Excerpt for Physical Hazards by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Physical Hazards

Published by Il’ya Milyukov at Smashwords

Copyright 2018 Il’ya Milyukov

– Yeah, – said I, – you’ve got a very interesting theory. But… I don’t know… It doesn’t work for me now, I guess. I’m a kind of… I’m not sure.

– Well, I told you, – Kolya looked at the table. – It’s just my opinion.

– It’s not about that, – quickly added I, – I mean… I want to say, that now we have an absolutely different situation and me personally not going to do anything like that. And I can’t do that.

Kolya kept quiet. Some metal wheels, caterpillars, steel sheets and spinning turrets were still glimpsing on the screen of the television set, that hung on the wall opposite us, and I’ve already realized, that it’s some programme about tanks or other kind of armored vehicles, but I couldn’t get, why it was being shown here, where we are, and now, at 2 or 3 a.m., or what time it is. And it was pretty interesting too, because I had just watched a similar TV-programme, well, not just, of course, it was about a month and half ago, but that show was also about tanks, and about modern tanks in particular, and, what was the most important, about modern tanks participation in the First War, just like for me, and literally a few days ago, on Saturday, cause today’s Thursday, rather, Friday already, but that’s not the point, so, several days ago I was watching a talk show, and its guests were also discussing the First war! That’s just!.. Okay, like I know the topic of our conversation now.

– Look, Kolyan, weren’t you watching a show called “A Tank Dance” on the tenth of May? – blurted I.

My neighbor turned to me:

– Yes, I was. About tanks, right?

– Well, if it was a “tank” one, of course, it was about tanks, – habitually clarified I, – but I mean, what do you think about it? Did you like it?

– Yes. It was a good one, – my former classmate grinned.

– I’m asking because, you see over there? – I moved my chin. – They’re showing some same stuff on that Ti-Vi… Don’t you know, by the way, what it is?

– No, I don’t, – Kolya gazed at the set. I followed his lead, and we were sitting like that for a few seconds.

– That is something… – murmured I. – I just like things like that very much, and you know it, I told you many times, but this is a kind of… Cool, right? As if it’s specially for us, yeah?

– Hmm, – uttered my companion. – Maybe.

– That’s what I’m talking about, – I continued, raising my eyebrows, – who broadcasts a programme about tanks in the middle of the night… Thought it might be a tape… Listen, – I perked even more, – and were you watching an outlet of the “Freedom Of Speech” on Saturday?

– No, – answered Kolya firmly. – I don’t like this show.

– Well, me either, they cry there very much, really, but, – I pointed to the ceiling by my index finger, – they were talking about the First War, again, about the assault of Grozny, and that was very… you know… fascinating in patches.

My interlocutor contracted the brow in his turn:

– And what were they telling about?

– Shorter, somebody there, I don’t remember, who he was, – I resumed firing it out with readiness, – was saying, that on the seventh of January some airborne regiment was surrounded, and… how they were offered to surrender then, sure, they didn’t accept that, but after that they, in the show, began to talk about something else, or I’ve just missed a part of the outlet, because I was frying potatoes… no, really, why are you laughing? I was really frying, and I was going to the kitchen several times, so I couldn’t see the whole programme, you see?

Kolya nodded, keeping to smile with the corners of his mouth.

– And I thought, – resumed I, – that, maybe, you saw it and you’ll tell me, what else they told about the War. See?

– Yes, – he shook his head one more time. – But I didn’t watch that show.

Um-m, yeah, thought I. Still can’t figure out, why some of my coevals – they seem to be males – don’t like to discuss this topic and even watch films about war. Especially those ones, who decided to be historians. Okay.

– Okay, – I pronounced aloud, – never mind. That’s nothing. Let’s go there, or something? We should check on the guys, I think.

– I don’t want for now, a kind of, – confessed Kolya, leaning to the back of the couch. – A kind of don’t know…

And I a kind of want to do it, flashed through me. Of course, here’s not so loud, and there isn’t such a crowd here, in this room, it’s almost empty here now, compared to that, and the air is fresh, but we have to go and see Vit’ka and Slava, at least. And I have to see her else. Really, what idiot could arrange a prom in a place like this… Let’s get this over with…

– Damn, – agreed I, – I’m not dying to do it either, but we must see, what’s going on there.

