On a scorching summer day, Stefan leaves his life on this Earth. He goes to a better world. He leaves at the sunset as if following the path of the golden globe beyond the horizon. Yes, he is or... he was being in the autumn of life, but he would have had much to say on the furrows of the dearly worked land, in the Transylvanian village where he was a man of honor.
I'm looking at my brother with my eyes open and I don't find him at all in that soulless body whose lips will never again be calling me, ”Grigore, my bro'.” I lean with my elbows on my knees in front of the oak coffin. A candle flickers discreetly around.
It seems I fall asleep for a moment. Stefan's voice deep and sonorous, as I knew it as a child, wakes me up.
”Grigore! Don't cry, my little brother, don't cry! You should go in your future time. You'll see if there are reasons for crying…
I wake up dazed with my face bathed in tears but I don't know where I am. The place bears no resemblance to the alley of home. Here there are not houses like ours. Huge boxes with glass eyes are rising high to the sky.
I'm rubbing my eyes and I'm feeling dizzy. I'm in a room as big as my whole house, tall as three of the houses like mine. In the middle of the room, it is a garden with tall bushes with leaves like swords, trees with unusual leaves, like the palms of the giants from our old mountains. Playful splashes of water flow on a rock wall. I am amazed. How is it possible this garden here, inside? I'm rubbing again my eyes: “God! I passed away too! Where am I, Lord? In Heaven or in Hell? Would Ștefan have taken me with him? ”
There's a lot of hustle and bustle next to me. A motley world gathers and spreads all around, according to reasons hidden for me. Everyone is dressed like people in the town or like us on Sundays when we go to church, but yet totally strange. There are so many people around. That it's as if all the humans living in neighboring villages have purposely gathered to drive me crazy. A young man passes me; he almost takes me down but he doesn't seem to see me. A woman at about thirty-five years old seems to be looking through me, somewhere behind me. I turn back to see what she sees. My gaze stops on a man in his forties with eyes open in wonder. The man looks like Ștefan, my brother, a few years ago, but he has highly strange clothes.
"Hey, Steven, have you arrived, man?" A tall, solid man with a face marked as if by something strange and slippery is saying this. He hostile looks in the eye at the other one named Steven. This one turns his gaze slightly surprised.
"You are Greg, aren't you?"
I'm amazed at understanding what these people are saying in front of me. It's not at all in my home language. I have no idea how it is possible to understand their words. I clearly hear how my Ștefan now is called Steven by the other man that I can see only from his back. The names sound similar to me, but they are not the same! And when the other man turns his face, my knees are melted. I see myself in my youth, except I look like a man more sophisticated dressed up, but still solid and strong like God left me on Earth. The man's name seems to be Greg, as I hear it, and mine is Grigore, or briefly Gore. Something on this man's face makes me goosebumps.
I take a few steps towards the two men. I'm intrigued and curious. I get very close; I almost feel the warmth of their bodies. But they don't see me; it seems I'm impossible to be noticed. My mind is asking myself: Did Lord take me, too? It seems affirmative. But where did he take me?"
"Are you surprised to see me here?" Don't forget, man, we're both nominated, right? says the one like me. The emphasis on the word ”both” confuses Steven a little. Honestly, it intrigues me too, that I feel something evil inside. My ”new brother” named Steven, and I, seem to be trying not to give too much importance to the feeling of discomfort caused by the meeting with the solid man. I had never had rivalries with my brother from home, Ștefan. But these two seem to have something important to struggle for, one against the other.
I'm looking at this story around me like I would look at the theater we go to from time to time in the village when a band from the world comes to take us out from the usual way of our lives. That home theater always gave me trouble to understand it. In fact, in the end, I always said in my mind "well"! That meant that those stories brought from the world also revealed their own feelings: love and evilness, joys, and sorrows. They were not like ours, but they existed for them like our own feelings for us. And that conclusion has always been good for me, made me feel better.
I suspect this theater of now, takes place in the other world, as long as I do not know the place where I am and the times I’m being. The question still remains: will it lead me to the same conclusion?
… Steven is a little older than Greg, but he looks younger.
This may be due to the fact that his figure is noble, his height and structure are more delicate, in spite of his strong and well-bound body.
I can clearly see that the man who looks like me hides envy into his eyes. But Steven doesn't care to see that. Even that young woman looking through me, whom the solid man calls Cecil, doesn't seem to see anything of the face of the snake circling both of them.
