Translated from the Russian by Gladys Evans
     Mir Publishers, Moscow, 1973
     OCR: http://home.freeuk.com/russica2
     Original title: "Хождение за три мира"

     No, this was a different
     Mr. Golyadkin, absolutely
     different, but at the same
     time absolutely similar
     to the former...
     F. Dostoevsky, The Double

     Nil admirari! Be astonished at nothing!
     A proposition borrowed from the philosophy of Pythagoras


     I was returning home by way of Tverskoi  Boulevard, walking up from the
Nikitskie Vorota. It was somewhere around five o'clock in the afternoon, but
the  Saturday crowds usually teeming the streets at this  hour by-passed the
boulevard, and the side-alleys were as deserted and quiet as they are in the
morning. The September  sky, utterly cloudless of a  sudden, gave no hint of
the nearness of autumn.  Not  one  yellow  leaf rustled underfoot and, after
last night's rain, even the faded late-summer grass between the trees seemed
as luxuriantly green as in May.
     I strolled leisurely along an alley, hesitating at every bench with the
vague idea of sitting down.  Finally I did, stretching  out my legs; and the
very  same  second  I  felt  as if  everything around  me  was slipping  off
somewhere, fading out and  spinning in  circles. I  don't usually have dizzy
spells, but now I gripped the  bench so as  not to fall. Everything opposite
me  on the  boulevard  -  trees and passers-by - vanished  in a lilac-tinted
mist. Exactly  like  in  the mountains  when clouds  creep to  your feet and
everything  around  disintegrates  and  melts into  the thick, wet,  cottony
flakes. But this  was no rain: a  pure dry mist swooped down, lapped all the
green from the boulevard, and then vanished.
     Literally vanished. In the blink of an eye, the  trees and bushes  were
back again,  like a repeated  sequence in a colour cinerama  film. The bench
opposite, with  its  deep seat, was  again in place and the girl in the blue
coat -  so  almost  listed missing -  sat  there  with her book.  Everything
looked,  ostensibly, as  before;  but  only  ostensibly  -  some inner voice
instantly  doubted it.  I  even looked around me to check my impressions and
contentedly reflected: "Nonsense, it's all the way it was. Exactly...."
     "No, not exactly," reflected that other inner voice.
     Was it another voice? I was arguing  with myself, but my conscious mind
seemed to be split in half for the argument was more like a dialogue between
two utterly unidentical and dissimilar egos. Any  thought that arose  was at
once countered by another which intruded from somewhere or  from somebody by
suggestion, but was aggressive and masterful.
     "The benches are the same."
     "They are not. On Pushkin Boulevard they're green, not yellow."
     "The alley walks are the same."
     "These are narrower. And where's the granite kerb?"
     "What kerb?"
     "And there's no lawn."
     "A lawn?"
     "Beside the court. There used to be a tennis-court here."
     By  now  I was  looking  around with a  feeling  of  growing alarm. The
double-ego  feeling  disappeared. I  suddenly  found  myself  in a  new  and
strangely altered  world. When you  walk along a street where  everything is
dear to you and familiar to the  eye, you do not notice  the little  things,
the details. But  let  them suddenly disappear, and  you  stop, caught by  a
feeling of confusion  and  alarm. The surroundings were only similar to, but
not exactly  the  same as  those I  knew  - I, who  had  strolled  along the
boulevard walks a thousand times or more.  Even the trees, apparently,  were
somewhat  different;  the  bushes weren't the  same; and for  some reason  I
called the boulevard Pushkin instead of Tverskoi.
     From  habit I looked at my watch, arid my arm froze in mid-air. Even my
jacket was different  from the one I'd put on that morning. As a  matter  of
fact,  it wasn't my jacket,  nor was  the watch mine, and a scar curved  out
from beneath the band, yet only about a minute ago no scar had been there at
all. But this  was an old scar, healed  long  ago, the track of a  bullet or
shell splinter. I looked down at my feet - even the shoes weren't mine but a
stranger's, with ridiculous buckles on the side.
     "What if my appearance has changed, and my age is not the same? What if
I'm not ...  me, at all?" came the burning thought.  I jumped to my feet and
ran, rather than walked, along the alley toward the theatre.
     The theatre stood in the  same place, but it was a different one,  with
an altered entrance and other billings. I did not  find one title I  knew on
the  list of its repertoire. But in the dark glass doors, unlit from inside,
a familiar face was reflected. It was my face. So far, it was the only thing
in this world that was mine.
     I was only now aware that my head ached. I rubbed my temples - it still
ached. I  remembered that somewhere near by, on the square I believed, there
should be a chemist's shop. Perhaps it had been spared, if I were lucky. The
square was already visible through the flashing interstices between the line
of  cars passing by,  and I hurried ahead, continuing to glance behind me in
confusion and alarm.  I could  not exactly  recall  the buildings that lined
Pushkin Boulevard, though these did not appear to be different -  except the
lamps over the doorways weren't the same eye-smacking ones and, what's more,
the street numbers were changed.
     Where  the green river of the boulevard flowed  into  the square, I was
literally turned to  stone: its mouth  was  empty.  Pushkin was gone. For  a
moment,  I thought my  heart stopped beating. The  naked  stone bald-spot in
place of the  monument  frightened me now, rather than alarmed. I  closed my
eyes, hoping the  delusion would pass. At  that moment, somebody passing  by
bumped  into me,  perhaps accidentally, but so hard that I was spun round on
my heels. The delusion really did disappear. I saw the monument.
     It stood far back in the square. Pushkin looked just  as thoughtful and
severe as  ever, his winged cloak negligently thrown over his shoulders - an
image dear to me from childhood. Even if it were in a different spot, it was
Pushkin! I began  to breathe more freely, though behind the monument I could
see an utterly unknown building, quite modern, with the huge letters ROSSIYA
across its facade.  Hotel  or  cinema? Only  yesterday,  there  had  been  a
six-teen-storey  building  here, with  the  Cosmos restaurant on  the ground
floor, and flats above. Everything  was  similar,  yet  dissimilar, familiar
down to the smallest detail, yet it was the details most of all that altered
the familiar  look. For instance,  I found  the  chemist's  shop in the same
spot,  the salesgirls  stood  behind the counters  wearing  the  same  white
smocks, identical  queues  crowded  round  the cashier's  booth,  and in the
optical section they  were  still selling  eyeglasses with  the  same  ugly,
uncomfortable  frames.  But when I asked  a  girl for  some pyrabutan  for a
headache, she gave me a puzzled grimace.
     "Never heard of it."
     "Well, for a headache."
     "No," I muttered vaguely. "Pyrabutan."
     "There's no such thing."
     My stupidly foolish look drew a pitying smile.
     "Take  these  3-in-one tablets." And  she threw  a small packet on  the
counter - a box I'd never seen before.
     In  my trouser pocket  I  found a handful of silver  coins -  the money
could hardly  be told  from ours.  Later, sitting on a  bench by the Pushkin
monument, I made  a thorough search  of all the pockets in the suit bestowed
on  me by  a whim of fate. The  contents would  have stumped any  detective.
Besides  some change  I found a few one- and  three-rouble  notes that  were
quite different  from ours, a crumpled tram ticket,  an  excellent  fountain
pen, and an almost new pocket-notebook with only a few pages torn out. There
were no documents or identification cards  to give me a hint  as to  what or
who my double was.
     I  no  longer  felt any  fear: there  remained  only  a  sharp, nervous
curiosity. I tried not to  dwell  on how long my  intrusion into  this world
would  last, or how it would  end - all kinds of conjectures, even the  most
terrifying, could be made on the subject.  But what was I to do  while I was
on this free trip  into the unknown? I wouldn't be let  into  a hotel. Where
could  I spend the night, if my sojourn was a long one? Perhaps at home,  or
with friends - after all, the owner of the suit must live somewhere,  and he
probably  had friends. The  cream of the joke would be if they turned out to
be my friends. What  if the whole thing were a dream? I slapped the bench as
hard as I could - it hurt! So it wasn't a dream.
     For a brief moment I  thought I saw a face I knew. Sauntering past went
a broad-shouldered, brawny  fellow carrying a cine-camera. I recognized  the
tuft of hair falling over the forehead, the massive shoulders and iron neck.
Could it be my neighbour, Zhenka Evstafyev, from flat 5? But why did he have
a cine-camera? He had never snapped a picture with any kind of camera in his
     I jumped up and ran after him.
     "Excuse me," I stopped him,  staring at the  familiar face. "Aren't you
Zhenka? ... Evgeny Grigoryevich?"
     "I'm afraid you're mistaken."
     I blinked my eyes  in  perplexity: the  likeness was perfect.  Even the
timbre of the voice matched.
     "Well, am I like him?" laughed the stranger.
     "It's amazing."
     "It happens," and he shrugged and went his way, leaving me in a turmoil
of confusion.
     It still seemed to me that all  this  was some kind of game, or a trick
of fate. In a moment Zhenka would come back  and we should have a good laugh
over it. But he didn't.
     Later, when I recalled this day, what came to mind first of all was the
feeling of perplexity  and  confusion.  And one thing more  - the unbearable
loneliness  of  being in a city where  I'd known every stone from childhood,
yet which had wholly  changed during a few seconds of dizziness. I  gazed at
the faces of the passers-by in the vain hope of seeing one I knew. What for?
Probably he  wouldn't  have recognized me any  more than Evstafyev  had  ...
besides, what could I say to anyone who did?
     And exactly that happened.
     "Sergei! Sergei Nikolaevich!" A medium-tall, grey-haired man hailed me.
He was wearing a suede zippered  jacket. (I had never seen this man before.)
"Come here a minute."
     I got up. My name really was Sergei, and even Sergei Nikolaevich.
     "Just  listen to the latest." He took me  confidentially by the arm and
said softly: "Hang on to yourself. Sichuk stayed behind."
     "What Sichuk?" I asked, surprised. "Mikhail?"
     "Who else? We've only one Sichuk. All the worse for us."
     I had known Mikhail Sichuk  during the war at the front.  Now he worked
either as a photographer or as a  news cameraman. We weren't  friendly,  and
never got together.
     "What do you mean - stayed behind?"
     "What do I mean? He  was touring  Europe on the Ukraine.  You  get  it,
don't you...?"
     I  didn't get  it at all.  But,  sensing  the  circumstances,  I  acted
     "At the last foreign  port he stayed behind, skipped - the scum! Either
in Turkey or  West Germany: don't  know which way they were heading,  to  or
from Odessa."
     "The scoundrel," I said.
     "There'll be trouble."
     "For whom?"
     "Well,  those who  vouched for him, and so on," laughed the man  in the
suede coat. "Fomich is fit to be tied; he made a beeline for head office. It
has nothing to do with you, of course."
     "I should hope not," I said.
     The unknown released my arm and gave me a friendly jab on the back.
     "You look a bit sour, Sergei. Or maybe I'm butting in?"
     "In what way?"
     "Are  you  in  throes  of composition ... or waiting for  somebody? Why
aren't you at the editorial office?"
     I was  not attached to any  editorial office. I  had  to break off  the
conversation somehow - it was getting a bit too hot to handle.
     "Business," I said vaguely.
     "You're  up to something, old  fellow," he said with a wink.  "Well, so
     He vanished from my life as quickly as  he had come into it. And like a
man thrown for the first time into deep water begins to learn the motions of
a swimmer,  I also began  to find  my bearings in the unknown. Curiosity got
the better  of fear and  alarm. What had I found  out so far?  That  here my
appearance was  the  same,  and my  name too. That Moscow  was  Moscow, only
different in detail. That  there  existed an  Odessa, Turkey and a  Germany.
That the  S.S. Ukraine, as in our world, made runs around Europe. That I was
connected with  a certain editorial office, and  that in this world  Mikhail
Sichuk was also a rotten bit of scum.
     So I  was  not  much surprised when, going  down  the steps towards the
Rossiya cinema - as I had already guessed, the building was a cinema - I ran
into  Lena.  I was  bound to meet somebody who knew me,  both here  and from
whence I came.
     Elegant as ever,  Lena was walking  along in  her usual absent way, but
she knew me at once and was even a bit embarrassed, or so I thought.
     "Is that you? Where are you coming from?"
     "Just off a camel. Well, how are things over there?"
     "Where?" she asked, surprised.
     "At the hospital, of course. Did you just get off?"
     She was even more surprised.
     "I don't understand, Sergei. What are you talking about? I've only been
in Moscow three days."
     I had seen her this morning in the office of the Head Doctor when I was
telephoning the  Brain Institute. Before that, we  met every day  or  almost
every  day when  I happened to be in the  therapeutic department.  So I  was
silent,  painfully  seeking  a  way out  of  what  was  a  clearly  critical
situation. The road into the unknown certainly teemed with pit-falls.
     "Sorry, Lena,  I'm getting awfully  absent-minded. And besides ... it's
so unexpected, meeting you...."
     "How are  you  getting along?"  she asked, with  what  seemed to  me  a
metallic note.
     "So-so," I answered cheerfully. "I manage to get by."
     She was silent a long time, taking a good look at me. Finally, she said
dryly: "What an odd conversation. Very odd."
     I realized  she would  leave me  in  a minute, and  my  only chance  of
finding a place to  put down anchor  here, for at  least  twenty-four hours,
would disappear with her. My incursion into the unknown could scarcely  last
longer than that. I had to take a stab at it. And I did.
     "Look,  I've got  to talk  to you, Lena. I really have  to. Something's
happened, you see...."
     "What, exactly?" Her eyes narrowed suspiciously.
     "I can't talk about it  on the street." I hurriedly searched for words.
"Where are you ... living now?"
     She was slow in answering, apparently weighing something or other.
     "At present I'm at Galya's."
     "Where's that?"
     "As if you didn't know."
     I certainly did not know. I didn't even ask what Galya she meant. But I
had to make her agree. It was my last chance!
     "Please, Lena...."
     "It's awkward, Sergei,"
     "My God, what nonsense!" I cried, thinking of the Lena I knew.
     But this was an utterly  different Lena, who watched me  guardedly, not
at all like a friend.
     "Well then ... come on," she said at last.

     We walked in silence, hardly exchanging  a  word.  Apparently,  she was
nervous but tried not to show it; and withdrawn, perhaps even regretting her
bargain. From time  to time I  caught her giving me a  searching, suspicious
glance. What was she suspicious or afraid of?
     I immediately  recognized the house in Staro-Pimenovsky Alley. My  wife
had lived here once, before we became acquainted. Incidentally, her  name is
Galya too.
     To my disgust, my knees began trembling.
     "What are you looking like that for?" she asked.
     I continued to  look silently around the room. Like everything  else in
this  unknown world, it  was  both like and  unlike.  Or maybe I had  simply
     "Whose room is it, Lena?"
     "Galya's, of course. What strange questions you  ask,  Sergei.  Haven't
you been here before?"
     I had difficulty  swallowing.  Now I would  give  her  another  strange
     "But hasn't she ... moved?"
     Lena gave me a somewhat frightened glance; she moved a bit away as if I
had said some monstrous absurdity.
     "Have you never met?"
     "Why do you ask?" I countered, uncertainly. "Of course we have."
     "When did you see her last?"
     I burst out laughing and blurted out: "This morning. At breakfast."
     But I immediately regretted saying it.
     "Don't lie. What  are  you lying for? She's  been at the institute from
yesterday afternoon. Worked all night. And she's still not back."
     "Can't a fellow joke?" I replied, foolishly, realizing I was getting in
more and more of a muddle.
     "Strange way of joking, I'd say."
     "Maybe  we're not talking  about the  same person?" I put in, trying to
improve matters.
     She wasn't  even  angry, she  merely frowned  like  a doctor who  sees,
without quite understanding, the symptoms of a disease under observation.
     "I'm talking about Galya Novoseltseva."
     "Why 'Novoseltseva'?" I asked, genuinely surprised.
     The cold eyes of a doctor now looked at me with professional interest.
     "You've lost your memory, Sergei. They were already registered to marry
when war broke out."
     "Never  mind,"  I  muttered,   wiping  a   perspiring  brow.  "I   only
     "What  I'm  doing here  with the  woman who  stole my chap, right?" she
laughed,  losing for a  moment the curiosity of a professional doctor. "Even
then, I didn't feel hurt, Sergei. Imagine the  luck - my chap  left  me. But
now ... why, it's even funny.  It was so long ago.... And my next after that
- you know..." she sighed. "I'm not lucky in love, Sergei."
     It is hard to map  out every  step  you take in an unknown world. And I
put my foot in it again, forgetting where I was and who I was.
     "Who's in your way now, with Oleg?"
     There was so much horror in that cry, I involuntarily shut my eyes.
     "Something's wrong with your memory, Sergei. One  doesn't forget things
like  that.  Galya  received the  official  death  notice  as  far  back  as
forty-four. You couldn't help but know that."
     What did I know, and what didn't I? Dare I really tell her?
     "You're  either pretending,"  she said, "or  you're  sick.  And I think
you're sick."
     "Then go ahead and  ask me what day of the month  it  is, and the year,
and so on."
     "I still don't know what I should ask you."
     "So  tell me the diagnosis,"  I  shot back, getting angry. "Gone crazy,
that's all!"
     "That's not the medical term for it. There are various kinds of psychic
disorders.... What did you want to talk to me about?"
     By now I had no desire to.  If I told her the  truth, she would send me
off to the lunatic asylum at once. I had to wriggle out of this somehow.
     "You see,  the  thing is..." I began a hurried improvisation. "A simply
deplorable thing happened.... The most deplorable...."
     "You've already said that. But what?"
     "As a matter of fact, I've left home.  Left my wife. I  shan't  go into
the reason. But I need shelter. Just for the night. Nox lodgus, vulgaris, to
put it coarsely...."
     I fell silent. She said nothing either, only examined her fingertips.
     "Haven't you any friends to go to?"
     "To some  I can't, and with others  it's  inconvenient. You know how it
is, sometimes...." I tried not to look at her.
     "What if you hadn't met me?"
     "But I did."
     She was still wavering. "It's awkward, Sergei."
     "Can't you see that for yourself?"
     "You  know what?" I  was getting angry again. "Call a  psychiatrist. At
any rate, I'll get put up for the night."
     I looked into  her eyes: the professional-doctor look  had disappeared.
Now there was only a frightened woman.  The incomprehensible is always a bit
     "The room isn't mine," she spoke gently. "We'll wait for Galya."
     "And what if she spends the night at the institute again?"
     "I'll phone her. The telephone's in the hall.  Take a seat while you're
     She  went  out, leaving  me alone  in  a room where  everything  seemed
familiar,  down  to the least  detail. I had  left  this  room to go to  the
Registry Office to be married. From  this room? No, not this one. The  whole
thing  was  something  like  in similar triangles:  certain  lines coincide,
others don't.
     I picked up a pencil from the table and wrote in my notebook:

     If  anything  happens  to  me,  advise  my  wife,  Galina  Gromova,  43
Griboyedov Street. Also  inform  Professors  Zargaryan and  Nikodimov at the
Brain Institute. Very important.

     I underlined the words 'very important' three times, pressing  so  hard
that the pencil broke.
     So whatever else I intended to write remained unwritten.
     After putting the notebook away in  my pocket, I realized I had flubbed
again. My Zargaryan and  Nikodimov would never get this letter. And here, in
this world, Galya Gromova bore a different surname.
     A ring sounded from the  front  hall, and  through the half-open door I
heard the click of a lock. Then Lena cried: "At last. I was just ringing you
     "What's the matter?" asked a voice - agonizingly familiar.
     "Sergei Gromov's here."
     "Well, that's fine. We'll have tea."
     "But  look, Galya ... he's sort of strange...."  Lena lowered her voice
to an inaudible whisper.
     "What's wrong, is he crazy?" were the words that reached me.
     "I don't know. He says he's left his wife."
     "Lord, what  nonsense.  He's playing a joke on you, Lena, and  you fall
for it. I saw her only half an hour ago."
     The door was  flung open. I  leaped to  my  feet, but couldn't move. My
wife stood in the doorway.
     The same face, the same  age, even  the  hairdo  was the same. Only the
ear-rings  were  unfamiliar,  and  I'd never seen her wear that kind of suit
before. I stood speechless, repressing my excitement by sheer force of will.
     "What did you make up all this for?" asked Galya.
     I was silent.
     "I just saw  Olga. She's gone home and expects you for supper. She said
you were going to take her to see the Leningrad Ballet."
     I was silent.
     "What kind of joke is this? And to play it on Lena. What for?"
     I  could  find  no  words  to  answer her.  Everything was ruined. What
explanation would satisfy them? The  truth? Who, in  my position, would dare
to tell the truth?"
     "Lena  says you're sick,"  Galya continued, giving me a searching look.
"Maybe you are really sick?"
     "Maybe I am," I repeated.
     I did not know my own voice: it seemed alien and far away.
     "Well  then," I  added,  "you  must excuse me. I guess  I'll  just  run
     "Where?" asked  Galya, with  a start. "We won't  let you go alone. I'll
take  you home." She looked out the window. "My cab's still there. Run after
it, Lena. Maybe you'll manage to hold it."
     Now we were alone.
     "What does all this mean, Sergei? I don't understand it," said Galya.
     "I don't either," I replied.
     "But even so?"
     "You're  a physicist,  I believe, aren't  you,  Galya?" I threw out  at
     She was sharply alert. "So what?"
     "Can you picture  the notion of a plurality of  worlds? Worlds existing
side by side?  Being at  the same  moment  both mysteriously remote and  yet
amazingly close?"
     "Let's suppose that. Such hypotheses do exist."
     "Then  just suppose that one of these worlds right next door is similar
to  ours. That it also has a  Moscow, only a wee bit different. Perhaps even
the  same streets,  but  with other ornamentation.  Sometimes, the very same
house but with a different street number. And that you are there, and I, and
Lena - only our relationships differ...."
     She  still didn't  get  it. But  I  had got fed  up with the  spiritual
masquerade long before. So I dared to open up.
     "Let's  suppose  that  in  that  other  Moscow  your  name isn't  Galya
Novoseltseva, but Galya Gromova. That six years ago you and I left this room
to be married at the Registry. And today a miracle happened: I broke through
the membrane barrier ... and looked  into your world. There you have a devil
of a problem for our limited brains."
     Now she looked at me with real fright. Probably  she was thinking along
the lines of Lena: a sudden madness, raving.
     "All right, let's leave  it  lie," I  said wryly. "Take me wherever you
wish, I  don't care. And don't be  scared  - I won't choke  you or kiss you.
There's Lena waving at us. Come on."

