prose

The Balkan Viper Snake, “The Adventures Of Boris K.”

A Nostalgic  Letter of Boris K. to the Citizens of the Republic Written in Diaspora

The Balkan Viper Snake

What am I doing on this most elegant of wastelands?’ This I wondered the very day I found myself in Denmark. ‘Mere hours ago I was sat at an old oaken table, scribing letters to those in power who owe me favors…

I was recently let off from my job. As if this weren’t enough, the landlady started whining about me ‘neglecting my duties, not paying rent, not keeping the fridge full’. As these things usually go, in a moment of despair and utter feeling of confusion, I happened upon a news ad. ‘Looking for experienced whalers to hunt orcas on the Icelandic coasts.’ No hints, no winding mumbling, a short and sweet ‘Looking for…’’

I decided to reply to this ad. The next day, due to, as I had later realized, a misclick of the mouse, I found myself in Denmark, on a mission not assigned to me. However, not only did I not realize this at first, but I could not even remember how I managed to leave the Phenomenonpublic. I dreaded that the phenomenisations did their thing and that their temper would not get me back to the peace I have long desired for. Hence why I found myself in Denmark, the unplowed overseas sward where I knew not what fate awaited me.

That not so distant day, when it was negative seventy degrees in our warm little Phenomenonpublic, the subjects of the Kingdom of Denmark asked me to go to Aarhus where lived a magical serpent which can only be killed by a man that survived the nineties in the Balkans. Him alone, they say, is resistant to her venom for he himself has tasted venom of similar power. As a stranger, I won sympathies of the Danish National Parliament members and met Philodendrona the Third, the great-granddaughter of the ancient queen Margaret the Second, who lived on Faroe islands and wrote passionate love letters to me, encouraging me.

‘I am in love with you, Boris K. They say you speak mellifluously, that you write letters as if you were painting a poem, and that you do not fear bloody conflict. They also say that you bought Playboy off of Hugh Hefner.’

Upon inquiry of the location of the magical serpent, the noblewoman lay it down on me.

‘One tail-end is in Folketing itself, while the other floats in the Baltic sea. They say that it is so silver-tongued that it comes up with the Christian democrats’ parliamentary speeches and announces the Second coming of Hamlet…’

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Philodendrona the noblewoman, who was unusually friendly towards me, placed her servants under my command, in order to make my difficult task somewhat easier to complete. She made the ride to Copenhagen with speedy Danish ferryboats possible.

I lay prostrate on the bed within the luxury cabin, keeping track of the live broadcast of the Parliament meeting via TV, when I heard a knock on the door. IT was the ferry captain who gave me an envelope as soft as black satin with the golden coat of arms of the house of Philodendron. The letter was sealed in red wax where the initials of the infatuated noblewoman lay…

The letter went as follows:

‘‘I’ve used up all of my influence, good Sir, to secure a place for you to live in within the very Tower of Folketing itself and have your peace. Get ready, Boris K. The Snake pays the parliament a visit every night. It crawls up the Royal stairs, at times pausing at the Royal library, studying the terrarium manuals. I’ve instructed the most famous Danish architect to put glass panels on the walls of Your temporary home, for they say that the Snake enjoys looking at its own body on glassy surfaces. Therefore the glass itself will attract her, and You will finally confront her, thus do join me, as a hero crowned by glory, at the Faroe islands, so that we may together live in wealth and happiness.’

Then came the instructions about the movement through the Parliament Palace.

‘At the bottom of the steps are the Reception rooms. They say that the Snake tends to pause there, to gather strength before climbing up the Royal steps.’

‘The post-script stated:

‘’Your mission is of utmost importance for the Danish interests Her Majesty has formal audiences every other Monday. The Snake knows this. Last month she bit her ring finger, and then took over the State Council and issued a few decrees regarding the necessity of undertaking food measures of raising lettuce in Royal Only reception rooms closed off from the public – the amount of light shining through the baroque windows is what the lettuce, in those very rooms mind you, really seems to enjoy.”

