English Version Chapt 1

Karatai

in the rush of warfare

I Can See More than You

Iván

I had a funny dream in that night when all the changes started. It was like listening to a radio that I was just about to build. There is no other way to find illegal stations than getting a radio kit and building one. You can't buy such things exept on the black market. Some people don't even know that there is such a kind of broadcasting that comes from somewhere else than the cable.
And in my dream, I was in this strange town where there were no real streets, but canals instead with milky green water, the color of my Aunt Elena's jade earrings.

But on the walkways that followed the canals or disappeared in dark side alleys there were proud people walking, wearing a kind of long shirt or just a loincloth, leaving hips and legs free, held by a belt. These people were Homsarecs. And they were many! All of them wore colorful things. Also men were adorned with decoration, earrings, most of all, bracelets, rings. And their hair was long, oh, so long! As if it had never been cut. They wore braced hair, buns and knots, tied up or floating free or both, decorated with beads and feathers. They had tattoos, animal symbols, one on their right breast, one on their left hip. Their faces were painted with black stripes or a big red patch on mouth and chin. They were carrying bows and arrows, spears or tomahawks.

 

They exist. But everytime I meet them, I think I'm in a dream. Some call them "wild people". We were strictly told to stay away from them. To take the bus for the ride to school. Change the side of the street if we saw them. Not to meet their eyes. Not to wear any extravagant style. Boys were supposed to wear a short haircut, girls wear braids.
We heard warnings. They are dangerous! They kidnap young people who show their interest. And who knows what they will do with them. Sexual abuse might not even be the most terrible thing that could happen to you. And the greatest danger would be under way if their faces were painted. I had not yet seen such a sight.
In my dream, the whole town was crowded with them. Anyway, they keep turning up, which makes some people angry, and others stare at them and dream of being like them until your teacher kicks you in the head. Even though I'm in the last schoolyear and almost 19!
I won't go to get a haircut. Big scandal! I hoot on it.
And I sold my time ticket for the bus. On the black market. I would have sold my stash of meal coupons, but they were combined with my id card.

These were the sacrifices I made for a radio. I secretly built it, and my heart was beating fast, as I tried it for the first time.
There is a pirate station, I know.
But listening is not a contact yet! They don't know me.

 

Maurice, Iván's Father

I remember forbidden listening to the radio long time ago. I must have been very young, it happened before my Dad was gone. He came back and he was different, resigned, intimidated, and when I was 12, he disappeared again for a few months. He even looked different, they had broken his nose. After his return, he managed to purchase an illegal radio. Listening meant fear and secrecy. Dad and Aunt Elena listened to the news when Mom was not at home. I was more into the music, and this was my reason to get such a radio now. It was real music, rock music that made my bones shiver, not these thin-blooded propaganda songs of government-accredited bands.
And I found the station!
News -- but certainly there would be music later.
»Hoshvenudos cares Tohörers entra cultura un estra cultura al programma in Lingo Real, de Lingo del Kung. Datem Novosti internationali: Novos waterporten de Lagunas de Sukent sun fa proben suxessfol, promes dat dux al grote fiesta de invisning.«
I understood and did not understand; then, I did not think much why I understood some of it. I understood a lot of the Russian that my Dad and aunt Elena used. I knew more or less what they were talking about, and I also knew it now; it was the 'true' or 'royal' language, and it was an invitation from the Duke for a grand opening of the watergates for the lagoons of Sukent which had been tested successfully. There was a whole range of fantasies evolving in my mind. Where would this party be? Could I learn this language?
And there was music, a kind of music I must have heard before, in an obscure past, in long forgotten places. Tunes winding around each other like a pair of growing beanstalks, sweet flutes causing sweet pain in my heart, there is something mysterious and wise in it like in my aunt Elena’s voice when she told me stories that my Mom doesn’t like.
No chance. No way to learn more, even if I had stepped up to them out in the street and asked them. They used to laugh and remain silent.
We were warned from them all the time -- in order to protect us. Whatever measures of force -- we had to be protected. We were kept busy with political activities in school and party groups most of the time.
Sometimes I just want to be left alone. I don't want to talk about the same bullshit again and again. But there is no way for an 18 year old school boy to be alone if you live in a Volkshaus -- where else? I did not know anything else.
Our Volkshaus was a simple building in the outskirts of our town. Originally white-washed, now grey, six floors with square windows, six in a row, three families on each floor, seventeen families because one of the flats on the ground floor has been turned into community rooms, assembly room, tea kitchen and the house director's office. It has a window that opens to the corridor and entrance hall, so all coming and going can be observed by the house director, or, as we call him, the Blockwart.
The corridors are grey, the light switch gives a banging sound when pushed, and even if you hurry up, the light will not last long enough for the complete staircase to climb. In the entrance-hall, there is a show case displaying tenants with merits through voluntary work, then a row showing those who lack enthusiasm with a slogan to encourage them for more efforts, and this is where you can see my portrait.
I don't have a room for myself. That's a waste of space. My younger sister Mina "the fun-killer", the "sneaker", sees everything I do. And she tells it all to -- no, not my parents. My Dad would tell her to shut up. No, she runs to the house director Hinschmann. And he will give her candy as a reward. What a luxury! I can't remember their taste. But I don't run to him. Hey, she's sixteen! Too old to sit on his knees! Whose idea was it to call him "henchman"? It must have been sarcastic Auntie Elena.
My Dad and Auntie have taught me a lot of "foreign" words. Even some Russian! If Mom just knew. She and Dad went to political classes quite often and left me with Aunt Elena, "bless her soul". Elena never spied on me. Never ever. She knew I listened to the radio, but did not say a thing.
It was the music I was after. I could understand the moderation. The names of the bands were "Accident", German rock music with startling lyrics, "Babushki Molot", Russian punk rock and the best punk rock of our town, "Besoffski Katastrofski" -- "katastrophes of booze" --, both not exactly what I was after. "Simsala Drum", mostly percussion, okay, what else? "Kozodoy". Their music sent shivers down my spine with their sublime, melancholic tunes. The name means "Night Jar", I remember. A very hidden bird with a strange humming voice. They can't be that bad it they love such a kind of music.
Just a few days have passed since I started using this radio under great caution, then I hid it under my bed inside old sport shoes in a box. The radio inside one of the shoes, the ear phones in the other one, I believed it would be invisible. I have to beware from my own sister.

 

