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The story of a boy and the 3 rounds in his hand

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  09:53:50  13 March 2006
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On forum: 07/31/2003
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The story of a boy and the 3 rounds in his hand

<< Night did always represent my ideal kingdom, so vast and peaceful, could be populated with few people that dare to venture and never feared dark, or fulfilled with hundreds of people raging together, wandering, let the deepest passion spread out, and the sensation of having every possibility in their hands. Imagining it humanized, it always represented my ideal lady, with wonderful dark mid-long hairs, seducing eyes that shines every time differently, and the most beautiful smile ever seen on earth, even by whom who think that only who likes sun can smile better. But for sure, it'll always be my ideal companion, making me feel encouraged and protected, covering my back during my "archaeology" excursions.

Yes archaeology, you bet I wrote that, I'm only 23 and that's my only work since a few months, as before I lived mostly just cleaning damned windows for big buildings just for a few kopeks. My kind of archaeology could only be explained annoying you by talking a little bit about me and my previous days, when I was a bit younger, and actually more or less the same days when we got separated, after you fled towards the Far East with aunt Irina: I was more or less 11 years old.

In those days, my house was like a sort of shelter, and I was the refugee living in it. I used to sleep there with my father and my grandfather, hope you remember? And "use to sleep'' is such a neologism, as in fact I always spent most of my days with grandfather haunting in the nearby forests, and during that same period, my father instead of coming with us used to struggle out some coins selling materials and objects he dug out of the ghost city of Pripyat. We used to meet each other at home casually, while coming back to rest or cook something. My grandpa, while catching preys, always taught me the important, vital tasks of understanding the feelings of an animal that's suspecting a danger nearby, to be able to sense it's presence as it senses mine. "And if it will be a encounter that will lead the animal to a death, let always be in the total respect of it". I remember him one day, kissing the forehead of a red deer, probably the best prey in weeks, and then, later, drinking up a cup of his salty blood to warm up.

Didn't I finished to be something that's actually a sum of what both these two strange characters were? They taught me how to stand up and live, both in different ways, but both seriously. Currently, I'm wandering frequently in a place, my workplace, sneaking through out miles of trash in order to find what I am looking for - like my old father did on the town, didn't he? A destroyed town, so empty, so full of trash, and so frequently visited by human jackals like him....And grandpa teachings? How could I had survived without learning when it's the right time to catch an animal for feeding myself also in the middle of nowhere, or to sense the presence of another living being that could hurt me, or if it's not really an animal, let's say....a creature? Anyway, my grandpa soon died (and father was already disappeared since 4 months, never showed up, never heard a news or a rumour about it) , leaving me in inheritance only those teachings and the last three rifle cartridges that he had in his pocket from the last day of hunt we had.

"Use those, I couldn't shot those last time we went, seems that I'll not need them anymore where I'm going now, heh..'' - he said while expiring. The second job I did, with the archaeology mission at the catacombs as a cleaner, as a digger and as a security night guard turned out to be quite useful, and taught me to recognize the difference between something that is nothing, and something that is something, or have been something and that could have a specific value nowadays. I learned archaeology almost in a voyeuristic way, but finally mastered what I needed from the method.....can't write anymore now, Alesa.

Come here, there's work here, bread, meat, MEAT. Water, a house, but especially WORK, and i need your assistance. I'll wait for your arrival. Hope to see you soon, cousin. - Sergej >>

Alesa immediately drop the letter. Useless to carry it or fully understand it, what was clearly written there was just come here, and work, and he understood that more than perfectly; immediately made up a bag with almost everything he had, and spent his last money for the train ticket and a phone call. While travelling back to his native places, his eyes looked outside the rusty train's window loosing his thoughts on the landscapes.

<< Archaeology? What kind of work could be that, I never heard of something like that there, no expeditions, no miles of trash?' s possible?... And about what creatures was he talking about, maybe is a sort of word-joke, like a funny way to describe some old bones discovered under the surface? Bah, work is work, I'm happy to hug Serge again, and he's all has left to me. >>Two days straight in train wagon, and he finally arrived at his destination. Entering in the station, a dusty wind was expiring, Sergey was already there and after a warm smile and a few words, took his bag, and lead him to his house. His new home, a sort of a strengthened shack located a few decades of kilometres from The Zone.

