Excerpt for Traveling with Fate ~ Emotional Death Can Bring Renewed Life in a Profound Disguise by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Emotional Death Can Bring Renewed Life in a Profound Disguise

Olya Amanova

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner.

Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Copyright © 2017 Olya Amanova

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

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Chapter 1. My dream

It was raining hard ...

I was shaking, not from the cold, but from fear. Everything that was happening seemed to be an endless nightmare: sullen, weary faces all around, chilling cold piercing to the bones, and the disturbing drumbeat of rain on the tarpaulin-covered car. I clung tightly to my grandmother's chest. I wanted to fall asleep and wake up again at home in the warmth, but for some reason it was not happening. Probably, it was due to the swarm of questions buzzing in my head, which sometimes drowned out even the noise of the raging weather. What happened? Where were we being taken? Why were we going somewhere we didn’t know, leaving our homes?

The row of cars slowly crawled toward the mountains, barely moving along a slippery road, washed by the endless rain and sprinkling around the scraps of mud and clay. We were shaking in one of the cars weaving somewhere in the middle of the row. It darkened rapidly outside the window, and the rain did not let up, pouring with full force, casting a depression over everyone who was sitting in the car. Abandoning futile attempts to drown in heavy slumber, I looked around, gazing at the emaciated faces of unfamiliar people. Fear, confusion, fatigue and anxiety were seen on them so clearly that I shivered and pressed myself even closer to my grandmother. She lightly touched my neck with her lips, comforting and calming me. It became a little easier. I'm not alone, my grandmother is with me and someday it will end. I wanted to believe that it was going to be soon.

I could not remember how I got into this car and what exactly happened ... Some vague scraps emerged in the gray haze of the rain outside the window, where only the outlines of rare trees and some structures could be perceived. I dozed off, probably trying to remember, but as soon as I fell asleep, the truck jerked and stopped. Sleepiness disappeared instantly. I jumped up from my seat and found myself near a small gap, hoping to see something in the thickening darkness of the rainy night. There was a tense silence in the car, broken only by the noise of the rain - everyone froze in anxious anticipation.

The man in military uniform came to the driver, handed him some papers and asked without emotion:

- “How many people? Are there any men?”

- “Sixteen. Old men, women and children”, - the driver listed.

The soldier chuckled somewhat unintelligibly, and walking around the truck pulled back the edge of the tarpaulin and looked into the car, shining a flashlight on the people inside. When a piercingly bright beam touched my face, I involuntarily squinted and tried to shield myself from the light with my hands. The man in military uniform made sure that the driver was not deceiving him and chuckled again. He and was about to release the edge of the tarpaulin canopy, but one of the old men spoke out from the depth of the car.

- “Son, when will this all end?”

- “Father, if only I knew”, - answered the military man and smiled sadly. There was fatigue in his voice.

Someone heaved a sigh. The confused whisper of a woman trying to calm a whimpering child sounded. The tarpaulin canopy sank again, scarcely protecting from the rain and not completely providing shelter from the cold.

- “Let the car go!” - the voice of the same soldier sounded now confident and harsh.

The truck jerked and we moved on, leaving the checkpoint behind. I was still glancing at the opening, looking at public buildings and people in military uniform, checking the car behind us or briefly talking to each other. All this seemed to be a part of a nightmare. It was so difficult to believe in the reality of what was happening.

And then I froze when I saw the man on a black horse. He flew past us in a whirlwind, heading in the direction we were moving in. I saw him just a moment, but his image was embedded in my memory for the rest of my life. For an instant, I could see him in all the smallest details: a wet cloak with an oily shine, a gun in the warrior’s right hand, muscles rolling under the shiny skin of his horse and a red bandage on the rider's head. At that moment, everything became clear. I understood the meaning of the word, which I have often heard from my grandmother recently. I understood and felt it with all my heart: “War”…

I woke up in a cold sweat. Again this dream. Fragments of my childhood memories had been leaking into my dreams more often. I had never thought my dreams had any special significance. I had never known how to interpret them, and I thought this was complete nonsense. It's not a man's business, plus, I'm an educated adult. I tried to convince myself that these were just games of the subconscious mind, which had decided to remind me about the most terrible period of my life. This dream was repeated down to the smallest details night after night. I involuntarily began to think if it was a sign. But what was it portending? Was it a bad sign or just a warning? Or were these just memories?