     Even  in  this world, Galya must have possessed her  usual  control.  A
minute later she was quite calm and collected.
     "I hope  we  won't start in on science fiction in front of  the cabby?"
she asked, on the way to the taxi.
     "So you consider it scientific?" I couldn't resist saying.
     "Goodness knows!"
     I  could  not  read  anything  special  on her  face. Her behaviour was
ordinary,  that  of  a clever woman  -  Galya's  way  with people  who  were
strangers  and  yet  whom  she found interesting. Attentive eyes, respectful
attention to a companion, unconsciously coquettish, mocking.
     "Why do you have Pushkin's  monument in  the  middle of  the square?" I
asked, as we drove past.
     "Where do you have it?"
     "On the boulevard."
     "You're lying about everything. Just as you lied about our going to the
Registry. And why did you say six years ago?"
     "Fate," I laughed.
     "Where was I six years ago?" she wondered, thoughtfully. "In the spring
I was in Odessa."
     "So was I."
     "Why do you lie? You never even came with us."
     "In your world I didn't, but in ours - on the contrary."
     "That's funny," she said, pronouncing every syllable. And added  with a
critical look at me: "But you don't give the impression of being a lunatic."
     "Nice to hear it," I wanted to say, but I didn't. A dark squall  hit me
right in the face. Everything went black.
     "What's  wrong?" I heard Galya's frightened cry, and  then her hurried,
excited words: "Driver, driver, pull  up somewhere by the pavement. He feels
     I  opened my eyes. The  mist  of bewitchment was still  swirling  round
inside the car. And through this fog a woman's face was staring at me.
     "Who is it?" I asked hoarsely.
     "Do you feel bad, Sergei?"
     "Galya?" I said, surprised. "How did you get here?"
     She did not answer.
     "Did  something happen  to  me  there ... on the boulevard?"  I  asked,
looking around me.
     "Yes, it did," said Galya. "We'll talk about it later. Can you go home,
or do you need a doctor?"
     I stretched,  shook my  head, and sat up straight. Clearly  I  could do
without a doctor.  While we  rode, I told Galya about walking along Tverskoi
Boulevard, about my  dizzy spell, and how I tried to talk  to myself in  the
midst of a lilac fog.
     "And afterwards," Galya asked, with sudden interest -  before  that she
had been listening now with distrust, now with indifference. "What  happened
     I shrugged in bewilderment.
     "Don't you remember?"
     "I don't remember."
     I  really didn't remember, and only on returning  home  did I find  out
from Galya what had happened at her place.
     "It was delirium," I said.
     With her love for expressing things precisely, Galya now  corrected me:
"For delirium, it's  very  consistent. Like playing  a well-rehearsed  role.
People don't rave like that. Besides,  delirium is a symptom of illness, yet
you don't give mo that impression."
     "But the fainting spell on the boulevard?" broke in my wife, Olga. "And
in the taxi?"
     As a doctor  she searched for a medical  explanation. But Galya  was as
doubtful as before.
     "Then what happened between the fainting spells?"
     "Some kind of somnambulistic state."
     "What do you think I am - a lunatic?" I told her, offended.
     "If it was a dream, then it  must have been a day-dream," put  in Galya
with  amusement, insistent on accuracy.  "Besides,  we saw the dream and not
Sergei. Speaking of dreams, do you still have them?"
     "What  have dreams got to do with it?"  I burst  out. "I fainted, and I
didn't see any dreams."
     I realized  only too  well that  Galya never played jokes on anyone. So
her  story about my wandering around  like a sleepwalker  - the only  way my
behaviour could  be described - seriously alarmed me.  Before, I  had  never
fainted or walked along the edge of a roof in the moonlight, nor had loss of
memory.  However, I could  find no explanation of the event that answered to
common sense.
     "Maybe it was the result of hypnosis?" I suggested.
     "Then who hypnotized you?" Olga frowned. "And where? At the office?  On
the boulevard? Nonsense!"
     "Right. Nonsense it is," I agreed.
     "Are you, by any chance, writing a  science-fiction story?" Galya asked
suddenly. "Your very intelligible  observation about the plurality of worlds
even aroused my interest....  Can  you  imagine,  Olga?"  she  laughed. "Two
adjacent  worlds in  space,  like similar  triangles. Both there and  here -
Moscow; there and here, a Sergei Gromov.  But you weren't there- -  instead,
he was married to me."
     "So the secret's out,"  joked Olga. "And the sleepwalker, of course, is
a visitor from another world in Sergei's likeness."
     "He explained it to me like this. Moscow, he said, was the same, only a
little bit  different. Pushkin's monument is on the square in our world, but
on the boulevard in theirs. I almost burst out laughing."
     Olga,  apparently, was thinking hard. "And you know what  might explain
things?" she asked,  suddenly animated, still seeking a rational explanation
even as I  was. "Look here,  didn't  Sergei know that the monument had  once
been moved? He did. So perhaps this  information, stored away in his memory,
became fixed in  his delirium? Some stimulation triggered  the  signal - and
there you are: the myth about an adjacent, similar world."
     These arguments only annoyed me.
     "It  makes  me  sick listening  to  you. Some kind  of  new variant  of
Stevenson's tale. A regular  Dr. Jekyll and  Mr.  Hyde. Only which is Jekyll
and which is Hyde?"
     "It's perfectly clear  who," parried Galya. "You wouldn't hurt yourself
in choosing between them."
     Olga did not understand, and asked: "Who are you talking about?"
     "About  international  imperialist  spies,  Olga,"  I  said  jocularly.
"Parachuted here from an unidentified plane."
     "I'm serious."
     "So am  I. Look, there is  a certain English writer, Stevenson by name.
Usually,  you read his  stuff when you're a teenager. However, even  doctors
do. For them, by the way, his  story is almost like a  course in psychiatry,
for Jekyll  and  Hyde,  in reality,  are the  same  man. To be more exact, a
quintessence of  the  good and  evil inherent in one person. By drinking  an
elixir that he discovered - medically speaking, a particular  combination of
sulphanilamide and  antibiotics  - the noble Dr.  Jekyll turned himself into
the scoundrel Hyde. Is that precise enough for you?" I asked Galya.
     "Quite. Search your pockets,  maybe  Hyde left some clues behind during
his temporary transmutation."
     I dug into  my pockets  and  threw on the  table a packet  of  headache
     "That must be one clue. I certainly never bought them."
     "Perhaps you put them there?" Galya asked Olga.
     "No. More than likely he bought them on the way home."
     "I didn't buy  anything,"  I put  in angrily. "And,  for the  record, I
didn't go into the chemist's."
     "That means Hyde did. Is there anything else he left?"
     I mechanically felt the inside pocket of my jacket.
     "Wait.  This  notebook doesn't belong here." I pulled it out and opened
it. "Something's written here. Where are my glasses?"
     "Give it here." Galya grabbed the notebook and read aloud: 'If anything
happens to me, advise my  wife,  Galina Gromova, 43 Griboyedov Street.  Also
inform Professors Zargaryan  and  Nikodimov  at the  Brain  Institute.  Very
important.' "The  'very important' is  even underlined,"  she laughed.  "And
Galina  Gromova, that's me, of course.  I already told you  his delirium was
consistent. Only  why Griboyedov Street? There's  Staro-Pimenovsky, and  now
it's Medvedev Street."
     "But have we  a Griboyedov Street?" asked Olga. "Somehow, I never heard
of it."
     "There is," I  interrupted.  "It used to  be  Maly  Kharitonevsky. Only
there's no building  on it  with  that  number. Apparently, Hyde had in mind
some avenue, rather than street."
     "But who's this Zargaryan?" Galya said, full of curiosity. "I know of a
Nikodimov.  He's a physicist, a rather famous one, by the way. Only he's not
at the Brain Institute, but at the Institute of New Problems in Physics. But
who this Zargaryan is, I really don't know."
     "But  Sergei  didn't write this!" cried Olga  suddenly.  "It's  not his
handwriting ...  though the 'v' has the same flourish and the down stroke in
the 't' is the same. Look for yourself!"
     I found my glasses and read the note.
     "The handwriting's  similar.  I wrote that way as a student. Working on
the paper spoiled my writing. I don't write like that now."
     I rewrote the lines  in  the notebook.  They differed  greatly from the
     "Ri-ight,"  drawled  Galya. "No  need  for  a handwriting  expert.  But
perhaps the handwriting changes when you're in a somnambulistic state."
     "I   wouldn't  know,"  said  Olga.  "Somnambulism's  in  the  field  of
psychiatry. It's a sort of  psychic upset that comes like lightning. I can't
explain it any other way. And I don't like all this, not at all."
     "Nor do I," Galya conceded.
     She read  and  reread  both  memorandums  in  the  notebook.  Her  face
reflected  not only concentrated  thinking  but repressed  anxiety.  Galya's
clear, logical mind did not want to give in to the inexplicable.
     "I  simply  can't explain it. Either scientifically or logically,  from
the standpoint of common sense, so to say. A person of absolutely sound mind
-  and  suddenly  he  turns  sleepwalker.  Of  course,  a  fainting  fit  is
understandable: a doctor  could find an explanation. But this raving about a
plurality of  worlds - that's  more like  something out of a science-fiction
story. And then his asking for a night's lodging,  for a roof over his head,
when the man has his own private flat."
     "Apparently my Hyde was  looking for  shelter," I laughed. "He couldn't
go to a hotel, d'you see."
     "Here's what I don't  like. The hypothesis about  Hyde explains it all.
But I prefer  dealing with pure science, rather than science fiction. Though
everything  about it  is fantastic. Now why, Sergei, did  you  ask to  go to
Lena's? You didn't know she lives with me."
     "That's new to me, even now. I've not seen Lena for ten years. I  can't
even imagine what she looks like."
     My adventure  in Galya's story surprised  me  more than anything  else.
Lena and I  never met, never corresponded. We'd probably even forgotten each
other's existence.
     "Is she an old flame?" asked Olga.
     "All of us went  to school together before the war," replied Galya. "We
were all going to  enter the medical faculty. But nothing came of it: Sergei
and  Oleg went to the front, and I got a  yen for physics. Only Lena went in
for medicine. By the way, she really was in love with you, Sergei."
     "With Oleg," I said.
     "All the girls ran after him," sighed Galya. "But I had the worst fate:
I won and lost." She stood up. "Peace be to thy house, but it's high  time I
left.  The council of detectives is  closed and Sherlock Holmes proposes  to
make an excursion into the realm of physics."
     "Psychology, you mean to say."
     "No,  I mean  physics.  I'm interested  in Zargaryan and Nikodimov, and
what they're doing in the Institute of New Problems in Physics."
     "Whatever  for?"  asked  Olga  in  surprise.  "I   should  apply  to  a
     "And I would choose Zargaryan. Who is he?  What is he engaged in? Is he
connected with Nikodimov? And if he is, then in what field?" Galya turned to
me: "Did you ever hear of either name?"
     "Maybe you read about them somewhere and have merely forgotten?"
     "I've never seen the names anywhere, nor have I forgotten."
     "And that's  the most  interesting  point  in  all  your somnambulistic
story. Physics, my dear,  physics. The Institute of New Problems in Physics.
New, remember!" And Galya turned to Olga. "You know what? Call Zoya and find
out about Zargaryan. She knows everybody."
     We decided to call Zoya in the morning.

     I fell asleep at once, and slept soundly right through till morning.
     Dreams, I might say, are  a peculiarity of mine that sets me apart from
other mortals. It wasn't by accident that Galya asked if I still had dreams.
I have them. They repeat  themselves, persistently, and are almost unchanged
in content, oddly like fragments of travelogue films.
     Naturally I also have ordinary dreams  in  which everything is confused
and foggy, both as to proportion and distortion, like in a Fun House mirror.
My recall of  such  dreams is so  vacillating and short-lived that they  are
hard to  recapture and describe. But the dreams I'm  talking  about  I shall
remember all my life, and I can describe them just as  precisely as I can my
     They are always in colour, and the colours  are as true  and harmonious
as in nature. In one I  see a spring-time meadow  appearing out of the night
mist,  flowering as profusely as  in real life.  Arid  I even  remember  the
designs on a girl's cotton-print dress that flashes for a moment through the
sunny dream. Nothing special happens in these  dreams: they do  not frighten
or  alarm me, but  have something  alluring about them, like  getting a tiny
peep into somebody else's life.
     The  one I see most frequently  shows a corner in a  strange  city, the
view of a  street which I've  never actually seen though  I can remember all
the details: the balconies,  shop  windows, the  lindens along the pavement,
the iron  grilles.  I can call them  all to mind as clearly as if I had seen
them but yesterday. I can even recall the  passers-by,  for  they are always
the same, even the black cat with white spots that  runs across the road. It
always crosses at one and the same corner, near one and the same house.
     Sometimes I see myself in  an arcade surrounded by shops  off galleries
like in Moscow's GUM  department store. But  the arcade has  only one storey
and  branches  off  into  numerous  side  alleys  that  run  lengthwise  and
crosswise. For  some  reason I am  always waiting  by  a stationery shop, or
slowly strolling  past a shop-window displaying  draperies and  miraculously
lit by  a sort of odd iridescent lighting. I  have never seen this arcade in
real life, yet  I not only remember the windows  but  even the shape  of the
goods, the tall glass archways and the coloured mosaic on the pavement.
     Sometimes the dream carries me into the interior of a town flat which I
have never been in, or else  into  an idyllic village landscape. Often there
is a road running  between naked earthen slopes  sparsely scattered here and
there with patches  of dusty grass. The road  runs down to a  blue  strip of
water, gay with golden water-lilies. Sometimes  a woman in white walks ahead
of me,  sometimes an old man with a  fishing-rod; but  neither of them  ever
turns round and  I  never  overtake  them.  I  see  only a strip  of  water,
embroidered with duckweed and water-lilies; but for some reason I know it is
a pond and that the road will now turn right along the bank,  and that I ran
here as a small boy  - though neither  the  pond nor the road belongs  to my
real childhood.
     It was  these dreams that awoke Olga's doubts of my psychic balance and
made her so insistent that I consult a psychiatrist. But I was more inclined
to  follow  Galya's advice. The ill-starred sheet from the notebook with the
names of Zargaryan and Nikodimov gave me no peace, because I  was absolutely
sure I had never, under any circumstances, hoard of these particular  names.
As for subconsciously absorbing them from talk overheard in the  underground
or on the street, naturally I didn't believe that. A normal memory preserves
what is overheard in the conscious mind, not in the subconscious.
     "All right, I'll call Zoya," Olga agreed.
     Zoya worked in  the Institute  of Scientific Information and, according
to her, knew all  the  'big shots'. If Nikodimov and Zargaryan  belonged  to
this highly-attested  category,  in  one minute I should get an earful of  a
good  dozen  anecdotes  about  their  way of life.  However, I  didn't  need
anecdotes, but precise information as to their particular fields arid latest
activities. I had to make sure that they wore my Nikodimov and Zargaryan.
     I decided to  ring up  Klenov first of all. He is head  of the  science
department at our editorial offices. I'd known Klenov from the  time we were
at the front together.
     "I  need  some  dope,  old man.  The  exact whereabouts of two  giants:
Nikodimov and Zargaryan."
     Laughter came from the receiver.
     "Even yesterday I thought you were a bit off your rocker."
     "When was that?" I asked, surprised.
     "When  I bumped into you in Pushkin  square. About six o'clock.  When I
told you about Mikhail.."
     I licked my overdry lips. So Klenov had seen Hyde and talked  with him.
And had noticed nothing. Very interesting.
     "I don't remember," I said.
     "Don't play games. About Mikhail stopping behind, don't you remember?"
     "Where did he stop off?"
     "In  Istanbul. I already told you once. He asked  for political shelter
at the American Embassy. "
     "He must be crazy!"
     "He's got all his buttons, the snake.  They should have kept an eye  on
him. They say 'the human heart is a mystery'. They should have  guessed  his
little plan before it  was too late. Now we're  writing a  collective letter
not to let him come back when he  comes crawling to us  on his belly. What's
up with you? You honestly don't remember?"
     "Honestly. My mind is a complete blank about yesterday from around five
in the  afternoon to  ten  in the evening.  First I  fainted,  and  I  don't
remember a thing about what happened afterwards - what I did or what I said.
I  came  to when I was being  brought  home.  Must  be  a souvenir  of  that
concussion I got near Dunafoldvar, remember?"
     As if Klenov didn't remember the  time  we forced  the Danube. Oleg was
with  us.  And Mikhail Sichuk,  incidentally, was  there  too. Only  he  was
foresighted enough to get into  the  rear:  headed the editorial office of a
front-line newspaper. For about a minute we were  both silent. What we  went
through at the Danube wasn't to be forgotten. Then Klenov spoke.
     "You  should  get  some  advice  from  a  professor.  I  can  arrange a
consultation, if you like. I know a few good specialists."
     "No need of  that," I sighed. "Better if you can tell me what Nikodimov
and Zargaryan are doing in science."
     "You hoping  for  a feature? You won't get anywhere. Nikodimov  answers
such attempts with  the  method of  Conan Doyle's  Professor  Challenger. He
dropped one reporter from Science and Life down the waste chute."
     "Don't worry yourself  about my nearest  future. Just give  me  all you
know. Who is  this  Nikodimov? And no jokes,  if you  don't mind.  I need it
     "Look, he's a physicist, with a very wide  range of interests. Puts out
works  on  the  physics  of  fields of  attraction.  Interested in  electric
magnetism in complex media.  At one time, working with  Zemlicka, he brought
out the concept of a neutrino generator."
     "With whom?"
     "With Zemlicka. A Czech bio-physicist."
     "And the general idea - can you tell me?"
     "I'm  an ignoramus here, of course, and I heard  it  from ignoramuses -
but, in a general sense, it's something like a neutrino laser,  which cuts a
window into anti-worlds."
     "Are you serious?"
     "What do  you  think? That it  looks  a bit  shady? That's how  it  was
regarded, by the way."
     "And Zargaryan?"
     "What about Zargaryan?"
     "Is he tied up with Nikodimov right now?"
     "You already know that? Congratulations."
     "Is he a physicist too?"
     "No, a neurophysiologist or something like that. As a matter  of  fact,
his field is telepathy."
     "What, what?" I screamed.
     "Te-le-pa-thy," repeated Klenov didactically. "There is such a science:
mental telepathy."
     "I doubt it. They gave that up in the Middle Ages. No such science."
     "You're  behind the  times.  It's  al-read-y  a science. Condensers  of
biological currents, and all that kind of thing. Satisfied?"
     "Almost," I sighed.
     "If  you're going into the attack, I'll back you body  and soul.  We'll
print anything  you can get hold of.  And I'd advise you  to start  off with
Zargaryan. He's easier, more approachable. Just the fellow you want...."
     I thanked him and hung up the receiver. The  information wasn't  beyond
Zoya's  level. An  anti-world,  telepathy....  Should  phone Galya  for more
accurate information.
     "Hello, this is me - the sleepwalker. Are you up already?"
     "I get up at six in the morning," Galya cut me off. "I'm  interested in
one little detail of  your  Odyssey. Why  did you  tell Lena you'd left your
     "I can't answer for Hyde's doings. I want to explain them. Listen hard,
Galya. What's the essence of the idea of a neutrino generator, and how is it
connected with the condensing of biological currents?"
     "Nikodimov and Zargaryan?" laughed Galya.
     "As you see, I found something out, at least."
     "You found out rubbish, and you're talking rubbish. Nikodimov renounced
the  idea of  the  neutrino  generator  long  ago,  that is, the  way it was
formulated by Zemlicka. Now he's working on the  fixation of the power field
set  up by the activity of the brain ... something like a  single complex of
the electro-magnetic field that arises in the brain cells.  You see,  I also
discovered something."
     "Zargaryan is a physiologist. What's his tie-up with Nikodimov?"
     "Their  work  is  top  secret.  I  don't know  the inside story, nor if
there's any future in what they're doing,"  admitted Galya. "But one  way or
another,  it's connected with codifying the  physiological neuronal state of
the brain."
     "What?" I asked blankly.
     "The brain," Galya stressed, "the brain,  my dear. Your  Hyde connected
these  names with the  Brain Institute, and  not by chance. Though ...  from
what  aspect  to  view  all  this.... Perhaps,  it's  even a problem of pure
     She was thinking hard: the membrane  in the receiver carried  her heavy
     "The key is here, Sergei," she concluded. "The more  I think about  it,
the surer I am. Find the scientists, and you'll find the key."
     The scientific research  over,  there was still the ordinary search. We
began it with Zoya.
     She  answered  the  call  at  once.  Yes,  she knew both Zargaryan  and
Nikodimov. The latter only by name: he was  like a ground-hog who never came
near receptions.  But she was personally acquainted with Zargaryan. Had even
danced with him at an evening social. He was very interested in dreams.
     "He's interested in dreams," repeated Olga to me, putting her hand over
the mouthpiece.
     "What??" I cried,  and reached for the telephone.  "Zoya darling.  It's
me. Right you are, in person,  your secret worshipper. What were you  saying
just now about dreams? Who's interested? It's very important."
     "I told Zargaryan about a strange dream I had," responded Zoya, "and he
was  terribly interested,  asked all about the details. And what  details  -
frightful, but utterly.  And he listened,  and told me I  should come to him
every week and be sure to relate all  my dreams. He needed it for  his work.
But you know yourself, I'm no fool. I know what kind of work he meant."
     "Zoya," I groaned, "beg him to give me an appointment."
     "Are you mad?" cried Zoya, terrified. "He can't stand reporters."
     "But  you won't tell him  I'm from  a paper. Simply say  that a man who
sees strange dreams wants to see him. And the strangest thing of all is that
these dreams  are repeated,  as if tape-recorded.  Repeated year after year.
Zoya,  try  to tell  him  all that.  If you  fail,  I'll try  to contact him
     She rang back in ten minutes.
     "Just imagine, it worked. He'll see you today after nine o'clock. Don't
be late. He doesn't like it," she chattered on without a break, just  as she
usually did in her  office at the  institute. "He was interested right away,
and  immediately asked how clear  the dreams  were, what  was the degree  of
recall, and so  on.  I said you would tell him about the clarity yourself. I
also told him you worked with me. Don't give me away."

