2006 Author Leonid Kaganov, original russian text here
2007 Translated by Sasha Kuznetsov

I Am Lucky

Grandpa Ahn doesn't eat sandwiches because he has cancer. My sandwiches will soon be on the shelf in the kitchen. He has just a few months left. Doctor said so in the hallway, I heard that and cried all night. That was two winters ago, back then I was only little and cried a lot. Grandpa has grey moustache on his cheecks nobody in the world has such remarkable moustache. Also he has a funny head it's got no hair whatsoever and is covered with little dark spots. If you touch it it feels warm and smooth like velvet. Grandpa smokes a pipe and watches TV. His eyes are always laughing. He's with us for now, but there will be a day when he will leave us forever to go far into the future, where people had learned to cure cancer. That's what mom says.

Grandpa!

The TV is mumbling with different voices grandpa is watching the news. That's a stupid thing to do, because tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and in a week there will definitely be more news, much newer and much fresher. I'm pulling the sleeve of his robe.

Grandpa! How soon will you go away into the future, where people had learned to cure cancer?

Not so soon he says with a smile on his face. You'll have enough time to grow up, go to school, then graduate with honors and go to college, and I'll still be with you, only less and less often. And when I get real real bad that's when I leave you and go away far into the future.

Where is the future?

The future comes every second. But the future where people had learned to cure cancer... it's far, you have to wait for it.

It is far?

Yes. It is the kind of future, where people can cure any diseases, fly to distant stars, and all the work is done by the robots. There will be no wars, no one will be sick and no one will die, people will not grow old, and old people will become young again.

Grandpa, take me with you into this future.

Grandoa Ahn smiles. He flips his pipe and knocks it on the edge of the ashtray. Little crumbs of ashes are flying down to the floor, but grandpa can't see very well.

Why do you need the future? You have the present.

Present what?

You have present everything, it's all real. You need to live, grow up and learn. Perhaps you will grow up to become a prominent scientist, the one who discovers the cure for cancer. And that's when the future will come.

-And what if I don't grow up?

You will... Grandpa laughs, his moustache sticking out like little grey brushes.

What if I don't learn to cure cancer?

Then you will learn something else. And the other boys will learn to cure cancer.

What if the other boys won't?

Some day they will. The future is infinite.

What if it's not? What if the sun goes out?

Who told you that nonsence? Why don't you go and check if your sandwiches have arrived yet.

I run to the kitchen, climb up on the chair and look at the shelf there are no sandwiches. Have to wait a little more. It's really boring to wait for sandwiches. Mom made the sandwiches, and they are on their way in a plastic bag with a temporal clip attached. Mom sent the bag in the morning, but she didn't tell me the exact time. We got rid of the fridge a long time ago mom said it takes up too much space in the kitchen. Everybody uses the plastic bags.

I try to imagine the place where my sandwiches are right now, but I can't. Grandpa Ahn explained that the bag is like a boomerang it is launched of the kitchen shelf and travels along the orbit just to come back to the exact same spot. That orbit is created by means of the temporal clip. But it's not just any orbit it's a time orbit. That's why it doesn't really exist. And the bag does not exist anywhere in perticular, not until its time comes anaway. But when the time comes it will just reappear.

My grandpa is the best one in the world, and he explains things better than any school teacher, because he is the best school teacher, he's just retired... for now. When he'll go away to the far future, where scientists live, he will recover and become young again, he will go back to school and be a history teacher again. That's what he told me.

I didn't start school yet, so I don't know what's an orbit, or what is a boomerang. I don't understand: if the plastic bag does not exist anywhere then where will my sandwiches come from? Same with my coat and winter boots and ice-skates that we send off every year untill late fall, so we could have more room where do they come from? I don't understand that, but I can already program the clip by myself and even change the angle of the orbit. Once I launched our teapot 1 million years into the future, so now mom locks the cabinet with the clips to keep them away from me. She got really scared that time because I could actually go along with the teapot. Mom said that in a million years the sun will go out and I'll die in an instance. But if everyone dies in the far future then which future is grandpa Ahn going to be cured in?

