This particular day of Anton Pavlovich’s life went awry from the start.
At first his lawyer for divorce proceedings called him by phone and with affectedly false regret in own voice notified Anton Pavlovich that the second apartment in a center of Moscow, which Anton Pavlovich has honestly acquired by not-so-honest work can’t be kept in any way because it’s considered a shared property, acquired by him along with his nowadays almost ex-wife. Then some sort of fool from Godforsaken insurance company called him and offered “new unique property insurance package with fire-protection included” – and this, together with a sad fact of his country house, which has been burned almost to ashes by a lightning strike about a month ago, sounded almost like professional, even though accidental mockery. In a doorway of this exact Moscow apartment, which has been bought on money from pension system fraud, his new mistress Jessica has been already waiting for him and with a languid voice she inquired, when her “sweetie daddy” is going to buy her a new promised mink fur coat instead of an old one, given to her by a former lover. And this new mistress, to be honest, was quite a black sheep – but his previous unmarried concubine Victoria demanded such thorough and capital investments, that it was much easier and cheaper to hire some east harem than to continue satisfaction of her growing not by days, but by wallets appetites. And at this moment Anton Pavlovich could do nothing better than to form a false smile on his tense face and go together with Jessica to a new boutique.
What can we say? That regrettable for Anton Pavlovich day was destined to come to a failure from the start. Anton Pavlovich was pressing on his car’s accelerator pedal so hard, trying to get rid on the way to the boutique of one thousand of annoying thoughts, which have been importunately biting his raging mind, that he didn’t notice how he has exceeded allowed in the urban environments speed limit of sixty kilometers per hour. Or maybe just this last hour became like a whole life, stretching into its own eternity?
Fuel truck drove into a cross lane absolutely unexpectedly. It’s, however, quite possible that it, along with its driver Vasily Ivanovich, who has become quite drunk after a recent quarrel with own wife, along with Anton Pavlovich and aforementioned Jessica have all been waiting for this year, day, hour, minute and even second of this most fatal meeting? Alas, the answer to this uneasy question is hidden from us in faraway informational archives of the universe, and we are unable to satisfy this possible curiosity of our faithful readers. No matter what, but the moment when Anton Pavlovich and Vasily Ivanovich synchronously pressed on brakes, and Jessica stridently cried, hands of invisible to them clocks stopped for an instant, as if forever imprinting it inside a memory of the world, and then a second hand made its last “tac!” and stood still. Black tinted jeep crashed into the middle of a fuel truck at such a speed that fuel track rolled sideways – and followed explosion muffled even agonal shout of Jessica. Shockwave threw away two nearby cars and three pedestrians without inflicting them too much damage – for it was yet not their year, day, hour, minute and second. Huge fiery mushroom sparked over a place of tragedy – and then everything sank in a roar of a storming flame…
Anton Pavlovich opened his eyes, greedily grasping autumn air, which has been flowing along with sun rays through slightly opened windows into his bedroom. He slowly wiped his eyes with own fists, trying to get rid of a recent dreadful nightmare, and sat down on the edge of a bed. “What an awful dream!” – he was thinking, having not yet come to his senses. “Swindles, frauds, mistresses, road accidents… what our mind is capable of creating! Well, never mind, – the good news is that all of this wasn’t for real, it was just a dream, a simple dream…”
That way, continuing to calm down himself, Anton Pavlovich was gathering for work. Having already had breakfast, having already put on his crimson jacket and sat down into a black tinted jeep, parked near a house, already ready for new honest and not so honest feats, he suddenly caught himself on a thought that it has become somehow unusually deserted in a yard of his high-rise building – no signs of cars, or pedestrians, or even some kind of stray dog, which wasn’t traveling here anyway. “Perhaps, it’s a day off?” – an afterthought flashed in still slightly sleepy brain of Anton Pavlovich. “Precisely, day off! No further than yesterday I have finally got divorced with my silly spouse and was going to celebrate that moment today in a bar with my friends!”, – he remembered. “All because of that foolish dream! It totally drove me out of life!” Having repeatedly glanced over an empty yard of his house and having once again hemmed to himself, he struck pedals of his car and rushed through the gates.