War ... I became acquainted with the terrible meaning of this word when I was only five years old. The confrontation between the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks resulted in a bloody war that swept the entire south of the country in the early nineties. Of course, everything could be solved peacefully, but no one wanted to give up their positions and reach a compromise. As a result, the conflict escalated into an armed clash that turned into a real interethnic war. Our family was very fortunate that we had time to evacuate. Old men, women and children were placed into several trucks and taken to a safe place, away from military operations.

Yes, we were running away from the war, and that warrior on a black horse was rushing to meet it. He was rushing to the war’s inferno. I still remember him, although I saw him only for a moment. I remember the expression of calm determination on his face, how confidently he was holding his gun, how his red bandana brightened the rainy night with the tongue of a flame. Red means “ours”, “the warrior of our people”. In the heat of the battle, it was only through these bandanas that one could understand where ours were, and where the enemies were. But I learned about this much later, and at that moment I had only a vague feeling, which was difficult to describe. I wanted to be in that warrior’s place – to dashingly rush to the place from where everyone was fleeing, to protect my homeland, my beloved ones and those people who were, like me, shivering in the cold inside the truck. And I did not care that I was only five years old, could not sit in a saddle confidently and that I had never held a gun in my hands. I was just not thinking about it at that moment. After a while, this episode was gradually wiped out of my memory under the influence of other impressions. But now it returned in this recurring dream. As if re-experiencing all the events of that night, I could still feel the warm touch of my cheek against my grandmother’s chest. Could this all be because of that?

When my mother and I moved to the city, at first I missed my grandmother who stayed in the village. We used to visit her, but then my mother got a new job, and I was completely consumed by school. Could this all be because of this? Having immersed myself in my studies, sports, competitions and other delights of the last school years, I completely forgot about the one who used to care for me when I was a child, about the one who comforted and consoled me in the cold truck, warming me up with her warmth, and then almost every night visited my room to make sure that I was not tormented by nightmares. “I have to visit her when I return! Or at least call and talk about everything, ask about her health”, - I thought, getting out of bed and heading to the bathroom.

I graduated from one of the most prestigious schools in our city, and a plump folder with certificates and diplomas could provide me with admission to any university. But when I was in high school I literally became obsessed with Europe. I was dreaming of enrolling in one of the prestigious universities in the UK. I used to actively immerse myself in English and read the guidebooks on European cities. I was so absorbed by my dream to go abroad, that I did not even try to apply to any higher educational institution in our city. Instead, I bombarded the travel agencies and studied the programs of foreign universities. I was sure that I was going to succeed. I had absolutely all my documents ready, including my passport. I did not doubt for a second that I could make my dream come true. And everything would have been excellent if studying abroad had not been so expensive. Every time I talked about payment, the astronomical sums that consultants were asking threw me into an abyss of despondency. Perhaps, only children of government officials, bankers or businessmen could afford such a pleasure as studying in Europe. But my mother was certainly not able to pay for it. And even if I got a job myself, I would have to spend at least twenty years saving for a trip.

- “Medet, what are you thinking?” - my mother grumbled, looking at my gaunt face after another meeting with a travel agent, which ended in a digit with many zeros, - “Where are you going? Do you think they are waiting for you there with open arms? You could apply somewhere, at least as a fall back plan, and now all opportunities to enter the university have passed. You will have to wait a whole year. What are you going to do now?”

It was getting even worse from her observations. I understood that my mother was right in her own way, and that she was worrying about me, her unlucky dreamer. But it was beyond my strength to give up my grandiose plans for the sake of a stable and measured life, which my former classmates settled for. Europe was appealing to me with its forbidding castles and dreary pavements, magnificent museums and majestic monuments. It attracted me and at the same time eluded me, becoming more and more ghostly.