Threre are many things I'd like to ask grandpa, but I forget. And he's with us only two times a month, and it's a celebration. Tonight when mom comes back from work we'll have a feast. Mom says people are happy when they get to be with their loved ones for the whole life, but she herself has to leave for work everyday. Tomorrow me and grandpa will go to the zoo if he is feeling good. I want him to feel good. I want grandpa to stay with us forever. But doctor says that he only has 2 months, yet he still has to make it to the future, where they cure the cancer. But grandpa is not rushing, he wants to stay with us for as long as he can.He always has a temporal clip attached to his pijamas. The day after tomorrow in the morning he will press it and go away for another month. And only things left will be his pipe and a small sack of tobacco, if granpa forgets to put them in his pocket again.

Finally! I hear a clap and see a bag with sandwiches appear on the shelf. I grab it and run to the room where grandpa is. He watches TV and smokes his pipe. I open the bag and bite into the sandwich.

Grandpa! What do you see there, where you go for the whole month?

I see how fast you are groing up, says grandpa Ahn and smiles.

That's the way I remember my childhood and my grandpa.

* * *

When I was in the 1 grade of the elementary school once grandpa got very sick: he fainted and mom activated his clip for a 100 years jump. Ever since then I would often send him envelopes with pictures, and when I started secondary school I started writing messages on regular paper, handwritten just the way he preffered. But it was difficult to write all the time without an answer, so I stopped writing often.

Usually I'd just send greeting cards.

I sent my last long letter to him when I passed my graduation tests in highschool. I put the piece of paper in his little sack of tobacco, pinned a clip to it and sent it out of grandpas old room.

Hello grandfather! You had left us when I was little and we didn't quite get a chance to talk. I think you could tell me a lot of interesting stuff. I still hope that you got cured overe there and one day we will meet. To be honest with you, sometimes I also want to jump 100 years ahead and see if the scientists came up with something to make our life better or not. Because in our century everything is lame, and it's just getting worse each year. I remember how much you loved the news, but I haven't told you anything about our life here in a long time. Let me brefly summarize the events of the recent years who knows how accurate your history is in the future? So listen up. The whole world is suffers a crisis.

Everything started with a big scandal over the retirement funds. The retired people started demanding the whole annual pension to be paid at once, then they would spend it all right away, jump a year ahead and do everything over again, so naturally the government wasn't happy. I mean, it's their money and, all and they are entitled to it, but the problem is that in our time the old people just stopped dying, and you know, we can't really say to their face something like c'mon now, time to go, give the path to the young, the pesion funds aren't made of latex, you can't stretch it out infinitely. At first there was an attempt to implement a mobile call out to detect those who are currently in the jump, but then the crisis stroke and everyone stopped giving a damn, and the pensions were just cancelled. Something like don't like it here's a clip and get the hell out of here, into the future perhaps someone will feed you there.

And here's something about the labor crisis. There's been a global wave of immigration: some were curious, some offended, some were fleeing from court and debt everyone just charged into the future. All alone or with the whole family, maybe accompanied by other people whoever chose what. It was impossible to keep any track of this, no one knew how many people had jumped and for how long. And if they were alone or not. They say in the news that it's been happening quite often now: somebody gets killed then robbed then a clip put on the body with an orbit set to 1000 years and no tracks left whatsoever. It's been twelve years since the mass productions of the clips has started and the time has already started spitting out some very unpleasant things, including the dead boddies. But the worst thing is the immigrants.

There hasn't been a day without someone who jumped 5 or 10 years ahead and now appeared in our time. They're just driving everyone crazy! So, a guy was gone for 10 years, was reported missing, other people already live in his appartment he hasn't payed for the appartment for 10 years, and now he came back and started demanding what's rightfully his. But the worst thing about them really is that they stroll up and down the streets like damn tourists, look everywhere, check everything out, and bug everybody with their questions what's up? what's new?. And you just can't help but feel as a damn abo in some aquarium that these tourists are passing by everyday to take a quick peek and check wheather you're still alive or maybe kicked the bucket. It's really easy to spot them in the streats, their faces warped in sour dissapointment they were expecting to see a paradise in 10 years, but instead there's crisis, there's no food. The only good thing is that they don't linger they usually bitch for some time and then move on.