Rare street pedestrians completely didn’t fit into an overall image of populous capital – they, having slightly stooped, were slowly moving on streets and, it seemed, didn’t look on each other at all. No sign of agiotage or any business turmoil and haste, so common for Moscow citizens… it seemed as if the city has become extinct – or have massively moved beside that distressful MKAD in a single incomprehensible instant of time.
There was no sign of a bar in the habitual address, as well as no waiter, who has been obligingly opening doors before visitors. Instead of familiar three-lettered word an updated sign said – “Bureau”, while the first two letters of it have been written in black, and subsequent two – in white colors; and slightly below the following text has appeared: “Salon of comprehensive otherworldly services” – and in this inscription white and black letters were going in turn. “Madhouse of sorts”, – Anton Pavlovich muttered to himself, slowly parking his jeep near bureau-bar. “What sort of bullshit these fucked marketing idiots do invent to attract more visitors”.
“We are glad to see you in our salon. Welcome to the Bureau!” a good-looking young man in a strange suit welcomed Anton Pavlovich once he stepped over a spinning glass door of this building.
“Tell me, man, are all of you, folks, dressed like that here?” Anton Pavlovich questioned with a jeer in his voice, while fixedly looking into the eyes of this newly appeared waiter.
“You must be talking about my wings, right?” showing no sign of confusion, he replied in return. “Frankly speaking, I have been in that form since the time of my birth – which, it should be noted, has happened several eons before your own. And, answering your next upcoming question, – this combination of colors in our poster symbolizes Free Choice – a very useful for mortals trait, which is, unfortunately, hasn’t been given to us. What else would you like to learn about the Bureau, my former workmate?”
“Workmate in what sense?” Anton Pavlovich was taken aback for a mere second, silly looking first at the waiter, and then deep into the hall of the unusual salon.
“In most direct and every day,” quietly answered the man with snow-white wings behind his back. “A companion for all of your past life, which has been taking place recently. Absolutely, by the way, unnoticed by you,” he added as if with a small piece of grief in his voice.
“Young man, are you even in your mind? To me you a total stran…”
“Then it’s a pleasure to get acquainted once again!” young “waiter” smiled and stretched his hand, which was shining with some kind of nacreous glow, to Anton Pavlovich. “All of our services will be completely free of charge for you today! Just follow me!”
“No kidding?” Anton Pavlovich strictly raised his eyebrow.
“No desire to do so,” the young man answered routinely. “I still have to bear responsibility for your course of life.”
“So, what kind of entertainments do you offer?” Anton Pavlovich continued to pursue his own goals. “I was planning to meet here with my friends, by the way.”
“With Jessica? Never worry, she is already expecting you here. I would even tell that she is exhausted from impatience,” smiled White-Winger. “But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and make it all right and in a correct order. According to our current action, we can offer you three of our most popular attractions completely free of charge.”
“Wait, what – you even keep a circus in your pocket?” Anton Pavlovich burst out laughing from own unsightly joke.
“No, no, may the Lord be with you! The circus is on the Earth, and we are different. What Lies Beyond, so to speak. We are currently carrying out an unprecedented action – we are telling all our future clients what is awaiting them in advance.”
“How’s that?” Anton Pavlovich showed a sincere surprise on his face. “In advance?”
“Well, you see… sometimes we are given permission to act that way. We already created similar actions… for example, about two thousands of years ago. We passed information regarding this action to you through one remarkable individual. What was his name… John, it seems. And his second name was so sonorous, as far as I remember, the… Evangelist, right! And today… well, you can see for yourself to what strange methods we should resort today.”
“So it turns out that your action is almost termless?”
“Well, you are certainly correct in some way. We just need to remind humankind about it from time to time. But let’s get straight to business! You surely haven’t got in touch with art for a long time, am I right, Anton Pavlovich?”
“I have pictures on walls in my home, modern kind. And bookshelves with some… classics,” answered Anton Pavlovich, trying to remember which classics were there.