- “I will not give up!” – I used to insist stubbornly before going to bed, looking through the colorful pages of guidebooks. The next morning everything started again: another meeting with a representative of this or that company, a short interview, another number with a frightening number of zeros, and in the evening a dinner as my mother grumbled. This was continuing until I got totally desperate and there was not a single organization left on my list. With annoyance and anger, I hurled my guidebooks to the far corner of the room, barely stopping myself from tearing them to shreds.

Chapter 2. Friend

The next morning Daniyar called me.

- “Hi! Are you already up?” - he asked in an annoyingly cheerful and happy voice.

- “Now yes.” - I grunted into the phone. I had absolutely no desire to talk to anyone. Especially to him.

- “Then hurry up and get dressed. Come over.” - he said, ignoring my discontented tone.

- “There's something interesting for you. I'm sure you'll like it.”

- “I do not like this anymore!” – I had even less desire to get out of bed and drag myself to him.

- “You probably do not want to go abroad any more?” - Daniyar asked in the tone of conspirator. – “Have you changed your mind?”

I literally jumped out of bed.

- “I'll be right up,” - I said and hung up, but not before hearing my friend’s laughter.

I dressed at a speed that any soldier-rookie would envy. “Go abroad” - this phrase affected me like a magical incantation, having instantly given me strength. It was like sweet music in my head while I was washing up and getting organized. A timid hope emerged in my heart.

Daniyar had been my best friend from the very first grade. Perhaps he was the only one I could call a friend, not just an acquaintance or a classmate. He rescued me so many times in difficult moments, supported me, when something was not right, and he was the only one who believed in me no matter what. His advice has always been incredibly wise and I could totally trust his opinion. I think that many in the class secretly envied his sharp intellect and tremendous ingenuity. The only thing that irritated me from time to time was that he could become a bore trying to be useful. And sometimes he imposed his help and care even where I could easily cope without him.

Unlike me, Daniyar never thought about leaving the country, although he had as many chances as I did. To be completely frank, even more. My friend aced exams and attended one of the best universities in our city. He was sure that skilled specialists were needed here, and people, who went abroad, as a rule, did not come back. Even though I tried hard to convince him that I would definitely come back, I did not succeed. However, this did not stop him from supporting me. It was the same this time. Daniyar was the one who gave me a faint hope that not everything was lost for me.

A few minutes later I was standing on his porch. The door opened after the first knock: Daniyar was already waiting for me. Having exchanged the usual greetings, we went into his room.

Daniyar’s family lived, moderately speaking, modestly, or even too modestly. His mother worked from morning till late night. My best friend had never seen his father, and his stepfather... Every time Daniyar came to school in the morning with his eyes swollen from tears and noticeable bruises on his hands, which he carefully tried to hide, I clenched my fists. “We don’t choose our parents.” - I often heard this phrase, full of humility, from my friend. My heart wept, and I was angry with myself because I could not change anything. Daniyar only smiled guiltily and absentmindedly adjusted the sleeves of his shirt, covering the bruises on his wrists. His stepfather had never worked. He loved to drink alcohol and often got physical. I could not understand why my friend and his mother tolerated all this, but Daniyar did not like to raise this topic and he avoided the conversation all the time. “We don’t choose our parents.” - he used to repeat.

The house was quiet and therefore a bit uncomfortable. Daniyar’s mother was at work as always, and his stepfather, apparently, went to the nearest pub. I wanted to leave this inhospitable home as quickly as possible, so I hurried to get down to business.

- “So what do you have? Don’t torture me, tell me!” - my voice trembled treacherously, betraying my impatience, but I was too intrigued by my friend to control myself.

- “Here you go!” - he handed me a colorful advertising booklet. – “I learned that there is a qualifying contest to the University of Colorado. The specialty is computer science. Only twenty spaces are allocated for our whole republic, but I am almost sure that you will be able to pass the competition. Try it! What if you succeed? You are good in computers and you know English. Take a chance!”

- “Colorado?” – Perplexed, I looked at the neatly folded sheet of expensive glossy paper with three beautifully printed green block letters “Colorado State University”. An opportunity for two dozen happy people who dream of living overseas. I've never been one of them. My dream was completely different. But the words from an old movie sounded in my head: “Green is a color of hope.” My obliging subconscious mind seemed to have already grasped Daniyar’s idea, but for some reason I uttered completely different words.

