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Nicolai Nicolai
by David Sparenberg
2021-04-10 10:22:58
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Nicolai
an event & process in identity evolution

I am Nicolai. Here is my story. As much as I am prepared to tell. In Russian my name means “Gift of God.” You cannot imagine the irony!

As a young man my body was large, powerful, and discomforting to others. A single glance from me was enough to make men insecure and cause confusion in women. I knew how to be imposing and saw how easy it was to get my way. Most human beings are herd animals and herd animals are accustomed to submission. Such was my thinking.

niko0001_400My skin was thick, insensitive to human contact, and covered with coarse, black hairs resembling the bristles on a boar’s back. I took pride in this sign of bestiality and learned early on how the wild boar is a good feeder with a reputation for aggression and ferocity. Being a brute with muscle was how I went about in the world and brutality suited me.

Exploiting weaknesses was a game and I never missed an opportunity to exercise cruelty howsoever petty. My delight was in catching the startled look of hurt and fear in a victim’s eyes. I even kept a crudely written list of the most vulnerable people I could humiliate and wound while yet appearing good natured and friendly. In short, I got what I needed and took what I wanted. I should confess, also, that in my early years I was disarmingly good looking. O my invasive, spell casting eyes! How ridiculously common that people mistake physical beauty for moral goodness! I played folly insidiously to my advantage.

In one of my earliest adult memories, I recall standing alone on a hot, mid-summer day looking out across a vast empty plain. It was a time of severe drought and the land was dry, dusty brown and apparently lifeless. Off at a distance I noticed clouds were gathering and the wind was driving them in my direction. I looked at the cloudbank and told myself, “At last it is going to rain. So what? It will be short and violent, with heavy raindrops splattering the hard ground without making a difference. Nothing will change.”

Shortly as I watched I began making out a peculiar movement, an agitation, in the center of the storm clouds. At first, I could not tell what this was. I was not in those years a man to be startled. I had disciplined myself to expect bad things and be ready to counter them. After all, how often did I instigate bad things?

Notwithstanding, I was surprised when realizing that a creature was emerging from the tempest vortex and that it was a dark, wide winged dragon, belching fire and flapping furiously, flying straight toward me. Instinctively I braced myself, planed my feet and said half aloud, “A boar is fierce and does not run, but fights even when facing a monstrous enemy.” Still, a tremor of fear, a sensation I was not accustomed to, ran through me.

Now the wind was blowing, thunder, lightning, swirling clouds of dust and large raindrops began to beat down heavily against the hardened earth. I kept my head down but my body was tense, ready for a fight. Come what may, I thought, let the devil claim whoever remains!

It was only when the attacker was directly above that I lifted my eyes to meet my foe. You cannot imagine how startled I was in that moment, how my strength utterly abandoned me. Overhead was not a dragon after all, but a colossal, winged man. The sight of him struck me with terror. His face was a featureless metal mask or a pane of thick, imageless glass. In the hovering giant’s left hand, he held a hefty staff with the point sharpened like that of a spear. But the point of the spear was a blazing tongue of flame.

As I stood trembling, the winged man lifted his staff and suddenly without word or warning plunged the burning spearhead into my heart. Immediately I fell backward onto the ground. I knew I was dying. My blood spewed from the burning heart-wound like fire erupting from the crater of a volcano.

Then there was darkness, utter darkness. No sight, no sound, no movement at all. Not even the feeling and sound of breath. How long this reality went on I cannot say. Time with all else had been utterly swallowed into that blank void of nothingness.

As suddenly as the darkness had befallen, it was gone. My eyes were open. I looked at the sky above. The sky was clam, clear and blue. There was a taste of grease and ashes on my lips and the smell of ashes was in my nostrils. I wiped both sensations away and remember muttering, “Somehow, I am breathing. Somehow, I have returned to life.”