“Then it’s a due time to get in touch with what is nowadays eternal. Welcome to the Cinema of Memoirs! Allow me to open a door for us…” and the White-Winged young man waved his hand, drawing something in the air. In a couple of seconds, a most real gateway appeared just in front of Anton Pavlovich’s stunned physiognomy – it was casting a same nacreous light like the one coming from hands of his unexpected interlocutor. “Follow me!”
“That’s how technology advances…” Anton Pavlovich hemmed to himself with astonishment. “What sort of inventions can scientists-physicists create. All thanks to western sanctions, no doubt!” he assured himself and stepped into the portal.
The room, in which both of them have appeared, indeed reminded of some sort of big Moscow movie theater – except for the audience, which consisted only of him and his mysterious fancy-dressed colleague.
“Fourth row, eighth place,” White-Winger noticed with satisfaction, taking a seat near Anton Pavlovich on a next chair. “Your place.”
“Why are we sitting so close? Let’s take places far away from a screen to better see all demonstrated events, there is nobody here except for us anyway!” Anton Pavlovich muttered discontentedly.
“Unfortunately, all other places are already reserved. They just seem as empty only now and only for you. Everything is actually much more complicated,” replied White-Winger. “And this place is just yours, for exactly when you were forty-eight those events, which you have recently ‘seen’ in a dream, have taken their place in your life.”
“And how did you learn about my recent dream…”
“Pay attention to the screen!” young man interrupted him. “Movie of your life is already starting!”
Large screen in a cinema hall, which reminded with its carved decorated edges some mirror from Middle Ages era, lit up with nacreous light, showing a small bed with protective partitions, where a small child was sleeping peacefully, smiling in his own dream.
“Memoirs of your life, beginning from the time when your consciousness has started awakening. You were about half a year, apparently. At that time, you were totally innocent, Anton Pavlovich,” young man commented on scenes.
…Meanwhile scenes continued to replace one another. Here the child uncertainly takes his first steps, stumbling and falling on a bottom. Here he diligently pulls a spoon into his mouth, being afraid to miss, eating porridge “for the father and for the mother”. Here he embraces a kitten, which was a gift in his childhood, and his eyes shine brightly with sincere children’s joy. Here he plays on a playground along with other children with steam locomotives toys, and here he takes a ride from a top of icy winter hill. Here he sails ships in autumn pools, which reflect a sky in themselves. Here he lays down together with a mother on a bed and hugs her in a sleep…
“They say that all children are precisely like Angels,” with a grief in his voice noticed White-Winger. “And adults are more like demons. These are the purest and sincerest memoirs of your entire life, Anton Pavlovich,” he continued, observing how a tear crosses a cheek of his former “workmate”.
…Pictures continued to lead their own life, replacing each other as in a kaleidoscope. Here the young “mean” man is being accepted into the Institute on protection. Here he goes to night parties with fellow students. Here parents present him with a luxurious expensive car and he uses it to the full to shine and flaunt before girls of easy behavior. Here he visits night bars and striptease clubs…
“It’s hard to tell the exact moment where everything has started falling down into the abyss,” White-Winger commented on scenes once again. “Whether it was my personal oversight, wrong education of parents, false life values of society or first and foremost your personal vital choice, Anton Pavlovich? The court knows that for certain – and I, to my own regret, don’t. I am left only with a hope that both of us will be given one more chance.”
…Images continued to float and move one after another, creating a unique feeling of repeated presence on own antecedents. Here an adult graduate of legal academy becomes an official. Here he runs roughshod over other’s feelings, deceiving and profiting on human laziness, stupidity, and fear, – believing sincerely that he lives only a single life. Here he brings a mistress – first, second, third, yet none of them is capable to bring him back that long-lost feeling of life’s joy – the one which has been living side by side with him only during a faraway childhood. Here he desires to tear all of this false life apart and become a hermit – but strong, too strong are now for his weak will his former affairs and ties…
“We demonstrate here only the brightest of your memoirs, which have been imprinted in a memory of your soul instead of a brain – and therefore became potentially immortal, having transformed into some kind of déjà vu. All other life’s nonsense, monotonous and gray life, boring and disliked job, frequent and repeating quarrels with your wife, which have brought both of you to a divorce – all of this was forced out from your brightest memoirs and therefore hasn’t been included in that movie. It was all kept in your personal record in Archives where we will soon go,” commented White-Winged “waiter”.