The secret radio

Meanwhile, the government station finds the wave on which the pirates broadcast, and they jam the station. Either they use some noise or propaganda about our folks' community and the superior and wise protection that the Party of Justice spreads over men and women of German blood.
Behind the house we live in there is a community garden, a green, and a tot-lot, some trees, and they are my joy. Although the house director has everything cut that grows until it doesn't seem to grow, you can still call this thing a tree. The lower branches were removed to prevent them from being climbed. That's just what we need. The kids have their tot-lot things to climb on. And how do you climb a tree in spite? I found a rope, I found an anchor-shaped hook. The place where my Dad works is very helpful and rich in discarded but useful stuff. I wrap the rope around my waist and hide it under my sweater.
I found the rope on one of my walks. It was among a heap of paper near a house I like, so I go there quite often. I was amazed at the mess behind the house; and before I understood that this was a Homsarec house, I thought their house director must be incompetent, and he would soon get sacked by our town administration. And they would find someone like ours who has his folks under control.
Getting up the tree was no problem with these aids. I pulled the rope up and hid it as well as I could.
I tried to remember the music I heard this afternoon. The tunes. Interwoven tunes, longing voices, deep riffs that trembled through my bones. I looked up into the sky.
And I watched this vision for a few moments before I understood this was really happening.
There was a blue light up in the sky.
It was an image of a young man. He was naked, as I could clearly see. He was drifting across the sky in about 50 yards height. His eyes were closed and he was smiling as if he experienced utmost joy. His hands were crossed behind his neck. What was this? Am I crazy? Having hallucinations? He was moving in a steady speed as if he was crossing the sky in a boat. The night seemed to be floating around him like an ocean. The starry sky was a flood of shining driplets around him. Who was he, what was this? Was it a projection, but for what purpose?
Keep quiet! For Heaven’s sake, not a word. Do you want to be sent to the doctor? Get an unfriendly inquiry that would destroy the magic moment and trample it into the dirt? Not a word to anyone. Exept… Yes, there is one person I can talk to, it is my father. Slowly, I descended from the tree, determined to talk to my Dad tomorrow where he worked, so neither Mom nor my sister would interfere.
But someone else’s voice interrupted my pondering. “What are you doing?”
I froze.
“You know that climbing on trees is forbidden?”
It was hard to deny. Hinschman’s voice never allowed a way out. “It is just to protect you”, he continued in a more amical tone, and then he repeated the tiring thing about our family that was under suspicion anyway, and was I going to cause problems for them all? “And what have you got behind your back?” Because I was trying to disappear, trying to hide my rope.
“Found.”
“Found – where?”
“Near a house… I don’t know who lives there.”
“Where?”
“Tischbein Street.”
“Old white villa? Terrace with a glass roof? Tall red beech in the garden?”
My “no” wasn’t convincing. He rolled up the rope in his hand, becoming very serious. I was sure he would keep it.
“You should not go there again”, he said, “these are enemies of our society, they abuse und torture young people they kidnap, so don’t even get near them. You heard about Peter Lenbach? They have got him. We’ll go there and clear the place sooner or later.”
Funny they hadn’t done this already if such weird things were happening there. But he certainly would not discuss this with me. “We’ve got them under survey, that’s what matters, we don’t have to arrest them all, just as long as we know what they’re doing.”
Oh. Our government has a problem. They are too many. For some odd reason, they were afraid of the Homsarecs. They did not have a problem to raid the tv station where my father worked. To arrest the whole team, keep him in for months and never let him out before he got an observation bracelet showing all the time where he was.
When he came back, he had changed. Where was his funny, joyful side? Just sarcasm and traumatic fear were left.
I was just waiting for the usual advice. “Why don’t you find a nice girlfriend?”
But how? Should I walk up to them and talk to them, just as the others did? I could not do this. It would have ruined my romance. Someone had to come up to me, and she was to just take me, softly but determined, someone I had chosen without words, someone who left me no choice. I don’t know what made me want it this way. I couldn’t just walk up to her and start a chat like “let’s have tea” or in an official way: “shall we go to the political training tonight?”
Go ahead, spoil it all.
I wanted a goddess. They existed.

 

Notorious Rosa

Rosa was a goddess. Notorious Rosa. But I never found out why she had such a bad reputation.
You just don’t start talking to a goddess. You wait until she will notice you.
But all I could do was to let my hair grow.
I went to bed, but could not sleep. I did not want to disturb my parents; Mina was fast asleep. She was the last person on earth that I could talk to.
The day of the ultimatum was near. The Ministry of Youth, Family and Sexuality – all the things that did not happen in our society – had sent an order to all schools. Teachers and directors were to enforce equal looks. No outer signs or extravagances were to attract Homsarecs. A neat and proper haircut, simple, practical clothing, nothing flamboyant, somber or exotic, no similarities with the decadence, as shown by the enemy, could be tolerated. Tonight, this ultimatum would end at 6 pm, when the hairdressers’ shops would close. This was my last chance to have at least a little bit of influence on my hairstyle. In case I came back with my long hair tonight, I would be given to the “Society for correct life style” and would be taken away to get a haircut by force. And this would mean the standard style. And so, this day started as the worst day in my life, but I had no idea how exiting it would end.
“Potozki!”
“Present.”
“Why is our Society of Justice the final state of collective development?”
“Because humans are not mature enough for anarchy.”
Outch. Wrong answer.
“How — dare — you?” The words came like hammer blows.
‘How dare I see things that I can’t explain?’ I thought. This vision had changed everything. And I was still wondering if I had had a hallucination.
Could I even trust my eyes and all my senses? Could I trust the conclusions I made?
I took a retreat into the bathroom and stared at the wall. It was too white. Just been painted the other day. This requires a graffito.
“More than one person shares your idea? You must be wrong.”
Someone rattled on the door. “Are you doing graffiti or are you wanking?”
It was easy to find out that the latest decoration on the wall was mine.
And I had forgotten my homework. So all I could do during the politics lesson was to play battleships with my mate. And to walk around after school as long as possible.
Time to go home. I held my hair back behind my neck. Better than all short. I’m sure I will hate it.
The figaro stepped out of the door. “Well…”
I shook my head.
“Now I could do it more or less the way you want it”, he said, “but if they take you here by force, I’ll have to do the standard”, he said.
I looked at him. He withstood my glance. Oh, I noticed that he was on my side.
His eyes twitched. “They will notice you”, he said.
“Who?”
“Homsarecs. They are into such guys as you are. Slender guys. Long hair. Pretty faces. They would make a nice slave out of you.”
“Why a slave?” I asked.
His face became impenetrable. “You better come in and let me do the job or go home. I said enough. Good bye.”
But I was not ready to get my hair cut.

 