     Zargaryan lived in the south-west of town  in a new apartment building.
He opened the door himself, silently listened to my explanation, and just as
silently led the way  into his office. Tall and lithe,  black hair bristling
in a crew-cut, he reminded me of the hero in an Italian neo-realistic novel.
To look at, he wasn't more than thirty.
     "Do  you  mind my asking what  led you to  me?" His  eyes pierced right
through me. "Yes, of course, I know  it was strange dreams and so on ... but
why did you particularly ask for a consultation with me?"
     "When I tell you everything,  the answer to that won't be necessary," I
     "Do you know anything about me?"
     "Until last night, I'd no idea you existed."
     He thought a moment and asked: "Exactly what happened last night?"
     "I'm  sincerely  glad  that we  begin  our  talk  with  that,"  I  said
decisively.  "I  did not come to you  because  I was worried by  dreams, nor
because you  are a Martin Zadeka as, for instance, you are regarded by  Zoya
at the  Institute of  Information.  By the way,  I  don't work there, I'm  a
     I immediately noticed a  grimace of dissatisfaction on Agrarian's face,
and continued.
     "But I didn't come to you for  an interview. I'm not interested in your
work. To be  more  exact, I wasn't interested. And I repeat once  more  that
until last night I had never even heard your name, but none the less I wrote
it down in my small notebook while in a state of unconsciousness. "
     "What   do  you  mean  by  a  state  of  unconsciousness?"  interrupted
     "That's not exactly  the  right  term. I  was  fully conscious,  yet  I
remember  nothing  - what  I did or  what  I  said. I simply  wasn't  there,
somebody else acted in my place. It was he who wrote this in my notebook."
     I opened the notebook and passed it to Zargaryan. He read it and looked
at me rather strangely, peering from frowning brows.
     "Why is it written twice?"
     "I wrote it  the second time, to  compare the handwriting. As you  see,
the first was not written by me, that is, it's not my handwriting. And  it's
not the handwriting of  a  sleepwalker, or  a lunatic,  or of somebody  with
     "Does your wife live on Griboyedov street?"
     "My wife lives with me on Kutuzovsky Prospekt. And there is no house on
Griboyedov street  with that number. And the  woman mentioned in the note is
not  my  wife, but simply  an  acquaintance, a school friend.  Besides,  she
doesn't live on Griboyedov."
     Once more he read the note and pondered.
     "And did you never hear of Professor Nikodimov either?"
     "No more  than  I  heard  of  you.  Even now  I only know that  he's  a
physicist,  something  like  a  ground-hog  who  is never  to  be  found  at
receptions.  That  detail,  I'll have you  note,  is from the  Institute  of
     Zargaryan smiled, and I immediately noticed that he wasn't a severe man
at all, but a good-hearted and perhaps even a gay fellow.
     "Along  general  lines  the  portrait  bears a certain resemblance," he
said. "Keep shooting."
     And I talked. I can tell a good story, even with  a dash of humour, but
he listened without any outward show  of interest. However, when  I  reached
the place about the plurality of worlds, he raised his brows.
     "Did you read that anywhere?" he asked quickly.
     "I don't remember. In passing, somewhere."
     "Go on, if you don't mind."
     I concluded my story by reminding him of Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde.
     "The  queerest thing  is that this mystical-phantom  business  explains
everything, and I can find nothing else that makes sense."
     "You think that's the queerest?" he  asked vaguely, once  again reading
the lines in the notebook. "They refused to let us bring  up this problem at
the Brain Institute, but it was raised all the same."
     I looked at him blankly.
     "Have  you  been precise in  everything you  have told me?" he suddenly
asked,  with  another  piercing  glance. "Two worlds like similar triangles,
right? With a Moscow in both, differing only in ornamentation.  And hero and
there you and your friends. Is that it?"
     "There  you  are  married  to a  different  woman, live on  a different
street, and in  some  way or  other are  connected  with  a  Zargaryan and a
Nikodimov, of whose existence here you were completely unaware. Right?"
     I nodded.
     He stood up and walked around  the room, as if  to hide his excitement.
But I saw how wrought up he was.
     "Now tell me about your dreams. I think  there's  a  connection between
all this."
     I described my dreams. This time he stared with unconcealed interest.
     "That means another life, eh? A certain street, a road down to a river,
a  shopping  arcade. And all very clear-cut, like in a photograph?" He spoke
slowly, weighing  every  word,  as  if thinking  aloud.  "And  you  remember
everything afterwards. Clearly, including all details?"
     "I even remember the mosaic on the pavement."
     "And  it is all uncannily  familiar, even to  trivial  things? It seems
you've been there a hundred times and probably lived there, but in real life
there was nothing of the kind?"
     "In real life, nothing of the kind," I repeated.
     "What do the doctors say? You must have sought advice."
     It seemed to me that he said this with a shade of cunning.
     "What  do  the doctors  say..." I spoke  scornfully.  "Stimulation  ...
inhibition. Any fool knows that. In the daytime the cortex is  in a state of
excitation, at night an inhibition process sets in. Irregular, with islands.
These islands keep working, paste together dreams from day-time impressions,
like in a cutting room." Zargaryan laughed.
     "Or staging a series of attractions, like in the circus."
     "But I don't believe it!" I grew angry. "The devil they are! There's no
staging about it, everything is unchangeably fixed down  to minute  trifles,
to the leaf on a certain tree, to the screw in  a window-frame. And all this
is repeated, like  showings in  a  cinema. Once  a  week  I'm  sure  to  see
something I dreamed before. Yet  they still insist that  you  dream  only of
what you've seen or experienced during your waking hours. And nothing else!"
     "Even  Sechenov  wrote about that. He even  examined the blind, and  it
turned out that they dream only of what they saw when they had their sight."
     "But I never saw them,"  I repeated  stubbornly. "Not in real life, nor
in the cinema or in paintings. Nowhere! Is that clear? I never saw them!"
     "But what if you did?" laughed Zargaryan.
     "Where?" I cried.
     He did  not  answer.  He  silently  took out a  cigarette, lit it,  and
suddenly recollected me.
     "Oh, excuse me. I didn't offer one to you. Do you smoke?"
     "You haven't answered me," I said.
     "I will answer you.  We have  ahead of us a long, interesting talk. You
can't  even imagine  what a  find  this  meeting is for  Nikodimov  and  me.
Scientists  wait  for years for such  moments. But I'm lucky: I only  waited
four years. Can you give me another couple of hours?"
     "Of course," I agreed, confused and still in the dark.
     A sudden change came over  Zargaryan. His excited, undisguised interest
slightly  embarrassed me. What was there  special  in what  I had told  him?
Perhaps Galya was right, and the key to the puzzle of all that  had happened
was right here?
     But Zargaryan was already telephoning somebody.
     "Pavel Nikitich?  It's  me.  Do  you intend  staying much longer at the
institute? Wonderful.  I'm going to bring a certain person over, right away.
He's with me now.  Who? You'd never guess. The one we've been dreaming about
all these years.  What  he's told me confirms all  our  ideas.  And I stress
that. Everything! And  even more.  It's hard to  take  it  all in  - my head
spins. No, I'm not drunk, but a drink is called  for. Later on. We're on our
way, so wait for us."
     He hung up and turned to me.
     "D'you realize what a refractor is for an astronomer? Or  an electronic
microscope  for  a virologist?  And  for me,  that's  the kind  of  valuable
instrument you are. For Nikodimov and me. I'll give Zoya a royal present for
this.... After all, it was she who gave you to me. Let's go."
     I was as much in the dark as before.
     "I  hope  you're not going to give mo injections  or cut me up? Will it
hurt?" I asked, sounding like a patient on his way to see a surgeon.
     Zargaryan burst into laughter, as pleased as punch.
     "Why should it hurt, my dear man?" ho said,  adopting the accent  of an
oriental trader. "You'll sit in a chair, fall asleep for half an hour or so,
look at dreams.  Like in the cinema." Dropping the accent, he  added: "Come,
Sergei Nikolaevich, I'll drive you to the institute."


     The institute was off the highway in an oak grove which, in the dark of
this starless night,  looked  to me like an enchanted wood  out  of  a fairy
tale. The  gnome-like hushes, trees with clawing branches, black tree-stumps
peering out of the grass like wild animals from across the  roadside ditch -
all seemed to be luring me into a romantic yet  sinister gloom. But in place
of the tumbledown hut perched on chicken-legs - the typical witch's abode in
Russian fairy tales - there rose at the  end of the alley a round ten-storey
building with the occasional lighted window. Some of them blinked,  flashing
in spurts as if gigantic Jupiter lights in a film studio were being switched
on and off.
     "Valery Mlechin casting spells over  wireless light-transmission," said
Zargaryan, catching my glance. "You think that's  us up there?  No. Our labs
are up under the very roof on the opposite side."
     An express lift  whisked us to the tenth floor, and we stepped out into
a circular corridor with a  moving passage that carried us with it. It moved
softly, soundlessly, at about escalator-speed.
     "It  works  automatically  as  soon  as  you  step  on  it,"  explained
Zargaryan, "and  is stopped by putting  your foot  on one of these  frosted,
illuminated regulators."
     Slightly  convex  milky-white  transparent tiles  were  set  every  two
metres, one after another, along  the  plastic  ribbon  of the corridor.  We
floated past white, sliding doors bearing large  numbers. Opposite room 220,
Zargaryan stepped on the regulator.
     We stopped, and  the door slid open instantly revealing the entrance to
a large, brightly lit room. Zargaryan nudged me towards a chair.
     "Amuse yourself for ten minutes  while I talk with Nikodimov. First, it
will save  you  from  repeating  your  story; second,  I  can  put  it  more
     He approached  the  opposite wall: it slid  open and immediately closed
behind him. "Photoelectric cell," I thought to myself. The equipment in this
institute answered the  most  up-to-date demands of  scientific  design  for
working comfort. A description  of the corridor alone would have sent Klenov
into  ecstasy: it wasn't for  nothing he had  promised to back me 'soul  and
     However, except for the  sliding walls,  the room  where  I waited held
nothing very remarkable. A modern  desk  of clear plexiglas on nickel-plated
steel  legs;  an  open  wall  safe resembling an  electric  oven;  concealed
lighting, and a foam-rubber sofa-bed with cushions. Here you could spend the
night in comfort if you were delayed. Along one wall I  saw a monstrous pile
of yellow, semi-transparent  tape-ribbons  along which  thick, jagged  lines
ran: something like  those on cardiograms. The coloured plastic floor,  with
its  extravagant  designs,  made the  room seem  elegant,  but  the  ascetic
book-stands and the wall diagrams, also of plastic, returned it to the realm
of  the  strictly  serious.  There  was one  diagram of  the cortex of  both
cerebral  hemispheres,  marked  with  metal   arrows   crowned   with  coded
inscriptions in Greek and Latin letters. Another that hit the eye had only a
mass  of  strange  metallic  lines  flanked by  a  handwritten  inscription:
Biocurrents  of  Sleeping Brain. Sheets  of paper were pinned up bearing the
typed text: Length and Depth of Sleep -  laboratory observations  at Chicago
     The books on the stands were in complete disorder, piled on top of  one
another,  lying  open  on  telescopic  shelves.  These, apparently,  were in
constant use.  I picked one up: it was  a work by  Sorokhtin on the atony of
the  nerve  centre.  There  were  piles of  books and  brochures  in foreign
languages and, it seemed to me, they all dealt with some kind of irradiation
following  stimulation or  inhibition. I found one book by Nikodimov, in  an
English  edition,  whose  title  was  The Principles  of Codifying  Impulses
Distributed Through the Cortex and  Subcortex of the Brain. Whether I got it
right or not, I don't know, but I immediately  regretted that we journalists
lacked  the training necessary to at  least come close to  understanding the
processes taking place on the peaks of modern science.
     At this moment the wall slid open,  and  Zargaryan  called me: "You can
come in now."
     The room I found myself in was the  acme of laboratories, gleaming with
stainless steel  and nickel plating. But I had no  chance to get a good look
at  it. Zargaryan  was  already introducing  me  to an  elderly  man  with a
chestnut-coloured  beard touched with silver, and  hair to match worn longer
than was  usual among scientists - more suitable for  a professor  of music.
His aquiline nose related him to the hawk, but somehow he reminded me of the
Faust I  had seen during my youth in  an opera staged by  a  company on tour
from some remote country district.
     "Nikodimov," he said,  smiling as he  caught my roving eye. "There's no
use looking. You  won't understand anything in  any  case,  and explanations
would be lengthy. Besides, there's  nothing  very remarkable here - anything
of  interest  is in the  floor  beneath us:  the condenser  and  operational
controls. And here is  a  screen by which we fixate the  fields, in  various
phases,  of course. As  you see,  an  elementary  jumble of  electric plugs,
switches and levers. Like something out of Mayakovsky, right?"
     I cast a sidelong glance  at the  chair  behind the  screen, over which
hung a helmet resembling an astronaut's but with  coloured wires attached to
     "He's  scared,"  said  Nikodimov,  winking  at  Zargaryan.  "What's  so
terrifying about it? Surely a chair...."
     "Wait," interrupted Zargaryan cheerfully. "Don't explain: let him guess
for himself. See, old fellow,  it's like a barber's chair, but no mirror. Or
maybe a dentist's chair? But no drill. Where  can you  find such a chair? In
the  theatre,  the cinema?  No again.  Perhaps in  the pilot's  cabin of  an
aeroplane? Then where's the joystick or wheel?"
     "Looks more like an electric chair," I said.
     "Naturally. An exact copy."
     "And you'll put the helmet on me, too?"
     "What do you think? Death in two minutes!" His eyes twinkled. "Clinical
death. Then we resurrect you."
     "Don't frighten him,"  laughed  Nikodimov, and turned to  me. "You're a
     I nodded.
     "Then I  beg you ... no write-ups. Everything  you'll  find out here is
not  ripe for  printing yet. Besides, the experiment might prove a  failure.
You might see nothing and we'll have to write it off as a loss. Well ... but
when it is ready, the story will certainly be yours. I promise you that."
     Poor Klenov. His hopes for an article vanished like a dream.
     "Do  your experiments have a direct relation to my  story?"  I dared to
     "Geometrically  direct,"  interrupted  Zargaryan.  "That's  only  Pavel
Nikodimov's cautiousness, but I tell you straight: there's no possibility of
failure. The proofs are too clear."
     "Ye-es," drawled  Nikodimov,  thoughtfully.  "Pretty  good  proofs.  So
Stevenson's story happened to  you? Is  that how you explain it? Jekyll  and
     "Of  course  not. I don't  believe  in  reincarnation,  or  transformed
     "But even so?"
     "I don't know. I'm looking for an explanation. From you."
     "Wise of you."
     "So there is an explanation?"
     "That's right."
     I jumped to my feet.
     "Sit down,"  said Zargaryan.  "No,  go and sit in the chair  you're  so
scared of. Believe me, it's much more comfortable than Voltaire's."
     To put it mildly, I was rather hesitant. That devilish chair positively
terrified me.
     "All explanations only after the experiment," continued Zargaryan. "Sit
here. Come, where's your nerve gone? We won't pull any teeth."
     I  sank  deep into the chair, as if in  a feather  bed.  A  feeling  of
special lightness came over me, almost like weightlessness.
     "Put  out  your  feet,"  said  Zargaryan.  Apparently  he  was  the one
directing the experiment.
     The  soles of  my feet rested on  rubber clamps.  On my head I felt the
soundlessly  lowered  helmet.  It  gripped  my  forehead  lightly,  and  was
unexpectedly comfortable, like a soft, felt hat.
     "Is it too loose?"
     "Yes, a bit."
     "Make yourself comfortable. We shall now regulate it."
     The  helmet became tighter. But I felt no  pressure:  its supple lining
seemed  to fuse with my skin. I had the feeling  that an evening  breeze had
stolen through  the  window  and  was  pleasantly  cooling  my  forehead and
ruffling my hair. Yet I knew the window was closed and my head was enveloped
in the helmet.
     Suddenly the light went out. I  was surrounded  by a warm, impenetrable
     "What's up?" I asked.
     "It's all right. We are isolating you from light."
     How  were they  isolating me? With a wall,  a cowling, a  hood of  some
kind? I touched my eyelids: the helmet did not cover my eyes. Stretching out
my hand, I could feel nothing.
     "Drop your arm. Sit still. You will sleep now."
     I settled more easily in  the chair,  relaxed my muscles. And truly,  I
felt  sleep  coming over me, an imminent  Nirvana drowning all  my thoughts,
recollections, intruding words. For some  reason, I remembered  a  four-line

     But sleep is only a shadow-creation,
     An unstable dissimulation,
     Illusion of live animation -
     Yet not a bad prevarication.

     What kind of illusory dreams would sleep bring me this  time, good ones
or evil? The thought flashed and died away. There was a slight ringing in my
ears, as if a mosquito were buzzing on a very high note somewhere close by.
     Now voices, very clear, reached my ears, though I could not place their
     "Is anything coming through?"
     "There's some interference."
     "And now?"
     "The same."
     "Try the second scale."
     "Got it."
     "And brightness?"
     "I'll turn it on full power."
     The voices disappeared.  I  fell into a soundless,  untroubled state of
non-existence, pregnant with unusual expectancy.

     I half  opened my eyes and blinked. Everything swirled round in  a rosy
mist. The lights  of  the chandelier  on  the  ceiling were  arched out in a
shining  parabola.  I was surrounded by  a  circle of women  all in matching
black dresses, all  with matching washed-out faces.  They cried out to me in
Olga's voice.
     "What's the matter? Are you ill?"
     I forced open my eyelids as wide  as I could. The mist melted away. The
chandelier was at first tripled, then doubled, and finally became its normal
self. The women shrank into a single figure with Olga's voice and smile.
     "Where are we?" I asked.
     "At the reception."
     "What reception?"
     "Can  you have forgotten?  At the Hungarian Embassy's reception. At the
Metropole Hotel."
     "What are we doing here?"
     "Good lord, the tickets were sent to us this morning! I just managed to
get my dress from the dressmaker. You seem to have forgotten everything! "
     I was  certain no  tickets  had been sent to us that  morning.  Perhaps
they'd  come  the evening before, on my return from Nikodimov? Did this mean
I'd lost my memory again?
     "But what happened to me?"
     "The reception room was terribly stuffy and you suggested we go out for
some fresh air. When we got to the foyer here, you suddenly felt bad."
     "Nothing strange about it. It was  impossible  to breathe in there, and
your heart isn't too good. Would you like something to drink?"
     "I really don't know."
     Olga seemed  almost  like a stranger to  me  in the new dress  she  had
mentioned.  It was the first time I'd heard about it. When did she go to the
dressmaker's if I'd been home all day?
     "Wait a minute, I'll go and bring you some Narzan mineral water."
     She  disappeared  into  the reception  room, and  I  continued  to look
vaguely about at  the familiar foyer of the restaurant. I recognized it, but
that  didn't  ease  my position. I  couldn't  at  all  understand  when  the
Hungarians had sent the tickets, arid why they'd sent them. I  had no  title
of honour,  I  wasn't an academician or a master of sport. Yet Olga accepted
it as a matter of course, as something quite usual in our way of life.
     I  was  still standing  there motionless  when Olga returned  with  the
Narzan. I got the impression that she wanted to return to the reception.
     "Have you met anyone you know?"
     "All  the  chiefs are there," said  Olga, brightening. "Fedor Ivanovich
and Raisa, even the deputy minister."
     I  was not acquainted with either a  Fedor Ivanovich  or a  Raisa,  let
alone a deputy minister. But I  didn't want to risk admitting it, and merely
asked: "Why the deputy minister?"
     "It was he  who fixed it so we could all come. After all, our clinic is
attached to the ministry. He  gave the tickets to Fedor, who passed some  on
to Raisa. Probably there were a few extra tickets."
     Olga did  not work  at a ministerial  clinic, but at  a  very  ordinary
district  polyclinic.  I  knew that for a  fact.  Once she had actually been
invited to work at the clinic for  the Ministry  of Communications,  but she
had refused.
     "You go on back," I said.  "I'll take a little stroll  for  a breath of
fresh air."
     I went outside, stood at the entrance  and lit a cigarette. The  yellow
light  from the  street  lamps  was swimming  in the wet  asphalt  pavement.
Two-decker buses,  as red  as those in London, splashed  by me. I  had never
seen  such buses  before.  Between  the upper and lower deck  windows ran an
advertising strip with the painted sign:
     I'd never heard of it. What was wrong  with  my memory? It  was full of
gaps. In  the distance,  to the left of the Bolshoi Theatre, a gigantic neon
oblong burned against the sky.
     Flickering  letters  raced  round  it: 'Earthquake  in Delhi.... Soviet
doctors flew to India.' The latest news in lights. I couldn't recall when it
was put up.
     "Getting some air?"
     I heard a well-known  voice, turned, and saw Klenov. He had  just  come
out of the restaurant.
     "I'm leaving," he said. "There's  lots  of  liquor,  but I don't drink.
Ulcers. I've paid my respects, and now for home."
     "Between ourselves, how come you're paying respects?"
     "Well, d'you see, Kemenes invited us. He's press-attache now."
     Tibor Kemenes, a Russian-speaking Hungarian student, had been our guide
in  Budapest.  I was just  out of hospital,  and we had wandered  for  hours
around the city, so new to us. But when had  Kemenes become press-attache at
their embassy in Moscow? And how was it I only found out now?
     "Yes, people go up  the  ladder.  But you and I got stuck  somehow, old
fellow. We are the ones who keep the wheels turning."
     "Speaking   of  turning  the  wheels,  there   won't  be  any  article,
incidentally," I told him.
     "What article?" asked Klenov in surprise.
     "About Zargaryan and Nikodimov."
     He laughed so hard, passers-by turned back to stare.
     "You certainly picked an eccentric for  a subject. That Nikodimov keeps
a panther on a chain at his cottage instead of a dog. And in Moscow he drops
reporters down the waste chute."
     "You already told me that."
     "This morning."
     Klenov gripped my shoulders and looked me in the eye.
     "What have you been drinking, Tokay or palinka?"
     "I've not taken a drop."
     "That's easy to  see.  Why,  Saturday  night I  went  to my cottage  at
Zhavoronki, and  only returned today at five in the afternoon. You must have
been talking with me in your dreams."
     Klenov waved good-bye and went off, but I stood there, deeply shaken by
his  last words: 'talking  with  me in  your dreams'. No, it  was now  I was
talking with him in a dream. In a dream too real to be true.
     Immediately I  recalled the conversation  in  Faust's  laboratory,  the
chair with the  various lead-in  wires. And  Zargaryan's  warning  from  the
darkness:  'Sit  still. You will  sleep now.' Some kind of  electronic sleep
with  artificially aroused dreams. It all seemed  as  if I were  awake, only
this real  life for some reason was turned upside down. Then why should I be
surprised? It was as plain as day.
     I  went back inside. A turbid haze of smoke hung over the tables,  like
steam, mixing  with the electric light. People were  dancing. I searched  in
vain for Olga, then  entered the adjoining  room. The  long tables, littered
with half-demolished  food and drink, were witnesses  that  the  guests  had
recently been feasting here. They had been served European buffet style, and
ate standing holding their plates, or sat on the  window-sills  covered with
folds of  the draperies. Now  only the  latecomers  remained, searching  the
tables for  drinks and snacks still untouched. Somebody, who  was  playing a
lone hand at the end of a large table, turned and called out to me.
     "Over here, Sergei. Tuck in. Palinka, just like in Budapest."
     It  was Mikhail Sichuk who, according to  another  version I  knew, had
already  managed to skip the country. Perhaps in this dream he'd  managed to
return.  Through  a hole in space or on a  flying-carpet. I didn't bother my
head over it, nor did I react to the miracle. I simply poured myself a glass
of palinka from Mikhail's bottle, and drank. I was beginning to  like dreams
that contained even real sensations of taste.
     "To our friends and comrades," toasted Mikhail, also drinking.
     "How did you get here?" I asked, diplomatically.
     "The same as you. As a hero of the liberation of Hungary."
     "Oh, you're a hero?"
     "We're  all  heroes." Mikhail  drained  his  glass  and grunted.  "It's
heroism to have survived such a war!"
     I grew angry. "Only to be a traitor, afterwards?"
     Mikhail put his glass down and pricked up his ears.
     "What are you getting at?"
     I  realized,  of  course,  that  I wasn't being  logical,  that it  was
senseless to accuse under the circumstances, but I got carried away.
     "You   went  off  on  the  Ukraine   in  real   style.  On   a   Soviet
excursion-voucher, you scum!"
     "How did you guess?" asked Mikhail in a whisper.
     "That you skipped?"
     "That I  wanted to travel,  and  went  to  a lot  of trouble to  get  a
     "If they'd known, you wouldn't have got it."
     "But they didn't give it to me."
     As  chairman of  the trade-union committee, I  myself had  arranged for
Mikhail's  voucher. But in this  dream everything was topsy-turvy. Perhaps I
had  gone  in his place? I had also  wanted to go,  but there hadn't been an
extra voucher. But what if  there had been? My dream tossed me around like a
chip of wood in the ocean.
     "Sit down, Sergei. Are you avoiding me?"
     Somebody caught my arm as I was threading my  way between the tables in
the banquet room. I  looked  into his face  and was  frozen dumb.  And I was
really scared.
     "Sit down, won't  you?  Let's drink Tokay. After all, it's  the best in
     My legs gave way and I fell, rather than  sat, in a chair by the table.
Sad eyes that I knew so well stared at me. The last time I'd seen them - not
both,  but one - was in '44 on the Danube highway. Oleg lay on his back, his
face covered  with blood trickling down  from where his right eye had been a
moment earlier. Fright and grief had frozen in the other.
     Now they  both looked at me. A  curved, reddish scar stretched from the
right eye up across the temple.
     "What are you staring like that for, Sergei? Do I look so much older?"
     "I was remembering forty-four. When you ... you...."
     "When I what?"
     "When you  were killed, Oleg."  He  smiled. "Bullet was a bit off. Only
the scar's left. Had it hit a fraction more to the right - curtains. Neither
my eyes nor I would be here." He sighed. "Funny. I wasn't afraid then, but I
am now."
     "Of what?"
     "The operation. A splinter was left somewhere in my chest, memorial  of
one other wound. So  far I've lived with  that  splinter all right,  but now
they say I mustn't any longer. Have to have an operation."
     His familiar eyes with  the  long, almost feminine lashes were smiling.
The  forehead angled back into the receding hairline at the temples, so that
it looked higher than before. Deep lines nestled close to the corners of his
lips.  And yet  there  was something about this dear and familiar face  that
struck  me  as strange.  The imprint of time,  perhaps.  So Oleg would  have
looked, if  he had lived. But in  this  artificial world  of  dreams  be was
alive. If Faust had created this model, then he was a god, and I was already
beginning  to doubt which of  the two worlds was real. A treacherous thought
struck me:  what if  something  broke  down in Faust's laboratory  and I was
stuck here for good! Should I be sorry? I didn't know.
     I pinched my arm hard.
     "What for?" Oleg looked his surprise.
     "For a minute I thought this was a dream."
     Oleg laughed, and suddenly faded away into a  lilac mist. That familiar
mist.  It lapped up everything,  and went black. Zargaryan's  voice asked me
out of the dark: "Are you alive?"
     "Of course, I am."
     "Raise your arm. Can you move it freely?"
     I moved my arm in the dark.
     "Roll up your sleeve and loosen your collar."
     He pressed something cold to my chest, then to my wrist.
     "Don't be frightened. It's only a  stethoscope. We'll check your heart.
Don't talk."
     How could  he see in  the dark  through which  not one speck  of  light
penetrated? But he saw.
     "All right," he pronounced  in  a satisfied voice. "Only the pulse is a
bit fast."
     "Maybe we'll break off  the test?" The voice  of an invisible Nikodimov
came from somewhere.
     "Whatever for?  Sergei Nikolaevich has  the nerves of an  athlete.  Now
we'll show him another dream."
     "So it was a dream?" I asked, feeling relief.
     "Who knows?" Zargaryan slyly called out of the dark. "And if not?"
     I  didn't have time to answer. The darkness swallowed me  up  like  the