…Now pictures almost fly, promptly replacing each other just like years of life, rushing aimlessly before their owners, drenching them with the dust of life’s roads. New financial swindles, new “none will be the wiser” deeds, new quarrels with his wife, a new mistress – Jessica. Day of their meeting in a second Moscow apartment, trip on a jeep. Fuel track, which has appeared on the intersection of roads, pressed against the stop brakes, the terrified soul-tearing squeal of his new passion… TV screen suddenly went black and light in a hall turned on as if symbolizing the end of the movie session.
“Why… why has my movie ended on this shot… the very same from today’s dream. Why, may demons tear you apart, is that so?!” Anton Pavlovich angrily seized his white-winged interlocutor and started shaking him.
“Let’s not use the collective name of these spiteful beings in this place and context, Anton Pavlovich. You may happen to meet them face-to-face a bit later,” calmly answered white-winged young man, dexterously freeing himself from a grasp. “Let us better proceed into the Library of Fates, or, as some of us briefly call it, – the Archives. I do believe that your stay there will be able to shed some light on this question that torments you so. Shall we go?”
“All right, we go,” muttered Anton Pavlovich. “And then to my friends and Jessica.”
“Without a doubt,” confirmed young man. “They are eager to meet with you as well.”
A waving of hand – and once again a familiar silhouette of a portal appeared before Anton Pavlovich, along with a shining road that was leading deep inside it. Here he takes a step into unknown depths of this strange door and…
The Library was astounding. While movie theater somehow resembled the similar one in Moscow, the Archives, apparently, contradicted all imaginable earthly laws of physics. Their carved regiments ascended to such high infinity, that it was absolutely unclear, how they could even stand still under a mass of all the books that were filling them. Huge shining tables from unknown material and mobile ladders were obviously created totally not by human measures. Corridors branched and twisted, connecting and disconnecting somewhere in a far distance. Some warm lilac light was shining from a ceiling that was totally hidden from human’s sight. Fragments of floor melodiously ringed if anyone was stepping on them. Somewhere in a distance a sound of murmuring springs and singing of birds could be overheard.
“Here we store the history of all ever lived and still living beings of the universe, which do have a soul,” suddenly materialized before Anton Pavlovich white-winged companion answered as though to himself. “We constantly supplement it and therefore Library continues to grow, as it’s said between us, – not by days, but by fates. As you can see, it by no means intended to be visited by humans, – but we have been allowed to prolong our action for a little bit more.”
“Wait, are you trying to tell me that here I can get an answer to any of my questions?”
“Any question, concerning the past, yes. And the future of each soul-given individual in particular and of the worlds, in general, has many possible outcomes and depends on that Free Choice, which I have already mentioned earlier. However, access for you here is denied anyway – mostly the staff of Department of Fates Control, which is located nearby, manage here the process of transfer and obtaining of information. They are frequent guests here, by the way.”
“Fates. Control. Humans included. What’s unclear? You see, Anton Pavlovich, your mortal life on the planet Earth… how should I put it more clearly… is not one of a kind. It’s just in the last time you were named as Anton Pavlovich, and before that… and how you were called before that you can learn exactly from one of the books, located in this wonderful library. The book of your destiny, which you have been writing with own deeds. You acted – and we fixed these acts, and wrote them down, and kept here. We have even shown you these books once – through mentioned John, remember? Your civilization must have kept records of his visions.”
“And… why do you write down all of this? Do you write down everything?”
“Everything that is related to Free Choice, yes. We store it for future Court, of course. So no deception can take place. Some soul-given live beings in this universe decided for some reason that they would be able to deceive us, ‘to move around a middle finger’, so to speak. Well… let them try,” White-Winger burst out laughing. “We will write down this Free Choice as well, and take it into account in the Court.”