After walking for a few yards, I noticed that someone was following me. He was wearing working clothes, a blue bib overall and a bricklayers shirt, along with a screencap. He pushed a wheelbarrow with some tools and building material. The squeaking of the wheel told me that he was following me, even if I did not look back.
I did not like it. He kept staring at me. Every now and then, I turned around. He seemed familiar to me, I thought I saw him, but I could not remember where and when. After all, I cannot keep all the faces in my mind that I have seen.
I was so busy observing him that I payed not much attention to where I was going. And when I did, I saw I was in my favourite street again, the one with the high trees, the less tidy gardens, the big houses. Und so I was back at the place where I had found the rope.
The seemed to be renovating and clearing rubble, and this is where the man with the wheelbarrow seemed to be heading. I had been walking ahead of him all the time. He had noticed me, of course; and wasn’t there a tiny twinkle? I tried not to show and turned around. There was no sense in walking any further, there were just gardens; so I walked back to town.
After a few minutes there was the squeaking wheel behind me again. So he had dumped his stuff and followed me again. Only the canteen could save me. Here, I could have a meal and stop him running after me, because he would probably not wait for me outside the door.
I walked back to the street crossing, got into the canteen, stepped up to the counter, produced my identity card, had the meal registered in the scanner and took a tray with the ‘People’s Feast’ No 4, scientifically composed meal from the state-owned food production ‘Table of Justice’, deep-frozen and heated in the microwave oven. Mothers don’t have to cook. That’s progress. Low-calory, a lot of soy protein, wholemeal, cultivated on natural soil and taste like shit. They were designed so that you don’t put on weight, but what do you do if you shouldn’t lose more weight? They are not right for a thin young rooster like me.
If Aunt Elena wasn’t cooking for me, the ambulance would have to scratch me from the cobble stones off the street.
I was so hungry when I came in, but now I lost my appetite, partly because I was thinking of tomorrow. And I remembered that I had left a trail by letting my card scan. Hinschman would get the information and I would have to justify my trip.
I couldn’t even eat a quarter of that stuff, but left it on the tray. Instead, I had tea, a moldy mix of regional herbs, better than nothing.
And also the canteen employee could not refrain herself from reminding me that the barber shop would close at 6. Oh, leave me alone. Everyone has to interfere. I hate it.
When I left the canteen, I felt that they were all staring at me. They all new about the deadline, and my hair was waving in the evening breeze like a horse’s mane. The first officer to see me would certainly help me to the barber’s shop or to the police station. Oh shit.
Easy. It is just hair, they will grow… Nice try, Iván. Lying to yourself never really worked.
But what about this mysterious appearance recently at night? I want to know at last. I was more and more convinced that it had been a hallucination, but the impression would not fade, and however I looked at it, I surely would not be at ease with it unless I found out. Each possible explanation led me to the conclusion: I have to find out.
Am I crazy? For sure. They call me Crazy Iván. Son of Crazy Maurice. Brother of Marina the Adaptable. Son of Alida the Streamliner.
I have to talk to another crazy person, or I will really become one. And I decided to see my Dad.
He worked on the dump yard. And I made my way through the rusty gate and the piles of rubble that he was sorting out. He was a journalist in a junk yard, cut off from his chances to publish his thoughts, harrassed, menaced, mutilated by his tormentors in jail who had broken his nose and his pride, his courage, his dreams.
The court dog barked when he noticed me, but wagged his tail. I gave him a little dog treat from my pocket. Then, I saw my father. He made a little waving motion to greet me.
He took my visit as a reason to make a break. We sat down on a wooden rack in the sun. He took his helmet off and layed his working gloves beside them, took a tobacco sachet out of his pocket and rolled a cigarette for me and one for himself. I gave him a light, and we smoked.
“Autumn is coming early”, he started the conversation, “and we’ll have rain still today.”
No sign of changing weather appeared, but in most cases, he was right.
I came to my issue right away.
“Who are the homsarecs, and where can I find them?” I asked.
He remained silent for a long time.
“So you expect me to explain this to you?”
I thought, maybe I should have shut up, but he continued: “You better don’t know.”
“I don’t want to be better, I want to know.”
“Don’t you think that your Dad has suffered enough?”
“I can’t because you don’t talk about it.”
He laughed. “You are a smartass, Iván. Good, but if you don’t want to get trouble in school, stay away from them. Will you promise?”
I turned the sentence around, found out that I did not care for trouble, compared with knowledge, and promised easily.
“And?”
“What – and?”
“Who are they, Dad?”
“Homsarecs… They are different. They are dangerous – for us. For society. For the families. Stay away.”
He should tell me all! He doesn’t.
“What makes them dangerous?”
“They don’t keep to the principle of equality.”
Oh, I don’t think this was the reason.
“Father, it is about time for you to teach your kid the facts of life.”
He caughed with laughter, then he was serious again.
“They are violent. They lure young people into their houses. They abuse them. They have slaves. They hit them. Some are even cannibals.”
I heard this rumor before.
“Stay away!” he repeated.
“Can they fly?”
I could feel a shock going through him. Thank you, that was the answer.
Again he caughed.
“What makes you think so?”
“I saw something. A projection, maybe. I flying man. Or I may be crazy.”
“You are not crazy. And it is not a projection either. But for heaven’s sake, don’t talk about it.”
“Dad, you know them, right?”
“I know what I need to know.”
“You lived with them.”
“That’s not true.”
I understood. The older people sometimes say: “It’s so long ago that it isn’t true any more.” Sure, he is trying to forget it.
Why isn’t he living with them any more? Is it the love for my mother? She never says a word against our government. Probably she would not go with him. She might find them nerve-wrecking. And she is a party-member from the depth of her heart.
I remember my father’s scar. It is a flat, palm-size scar, not very obvious.
I ask him what it is.
He gives me a deep, painful glance, blows out the smoke, kills his cigarette, digs it into the sand with his boot heel and looks at me again.
“A tattoo”, he says, “a youthful sin. I had it removed for your mother.”
He gets up and puts his helmet on. “Have to be working.”
Yes. And I have things to do, too.
I did not consider that he would be in trouble, too, if I did forbidden things. We were always held responsible for each other, but I thought they would leave him alone. That was naïve.

 

The Villa

The clouds were getting darker, indeed. But to me, this was not a reason to go home. Some secret power directed me to the street with the white villa and the red beech in the garden. And there he was, the guy who had walked behind me. He had taken his jacket off and hammered the whitewash off the brick wall underneath the lanai. Before the lanai, there was a terrace with a glass roof. A group of wicker chairs was arranged around a table. On top of the roof which was covered with tar foil, there was another guy who repaired the seams of the roof cover. He wasn’t wearing a stitch. I saw that he had a tattoo on his right breast, on the same spot where my father had the scar, and my jaw dropped.
He had been one of them! He had lived with them and returned into ‘normal’ society. What was he talking about? Dangerous? Violent? He was alive and well!
But before I could draw more conclusions, the rain started. Heavy rainfall followed very soon after the first drops. And without thinking much, I followed the sign that the guy gave me: Get shelter! So I jumped up to the terrace and reached the dry place under the glass roof, and the man followed me with a few big steps. The one on top of the roof, the naked one, a blurry view behind the glass panes, collected his tools, threw them into a box and shoved it through an open window in the upper floor. He wound his hair into a bun and secured it with one of his tools and quietly remained on the roof.
“He loves the rain”, said the man who was under the roof with me.
He stretched out his hand. “My name is Isatai”, he said, “what is your name?”
“Iván”, I said without hesitation, and shook his hand. It felt very warm.
I would not say my second name, but he wasn’t asking.
“This is Ainu, there on top”, he said.
“Hello Iván” said a voice from the roof. I never thought he had heard my name.
For a short moment, I thought they know me. It is no coincidence that I’m here! But I dismissed the idea. How could this be?
Isatai sat down on a paint-spotted garden chair and offered me one of the wicker chairs. I hesitated.
Isatai dropped the straps of his bib overall and took off his shirt. Very natural! Then he shoved the straps back onto his shoulders. In this moment I saw his tattoo. It was on the same spot as my father’s scar. It was a flying bird, a heron or something. My heart was beating fast. But I would not ask. There were answers. Just be patient.
He was well-built. His trousers were too wide. His slim hips were visible. I saw them with some fascination. It was the way he moved, so easy, so relaxed, as I had rarely seen. He took off his screen cap and opened his hair bun, his hair fell over his chest and back. His eyes were brown and alert, his face was lean, his lower jaw quite strong.
“I’m thursty”, he said, and he called through the open door: “Get lemonade for us!”
“Yes, o Master”, I heard the reply, and a beautiful young woman appeared. She wore nothing than a long apron that reached down to her ankles. Her breasts were bare. Her hair was dark red and brushed back, held in a pony tail. There was the same bird tattoo on her breast, too. She had a tray with three glasses of lemonade, put it on the table, went down on her knees and presented the jar to Isatai with both hands. Then she rose and put another jar in front of me with a slight bow. Ainu came climbing down from the roof with cat-like motions and got the third drink. The girl turned around and disappeared in the house from which a tempting scent of food was coming. As she was going, I saw her bare behind under the apron straps. I couldn’t stop staring after her, even bent to the side, as she was going, to see her some more. Then I noticed that Isatai was observing me with a grin. “This is my wife Tabi, by the way”, he remarked.

Cautiously, I had chosen a seat that was turned away from the street. Time went by; probably they were missing me at home. Isatai made no attempt to lure me inside.
The air was cooling down. I pulled my coat around me. Isatai didn’t seem to need such things. He was still sitting on the garden chair in a relaxed manner. In the meantime, he had also taken off his boots.
He rose. “Time to go inside”, he said, “what about you?”
“Was that an invitation?”
“Yes, but we don’t force anyone. They say we do, but we don’t.”
“… unfortunately”, I finished his sentence.
He showed a cunning smile.
“Oh well. Are we scared?”
I remained quiet. He stretched his hand out to me. I saw it in the air for a moment, then I seized it.
A thrill ran over me.
“Can I trust you?” I asked.
“Of course not! We are Homsarecs”, he replied softly.

His hand gave a slight pull. I followed a tiny bit. He let go. I grabbed his hand a little more firmly. He pulled a little more towards the door.
My muscles went limb, he could feel it. Again, he gave a little impulse. It was a game, he grinned, I grinned. And so I moved in tiny steps, following his pull again and again, until I was standing in the door. Here, I hesitated.