     Out of the darkness burst a stream of light, flooding a white operating
theatre. On the table lay a prostrate body covered to the waist with a white
sheet.  The dissected  chest  exposed to  view  the  scarlet, bleeding inner
tissues and the pearly whiteness of  ribs. The patient's  eyes were  closed,
his face bloodless and  still. There was  something familiar about the face:
it  seemed I'd  seen only recently those  deep  lines at the  lips  and  the
curving, rosy scar on the right temple.
     My  hands were holding a probe buried in  the open  chest. I was in  an
operating  gown and  white linen cap, my  nose  and  mouth  covered  with  a
surgical mask. The people opposite me  were dressed as I was. I knew none of
them, but seemed to recognize the eyes of a woman  standing at the patient's
head.  Her eyes were  riveted  to  my  hands, and were  so  full of alarming
tension  that it seemed as if a taut string  were  stretched between us.  It
rang thinly the deeper the probe went into the opening.
     Suddenly  I remembered all  that  had occurred  up to  this moment. The
squeal  of brakes from  the car stopping at the entrance,  the granite steps
wet  with rain, the well-known vista of a street I  had often dreamed about,
and then the respectful smile of the cloakroom attendant catching my coat on
the fly as I went by, the slow rise of the lift and the shining whiteness of
the  operating theatre where I put  on my gown and scrubbed hands and arms a
dreadfully long time.  I  remembered perfectly that it was I - yes, I -  who
began the operation, opening the chest with a scalpel along  the line of the
scar while my hands with professional, habitual skill cut, split and probed.
All  this  flashed  into  my  conscious mind  with the speed  of sound,  and
disappeared.  I  had forgotten  everything. The habitual  skill of my  hands
turned into a frightened tremble  and  with  sudden terror I realized that I
didn't know what to do next, or how to  do it. Any further delay would  mean
     Without realizing what  I did or  why, I  withdrew  the  probe from the
wound  and dropped it.  It gave out a hollow tinkle. In the  eyes  above the
muslin masks, I read one and the same question: 'What's happened?'
     "I can't," I almost groaned. "I'm ill."
     Walking on strangely cottony legs,  I went to  the door.  Half  turning
round, I saw somebody's back  bent over the patient in my place, and a quiet
bass voice gave a command to the head nurse: "Probe!"
     "Run!" my thoughts raced. So that nobody would see, so that I would see
nobody. No longer to read what I had managed to read in all those wide-open,
surprised and accusing eyes. I could not feel my legs under me. I ran like a
storm  through  the scrubbing  surgery and  into  the  hallway  between  two
right-angled  corridors,  flinging myself  down on white, shining  enamelled
     "Just now,  with  these very  hands, I killed  Oleg," I told  myself. I
gripped my temples with icy hands, groaned and perhaps even cried aloud.
     "What's wrong ... Sergei Nikolaevich?" I heard a frightened voice.
     The  man  who  addressed me wore  an  operating  gown like myself,  but
without the  cap,  revealing  a  bald,  naked skull and  he  asked uneasily:
"What's wrong? How did the operation go?"
     "I don't know," I said.
     "How's that?"
     "I  threw it up ... left...." I scarcely opened my  mouth. "I came over
     "Who's operating then? Asafyev?"
     "No idea."
     "That's not possible!"
     "I know  nothing.  I don't even know who you  are! Who  are you, what's
your name, where am I, for heaven's sake?" I screamed.
     He shuffled from foot to foot, staring at me with amazed eyes, empty of
comprehension. Then he ran to the door through which I had just stormed.
     I looked after him and  stood up. I tore off my gown, ripping the ties,
wiped my  hands  and threw the gown on the floor. The cap  followed.  In the
depths  of the  corridor stretching  before me I saw  a flash  of white -  a
doctor or nurse-in high heels that tapped on the parquetry. She  disappeared
in  one  of  the  rooms. I  mechanically  headed in  her direction,  passing
identically white doors. They  led into consulting  rooms  of doctors, whose
names were printed on cards  framed in white plastic. 'Dr. Gromov, S.  N.' I
read. My office. Well then, in you go!
     Klenov  sat  by  a  wide  Italian  window  behind my  desk,  reading  a
     "So  soon?"  he asked with restraint,  but a  restraint  that rang with
alarm and fear.
     I was silent.
     "He's alive?"
     "Why are you here?" I countered.
     "You  told  me  to  wait  here, yourself!"  burst out  Klenov.  "What's
happened to Oleg?"
     "I don't know."
     He leaped up. "Why not?"
     "I felt bad ... almost lost consciousness."
     "During the operation?"
     "That's right."
     "Who is operating then?"
     "Don't know." I tried not to look at him.
     "But  why  are you here now? Why  aren't you in  the operating room  at
least?" screamed Klenov.
     "Because I'm not a surgeon, Klenov."
     "You're mad."
     He didn't  push  me  aside, he  charged  me with his  shoulder  like  a
hockey-player and ran into the corridor. And I sat inanely on a chair in the
middle of the room, couldn't even drag myself as far as my desk. "I'm  not a
surgeon," I had told Klenov. Then how could I have started the operation and
conducted it  to the critical  moment  without arousing anybody's doubts? So
that was possible in  dreams. Then  where did the fear  come from, this near
terror  of what had  occurred?  You see, Oleg,  the operation,  Klenov and I
myself were  only shades in  a world of dreams, and I knew it. "And if not?"
Zargaryan had asked. And if we're not!
     Then the desk telephone rang, but I  turned away. It  went on  ringing.
Finally I grew tired of it.
     "Sergei, is that, you?" came a voice. "How was it?"
     "Who's speaking?" I barked.
     "Don't yell. As if you didn't know me."
     "I don't. Who is this?"
     "But it's me, Galya! Who else?"
     Galya is excited,  and quite  rightly  so, I  thought. But  why  is she
phoning? If anyone should be waiting here, she should be. Instead of Klenov.
     "Why are you silent?" she asked, surprised. "Was it a failure?"
     "Look...." I  faltered. "I can't tell you anything definite. I felt bad
during the operation. An assistant is finishing...."
     Again that Asafyev, I thought. How  do  I know whether it's him or not?
And does it matter, since this is only a dream?
     "Probably," I said aloud. "I couldn't tell. They're all in masks."
     "But you don't trust Asafyev. Even this morning you said he's a surgeon
for convalescents."
     "When did I say that?"
     "When we were having breakfast. Before the car came for you."
     I knew  perfectly  well that I hadn't  had breakfast with  Galya. I had
been at home. I had no car. But why argue, if it was all a dream?
     "And what  happened to you?"  she  continued. "What do you mean ... you
felt bad?"
     "Weakness. Dizziness. Loss of memory."
     "And now?"
     "What about now? Are you asking about Oleg?"
     "No, about you!"
     I even marvelled. Where did Galya get such callousness from? Oleg lying
on the operating table, and she asks what's wrong with me!
     "Complete atrophy of  the memory,"  I  said  angrily.  "I've  forgotten
everything. Where I was this morning and where I  am now, who you are, who I
am, and why I'm a surgeon if one look at a scalpel makes my flesh creep."
     Silence from the receiver.
     "Are you listening?"
     "I'll come to the hospital at once," said Galya, and hung up.
     Let her  come. Did  it  matter when, where or  why?  Dreams  are always
illogical, yet for some reason I was able to think logically even in dreams.
The resolve to run away, ripening from the moment I left the operating room,
was finally taken. "I'll leave a note of some  kind for decency's sake,  and
go away," I thought.
     On  the top sheet of the pad lying on the desk above some papers I read
the  heading: 'Professor  Sergei Nikolaevich Groinov,  D. Sc. (Med.)'.  This
brought to mind my sheet from the notebook on which my hypothetical Mr. Hyde
had scribbled the mysterious, cluo-like inscription. It had turned out to be
the key to the puzzle. True, I hadn't yet solved the  puzzle itself, but the
key  was  in the lock. 'And if not?'  Zargaryan had answered  in reply to my
query whether it was a dream. What  if I were  just  as  much  of  an unseen
aggressor  to Prof. Sergei Gromov as my Hyde of  yesterday had been  to  me?
Shouldn't  I  follow  his  example  and  leave  a  similar kind of  clue  or
explanatory note?
     I was already writing on the professor's pad:

     You  and I are doubles, though we live in different worlds, and perhaps
even  in  different  times.  Unluckily, our  'meeting'  happened  during  an
operation. I couldn't finish it: in my world I have  a different profession.
Find the scientists in Moscow: Nikodimov and  Zargaryan. They, probably, can
explain to you what happened at the hospital.

     Without reading over what I had written, I went to the door, caught  by
a  single impulse  - to go  anywhere at all, so long as it was  out  of this
Hoffman-like devilry. Too late: the devilry was already at the door.
     Before I could open it, Lena entered. She was still wearing the cap and
gown she had worn in the operating room, but no mask. I retreated a step and
asked in the trembling tone others had applied to me: "Well, how was it?"
     She had scarcely aged at all  since the last  time I saw her  after the
war:  that must  have been ten years  ago. But I was more  tightly connected
with the Lena of this dream, for our professions joined us.
     "We removed the splinter," she said, barely moving her lips.
     "And Oleg?"
     "He'll  live." After a moment's  silence,  she  added:  "You counted on
something different?"
     "Why did you do it?"
     "Because a  terrible thing happened. Loss  of memory. I suddenly forgot
all I knew, everything I had learned. And even professional skills that were
part of me. I couldn't, I didn't have the right to continue the operation."
     "You're lying!"  Her lips  were  clamped together so  tightly they were
     "I'm not."
     "You're lying. Are you improvising this on the spot or did you think it
up earlier? Do you think anybody  will believe your  story? I shall demand a
special commission of experts."
     "Go ahead," I answered with a sigh.
     "I've already talked with Klenov. We'll write a letter to the papers."
     "You won't. I'm not lying to anybody."
     "To anybody? But I know why you did it. From jealousy."
     I even laughed.
     "Jealous of whom?"
     "And he even laughs, the scum!" she screamed.
     Before I could catch her arm, she  hit  me in the  face so hard that  I
almost lost balance.
     "You scum!" she repeated, choking with  tears, and close  to hysterics.
"Murderer! ... If it wasn't  for Volodya Asafyev,  Oleg would now be dead on
the operating table. Lying there dead, dead!"
     A sudden darkness cut short her screams.

     I seemed to  be blind and deaf, and my body was pressed  to the parquet
floor  as if  paralysed. I could  not even stir, and felt nothing except the
coolness of the waxed floor against  my  temple. How many hours, or minutes,
perhaps seconds,  this feeling  lasted I don't know. I had lost all sense of
     Suddenly the blackness  before my  eyes faded like  Indian ink does  on
Whatman  paper when  you use it to  spread a dull grey wash over an outlined
space. The space here was outlined by the walls of a narrow corridor  lit by
a few dim electric bulbs and terminating in a steep stairway loading up to a
rectangle of daylight. I  was  standing  now, pressing  my face against  the
waxed wall-panels, holding on  to the handrail that ran the whole  length of
the corridor.
     As before, Lena was looking at me, but her expression had  changed into
deep sympathy.
     "Are you sea-sick?" she asked. "Nauseous?"
     I  certainly  felt a  bit under the weather, especially when the floor,
swaying  like  a swing,  suddenly slipped from under my feet and my  stomach
twisted in spasms.
     "It's the pitching of the ship," she explained. "We're turning into the
     "Whereabouts are we?" I said, failing to grasp what she meant.
     "We've already reached Istanbul, Professor. Come and take a look."
     I still could not catch on to what was happening.
     A  new  devilish  metamorphosis.  Out  of  one  dream into  another.  A
Technicolor scene from a fairy tale.
     "Come  up on deck. You'll feel better where there's a breeze," and  she
pulled me  after  her. "Incidentally, let's see  what Istanbul  looks  like.
Though one can hardly make anything out - it's raining."
     The  rain  did not actually fall, but hung around us like a lustreless,
hazy  netting.  Through  this  net,  the shoreline panorama seemed  made  of
shapeless,  abstract patches  with  the  outlines  here and there of murkily
gleaming minarets  and  cupolas,  some blue and others green.  Clouds teemed
above it all, bunting and overtaking each other.
     "We'll need our raincoats," frowned Lena, with a hand above her eyes to
ward off the fine  wet spray. "Can't go ashore like this. What cabin are you
in, seven? Wait for me by the ship's ladder or on shore. All right?"
     Now I  knew  the  number  of my  cabin.  Well  then,  let's  go  for  a
mackintosh. A trip through foreign seas and countries is always interesting.
Even in the rain, even in a dream.
     Entering my  cabin, I found  Mikhail  Sichuk busy by  his  bunk. He was
hurriedly pocketing some papers and packets, and did not seem at all pleased
with my appearance.
     "Is it raining?" he asked.
     "It is," I answered  mechanically, trying  to puzzle out why  my dreams
persistently  confronted me  with the  very  same personages. "What are  you
stuffing in your pockets?"
     This seemed to embarrass Mikhail.
     "Oh,  that ...  just souvenirs  to  exchange.  So  it's raining..."  he
mumbled, avoiding my eyes.
     "That's bad. We'll all be bunched in a group, holding on to each other.
Otherwise we'll get lost...."
     Then I remembered what Mikhail had done in real life. In this very same
Istanbul. In reality, and not in a dream.
     "What's the name of our ship?" I asked.
     "What? You've forgotten?" grinned Mikhail.
     "Sclerosis. Can't remember, somehow."
     "The Ukraine. What of it?" He looked at me with suspicion.
     Everything fell into place.  This dream, in time, was a month  ago. All
the better. I could change the course of events.
     "Nothing  special," and  I even yawned to put him off  the track. "It's
raining. Suppose we don't go."
     "Not go where?"
     "Ashore.  They'll  make  us  walk half the  day in  the rain:  mosques,
museums.... Wishing we were home. Let's  settle down in the bar over a glass
of beer."
     "Isn't that the limit!" laughed  Mikhail. "The last foreign port and we
go to the bar."
     "Why the last? We still have Varna and Constanta to see. Very beautiful
cities, by the way."
     "Socialist," drawled Mikhail scornfully.
     "And you, of course, must have capitalist towns? "
     "I paid good money out. I want my money's worth."
     "Thirty pieces of silver," I said. "Judas money."
     Incidentally in that other dream in the Metropole, I'd already put this
to Mikhail.  And all  for nothing. The  shot had misfired. He never  got his
excursion-voucher,  and  so never took  the trip.  But now I'd caught him in
     "Look, I  know  what  you're planning,"  I went  on. "Two  words  to  a
policeman at the  first bus stop, and off in a taxi to the American Embassy.
Quiet, don't deny it! And at the embassy you'll beg for political shelter."
     For a moment Mikhail was turned into a pillar of  salt, like Lot's wife
immortalized  in  the Bible. But only  for a moment. Realizing that somebody
had looked into his soul, into  its secret depths, a  quiet terror came  and
went in his eyes. He was a damned good actor.
     "Rubbish," he said, with a show of good-heartedness, and reached out to
take his raincoat off the hanger.
     "I am not joking, Sichuk," I said.
     "What does that mean?"
     "It means I know the dirty thing you  intended to do, and I'm going  to
stop it."
     "That's interesting, but how?" he burst out.
     "It's  all very  simple. Till we  leave  port, you don't go out of this
     "Might as well  warn  you, I'm  not a good subject for hypnosis. So get
out of my way," he declared insolently, and began putting his coat on.
     I sat  on the  edge of the  bunk nearest the  door. Then  I  wrapped my
handkerchief round my  left hand. I'm left-handed, and punch  with  my left.
There's  no curve to  the punch, and it  has  all  the power  of my  arm and
shoulder muscles behind it, and the whole weight of  my body. I learned this
from Sazhin,  the USSR boxing champion in the light-heavyweight class.  That
was in the late forties. I was younger then and glad of his help. I would go
to him  at the  training  gym after work, right from  the editorial  office.
There, in a sheltered corner, I would  correct his notes -  he  was going to
turn journalist. Then I would ask him to show me a few tricks.
     And  he did. "You'll never make a  boxer, of  course," he told me. "Too
old, and  no talent.... But  if you ever  get in a fight, you'll be able  to
take  care  of yourself. Only see you don't  break  your knuckles. Wrap your
hand up."
     Mikhail at once noticed my manipulation and became curious.
     "What's that for?"
     "So I don't skin my knuckles."
     "What? You're joking?"
     "I've already told once I'm not joking."
     "One yell from me...."
     "You  won't yell," I interrupted him. "Or it'll be  the  worse for you.
I'll tell everything you plan doing and ... curtains, as they say."
     "Who's going to believe it?"
     "They'll believe it.  Once they're  tipped off, they'll  start thinking
out the how's and wherefore's. You won't be let ashore."
     "But I can accuse you of the same thing."
     "Then they won't let either of  us go. And when we get home, it'll  all
be straightened out."
     Dressed in his hat and coat, Mikhail sat opposite me on his bunk.
     "You're crazy. What gave you the idea I was going to skip?"
     "I saw it in a dream."
     "I'm asking you straight."
     "What  difference  does  it  make?  The important  thing  is,  I'm  not
mistaken. I can read it in your eyes."
     "I'm a Soviet citizen, Sergei."
     "You're not. You're the scum of the earth. I found that out even at the
front. Knew you were a coward, a bad lot. Only I never managed to expose you
in time."
     Red  spots came  up  on Mikhail's cheeks.  His fingers played nervously
with his  coat buttons, doing them up and undoing them. He must have finally
realized that his well-worked-out plan could fail.
     "I won't  yell, of course.  I don't want  a row." His  voice  took on a
tearful note. "But, honestly, this is all nonsense. Sheer nonsense."
     "What's in your pockets?"
     "I told you. All kinds of stuff: pins, badges, photos."
     "Show me."
     "Why should I?"
     "Then don't. Lie down on your bunk, and stay there."
     He got up and walked to the door. I put my back against it.
     "Let me out," he said through his teeth, grabbing my shoulders.
     He  was  stronger than  I,  but  out  of  cowardice didn't realize  it.
However, without any manifest hesitation, he came straight for me.
     "Let me out," he repeated, pulling me toward him.
     I gave him the knee, and he flew back. Then,  crouching, he  tore at me
trying to smash his head under my chin.
     But it didn't  connect, and I let fly at his face with a straight left,
landing right on his  mouth. He swayed  and crashed to the floor between his
bunk and  the wash-basin. A red trickle ran from his cut lip. He  touched it
with his fingers, saw blood, and screamed: "He-elp...." And broke off.
     "Go ahead, yell," I told him. "Yell louder. You don't scare me."
     His eyes narrowed, radiating spite alone.
     "All the same, I'll skip," he hissed. "Next time."
     "You  be man enough to announce that  at home. Officially, so  that all
can hear.  Say it plainly, that you don't  like our system, our society. Beg
for  a  visa  from some  embassy or other. You think you'll be held? Oh  no.
We'll be glad to chuck you out. We don't need human scum like you."
     "So why don't you let me go now?"
     "Because  you're crawling  out  quietly.  By  a  fraud. Because  you're
letting everybody down who trusted you."
     Mikhail jumped up and  rushed me again, his  mouth stretched in an ugly
grin. He wasn't thinking now of getting out of the cabin at any cost; he was
gripped by blind anger and lost his head.
     I knocked him off his feet again. Sazhin's lessons came in  handy after
all.  This time he fell on his bunk, but so hard that his head hit the wall.
It looked to me as if he had lost consciousness. But he stirred and groaned.
I folded a towel, wet it under the tap, and laid it on his face.
     There was a knock  at  the door. I slid a glance at Mikhail. He did not
even  turn  round.  I  released the  catch on  the door. In  came a  perfect
stranger wearing a wet raincoat; apparently it was raining harder.
     "You coming, Sergei Nikolaevich?"
     "No," I answered. "I'm  not. My friend isn't  feeling well. Sea-sick, I
guess. I'll stay with him."
     Mikhail still did not move, nor even  raise his head. I waited till the
footsteps died away down the corridor.
     "I'm  going to the bar,"  I warned Mikhail. "But, if you'll  excuse me,
I'm locking the door."
     I  locked the  door, but  did  not  get to the  bar.  Again  the sudden
darkness, that I was so used to,  returned me to the familiar chair with the
helmet and pick-ups.
     The  first  thing I  heard  was the  tail end  of  a conversation which
clearly was not meant for my ears.
     "A traveller in time - that's stale. I should call it a  'walk  in  the
fifth dimension'."
     "Maybe in the seventh?"
     "We'll formulate it. How is he?"
     "Unconscious, so far."
     "Consciousness has already returned."
     "And the encephalogram?"
     "Recorded in full."
     "I told you before he's a real find."
     "Shall I turn on the isolator?"
     "Turn it off,  you meant to say? Give it zero three, and then zero ten.
Let his eyes get used to light gradually."
     The  blackness lifted a bit. As if a crack had opened somewhere letting
in  a  tiny  ray of light. Though invisible,  it made the  objects around me
visible.  With each passing  second they grew more clear-cut, and soon I saw
Zargaryan's face before me, as if on a cinema screen.
     "Ave, homo, amici  te  salutant. ( Greetings, man, friends salute you.-
tr.) Do I need to translate?"
     "No," I answered.
     There  was now full light. The astronaut's helmet lightly slipped  from
my head and lifted up. The chair-back gave me a push as if suggesting that I
get up. I did. Nikodimov was already in his place at  the desk, inviting  me
to join them both.
     "Did you have many experiences?"
     "Many. Shall I relate them?"
     "Not in any case.  You are tired. You will tell  us tomorrow. What  you
need now is rest, and a proper sleep. Without dreams."
     "But what I saw ... were they dreams?" I asked.
     "We'll put oft all  exchange of  information till tomorrow," he smiled.
"Today, don't relate a thing, not even at home. The main thing is sleep, and
more sleep."

     "But shall I fall asleep?" I doubted.
     "Without  a doubt. After supper,  take this tablet.  And tomorrow we'll
meet again  here. Let's say at two  o'clock. Ruben Zargaryan  will come  for
     "Now I'll have him homo in a jiffy. Swift as the wind," said Zargaryan.
     "And don't think about anything. Don't try to recollect anything. Don't
live it over  again,"  added  Nikodimov. Urbi  ot orbi, not  a word. Need  I
     "I guess not," I said.