I guess it's pretty obvious why there's no food. Imagine a guy, who works as some truck driver or something, grows potatos at home and maybe some other sruff. He's not wealthy, but has enough money to watch tv and have a drink with his pals every now and then. And there are hardships in his life, he just sucks it up and takes it, he doesn't really have much choice, does he? And then someone invents the clips. And so the dude started thinking about the same things that you were telling me when I was little, grandpa, that maybe in 20 years the day will come when the scientists have got it all figured out, and there is no more need to work and grow potatos, get old and sick, suffer from hangover, etc. Every person has those times when he thinks that now is the absolute worst and his life can't possibly be any single bit worse than it is right now, and that's when this person wants just to send it all to hell and just go and find his own destiny and be happy, all alone or together with the family. Maybe in future the potatos grow by themselves, peel themselves and fry themselves too, and hey, there's a clip right here, ready to use at any moment...

As a result there's no one to dig the potatos out, there's no one to build, there's no one to teach. Not that there's no one at all, not that we're all femished and life is over no. But this is called crisis and HR deficit, and we all can feel it pretty well. They say that there used to be the problem of unemployment and the problem of overpopulation. They say that in the future the scientists will invent a clip that will allow one to travel back, back to the paradise that's kind of a joke we have.

By the way they tried to bann the manufacturing of the clips, and monitor those that have already been made. But how can anyone do that there are millions of clips out there. Oh, here's one of the latest grooves a clip with a button that says I'm lucky. That means that you press the button and jump god knows where maybe half an hour, maybe a hundred years and maybe a million the chip is set on random.

There are people who prosper these days, goddamn assholes, that's what they are, sorry grandpa. The thieves and criminals are blooming. You wouldn't believe this, but being a gang member is now cool, not shameful. Walking the streets became very unsafe. And you know, I can feel the tension accumulating, and the air stinks with violence, everyone is agitated. You can read it in peoples eyes: you should thank me for sitiing here with you, though I could've been in th future by now. The political situation is very unstable, although there hasn't been a major war yet.

Here's what I wanted to say, grandpa: if something happens I'll try to catch up with you in the future, so don't be too surprised if one day you'll see me and mom again.

Oh, I almost forgot! I passed my graduation! Only 2 B-s too. I'm getting ready to go to a medschool.

That was my last letter to grandfather. Then I really didn't feel like writing the admission exams started, and then school, I went there for two years.

And right before I was gonna turn 18 one night mom didn't come home from work. Her coworkers said that she asked to leave work earlier that day and borrowed some money right before that, promised to pay back from her next check. They said she probably just got very tired and jumped a couple of years ahead to see what's become of me. But I'm pretty sure she went to buy me a present for my birthday and got murdered over the damn money.

I lived in our empty appartment for another month and then decided to go and see grandpa in the far future, and jumped a hundred years ahead.

* * *

I have made the jumps before, but for short periods. You don't really feel anything: you just use the hands on the clip to set the time, so that the chip could calculate the angle of the orbit, then you crouch a little, press the clip to the chest, so that your body could properly fit into the transportable area, and you press start. You're still crouching and pushing the button when you realize that it's already a different time. Somtimes the ears get a little stuffed because of the change in the air pressure.

I came into the livingroom, sat down on the floor, could get myself together for a long time and then went for it, I pressed the button. My ears got clugged pretty badly, and I lost my balance for a second appearently the preassure change was significant. I was surrounded by darkness it was probably the night time. I knew that the time deviation of a 100 year leap was around 2 months, but obviously no one has ever checked that, and if they did they couldn't tell. So maybe it was more than 2 months, who knows.

The darkness seemed pitch black, and that was because it was also completely quiet. I could only hear the lowwhistling of the drafts and the beating of my own heart. After a few seconds my eyes got adjusted to the darkness and I could see the outlines of the room.