The first hours passed in the most beautiful way possible....drinking maybe a little too much, but can you measure yourself, after all these years passed alone, while meeting the pleasure of having a sort of a family again? A family... hours passed, and Sergej was able to introduce Alesa to his new activity, and his connection to the worst place on this planet, The Zone.

Being a Stalker there, entering without any kind of gear at all, with the only purpose of challenging the Zone stealing artefacts and technologies, like an habitual thief that dares to advise his victims before coming to steal their goods, was so dangerous even for a smart boy like Sergej, and an helping hand from a trusted person was more important than anything else. Sergej' s experience could anyway make a good lead, he knew his tasks well, but two eyes behind his back could have been so necessary that if Alesa had refused, maybe a new life of starving could begin for both the two cousins. Everyone knows how the Zone is even more dangerous nowadays, everyone's talking about it, avoiding the place and the nearby places like the pest. In the first months of robbing, there was such a strong radioactivity, and it was almost impossible to venture there, and in Pripyat too. But now, radiation almost expired, but disseminated bad seeds that generated more troubled fruits, like mutants, anomalies, and paradoxically, the more dangerous The Zone became, the more people enters there to find a way to make dirty moneys, storing drugs, smuggling, retrieving technologies and raw metals, weapons dealers using it a s an exchanging place to close their affairs. More hours passed. And after some more time, night time arrived, and a restoring sleep was the only thing they needed more than talking and boozing. A night can always give you the best suggestions. The next morning, Alesa agreed to join, and both planned their next run (that's the way stalkers described the actions inside The Zone) two days later.

Those two days passed. Look at how much do they drink.

While the right hour almost arrived, there was a illusory dusk preparing the stage for the night. Serge prepared himself with some water with lemon in it, a camera, a iron bat, a knife, took his three grandfather bullets and put them into his pocket, and some steaks, wear his wool cap and a black wool jacket, attached a flashlight at his left shoulder, and after taking a long breath started his car, ready to aim for his most critical run inside the Zone that he has ever dared to try. Alesa, was in the car since some minutes, and surprisingly quite relaxed....oh if he would know what could possible happen there, would he maintain that expression? ....well, better this way. After some minutes of car riding, they arrived at one kilometre from the main fence, a double line of sharp and muddy steel fence covered with barbed line that covers the whole perimeter with no electricity used to light it, as it was just used to electrify it. Eventually they hooked up with a third stalker, one from the old guard, that was arrived a few minutes earlier, and was preparing himself to run inside too. He was ''World famous'' Hristov, an ex reindeer hunter, well known to any stalkers in The Zone as the man that was able to made an incredible run of 3 days and half inside the most critical part of the Zone, and survived to retrieve the most wanted device of the eastern labs, the rumoured X-77 generator, that no one never heard what was it's use for, but that was in the top requests of every corporation, as showed in the report's sheet inside the ''Dealer's'' room.

Walking with him, was reassuring, also if it was just for a kilometre till arriving to the last trees before the fence. The soldiers camp was right about 200 meters on the right side, but it seemed the soldiers were all closed inside a tent listening to some communication, while some others were outside giving some bread to a group of women waiting outside asking for some free food. That was the only weak point of that Zone perimeter: just a place was without electrification, and guarded on sight by soldiers, and it was the main camp. After a few seconds, the last reflector going back and forth on that portion of field nearby the camp illuminated the fence, and a useful gap of twenty seconds before the light would came back started, so both the three sneaked inside, and got immediately separated. If there's a place on earth that can be in common between a 23 year old forensic starving archaeologist and a middle age reindeer ex-hunter, and shared by decades of different other souls, it was that 470 hundred meters long portion of fence, and just for twenty seconds. <<Entering with such a legend can just be a good sign of success, Alesa, you can swallow your saliva then..>>. The voice of Sergej was deep, calm, sarcastic and concentrated, his words spread out in the cold air of the night on the wings of the vapours that his mouth emitted.<<cousin, I believe our object is located in the south-eastern buildings, near the post-work time recreation centre. Stay close to me, look my back, and follow my steps; About anything else, it will go perfectly. Besides, I'm not giving orders, just supporting your first run>>. Alesa knew that.