I turned around, looked back on the terrace. The rain would not stop.
I looked at Isatai. He knew my problem.
“Nobody will keep you here against your will”, he said, “the door will remain open.”
Now, I followed him. The lanai contained a number of tall green plants, nothing else. It led to a large room with a fireplace. Also here, I saw no furniture exept small tables and cushions in many colors that were piled up on a wall. But we did not stay here either, but walked through another room with white cupboards and vitrins with multicolored plates and mugs. Behind this room, there was the kitchen.
It seemed huge to me. In the middle, there was a copper fume hood. And there was a huge stove, allowing four people to work at the same time. Now, there were two, both wearing the same aprons as Tabi does. It was so warm that it was no surprise this was their only piece of clothing. And there was real fire use to cook on, something I hadn’t seen in a stove before. One of the guys moved a pot away from the fire, and the flames came leaping up through the iron rings. Those who worked near the fire were wearing shirts with long sleeves which were meant to protect the arms against the flames or hot oil dashes. Together with their bare behinds, it looked pretty funny. One of them had long hair, the other one wore it short-cut. Tabi took the dishes when they were ready, filed then on a side table and brought back plates and dishes from the cupboard. A stunning scent filled the room. There was a store room next to the kitchen. A guy was kneading some white mass, it was pizza dough, he said. He wiped a little bit of flour over it with a swift hand and pressed the dough with all his weight.
“Will you eat with us?” asked one of the cooks.
“Yes he will”, replied Isatai in my place.
Here we go.
But I got him right, he made the invitation more serious.
The boy stirred in all pots, covered them up and did not take more notice of me.
Und then I discovered someone kneeling in a corner. His hands were tied on his back with a rope. Also he was wearing an apron.
As he turned his head, I recognize him and he saw me. “Peter!” I murmured in surprise – but could I mention his name at all? It was Peter Lenbach who had been missing without a trace. I was next to him without thinking, and my first impulse was to untie the rope.
“Do you know me?” – “Sure”, he said, “I just did not know if you want me to know you. Your name is Iván Potozki. Mine is Ashante.”
“You want me to release you?” I whispered.
He shook his head with a smile. “Don’t worry, they won’t harm me, it is just … well, I’m being punished, I scorched something, it’s alright.”
He looked much better than he used to, even his skin was better, I wondered how this could be, his scars were gone.
“Are you a prisoner?” I asked, watching the conversation of Isatai and Tabi.
He laughed. “I’m free to go as I want to”, he replied.
“Have you been here all the time since you …”
“Since I went? No, I was in the capitol, Sukent. I was the Pais… the disciple of Doctor Kunkamanito, he is a famous physician. Now I came to live in my hometown for a while.”
“At home, they believe that they killed you”, I whispered with another glance on Isatai.
“Why should they?” he asked in amazement.
“I heard they are cannibals”, my whisper became ever lower.
He shook his head with an amused smile. “Such things will not happen in this house, I swear.”

“Now let me show you the fireplace in the dining room”, said Isatai and walked into an open door. We passed a dark hall with wooden panels on the walls and carvings and plaster work on the ceiling. The chandelier, the wall paintings, the rug on the stairs, all these things that I would never have seen in a Volkshaus made me dizzy. But I hurried to follow my host; I would look at all this in detail later. Because now, we returned to the dining room.
There were tall windows on either sides of the fireplace. A fire was already burning. In front of it, two girls with aprons were taking small tables from the stack and arranging them in rows. In front of them, they laid out cushions. Peter – Ashante – joined them, chatting and joking with the girls, which pleased me to see.
Also here, the light came from chandeliers. The walls were painted red! And the tables were not only varnished, but also decorated with painted motifs like bats, horses, tall birds. Turtles paddled through dense see-weed, a leopard was squatting on a rock. And also the cushions were decorated in red, gold, olive, turquoise, black, orange.
I noticed that the cushions on one side of the tables were taller than on the other side. These were put up against the wall; the lower seats framed a passage between the tables.
Now, Isatai stripped bare. As easy as that. Ashante was there in a wink to pick up the clothes he dropped, and disappeared with them.
Did they expect me to do as Isatai did? And who should pick up my clothes? This was embarrassing.
“But sit down!” he invited me and let me take a seat in a lower row. I took off my jacket. Ashante was back to take it, and also my school bag, saying: “I’ll hang your things up in the cloak room.” He is trying to make things easier for the newbie, I understood with some gratitude.
I kept my shirt and trousers on. In spite of the warmth.
I peeped on Isatai’s tattoos. I saw another, it was on his left buttock, showing a wolf or dog-like animal. He was wearing earrings and some mor jewelry on his wrists and fingers which had been covered by the working gloves. Now, one of the girls braided his hair up on the back of his head, wrapping it into a bun and fastening it with a blue thread. She offered the same service to me. I smiled and let her do. “Which color?” – “Blue, too.”
“The colour of your hair is interesting”, she said. I know. They are golden brown. Not with a red undertone, not blond, not chestnut, no, a special colour that would shine in the sun. Honey, I would say. The very colour would have made it a crime to cut it. And again, a thrill ran over me when she tied my hair into a horsetail. I was paralyzed in a most pleasant way like never before. I forgot everything, my home, my duties, school next day, everything.
Now she was busy with Isatai again, and I watched with interest. She used a match-like thin rod to apply a black line on the inner edge of his eye lid – the inner edge! This was something I had never seen before. When she had finished, he closed and opened his eyes a few times. “You want some?” she asked. I laughed and shook my head.
Isatai rolled his eyes. “Looks wild, doesn’t it?”

 