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They placed me in a special chamber, the one they called the Glass Home during my stay at the Parliament, they packed it full with glass houses, so that I, eagerly awaiting the upcoming battle, could devote myself fully to my hobby.

Once I had settled, the Folketing was emptied out in a matter of hours.

’Beware the snake at midnight, Boris K.’ the Prime Minister said and slammed the massive oak door shut, leaving me all by myself.

The clock struck midnight when I felt the ruffling around the table in the center of the room. It was the snake which was studying parliamentary deals. Its back shone bright in the moonlight. I approached it all but soundlessly, but it spotted my shadow on the wall, spooked itself, turning its heart-like, flat head with her eyes  erect. It was adorned by intense black patterns along its thick, pale grey body. The snake curled up, bent its neck and tried to bite me.

I was ready. I let out the battery powered rat from the metal box, which I controlled remotely. Spotting it, the snake snatched the rat, attracted to the lights and sound effects the plush toy was emitting, and it spat out the batteries. Spotting this, I remembered to tie the light cable, hued female python yellow, to the electrical outlet. The sweethissing snake male was tricked and hopped onto the cable. Power surged dance-like throughout its body, but the snake, aside from a few burns, survived the high-frequency shock.

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I was crushed by despair when I spotted the freezer in the corner of the Glass Home. I threw it open. Before the he-snake a tempting sight of frozen food spontaneously came to be. For the reptile was it to be or not to be, that was the question?!

‘Go for it, snake! The Århus frozen rat. Ice worm a la carte!’ I proclaimed. The snake refused such a meal, claiming that it would rather have lettuce. Then it spotted a large covered bowl from which, akin to a snake’s tongue, stuck out a tiny green leaf. It darted towards the fridge, and I closed the door behind it.

When it noticed, the Snake wept. This touched me a tad, hence I asked:

‘Why do you cry, snake?’

‘I will tell you, if you let me go’

I decided to let the poor reptile loose, and the reptile, happy that someone wants to listen to it, stopped crying snake tears and started its tale after a deep sigh.

‘I wasn’t always like this. I spent my life in the body of a well renowned Balkan politician who, upon phemonenizing, was forced to flee. Fearing recognition, I thought of disguising myself as a snake. Ever since then I’ve been living in foreign lands as the Balkan Viper snake, where I felt somewhat protected, but still living in fear of the citizens of Århus, who have a bone to pick with me.

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‘Every year around this time they get Balkan-based hunters, all in order to destroy me. Scared and alone, I spend my time with octopi, fellow sufferers from the deepest of oceans, where we nostalgically recall intriguing lettuce and gorgonzola recipes which I’ve tasted in my fatherland.’

Shaken by this story, I hugged the snake which wept on my shoulder. Instinctively I felt that the snake is in essence a misunderstood, kind being, and the snake said to me:

‘I recognized your noble and pitying character, therefore I will help you.’

The snake offered to take me on its back over the Norwegian sea, to Narvik, where I will be taken back to Phenomenonpublic by the North Atlantic current.

‘That road is the safest and the fastest.’

And to this the snake added:

‘Beware the people of Århus.’

As a token of gratitude, I gave it an enormous bowl filled with lettuce leaves, seasoned with hot, Århus spread, one which I located in the fridge. But the Danish spread, due to phenomenizing, was full of intestinal parasites, which made the snake lose weight drastically, twist its tongue and drop dead.

I buried the critter with the highest of honors, covering with gestures of formality its slender body with juicy lettuce leaves.

I sat at the table. It was packed with political scribbles, pamphlets, contracts, edicts, directives and decrees, secret letters of the highest parliamentary officials and the European commission. None of this mattered. At long last I had found what I had been looking for: an envelope, paper, ink and pen.

I started the letter addressing in an exalted manner Her grace of Philodendron.

‘I came to Folketing as per Your council, and I saw one end of the snake tail. Amid the fiercest of battles, I cast myself upon its tail, but it wiggled out and escaped into the Baltic sea. I grabbed the tongs from Folketing’s terrarium made of stainless steel, boarded a ferry and started snake-hunting.’