     I  kept  my word, and gave Olga  only  a general outline about what had
taken place. I myself did not want to relive all I had seen in my artificial
dreams, even in my thoughts. Nor did I ask  Olga about anything that had the
slightest connection with my dreams. But  late at night, in bed, I could not
restrain myself.
     "Did we ever get an invitation from the Hungarian Embassy?"
     "No," said Olga in surprise. "Why do you ask?"
     "Which  of  your  acquaintances is called  Fedor Ivanovich, and  who is
     "I  haven't the faintest," she  answered, more surprised than ever.  "I
don't know any people with those names. No wait ... I remember. You know who
Fedor Ivanovich is? The head  of a polyclinic. Not ours, but  the one  I was
asked to work in, the one  attached to the ministry. And Raisa - that's  his
wife. It was she who made mo the offer. When did you get to know them?"
     "I'll tell you tomorrow. Right now, my mind is a muddle. Forgive me," I
muttered, and fell asleep.
     I woke up late, after Olga had already gone leaving my breakfast on the
table and coffee  in  the  thermos. I didn't want  to  get up. I lay in bed,
unhurriedly going over the events of yesterday. I remembered with particular
clarity the  dreams  I  had seen in Faust's  laboratory  -  not dreams,  but
living,  concrete reality. I  remembered them in detail, down to the  little
things  you  usually don't notice  in real  life. And immediately I recalled
even the  paper pad in  the  hospital consulting  room, the  colour  of  the
buttons on Mikhail's  raincoat, the sound of the probe falling on the floor,
and  the  taste of  the  apricot  palinka or  brandy.  I  recalled  all  the
Hoffman-style   confusion,   compared   the   conversations,   actions   and
interrelations, finally coming to strange  conclusions. Very strange, though
their strangeness hardly lessened their cogency.
     A telephone  call got  me out of bed.  It was  Klenov,  who had already
found out from Zoya about my meeting Zargaryan. I would have  to take a hard
     "Do you know what 'taboo' means?"
     "Suppose I do?"
     "Then  get  this:  Zargaryan   is  taboo,   Nikodimov  is  also  taboo,
telepathy's taboo. That's the works."
     "I'll tear my clothes to ribbons."
     "Tear away! By the way, have you got a cottage in Zhavoronki?"
     "A garden plot, you  mean to say? Only  it's not in Zhavoronki. We were
offered two choices: Zhavoronki or Kupavna. I chose the last."
     "But you could have chosen Zhavoronki?"
     "Naturally. Why are you interested?"
     "I'm interested in a lot of things. For instance, who is  press-attache
now at the Hungarian Embassy? Kemenes?"
     "You haven't got encephalitis, by any chance?"
     "I'm asking in all seriousness."
     "Kemenes is press-attache in Hungary. He hasn't been sent to Moscow."
     "But he might have been?"
     "I get it. You're writing a thesis on the subjunctive mood."
     In a way,  Klenov almost guessed  it. In my  attempts to figure out the
secret hovering around  me, I  tripped over  the  subjunctive mood  time and
again that  morning. What might  have  happened  if.... If  Oleg hadn't been
killed at Dunafoldvar? If it hadn't been Oleg  that married Galya, but I? If
I  had gone in for medicine after the war instead of entering the faculty of
journalism? If  Olga had agreed to work at the ministry's  clinic? If  Tibor
Kemenes hadn't  gone to work in Belgrade, but had come to Moscow? If, if....
Over the subjunctive  mood, this Hoffman  devilry burst into rich  bloom.  I
might have gone to a reception in the Hungarian Embassy.  I  might have gone
on  the  Ukraine  around Europe.  I  might  have been a  Doctor  of  Medical
Sciences, a  surgeon operating on a  living  Oleg. All of these things might
have been in real life, if....
     And another if.  What  if I had seen not  dreams at  Zargaryan's, but a
hypnotic stream of life, altered here  and there according to circumstances?
Then the fantastic Jekyll  and Hyde story would have received a lawful vote.
If Gromov the journalist could be turned into a surgeon for  a certain time,
then why shouldn't Gromov  the surgeon  become journalist Gromov for a time?
He had that day on Tverskoi Boulevard.  In a flash,  flooded with Indian ink
and lilac mist. In a  flash, like Hyde jumping into Jekyll's  body from  the
foam-rubber  chair  in Faust's  laboratory.  You  see,  Dr.  Gromov had  his
Nikodimov and Zargaryan who controlled the same mysterious forces.
     That meant that  Zargaryan,  Nikodimov and  I, the three of us equally,
had   taken  part   in   the   simultaneous  current  of  certain   parallel
non-intersecting lives. How many parallel  lives were there? Two, five, six,
a hundred, a thousand of them? What  course were they following, and in what
space or time? I remembered  Galya's talk  with Hyde  about the plurality of
worlds. What if it wasn't a fantastic hypothesis, but a scientific discovery
- one more mystery solved about matter?
     But my mind refused to accept this explanation. All the more so because
my mind was untrained in the exact sciences. I could only bewail the limited
knowledge of our education in the  humanities. I did not have  enough brains
to think over, to ponder upon, the problem I had brought to light,
     That was the state of mind I was in when Galya dropped in on her way to
work.  She had learned from Olga last night  that I'd gone to see Zargaryan,
and she was literally burning with curiosity to know if I'd found the key to
the puzzle.
     "I found it," I said. "Only I can't turn the key in the lock: I haven't
the strength."
     I told  her about  the  chair in Faust's laboratory, and about my three
'dreams'. She was silent for a long time before she gave me a question. "Had
he grown old?"
     "What did you expect? Twenty years have gone by."
     She fell  silent again, lost in thought. I was afraid that her personal
curiosity overshadowed that of a scientist. But I was mistaken.
     "Something else  interests me,"  she said, breaking the  silence.  "The
fact that you  saw  him grown older. With  wrinkles. With a  scar that never
existed. It's impossible!" "Why?"
     "Because you've never  read  Pavlov.  You  cannot see in  a  dream what
you've never seen in real life. The blind from birth do  not see dreams. And
what was Oleg like when you knew him? A boy, a youth. Where did the wrinkles
of a forty-year-old man come from, and the scar on the temple?"
     "But if it's not a dream?"
     "You've already got an explanation?" Galya shot back.
     I got the  idea that she had guessed exactly what explanation I thought
the most likely, and the most frightening.
     "So  far it's  only an attempt  at  an  explanation,"  I  reminded  her
hesitantly. "I keep trying to compare my adventure with  these dreams.... If
Hyde could play  such a joke on Jekyll, then why couldn't they both exchange
     "But  don't you  remember your talk with  Hyde  about the plurality  of
worlds? Parallel worlds, parallel lives?"
     "Rubbish," objected Galya.
     "You simply don't  want  to take it seriously," I reproached her. "It's
easy enough to say 'rubbish'. They said  the same thing about the Copernicus
     I didn't make  her give  in by this  remark but at least forced her  to
think about my own thesis.
     "Parallel worlds? Why parallel?"
     "Because they don't intersect anywhere."
     Galya laughed, openly scornful.
     "Don't try writing science  fiction: that's my advice. You wouldn't get
anywhere. Non-intersecting worlds?" She snorted. "So Nikodimov and Zargaryan
have found a point of intersection? A window into an anti-world?"
     "Who knows?" I said.
     I found out the answer to that two hours later in Faust's laboratory.

     To tell  the truth, I went there as if to an examination, with the same
inner  trepidation and  fear before the unknown. Again and  again I ran over
the dreams  I recalled, the visions I'd seen during the experiment. I called
them 'dreams' from habit, though  I had come to the  final  conclusion  that
they  weren't  dreams  at  all. I  compared  all  details  suggesting such a
comparison, and systematized my conclusions.
     "Have you  got it well  rehearsed?" asked Zargaryan merrily when he met
     "Rehearsed what?" I muttered, embarrassed.
     "Your story, of course."
     He saw through me. But rising anger made me overcome my  embarrassment.
"I don't much like your attitude."
     He only laughed in answer.
     "Do all  the complaining  you like. The  tape-recorder  isn't turned on
     "What tape-recorder?"
     "The 'Yauza-10'. For purity of sound, it's wonderful."
     I hadn't  expected  to make a tape-recording. It's one thing  to tell a
story, bat quite another to tape-record. I shook my head, almost refusing.
     "Sit down  and begin," Nikodimov encouraged me. "You'll make  your mark
in science. Pretend you're dictating to a pretty stenographer."
     "Only no hunter's tales,"  added Zargaryan with sly humour. "The tape's
supersensitive, with Munchausen tuning.... I'm switching on."
     Childishly, I stuck my tongue out at him, and my shyness disappeared at
once.  I began  my story without any prologue, quite freely, and  the more I
talked the more colourful it became. I did not simply relate it: I explained
and compared, looking into the past; compared the vision with reality and my
experiences with my subsequent views. All Zargaryan's irony disappeared like
smoke:  he  listened greedily, stopping me  only  to  reverse  the  tape.  I
resurrected for  them  all  the impressions  I had  in the lab chair: Lena's
anger in  the hospital, Sichuk's face convulsed  with evil, and the lifeless
smile  of Oleg on the  operating table, everything that I recalled and  that
had  staggered  me, that even shocked me now while  I tape-recorded my still
vivid recollections.
     The  tape  reel was  still turning when I  finished: Zargaryan did  not
immediately turn it off, and it  recorded  the whole minute  of silence that
reigned in the room.
     "So you  didn't see the department store arcade," he observed bitterly.
"Nor the road to the lake. A pity."
     "Wait, Ruben," Nikodimov stopped him.  "That's not the point. You  see.
the phases are almost identical. The same time, the same people."
     "Not quite."
     "Only infinitesimal deviations."
     "But they are there," said Zargaryan,
     "Not mathematically."
     "And the difference in the signs?"
     "Does such a difference change a  man? Time changes, perhaps. If it's a
minus phase, then it's possibly  time  coining from an  opposite direction -
     "Don't  be so sure. Perhaps it's  only a  different system  of counting
time," said Zargaryan.
     "All the same, everybody will call it fantasy! And reason?"
     "If you don't violate reason,  you won't  get anywhere in general.  Who
said that? Einstein."
     The conversation didn't get any clearer. And I coughed.
     "Excuse  me," said  Nikodimov, embarrassed. "We got carried away.  Your
dreams don't give us any peace."
     "But are they dreams?" I expressed my doubts.
     "You doubt it? So you've been thinking, have you? Maybe we'll start off
the explanations with yours?"
     I  remembered all  Galya's sneers, but  I was not afraid of hearing the
same again. So I stubbornly repeated the myth of Jekyll and Hyde, who met on
the crossroads  of space  and time. If  this was an  anti-world,  plurality,
mysticism, the ravings of a  mad dog - so be it! But I had no other theories
to explain it with.
     However, Nikodimov did not even smile.
     "Have you studied physics?" he asked suddenly.
     "Through  a  school textbook,"  I  admitted, and  thought:  'Now  he'll
     But Nikodimov did not mock me, he merely stroked his beard.
     "A rich  training. But how, with the  help of a school textbook can you
define a plurality of worlds? Let's say, in Cartesian co-ordinates?"
     Searching my memory, I found  the Wellsian  Utopia that  Mr. Barnstaple
got into, without turning off an ordinary highway.
     "Excellent," agreed Nikodimov. "We'll  begin with that. What did  Wells
compare  our three-dimensional world  to? To a book whose  every page was  a
two-dimensional world. So, one might suppose that in multi-dimensional space
there  might  also be  neighbouring three-dimensional worlds, moving in time
along nearly parallel routes. That's  according to Wells. When he  wrote his
novel after the First World War, the genius Dirac was still a youth, and his
theory received popular acclaim  only in  the  thirties. You can, of course,
picture up what Dirac's 'vacuum' is?"
     "Approximately," I said  carefully.  "Generally speaking, it  is not  a
void, but something like a neutrino-antineutrino pulp. Like  plankton in the
     "Picturesque, but not lacking sense," agreed Nikodimov again. "And this
very same plankton from elementary particles, the neutrino-antineutrino gas,
constitutes a border between worlds with a plus sign and  those with a minus
sign. There are scientists who look for anti-worlds in other galaxies, but I
prefer seeking  them right next door. And  not  only a symmetrical system  -
world and anti-world,  but  the  infinity  of this symmetry. As  we  have an
infinite number of combinations in  a game of chess, so  even here there are
infinite combinations of worlds and anti-worlds, adjacent to each other. You
ask  how  I  picture this  adjacency?  As a  stable,  geometrically isolated
existence? No, on the contrary. In a simplified form this is the idea of the
inexhaustibility of  matter, of its perpetual motion generating these worlds
along  certain new,  still  unknown  co-ordinates. To  be more exact,  along
certain phase-like trajectories.
     "Well, but  what about ordinary motion then?" I interrupted, perplexed.
"I'm also a particle of matter, but I move through space independent of your
     "Why 'quasi'? One is  simply  independent of  the other. You are moving
through  space independent of your moving through time. Whether  you  sit at
home or travel  somewhere - you get  equally older.  So  it  is here: in one
world you might,  let's say, be travelling by sea; in the other, at the very
same time, you are playing chess  or having dinner at home. More  than that:
in the infinite repetition of worlds you  may travel, be ill, or work; while
in other infinite plurality  of similar worlds,  you  don't actually  exist,
perhaps through an unfortunate accident or suicide, or you were simply never
born at all because your parents never met. I hope I make myself clear?"
     "Quite clear."
     "He's  shamming," said Zargaryan. "What he  needs right  now is a vivid
example  - that's  clear at a glance. Look here, imagine  an unusual reel of
film. In  one  frame you are  flying in an  aeroplane,  in  another  you are
shooting,  in a third you are killed.  In one  frame a tree  is growing,  in
another  it is  cut down. In  one, the Pushkin  monument  stands on Tverskoi
Boulevard, in another in the centre of the  square. In a word, life shown in
separate frames, moving, let us say, vertically from  below  upward or  from
above downward. And now picture the same life in separate frames, but moving
horizontally from every frame, from left to  right  or vice versa. There you
have an approximate model of  matter in multi-dimensional space. Now what do
you  think is the  most  essential  difference between  this  model  and the
simulated object?"
     I didn't answer. What was the use of guessing?
     "The difference is that there are no identical  frames,  but  identical
worlds exist."
     "Similar," I countered.
     "Not  only," Nikodimov interrupted.  "We  still don't  know  the law by
which  matter  moves  in  these  dimensions.  Take  the  simplest  law:  the
sinusoidal. With the ordinary sinusoid, the slightest change in the argument
brings  about  a corresponding change of function,  and that  means  another
world.  But in a period, we get the same value of the sine  and consequently
the same world. And so on into eternity."
     "That means I might also  find myself in a world like ours? Exactly the
     "You wouldn't even notice any difference," said Zargaryan.
     "And how do you explain what happened to me on the boulevard?"
     "The same as you do. Jekyll and Hyde."
     "A Gromov from another world who looks the same as me?"
     "Precisely.  A  certain  Nikodimov  and  a  Zargaryan  in   that  world
transferred  the  conscious  mind  of  your  double.  This   did  not  occur
momentarily, not all at once. Your own mind protested, argued: that explains
the dualism during the first few minutes. But afterwards it  gave in  to the
     I suggested the proposition  that my trying episode in the hospital was
an exchange visit, but Nikodimov doubted it.
     "It's  possible, of course, but scarcely  likely. It would be closer to
the truth to suppose that it was  a Gromov more or less like your aggressor.
The  same profession,  the  same  circle of acquaintances,  the  same family
situation.  But  I've  already  told  you  of the  possibility  of an almost
complete, and even utterly complete, identity...."
     "To put it  more  vividly,"  interrupted  Zargaryan,  "we have  visited
worlds whose borders fit into the borders of ours, touching the interior. We
call them adjacent worlds, conditionally of course. And there  are even more
interesting  worlds intersecting  ours or, shall we say, perhaps in  general
not having  points of contact with ours. There, time is either in advance of
our time, or it lags behind. And who knows by how much?" He was silent, then
added almost dreamily:

     Far beyond a certain birch-tree,
     So long, so very dear to me,
     In sudden silence is revealed
     The unknown - strange and most unreal.

     "You didn't  finish," I laughed, remembering  the  same  verses.  "It's
different farther on!"

     To reach an unknown world we strive,
     'It's sad, not all who go arrive.

     The desk telephone rang.
     "Not all who go," repeated Nikodimov thoughtfully. "Our  chief wouldn't
     The telephone kept ringing.
     "Talk of the devil, and.... Don't answer."
     "All the same, he'll find us."
     The trip into the unknown  was put off till the evening when we were to
meet in the Sofia Restaurant,  where  freedom from  the top brass was  fully


     I  did  not  see  Olga  until  supper  time:  she was  delayed  at  the
polyclinic.  There  was nobody to talk with, about  what had happened. Galya
didn't  ring  up,  and  I  was  careful  to  avoid  Klenov  because  of  his
insufferable instructive manner; because of it I even  slipped away  from an
editorial meeting.
     I wandered the streets for about an hour,  so as  not to arrive  at the
restaurant too early  and have to hang around the  entrance looking foolish.
Trying to collect my thoughts,  I sat by Pushkin's  monument, but everything
I'd heard that morning was so new  and surprising that I couldn't even think
it all out. Finally, all the flow of my thoughts led to the question  of how
to  evaluate  my  meeting  the   two  scientists.  As  an  unusual  success,
'reporters' luck',  or as a menace  that always lies hidden in something the
mind cannot  grasp. I was inclined to think it  was  'reporters' luck'. If a
lab guinea-pig could  reason, it would  probably be proud of its association
with  scientists.  And I was proud of  mine. Another sign of reporters' luck
was the  type of  scientists my  friends  belonged to. I read somewhere that
scientists  are divided into classic and romantic types. The classic typo is
he who develops something new on the basis  of  the  old, on what is  firmly
established  in  science.  But  the  romanticists  are  dreamers.  They  are
interested in fields of knowledge  close to  their own or remotely connected
with  them.  They  not only produce  something new founded on the old:  more
often  they do  it by  using utterly unlooked-for associations. I  had  even
expressed my admiration  of this type in an article I wrote. Now 'reporters'
luck' had thrown us together.  Only romantics can so bravely and  recklessly
sin against reason. And, apparently, I  was very anxious to continue my part
in this sinning.
     Such were my  thoughts as I went  to keep my appointment,  arriving not
earlier but even later than  my new friends. They already awaited me at  the
entrance: Zargaryan all in smiles and Nikodimov, dressed in an old-fashioned
stiff jacket, modestly  effacing himself  in the rear. The stand-up starched
collar,  popular  around the turn  of  the  century,  would  have suited him
perfectly - he looked as severe as a  prophet out  of the Old Testament. The
irresistible Zargaryan more than made up for it. Wearing a strict dark suit,
with  just enough of  his  tie  showing  to display  a gold pin linked to  a
rounded shirt-collar, he so impressed the  stout,  bald  maitre d'hotel that
Nikodimov and I went unnoticed. We walked behind, half-smiling at the waiter
bustling ahead of our tall Ruben and captiously selecting the secluded table
we ordered.
     When dinner was served, Zargaryan poured the cognac.
     "The first toast is mine ... to chance meetings."
     "Why 'chance'?"
     "You can't possibly  imagine how great a role chance plays in my  life.
By chance I met Zoya and  through her,  by  chance,  you. I even  met  Pavel
Nikodimov by chance. Five years ago I read his  article on the concentration
of the sub-quantum biofield in the Bulletin  of the  Academy of  Sciences. I
went to him at once. It turned out that we were approaching one and the same
problem along different paths."
     He was silent. I  remembered Klenov  telling  me that  they  worked  in
absolutely different fields of science, but before I could utter my question
Zargaryan read my mind.
     "A strange union, eh? Physics and neurophysiology," he laughed.
     "What are you, a mind-reader?"
     "And why not? I must be according to my staff position. After all I'm a
telepathist. I'm engaged in  many  things in this field, but most of all I'm
interested in dreams. Why do we so often dream of  what we  never saw in our
conscious  lives?  How  is  this connected  with Pavlov's teaching  that the
essence of dreams is  a reflection of  reality. What  stimulations, in  such
cases, act on the brain cells? Perhaps things one is accustomed to -  light,
sounds,  contacts,  smells?  But  if not?  Then  there must be  certain  new
stimulations we are not aware of...."
     I  remembered  why  my  dreams  drew  his  attention:  they   were  not
reflections of reality. But, apparently, many people  have seen such dreams.
Only  these  dreams weren't stable,  as Zargaryan  had explained. They  were
easily forgotten,  hazy in  the conscious mind,  but the main thing was they
did not repeat themselves.
     "I figured it this way," he continued. "If, according to Pavlov, dreams
reflect what  is seen in our waking  hours,  yet  the one  experiencing them
never  actually  saw the things he  dreamed of,  then it means somebody else
did. But who? And how can what he sees be imprinted on the conscious mind of
     I interrupted him.
     "Then my department store, street scene, the road to the lake or pond -
they are some stranger's dreams?"
     "Without any doubt."
     "But whose?"
     "I still didn't know at the time. There arose a supposition that it was
hypnotic  transmission. But  suggestion does not occur by chance, suggestion
out of nowhere. It is always sent from the hypnotizer to the hypnotized. Not
one of the cases I observed showed any evidence of suggestion. I put forward
the idea of  mental telepathy.  In parapsychology, we call the brain sending
the signal the  inductor, and the  brain  receiving  it the percipient.  And
again, not in one case investigated did we  manage to discover the inductor.
Characteristic examples are  your more stable dreams. Who transmits  them to
you? From where? You wore lost in conjectures. I was, too, though I inclined
to the supposition that it is some other  living person existing  in another
form  and  perhaps  in   another  world.  However,  that  would   he  almost
mysticism....  I  stood  before  a  closed door. It was Pavel Nikodimov  who
opened it for me, or rather  his paper  did. Then  I  said:  'Open, Sesame!'
Isn't that the way it was, Pavel?"
     "Just about," affirmed  Nikodimov good-heartedly. "But you skipped  the
most picturesque  details:  Sesame  did not open so  easily. You see,  I'm a
crabby fellow ... get along rather badly with people. My assistant ... well,
he ran away when  they began to put pressure on us.  Took you for a lunatic,
Ruben. I can even remember the district psychiatrist he phoned to.  But even
that didn't  stop you. But you're right,  our  collaboration  began  from  a
chance meeting. So I back your toast. Let's drink to it."
     "And   afterwards?"  I  asked.  "It's  a  big  jump  from  an  idea  to
experimental tests."
     "We  didn't jump, we crawled. The mathematical idea led to the physical
state  of  the  field.  We  started  off  with  biocurrents.  You  see,  the
biocurrents of the brain are actually electro-magnetic fields originating in
its  nerve cells. Through their radiation  they  generate a  sort  of single
energy-field - the so-called conscious and subconscious of a person's  mind.
Take your analogy. The  fields of Jekyll and Hyde are only similar: they are
incompatible or, as we say, antipathetic.
     While you are awake, while your  brain  is active, the antipathy of the
fields  is constant and  invariable. But  when you fall  asleep, the picture
changes. The antipathy is now weakened, so  the fields of the  'doubles' are
superposed, so to say, and your dreams automatically  repeat what the  other
has  seen. But for Jekyll to  become Hyde a complete compatibility of fields
is necessary, which is possible only during exceptional activity on the part
of  the  inductor's  field.  And  we've discovered  that  you  possess  this
exceptional gift of activity."
     I listened eagerly to  Nikodimov, but not all of it sank in, some of it
escaped me. It was as if I had spells of deafness and from time to time lost
the  guiding  thread  in  this   devilish  labyrinth  of   fields,  doubles,
frequencies  and  rhythms; but  with sheer force  of will I would  catch  it
again. It looked like a speech interrupted by dots to indicate omissions.
     "... through our  experiments," Nikodimov was saying,  "we came  to the
conclusion that under reciprocal transmission the fields activate waves with
a frequency much higher than the usual alpha-rhythm. We called this new type
of frequency kappa-rhythm. And the higher the  frequency of the kappa waves,
the more vivid are the dreams received by the  sleeping receptor. Further on
it  wasn't  so  difficult to establish the  regularities  as  well. Complete
compatibility of  fields is connected with a sharp rise in frequency.  So we
got  the  idea of making a concentrator, or a transformer of biocurrents. By
establishing the  directed current of  radiation we apparently transfer your
conscious mind,  locating an identical mind for it beyond the borders of our
three-dimensional world. Of  course, we are still at the very  beginning  of
the road  - the movement of the field  along a phase  trajectory is somewhat
chaotic for the time being, because we cannot yet  control it. We cannot say
exactly where you will regain consciousness - in the present, past or in the
future, going by our time. Dozens of experiments must still be made...."
     "I'm ready," I interrupted him.
     Nikodimov did not answer.
     A  husky,  boyish  voice drifted down  to  us  from  the  stage where a
juke-box stood  that a young pop-music fan had turned  on. The voice floated
over  the noisy dining-hall, over the short-  or long-haired  or bald heads,
over  the  wine-darkened crystal goblets, floated invisibly  and  powerfully
with a strength and purity of feeling unexpected in a restaurant almost blue
with cigarette smoke.
     "A song with an undercurrent," said Zargaryan.
     I  listened.  "You  are  my  destiny,"  sang  the  boy,  "you   are  my
     "And you are our destiny," Zargaryan picked up the words with a serious
and even triumphant note. "And maybe our happiness. You alone."
     I averted my eyes, embarrassed.  Whatever  you say, there  is something
good about being somebody's destiny  and happiness. Nikodimov at once caught
my movements and the rather vain idea behind it.
     "But perhaps we are your destiny,  too," he said. "You will  know a lot
more,  and  particularly about yourself. You see, you are only a particle of
that living  matter  which is 'you'  in an  endlessly complicated vastness -
time. In a word, as the ancient Romans said: Nosce te ipsum - know thyself."