The window in the livingroom was broken, and the sky was covered in heavy clouds and heardly irradiated any light. The streetlights were out. Everything around seemed to be piled with old junk. I reeched my hand towards the light switch, the button was unusually rough. I pressed teh button and the plastic under my finger shattered into small crumbs.

MY heart started pounding inside my chest. The night was driving me crazy, I set the clip for 12 hours and pressed start.

The daylight was blindening, but what I saw was totally terrifying. The room was completely destroyed. The remains of the clothes were covered with thick layer of dirt, sand and dust, and in the corner unrneath the ceiling I saw a huge nest that resembled a paper ball, like everything esle it was old and weary the insects have left it long ago.

I stepped into grandpas room. I saw him right away. He was lying on his old couch in the same position we had sent him off. Absolutely dry hardened skeleton covered in pieces of old decaying robe. Right next to him I saw a pile of envelopes with clips attached to them all under a thick layer of dust those were the letters I sent to him from his room. Some looked fresh, some turned yellow I was sending them into approximately same time, but the swing of the deviation was pretty vast. The little bag of tobacco was lying on the floor. I untied it and pulled my last letter out that same letter that I send 2 years ago, right after my graduatioin exams. The paper was yellow and some letters blurred because of the dampness. I threw it on the floor and ran.

* * *

The city was abandoned weeds were growing through the asphalt, some buildings have collapsed under the pressure of their own weight leaving piles of debris in their place. It seemed like no man had set foot here for many decades. But then where could that have been set? I mean, this isn't exactly the capital, but not the smallest city either.

I was pacing forward mindlessly, climbing over rocks and heeps of garbage, my mind cleared of all the thoughts. Now for some reason I did now feel sorry for grandpa, it's been a long time since I faced tha fact that he is gone and I got used to it. I didn't even feel sorry for mom, even though when I was making the jump there was still a tiny bit of hope that I'd meet her here along with grandpa and they'd both be safe and sound. I only felt sorry for myself. Where am I? What am I going to do now? And where is everyone, where are all the people? they couldn't have completely disappeared after just a hundred years, could they? I mean they couln't have all just jumped into the future, there have to be some settlements left with some stuck up fanatics. And those who did jump, where'd they jump to? Maybe somewhere in the future there is some sort of headquartes, a meet-up spot where the civilization finally gets back together and on the rise again, like it's supposed to be?

I got to the Radio Square it was covered with chunks of concrete and sidewalk pavement. It almost looked like someone had brought the debris over here on purpose, and just left it lying around. I looked a little closer and saw an bunch of rocks alligned to shape an arrow. I looked at where it was pointing and saw that the piles of rocks on the sqaure had formed words: People! Meet up here in year 3000!

To be honest, at first I had a thought to go back to the appartment and collect all the letters that had almost brand new clips with full batteries on them, then go through other houses and scavange some gear, in case it will be needed in the future. But what I wanted the most is to get out of this dusty hell and see live human faces again.

I quickly calculated the time remaining till year 3,000 and decided to cheat a little I added another 50 years, that way the humanity would have enough time to clean everything up and rebuild the civilization. Then I thought I'm probably not the only smart ass who thinks the same way, so I added another 50 years that way I'd get into the real blossom for sure.

And as I was pushig the button, for a second I was confident that this time I'll find myself right where I expect to be a city with sunlit streets, where scientists have discovered all the laws and the humans live happily ever after.

* * *

The world I found myself in was cold and colorless. There was no city at all eerything was covered with thick layers of snow and ice. I was standing on the bottom of a crater surrounded by hills. And low above me was the dark sky that looked like it was filled with ash. And there was silence. And freeze. I coudn't really feel the cold to the full right away, but very soon I realized I won't make it long in my summer jacket. Where I'd been a few moments ago I could at least live, and find some supplies and water, maybe even meet some people, but here...

I looked around and saw that what I first thought were the hills were actually the ruins of the city. There were remains of collapsed buidings covered with snow, dirt and garbage. Here and there I could see the sharp edges of the stone walls sticking from underneath the snow.