“And what do these employees do here? Are they here now?”
“Most likely here, but they usually stay in a working wing of the Library, and we are in a guests’ section right now. You see, some of the events, taking place in your physical world, – they, how should I tell that… are already predetermined in the highest world – by chains of your previous Free Choices, and sometimes by the will of the Supreme One himself. The staff of this department carefully watches for compliance between the fate and affairs of each soul-given live being of a physical world, and if necessary verifying its accordance with a plan of his new life, created by the individual before his birth and written in his personal book, and if such necessity arises – they try to correct fates of beings so that they can manifest themselves in a best possible way and realize all their inborn potential. Unfortunately, in a case with your civilization of a Milky Way, it’s hard to achieve that goal – the beings calling themselves as humans became too willful, evil-willful, and perceive attempts of the staff of this department to correct their distorted destinies as a chain of life’s disorders and troubles.”
“And can I… see the book of my lives?”
“Now you can,” confirmed White-Winger. For an instant, he touched Anton Pavlovich’s breast with a palm of his hand, and then waved in the air – and several moments later a weighty book from a top shelf of one of the racks smoothly descended on it like a planning bird, having automatically opened itself on the first page.
“Vibration code of your soul,” the interlocutor explained to Anton Pavlovich. “It’s easy to find a necessary book by it. So, what did you want to learn?”
“Here… what sort of lines and points are these? I can barely see familiar letters in this book.”
“These are maps of your previous Free Choices. You must understand that each choice bears certain consequences along with it and opens the opportunity for new ones, and together they all form maps. Points symbolize moments of decision-making when you choose one of the options from a set of them. Numbers above arrows are probabilities with which you would have chosen one option or another at the moment of your choice. These diamond-shaped figures indicate a degree of influence of related choices on choices and fates of other people. All of this may look a little bit unclear in a two-dimensional plane – but I, unfortunately, cannot show you at present moment spaces with more than three dimensions, however, I can assure you that in such spaces these books are read much more simply and pleasantly.”
“Useless paper crap of some sort and practically everything is unclear!” Anton Pavlovich sniffed angrily, vainly trying to find the moment of his meeting with the ill-fated fuel track in an artful design of signs.
“The language available only for chosen ones,” his interlocutor smiled again. “First and foremost for the staff of the Department of Fates Control.”
“Let’s get out of here while the going is good,” Anton Pavlovich added biliously, “to my friends and Jessica.”
“Well,” sighted interlocutor. “For preliminary Hearings then!”
“…Okhrimenko Anton Pavlovich is to be summoned into the hall of Heavenly Court for carrying out preliminary Hearings. Guardian Angel Michel is appointed as the lawyer of the defendant, Demon-Tempter Zakhurat is appointed as the accuser. The defendant and specified companions from his last life have arrived, Hearings are to be considered open.”
These words reached Anton Pavlovich’s hearing just at the moment when a portal, opened by his “workmate”, has transferred him with a soft melodious sound into completely new surroundings, which were resembling a court’s hall that has become habitual to him in a mortal life.
“I… what… where… what for? What a foul setup is that?!” muttered a newly teleported defendant, puzzly looking around himself and having not yet come up to his senses after so hasty change of space and own role.
“I shall explain you everything later, we will have time,” White-Winger winked to him while going to the judicial stand of white color, which was intended for him. The opposite stand of black color in another corner of the hall was occupied by dreadfully looking being with a tail, horns, and hoofs.
“The accuser, what can you tell us concerning last given to the defendant’s life in a galaxy of Milky Way on a planet formerly known as Gaia and nowadays being called simply as Earth?”