     I was ready to know myself in all the sum  total of dimensions,  phases
and co-ordinates, but I didn't  tell Olga about it that night. I gave her  a
vague sketch of my talk with the  scientists  and  promised to  relate it in
greater  detail  the  following  day,  which was  her  birthday.  We usually
celebrated it  alone,  but this  time I invited Galya and  Klenov to  be our
guests.  I wanted very much to include Zargaryan  and  Nikodimov, the guilty
parties in this unexpected -  I could even say wonderful - event in my life.
I  had mentioned it  in passing when we  left  the restaurant, but Nikodimov
either wasn't listening attentively or missed it through absent-mindedness.
     "Best leave it," Zargaryan had whispered confidentially. "He won't come
anyway - he's a hermit, as he admitted himself. But I'll come when I can get
away, perhaps a  bit late though. We haven't  finished our talk yet," and he
slyly stressed it, "about self-knowledge, have we?"
     He certainly came later than the rest of our company, arriving when the
table-talk had already turned  into argument, so hot an argument that  there
was shouting, an argument stubborn to  the point of rudeness when you forget
all formalities in an effort to get your word in.
     My  story  of  what I experienced during the test and of my later  talk
with the scientists had made the impression of maniacal raving.
     "We-ell..." Klenov muttered uncertainly, and was silent.
     "I don't believe it," cried  out Galya excitedly,  red in  the face and
with sparks in her eyes.
     "Why not?"
     "It's nonsense! And it's sensation-hunting, as my lab colleagues say. A
shady business. They're pulling the wool over your eyes."
     "But  why should they?" snapped  Klenov. "What's their  game? Nikodimov
and Zargaryan aren't glory-hunters or schemers. It would be all very well if
they wanted publicity, but they demand silence, d'you see. With their names,
they  don't  want to  arouse  even  a  shadow  of doubt that  it's  a  truly
scientific venture."
     "Everything  new  in  science,  all  discoveries,  are  built  on  past
experiments," said  Galya heatedly.  "And  where can you  see  that  in this
     "The new often refutes the old."
     "There are different kinds of refutations."
     "Exactly.  Einstein wasn't believed either, at first, for it was Newton
he refuted!"
     Olga  kept stubbornly silent and out  of it  all, until it drew Galya's
     "W7hy don't you say something?"
     "I'm afraid to."
     "Whatever for?"
     "You people  are only arguing about certain abstract ideas, but  Sergei
is taking a direct part in the experiment. And, as I understand it, it won't
stop  here. If  everything he  says  is  true, why,  the brain of an average
person can scarcely sustain it."
     "And are you so sure that I'm an average person?" I joked.
     But  she did not take  it as a  joke,  nor did she answer me. Galya and
Klenov again ruled the conversation. I had to answer dozens of questions and
again repeat my story of the dreams I'd had in Faust's laboratory.
     "If Nikodimov can prove his hypothesis," Galya finally admitted,  "then
it will turn physics upside down.  It will be the greatest upset  that  ever
occurred in our knowledge of the world.  If  he proves  it, of course,"  she
added stubbornly. "The experiment on Sergei is still not proof."
     "But I'm interested in  something else,"  said Klenov thoughtfully. "If
you accept the truth of the  hypothesis  a priori, another  question  arises
that's of no less importance: how did life develop on every space phase? Why
are they so  similar? I'm  not referring to  the physical  but their  social
aspect. Why is it that each transformed Moscow of Sergei's is a present-day,
post-war Moscow which is capital of the Soviet Union and not tsarist Russia?
Look, if Nikodimov's hypothesis is proved, do you realize what they will ask
about in the West, before anything  else?  Politicians,  historians,  church
dignitaries and  journalists will ask: is it obligatory that all worlds have
a similar social structure?  Is it absolutely certain  that their historical
development has been identical?"
     "Nikodimov spoke of still other worlds from different currents of time,
perhaps even with counter-times. In that  case, one might hit on Neanderthal
man or on the first of Earth's stellar flights."
     "That  isn't  my point,"  Klenov  said impatiently. "However  brilliant
Nikodimov  and  Zargaryan's  discovery  may  be,  it  does  not  reduce  the
importance of  the question  of social systems in every world.  According to
Marxism,  all  is  clear:  the  physical  similarity  presupposes  a  social
similarity. Everywhere the  development  of productive forces determines the
character of production relations. But can you imagine the song that will be
sung  by  those  adherents  of  the  cults  of personality and  chance?  The
barbarians  might not have reached  Rome, and the  Tatars, Kalka. Washington
might  have lost the war of American  independence, and  Napoleon might have
won at Waterloo. Luther might not  have become head of the Reformation,  and
Einstein  might  not  have  discovered  the  theory of  relativity. Bradbury
carried this dependence  of  historical development  on blind  chance to the
absurd. A traveller in  time accidentally kills a butterfly in the  Jurassic
period,  and  it  leads to  a change  in the  American presidential election
campaign: in place  of a progressive and  radical  candidate,  they  elect a
fascist and obscurantist  as  President. We know, of course, that Gold-water
wouldn't have been elected any way even if all the dinosaurs of the Jurassic
period had been killed. And we know that if Napoleon had won at Waterloo, he
would probably have been  defeated  somewhere  near Liege. And somebody else
would have headed  the Reformation instead of Luther; and if Einstein hadn't
discovered the theory of  relativity, someone else would  have done so. Even
not  rising  to  the heights of  historical materialism, Belinsky wrote more
than a hundred years ago that blind chance did not rule either in  nature or
in history, but strict, irrevocable, inner necessity did."
     Klenov spoke with that professional erudition of  a  lecturer, which so
annoyed  me  at  editorial  meetings, and I  cut in purely in the spirit  of
     "Well, but  just  imagine if  there  had  never been  a  Hitler in some
neighbouring world? He was never born. Would there have been war or not?"
     "Can't you answer that yourself?  And Goering, Hess,  Goebbels, Rommel,
and  lastly Strasser? The Krupps would  have passed the conductor's baton to
somebody.  And I  visualize you as a  great delegate with a mission, Sergei.
Don't  laugh  -  truly great.  Not  only  in  helping to  prove  Nikodimov's
hypothesis, but in the fact  that you will be  strengthening the position of
the Marxist conception of history. That everywhere and always, under similar
conditions of life on our planet, no matter what changes, phases or whatever
you  call them  take  place,  the class struggle always determined and still
determines social development until it becomes a classless society."
     At this  moment Zargaryan appeared with a bouquet of chrysanthemums. In
ten minutes he won over Olga  and Galya, and Klenov's professional erudition
changed into the respectful attention of a college freshman.
     Zargaryan gathered up all the threads of the talk at once, spoke of the
proposed  Nobel  prize winners, of his recent  trip to London,  interchanged
remarks  with Galya  about the  future  of laser technology.  With  Olga  he
discussed  the  role  of  hypnosis  in paediatrics. Then he praised Klenov's
article in the journal Science  and Life. But he purposely, or so it  seemed
to me, diverted the conversation from my part in the scientific experiment.
     However,  when it struck eleven he  caught my perplexed glance and said
with his characteristic smile: "I know, d'you see, what you're thinking. Why
is Zargaryan silent about the experiment?  Am I right? Actually, old chap, I
didn't  want to leave  right  away, because  further  conversation  will  be
impossible after  I've  said my say. Intriguing?"  he laughed. "It's  simple
enough, really. You see, tomorrow we intend making a new experiment,  and we
are asking you to take part."
     "I'm ready,"  I said, repeating  what I had  already  told  him  in the
     "Don't be in a  hurry," Zargaryan stopped me,  and now there was a note
of seriousness in his voice which I had noticed once  before,  and agitation
as well.  "First, the new experiment is to be much  longer than the previous
one. Maybe  it will last several hours, perhaps even twenty-four.... Second,
the test will  cover  more remote phases. I  say 'remote'  only  to keep  it
within  the  bounds of  comprehension.  The point  is  hardly  a  matter  of
distances, the  more so that we cannot determine them; and  besides, what we
mean by distances is of no importance for the activities of the biocurrents.
The diffusion of the radiation  is practically  instantaneous and  does  not
depend either on the spatial  arrangement of the phase or on the sign of the
field. But  I must honestly warn you that we  do not know the degree of risk
     "So it's dangerous?" asked Galya.
     Olga  asked no questions, though the pupils of her  eyes seemed a shade
     "I cannot answer that definitely." Apparently  Zargaryan had no  desire
to  conceal anything from me. "If  the  aiming  is not accurate  enough, our
converter might lose  control of the superposed  biofield. What  the results
would be  to the test-subject, we don't know. Now imagine something else: in
this world  he is  unconscious, in  the  other his conscious  mind has  been
imparted to  a certain person ... let's say  somebody  travelling by  plane.
What would happen to Sergei's conscious mind if there were a crash, we don't
know.  Would the converter  manage to switch over the biofield  in time,  or
would two people die, one in that world and one in this?"
     Zargaryan was answered with silence. He stood up, and resumed.
     "I've  already told you  that after my explanation the small talk would
end. You are  free, Sergei, to make your decision. I'll come for  you in the
morning and hear it with full respect even if it is a refusal."
     We  saw  him out in silence, returned to the table in silence, and  the
conversation was not resumed for a long time.
     Finally, Galya asked me point-blank:  "You're  waiting for my advice, I
     I  silently shrugged  my  shoulders.  What did it  matter  whether  she
advised me or not?
     "I already started believing  in this  delirium," she continued.  "Just
imagine  -  I believed  it.  And if  I were  suitable for the  test and  had
received the offer you have... I should not think twice about my answer. But
as to advice.... Well, that's Olga's job."
     "I won't talk you out of it, Sergei," said Olga. "Decide for yourself."
     I still kept silent, not taking my eyes off my empty glass. I waited to
hear what Klenov would say.
     "You  know, it would be interesting to know..." he  suddenly began, not
speaking to anyone  in particular. "That is,  I wonder if Gagarin thought it
over when they offered him the chance to make the first flight into space?"

     It is not enough to have this
     globe, or a certain time - I will
     have thousands of globes, and all time.
     Walt Whitman, Poem of Joys

     But, looking into the future,
     As through a mirage-like prism,
     What a supreme paradise I desire-
     Out of one eye to glimpse communism.
     Ilya Selvinsky, Sonnet

     Zargaryan came for me in  the morning before Olga left for work. We had
both got up early, as we always do when one of us is leaving on a holiday or
a business  trip. But the feeling of the abnormality and strangeness of this
morning, compared to other  such  moments in the past, cast  a darkness over
the  window, the sky, and  the spirit. We purposely didn't speak of what lay
ahead  but  conversed  as usual  in  little more  than monosyllables. I kept
looking for my  missing toothbrush and Olga couldn't get the water to run at
the proper temperature.
     "Now it's hot, now it's cold. You try the taps."
     I tried my hand at it, and got nowhere.
     "Are you nervous?"
     "Not a bit."
     "But I'm afraid."
     "Wasted emotion. Nothing  happened before.  T sat  a couple of hours in
the chair, and that's all there was  to it. Fell  asleep and woke up. Didn't
even have a headache afterwards."
     "But  you  know this time it won't be  for two hours.  Maybe ten, maybe
twenty-four. A  long experiment.  I  can't  even  understand  how they could
permit it."
     "If  it's  permitted,  then everything's  okay. You  needn't  have  any
     "But  I do have doubts." Her voice rang a bit shrilly. "First, I  doubt
it  as  a  doctor.  Twenty-four hours  without  consciousness.  Without  the
supervision of a doctor...."
     "Why  without a  doctor?" I  interrupted. "Outside  of his  speciality,
Zargaryan  has  had medical training. Besides,  there's lots of  pick-ups to
keep everything under control - pressure, heart and breathing.  What else do
you want?" Her eyes shone suspiciously  close to  tears. "And  if you  don't
return...." "From where?"
     "Do you know from whore? You haven't the  faintest idea.  Some sort  of
transferred biofield. Worlds. A wandering conscious mind. It's terrifying to
think of."
     "Then  don't  think  of  it.  People  fly  in   aeroplanes.  It's  also
terrifying, but they do it. And nobody worries over it."
     Her  lips trembled, the towel slipped from her hand to the floor. I was
glad when the telephone rang and I could avoid a recurrence of the dangerous
     It was Galya. She wanted lo come over, but was afraid she mightn't make
it in time." "Zargaryan isn't there yet?"
     "Not  so far.  We're  waiting."  "How's  your mood?"  "Not  bad. Olga's
crying."  "How silly. In her place I'd  be glad  -  her man off on a feat of
     "Let's not overdo it, Galya."  "Why not? That's how they'll see it when
it's all over. No other way. A leap  into  the future. The very  thought  of
such a chance is enough to make your head swim."
     "Why  into the future?" I laughed,  wanting to tease her. "What if it's
into some Jurassic period? With pterodactyls!"
     "Don't  talk nonsense,"  interrupted  Galya. Doubting  Thomas  has  now
turned fanatic. "Don't you dare even think it."
     "Man proposes, God disposes. Well, let's say chance rather than God."
     "What  did you learn in the faculty of journalism? A fine Marxist  I've
     "Look, baby,"  I prayed. "Don't force  me  to  repent  of my  political
mistakes right now. I'll do that when I come back."
     She laughed, as if we were talking about a trip to the cottage.
     "Well, good luck, you hear? And bring me back a souvenir."
     "It  would be  interesting to know  what souvenir I could bring her," I
told   Klenov   who  had   joined  Olga  and   I  for   morning  coffee.  "A
pterodactyl-claw or a dinosaur-tooth?"
     I  was  touched. He hadn't been  too  lazy to come to see me off  on my
rather unusual journey, and had even managed to calm Olga down.
     The tears had gone from her eyes.
     "To  get  a  gander  at  dinosaurs  wouldn't be  bad," observed  Klenov
philosophically. "You could organize some kind of safari in time. That would
make a big noise."
     I sighed.
     "There'll be no noise,  Klenov.  And no safari. I'll meet you somewhere
in  an  adjacent  bit  of  life.  We'll go to  the cinema  and  see Child of
Montparnasse. We'll drink palinka again. Or Hungarian tsuika."
     "You have  no imagination," said Klenov angrily.  "They  won't send you
into  an adjacent  little world. Remember  what Zargaryan  said?  It's quite
possible there are worlds moving in some other course of time. Let's suppose
their  time is behind ours. But not  by a million years! What if it's a half
century behind? You look around and on the streets it's October 1917."
     "And if it's a hundred years ago?"
     "That  wouldn't be  bad either. You'll go to work  at  the  Sovremennik
magazine ( The Contemporary.-Tr.) Maybe they put out a Sovremennik with  the
same trend? Probably. And there you 'll see Chernyshevsky sitting at a desk.
Interesting, right? You're not drooling at the mouth?"
     We both laughed, and loudly enough to upset Olga.
     "I want to cry, and they laugh!"
     "We have a shortage of sodium chloride in our bodies," said Klenov. "So
our tear  ducts have dried  up. And,  by the way, Olga,  tears from a hero's
wife are contra-indicated. Better have a drink of cognac.  What if you  wake
up in the future and find there's a dry law?"
     I  had  to refuse the cognac, because Zargaryan  was already ringing at
the front door. He looked  severe and official, and never dropped a word all
the way to the  institute. I was  silent, too. Only when he had  parked  his
Volga car alongside  its twins in the  institute's parking lot,  and we were
going up the granite steps to the door, did bespeak. There was no  smile, no
funny accent, none of the usual whimsy that accompanied his sly remarks or a
     "Don't think I'm afraid or disturbed. It's Nikodimov who figures  it is
possible that  a certain per cent of risk is involved. The problem, he says,
is  not yet mastered, too few experiments. And I think that everything is in
our  hands,  that  it's  a  hundred  per  cent ours. I'm  sure  of  success.
Absolutely!" The last he  cried  so that it echoed through the near-by grove
of trees. "And I'm silent because one is sparing of words before the battle.
Got that, Sergei?"
     "Absolutely, Ruben."
     We shook hands on it, and were silent till we  reached  the laboratory.
Nothing had  changed  since my last  visit.  There was  the same  soft-toned
plastic,  the  golden  gleaming copper, shining  nickel, the  smoke-coloured
glass panels reminiscent of television screens only several times larger. My
chair  stood in its usual place  in  the network of  coloured lead-in wires,
both  thick and thin, some as tiny as spider-webs. The spider was in  ambush
awaiting his victim. But the soft, comfortable chair, lit from the window by
an  unexpectedly  appearing  sun, did  not  incite  alarm or  suspicion.  It
reminded me more of a heart set in a nest of blood vessels. As yet the heart
did not beat: I was not sitting there.
     Nikodimov met me in his stiffly  starched white gown, and  with a smile
that was just as stiff and starched.
     "I  should  be glad,  of  course,  only  glad  that  you've  agreed  to
participate in  this risky  experiment," he told  me after  an  exchange  of
friendly  compliments.  "For me, as a scientist, this may be  the  final and
decisive step toward my goal. But I must ask you  to  consider your decision
once  more,  weigh all  the pros and cons before  we  begin this  particular
     "But it's already decided," I said.
     "Wait. Think it over. What urges you to agree to it? Curiosity? To tell
the truth, that's not a very admirable stimulus."
     "And scientific interest?"
     "You have none."
     "What drives  journalists  to go, let us say,  to the Antarctic or into
the jungles?" I parried. "They don't have scientific interests either."
     "So, it's inquisitiveness. I agree. And a love for sensation, which all
reporters have in common to some degree, even in the best sense of the word.
Stanley  was chasing sensation when he went to Africa to search for the lost
Livingston, and as a result  won equal  fame. Perhaps that's what is turning
your head, I don't know. I can imagine how Ruben talked  with you,"  laughed
Nikodimov, continuing in Zargaryan's voice: '"Yes, d'you  see, it's a daring
feat  -  one never  yet  seen  in the  annals of  science!  The  glory  of a
globetrotter in time, equal to that of the first man to fly into space!' I'm
sure he called it just that, didn't he? Globetrotter in time?"
     I  glanced sidewise at  Zargaryan who was listening, not at all put out
and even smiling. Nikodimov caught my glance.
     "Of course he said it! That's what I thought. A barrel of  honey. And I
will now add to it my spoonful of tar. I cannot, my dear fellow, promise you
either the fame of a time-globetrotter or  a ceremonial  meeting on  the Red
Square. I  don't even promise  there'll be a special article in your honour.
In the best case, you will return home with a fund of  sharp sensations, and
with the knowledge that your part  in the experiment has been of some use to
     "And is that so little?" I asked.
     "It depends.  You  see,  only  we three  will  know  of  your  valuable
contribution. Your oral  testimonial  is  still not  proof where  science is
concerned.  You will always find sceptics who might declare it  a hoax, arid
they probably will.  The same goes  for  apparatus  which could describe and
reproduce the visual images arising in your conscious mind -  to our sorrow,
we have nothing like that as yet."
     "It's possible to obtain another form of evidence," put in Zargaryan.
     Nikodimov pondered. I impatiently awaited his answer. What evidence did
Zargaryan have  in mind?  All the  material evidence of my being in adjacent
worlds remained there: the probe I had dropped during the operation, my note
on the hospital writing pad, and Mikhail's split  lip. I had brought nothing
back but memories.
     "Now I'll  explain  to you  what  Ruben  means,"  pronounced  Nikodimov
slowly, as if to stress each word he said. "He has in mind  the  possibility
of your penetrating a world far ahead of us in time and development. If such
a possibility happens and you can make use  of it, then your  conscious mind
might  take  images  of  not merely  visual  objects  but  abstract  ones  -
mathematical ones, let us say. For example, the formula of a physical law or
an equation expressing in conventional mathematical symbols something as yet
unknown to us in cognition of  the surrounding world.  But all this is  pure
supposition,   only   theory.   No   better   than  telling   fortunes  from
tea-leaves....  We shall try  to  transmit  your  conscious  mind  somewhere
farther  than the immediate worlds bordering our  three-dimensional one, but
we  cannot even  tell  you what  this  'farther'  means. Distance  in  these
measurements is not counted in microns, or kilometres or even par-sees. Some
other  system  of  measuring  distance  acts  here,  and  so far we have  no
knowledge  of  it. But  most important,  we don't  know  what  you  risk  by
undergoing  this  experiment.  Before, we did not  lose sight of your energy
field,  but  is there any guarantee we won't lose it this time? In a word, I
won't at all be offended if you say 'let's put off the test'."
     I smiled. Now  Nikodimov awaited an answer. Not one wrinkle on his face
deepened,  not one hair of his long, poetical locks stirred,  not one crease
in his gown moved. How different he was from Zargaryan!  Here was true prose
and poetry, ice and flame. And the flame behind me  was already flaring up -
the chair fell over as Zargaryan stood up.
     "Well  then,  let's  put off..." I  spoke  slowly, deliberately,  slyly
glancing at Nikodimov. "Let's put off ... all this talk  about risk till the
experiment's over."
     All that  happened afterwards was condensed into a few minutes, perhaps
seconds....  I  don't  remember. The chair,  the  helmet,  the pick-ups, the
darkness, the scraps of conversation about scales,  visuality,  the  certain
ciphers accompanied  by familiar  Greek letters  - perhaps pi or  psi -  and
finally Boundlessness, blackness, and the coloured mist swirling upward.

