by Dorota Lipa
Street lights were dancing in the quiet drizzle of nighttime, and Moses Kulig was on his way home. The streets were almost empty; only a last few people were rushing home. The moon’s light could still be seen through the heavy cloud and fog.
As Moses followed the main street of the city, it ended abruptly, and he found himself at the dead end of an alleyway. He surprised himself with the strange sense of joy he felt from his situation.
The silence pulsed like a divine orchestra, and the only audible noise emerged from the garbage containers at the base of the apartment building, lining the end of his path. “What the hell?” Moses murmured to himself. His thoughts continued, How could I have come to this place I don’t recognize?
On the other hand, his displacement evoked a strange sense of happiness and reflection, for Moses was normally a strict manager of his time. “Very well, then,” added Moses, loud enough as to prompt a stirring from behind the garbage containers.
“Very well, what?” exclaimed a faint voice, which took Moses by surprise as he saw no-one about. “Very well, what?” repeated the voice, a little more harshly this time, after which a figure appeared a few steps in front of Moses.
The sticky humidity of the late evening was still dressed in a thick fog and, because of it, Moses couldn’t quite recognize the figure standing in front of him. His heart cried, Criminal! and he remembered that there were still places in the city where it was unwise to go, even in the light of day. Nice, thought Moses, I have a watch and a bit of money, but what if that’s not enough?
The figure shifted impatiently, waiting for a response, but Moses was reluctant to vocalize any words towards the stranger. At that moment, Moses realized how fragile his life currently was.
What about my job... my wife... my children? Moses cared very much about his children, despite not having any. The stranger made a move, shifting a clumsy leg towards Moses, but at the same time he brought his head forward so that Moses could catch a glimpse of his face. “Do you have any matches?” asked the stranger, evening his stance.
Monster! thought Moses, and felt the hair on his body bristle when he saw the man’s appearance. In front of him stood an old, unclean man with a long silver beard and a full-length 19th-century fur coat. Not knowing how to reply to the man, he cleaned his throat and said in a voice he could not recognize, “Where am I?”
The silence was screaming, and the man glared back at him. “In Hell,” he said.
Madman! Moses thought. As God is my witness, this is a madman.
Take it easy, he assured himself silently, trying to maintain his composure. And the stranger still stood, motionless. Moses took another look at the man and thought, This man looks to be at least seventy years old. But on the other hand, without the beard, he could pass for much younger.
Not knowing what to say, Moses blurted out, “Warm night, wouldn’t you say?”
The only reply was an owl’s hooting from the branches of a tree. “Well?” answered the stranger finally. “The night might be warm, but the dawn can be downright chilly.”
The eyes of the two men connected at last. “I think I’m lost,” said Moses, still looking at the man. “I’ve lived so many years in this city and now I’m lost. Funny.”
The stranger started laughing and coughing at the same time. “Just like me,” he said.
Mmm... for sure a madman, thought Moses, trying to see the insanity in the man’s gaze. But it wasn’t there.
“Yep!” continued the stranger. “Almost forty years I’ve been lost, and there’s no return.”
“But that’s impossible!” said Moses. “Right around the corner, there’s City Hall.”
The stranger replied, “You’re right! There’s City Hall, and beside that there’s St. Roch’s Cathedral.”
“That’s right!” exclaimed Moses.
“That’s right... but yet, you’re lost.”
“Yeah... maybe it’s the weather. This fog is impossibly thick... I will go soon.”
“Hahaha!” The laugher of the old man bloomed like a bouquet of flowers in the middle of the night. “What’s your name?”
“Mine?” asked Moses. He looked around himself. “Moses.”
“Ah! Are you descended from the well-known Moses?”
Although that seemed an absurd question, at that moment Moses reflected on his past, as if there may be something. But he then ironically replied, “No, I’m descended from a lesser-known one.”
“Profession?” asked the stranger.
“Well... more or less...” Moses started reluctantly, half-ashamedly, as he knew his was a somewhat old and unfashionable occupation.
“Well? What do you do?”
“I’m a dream collector,” Moses said. The stranger lit a cigarette. Moses was a little more at ease.
The drops of rain got quieter and quieter with every passing minute. The top of the fog descended from above the trees to the ground and vanished, predicting a glorious morning. A completely dry moon emerged from the navy blue sky and fully lighted the entire alley.
“And you wish to know and fully understand the human soul?” asked the stranger, sounding more and more philosophical. “There were many men throughout the centuries who sacrificed their lives, who came up with different theories, traveled from country to country, searching sacred books... and found nothing!”
“Nothing?” questioned Moses. “But—”
“Nothing!” interrupted the stranger. “They died with the same hunger they started with, and without an answer! With dreams alone, you won’t prove the existence of the soul!”
The stranger looked at Moses with his ocean-blue eyes, and Moses looked back, trying to recognize someone who he couldn’t recall.
“Well! Write down this dream.”
* * *
Morning awoke with the tweeting of the birds. It was fresh and green, as if the previous night had never happened. Beams of sunlight were dancing through the leaves, and in the corner of the garbage container, something stirred. A man stood up, stretching his body. Moses Kulig, after polishing his long, silver beard, was once again ready to live another day.
Copyright © 2014 by Dorota Lipa