– I’ll sit here for a while, – stated my friend. – I don’t want so far.

– Okay. I’ll call them here then, – I put my palms on the leather and arose, but here something happened.

For some unknown reason I was thrown back pretty strongly, finding myself on the couch again. At the same time, as it seemed to me, something hit my eyes and ears simultaneously – split second later I understood, that the light in our chamber is turned off and that I’m hearing some loud, just awful noise. Several, even a lot of voices were yelling and there were a lot of quick steps, but before that, I was sure of it, somebody or something definitely and with all strength banged against the wall, that was on our left and there was, as I remembered, a bathroom behind it. And that bang was so hard, that I couldn’t even imagine such sounds. Maybe, the wall collapsed. And, maybe, the entire building is collapsing right now, and I’m sitting and doing nothing, instead of running…

I jumped as if I was stung. Steps were still heard.

– Let’s run! – shouted I. – Come on, Kolyan!

– Wait, man… – started he, but I screamed again:

– What “wait”, c’mon, let’s get the hell out of here! Didn’t you hear that or what?!

I waved my hand in the dark and grabbed his sleeve.

– Move!!

– Okay, okay, – he began straightening. – But what’s going on?

– Well, hell knows that! Maybe, it’s a quake!

A quake in the most seismically safe zone in the world, flashed through me.

– Damn, we had to get out of here a long time ago, a very long time ago, – I was mumbling, striding between the invisible, rather, almost invisible tables, trying not to fall down and directing to the billiard room door, behind which still was a high-pitched deafening howl, loud stomp and some undefined noise else. Kolya was following me closely. The guys, thought I. Katya. Really, what the hell is!.. I pulled the knob.

It was also dark here, water was flowing somewhere on the left, again on the left, a loud crunch was sounding, obviously, the people were stepping on broken bottles and glasses, but that would be OK, although, we could hurt of it… We should go to the exit anyway, as soon as possible.

– Kolyan, are you here? – I turned my head.

– Yes, – he replied from the back quietly.

– Stay close.

We passed by the bar, faintly shimmering with liquid, crossed the hall middle with the dining tables on our right, near the big doorway and then halted abruptly. I immediately realized, that we won’t leave this building in the next few minutes, because all the rest of the people, including parents, teachers and, perhaps, the club employees, were here already and were making an incredible roar.

– Be careful! – somebody was crying.

– Damn! Where the hell are you surging?!

– One at a time, guys! No pushing!

– Well, don’t rush! Sasha!

– Guys, try to calm down, all of us will leave soon anyway…

– Don’t look there, don’t look!

– Oh, there’s so much water here!..

This moment I realized, that something’s not only crunching, and also sloshing about under my feet. That’s bad. But, on the other hand, all the walls seem in situ and not collapsing more. And Katya with the guys, probably, have already come out of this damn house.

– Are you okay? – I turned round.

– I… – Kolya started, but here some strange sound, as if a bundle of dry branches or a few wooden boxes were broken one after another, was heard from the outside, then it was repeated at once, then again, and at the same time the crowd, standing in front of us, as if on command, also turned back and, same screaming, rushed back to the hall, that means, right at my companion and me.

I barely jumped aside, to the corner between the rack and the door, and Kolyan, apparently, too. Girls were crying, it seemed, above my both ears, my heart was pounding and there was a real panic in my head. What are we supposed to do now?! We must run the hell out of here, but how? Nothing is damn over yet, if they’re yelling so, it’s obvious. We should…

– Let’s try to find another way out! – I shouted in the darkness.

– What? – Kolya didn’t understand.

– I say, let’s find another exit!

Meanwhile, the situation changed again. It became a little lighter in the room, the stomp ended somehow shortly, voices were also down, and then some man uttered loudly, but very calmly:

– Nobody moves. And you, – he raised his tone, – can take your seats, but stay here and don’t do anything stupid. Then everything will be okay.