My hand was tired, but my Graph von Faber Castel pen made of twenty-four karat gold slid effortlessly down the surface of the paper. I decided to adorn the tale with as many Munchausenian descriptions as possible, hoping for, if not the title of a baron or a spokesman in the parliament, at least a solution to my housing problem, a modest stone house, somewhere in Eastern Greenland.

‘My dearest Philodendrona.

The quest for the snake was almost as long and arduous as its killing.’

Not wanting to keep the noblewoman in suspense, wait and worry, I mentioned that the ferry fell to pieces under the rush of the undercurrents.

‘I floated like a shipwrecked sailor on a piece of wood, dry-mouthed, when a supernatural strength penetrated my body. I was overjoyed when a few weeks later, having swum breaststroke over the salty Baltic sea, I located the mealymouthed snake which, upon spotting me, fled across the three seas and two oceans, leaving enormous cuts on the sea’s surface.’

‘Halt, do not fear!’ I shouted to the snake which kept fleeing maniacally, fearing the venom I had inside me. I had long been trying to think of a way to outsmart it. I feared the venom in me going evaporating under all the phenomenizing. As thoughts were rolling onward, I quickly came to a conclusion: the mealymouthed snake can be beaten by – a coalition.’

When I wrote this, I looked at the Contract lying on the table specked in the blue stamps of Folketing. This gave me strength to push onward.

‘I offered the North sea snake a Coalition Contract with the magical seal of the Pacific and a while whale, a great-great-grandson of Moby Dick.’

‘Only when part of the coalition with the sea hound which felt like a land-based housecat did Moby manage to swim to Madagascar. Only in such coalition, oh snake, would you be part of a team capable of relativizing the Loch Ness Monster’s popularity to whom I’ve already been a PR manager.’ I told the snake conspiratorially and handed it the pen to sign the Contract.

The snake, as is true of any other individual political entity, was drunk on the thought of impending glory. It accepted me as its manager.’

Enchanted by my own flights of fancy, for a moment I stopped, gazing at a distance. I shook myself back into reality, pleased. I clenched the pen harder, dipped the tip in ink and continued.

‘I gave the snake the pen – it wanted to grab it with its mouth, but the minute it tried biting into it, the phenomenizations rejected it. The snake bent and twisted its tail around its head, for it spotted the pen below the tail. It tried reaching for it with the fangs, when the pen flew away again. The snake wrapped itself in an untangling hank and suffocated. I saw its winding body away, which, motioning on the surface, slowly sunk until it was completely out of my sight.

I killed the snake after a long and hard-fought battle.’ I ended the letter to the noblewoman Philodendrona.

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I folded the letter, took the envelope closer to my lips, sealed it and beaten by all the events and assailed by immense scenes of which some I made up, and some lived through in the Parliament of Denmark itself, I fell asleep.

The royal subjects were enthusiastically congratulating me and organized a reception in my honor which was attended by Her Royal Majesty herself. I’d been decorated with the Medallion of the Snake with golden and silver rays. I became an Honorary member of the Royal library of Denmark and had lunch in a prestigious restaurant Norma.

I was manufacturing various Balkan venoms per order, as well as antidotes for the Liberals who in particular feared snakes. On the streets of Århus by daylight, and on Faroe Islands by night, I paraded around, crowned in glory, my head held up high, decorated by various medals. I was headline news in the press. I was looking forward to returning to Phenomenonpublic and had declared this during a press conference – when I was met by the silence of the citizens of Århus. They all hung their heads, for their consciences were unclean. In what way could they even tell me, they were whispering among themselves, until one of them proclaim:

‘Now that you’ve killed the snake and freed us from this misery, you deserve the truth.’

Then, not lacking the fear of my venomous might, they explained to me that he who kills the snake can return home only under the condition that, should he abandon this accursed place, he crawled back to his fatherland, where they will sue him for grand treason the minute he finally crawls into it.

 

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prose, proza

Leila Samarrai: THE ADVENTURES OF BORIS K, Intro

Leila Samarrai

THE ADVENTURES OF BORIS K

Веlgrade, 2013.