Right, looks wild. It did not look womanly, fortunately; so when she just wanted to move away, I murmured: “Please – go ahead.”
Our girls were forbidden to use make-up. Nobody mentioned the boys.
She tickled me, and I had to concentrate to keep my eyes from closing, as I was tempted to. Then she had a mirror and held it up, and – someone else was gazing at me. Someone I wanted to be but never dared.
I found it just gorgeous.
In the meantime, the room had filled with people, some were undressed, some wore clothes. I got lost in observation. Their clothes varied in color and patterns. One seemed more flamboyant than the other. Saris, long shirts with embroidery, all kinds of things that I had no word for then; now, I know there were yukatas, kimonoes, harem pants, tunics. Mostly younger people sat down on the lower seats, and they were wearing just a loincloth, tied to a string or belt around their hips, often decorated with beads or tassels, or they wore just the belt and decorations like necklaces and earrings, but nothing else. A woman sat down by my side, giving me glances of interest. “A newbie?”
“He’s our guest”, said Isatai, bending over to her. “His name is Iván. Iván, this is my sister Rangus. She’s just come home from our capitol Sukent and pays us a visit.”
She was wearing a woven cloth in burgundy, orange yellow, and green. She might have been a little younger than he. There was some similarity, though she was a lot heavier. Also on her breast, half covered by the cloth, there was the same tattoo that Isatai was wearing; so this must be a family sign.
Ainu appeared who must have been sitting on the roof until now because he was soaking wet. He was a joyful youth in my age, not overly handsome, but very attractive. He was rubbing his skin with a towel, and the interesting company seemed to make it necessary to do this in here. Now he opened his hair bun. His hair was long and ash blond. I stared at them; they were long felted strings, so that at first I wasn’t sure if this was natural hair at all. I tried to imagine what would happen in our house if one of us started doing this with his hair.
Most of the time I remained silent, just observing. I was so scared to say something wrong. The time had to be right for each word. And of course I could risk to mention my father as long as I did not know enough.
I was wondering what kept me here exept hunger. Oh, I knew. The gentle touch when I had been combed and painted had taken me.
Now, bowls, chopsticks and spoons were laid out. Small pieces of cloth in many colors – these must be napkins. The naked youth passed up and down in the corridors between the rows of tables.
Batteries of small bowls were built up. A lot of them were filled with rice. Isatai interrupted his conversation to ask me if I could eat with chopsticks. I never tried… he put them between his fingers, and funny: There was something familiar about it. It worked. I could have taken the spoon instead. I did not have to.
Opposite to Isatai there was the girl who had done our hair and painted our eyes. She watched Isatai with radiant eyes. Her hair was kind of tousled, and she made it even worse by running all her fingers through it. Her name was Kirli. They had a flirty conversation. I was wondering what would happen if Tabi noticed this.
He often used words from foreign languages and stopped to replace it with a German word, whenever her noticed that one of us did not understand. It was not too difficult for me because my father talked to me this way, and Mum wasn’t able to stop him, on the contrary, he kept teaching me new words. I was proud on my vocabulary, ran into traps in school, got rebukes and found my knowledge very useful now. One more reason to feel at home in a funny way.
Isatai flirted with Kirli openly, but he waved to Tabi to join us and without any hesitation, he revealed his plan to take her as her ‘minor woman’. And Tabi? Was she put off or jealous? No. She embraced Kirli from behind and rejoiced: “Wow, that’s cool!”
I was pretty surprised.
As I found it embarrassing to follow their love negotiations, I concentrated on my delicacies and took sips from the drink I was given. I did not like it too much. It was wine. We did not drink much wine, most men preferred beer. This was the ‘people’s drink’ and highly praised. I preferred the lemonade. Rangus explained some of the dishes to me, their name, where they came from. Also she did not drink alcohol, and she told me that it is unwholesome for Homsarecs.
We were used to these menus from the canteens, I told you about them, and now this woman was telling me that the vegetables and meat came from plantations in open air! We were always taught that the open country was much too impoisened from the nuclear accident 30 years ago, so everything had to be produced in plantations under state control. I just listened and kept eating until I could not take any more.
Sitting on these cushions became more and more difficult.
I rotated my shoulders and tried to stretch out my legs as far as possible.
Rangus noticed my need. “Oh, you have trouble sitting with crossed legs”, she said, and she offered to massage my shoulders. And as if this was not tempting enough, she put a soft pressure on my neck. I rose like hypnotized, noticed that I could hardly move and that I would never in my lifetime be able to eat the canteen wholemeal menu No. 4 again.
I was feeling dizzy as I followed her, although I had taken but a small sip of the wine. She lead me upstairs. There were a flight of closed doors on the galery, and there was another floor further up. She opened a door and let me in. It had a bay window showing the almost dark garden. I saw the glass roof over the terrace and the tree with burgundy leaves which were looking pitch-black now. Wouldn’t I have to go home? Sure, but not now, please. Another glance out, then I turned round to her again.
The room was rather simple with small pieces of furniture, but painted in strong colors. Black and red laquerware made a Japanese impression. The walls were yellow ochre with small shining squares of gold, scattered over the room. Rangus lit a few candles on a metal tray. In the middle of the longer wall opposite the window there was a low bed with a woven blanket. She said I should lie down on it. I followed her suggestion to take off my shirt, laid down on my belly and closed my eyes.
I could hear her opening a drawer and closing it again. Then I perceived a sweet smell that I could not identify, reminding of something that Aunt Elena kept in her room. I was feeling rather safe, in spite of the fact I was in the house of the Homsarecs. But what danger could I expect from a woman? I realized that our government did not want us to fall for luxury.
She mounted the bed and squatted over me, trying not to burden me. It aroused me at once.
Something cool was between my shoulders. The smell grew stronger. Don’t let me smell like this when I’m going home! Because I will go home. Trouble with the house director? That’s the price for pleasure.
She spread the scented oil on my back to prepare me for the massage, and her touch was so infinitely soothing, so wonderful beyond everything I ever experienced before. This firm grip quenched my thirst for touch, my endless greed, my desire, not all of it, of course, but a special kind of desire. She did not stroke me – which I hated --, but held me with a firm, almost painful grip. I fell into this paralyzed state again, but not cramped, no, infinitely relaxed. I almost lost control over my arms and legs.
Whatever she might have intended – it was alright with me. He touch kept releasing thrills which were like explosions of golden sparks on my skin. And I almost felt disturbed when she got up and told me to turn on my back. She opened the buttons of my trousers. I closed my eyes as to become invisible. The light was dim, not glaring neon light like in our house – unless they failed again.
I laid my arms over my head and bent my pelvis to and fro in slight motion. I never thought about her; it was a reflex. She might have made me aware by kissing me, but she did not.
Hunger…
Never alone. And if I was it meant to hurry. In the garden shack, in the bathroom; sharing a room with my sister meant that I had to wait until she travelled with her nerve-wrecking party youth. If I tried otherwise, she would wake up and scold me.

