Chapter 29

That very morning I made up my mind to join her morning procedure.


At the beginning everything ran smoothly. I was standing under a tree touching different shoots. She was speaking about herbs. Then I lay down on the grass next to her. We were absolutely naked but I did not feel cold evidently, because it was after a good run which both of us had enjoyed before. I was in a perfect mood.


There was a feeling of some kind of lightness and the sensation was not only in my physical body but somewhere inside me. Everything started when I felt something on my hip was nipping, biting or pinching me. I lifted my head and looked, there were some kind of bugs, ants and a beetle on my leg and hip.


I swung my arm to smash them off but did not have time enough to do it as Anastasia intercepted my hand.

“Don't touch them”, she said.

Then she stood on her knees before me, bent over and pressed my other hand to the ground.


I was lying on the ground as if I had been crucified. I tried my best to get free but alas, I realized that it was absolutely impossible. Then I pushed with all my might but she was retaining me easily and while doing it she was even smiling. I was feeling the increasing sensation of crawling, bilking, biting and pinching all over me and my conclusion was that they had started to eat me.


I was in her hands in the literal and figurative sense of the words so I was trying my best to appraise the situation.

“Well, nobody knows where I am, nobody will drop in here by accident and if somebody would happen to come, they could see only my picked bones if there were any left”.

Many other thoughts crossed my troubled mind within a moment.

Evidently, they were the reason why my instinct of self-preservation prompted the only one possible solution at that time. So, I applied all my strength and desperately clenched with my teeth her unprotected breast. While doing it I started to move my head from side to side. As soon as Anastasia screamed from pain I unclenched my teeth. She set me free, jumped up, pressing her one hand against her breast and waving with the other one. This was raised up and she was trying to keep smiling. I jumped up also and shouted feverishly shaking off all those crawling creatures.


I produced a howl of despair:

“You wanted to feed me to the skunks, you forest witch, but I am not going to yield to you so easily!”

Anastasia continued waving her hand and forcing herself to smile at the watchful surrounding. She glanced at me and slowly, not running as usual, went to the lake with her head drooped.


For a while I was pondering what to do.


I wondered whether to go back to the steamboat, and how would I find my way to it?

“Should I follow her, but what for?”

So, I went to the lake. Anastasia was sitting by the water, rubbing in her palms some kind of herb and rubbing its juice into the injured spot on her breast where one could see a huge black and blue spot, the result of my bite.


I stayed for a while marking time near her in silence and then asked,

“Does it hurt?”

Without turning her head she said,

“I would rather say that it pains me”.

She continued to rub in the herb's juice.

“Why did you decide to play this trick on me?”, I asked.


“I wanted to do the best of my ability. Your skin's pores are completely blocked. They don't breath. The tiny bugs could clean them; it is not painful at all, rather, it is pleasant”.

“What about the snake, it was sticking its forked tongue in my foot?”

“It was not doing any harm to you and if it did let its poison out, it would be only on the surface of your skin and I could rub it in right away. The muscles and the skin on your heel are growing numb”.

“Well, it is the result of the accident I've been involved in”, I commented.

For a while we were quiet.


Then feeling ill at ease without even realizing what I was saying, I asked,

“Well, why didn't he help you? Well, I mean somebody invisible as it had happened before when I had lost consciousness”

“He did not help because I was smiling. Even when you were biting me I was trying to smile”.

I felt a kind of shame for my behavior.


I gripped the bunch of the herbs which was near by, vigorously crushed them in my palms, kneeled before her and started to rub the black and blue spot with my wet palms.

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