That was sounding completely incredible, like a phrase from not the best computer game or from some cheap domestic TV-series, and I thought, that it’s, probably, just a joke, not so funny and not so clever one. But the girls’ reaction… The girls. Our girls were the last, therefore, our boys were in the beginning of that line. That was very decent of them. I peered at the gathered people and saw Katya in the middle of them, near one of the tables. I wasn’t sure, but it seemed to me, that Vitya, Slava and Pasha Bessonov also were there, close to her and to the other classmates and guys from the parallel classes. That’s good, that’s very good, I kept thinking with the greatest relief, that’s so good, damn it… But what if somebody, some of my friends, is still there and needs help, cause if it was a joke, it’s one thing, but if they were running from something scary, and they were really running scared, I have no doubt of it, we can’t just sit here. I can’t just sit here anyway, in any case, because I need to figure out, what’s going on.

I stepped forward, put my left palm on a broken door and carefully looked to the corridor. Several muffled voices were heard at once:

– What are you doing?

– Gosha, where are you going? – it was Katya.

– Didn’t you get him, or what?

I glanced at the floor quickly:

– I’ll go to explore. Don’t worry.

– I’m with you, – immediately said Slava and approached me in a moment.

They kept hissing “Kornilov! Kol’tsov!” behind us. I asked:

– Are you ready?

– Yeah.

– Then go!

We stepped over the threshold and looked to the left. There, where the bathroom was supposed to be, was a huge breach in the wall, rather, there was no wall at all now, a faint daylight was going from there, a stream of water was flowing through the floor and some pile was in the far corner. I hastened to open the lobby door, but then remembered, that I should be as silent as possible. We crossed the next chamber softly, I pulled the entrance door and right after that I saw the tank.

It was placed opposite the building in the distance of about twenty meters, its turret was turning at this moment, and then it stopped, being pointed right at us. “With a cannon, aimed at your soul”, I recalled the poem line. And right in front of me, on the track, stood a man with an assault rifle, looking me straight in the eyes.

– Well, finally, – pronounced he. – I was thinking, that you won’t come out. Come here, don’t be afraid.

Slava and I found ourselves outdoors, in the fresh air. The air was really fresh and with an unknown pleasant smell, the temperature was normal and a bright summer dawn was already really rising behind the neighboring five-stories. “Really, why am I not afraid now?”, thought I. In theory, I’m supposed to be afraid, but I was just very and very interested in all of this. I glanced at Slava. He was interested too, judging by his face. Only now I noticed, that some people are standing along the house wall. It was the guys from my school. I recognized three from my class and… I don’t know exactly, several from the rest two parallel ones. I rushed ahead and looked at the second part of the wall. That’s it. They were there too. And there was a giant hole in the wall else, and suddenly I got everything.

This tank neared the club, aimed and hit the bathroom. There also were some guys, apparently, those scums, who tried to mess with Kolyan. A tank shell exploded, splattered their brains and guts all over the other walls, and hell would be with them, they were blasted in a toilet, but that shell has also cut the light off, ran that damn bath, probably set a fire and scared all the normal people, without mentioning the fact it could, perhaps, easily collapse the whole damn building! Who are these people? Are they nuts? Who do they think they are? And where did they come from? I looked at the stranger again. He was a tall adult uncle about forty with brown hair and some familiar face, he wore a camouflage uniform and was holding a modern modification of our Kalashnikov rifle, which was shown in a famous film about the First War, in his right hand. Then I turned my eyes to the tank. The tank was obviously a T-80, green colored, with an explosive-reactive armor and anti-aircraft machine gun on its top, and it also looked like a tank from that film. Its hull number wasn’t seen, but I was sure, that it was the same one too.

– Is it a Ti-eighty-Ou? – I wondered for some reason.

– No, it’s a Be-Ve, – explained the guest.

Only now I noticed, that he keeps looking somewhere to the side, at my schoolmates. I asked him one more time:

– And why did you think I won’t come out?

– Well… – he smiled. – I just decided that you’re… Okay, I’ll tell you later. Wait now. Hey, you! – all of a sudden he shouted pretty loudly. – Yes, yes, you! Come here.