Rangus helped me to take my trousers off, I lifted my pelvis to help her, then I was naked in front of her, and the only way to cope with shame was to cover my face with both arms. She was kneeling over me and massaged my flesh in an almost painful way. She treated me like a dough on a kitchen table, knipped my nipples – hell, was she supposed to do this? But I was hard. And helpless. Am I allowing too much? What if I say no? She is a Homsarec, too. She feels hot. Would she bite me if I wasn’t obedient? But would I disobey? Not really.
I was in a terrible conflict. The wild beast desire jumped on me, while I was thinking of going home as soon as possible. You can’t trust them.
Here we go with sexual exploitation. Remember the warning. But it is not my fault! I’m being raped. But it feels so good.
And there she was sitting on me. And before I really noticed what she was doing, she sank down on my hard-on. It was moist and hot, and I moaned. Her weight kept me firmly nailed down on the bed, and when she caught my wrists and leaned on them, I was perfectly motionless. Her face was close to mine.
And she looked into my eyes.
At this moment, I was very scared.
She smiled and let go. But this short moment of being captured let another thrill burst out, and as she let go after seconds, there was no need to fight it. Instead, I felt a little sorry that this moment was over. Something was triggered inside of me, I knew.
A little outbreak of lust did not mean I came. I experienced something that I had not known before, I felt it approach like a train whistle in a distance. It came in like snow through an open window. It came and went ever so softly and left me behind in a “was that all?”
So this is what it is like. I had no experience.
She kissed me. “We’re be going on later, just wait and see what will happen. I don’t want you to come already now.” She helped me up. “Follow me to the bathroom.”
I looked around me. Should I put my clothes on? She was wrapped in her cloth. She opened a drawer and took out another and put it around me. We descended to the lower floor. “Wot!” I said in surprise, as I had learnt from Aunt Elena. Luxury like I had never seen. A huge pool, large enough to swim a few yards. It was laid out with dark green tiles, and there were so many plants in pots around it that you might think of a jungle pond. Out of a stone face, the water came gushing into the pool. There were smaller stone basins, in front of one, there was a man sitting on a wooden stool, covered with soap all over, then he took a kind of small wooden bucket with a long handle, scooped steaming water, and poured it over himself. The soap water flooded over the floor and spiralled down into a sink.
And there were showers along the walls. This was the kind of bath I knew. I walked straight into a cabin and daringly turned the handle. Rangus seized me and dragged me out of the cabin with a quick pull. “Do you want to get cooked?” The water was boiling hot. We only had tepid showers at home, we were supposed to save energy. “All our newbies make the same mistake.” — “I’m just a guest”, I growled. In the meantime, a young guy with a blue apron had turned down the water from outside the cabin and regulated the temperature for me. It was incredibly pleasant to have a hot shower. It was like getting some kind of food and restored my power.
When I had had enough, I looked out for Rangus. She was in the large pool. I followed her into the water — it was rather warm — and relaxed.
When she stepped out of the pool, the guy with the blue apron came with a towel. He covered her with a large towel and even knelt down to dry her legs. I did not like this. Nobody should make others serve him! This is slavery! So when he approached me, I took the towel, thanked him and dried myself. So he turned back to Rangus who put her foot onto his knee, while he was sqatting in front of her, and dried her feet and even kissed her toes, while his bare behind was visible behind the apron ribbons. His skin was torn and brused; maybe he had worked in the garden. And though I disliked the view, I was aroused.
Rangus helped me to wrap the cloth around me, and she dried my hair. First I had thought that they had no electric power, but they only seemed to use it if it would not work otherwise. When we went back into her room, I was very tired. She allowed me to lay down again.
“I’m leaving you alone for a while”, she said, “and when you wake up, please wait for someone to come for you. Don’t just walk into the other rooms, we have guests most everywhere, many of them are having sex; you wouldn’t want to disturb them, would you? You promise?”
I murmured something, and seconds later I did not remember what I had promised.
I fell into a deep sleep. After some time, impossible to say how long, I woke up and remembered where I was. At once I sat up, as if someone had beaten a drum right beside me. I knew they were missing me, the house director would make a note in his book, punishment was due. Feeling a little better and clearer in my head, I rose. My need to be safe was getting stronger, and I was wondering if I was free to go.
I was able to open the door, it wasn’t locked. Good. So I was out on the corridor.
In a distance, I heard a faint wining and complaining voice, then there was silence again. Suddenly I remembered the warnings. Even my Dad had said they were danger¬ous. On bare feet, the cloth loosely around me, I sneaked to the stairs. I stepped down, the voice was getting clearer.
The banquet room was empty; just a few last goblets were scattered over the tables.
I went down into the basement. The pool was empty, the water wasn’t moving.
There was another door. Should I open it? They might hear me.
The best would be to find out what was happening, then sneak out of the house and get help. To escape safely, too.
I peeped through the keyhole.
A part of the room in dim light from candles was visible. Guests were sitting on cushions, as they had done in the banquet room. So here they were. I was glad I had not opened the door because they were looking in my direction.
I heard the wailing again, but not where it came from. Yet, I froze with terror.
And I saw something else, a door left ajar on the opposite side of the room. I remembered the corridor that lead to this door, visible from the bath. Next to the garden exit, I found it and had a look through the gap. I saw the girl that Isatai was taking as his second wife; she was tied by her writsts to a horizontal beam over her head. A new victim! Had she known what was expecting her? Isatai was standing before her and hit her on her thighs with a thin white stick. He struck out and I heard a whistling sound, hitting her on the inside. She was trying to stifle her cries. She was blindfoldet with a black cloth.
“They torture!” It was like someone shouting in my ear. They are violent, they are dangerous, you can’t stay another moment. Yet, for a few seconds, I could not turn my eyes from the scene. The way he treated her had something ceremonial about it. He seemed to take accurate aim. His posture was tensed and remindet me of an actor who played a king who was observing his fighting army from a hill. And what puzzled me most: After a blow that caused her to utter a long wail, he tenderly stroked her cheek and then her mons.
This was not a punishment, but if it was, it was sexual abuse.
I was so shocked by this observation that I was close to an escape through the garden door. But it this was locked, I would have been noticed and might become a victim to the same kind of crime. Now that they were in the mood. They were all watching, not one of them seemed to object and stop what he was doing, it was a conspiracy, a consensual rite. This was their awful secret: They had cruel ways of making love. And needed young blockheads like this unexperienced girl. And possibly me.
I sneaked back through the bathroom, trying to make no sound, upstairs, past the banquet room, found my clothes in spite of the darkness, stuffed my boots into my school bag and headed for the main door: Locked. And so was the kitchen door. But what purpose was the patio for? I ran upstairs, opened the window, let down my bag by the strap, climbed on the roof. Less that 3 yards are no height; the school bag ends up in a hydrangea with a rustling sound, I hold to the roof edge and let myself down and land like a cat on all fours. I pick up my bag and run across the green. The garden gate is not locked. Behind the corner, I look back — and to my shock, I see the blue light above the house, a faint female silhouette — is this her soul? Did they kill her?
Just run! Try not to hurt your bare feet. I slip into my boots behind the corner. Trying to get away from this part of town to the familiar square windows of our block.
And there they’ve got me — the patrol. “Where are you going so late?”
“Home. I escaped from the Homsarecs.”
“What did you want there?”
“They lured me in.”
And in a minute, I was inside the police station. I squinted in the blinding neon light. There was a kind of counter, behind it, a few desks with monitors and keyboards. I was waiting on an uncomfortable bench underneath a poster, showing photographs of guys and girls of my age. They were missed, and there was a date when they were last seen and by whom. Possibly kidnapped by Homsarecs, lured into the house, secretly taken to another town, dissappeared without a trace, never to be heard from. Yes, now I know how they do it. Not violently; they tame you, and once you trust them…
Nobody seemed to have the time to take my report. I slipped from the bench and walked to the door.
It could not be openend! There was a knob that I could not turn. Locked up again. Hello! I’m here out of my free will! I ran away from your enemies!
To be honest, they had picked me up. I sat down on the bench, folded my arms and tried to sleep a bit.
With emphasized rumbling, as it seemed, a police officer came in, switched on the monitor and turned to me. I opened my eyes.
“Come here.”
I stepped up to the counter, he opened it and let me pass to take a seat at his desk.
“Name and personal data?”
“Iván Pototsky, born November 3rd, 1992 in Neuruppin, pupil of highest grade, single, Parents: Maurice and Alida Pototsky, residents of Weimar, 14 Euphorbia Lane.”
“… a chip off the old block”, murmured the officer.
“Listen”, I said, “someone should go there and free the girl, she is just being tortured, I saw this half an hour ago, and we have lost precious time while I was waiting here. Who knows what they will do with her!”
In slow motion he took the telephone, dialed a number, found out that no one was on duty — at this time of the night!
“May I phone home?” I asked.
“Not now. Danger of collusion. We’ll send a report to your house administration.”
Thank you, I hate to have just them involved.
“Anyway you have to see the doctor now.”
“Why?”
“You were in their house, we must test you for drugs and intercourse.”
So I was inside the machinery.
Also the doctor was not happy to be working at half two in the morning. And according to his regulations, he had to be attentive and asked me about every bruise.
The officer took notes, so I wasn’t alone with the doctor.
I had to take off my cap.
“There you are!” shouted the officer, “I told you! They are out for long-haired guys! After school tomorrow you will be getting a hair-cut right away, and then — house detention.”
What?
He looked at my eyes closely and pulled my lid up and then the lower lid down.
“Eye make-up”, he remarked with an ‘I knew it!’ undertone.
Another evidence for my cooperation.
The intimacy and intrusiveness of the examination was way beyond all the things I had experienced in the house of the Homsarecs. It was not so much because he took smears from my penis; I denied to have had intercourse, he disproved me at once.
“With a man or a woman?”
“None at all.”
“Pototsky, save your breath. We know you did. So?”
“Woman.”
“Take an anal test, too.”
So I had to sit on this chair, he fumbled on my behind, I burst with shame. Some of his touch seemed unnecessary to me, almost as if for his pleasure.
“You don’t have to, I did not get fucked”, I said.
But of course it was their regulation to do so.
He also took blood from me. “We have to test you for drugs.”
“Didn’t get any”, I growled.
“You never know”, said the officer, “did you take drinks or food? I can smell it, some alcohol was involved. And I can smell their spices.”
They found a very low level of alcohol. And somnambulin, the concentration that could be expected, as they said. How on earth did I take that in?
I inhaled that, I learnt. They breathe it out, the air around them is loaded with the stuff, causing sleepiness and relaxation.
I’m afraid I had to agree. So I told them what I had eaten, told them about the wine, about sleeping there, how I woke up, how I ran away.
“And what about the torture?”
I told them what I had observed.
“Did you send anyone there? They might kill her! Or they did in the meantime!”
The officer blustered: “Don’t tell us how to do our jobs, that’s not your affair. We know what to do!”
They had left me in this undignified position during most of the time, while questioning me. At last, they allowed me to descend and get dressed.
While he was in the back room, I heard him ask: “Who has time to take the junior citizen Pototsky home?”
That was me. The wrong-doing son of a public enemy.
I flung myself into the back seat of the car in silence. I observed the driver’s eyes in the rear mirror. Every now and then, they came back to me.
I kept thinking of the girl in the cellar. Could I imagine them to kill her? Was there evidence that such things really happened? And before all: Wouldn’t these policemen have tried to save her if there was the slightest suspicion that she would be seriously harmed? No, they did not bother. They knew that she would survive. Maybe even have a good time.
How dangerous were the Homsarecs, after all?
“Tomorrow, you will have an interview with the house director. And he will certainly dispel your doubts in which society you will be happier.”
He will have a hard job, I’m afraid.
We reached my home, and I was allowed to sleep. The next day was sure to be unpleasant. My Dad had crushed out in the living room armchair, the TV was broadcasting white noise. My Mom came out of the bedroom, her eyes red, her hair in a mess. Sie embraced me, wondering if I was alright. Yes Mom.
Dad was angry. I had endangered me and him. But first of all, they sent me to bed, because I would have to go to school as always and had a chance to sleep for three hours.
The morning was the worst in my life. Getting up was difficult enough, and it felt like a hangover. I missed my Dad who usually had breakfast with me. But he was still asleep, and Mom seemed to have cried again.
How grey was this world! It was like an old movie. How colorful was the world of the Homsarecs! I had not known before.

