through the world for nine months. She served and protected her son throughout His childhood. She followed Jesus to the cross and buried him. She was in the Upper Room when the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples. For all these reasons, and because Jesus told her John would now be her son, we have long called her the Mother of the Church. She is the Holy Spirit's bride, as Israel could be called the bride of the Father and the Church is the Bride of the Son. So whenever the Bible speaks well of Israel or the Church and shows them as women, we tend to think of Mary, too. (Hey, if you think a passage in the Bible only refers to one thing, you're just not reading hard enough! Heh!)

So we love Mary, and we honor Mary, and we sing with delight that "The queen stands at his right hand, arrayed in gold." But seeing as we are members of a religion that believes we have been made in the image of God and little less than gods, have been made part of God through Baptism and Communion, and are called to become like God -- well, it's hard to see where people think we worship Mary, when so much of our feelings for her are our yearning as a Church to be very soon where Mary already is.

And isn't it just like a mother? We ask her what to do and how she did it, and just get the same lines again and again:

"I am the handmaid of the Lord."
"Be it done to me according to your word."
"My soul magnifies the Lord."
"Do whatever He tells you."