A note of proud was close to those words, good boy.

<< But keep your eyes opened, 'cause I never passed near that sector, I suppose we will have to face some difficulties>>.

And they had, of course. In fact, this side of the Zone was something Sergej wasn't able to really pay a visit to until now, but always heard of. Actually, not the whole Zone is perilous because of mutants and anomalies. The recreation buildings were quite safe, were towards the lower south east quarters and quite far away from any military HQ, in muddy and empty places that just a few creatures would have visited.

But what they witnessed while arriving there was far more than what they expected to see: actually decades of big red-painted light bulbs were attached to the buildings and at the entrances. Tens, hundreds, thousands of red light bulbs.

They immediately hid, staring at this enormous red-lighted building that seemed surreal. The bulbs were hand painted, all attached to an electric line, like the minuscule lights of a gigantic Christmas tree. It was impossible to describe the sense of surprise that ruled that moment, but the sooner it started the sooner it was suddenly broke by a loud, devastating noise of what seemed an old gasoline powered train locomotive arriving. Alesa was just in time to help Sergej hide behind a steel shield, with a timely, whispered << Watch out, here!>>

….Sergej suffered a invasive adrenaline rush…

<< ……..a train arriving…here?>>;

It was nothing like an absurd sequence, it was real surreal.

<< A train in the Zone? Functioning? I heard of someone came here by undercarriages on railways, but not about made a working line…and what about the military compound? It's impossible anyone didn't spot this locomotive…>> - said Sergej.

….but soon every question was answered. People that clearly acted like smugglers came outside, leaded by a short sized man that immediately entered the main door of the compound, followed by his men transporting a whole load of guns and rifles. Alesa shot a look to his cousin that immediately replied with a sign of "coming with him", inside a long iron tube that ended some good fifty meters in the dark far from that scene. He followed him at the end.

<<Alesa, some smugglers, seems this building is occupied by them functioning as a sort of HQStorage room, we have to find a building just three streets from here, so we better take the stairs from here towards the generators room and we better be careful. After a few minutes of walk inside the electric generators rooms, we will end in the basements, and will be the right direction I suppose…>> continued Sergej.

<<Move up>> replied firmly Alesa, and descended by first the ladder heading down a well.

The first rooms were incredibly dirty.

Serge lighted up the flashlight, making just a bunch of dust and trash more visible. All the rooms were fulfilled with scattered stuff on the floor, like if someone had tried to make a faster run, jumping the tables and posing hands on them to force their speed through out the building in a rush. Some water carrying tubes lost liquid before the water reserve was cut out, making walls and some of objects rusty and rotten. They walked forward the first alley, without saying a word, just being disturbed by the place's appearance.

But suddenly, a quiet noise behind their back got their attention.

They turned slowly, to see what it could have been, spotting a sort of a anthropomorphic living being, like, say, a dwarf, that was looking at them with the same surprised and interested eyes that they had while staring at him, in a sort of so human pathetic and innocent expression. But just a few seconds passed in silence, that immediately a door opened from the left of the creature revealing a thin, middle aged man, dressed in cassock1, slowly pointing and more slowly inserting a 50 inches blade of a knife inside the little deformed chest of the dwarf, that emitted a sort of a childish scream while dropping some tears and urine, before collapsing to the ground exanimated.

1 Priest Dress

The scene shocked both Serge and Alesa, that stared at the man cleaning his knife on a calendar on the wall. But if it was so shocking to see such a damned living being, the more shocking was seeing a priest in the middle of some basements in the middle of nowhere! But again, things explained their meaning by themselves again, as the man spoke with a gritty voice:

<<You better watch your backs, sons, seems that this creature got so interested in you two that dared to came near the red buildings too. You know, those red lights are functioning only during night time, seems that most of the mutants can't stand the sight of deep red lights because of their weak eyes, or maybe their reduced brains remember something about red lights reminding a dangerous, untouchable thing.….this little soul forgotten by god dared to venture here anyway, oh, maybe his heart be sedated now….finally?....>>.

The two young ones were more perplexed then ever.