I dug deeper into my coat the frost started getting to me. And it finally came to me this is it! The end! Year 3,000 is too far. There's no way back and the further I go the worse it gets.

Yet I knew I had to get going because staying here meant certain death. You bastards, what have you done! You all took off, ran in pursuit of your own happiness and you thought that someone else will do everything for you? You believed the old guys saying that there's a paradise ahead? Who ever stayed behind had honeslty lived their lives and died. And we rushed into the future like it was some sort of resort, so we took nothing with us, and we never thought of an emergency way of communication, we never thought of a plan B we were certain that since it's gonna be a resort it will be all included.

And then I saw footprints in the snow. They were fresh and definitely were left by a human, though it was difiicult to say what kind of shoes the man was wearing. But he walked through here just some time ago. Struggling through the snow that was knee-deep I went ahead. As I peeked around the hill I saw a thin line of smoke rising to the sky. It was coming out of the ruins.

I wrapped myself tighter into the coat and ran towards the smoke. Right away I got my shoes full of snow and my legs began freezing.

I got really close to the rockpile when I saw a human face showing between the ruins. Suddenly I stopped. We were about 20 yards away from each other.

It was a human a man fo around 40. His head was wrapped into something like a turban made out of ash-grey rags, one of his cheeks was hung as if he had some sort of a dental problem, his forhead was split with a scar and his whole face was covered with a dirty cloaky beard. The mans mouth was open, small clouds of vapor bursting out of it one after another, and his stingy eyes were filled with caution, so I didn't really want to approach him. And it didn't seem like he was going to get out from behind the rockpile himself.

Hi there! I said, waiving my arms.

The bearded guy was quiet, his face reamained still.

Hey! I sighed with less confidence this time.

Which year you form? the guy yelped with no expression, but with some accent. And before I said anything he yelled: Got any clips? Any batteries for clips?

I was stunned for a second, and that was enough for the bearded guy I saw a pipelike object peaking from behind the rockpile and the next moment a burst of flame came out of it. Something whistled right above my head, and it felt like all the air had been first rolled into a needle and then pulled through my ears. Only a moment later I heard a rumbling sound af a shot.

By sheer instict I ducked and fell on the ground. I simply felt that this is the time to fall down. And that saved me right after I ducked I heard the second shot, and he missed again. There was no time to think I grabbed the clip, put my fingers on the I'm lucky button and pressed it before there was a third shot.

* * *

I didn't get lucky. It was probably negative 100 degrees and wind blew like a hurricane. A dark snowy mass knocked me over and started dragging me through the snowpiles so fiercely that I almost dropped the clip. My fingers were already numb and I wasn't even sure if I pressed the I'm lucky! or not.

This time I was lucky, very lucky. Even though the change of pressure caused me to faint. But I was lucky to find myself in the warmth and the humidity of the jungle a greenhouse where my frozen limbs thawed right away. But when I looked at the clip my heart dropped. The tiny display didn't have enough digits to show the number of years I jumped this time. Judging form what I could see on the display it was tens of billions years at least. If grandpa was right and the scheme by which the clip works could be compared to an orbit, then this time it's angle got as close to the maximum as possible.

I really don't know where I was right now, but the sky was different and so was the sun, and there was only one moon. The gravitation force was lower. But at least no one was trying to hunt me down to take away my clip, so it seemed like I could really live here.

I have never seen such plants, animals and insects. The beasts here were really strange they looked like they were all made according to one standart. To some one who had never seen the real variety of animals these creatures could probably seem all different. But when I saw them for the first time I thought that the jungle is inhabitted by immitation of humans. All the animals here have a lot in common with humans, only they've all gone incredibly wild, their appearence had altered and they've gotten down on their four. Absolutely each one of them has one spine that on one end runs into the head, which is basically a hollowed bone sphere-shaped skull, and everyone has 4 paws no more no less.