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Contents

Persons, participants, extras, casual mentions, not-quite-unimportant, perhaps even crucial for the story although (seemingly) collateral, many of whom never appear but are always present – the personifications of context.

Author’s note

Names of political parties

PCP = Party of Conscientious Prosperity

The Communist-Capitalist Conjunction

Coalition YOUR CHOICE

The Rationally Humanist Party

The Labour-Anarchist Team

The Vocal Party

Coalition SERVICE

CURSE — Communist Ultra Resident Suburban Entente

SCOURGE — Solvent Communist Offspring Union Relevantly Guiding Employees

The Noteworthy Personnel Party

GAOLS — General Alliance Of Lawabiding Socialists

Introduction: The Life and Tribulations of Boris K.

A stone’s throw from a large river, a paradise on earth was built.  According to the media in the friendly Uganda, it was a small country – an oasis of peace among the lighthouse-studded hills. The earth was a shimmering white, as if illuminated by numerous torches; the sky was imbued with various shades of pink. If one was to look at the majestic city from atop a hill, the Republic would have appeared utterly bared in its beauty. People compared it to Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt and Alexandria, and many reminisced about the golden gates of the city which opened automatically, dousing the newcomers in a veritable deluge of cash.  What the visitors did not know, however, was that, once inside, they would never be able to leave the city. There was but one city gate, and it was heavily guarded. The aforementioned notwithstanding, Citizens were regularly assured by the local media that the Sun, indeed, shone its very brightest in their country, and that its people were – without a shadow of a doubt – most content with their lives and lots.

Following one lavish speech by a certain Member of Parliament – the wealthiest man in the City, who spoke to the people without prevarication, with a lofty style and his head held high – the Republic was named Phenomenublic. His speech was so eloquent and inwrought with poetry.

Many people disliked this flamboyant style and immediately left the premises. Thus they missed on learning about phenomenization.* Yet this citizen, this idealist (to some extent, yes, even a revolutionary), this billionaire, this poet, did not miss the chance to open the door of Knowledge for his fellow Phenomenublicans, describing the terrifying effects of phenomenization with all its limitless powers in his work titled “Res Publicus Phenomesationes, in which he defined this, to put it mildly, unusual occurrence.

If a foreigner was to enter the Republic, he would take one look around and realize that the Republic was not quite what it had seemed. Parts of the city looked sophisticated, some of the sidewalks wrought in solid gold. The buildings were brand new, and the list of reforms published on the eye-catching billboard aprawled across the government building (formed by the coalition of leading parties – CURSE /Communist Ultra Resident Suburban Entente/ and SCOURGE /Solvent Communist Offspring Union Relevantly Guiding Employees/) grew longer by the day. Stepping around the handful of newly built edifices, however, the traveler would find himself staring at ruined asphalt pockmarked with manholes.

Behind those, caught in a strange trance verging on insanity, toothless beggars would emerge with blindfolds over their eyes. Within the shadows of multiple stairways, the narrow streets hid their leprous residents feeding on refuse – those were the losers of phenomenization. The winners – strictly for the greater good, of course – spun stories of the brighter future for these wretches, attempting to allay any and all thoughts of ire, offensive or revenge.

“Dear losers, rejoice! For hunger is the mother of ingenuity and without your leprosy there would be no splendour of this City. It is all, as Buddha had said, just one big spiral going from one extreme to another only to stop in the middle.” And the Losers were satisfied. The greater their satisfaction, the bigger their chances were of becoming clerks or venal top dogs.

“We strongly recommend a bird brain,” the authorities advised a Loser with a scheduled frontal lobotomy. “You will make a grand Minister of health one day,” they’d say.

Mere visitors, however, knew not the secret of this land – it was known to the Grand Pulpiteer alone. To all questions like “Are those just ragamuffins who will put up with anything as they wait, stuck in a manhole, for the arrival of better days ?” he would answer thusly:  “Each and every one of them is infinitely more avaricious, infinitely more hypocritical, than any of those living upstairs in their golden pavilions. You should be aware, my good people, that all the mighty patricians you pout and glower about used to live in manholes once. The roles change, it is only I that remain the same,” whereupon he would laugh and fall into the sweetest of dreams.