- “No, Daniyar,” - I tried to speak as gently and calmly as possible. I did not want to offend a friend who showed such concern for my future. It was not his fault that I... - “I'm far from computer science. I can create the simplest program, if necessary. But you know it's not my thing. I have never been interested in this in detail. And Colorado... It is America. That is not my dream. The English there is different from the one I was learning. Plus, who's waiting for me there? No one!”

- “So who is waiting for you in Europe?” - Daniyar frowned slightly. His words made sense.

- “People are really different there,” - I retorted, probably more hotly than I had to. – “There I would find myself, develop and improve. People are kinder in Europe, and rush to help you,” - I was carried away once again for a moment, having become immersed in the excitement of my dreams. – “I would love to see everything that I have read about in history books! Ancient pavement, which was trampled by legendary warriors and knights of old times, magnificent castles and the ruins of the ancient temples. I would love to see the Eiffel Tower, which I have only seen in movies and photographs, to touch the Berlin Wall, if any of it still exists...”

- “Don’t talk like that. So, the nostalgic part was preserved,” - my friend rapped out, interrupting my endless list of European sights, which I dreamed about seeing with my own eyes. – “I wrote the address on the back of the booklet,” - Daniyar mercilessly brought me back to reality. – “If you want - go, if you don’t – it’s your business. But in your situation I would not put off making the choice. The study has already begun, and you with your Europe have not even tried to enter the university. You will remain in a suspended state.”

He was right. Right a thousand times over, damn it! I could not provide any reasonable argument to challenge his arguments. Only my internal stubbornness prevented me from recognizing this at once. But I did not want to part with my dream for the sake of something more tangible. My whole being resisted it. For some reason, my feeling for Europe was getting weaker every minute. The Old World is closer, but the New World is greater! And who said that they will immediately accept me as a student?

At home later I sat on the couch for a long time, looking thoughtfully at the advertising booklet I got from Daniyar with the address neatly written in his handwriting.

- “Colorado. Computer science,” - I even snorted. I had never had a special interest in this profession and I had a very vague idea about it. But having thought that even failing this qualifying competition, I would not lose anything, I decided to go.

Chapter 3. Selection

The contestants crowded the corridor. I had not expected that there would be so many people willing to go to study in Colorado. Hope, excitement and frank enthusiasm could be seen on many faces. I heard fragments of talk saying that “this chance only comes once in a life time and not to everyone.” Perhaps, I was the only one who did not feel any joyful anticipation. I had no idea why I was here, I had already planned my defeat, and it was useless to pass the competitive selection with this attitude. I was already going to leave the building, but before I moved through the crowd in the direction of the exit, someone put a hand on my shoulder. I flinched and turned around.

- “I knew that you would be worried and I came to support you.” - Daniyar's face shone with a satisfied smile. – “The main thing is to breathe and relax your muscles. Massage your temples, it will help you to calm your nerves and concentrate.”

He kept talking, pouring out overly smart words, from which a slight excitement, which gripped me in addition to my own will, as usual before the exam, began to grow into irritation. However, I was glad that he came. It was very pleasant to feel his support and care, although I was not ready to admit it.

My turn came, and I entered the room, where a competitive commission was waiting for me. Despite all of Daniyar's advice and my own efforts, I was still worried. The look of stern faces and frankly appraising views directed at me did not make me anymore certain. In total, there were eight people on the commission. My attention was drawn to two girls about my age who were looking at me with obvious displeasure, which was close to contempt. This confused me even more.

- “Hello,” - I squeezed out, trying to at least somehow defuse the mounting tension. The answer was a cold silence. For a second all eyes turned to me, but after a moment each of the members of this strange commission returned to their business: someone rummaged through a folder, trying to find something in it, someone made notes in a notebook, and one of the girls was examining her impeccable manicure with a bored look. I suddenly felt a sharp desire to leave, but as soon as I thought like this, the oldest one - a man of about forty - broke the ringing silence that prevailed in the room.