     The swirling stopped, the mist acquired a transparency and dullish grey
shade  resembling a spring  rather  than  a  winter morning.  I  could see a
cluttered yard all in  puddles that were sheeted with  bluish ice,  also the
dirty-red  crust on the melting snow by a fence and  a dark green van  right
beside me. The back doors were wide open.
     A  heavy  blow  on  the  back  knocked  me to the ground. I fell into a
puddle, the  ice crackled, and the left sleeve of my quilted jacket was  wet
     "Aufstehen!" came a cry from behind.
     I  got up with difficulty, hardly keeping my legs, and  before  I could
look  behind  me  another  blow  on  the spine  threw  me  against the  van.
Somebody's hand reached  out  from its  dark maw,  caught  me  and pulled me
inside. The doors were immediately clapped to, and the heavy bolts clanged.
     Then I heard the purr of a motor, the metallic creaking of the van, and
the crunch of ice  under its  wheels. As it  turned sharply, I fell over and
hit my head on a bench. I groaned.
     And again the familiar hands  reached  for me, raised me  and sat me on
the bench. In the  semi-darkness around us, I  couldn't make out the face of
the man sitting opposite.
     "Hold on to the bench," he warned. "The road here is God knows what."
     "Where are we?" I asked, in  what seemed to me  to be  a strange voice,
hollow and hoarse.
     "Perfectly clear  where. In the  death car." My neighbour  sniffed  the
air.  "No-o-o....  It  seems  there's  no  smell.  So they're  taking  us to
     "Where are we?" I asked again. "What town?"
     "Kolpinsk.  Regional  centre  before. Look  out  the small window - and
you'll see."
     I  stretched  up toward the little square  opening, unpaned, with three
iron  bars  across it. Past the  small opening  flashed by  a water-pump, an
entrance path to the gap in a fence,  one-storey squat cottages, a sign on a
second-hand store printed in  black  on a yellow matting, then naked poplars
by the curb of a muddy pavement.
     The deserted little street stretched  out, long and unsightly. The rare
passers-by, it seemed, were in no hurry.
     "You'll  have  to   excuse  me,"  I   told  my  companion,  "apparently
something's happened to my memory."
     "Not only the memory  suffers  here - they kill the  soul,"  he replied
     "I can't remember a thing. What year it is,  or the month, the  day....
Don't be afraid, I'm not crazy."
     "I'm  not afraid  of anything now. Besides, it's easier  dealing with a
lunatic  than a Judas. This is  a hard year  -  forty-three. It's either the
very end of January or the beginning of February. There's no use remembering
what day it  is, it's all one for  we won't  live  till morning. What's your
cell number?"
     "I don't know," I answered.
     "Six,  probably. Yesterday they brought in a pilot that  was shot down.
Right from  the town hospital.  Patched him up and brought him in. Was  that
     I was silent. Now  I remembered how it was, or rather how it might have
been. In January of forty-three,  I  was flying home from  the Skripkin pine
forest in  the  partisan area  north-west  of  the Dnieper.  Somewhere  near
Kolpinsk we had run into heavy flak from a German anti-aircraft battery. The
plane broke out of it almost by a miracle and made home base safely.  But in
this phase  of  space-time,  we  probably hadn't  got  through. And  it  was
probably the  wounded passenger who was  taken to the town hospital  and not
the pilot.  From the hospital to cell six, and from there to 'confession' as
my companion called it. What he meant needed no exact definition.
     We  didn't talk any more, and only  when the van stopped and  the bolts
clattered on the doors did he whisper something in my ear, but what it was I
couldn't make out and  never managed to ask.  He had already jumped onto the
road and, pushing aside the convoy,  helped me down. A blow on the back from
a gun stock threw him toward  the  entrance. I  followed him, and the German
soldiers hurried along beside us screaming shrilly: "Schnell! Schnell!"
     We were separated on the ground floor. My companion - I  never even got
a look at his face -  was led  off somewhere down the  corridor. And  I  was
dragged upstairs  to the first floor, literally dragged, because  every kick
was  for  me a  knockdown. So it went  on till I  got  to a room  with  blue
wallpaper where a fat blond officer sat behind a desk, his boyish blue  eyes
matching  the  paper.  His black  SS-jacket fitted  him like  a  schoolboy's
uniform,  and  he himself was like the plump  schoolboy  pictured  in German
confectionery shop advertisements.
     "You have the  right to  sit  down. Right here.  Here,"  he repeated in
German and pointed at  a plush chair by  the table. The chair must have been
requisitioned  from  the local town theatre. My  legs were  shaking, my head
spinning, and I  sat down without  concealing my  relief which  was at  once
     "You are completely recovered. Very good.
     And  now tell the truth. Wahrheit!" said  the  boyish SS-man,  and fell
into an expectant silence.
     I was silent too. I had no fear. I was saved  from that  by the feeling
that all  this was illusory; I felt remote from all that was  going on. This
wasn't,  you see, happening  in my life and not to me; this  puny, emaciated
body in a dirty quilted  jacket and broken  army boots did  not belong to me
but  to  another Sergei  Gromov living in  another  time and  space.  Thus I
comforted  myself  with  the  help  of  physics  and  logic, but  physiology
painfully refuted them with every breath I drew, with every movement I made.
For now this body was mine and it had to take what was  destined  for it.  I
asked myself in alarm  whether I had,  in  the long run, enough strength and
will, enough endurance, courage and inner pride.
     In  the war  days  it had been easier. We were all  prepared for such a
contingency by all the conditions of  the war years,  by the way of life, by
the  spirit  of the times - severe and hard as they were. I  was ready then,
and probably so was the  Sergei Gromov  whose place I  now occupied in  this
room. But was I  ready now? I felt chilled for an instant and, I'm afraid to
confess it, terribly frightened.
     "You understand me?" asked the SS-man.
     "Perfectly," I nodded.
     "Then  talk. Wieviel  Soldaten  hat  er?  Stolbikov?  What  detachment?
Soldier, partisan? Number of men?"
     "I don't know," I said.
     I was  not lying. I  honestly didn't know the  strength of all partisan
formations under  Stolbikov's  command. It continually changed. Now a number
of groups would go scouting deep in the rear and not return for weeks, now a
detachment  would  be  reinforced by  formations operating  in  neighbouring
sections. Besides, my Stolbikov had one complement of men, but the Stolbikov
living in this space-time might have another, either more or less. If I told
all  I knew, it would  be interesting to know whether it would coincide with
the reality the SS-man was interested in. Judging by his insignia, he was an
     "Tell the truth," he repeated severely. "It's better that way. Wahrheit
ist besser."
     "But I honestly don't know."
     His blue eyes became noticeably blood-shot.
     "Where are your documents? Here," he cried, and threw my wallet  on the
desk. I wasn't sure it was mine, but I presumed it was. "We know everything.
     "If you already know, then why ask?" I said quietly.
     Before he could answer, the field-telephone buzzed on the desk. With an
agility that surprised me, he grabbed the receiver  and  stood at attention.
His face  was transformed into  a mixture of servility  and delight. He kept
repeating 'Ja,  Ja', in  German and clicked his heels. Then he put my wallet
into a drawer and pushed a buzzer.
     "They will take you away now," he told me in bad  Russian. "Keine Zeit.
Three hours in a cell."
     He indicated where with his thumb.
     "Think, remember, and we'll talk some more.  Otherwise, it will  be the
worse for you. Zehr schlecht."
     I was taken into  the cellar  and pushed into a barn-like room with  no
window. I felt the walls and the floor. The first were of stone, sticky with
mould,  and the  Door was  covered with wet  mud. My  legs  would  no longer
support me, but  I  did  not risk lying down.  I sat against  the wall on my
hands, just the same it was drier.
     The  reprieve I got aroused the  hope of a safe way out. The experiment
might end, and the lucky Hyde abandon the Jekyll buried here in the mud. But
I was immediately  ashamed of my thoughts.... Both  Galya and  Klenov  would
have called  me  a  coward without blinking an eye. Zargaryan and  Nikodimov
wouldn't have said it, but would have  thought it. Maybe,  somewhere in  the
depths of her soul, Olga would as well. Thank goodness I had thought of this
in  time. I began to think of a lot of things. About the fact that now I had
to answer for  two  -  for him  and me. How he would  have  behaved, I could
guess: I might even say I knew. You see, he was myself, the same particle of
material in one of the  forms  of its existence beyond our three-dimensional
world. Chance might change his lot, but not his  character, not his line  of
conduct.  So it was all clear: I had no choice, not even the right to desert
with the help of  Nikodimov's wizardry. If I  were returned now, I would beg
Nikodimov to send me back to this hole.
     I must have  fallen  asleep there,  despite  the damp and cold, because
dreams overtook me. His dreams.  A bearded  Stolbikov in  a sheepskin hat, a
middle-aged  woman in  a  padded  jacket  with a tommy-gun  slung  from  her
shoulder who was slicing  or  shredding  a  round loaf  of  rye bread. Naked
children were on the bank of pond covered with green duckweed. I immediately
recognized the pond with  the crooked pines on the shore, could see the road
between  steep  clay cliffs  leading  down  to  it.  It  was my  dream, long
remembered and always incomprehensible. Now I knew where it came from.
     The dreams shortened my reprieve. Again  the  boyish SS-man demanded my
presence. This time he was not smiling.
     "Well?" he shot out. "Are we going to talk?"
     "No," I said.
     "Schade," he drawled. "A pity. Put your hand on the table. Your fingers
so." He snowed me  how  with  his  puffy palm and  wide-spread  sausage-like
     I  obeyed. Not without fear, I admit; but going  to the dentist is also
terrifying at times.
     Fatty pulled from  beneath the  table a  piece of wood  with a  handle,
something like an ordinary joiner's wooden hammer, and cried:
     The wooden hammer smashed deliberately  down  on my little  finger. The
bone crunched and a savage pain  shot  up my arm  to the  shoulder.  I could
barely restrain a scream.
     "Ve-ry  good?"  he  asked, stressing  the syllables with  satisfaction.
"Will you talk or not?"
     "No," I repeated.
     Again the hammer was raised, but I involuntarily pulled back my hand.
     Fatty laughed.
     "You can  save your hand, but not your  face," he  said, and  instantly
slashed me across the face.
     I lost consciousness, but  came to almost at once. Somewhere close by I
heard Nikodimov and Zargaryan talking.
     "There's no field."
     "None at all?"
     "Try another screen."
     "The same thing."
     "And if we try more power?"
     Silence.  Then Zargaryan answered: "Got  it.  But  very weak visuality.
Maybe he's sleeping?"
     "No. We registered the activity of the hypno-genetic system a half hour
ago. Then he woke up."
     "And now?"
     "I can't see it."
     "I'll give more power."
     I couldn't interfere. I  could not feel  my body. Where was it? In  the
lab chair or the torture chamber?
     "Got the field," said Zargaryan.
     I opened my  eyes,  or rather I partly opened them.  Even the slightest
movement  of  my eyelids aroused a sharp, piercing agony. Something warm and
salty trickled from my lips. My hand seemed to be burning over a fire.
     The whole room, from floor to ceiling, seemed full of turbid, quivering
water  through  which  I could dimly make out two figures in black uniforms.
One was my fat man, the other looked slender and more symmetrically built.
     They were talking abruptly and fast, in German. My German is poor, so I
didn't  listen. But I thought  the conversation was  about me. First I heard
Stolbikov's name mentioned and then mine.
     "Sergei Gromov?" repeated the thin one in surprise,  and said something
to the other.
     Then he  ran over to me and carefully wiped my face with a handkerchief
that smelled of perfume and sweat. I did not stir.
     "Gromov ... Sergei..." repeated the second SS-man  in pure Russian, and
bent over me. "Don't you know me?"
     I looked at him and  recognized the man's face; though older, it  still
retained the long-remembered features of my former classmate, Genya Muller.
     "M tiller," I whispered, and lost consciousness again.

     I woke up in a  different room in someone's dwelling. Not  a cosy room,
but one  furnished  with  the pretentiousness of  vulgar chic.  A potbellied
cabinet filled with crystal glasses, a redwood buffet, plush sofa with round
bolsters,  branching  deer-horns  over the door, and  a  copy of  Murrillo's
Madonna in a large gilded  frame.  All this  had either been  accumulated by
some local official or brought here from various flats by requisition of the
Hauptsturmfiihrer to make a quiet little nest for top brass.
     The Hauptsturmfiihrer himself, in an opened jacket, was sprawled lazily
on the sofa looking  at an illustrated magazine, and I  stole  a look at him
from the morocco leather chair  in  which  I  sat  beside a table  laid  for
supper. My bandaged hand was no longer painful. But I was devilishly hungry.
However, I kept silent and did not stir,  hoping to avoid showing  it in the
presence of my former classmate.
     I had known Genya Muller from the age of seven. Together we entered the
same school situated in a  quiet  Arbat side-street, and  had shared all our
joys and troubles  right  through  to  the  ninth  form.  Muller  senior,  a
specialist in weaving looms, had come to Moscow from Germany  soon after the
Treaty of Rapallo. He had first worked in the Altman Concession and later on
somewhere in the Mostrikotazh,  the Moscow Weaving Mills. Genya  was born in
Moscow  and in school nobody counted him  a foreigner.  He  spoke Russian as
well as we  did, studied the same things, read the same books, sang the same
songs.  He was  not liked in school, and I  hadn't liked his  arrogance  and
boastfulness either. But  we  lived in  the same block  of flats, sat at the
same desk, and were considered friends.  With the years  our  friendship had
dwindled  away through a rising difference in  viewpoint and interests.  And
when the Hitlerites had occupied Poland, the Muller family moved to Germany,
and Genya even forgot to say goodbye to me when he left.
     True, my Genya  Muller wasn't this  Muller who now lay on the sofa with
his  boots off. and  I also  wasn't this  Gromov, all  in bandages,  who sat
opposite  him in the red morocco  chair. But  as  the experiments had shown,
phases  of  adjacent  existences  do  not  change  a  man's  temperament  or
character. So even  my  Genya Miiller  had  all the grounds to grow  up into
Heinz Muller, Hauptsturmfuhrer  in  the Nazi stormtroopers  and chief of the
Kolpinsk  Gestapo.  And,  as  a  result,  I  could conduct  myself  with him
     He lowered the magazine and our eyes met.
     "So you've woken up at last," he said.
     "Regained consciousness, rather."
     "Don't  put  on. After our  sorcerer and magician Dr.  Getsch amputated
your finger and did  a good job  of  cosmetic  stitching, you slept for  two
hours. Like a log."
     "But what for?"
     "What d'you mean - what for?"
     "Why the cosmetic stitching?"
     "To  fix your  face. Kreiman overdid it  with his hammer.  Well, so now
you're a good-looking fellow again."
     "Maybe Herr Muller has a fiancee he wants to marry off. If so, he's too
     "Gut out the Herr business. Here  it's Genya Muller and Sergei  Gromov.
Somehow they ought to be able to get together."
     "But why, I'd like to know?" I asked.
     Muller got up and stretched.
     "Isn't that enough of your 'why's and wherefore's'? I pulled you out of
the grave today. And you still can ask 'why'?"
     "Then I  won't ask. You want to make me an informer, or some other kind
of rat. I'm no good for that."
     "You're good for the grave."
     "So are you," I  parried. "We'll still  make  it. And now I could eat a
     He laughed. "You sure hit  the  nail -  we'll still make  the grave all
     He sat at the table and poured cognac for us both.
     "Our  vodka's  junk,  but  the  cognac's excellent. Right  from  Paris.
Martel. What'll we drink to?"
     "Victory," I said.
     He laughed even louder.  "You amuse me, Sergei. A clever toast. I drink
to it." He  drank,  and added with  a crooked smile, "And next I'll drink to
getting out of this dirty hole fast. I've  got  an uncle in  Berlin, who has
connections. Promised me  a transfer  this  summer.  To Paris,  or Athens. A
little farther from the firing line."
     "So they're bothering you?"
     "Of course they are.  Any minute some skunk  may throw  a grenade  from
round a corner! They got my predecessor. And sentenced me."
     "So you won't live long," I observed indifferently.
     Without taking a bite, he again filled the  glasses.  His  hands shook.
"That's  why I'm hurrying up my transfer. If only  they don't drag  it  out,
I'll be sitting there in Paris and, before I can look round, the war will be
     "We'll still keep fighting," I said. "You'll have to wait for two and a
half years."
     His hand holding the glass froze in mid-air above the table.
     "To be  precise," I explained, "two and a half years from now on May 8,
1945,  an agreement of unconditional surrender will be signed. And  wouldn't
you like to  know who will surrender? The  Germans, friend, the Germans. And
where do you think this will happen? Right in Berlin, almost on the ruins of
your imperial chancellery."
     Without  tasting his cognac, Muller  slowly put his  glass back  on the
table.  At  first he was  amazed, then frightened.  I intercepted his glance
directed  at the small  table  by the sofa  where  his  Walther pistol  lay.
Probably he thought I'd gone crazy and immediately remembered his gun.
     Before  he  could  reply,  the  buzzer  of  the intercom-phone went. He
grabbed  the  receiver, gave his  name,  listened and said something fast in
German.  I caught one word:  Stalingrad. Then I remembered what my companion
had said  in the  Gestapo's  dark-green 'Black Maria' - 'now it's either the
very end of January or the beginning of February'. And it was.
     Muller returned to the table with a gloomy face.
     "Stalingrad?" I inquired.
     "Do you understand German?"
     "No, I merely guessed. Your Paulus is done for. Kaput."
     He tapped his knife cautiously on the plate.
     "Don't talk nonsense. Paulus has just been made a General Fieldmarshal.
And Mannstein has already reached Kotelnikov."
     "Your  Mannstein  has been defeated.  Smashed  and  thrown back. As for
Paulus - it's the end. What's the date today?"
     "February 2."
     I laughed. How wonderful to know the future!
     "Well then, this is the day that Paulus  capitulated at Stalingrad, and
your Sixth Army, or  what's left of it,  have  become prisoners with  'Heil,
Hitler' on their lips."
     "Shut  up!" he  screamed, and took his pistol from  the table. "I won't
forgive anybody who makes such jokes as that!"
     "But I'm  not  joking,"  I said, putting a  piece of tinned  ham in  my
mouth. "Can you check it somewhere? Go ahead, call up."
     Muller thoughtfully played with his gun.
     "All right. I'll  check. I'll call von Hennert-he should know. Only get
this: if it's a hoax, I'll shoot you personally, and right now."
     He went to the telephone, took a long time getting connected, and asked
something, standing as straight as if on review as he listened. Then he hung
up and tossed the pistol onto the sofa without deigning to glance at me.
     "Well, was I right?"
     "How did you know?" he asked, approaching me. His face was a picture of
astonishment and perplexity. He looked at me as if asking whether I was I or
a representative of the High Command in my person.
     "Von Hennert was  quite surprised that  I knew. I  had to do some quick
thinking  on  that  score.  It  hasn't been proclaimed  officially  yet, but
Hennert knows."
     "And  did he say  that Hitler  had already ordered general mourning for
the Sixth Army?"
     "You know that too?"
     He  continued to stand,  not taking his eyes off me, puzzled and unable
to  figure it out. "Come now, where did  you get  it from? You couldn't have
known yesterday, that's for sure. But today.... Who could have told you? You
were brought here with somebody else, I believe?"
     "That was this  morning," I said.  "At that time, your Paulus was still
kicking back."
     He blinked his eyes.
     "Somebody might have picked up a Moscow broadcast?"
     "Where?" I laughed. "In the Gestapo?"
     "I don't get  it." He spread his hands in a gesture of despair. "Nobody
knows about it yet in town. I'm convinced of that."
     Suddenly I had an idea. It struck me that I might still save my unlucky
Jekyll. Nothing threatened him till morning, but he would  meet the  morning
fully conscious and free of my aggression. Then his life wouldn't be worth a
cent.  Muller  wouldn't  stand  on  ceremony  with  him, the more  so if  he
explained that he remembered nothing of today's  business.  I  had to think.
The play would be tough.
     "Don't try guessing,  Genya,"  I said. "You won't  figure  it out. It's
simply that I'm not the ordinary fellow you think I am."
     "What do you mean by that?"
     "Did you ever  hear that in one of our scientific research institutes,"
I began, improvising  as  if  inspired, "a research group was  liquidated in
1940? There was a lot of fuss about it abroad. Putting it broadly, it was  a
group of telepathists."
     "No," he replied vaguely. "Never heard of it."
     "But you know what telepathy is?"
     "Something like transmitting thoughts at a distance?"
     "Approximately,  yes. It's  not a new thing, even Sinclair wrote  about
it. Only idealistically, with all kinds of other-world nonsense. But we made
experiments  on  specifically scientific  grounds. The  brain,  you see,  is
looked  upon  as  a microwave  radio-set,  picking  up  idea-signals at  any
distance like  ultra-long wavelengths. A bit less than  a  micron. Everybody
has this inherent  possibility, but in rudimentary  form. However, it can be
developed if you find a precipient brain, that is, one specially tuned in to
inner induction. Many were tested, I among them. Well, so I turned out to be
an exceptional precipient."
     Muller sat down and rubbed his eyes.
     "Am I dreaming, or what? I don't get it."
     I  could already  see  by his face  that I'd won  the  game:  he almost
believed. Now I had to erase the 'almost'.
     "Have you  ever read about Gagliostro or St.  Germain?" I asked. Noting
his naive and empty eyes I realized he hadn't.
     "History  cannot  explain them,  especially St. Germain,"  I continued.
"The count lived in  the eighteenth century,  and he  could relate events of
the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centimes as if he had witnessed them.
He was considered a  wizard, an astrologer, an Agaspherus, European monarchs
vied with each other in inviting him to their courts. He foretold the future
too, incidentally,  and  rather  successfully.  But nobody's  been  able  to
explain what kind of man he was, not  so far. Historians ignore him, or call
him a charlatan. But  they  should have used the term telepathist. That's it
in  a nutshell. He received ideas from the past and the  future. Just  as  I
     Muller  was  silent. I could not imagine what he was thinking of. Maybe
he guessed that I was a fake?  But for all that, I  had one irrefutable  and
invincible trump - Stalingrad.
     "The  future?"  he repeated thoughtfully.  "So  you  can  foretell  the
     "I mustn't  go too far," I mused  silently. "Muller's no fool and  he's
used to down-to-earth thinking." And that was what I played on.
     "It's not hard to foretell yours," I said aloud,  no less craftily than
his  sly question.  "You know yourself that after Stalingrad the underground
and  partisans will  be  more active everywhere. You won't live till summer,
Muller. You haven't a chance."
     His mouth curved in an ironical smile, as  if  saying 'all the same I'm
master of the situation'.
     "I can also foretell your future," he snapped at me aloud, "and without
telepathy. Tit for tat."
     "Man to man," I laughed. "But we can change the future. You mine, and I
- yours."
     He raised his brows, again not getting the drift. "Okay then, let's lay
down the cards."
     "You  send   me  to  the  partisans  today.  And  I'll  guarantee  your
immortality  to the end  of the  month. Not a  bullet or grenade will  touch
     He was silent.
     "You  don't lose  much. You grant  me  life, and  you  win  the kitty -
     "To the end of the month," he laughed.
     "I'm not God almighty."
     "And the guarantee?"
     "My word and my documents. You saw them. And you must have guessed that
I can do something."
     He pondered  a long time, his eyes roaming silently  and vaguely around
the room. Then he poured the rest of the cognac  into our glasses. He hadn't
eaten, and the drink was already taking effect. His hands shook even more.
     "All right, then," he ground out. "One for the road?"
     "I'm not drinking," I said. "I'll  need  a clear head  and a firm hand.
You give me a gun, even if it's only your Walther, and tie my hands  loosely
so I can free them quickly."
     "And what tale am I to use to send you off? I've got a boss, you know."
     "So you're sending me to the top brass. Along some forest road."
     "There'll have to be a driver and a convoy. Can you handle them?"
     "I hope you won't regret the loss of the convoy?"
     "I'll regret, the loss of the car," he frowned.
     "So I'll return you the car and the driver. Agreed?"
     He went to the telephone and began making calls. I was surprised at the
speed with which he carried everything out. In about half an hour, a Gestapo
Opel-Kapitan was already ploughing its way through the village all  powdered
with snow. Beside me  sat an evil-looking Fritz with a tommy-gun  across his
knees. Let him stew in his bad temper. That didn't worry me any more than my
promise to Muller did. You see, / had promised, and not the Gromov who would
finally take my place. Only when would this happen and where? If in the car,
then I must do all I could so that my ill-starred  Jekyll would quickly  get
the hang of things. I stretched the slack bonds that tied my  arms behind my
back. They loosened at once. Another jerk and I could put my free hand in my
jacket  pocket and grip the butt of the blue-steel pistol. Now I had only to
wait.  With a sixth or  maybe sixteenth sense, I could  feel the approach of
that strange lightness of  my body, the head-spinning and  the mist that put
out everything - light, sounds and thoughts.
     And so  it was.  I woke up when  I  felt  Zargaryan's hand removing the
     "Where were you?" he asked, still invisible.
     "In the past, Ruben. Too bad."
     He let out a loud and mournful sigh. Nikodimov was already  holding the
tape against the light to observe it, pulling it from the container.
     "Did you  follow the  time, Sergei Nikolaevich?" asked Nikodimov. "That
is, when you entered and left the phase?"
     "Morning and evening. One day."
     "It's twenty minutes to twelve midnight now. Does that agree  with your
     "A trivial lag behind our time."
     "Trivial?" I laughed. "More than twenty years."
     "On a scale of a thousand years, that's almost nothing."
     But I  wasn't worried about  thousand-year scales. I was anxious  about
the fate of Sergei Gromov whom I'd left about twenty-five years  ago in  the
suburbs of Kolpinsk. I think, by the way, he did not waste any time.

     The new experiment  had become as humdrum as a visit to the polyclinic.
Now I didn't gather  friends  together before leaving, Zargaryan didn't come
for me, and  nobody accompanied me in  the morning. I took the  bus  to  the
institute  and  Nikodimov at  once  sat me in the chair without  testing the
degree of my good will and readiness for the test.
     He  only  asked: "When  did you  get  into  difficulties  in  the  last
experiment? Was it toward evening, in the late afternoon?"
     "About then. It was already dark outside."
     "The apparatus focused the sleep period, then there was  an increase of
nervous strain, and finally a state of shock...."
     "That's quite correct."
     "I think  we  can now  anticipate  such  a complication,  if it  should
arise," he said. "And bring your psyche back."
     "That's exactly what I don't want. You already know..." I broke in.
     "No, this time we aren't taking any risks."
     "What  risk? Who's talking about  risk?" thundered Zargaryan, appearing
like a phantom, all in white against the background of the white doors.
     He had been in the next room, checking the power generator.
     "I'd give a  year of my life  for  one minute of your journey," he went
on.  "It isn't a  science,  as  Nikodimov thinks. It's poetry. Do  you  like
Voznesensky? "
     "More or less," I answered.
     He recited:

     In autumn time when leaves are dying
     Within a dawn-lit perilous wood,
     Someone's fate and name come flying
     Like seeds - and in our minds intrude.