 

At least, Aunt Elena was there.
When I was very young, I did not like her that much. Possibly I just adapted my mother’s bias, but my Dad favoured her. She was not my real aunt, just had lived in this house as long as we did. Later, I quite liked her to be my babysitter. She often was. Mom had no idea that her babysitter happily ruined my belief in the great Party of Justice. She did the things that mostly were missed in the education of my generation: She lead me with tender pressure, did not leave much choice, but decided. But she gave me freedom whenever it was good for me. She was the only person who fostered my individuality. She reinforced my independence. Whenever there was something I would not eat, whenever I felt cold or hot, she accepted my choice and never forced me. She would not say: “Don’t be so picky” or: “don’t be so special, you’re no better than the rest” — and such.
She was different. She took my needs seriously. Her patience seemed to be limitless. She gave me the feeling of being valuable and a good child, while others simply forgot to tell me so. This made me love her.
Later, I understood her hidden gift of observation, and I learnt that some remarks, made in the tone of equanimity or even benevolence were pure poison. How she scorged “those fascist snoops” or “squealers”. She was not scared of the house director. She murmered remarks under her breath, even when he was present, it was as if she was reciting one of the magic spells I knew from the fairy stories she read to me. She revealed Hinschman’s character as a miserable and narrow-minded wretch. Whenever he tried to appeal to her to submit to the common rules, she let it go like water from a duck’s back. When I was older, I wondered how she could do this. She couldn’t care less — like someone who might have left any minute.
As she was rather tall and broad-shouldered, Mom called her “bugbear”. I heard she had been very good at sports in her youth. And she fancied cruel fairy stories which caused an argument with my Mom. She told me about witches and bad gnomes and black knights who were haunting peole at night. When gave an enthusiastic report, there was an outcry of disgust. “How dare she?” No matter how I loved the stories, she was forbidden to tell me more. But I never stopped pestering her for more stories, so she gave in, and that was our secret.
She also introduced me into religion. She said: “Vanya, you don’t have to believe it, you should just know, and then it will be up to you.”
I had never heard about such an attitude, neither from my parents nor in school or afternoon playgroup. Possibly, it was my father’s attitude, too, but he never said anything. It was the seed for my later scepticism. Though I got into trouble, I have been grateful until today, because she took me seriously. She also taught me the truth about the dictators of the 20th century. She owned old home films which still could be played — miraculously.
She even taught me some prayers. In Russian. That was too much for my Mom who banned “that oriental superstition”.
“We belieive in laws of nature, in justice and rationality. End of announcement.”
“… and in prrrovidence…” I racheted behind her, imitating Adolf Hitler’s voice. And caught a slap.

The morning I was telling you about became even more unpleasant when I heard that my Dad had lost his job and was under house detention. That’s why Mom cried. Her salary wouln’t do.
She came back for a moment. “And he will sign the name change! I’ll make sure!”
Yes, she had wanted to get rid of the ‘faulty’ Russian or Polish name. And went to work earlier to get some overtime work done. “Your fault, Iván”, her glance said to me.
Aunt Elena stayed with me. She did not reproach me.
I had breakfast in my pyjamas — in my childhood, she would be the only one to allow me — and she sewed. Repaired my Dad’s trousers, as if she was a member of the family, und when I said something, she looked at me over the edge of her spectacles.
“They hate me for having seen the Homsarecs, don’t they?” I tried to find out.
“Someone should be the rebel”, she replied, giving another glance over her glasses, and I did not know exactly what she was meaning to say.
“You don’t like the Party…”
“Right. I don’t like them.”
“What have they done to you?”
“Oh, just taken away everything from me, that’s all.”
I kept thinking why she had not joined the Homsarecs if these were the better choice.
“Do I look like a Homsarec?” she asked me.
She answered my thought as if it had been spoken! I looked at her and imagined her among them and wasn’t sure.
Time to get a shower. I drank the last sip of this wonderful drink, cocoa, wondering where she got it from. She finished her sewing and left.
And henchman got his chance to be a peeper.
I went to the bathroom. And I was determined to have a hot shower. Or at least do it like the man I had seen in the Homsarecs’ poolhouse. I filled the thermos jug with hot water and took a large bowl into the bathing tub, mixed the boiling hot water with cool water to reach a comfortable temperature, took a steel cup, covered my body with soap, and, sqatting in the tub, I poured the water over me. That was so good! I will stick to this method.
I noticed that someone was watching me and looked up. It was henchman. He had come in without being heard, he had a key, and he used it. Surely he had come to fetch me for the interview.
“What kind of method is this?” he asked.
“The shower is too cold”, I said.
“Too cold? You are a sissy”, he replied, “hot water can be prepared for tea, but not for a bath. What a waste of energy!”
I expected him to go, so I could step out of the tub and dry myself, but he just did not go. So I carried on, I don’t have all the time in the world.
He stared at me. How embarrassing! I’ll call Dad if he doesn’t go, I thought.
He repeated his invitation to his office, and went away.
I got dressed and did not haste. I went down to his office and knocked on the door.
“Ah, there you are. Sit down.”
“I have to be in school on time.”
“You can be sure I arranged that! We have all the time in the world. Give me your card.”
He shoved my identity card into the reading device and checked the latest data on the screen.
“What were you doing in Tischbein Lane?” he rumbled, “we were talking about it. And what is this? Start from home at 7:20 a.m., 7:40 in school, where were you in the meantime? Do you walk? Show me your traffic card!”
“Forgot it in school.”
“I’ll see it in the afternoon.”
You will remember, I had sold it to buy the radio kit.
And the questioning went on.
“You were in the Homsarec house? Did you get drugs?”
“Yes, alcohol”, I mentioned the one that he was addicted to, looking deeply into his eyes.
How much? What kind? He took notes in a spotty notebook and probably would never read them again. How would ever know what a badly shaven caretaker scribbles in his book…
“What else?”
“Nothing.”
At least I had not consumed anything else consciously.
“What about somnambulin?”
“Why do you ask, Comrade House Director, if you know it anyway?”
He approached me in an unpleasant way.
“You don’t understand that it is not a matter of your little person or mine. But it is a matter of highly political issues, about dangerous groups that we fight, and we will be successful, even if they shoot with poison arrows. They boycott our progress, they stick to a slave-keeping society, that’s not acceptable! There is no compromise. We have had a hard time fighting to reach equality, to eradicate the accumulation of wealth and global poverty. We have had a heavy fight to end submission under global powers. We may be poor, but we are proud. Nobody should serve someone else and be on his knees. Especially when you are German, and in spite of your name, you are.
We have suggested to give you a German name, and Alida agreed. Your name will be Johannes Weidener, you just have to sign. And, my dear Iván, you will get yourself together and understand what it’s all about. You got trapped by luxury. You just see the decadent way of life they’re having. How do they acquire this? Through slavery! Exploitation it the source of luxury. But you haven’t seen how they disappear, how they are spoilt and perverted, raped and, in the end, probably will be killed, you haven’t heard of it. But if you had, you would cooperate and not act like an insulted princess. You are supposed to continue the fight for justice. Did you hear me?”
I murmured something like: “Got it, yes, Sir” and thought: “you would have liked to be on that banquet with me, you screwed-up idiot”.
I had trouble following my lessons. I could hardly keep my eyes open. And again, someone wanted me to tell about my andventures. And I enjoyed to see them yearning for details. I had different versions for each of them. This time it was the Youth Leader Margot, sports teacher for the girls. She also taught us ‘Social behaviour’ and explained that aimless pursuit of lust — Fate forbid — with our own gender, would turn us into sad freaks who were losing the ability to live in a happy relationship with a woman. Because a woman wants a man with fortitude who takes the initiative to start a relationship. He should be the dominant part in a family, able to protect his wife and children. But if someone is unmanly soft and tender, she will not respect him in the way that was forseen by nature.
Just before the break, a was taken aside, and the ‘teacher of confidence’ told me about things which happened during the past two hours. Our apartment had been searched, and they found my radio.
The worst thing about it having been taken away was that I could not hear this wonderful music any more. And also bad: My sister must have told them where to look. They would never have found it; if you opened the shoe box, you would see nothing but old sports shoes. There was a suspicion, too, that I had intended to visit the Homsarec house.
“But what is wrong with listening to the radio?” I exploded in the office of the vice school director. “Anyway, they broadcast gibberish, no way to understand anything seditious, and why should mere music have a bad influence?”
“So you lack understanding”, frowned the ‘teacher of confidence’, “I command tightened arrest. You will remain in custody under the house director when you come home. He will take you to the hairdresser’s. Then you will do your homework in his office.”
The worst thing was that they punsihed my father for my sins. I wanted to apologize. In the long break, I jumped ouf of the lavatory window and ran home. I was lucky. Henchman was not on duty, but a substitute who did not know me. I lied that I had forgotten my homework on my desk.