- “Tell us about yourself.” - he said in a voice that was colorless and devoid of emotion.

- “I am Askarov Medet. Year of birth is 1985. I was born in Chui oblast in Bishkek,” - I began, learning to manage my excitement, once again feeling the gaze of those around me. I tried not to think about the others and only looked at the person who was the head of the commission. – “I studied in a high school, after that I entered the Lyceum and graduated this year successfully.”

- “You probably know English, if you studied at a Lyceum?” – said a younger man, who was making notes in a notebook.

- “Yes”. - I answered succinctly, looking in his direction. The man nodded slightly and wrote something in his book.

- “Perfect knowledge of English is not obligatory in our competition.” - the chairman of the commission got right to the point, - “So, if you pass the competition, you will have a year to prepare. All foreign students undergo a preparatory course, which includes language training. But the fact that you already know some is, of course, an advantage. Please, continue.”

I did not need to be convinced and continued.

- “I am fond of sports. I actively participated in all school activities. I never missed science fairs among schools. I participated in the city Olympiads and won prizes.” - I was suddenly overcome with a strong desire to win this contest. Without any reason, just like that. Maybe somewhere inside I wanted to prove something to someone. I began to say everything that came to my mind with excitement. – “In my spare time I'm fond of music. I like jazz very much. If there is an opportunity, I will definitely learn to play the saxophone.”

As I was speaking, the views directed at me from all sides were becoming more and more approving and interested. They were asking me questions, and I began to answer confidently and firmly. On the faces of the members of the commission I saw that my answers were fully satisfying them. And only the man who started the conversation remained impassive. His face continued not to express anything, and his voice seemed to be dry and cold. However, I cared neither about his indifference, nor about the approval of the others. Even if I passed this stupid contest, what would it give me? Nothing. It would not bring me closer to my dream. And I would not go to America, even if I passed. I would not go... But then why was I trying so hard to make a favorable impression? I had no answer to this question.

Chapter 4. Unplanned trip.

A phone call woke me up. I looked at the illuminated name - Daniyar...

My best friend had such a bad habit of waking me in the morning to ask how I am doing. And every time I miraculously overcame the desire to throw the phone against the wall. I found the phone and answered the call, trying not to show my irritation.

- “Congratulations!” - Daniyar's enthusiastic voice rang into my ear. – “You won the contest! You're going to America!”

Sleepiness evaporated instantly.

- “Did I pass? Did I do it?” - I could not believe my ears.

Daniyar kept chattering into the phone excitedly, but I could no longer catch the meaning of his words. The phrase “I did it!” was knocking in my head, and I found myself caught up in joy. Not because I was going to America, not because I was going to study at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. I did it! I recalled the crowd of applicants with hope in their eyes. Some of them had a very strong confidence in themselves. How many of them did I bypass? I turned out to be better! I had coped and proved that I was worth something. First of all, I proved it to myself.

Daniyar congratulated me again, and we said goodbye to each other. It was still ringing in my ears, but the euphoria of the unexpected success began to gradually subside, giving way to the cool intellect. Yes, I did it, I passed the competition. So what now? The dream of a fabulous trip to Europe lay on one side of the scales, and the real prospect of studying in the U.S. lay on the other one.

Colorado. Computer science. “This chance only comes once in life time and not to everyone.” - I recalled the phrase of one of the contestants with whom I was not familiar, but whose words somehow crashed into my memory.

The airport was noisy and crowded. A couple of times other “lucky ones” who passed the selection came to me while we were waiting for our plane. Perhaps I did not behave very politely towards them, because attempts to start an acquaintance stopped rather quickly. In fact, I had nothing to talk about with them. I simply didn’t share their enthusiasm for the upcoming trip. Frankly speaking, I did not feel anything about it at all. It was strange: I was going abroad for the first time. Plus, I was going to America. Unlike myself, feelings were literally overflowing from my mother, who came to see me off. She felt both pride and joy that her son managed to achieve something, doubts mixed with anxiety, and the bitterness of the upcoming separation. She was trying to hide her tears, but she could not. I could understand what she was feeling, but I was feeling only emptiness and apathy.

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