Maybe grandpa was right and future really doesn't ever end. Or maybe mom was right, and sun really went out, and the galaxy had contracted and exploded over again, and there's a totally different planet now where Earth once was, and I just got pulled towards it the clip is programmed to deliver you to a nearest surface in case of any deviations. If all that is true than I am very lucky. I'm scared to think of a possible environment of a random planet in a newborn galaxy that I could find myself on after these billions of years. How many people could possibly reach this time? The chances of that are so close to zero. Perhaps a long long time ago one of my kind had been thrown onto this new planet but died right away, and the germs and bakteria from his dead body had givven the beginning to new life on this plannet. And then someone else got here... maybe? I understand that it's practically impossible, but then how else can you explain that there are people here in this jungle? The are savage and speak an unfamiliar langauge. I've stumbled upon their camp after a few days of wandering the jungle. And the timing couldn't be better the only person alive was a young woman. They had some sort of an epidemy, and this woman was the last one left, dying all alone. I would have probably contracted it and die too, but I just so happened to have a small first aid kit in my pocket.

So I stayed. I knew that there's no where else to go. I knew that the battery in my clip is gradually dying and very soon there will be no charge left at all, hell, maybe there isn't anymore left already. But I could live here. Besides, the place was kind of pretty.

* * *

The sun got stuck right above the hills and refused to go any lower. Right now it looked like a crimson eye, very much like an eye of a sabertooth. But it was not evil, and neither kind, but rather indifferent. This eye had so much time to spare that now it was in no hurry to get shut for the night, instead it was peeping constantly, spying on us, trying to find out what we'll be doing next. The sky got filled with humidity and the fog had come from the lake, so it seemed like our hill was in the center of the world there were clouds above and clouds beneath.

Somewhere on the footsteps of the hill we could hear a distant howling the sabertooths where going for a hunt. But here in our cave on the top of the rocky hill the sabertooths were no threat, epsecially while the fire was still going.

Clouds, I said.

Stars in the morning, said my woman.

I didn't argue, I actually got used to her being right all the time. She was born and raised in this land of lakes, pine and fern, and as for me, well it hasn't been two years since I've lived in a city full of cars and electronics. I pulled the edge of the hide over her legs. We sat silently and hardly moved. The sun finally got tired and started going away.

My woman fell asleep, and I was still watching the outside, where there was a thin orange stripe of the sunlight remaining on the horizon. Lately I started noticing that I enjoy just to sit down and stare into the distnace, motionless. Either my body was too exhausted after a full day of running around in the wilderness, or the view from our cave was really that beautiful. And maybe I was just waiting for something to happen, that something will suddenly change maybe civilized people will show up, light up bonfires, bring the tools...

Suddenly there was a wistling noise and I saw a rushing shadow. I shivered, although I knew that no sabertooth would come near this place. But the shadow was small. It flew inside the cave, landed on one of the rocks and folded the little wings behind its back it was a flying froggy, small, young and stupid. It was easily spooked too. It is delicious if roasted on a fire, especially the crunchy wings. If someone had told me a couple of years ago that I wil be eating a frog, and not just a frog, but a flying one, well I just wouldn't have belived that. If I olny had some sort of a net or maybe a bow...

I couldn't even realize what happened. I saw another shadow charging from behind my back, then a swooping sound. I heard a hit, and then a sound of a rock rolling through the floor of the cave. In the corner I saw the frog, it was flapping its wings in agony.

My woman swiftly stood up, picked up the frog without looking and snapped its neck, then she put it on a scewer and lowered it over the dying fire. Then she just went back to sleep, right where she was before, not saying a single word. We didn't talk much at all. Even though she learned my language pretty well. And I managed to learn a few of her gurgling words, we still were very different and we didn't have much to talk about.

I thought she'd fallen asleep again, but all of a sudden I heard:

Tell me childhood.

What? I turned to her.

Tell me childhood, she said again while flipping the frog.

Childhood... I made myself more comfortable, put my arm under my head and looked at the dark ceiling of the cave, which turned velvet from all of the smoke. I have told ypu many many times. I told you about my childhood and about my grandpa, my school, college, and how I got here. You know my language good enough now, so why don't you tell me something yourself?

She was quiet.