II

Preparations for the memorial service were well under way in the Phenomenublic – dully covered by the daily newspapers Informer,The Phenomenublic News and each and every one of the 76,548 Phenomenublican TV stations.

“Boris K has died – a bohemian and an intellectual, a Loser with no regular occupation, declared redundant. Penultimate among the last, or so it has been said, yet once upon a time the ultimate coffee bringer. A seasoned communist and ‘the most eminent of glass cutters’, an honorary member of the Nutritionist Association. His faithful admirers flock in from the remotest of areas… Members of the Losers’ Party are expected to attend the funeral; the widely famous State Jester will be performing fairy tales in the style of One Thousand and One Nights, sponsored by the publishing house Scheherazade & daughter,” thundered from the loudspeakers mounted atop the Phenomenublican government building.

The news were received with no small amount of surprise, as Boris K. was known to be healthy as a horse.

“Considering how many tons of protein powder he pumped into his muscular superhero body, we kind of expected him to live at least ten times as long as Methuselah,” some said.

“But haven’t you heart he was a bit… Especially as of late,” the others whispered.

“It has to be the alcohol that finally got to him,” still others mused.

Regardless of being a gym regular, it was a fact well known that Boris K. was no stranger to tossing back a drink or two (just to relax, mind you) before returning to the latest job he was assigned to – that of an armourer. He was cleaning semi-automatic rifles at the National Museum when, as rumour would have it, one of them accidentally went off.

Accidentally? Boris K had a significant number of enemies.

One of them was known to be the rude mustachioed post office clerk. Infuriated by Boris’ “Operation Feather Pillow” which he used for courting women – soliciting them in passing and, contrary to all logic and necessity, slapping their behinds while flaunting his flexor muscles – and utterly outraged by being the only female Boris K. had failed to smack, she threatened revenge, becoming more aggressive towards her Post office clients with every passing day.

Others pointed their fingers at the mayor Haji-Honorstone.

Others still were quite adamant in their beliefs: “A completely kooky guy; I’m glad he is dead. And I will surely attend the commemoration.”

Whether they hated him or loved him, prior to his completely unexpected and sudden death he was respected by many for his contradictory nature: “A bit strange, but most industrious lad.” He really did give the impression of being a young man.

Boris did not mince words. He was known as a traveler through space and time, an urban legend equally respected for his relentless devotion to work as for his wealth of both manual and intellectual skills.

“The best known taxi driver in the world after De Niro,” the citizens of Phenomenublic whispered amongst each other.

A rumor spread recently that Boris K. was working on something very important before he died and that many different hands were involved in his “departure”. It was expected “never to be completely explained”.

The Phenomenublic Jester, a man of vast imagination (and, if the local lore and beliefs are to be trusted, Boris’ own fraternal twin brother) was invited to deliver the eulogy. Before long, scenery of impressive proportions was set on the main Phenomenublican square.

“Let us bury him, and get it over with once and for all!” Head of the Ventriloquist Association swore up and down that those were the exact words the Prime Minister Paramountson, affectionately referred to as “Whitebeard”, uttered upon the occasion.

The memorial service was held on a sunny day, under an almost white sky adorned by little but the pompous sun. And what a service it was! First to arrive were the Losers. They sat themselves down by the open waste containers, hardly believing their luck in managing to escape the manholes. Dressed in formal black suits and white hats in honor of Boris K they devoured the food prepared, piously planting handfuls of altar candles into the ground. Eventually they settled down to listen to the advertised stories, as told by the Jester, the waste container genie.

Professional sound systems guaranteed the quality of sound. Powerful video beams placed at the main square, where the memorial service was scheduled to be held, alternately displayed video messages, advertisements, and the gloomy face of the pondering Jester; he was planning on using the final part of his speech to demystify a secret: who exactly was Boris K?