 

“Dad, I’m so sorry I’m causing you problems!” I shouted in the corridor, when I spotted him sitting in the kitchen; he was still in his dressing gown, so he had just left his bed, and his company was someone I would never have expected to be here, he was smoking a self-rolled cigarette and drank coffee with him. He was wearing working trousers and a spotty shirt and a screen cap with the symbol of the state-run building company “Lucky Roof”, and his name was Isatai.
My first impulse was to turn around and run away. But who knows, maybe I must support my Dad; he might be under pressure.
“He came to get me, and my Dad is talking him out of it”, I thought.
As my father heard the key, he turned to me; he was expecting a family member.
“Oh, Iván!” he said, “you met him before. Iván, this is Isatai, my ex-brother-in-law.”
Wot. That was gross.
“We have to make a decision”, said my father, “before your mother is coming home, before your sister comes back from school. I did not want you to get contact with them, partly because I knew I would get harrassed again. Before all, because Mom will send me to hell if I don’t do what I can to prevent that. Anyway we’re fighting because I won’t sign the name change.”
I waved to my Dad to join me in the corridor and dragged him into the bathroom where the door could be properly closed. And we believed that this was the only room which wasn’t spied out, possibly because the spies were too sensitive. “But the Homsarecs are perverted and dangerous, this is what you told me. You ran away from them, didn’t you?”
He smiled. “No, it was different. It was for Alida that I left the Cultura.”
“You mean — the Homsarecs?”
“Right, that’s what they are called.”
“And your warning?”
“I tried to protect you, just from what has happened, but now you were with them. You are an adult, and we can tell you the truth. I tried to protect you from the police force, they are worse…”
“But Isatai beat this girl”, I murmured in spite.
“She wants it. She loves it.”
On the spot I felt the blood rush into my crotch, embarrassing, though he would not see it.
“When I let you go with Isatai, he will protect you much better than I can”, he said, “and you could leave right now.”
This was the moment when I got a completely different view on my father. He became someone else to me. I felt protest rising inside of me, then panic. But suddenly it aroused me. He gives me to this savage guy like a parcel. He gives me to someone to keep me safe. I breathed heavily and looked at him. Then, reason took over. “Will you put the fox in charge of the henhouse?” I burst out.
“He will never do a thing that you don’t want”, my father answered solemnly.
“But I don’t want to be part of his harem!”
“What? Harem?”
“He has two wives.”
Dad grinned. “He never mentioned that! But don’t worry, you will be sort of adopted, not his bed mate, what do you think! They have the custom to give their kids to their best friends when they are old enough, and you are. And you never have to do anything you don’t agree with.”
I had to consider that for a moment. I thought I would be at their mercy, but obviously they accepted rules.
And would he be allowed to beat me? If he had the right to educate me?
“Maybe you should go back to school, and in a few days, he will pick you up, so they will not know that I give my consent…”
“But I have to get a haircut today!” I said in despair.
“Why are you here at all, Vanya? I was wondering why you’re coming home so early…”
“You are not supporting me either.”
“Iván, I never said I agree with the haircut. I think it is intrusive. I just don’t want them to humiliate you even more.”
I gave him a quick hug. “Dad, help me!”
“Iván, I don’t have the means to. Sometimes, we have to give in and escape something worse. Maybe short hair looks good on you…”
“Dad!!”
“Sorry, Vanya.”
He sat on the edge of the tub, and I sat next to him.
“What can we do now?” I asked.
“We’ll find a solution”, he pretended to be optimistic.
“What? Learn to fly?”
And as I said that, I remembered the nocturnal episode that I still could not believe.
“What are you talking about?” he asked me as if I invented things, “who told you about that?”
“I saw it. She rose up in a blue haze. And it was not the first time I saw it.”
“You see it?” he repeated in amazement. And gave it away. Thank you. So some can see it. It was not my hallucination. It was so soothing to know.
“Does it mean she died?” I mumbled like suffocated.
“No, no! She had an experience of bliss. You should ask her.”
I had so many questions, but I stopped asking.
Something held me back; maybe I did not want to reveal the wonders to soon; I enjoyed anticipating infinite freedom, the light in my dungeon, the silver rays of liberty.
Now he informed me in a hurry.
“If you are able to see this, we cannot allow the police to get their hands on you. Because you have perceptions that…” He stopped and gave me a meaningful glance.

We returned to the kitchen. Isatai was still there, in the meantime, he had taken his cap off, and braids hung over his shoulders. He really looked like an American native building worker.
“Isatai”, said my Dad, “under God’s eyes I give my son to you as your Pais.”
He took my hand and laid it into Isatai’s hand. “Mother will kill me”, he added.
“Maurice, under God’s eyes I take your son as my Pais”, answered Isatai, covering my hand with his own, “and now we have to go. You will hear from us. There is a place for you in our house. Always. Maurice, think about it.”
My Dad shook his head. “For Alida”, he murmured. Isatai rolled his eyes.
“I would like to take a few things with me”, I remarked, as I overcame my shock.
“No time”, said Isatai, “I’ll send someone to get what you want.”
I hugged my father and asked him to say hello to Mom.
So many rumours about the Homsarecs seemed to be untrue. If my Dad trusted them and let me go with him…
“Take care to help them when you can”, he whispered in my ear, then he let go, it wasn’t easy for him. And so I turned my back on my world.

As we reached the ground floor, it was clear that the news about my escape had reached the officials, because a grey car stopped in front of the door, and plain-clothes police came rushing in. I could tell by the way they moved who they were, and I panicked. Isatai was not impressed at all. He just put his arm around my shoulder.
The two guys blocked the exit.
“Iván Pototsky?”
“No, Quanah of the Foxen”, replied Isatai.
“Oh, stop it, he’s coming with us. Iván, you see, we have to take you in custody.”
At that moment I heard a sound from Isatai that I had never heard from a human before. He growled like a dog whose food you’re trying to steal. His grip around my shoulder was firm.
The younger one of the two officers suddenly produced his weapon and ordered Isatai to let me go. In a quick move, Isatai stood in front of me and held me behind his back with one hand. His grip was almost painful.
The older one of the cops lifted his hand and slowly pushed the gun aside and said under his breath: “Don’t get us into trouble! Don’t you know…?”
What?
I looked at them, I saw Isatai’s reflection in the glass door and got scared: He bared his impressive teeth. His hand that held mine grew warmer. He wasn’t impressed by the weapon at all. I felt a little proud. What a protector.
Everything had changed.