He was addressing to the guy from the third class of our graduates. I knew almost nothing about him, except his name and surname, because he joined us quite recently, maybe, only in the past academic year. It was a thin and short blond fellow, with small pale eyes and big nose, constantly giggling, like a fool and waving his skinny small arms. I’m not sure, that we had ever said hello to each other during all this period, but I thought he’s a real scumbag, I don’t even know why. Maybe, due to his ugly physiognomy, maybe, because of that third class, where were the only corner boys, with a very rare exception, and, what is more important, maybe it was because he was really acting as an asshole with Vit’ka, it happened two or even three times and it was also lately, a bit more than a month ago, at the rehearsals of our Last Bell Ring. He didn’t mess with me, although I was sitting next, but I wished to smash his chuckling mug already then, and Vitya was telling me later, just a few days ago, that after that incident this jerk was trying to fight with him, of course, in the company of his mates, it was somewhere in the street near our school, but they failed… They failed then, and now they’re standing over there. And Vitya. Vitya, as usual, out of the goodness of his heart, hadn’t even punched them then, but now they are lined along this wall. Damn, thought I, he’s going to kill him yet.

The guy came near and stopped. He wasn’t giggling now. On the contrary, he looked really scared. His face was much whiter, than all the times I saw him close, his eyes were blinking over and over and his lips were notably moving. The stranger appealed to him again:

– It isn’t funny for you more, huh? Why aren’t you laughing? You see, – he turned to me, – he isn’t laughing now, that means he understands everything, he’s not a moron, because at first I thought they’re just morons…

– What are you going to do with him? – interrupted I.

– You’ll see it now, you’ll see, – promised the armed guest.

– Don’t touch him, I beg you.

– Look, – the military bowed his head. – You were wishing it to be over – it will be over. Very soon. They’ve probably put out that fire… Go over there! – he barked at the blond. The latter blinked helpless once more.

Then the stranger kicked him right between his legs, whereupon the young man instantly doubled over, groaning loudly.

– Please… – gasped he.

– Shut up, – ordered the rifle owner. – Move over there and stand still.

He was pointing at the big tree, being on the edge of the sidewalk.

– You shouldn’t do that, – I said in a high voice.

He didn’t answer. The guy approached the barrel and straightened with effort. The distance was about four meters. Then the stranger made a burst.

A few dark-red spots emerged on a white shirt, they began enlarging at once, like in a movie. The wretched person’s chin went down, and then he crumbled like feta.

– Damn… – whispered I.

– Don’t worry, – the stranger lowered his weapon. – You and you! Take this piece of shit and carry it to the rest.

I was about to look at the guys he called, but it was as if something hit my nape with a big plank. To the rest. It means there’re rest. Several ones, obviously. When did they have time… It’s clear. Branches and boxes were heard, and then everybody got running. So, that’s what the branches were.

– No-no, – said the guest again. – You shouldn’t go there. Come over there. And you and you else.

I forced myself to raise my eyes and saw Slava. I absolutely forgot about him. Slava was also looking in the direction of those three people, coming near the shooting site, but it was something wrong with his countenance, as it seemed to me. He wasn’t upset or frustrated. He was glad. He was grinning from ear to ear with a stupid broad smile.

– Slavyan, mother-father, – articulated I, – what, it’s a kind of funny?

– What do you mean? – he didn’t understand.

– Literally, damn! – I was in vain trying to talk quieter.

The victims meanwhile halted below the green crown. Well, that’s it, I’m not surprised already. I did never like all the three of them, because I always thought, that all those three young men were bastards, the real young criminals. The first one was named Sasha Ryabykh, he was a light-haired stocky boy with an extremely wide face. I had been studying with him for three terms in the same class, and after that he was kicked out to a “dumb” class, to the rest of our riffraff. The second one’s name was Suren Ovanesyan, and I had never studied with him, I just knew that he also messed with Vit’ka. And the third was Vanya Romantsov, my old “friend”, quote unquote. We had been sitting at the adjacent desks for five full years, he was leeching off me all this time and no one man has disappointed me in my life as he has. Even a year ago I thought that I have very good relations with this kolkhoz trash. But a very short time later I was convinced I was wrong so much.

– Listen, – I made a strong sip, – you shouldn’t kill them. No matter what.

– Why shouldn’t I? – the stranger squinted at me. – You keep on saying that, but you still can’t tell me, why. Here, ask Slava. Slava thinks I should do that, on the contrary.