The Jester sighed deeply, Boris’ favourite striped t-shirt held firmly in his hands. Everyone present – including those who had absolutely no idea who this Boris K. fellow was – burst into tears.

Are you wondering who Boris K. was yet?

Spreading his hands, the Jester glanced at the sky and approached the microphone. Catching a glimpse of the reflection of his own weary figure sprawled across the video wall, he began thusly:

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A word or two on Boris K.

Boris K. – The First Loser of Phenomenization

Some countries were ruled by the Inquisition. Others were subject to questionable privatizations. Boris K’s country was exposed to inexplicable phenomenizations. For Boris K, a man with no permanent occupation, phenomenization was so unexpected that he had no choice but to come to terms with it.

He got into different time periods without the use of a time machine. He found himself performing strangest of jobs without ever applying for them. He kept adapting to the situation, akin to a player advancing to the next level in an unpredictable computer game.

“What have I ever done to deserve the things happening to me?” Boris K. wondered. “I am no different than any other semi-skilled worker who got carried away by the idea of equality in our Republic. I enthusiastically neglected to further my education for the sake of blind faith in “better times” when the voice of the small, the ordinary, and the nameless would be heard as well.”

Boris K. was prepared to endure greatest of sacrifices in order to achieve this goal. As one of the deserving participants at the end of the great Revolution he was offered great benefits – which he promptly refused with utter disgust. It was against just such privileges that he had fought in the first place, he claimed, hence benefiting from them would be contrary to his beliefs. So he settled for an assembler’s job on a car factory production line, where he happily worked 12 hours a day fitting mirrors on the passenger doors.

One day he was laid off. Introduction of new technologies and reductions in work force, or at least that was what he was told; he was well aware the real cause lay in that ultimate evil slowly but surely corroding the fabric of humanity – the profit. Disposed of like an exhausted battery, empty hearted and with eyes full of tears, he moved from his humble but furnished apartment to the so-called “Lepers’ Valley”. The place was nicknamed for its inhabitants: hardly true lepers, but merely desperate souls befallen by a fate similar to Boris’ own. It was dubious in which of the two skins they would have thought themselves better off. The ancient buildings huddling together in irregular patterns, the abodes of unhappy families, were not made of concrete reinforced with Pittsburgh steel; they were built with eco-bricks with insulating layers of pure asbestos, which almost certainly guaranteed the tenants a case of lung cancer. As if there was not enough trouble in their lives.

It was in such a building that Boris K. found his new apartment. It was not the vacancy ad that attracted him, but rather the unusual appearance of the landlady – who was in a habit of swatting at the heads protruding from the adjacent manholes using the highest-circulating newspapers of the City.

“Like swatting flies,” thought Boris K, eyes fastened on a greasy rosary. Frau Suzy (as the landlady was called) and Boris K. exchanged just one glance and immediately recognized each other. Brushing his graying hair back, Boris K inquired about the price. The Frau leveled one measuring, scornful look at him, flicking the ash from her cigarette holder straight onto his hole-pocked shoe. Boris K glanced at her defiantly. Frau’s response came in a raspy, ancient voice.

“Ha!”

It was a mantra that meant one thing and one thing only and was uttered by the old woman only on the rarest of occasions. Boris K. liked mature blondes with an attitude, so he decided he would start his mission in that very unfortunate place.

Mission? What mission?

You will find out soon enough.

* Phenomenization, phenomenosition, from fenomenon (gr. φαινόμενо, occurence), something observable but utterly mysterious and untraceble, and better kept that way.

PHENOMENIZATION

from

Res Publicus Phenomesationem The people of the Republic have fathomed the secret of the phenomenization by the agency of a mysterious clairvoyant gammer: since the Parliament was hit by a lightning at the moment when there were 111 storks on the roof, 222 members in the building and 333 rants under the foundation – the famous phenomenization occured. The thoughts of storks, rats and Members of Parliament commingled in the air and fell to the ground. Thus certain individuals realized they preferred living in the sewer, others keep trying to fly and carry babies, while the rest just keep babbling about politics. Anything is possible in the land of phenomenization.

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