Everyone is talking about an award. I realize it's a reward for something all three did well. As far as I understand, they are all from a guild. But it's clear to me that they don't come from the same places. They are talking about some realms with names that I've only heard from the teacher of our village, and from the ones coming randomly from the big cities to sell us sweet lies or desired but impossible dreams.
I don't think that it is, for Steven's side, about a rivalry for the same award. He doesn't inspire an egocentric attitude. It's not the same for the other one, Greg. I find out from their conversation that they have the same profession, the same dedication to it, at least at first glance, remarkable results each on his own slice. That now led them to this joint nomination for a coveted award. There are five nominees, they, Steven, Greg, and Cecil, plus Arnold and Kathy, two professionals from another part of the world.
Steven seems to be the favorite in this race, according to the heard discussion. „O, God, how much he looks like my brother! The prize doesn't appear to matter for him. He is genuinely like my Ștefan. He, all his life, as soon as finished a good job, was already thinking about what he was going to do further.
To be honest, I'm not like my bro'. I'm waiting to be praised, I do like it; it tingles on my chest when I win a fight. Ștefan always rejoiced in the fight itself more than the status of a winner. So seems to be this one, Steven. For him, the nomination is a success in itself. Further, what God wants! Steven's mind is already fleeing to future work projects, to the implications and barriers that need to be overcome. ”How can such a resemblance be so long preserved during history? Is it always a resemblance or not?” My eyes focus worried, on that man looking like me.
Steven turns to Greg trying to be friendly.
”Well, pal..what's new in your life? ” Steven's voice sounds benevolent and polite.
”You're not too curious, are you? What! Are you afraid of me that I'm overtaking you? ” The overtaking is possible right now. Watch out!. Greg says all these with an almost undisguised resentment.
I can hear this guy, looking like me, laughing. It is a bad, shrill laugh, though the slap on Steven's shoulder is meant to be friendly. I'm deeply feeling a cold shiver on my skin, like when you touch a snake. Steven looks like feeling the same and shows the intention to leave. I am nailed to the place, but no one can see me.
"Hey, where are you running to?" Greg stops Steven with a sticky attitude. ”Can't we have a drink? I'll pay for, don't worry!”
"Honestly, I would like to eat something, rather than drink," he says.
"Okay, if you are abstinent, just eat. As for me, I have no reason to abstain. "
I feel the same treacherous malice in his colleague's wording. That new emphasis now on abstinence sounds damn weird. Steven notices this, too.
A thought revolts me. ” No, this guy can not be me; he cannot be my descendent even in another world.” He's evil from the core of his being.
I'm praying that the one who looks like my brother will leave. A bad feeling, like a premonition, appears to engulf me. But Steven's too polite to do it. And I see him letting himself be taken to another room of that big box. Now I have understood from the conversation of those around me that we are into a hotel. They go to a restaurant and sit at a table. I want to sit to the next one, but, as no one can see me, I pull up the chair between them and sit at their table. They don't seem to notice.
For a while, they are talking about their lives.
Steven is talking. When he searched his genealogy out of curiosity, he really found that that ancestor Ștefan, a Romanian from Transylvania, had a brother Grigore. They were called in their time Fănucă and Gore of Rotaru (wheelmaker). This was because their father made cart-wheels, with elegant spokes and beautifully hand-carved.
…"I'm really amazed, says Greg. ”It seems that sometime long ago, towards the bottom of our history, we both have roots in old Romania." He is for sure not at all excited. ”It would be genuinely weird that the ancestors of our ancestors, Grigore and Ștefan, would have been brothers.” He laughs again with that demonic laugh.
I'm looking at him and suddenly my eyes fill with tears of anger, of bitterness... Two dewdrops fall on the white tablecloth. Steven and Greg see them. Not me, but the tears are visible. They both looked up at the ceiling as if searching for a place where water droplets could fall from. They see nothing and quickly the men forget the issue.
Now, Greg's assumption that the old Gore could be his ancestor makes Steven shiver. He does not believe in this possibility, or more correctly he refuses this possibility. Especially since Greg told him that somewhere closer to their generation he had an ancestor in Sweden, named Greger. On the other side, he had among the more recent ancestors with a similar name, a man named Étienne in France. But who knows how the lives of their ancestors carried the seeds in the four winds?! Like the towering oaks that let their seeds fly away, the descendants of the Romanian brothers could have gone out into the wide world, and he, Steven, could be a hybrid product, of hundreds of years of history. Even with this explanation, a shiver gives an unpleasant sensation to Steven.