Where did your tribe come from? I asked.

We've always lived here.

But where have you come from?

From the gods.

From the gods?! I turned to her.

She wasn't joking her dark eyes were as calm as ever, sparkling in the darkness of the cave.

A little black pendant was glittering on her tanned neck it was a rock with a hole in it, she wore it always and everywhere as she believed it was guarding her. This was an ancient tradition of their tribe, although I knew exactly what that rock looked like a clip, like the one I always wore on my neck.

 

A long-long time ago the gods came down from the sky and stayed to live here. Ancient gods knew everything and could do anything. They ruled over the mountains and wild beasts. They could heal any wounds and fight any deseases. They were allpowerful.

Where did they come from?

They just came out of nowhere. Probably from the sky, becuase where else could they come from? They knew everything, except how to live in the wilderness. They had to forget everything they knew in order to survive. They gave a start to my tribe. And to other tribes. And to animals and birds, frogs and fish. They even brought the insects with them.

Wait, there are other tribes?! I was astonished.

Far away from here, where the sun hides, live evil people. They look like us, but they are short. They speak an unknown language and they weav baskets. If you live with them you may have children. Their backs are bent, covered with dark hair, and their spines are sticking out.

You never told me about them!

It is bad to talk about them. Evil people.

Do they also have a legend that their tribe comes from the gods?

Yes, everything in this world was created by the allmighty gods. Everybody knows that.

Are there any more people?

Yes. Far away, where the sun rises. Where the forest comes to end and the sky meets the mountains. That is where tall people live. They have large heads and long teeth sticking out of their mouths. They are in great numbers and they're all covered in red hair. They can make stone axes, but they can't talk. Often times they eat other people. My grandma used to tell me that you can live with them, but there will be no children.

What other people are there?

Once there were grey people. They lived here, but during a year of femine they were all eaten by sabertooths.

Any other people out there?

I don't know.

Do they all wear rock pendants on their necks and believe that it would protect them?

Yes, especially when they go hunting.

What about your tribe, did they all die?

No. I'm alive. You're alive.

Two people is that really a tribe? I smiled and hugged over the shoulders.

She didn't say a word, instead she slowly took my hand and placed my hand over her womb.

* * *

The hunt wasn't going well. In half of the day I checked two dozens of traps they were all empty and the bait was eaten. In search of nests I browsed through the far edge of the swamp, where I haven't been in a while now. Not a single egg! The day was coming to an end, the sun was touching the tops of the pinetrees. I only had enough time to return back to the cave. Emptyhanded. As I was getting out of the boggy trail I noticed a hoof imprint in the mud by the creek. I was familiar enough with various tracks by now to understand that a small animal had passed here not so long ago. The dent in the ground wasn't even filled with water all the way yet. And the animal was limp too, I just could not let a prey like this walk away.

I got down on my knees and started sniffing, just like my woman did it. As usual I couldn't smell anything but the scent of the creek and mud I really don't think I'll ever be able to develop this sense. I looked closer and saw more tracks that were going through the sedge and into the thicket. I grabbed my bow and rushed to where the tracks led. Hoof marks where disappearing in the thick grass from time to time, and then reappearing again. The sun was going lower and lower, I could see it getting red through the branches of pine trees. At some point I'd lost the track, so I had to get down low and crawl, trying to find them again. The clip was hanging on my neck tied to a crude leather string. It really didn't matter anyomre I knew that the battery was dead, although I had no courage to check if that was really true, even if it was only for 5 minutes.

Suddenly I saw the track again. Now I had no doubt that this was a roe. The tracks led to the side, they were left deep inside the moss this is where the roe tried to break through the bushes I could see cloaks of fur left on the spikes of the plant.

The sun was down, the forest became dark and cool at once. In the distance I heard a bird cry, as if spooked. But I could still see the tracks and the roe was definitely somewhere near. I had no time to sneak around, I had no time to hunt properly. I just grabbed an arrow with a bone tip and charged through the thicket when I noticed a vague chadow in the distance. All of a sudden the trees were gone I saw a clearing up ahead...