<< Oh, I see, you're probably asking who I am and what I am doing here, sons>> - continued the man, receiving a whispered reply - << well…actually…I am Father Nikolaj, maybe you've heard about my mission on the village of Fioletov…..I suggest to find a safer place, and meanwhile I'll explain, here, come>> said, heading inside the room where he came from, followed by both Alesa and Sergej.

<<You see, I'm old enough to remember the first days dealing with this place, and the mess the radiations made to our beloved lands. People starving, abandoning cities or dying everyday in the rooms of my mission.

Today things are equally quite difficult, but we manage to arrange ourselves better than back in the days. But actually we have our needs too, it's not easy to help people without much resources…and that's why I'm here, and actually I didn't came alone..>> as he finished the his words, moved a shelf to reveal a hole in the wall, leading to a room with five young men inside, that immediately feel better with the sight of the priest.

<< Father, finally, it's everything ok?>> the men suddenly asked,

<<Yes don't worry, that noise was just made by our new guests….?..> - he replied looking at Serge.

<<Err, yes, I'm Sergej, and this is Alesa...>> said Serge, quite nervous.

<<Well as I said, I need everything in the need of keep my mission opened. Initially, some outlaws deprived of hope came at my mission, revealing that some useful stuff was inside this Zone, and they were connected up with the right places to sell that, so I managed to came inside here while some people every time agreed to lend me an hand, in secrecy, to retrieve something valuable. I'll sell everything for the mission's support, they can take their parts to sell and find a new life somewhere far from here, finally. >> concluded the priest, while cleaning his glasses, before cracking up a smile and make a sweet voluptuous look at the two cousins.

I bet they didn't liked him immediately.

By the way, what to do next?

<< Sorry father, but we better move fast. We have something important to do and we're quite in a hurry, so if you understand…..>> but suddenly the priest raged << Hey hey, wait a second my friends, can't you try to give a little hand to us? I'm not here to pretend anything, but as I saw your expression in that alley in front of a dwarf, I think that our company is such needed, or at least it seems…..well, I suppose we could help you sneaking in these corridors, if you help us transport some of the stuff we're looking for…>>.

The tension broke up in an instant.

<<Now wait, just wait a second father…father? father what! What's this father stuff, do you know who my father was? A damn thief. And he was so bastard that he could spit on the grave of us all just for money, and where was your god when I was at home roasting some meat waiting to him to come back home, the day he decided to never come back? Now I'll tell you….those days I survived with a rifle in my hands, so don't give me advice on how to kill. And now, if you don't mind…>> .

<< Ok, ok, so sorry. So sorry>> - said father Nikolaj. Serge moved back to the alley, but the priest manage to stop him again - << Ok! I said I am sorry damnit! I didn't mean to offend anyone or something. I was just saying that eight are more then two while counterattacking if the creatures are too much, and we can actually move better and faster…..I know you're here for something. Your eyes, your clothes, you're a stalker son, c'mon. And I am here with a similar purpose. So what about a helping hand, I need yours and I could give you mine>>.

<< I don't really think I need your helping hand, priest, and besides that, why, if you have five men with you, you're so sure that just two people more can really give you all that kind of assistance that will create a difference? We can all die if anyone of your sheep makes a wrong move. We're too much people, I can't feel the right business on this>> replied Sergej.

The priest eyes, that before seemed crafted with porcelain, while answering became slightly more blood injected - << Hey kid, I did the hard life too, what do you think, you've been the only one in danger of life? I still remember the impossibility to feed kids with milk because cows were eating irradiated grass damaged from the contaminated rainfalls….damn, it seems yesterday….So don't talk with the head so high. Now just wake up your mind for a second: the more time passes, the more it's dangerous to stay here. Now, I suppose we're here to find devices in this particular sector….well, it's not al that huge. Just five buildings, and we can manage to make this run in a pair of hours. I need your hands because it's just more hands, quite useful anyway isn't it? I would pay for other two hands more, so you could imagine how I care for four hands more…>>

Serge felt more and more disgusted <<Oh, so that's why, seems much evident now, that your holy aura and your will of helping the weak men vanishes…to let a expression of straight convenience take the starring role on your face>>.

<<You're not on this earth to judge anyone my son. That's God's task. Take my request as it is, and take the best out of it for you and your companion. And outside of here, I'll have a good eye on you two, too>>….some seconds of silence passes….how strange to heard a preacher in a no god's land like this….all this rotten stuff aside, and the most rotten things coming out of a mouth dressed with church's uniform.