Greg cannot help to stress his unpleasant feeling: "Hm, the Romanian, my ancestor, like his brother, was obviously a peasant from Transylvania. It's good that his descendants snatched his seeds from the clutches of his fate ". There is contempt in his voice.
I'm watching this guy snatched from the clutches of my fate, first with wonder. Wherefrom his interest in my fate? I am alive, or at least I was until a few moments ago, I have wife and children, I have brothers and grandchildren, I have what I need, what is the claw that presses me? Again my eyes are filled with tears, only angry tears this time, falling silently on the tablecloth. I look at Steven. He reaches out his hand and caresses the drops that dampen the white of the tablecloth. In a quiet voice, he seems to caress me too.
" My ancestor named Stefan, Greg, as well, was a peasant, but honestly, I think his life, there on Romanian Transylvanian land, although simple, was clean and rich. A different kind of wealth than what we value today "
To be sincere, I am a little relieved that Steven, the far successor of my dear bro' doesn't seem to agree with this guy who looks like being my descendent. ”Is he from my seed?” Greg's face looks like a master of slaves'. I am shuddering. Now I don't shed tears. I just gnash my teeth. But that is not heard.
Eventually, Steven, obviously tired and bored by Greg's noisy and somewhat aggressive chatter, decides to leave.
"Let's have at least another drink of water, what the Hell ?!" Greg's eyes widen and burn. His elbow touches purposely an object laying in front of Steven. It is a small box that he was holding on the table. From time to time, the box was ringing, and immediately after this, Steven used to hit it with his fingers with quick movements. The black box falls and Steven leans over to pick it up. Quickly, with agile movements, Greg puts something in Steven's glass of water. I would take the glass, but my hand can't touch it, just as we can't touch our fate, whatever we do. I'm looking desperately at how Steven is drinking. Cold sweats flood me.
"Okay, boss, leave, and go to bed like the fragile ladies. I'm still staying, it is far too early for me. " Greg's voice slaps like a crow's croak.
”Why is he talking so loud that everyone around can hear him?” Steven's amazement, like mine, is genuine, but Steven doesn't bother with it. I can't help thinking that Greg's obvious loud-speaking has a secret connection with dust poured into Steven's glass.
Cecil, the woman with her head in the clouds and her eyes in the beam, is just entering the restaurant when Steven comes out. They mutually, briefly greet each other.
Greg, as soon as his colleague got up from the table, takes the empty glass and tucks it under the folds of his trench coat. Then, with false joy, he jumps out and goes out to meet the woman with the same wide, sickening smile. Cecil, gentle, delicate, and short-sighted in relation to everything around her, easily is persuaded to sit at Greg's table.
Breathing with relief, Steven headed for the elevator.
The phone at the front desk rings loudly. It's about two in the morning. The receptionist picks up the receiver nervously but hears only a sort of loud strange sound at the end of the line. He looks in amazement at the signal from which the call is coming and alarms the guard towards the room in question.
The guard finds me, without seeing me, next to the crouching body of the man abandoned on the bed of the hotel room. His right-hand holds the handset of the indoor telephone. I couldn't help him with anything. I watched helplessly at his agony. He began to sweat profusely, he got up, took that black object he tried to scream at but only an uncertain sound came out of his throat. Without any power, I watched as my brother's descendant passed away. And I don't understand why I have to lose my bro' again. This is what I'm painfully feeling.
Then I see myself in a huge hall, with many chairs sitting like in a theater. Greg is on stage. I stopped thinking to him even a second as being from my seed. He climbs on the stage with his ugly face full of malice and arrogance. He lifts above his head a kind of cup for autumn wine. Or it's not a cup. I try to see better what it is. It appears like a golden object with a strange shape between a cup and a statue. Anyway, it doesn't matter. The brilliance of the object is lifeless in the face of the darkness and rot that comes out through the eyes, through the lips of the hideous individual who stands in front of so many people and grins.
I wonder when the officials will come to put him the bracelets on and take him where should be. And I am despised by this man!
A bitter taste floods my mouth, and my soul boils.
I wake up with my chin down and my knees shaking. In front of me, Ștefan's coffin stays still. I look at his face, which now seems so calm to me. It's like he's saying, "Do you see, Gore?" I did what was to be done in this world. My seed had a bright fate even though a branch was cut. See if you can fix something on your side. I know how you felt hearing your successor. But don't be sad. Life flows in its ford or fords anyway, as long as the earth lasts. It is important not to dry out.