– Stop that! – cried I. – Please! I can’t get…

– No, I can’t get that! – the guest let his rifle off his left hand, so its flash hider almost struck the asphalt. – I’m getting tired of you! What, do you feel pity for them, or what? You do know these creeps pretty well! You…

– I realized that I almost don’t know these two… – interposed I, but he rattled again:

– Well, maybe, but what about this one, who thinks you’re the best friend of him? Huh? What kind of man is he? He dashed ahead of everyone, he was grabbing girls’ elbows and almost throwing them, trying to go out as fast as possible! Only those three chickenshit fuckers were faster than him, and as they left him in March, at the first sign of trouble, as they did now! What kind of friendship is it, damn? And all of them are like him here! Didn’t you know that? Honestly?

– And you’re going to kill them all? – I answered a question with a question.

– No, not all, – he shook his head. – Only those ones, who deserve that.

– So, it turns out, “all the good people should gather and kill all the bad ones”? – I found the right word to say, as I thought.

– Yes, a sort of this thing, – he nodded. – Look. I can assure you, that they won’t… Oh, we got company.

I glanced at the carriageway and immediately saw a militia car. It was moving pretty slowly, closer to the opposite side of the street, and right here I heard a familiar high hum. The car began turning left, to us, reached the middle of the road and then suddenly it was as if blown with the wind and torn apart at the same time. Instead of it there was some black-white-orange ball, and there was a strong din in my ears.

– I hope, you don’t feel pity for the cops, – the military checked me out. – There’re really no one you should feel sorry for, believe me.

A former patrol car was cracking, just like a campfire in our forest. A gas smell was distinctly spreading in the air.

– So, where was I, – resumed the stranger. – About your phrase. I do tell you, that they won’t be good people. They are not good people already now, and you know that well.

– How do you know all that?!

– Wait…

– No, you wait! – I was shaking with fear and adrenaline, but I didn’t care about that. – And I’m the person who tired of you! They’re just kids! They’re seventeen or even sixteen years old, like me! You’re doing the wrong thing! Even if you’re right about their future, so what? Everything could be fixed! You should give them, us a chance, you sh…

I stopped short and naturally jumped up, about five centimeters, I guess. An annoying sound of breaking boxes started rumbling again, and the bullets started making the next red rounds on the white shirts, mangling the tree bark with a loud crunch in doing so. I cussed out to myself.

– Okay, – commanded the leader. – You, sturdy boy, you and you, moron. Move there, quickly.

Okay, repeated I. Apparently, time for conversations is over now. But what can I do? What can you do, confess to yourself? Take his assault rifle? It’s ridiculous. Grab him across his body and try to take the assault rifle? It’s ridiculous also. Hit his head by my fist? It’s just fun. I’m not a kickboxer, and I can’t do that, I’m not strong enough to do that. Plus, this head is, probably, invulnerable to any kind of hits ever. Hit him with some stone? I glanced at the track, then at the curb near my foot. There was nothing, no stones, no sticks, no other heavy garbage, as if in spite. Glass pieces are over there, a lot of them. But I’m afraid I’d rather cut off my palm, than do something to that experienced bastard. I need a weapon, but where can I?.. My sight stopped at the trashcan. A green top of the bottle was clearly sticking out of it. Of course, hitting his head won’t get me a lot, but I wasn’t going to do it yet.

So, seize it fast and hope that he wouldn’t have time to respond. Damn, he’s raising his rifle already, but whatever. I bent down, clutched the bottle, like a grenade, and then rapidly rushed back, lifting my arm. At the same moment he pulled the trigger, and the left guy stumbled. But I saw that by my peripheral vision, because I brought my hand against the stranger’s temple.

The bottle cracked and glass flew to the sides. There was only the top and a small triangular barb on it, not so big in length. But I immediately changed my grip, pointing it down, outstretched my hand to the other side of the stranger’s neck, put the edge on his skin and then pulled it back with all my strength. Blood ran and began dripping to the ground near us, but I didn’t pay attention to it and instantly made another cut, just below the first one. Then the flow covered my fingers and my right cuff.

The guest opened his mouth, trying to turn, but blood appeared there too. He waved his left arm and straightened his right one, which was still holding the rifle, and then leaned back. This moment I grabbed his hair and stabbed my shovel exactly to that spot again, violently moving my palm up and down over and over again. A real fountain of blood hit the air, and then the uncle fell.

I picked up the rifle and aimed at the tank, realizing, that it is very stupid.

– You! – shouted I. – Who are in the tank! Take this… Take him and get the hell out of here.

The upper hatch opened, and a head in a helmet peeped out of it.

May 3 – 22, 2018.

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