I sat up, slowly looking around. Everywhere there was new green grass. I could feel it underneath me. My hands were moving over it, fingering the slender blades. What had become of weather and the flying warrior? Where had the ashes comes from amid this greenery?

I crawled onto my knees, eyeing a body of water before me. I will call it a lake and this lake was very calm, quiet, with not even a ripple. I went toward it and knelt to look at my reflection on the mirror of water. The face I saw was at once familiar and strange. It was my face and not my face. The customary cruelty was gone from the mouth. There was no aggression or hostility in the eyes. Instead, the image I saw had my features but was soft and somehow somewhat androgynous and with a sweet expression I had not experienced since childhood. I could not understand this and began to cry.

For who knows how long I knelt there, naked, gazing at the water borne image, sometimes touching my flesh face as I did so, watching the lake-mirror as I touched too the reflection of who I had become. I could not grasp it! I could wrap my head around who I appeared to be!

The sun draped a robe of warm light around me as I remained immobile, struggling in puzzlement. Now and then I wondered about the rainstorm. Had it passed over? Where had it gone? Eventually I concluded both the tempest and the winged warrior had become absorbed into a vaster harmony, even as I had been changed into a better man.

What do you think? Was this only a dream? Or maybe I am dreaming still? Was that brutal Nicolai I have spoken of really who I had been, or is Nicolai only a shadowy fiction I use to entertain myself and sometimes others? I had never cared for asking questions. Now I question everything.

More recently, I was out on a late autumn afternoon walking in a park, the park that houses the Museum of Anthropology. I started hearing music and moved in the direction of the sound. How surprised I was to come upon a young musician with a merry face, dressed rather theatrically in Bohemian fashion. What was most peculiar was that this youth was not playing a guitar as might be expected, not even a violin, but an accordion. This is a not a common instrument in my region and I wondered at it. A squeeze box!

I simply stood there absorbing as much sound as I could. The music was happy and sweet. Along with the musician there was as well a slender young woman on roller skates. She was costumed as a jester, everything patterned in white and black, with a jester’s belled crown and a painted face to match her clothing. The jester was skating in a wide orbit around the scene. She passed me several times her eyes fixed on my face, the way a fox looks at motion with an alert staring. How she looked at me! Instead of the fox’s attentive ears and eyes, the skater was a painted mime with a tinkling belled cap.

The multicolored autumn leaves hung motionless on the branches of trees. Higher up there were birds, unmoving and silent on their perches. Even the usually noisy and hopping about crows, scavenging for crumbs or morsels to peck at, had ceased their obsessive activity, as through suspended in a magic spell of music. That was a memorable experience!

I was never much for learning and a poor reader besides. In my latter years, however, I have started a sort of research, devoting time each day to reading something on one of the peculiar subjects I had previously scoffed at and ridiculed. That has changed. Now whenever I discover anything of special interest, I jot it down in the little notebook I always carry with me, right in this pocket. Here it is. Let me read the latest entry. This is from a Gerhardt Dorn, a chemical philosopher I am told.

The thinking fellow writes: “Through study one acquires knowledge; through knowledge, love, which creates devotion; devotion creates repetition, and by making continuous repetition one creates in oneself experience, virtue and power, though which the miraculous work is done, and the work in nature is of this quality.” Imagine – forty-three words in but a single sentence—what a feast!

I cannot claim to understand much about this “miraculous work”, as it is called. But I continue to apply myself. Such flickering, these little, wordy fireflies—and how to atone—such is my new life.

My name is Nicolai.

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Check David Sparenberg's NEW BOOK
The Fate Of The Poets - Selected poems 1974-2019
is online now and you can download for FREE HERE!

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Also Check David Sparenberg's THE GREEN TROUBADOUR
A Source Book of Performance Ecosophy
download for FREE HERE!

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David Sparenberg has also 2 more Books in the Ovi Bookshelves,
"Life in the Age of Extinctions volume 2 – Threshold"
Download for FREE HERE!

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