“T-h-h-h-i-i-i-e-e-f-f-f…” mischievously hissed a creature, vomiting sparks of dark flame from its mouth. “F-o-o-o-r-r-r-n-i-i-i-c-a-a-a-t-t-o-o-r. K-i-i-l-l-l-l-e-e-e-r-r. T-a-a-a-a-k-e-e-e a l-o-o-o-o-k…”
Suddenly images started materializing in a center of the hall, reminding former ones from a movie of his – Anton Pavlovich’s life – they only had more than two dimensions this time. A shot was replaced by a shot, showing everyone how Anton Pavlovich gives and takes bribes, meets with mistresses, indulges in alcoholic euphoria, and so on and so forth. This demonstration was finished with the last shot of the infantile-surprised face of the fuel truck’s driver and frozen in time shouting face of Jessica which looked almost alive.
“Quite a convincing presentation, Tempter. It’s obvious, that we are dealing with violations of three precepts and commissioning of three types of mortal – I emphasize, mortal! – sins. Does the protection party wish to have a speech?”
“Yes, your honor, I do have a wish,” and, having that said, Guardian Angel waved his wings and new images started floating through a center of the hall. These pictures now demonstrated how little Anton Pavlovich gently embraces his mother before going to bed; how he shares toys with other children from his yard; how he comes to the rescue of a school friend when teenagers from nearby district try to kick him to the death; how they walk in a park together with his beloved and future wife, how they truly love each other, at least for the first time…
“We thank you for that presentation, Guardian. The episodes, which you have provided, demonstrate that despite for a chain of serious violations of Heavenly Law, feelings of human compassion, justice and love were not completely alien for the defendant, which makes his soul potentially capable of Atonement. Whether the accusing party wishes to add something else?”
“W-i-i-i-i-i-s-s-s-h-h-h-h-e-e-e-e-s-s. K-i-i-i-l-l-l-e-e-d-d-d o-o-n-n-e-e-s-s,” horned being hissed once again, having clicked a floor of the hall with its tail.
And with these words the fuel truck driver Vasily Ivanovich and mistress Jessica materialized in a center of the hall each from his own portal.
“You!” Jessica immediately cried out with rage, having hardly managed to jump out her portal. “My murderer! If I have only known that you would ruin me that day I wouldn’t ever approach you closer than for a mile! And I need no fur coats from you, ever! Rascal! Beast! Killer!”
“Brother, you what… aye? Why you drove so… to red light? Didn’t you see… you go?” Vasily Ivanovich addressed Anton Pavlovich inquiring-puzzly. “I left my children there, my wife… who will support them without me, aye? You are a fool, brother, fool as you are!”
“Are there are any witnesses from a defendant’s side?”
“Yes, his mother.”
And once again a portal opened with a melodious tune, and Anton Pavlovich’s mother stepped out from it.
“I brought him up… as I could,” she said with a whimper and pain in her voice. “In Christ’s values. My husband was drinking, even though he was a banker. He accustomed my son to… fancy living… alcohol… my poor little son. And I… as I was able… in childhood… while he was pure… not to soil his soul…”
“Does the defendant want to add something? We should remind that, according to the rules, each and every of his word – whether kind or evil – can be used both as self-justification and as self-accusation, in compliance with the uniform Heavenly Law, established by the Supreme One.”
“I… well… didn’t know… what I was doing… I promise not to act this way from now on. To live with honor and conscience… and so on. Something like it…”
“All of them speak that way,” someone hemmed from the hall of jurors. “I didn’t know, I had no idea, give me, please, one more life…”
“I request to keep silence in the hall of hearings!”
“Forgive me, your honor.”
“If both accusing and defending parties have nothing more to add, then I suggest ending the first phase of preliminary hearings. This court session is closing.”
“Well… it could be much worse than that,” summed up the Guardian Angel, brushing away sweat from his wings. “You still have a chance – not a bright one, but at least one.”
“And you keep calling that as attractions? What kind of setup is that?! Return me back immediately, wake me up from this foolish dream! I still have a life, Jessica, divorced wife… I still have so many things to correct on this, how was it, Gaia!” Anton Pavlovich lashed out with fists at his newly acquired defender.
“Oh, my silly Anton Pavlovich!” sighted White-Winger with a grief in his voice. “You know what’s the hitch is? You don’t have a new life anymore! You have indeed died, my dear Anton Pavlovich…”