Serge thought about it more then well: his request sounds logic at first, but I still think that being a few it's better than walking as a group. I can't understand why his experience inside here didn't taught him that, but If I can't understand how a man can dedicate his life to something called god, that It's by definition not part of this planet and can't affect anything in my everyday 's life, why should I understand his words?

Anyway I was always a loner outside, maybe it's time to give this attitude a rest….his thoughts became words after a brief hook up with Alesa's eyes:

<<Ok, lead the way, we accept, but once we're out, you give us some food, and our streets gets separated forever. We aim for the rooms near the storage. I suggest to head there before, as our task is the easiest one>> but that last request suddenly felt heavy again, so modest but so weighty, like the last drop of water that makes the bucket full of nerves to overflow.

The tension was so heavy in the air it seemed an anomaly was starting, damnit.

The priest took immediately the leading of the discussion by forcing it - << Wait, wait, wait , wait>> - he said << let's try to make this one faster instead! We can go there and take our stuff first, then we will get your direction to take yours, 'cause we will try our route outside in the opposite direction on where we came….er, 'cause we'll be covered from the pitch dark, and it will be useful to avoid the movements of some smugglers in the area, as we will be so full of stuff and too slow to risk a danger if we'll be spotted by some of them.


Please sons, I beg your help, please>> his eyes again turned, this time from anxiety to prey in just a few moments. How can a man be so vicious, and show so much ambiguity?

Maybe ambiguity was the characteristic that ruled his behaviours and believes, since the day his left feet came out of his mother's womb to the day he felt sure that his believes represented by his dress were coherent, and everything else just felt so painful, so painfully tiring. But time was passing, the oxygen was so thin in that dirty basement, and Sergej was thinking that the sooner he was out, the better it was.

For everyone. He accepted.

The long walk to the rooms started when the priest finally took the lead of the direction, with a disgusting satisfied smile. Was it the right choice? Was a good decision to take such a unwanted company, to slowdown their work in a place that punishes who stops too much time inside itself?

But I won't take my identity hidden anymore….as you've probably asked yourself, who's dealing all this facts? Who's the witness of these events, telling everything about them and giving always boring personal comments, and why?

Well, I'm Sergej's father, who else? I just can't leave him, that's how things goes, and I can't be free to rest my soul, not until anyone on the earth that remembers me remains alive. And he's the last one. But anyway, time's almost arrived.

I'll finish up this, to describe this events, but there's not a lot more, you now?

Serge's doubts finished soon. All his questions, all the faces he saw tonight, all the nervous sensations in the air, all the doubts he fronted, all the images of the priest drying his sweat with a little sheet of paper came to his mind in a moment when upon entering with the other men inside the room where the goodies were supposed to be, he saw smugglers everywhere looking at them, letting him at first astonished, and then falling from the clouds in the dark, understanding that the priest totally used and betrayed them.

Father Nikolay, if it was his real name, hooked up with the smugglers' officer, hugging him, cracking an half smile while saying confused words like '' All people in perfect conditions, healthy organs, but I can't guarantee for the two young ones.. this time was quite difficult to bring people here, but they're thieves and loner stalkers this time too, so no one will never cry them back….''. And that's for sure. The only one who's actually able to cry Sergey back it's me, and I'm here, but on the other side of the life…. I'm about to see him again, anyway.

Alesa was immediately stopped and knocked out with a few kicks.

Sergej stared horrified, like a salt statue for most of those minutes.

Images of the other men being captured, the way the priest took his money and drugs in a old brown sack and didn't ever turned up on watching them before going away , of Alesa being knocked off to the floor, images were passing on his eyes. After a few minutes of this, and Sergey in a rush took off his three cartridges, his three grandfather's rifle cartridges always with his as lucky charms, and swallowed them, suffocating…the rusty one started to scratch his throat from the inside, he started to pass away...And no one cared about it, he was still good for taking the organs anyway. An old bathtub full of ice inside a wagon waiting for his body, a father waiting for his soul.

I'm here now, son. Soon you'll be able to start to slowly see me.

Just a few moments more, a few coughing more, and bye bye Sergej.

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