Before I could think I released bow string and the arrow stuck into what used to be a roe not so long ago. The shadow that was bowing over it suddenly moved. There was a full moon in the sky, and wave by wave I could smell the scent of the beast that was flowing towards me. A sabertooth rat was staring at me, it's muzzle covered in blood I've never seen a huge one like it.

I felt like my back became cold and sweaty, I started backing up as I grabbed the second arrow out of the quiver. The bow string gave a whistle, but the arrow went to the side I didn't really learn how to shoot well, especially when under stress. The beast growled and slowly started moving towards me. It feared nothing.

I took out my last arrow when I heard a roar behind me. I turned around and shot, but once again the arrow went aside the sabertooth that was rushing towards me. New shadows were coming out of the darkness this was a large pack, strong and hungry.

I knew already that it was all over for me, yet I pulled a small hatchet from behind my belt. I made one step ahead, then ran toward them, screaming. I didn't get a chance to land a hit though a fanged paw had kicked me in the stomach and threw me into the air. I lost my hatchet. I heard a bird cry somewhere and then I landed on a rock with my back, trying to cover my torn stomach and chest with my hands, feeling my own sticky blood. And that's when I touched the clip.

The beasts weren't in a hurry, there was no reason for them to rush. I could hear them sniffing loudly, they were closing up on me.

I had no choice. And I almost had no chances. Yet I pressed the button that said I'm lucky

* * *

This time I went far 100,000 years. I couldn't forgive myself for leaving my woman in that cave, so the first thing I did I broke the clip, and then ground it to ashes with a piece of scrap metal I found next to me. I am lucky there's metal here. There are even computers!

In this era there are three races of people living on the planet, which differ from each other by the color of the skin and appearence in general. I don't really notice it. All our people were so different that you couldn't find two that looked alike the number of arms and legs was the only thing they had in common. And here everybody looks like they are all twins, and the top of their heads is covered with thick hair, just like mine. From generation to generation they pass on the ancient legends that they all came from the gods, were created in the gods' image, the gods were allpowerful and had created the world. But the modern people here are certain that the nature is constantly evolving, not degrading. They are sure that humans had evolved from apes, apes that once turned to manual labor. Although they also agree that by the structure of the tissue the man is closer to pig. According to their legend the apes had evolved from rats, which evolved from lizzards, fish, and fish had evolved from germs. Their biologists compare genes of different spieces, trying to find similarities, and amazingly they are not surprized that all the genes are practically the same these days the scientists have no idea just how different the genes can be, if they really are the genes of totally different spieces. They dig the ancient bones of the extinct mutants out of the ground and use them in their attempts to build an accurate diagramm of the evolution they have very little success, but they keep believing. That's what I like them for. I like them for all they do!

At first I got into the police station, where they put bandages over my wounds and took me to a hospital. It turned out to be a psychiatric hospital, I pretended to have lost my memory. It took me a long time to learn the language and get used to this world, and I still tell everybody that I don't remember anything. After a year in the hospital they let me go, gave me a name and temporary ID. Now I live in the suburbs in a small station wagon, in the vegetable starage site. I operate an electric cargo loader. On Sundays I go to church and listen to stories about gods miracles and about a man nailed to a cross, who later dissappeared. I do believe that's exactly what happened. I have to work a lot, but I am prepared for that. I am a traitor, who excaped from one civilization into another only by being incredibly lucky, although I was running from a certain death, and here I was not threatened by anything. I have thought everything over, I understood many things and I matured a long time ago. I won't go anywhere anymore, even if my life depends on it. I have no regrets about destroying the clip and I never will, even if it turns out that I could find a new battery for it in this time. This civilization has greatly developed, even more than were have. And if someone here could figure out the way the clip works I think they would be able to manufacture them, and I'd like to belive that nothing like that ever happens here. I'd really like to believe that. I will be lucky.

2006, Moscow
Autor Leonid Kaganov, original russian text here
Translated by Sasha Kuznetsov

Leonid Kaganov:    [email protected]
Official Site:     http://lleo.aha.ru/e