Friday, July 14, 2017

The Demon of Krasnoyarsk

The more experienced traders, among those who transported goods from the Barentines to Taimiria and back, remember that the great avenue used to have its terminus at the city of Ustana Shehir, the first among the great cities of the present time. Presently the road did not end any longer at Ustana, the place being nonexistent, but took a more direct route to the Portage Lines in the interior west, where the rivers flow conveniently west-to-east. The new route also transverses the estuary of the Yenisei where it empties northwards into the Little Ocean. And such a splendid sight it is, from this vantage point along the path, the entire estuary is visible, an expanse of distributaries, eddies and sandbanks, and the querulous murmurings of seagulls and boobies in the distance.

On one of these sandbanks perched the remains of an ostrog, a palace, painted with colors now fading, a tower now crumbling, and windows dead and empty. Half of the house had been appropriated by the neighboring village for building a new hall, and now a lone huntsman ponders the side wing, in case it could be used as his shelter for the night.

THE WATCH TOWER STILL STANDS, THE EAST WING ALL INTACT, a shrill voice cried out from the forest, the source hidden in the long shadows. MY SON, DO YOU KNOW THAT THIS BUILDING IS THE PINNACLE OF CIVILISATION? Hear! The Demon of Krasnoyarsk has dragged the first house of the Permyaks three hundred miles, and has left every single wall and timber unscathed! Hearing this, the huntsman startled and fled, thinking that he had heard a wailing spirit.

The Architect emerged from the forest. He had not noticed the huntsman, nor was he preaching to anyone in particular. Ermak Bayantimur, remember this name! Ustana, once brimming with splendour, is now bare ground. The work of all other builders have been dragged into the sea... And though the castle has been uprooted and carried on the waves, the house itself the Demon has not touched! Let this house speak of your greatness, Ermak Bayantimur!

Some time later, the appointed Bishop of the North Coast reached the estuary, accompanied by a humanist layman from Archangel. The Bishop had never been east of the Yenisei prior to his appointment. On the other hand, his companion had been called often to Taimiria to cure medical aliments, repair equipment and other duties as befitting of an engineer (an old term, meaning warlock or wizard) for the Taimirians. The Bishop had believed such acts of charity as prerogative of the Church, and begrudged the layman often for driving the good Taimirian people from relying on the Almighty.

The wicked kings of Ustana Shehir has brought such misfortune upon themselves, mused the Bishop. He knew that the Permyaks were under the thrall of the dualist religion and had ramped up persecution of the Christians in Taimiria. The previous year's floods which the Demon of Sayano-Shushenskaya had instigated were known to have wiped out the most important members of the Permyak house alongside the innocents. The Bishop muttered a prayer for the dead, then another "for the mercy of the Permyaks", wherever their souls may be. Lastly there followed third prayer, now focused on the ostrog on the sandspit, exorcising it of the fiend Krasnoyarsk.

The Engineer had a different view of the flood. Asbagpasho, he intoned. Your Excellency, the Fiend that you spoke of can be explained by naturalistic means alone. The Demon of Krasnoyarsk is simply a walled lake built by the Soviets in antiquity, when they sought to tame the wild river Yenisei. Now that the Soviets have been snuffed out of history and people no longer populated the South, it was only a matter of time that all the walls they built would crumble and fail. Alas, it was not the waking of the demon, but its death, and the greater Demon, the Yenisei of old, claiming its own! And they headed to the North Coast, where many of the survivors had fled.

Some time later, a man in pauper's clothing was seen to approach the ostrog. He did not respond to any warning calls to stay away. Instead he circled it, stopping occasionally to caress the timbers and the weathered patterns on the door arches. Once or twice he entered the fort, as if attempting to search for a familiar face among the ruins. Then, not having found any living soul in the house, he fell in the sand and wept bitterly until nightfall.

The Krasnoyarsk Hydroelectric Dam [source: Wikimedia Commons]

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