     He broke off and asked: "What words stick in your memory?"
     "Dawn-lit and perilous," I told him.
     I could not see  him  now, and his voice came  from the  darkness. "The
main thing is 'dawn-lit'. So let's be solemn. Remember that  you are  at the
gateway to the future."
     "You're sure of that?" came Nikodimov's voice.
     I heard no more. Sounds died out until the dead silence was broken by a
monotonous, rumbling roar.
     Now there was no  silence, no mist. I found myself in a soft chair by a
wide, slightly  concave window. Strangers  sat  in similar chairs beside and
opposite me. The surroundings reminded me of the interior of  an airliner or
the  coach of a suburban train  where people sit in threes across from  each
other, with a passageway running from door to door. This passageway or aisle
was  probably  about forty  metres long. I  tried  to orient  myself without
looking at my neighbours, slipping sidelong glances from under lowered lids.
My  attention was drawn first to my hands - large, oddly white,  with a  dry
clean skin such as occurs after frequent and hard scrubbing. The significant
thing was that they were the hands of an old man. "How  old am I  and what's
my profession?" I pondered.  "A lab man, doctor, scientist?" The suit I wore
provided no direct answer - it was not new but neither was it much worn, and
it was made  of a smooth material  with an unusual pattern. There was no use
trying to guess.
     I looked  out the  window. No, it wasn't  an airliner because  we  were
flying too low for  an aeroplane of  this size,  lower  than  flight at zero
altitude as  they  call  it. But it wasn't a  train either, because we  were
flying over the earth, over homes and small groves, almost scraping the tops
of the  pine  and  fir  trees and,  incidentally, flying  so  fast that  the
landscape outside the window ran together  into a sickening  blur. From want
of habit, it hurt to look at it.
     I got a handkerchief from my pocket and wiped my eyes.
     "Do they hurt?"  grinned a  passenger sitting opposite.  He was  a thin
grey-haired man  wearing gold-framed glasses without ear-pieces - no knowing
how they stayed on. "We  forget when we're older that  we shouldn't look out
the window. It's not the fifties now. Gall it an observation car!"
     "What, you don't  like it?" asked a young fellow challengingly from  an
aisle seat.
     "Of  course I do. And why not? Who wouldn't like it? An hour and a half
from Leningrad to Moscow. Bit of a novelty."
     "Why a novelty?" said  the  young  man with a shrug. "Even twenty years
ago  they were talking of monorail roads.  It's only modernization.  And why
look out the window? Turn on the TV," he told me.
     I felt confused, not having the faintest idea where the television  was
or how  to  turn  it  on.  I  was anticipated  by my  grey-haired  neighbour
opposite. He  pressed some  kind of lever  at the side, and  the  window was
covered by the  familiar frosty screen.  The picture arose somewhere in  its
depths, so  that it could easily be seen by those sitting sidewise to it, as
I was.  It was in  stereo-colour and depicted a  huge, multi-storey building
beautifully ornamented with  grey and red tiles. A helicopter was landing on
its flat roof out of a pure blue sky.
     "We bring you  the latest news,"  said an unseen announcer.  "Party and
Government leaders visit  the  three-hundredth  housing-commune in the  Kiev
district of the capital."
     A  group  of well-dressed  middle-aged  people  left the cabin  of  the
helicopter  and disappeared under  a cupola of plexiglas. Express  lifts and
escalators flashed by. The eye of  the camera was aimed down at the gleaming
windows of the ground floor.
     "This floor is occupied by a large department  store,  repair shops and
dining-rooms to serve the building's occupants."
     Now  the  guests  strolled  slowly from  floor to floor,  through rooms
furnished and decorated in shapes and colours quite new to me.
     "One turn  of the plastic lover and the bed goes into the wall, and out
comes a concealed  book-case. And this couch may  be widened  or lengthened:
its metal supports and the foam-rubber surface expand to double the size."
     There followed an open vista of public foyers with giant television and
cinema screens.
     "This  floor is wholly given over  to  young  people  who prefer living
separately," commented the announcer, sliding walls  apart for us to see the
unusually-furnished rooms.
     "I can't understand it.  Why do they  do all this?" broke  in one lady,
knitting away and giving a scornful sniff as she gave me a sidelong glance.
     I looked at the young man on the aisle seat, awaiting his remark, and I
wasn't left disappointed. How like he was to the young people I knew! He had
caught  from  them  the torch  of enthusiasm,  almost boyish  vehemence,  an
uncompromising attitude to everyone who wasn't in step with the times.
     "House-communes weren't just  built today ... they're  not new  ... yet
you still don't know why..." he said.
     "I certainly  don't  know!" insisted  the lady. "Glory  to  God,  we no
sooner get rid of shared flats, and they're back again!"
     "What's 'back again'?"
     "Your house-communes. We're resurrecting living in shared flats."
     "Don't talk nonsense. People are not leaving separate, private flats to
go  into communal flats - whatever they are,  I certainly don't  know.  They
leave to go into  house-communes! You're looking at them now. They provide a
new, wider capacity of living conveniences!"
     The lady with  the knitting fell silent. Nobody supported  her.  And on
the  screen smoked the oil derricks conquering a leaden garnet  sky over fir
and larch trees.
     "We are with you in Third Baku," continued the announcer, "at the newly
opened section of the Yakutsk oil region in Siberia."
     A Third  Baku! In my time, I had only known two of them. How many years
had gone by? I gave the same silent question to the white-gowned surgeons on
the  screen  who  were demonstrating a bloodless operation  using  a  pencil
neutron-ray and  to the  inventors  of  a  compound  for sealing  wounds.  I
addressed  my silent  question to the announcer himself who finally appeared
before  the viewers. "In  conclusion, I  want to remind our audiences of the
deficit of specialists  in occupations which our economy is much in need of.
As before, we need adjusters for automatically  operated shops,  controllers
for tele-guided mines, operators for atomic electric stations, assemblers of
multi-purpose electronic computers. "
     The screen blanked out, and from somewhere overhead came  a  voice that
slowly  announced: "We are  arriving in  Moscow. The  warning lights are on.
With the green light, the escalator will be turned on."
     Above  the  door  in  front there was  a  flicker  of  red lights. They
darkened to blue and changed  to  a bright green.  Entering  the aisle,  the
passengers were carried along on a  moving floor. I joined them,  so I never
noticed the monorail station. Nor did I see it  from outside. The  escalator
road,  moving fast, swept us  into the  lobby  of a  Metro station. I didn't
recognize  it and, to speak honestly, never had a chance to get a  good look
at it. We were moving at almost  hydrofoil speed, slowing  down only  at the
escalator stairs which took us  down to  the platform. "Where's  the  ticket
booth?" I wondered. "Can the  Metro be free  of  charge?" This was  answered
affirmatively by the stream  of passengers pushing into the open doors of an
incoming train.
     I  got off  at  Revolution  Square, which I  recognized at  once: below
ground where I came  across  the familiar bronze pieces of sculpture in  the
arcade, and above  where  the yellow columns of the  Bolshoi Theatre  looked
down at me from a distance across the green sweep of the square.
     And Marx's monument  stood in the same spot, but in place of the  Grand
Hotel  there  towered  a  gigantic  white  building  with flashing  ribs  of
stainless steel; and, instead of the side wing of the Metropole Hotel and to
the right,  ran  a vista  of noisy, multi-layered  streets.  But the  street
movement  seemed as  familiar  as  of old, almost unchanged. Along the  wide
pavement, as tightly-packed and unhurried as always,  went  the varicoloured
droplets  of the human current,  more colourful  than  ever  under the  high
summer sun. And along the  asphalted  canal road,  skirted by  buildings and
squares, rumbled another  current  of motor cars, also colourful. By careful
observation,  I could easily make  out the diversities. Different styles and
trends in clothing, the changed lines and shapes of cars. Most of the latter
rode on air-cushions rather than  wheels,  and reminded  you of the  bulging
brows of whales  or dolphins  as they  moved soundlessly on a violet haze of
air. "How  many years have  passed?" I asked myself, and again could find no
answer. Impossible to cross the square: an iron tracery of grilles ran along
the pavement, openings  for passengers  were  only at stops of  cigar-shaped
buses. I walked down toward the Alexandrovsky Gardens, passed the Historical
Museum, glanced fleetingly at the Red  Square. Nothing there was  changed  -
the same  tooth-tipped ancient red walls, the clock on  the Spasskaya Tower,
the   severe  monolithic  block   of  the  Mausoleum  and  that  miracle  of
architecture -  the cathedral of Vasily Blazhenny. But the huge hotel we had
built in Zaryadye wasn't there at all.  A bit farther  on, across the Moskva
River, rose unknown tall buildings behind the cathedral.
     I went into the gardens and sat on  a  bench.  And though the town  was
tumultuous with its full-blooded impetuous life, in  the morning hours here,
as  in  our world, the park was almost deserted.  To tell the  truth, I  was
feeling a bit lost. Where should I go, and what for? Where was my  home? Who
was I? And what experiences lay before me this day in  my new life? I felt a
wallet in my pocket, very plump  and compact,  made of flexible, transparent
plastic.  Without taking out  the identification card, I could read my name,
profession  and  address through  the  plastic.  Again I was  a  servant  of
Hippocrates,  some kind  of  director in a surgical clinic,  and probably an
eminent man  because the wallet contained congratulations from three foreign
scientific societies sent to Professor Gromov on his sixtieth birthday.
     So twenty years had passed! For me, it was already old age; for science
- 'seven-league boots.'  D'Artagnan, on his way to meet Aramis and Athos was
tormented by  doubts: would it  be  a bitter experience to  see  his friends
grown  old? His  doubts  had been dispersed,  but would  mine? In  my mind I
imagined myself calling at the address on the card. Probably  the door would
be opened  by Olga, twenty years older. And what  if  it wouldn't be Olga? I
certainly did not want to complicate the situation.  I mechanically  thumbed
through the pack of money in the wallet. It was  probably enough for one day
in the future. So what should I do? Perhaps simply  walk along  the streets,
travel around town, see it a little  more,  breathe the air of the future in
the  literal  sense?  Was  that such  a  little  thing?  For  Zargaryan  and
Nikodimov, it was. What material affirmation  could  I  bring them from  the
future? Go to the Lenin  Library - it probably existed here - dig into index
files and interest myself in topics found in  scientific journals? Suppose I
even managed to find something close to the work  of my scientific  friends.
Let's suppose. But how would I be able  to grasp anything from the  articles
of scientists of  the eighties, if sometimes even the attempts  of Zargaryan
to  express things in an  elementary and  popular form had been hopeless  to
overcome my  mathematical  ignorance! Memorize some kind of formula?  But  I
would forget  it at once! And if they were in a series? And if I came across
absolutely  unknown mathematical symbols? No,  no, it was nonsense - nothing
would come of it.
     Wrapped  in such thoughts,  I made my  way to a taxi stand. Ahead of me
stood  a  woman,  apparently  in  a  hurry  for  she  kept  looking  at  her
     "I've been waiting ten minutes, and not one car," she said. "Of course,
the bus is simpler and costs nothing. But the auto-taxi is more amusing."
     "The auto-taxi?" I repeated.
     "You're new here, of course," and she smiled. "That's what we call \the
driverless taxis, with automatic controls. Simply lovely to ride in!"
     But  the first  auto-taxi gave me the shivers. There was something wild
and  unnatural  in  this  snub-nosed  car  without  wheels  or  driver  that
soundlessly floated up to us and discharged four spider-legs as it came to a
stop. The invisible man behind the wheel opened the door, the  passenger got
in and said something into a microphone. The legs vanished as noiselessly as
they had appeared, the doors closed, and the car disappeared round a corner.
I  probably stared  after  it  rather  long and stupidly,  asking  myself in
perplexity: 'What do you say into the microphone, and  how do you pay if you
haven't enough change?' I was already thinking of taking flight when another
passenger approached the stop. There  was something  uniquely  elegant about
his  accentuated  leanness  and  pepper-and-salt  hair,  even  the carefully
trimmed spade-like beard gave him a sort of challenging look.
     "I'm in a hurry," he admitted, impatiently  looking round  the  square.
"Here's one coming, I think."
     A snubby auto-taxi had floated up and come to a stop.
     "I'll be glad to give you my turn," I said. "I'm in no hurry."
     "Why? Let's  go  together,  if you've  nothing against it.  First we'll
deliver you, and then me."
     Something familiar flashed in his dark  eyes. And he had the same high,
sloping and  pure forehead,  the  same  piercing and amused glance. Only the
beard transformed his face almost beyond recognition.

     I looked into his eyes again, questioningly.  It was he.  My Zargaryan,
twenty years older.
     But I didn't let on I knew him.
     "Where do you want to go?" he asked.
     I  merely shrugged.  Did it  matter where a man goes  who  hasn't  seen
Moscow for twenty years?
     "Then off we go. Don't object, mind you. I'll be a wonderful guide.  By
the way, where are you  having dinner? Would you  like  to  go to the Sofia?
With me? Honestly, I hate having dinner alone."
     Even nearing fifty,  he  hadn't lost his boyish ardour.  And he entered
hotly into the role of guide at once.
     "We  won't  go  along Gorky.  It's hardly changed.  We'll take Pushkin,
quite a new street. You won't know it. That will be our programming."
     He  fed the  programme  into  the microphone, adding where to  turn and
where to  stop.  The  taxi, soundlessly closing its doors, floated  off  and
skirted the square.
     "And how do you pay?" I inquired.
     "Put the money here  in  this  small box." He pointed to a slot  in the
panel under the windshield.
     "But if you've no change?"
     "We'll see that we get change."
     The  taxi had already  turned onto Pushkin,  as much  like  the Pushkin
Street of  my days as  the Palace of  Congresses is  like a  factory club. ,
Perhaps it was  outwardly  different  even in the sixties - you see, similar
worlds do riot mean they are identical - but now it was different on a grand
scale. Twenty-storey buildings of  glass  and plastic, all different, united
into an ornamental rock canyon, along whose depths rolled a colourful stream
of cars.  The two-level pavements, like in a shopping centre, ran  along the
ground  storeys and the upper levels, being  connected  by curved  parabolic
bridges  over  the  street. Bridges also  joined  the  buildings and  formed
auxiliary pathways at roof-top  level. "For bicycles," explained  Zargaryan,
catching my glance. "There we  have  swimming-pools and  landing  strips for
     He played  the role  of guide with a conscience, smacking his lips with
satisfaction at my surprise. And our snubby dolphin had by this time crossed
the  boulevard, flown  along an unrecognisable Chekhov Street, and  was  now
floating along  Sadovaya to  the Sofia skyscraper.  I recognized neither the
square nor  the restaurant. Mayakovsky, flashing in the sun as if  poured of
bronze glass, brooded over the  square on a pedestal higher than  the Nelson
column  in  London.  The  parallelepiped-shaped  restaurant  Sofia  was also
flashing, dancing with reflected  sunlight as if made  of  crystal and gold.
The  restaurant  inside  astonished   me.  The  usual  white  tables   under
old-fashioned  starched  tablecloths  stood  cheek   by  jowl  with  strange
geometric  figures like marquee  tents made of rain-like  and argon strings.
"What's this?" I said, almost struck dumb. Zargaryan  smiled like a magician
anticipating an even greater effect.
     "You'll see. Have a seat."
     We sat at one of the ordinary starched tables.
     "Would you like to be unseen and unheard to those around you?"
     He raised a  corner  of the tablecloth,  pressed something and the room
disappeared. We were  separated  from it by  a tent of rain that had neither
moisture nor damp. Through the curtain of rain were entwined shining threads
that were neither of glass  nor of wire. We were  surrounded by the  blessed
silence of an empty cathedral.
     "Can one go through it?" I asked.
     "Why, it's only  air, but not  transparent.  Light- and sound-proof. In
our labs we use black ones. Absolute darkness."
     "I know," I said.
     Now it  was  his turn  to be surprised, catching something in my answer
quite new to his ear.
     I was fed up playing guessing games.
     "Is your name Zargaryan?  Ruben?" I asked, though I was absolutely sure
I wasn't mistaken.
     "Caught red-handed," he laughed. "So the beard didn't help?"
     "I knew you by your eyes."
     "By the eyes?" He was again surprised. "The eyes don't  show up well in
photos put in journals or newspapers. So  where else could you have seen me?
At the cinema?"
     "Are you engaged in the physics of  biofields,  the same as  before?" I
began carefully. "Then  don't be surprised at what you're going  to  hear. I
lied when I told you I'd not been in Moscow for twenty years. Actually, I've
never been in this Moscow. Never!"
     I  slowed  down,  waiting  for  his  reaction,  but  he  was silent and
continued  to examine me with growing interest. "On top of that, I'm not the
person you are now looking at. I'm a  phantom  in his  image, a visitor from
another world. The phenomenon is probably very familiar to you."
     "Have you read my works?" he asked in unbelief.
     "No, of  course not. You haven't published them  yet in  our world. You
see, our time is twenty years behind yours."
     Zargaryan jumped to his feet.
     "Excuse  me, I'm only beginning  to understand. So you're from  another
phase? Is that what you're trying to say?"
     He was silent,  blinking his eyes, and stepped back. The shining shroud
of rain-air partly concealed him, ridiculously cutting off part of his head,
spine and feet. Then he  again dived out  of it  and sat opposite  me,  with
great  difficulty restraining his excitement. His face  seemed  to light  up
from within, and it held the shattering surprise  of a man  seeing a miracle
for the first time, the joy of a scientist that the miracle had  happened in
his presence, the happiness of a scientist who had the power to control such
     "Who are you, then?" he asked at last. "Name and profession."
     I laughed. "Somehow it's amazing to  answer for two people,  but I have
to.  The name  is  the  same  here  that it is  there - Gromov. Here  I'm  a
professor, there  I'm without any title, a private person one might say. The
professions differ  -  here a  doctor and surgeon, famous  in fact;  there a
simple  newspaperman. Yes,  and there  I'm twenty years younger. Just as you
are in that world."
     "Curious," said Zargaryan, still eyeing me with interest. "I might have
expected anything but that. I  myself have sent people out of our world, but
to  meet such  a visitor  here - I never dreamed of that! What  a fool.  All
matter is one - along all phase trajectories.  I am here and I am there: and
now we're sending each other visitors," he  laughed, suddenly asking me with
a changed intonation: "Who carried out the experiment?"
     "Nikodimov and Zargaryan," I answered slyly, ready for a new  explosion
of astonishment. But he only  asked, "What Nikodimov?" It was my turn  to be
surprised.  "Pavel Nikitich.  Wasn't it his discovery?  Don't  you work with
     "Pavel died eleven years ago, and while he  lived he never received the
recognition  he  deserved. Factually, it is  his discovery. I came to it  by
other  ways,  as a  psychophysiologist." (I  heard restrained  grief in  his
words.)  "To  my  sorrow,  the  first   success  with  biofields  came  only
afterwards. His  son  and I  made  the  experiments." I  hadn't  known  that
Nikodimov had a son. Incidentally, maybe that was only here.
     "You're luckier than we are,"  said Zargaryan  thoughtfully. "You began
earlier. In twenty years  you will be farther ahead  than ourselves. Is this
your first experiment?"
     "The third.  First I went into adjacent,  completely  identical worlds.
Then farther, into the past. And now further still - to you."
     "What  do  you  mean by  'nearer'  or  'farther'? And  'adjacent'!"  he
repeated sarcastically. "What naive terminology!"
     "I mean to suggest," I faltered, "that worlds or, as you put it, phases
with other  currents  of time  may be  found farther  away from us  than the
coinciding worlds...."
     He didn't conceal his laughter.
     "Nearer, farther! Is that how they explained it to you? Children."
     I was  outraged for my friends' sake. All in all,  I liked my Zargaryan
     "And hasn't  the fourth dimension its own extension?" I asked.  "Is the
theory of the infinite plurality of its phases a mistaken one?"
     "Why the  fourth?" seethed  Zargaryan,  flaming up  as was his  custom.
"What if  it's  the  fifth? Or  the  sixth?  Our theory  doesn't define  its
sequence or  course in  space.  And  who  told you  it was an  incorrect  or
mistaken theory? It is limited, and only that. The term 'infinite plurality'
simply cannot be taken literally. Any  more than the infinity of space. Even
your contemporaries knew that.  Even then,  relativity in cosmology excluded
the absolute  contraposition  of  the  finite  and  the infinite.  You  must
understand one simple thing: the finite and the infinite do not exclude each
other, but  are inwardly connected. Con-nec-ted!" He repeated the last  word
in  syllables, and  laughed, looking into my blankly staring eyes. "Complex,
is it?
     And  it's just as complex to explain to you what 'nearer' and 'farther'
mean in this case. I can transfer your biofield into an  adjacent world that
outstrips ours by a century, but  where it is,  near or far, I am unable  to
define  geometrically." He suddenly gave a start and stopped speaking, as if
something had broken off his train of thought.
     For a second or two we were both silent.
     "You know, that's an idea!" he exclaimed.
     "What are you driving at?"
     "I'm  thinking  about you. Do  you want to leap  even  farther into the
     "I don't get it."
     "You will in a minute. I'll  mix into your experiment. You go to my lab
with  me, I'll  switch off  your  biofield and transfer it to another phase.
What d'you say?"
     "Nothing, so far. I'll think it over."
     "Scared? But the risk is the same. There  you are forty, and not sixty,
with a strong heart ... otherwise we wouldn't risk  it. I'd  be delighted to
change places with you, but I'm not a suitable subject. You know how hard it
is to find a brain-inductor with such a highly active field?"
     "You found one before."
     "Three in ten years. You are the fourth. And consider yourself lucky. I
promise you  a trip more interesting than a  flight to Mars. I'll  find your
descendant of the fifth generation with the same field. A hundred-year jump,
eh? What are you worried about?"
     "My biofield. What if they lose it back there?"
     "They won't. First I'll send you  back.  Just a  moment's walk in  your
time and  space, and  then  you'll  wake  up  in another.  Don't  be afraid,
there'll  be no explosion, no eruption, and no radiation. And your apparatus
will fixate everything that's necessary. Well now, shall we fly?"
     He got up.
     "And dinner?"
     "We'll have dinner later. We - here, and you in the future."
     Actually, I thought, I had nothing to lose.
     "Let's fly," I said, and also stood up.

     When  I repeated Zargaryan's words,  I had no suspicion that  we  would
really   fly.   First,  we  took   the  express-lift   to   the  roof  where
speedway-taxi-helicopters landed.  In two or  three  minutes'  time, we were
sailing over Moscow and headed south-west.
     To my dying day I shall never forget the panorama of Moscow at the  end
of  the twentieth century. I kept assuring myself that it  wasn't my Moscow,
not the one I'd been  born  and brought up in  and which  was separated from
this Moscow by an invisible border of space-time, as well as by twenty years
of great reforms in building practice. I stubbornly told myself this, but my
eyes convinced me that  I must be wrong. You see, with us, in my world, this
same  construction went on at the  same speed and  along similar trends: the
same forces inspired  it, with  the same aim in  view. So, in our world, the
city was, comparatively speaking, just as beautiful and perhaps more so.
     It was as if a magician with a camera was showing me an amazing picture
of the  future. I viewed it avidly, searching for  remembered details, happy
as a boy when  I recognized  the  old  and  the new, familiar, though it had
changed as  a young man does when he reaches the prime of life. All that was
familiar immediately  hit me in  the  eye -  the Palace  of  Congresses, the
golden cupolas of the Kremlin cathedrals, the bridges over the Moskva River,
the  Bolshoi Theatre, all  of them toys from this height. And  there was the
Luzhniki stadium and the university. I lost sight of other tall buildings of
my day among the many-storey stone forest-like  structures, and perhaps they
weren't there at all. The city had  overflowed far beyond the border ring of
the circular highway: it ran  in the  same place, at  least it  followed the
same  curve, but was wider or seemed wider,  and the ant-like  cars  crawled
along it to form a similarly wide and rarely narrowing ribbon.
     The  traffic's monstrous  scale and colourful-ness astounded me most of
all.  Like  rivers flowed  the  streets and alleys  filled  with  iridescent
automobiles. Bicycles and  motorcycles on asphalt tracks  criss-crossed  the
town  over the roofs of the buildings.  The centipede cars chased each other
along  the  strings  of  monorail trestle-roads.  And  over  all this,  from
landing-strip   to   landing-strip,   flitted    the   black-and-yellow   or
blue-and-white dragon-fly helicopters.
     We dropped down on one such landing-strip  on the roof  of  a huge tall
building, and alighted from the cabin. I didn't manage to  see  the building
itself during the flight, but the first thing that struck my eye on the flat
roof,  guarded by a high  metallic netting, was a large  swimming pool.  The
pool  was filled  with  clear,  pure  water  lit  from  below  by  greenish,
scintillating  lights. Around the pool were deck-chairs,  rubber mattresses,
tents and a canteen under a tightly stretched awning.
     "It's the  dinner  break," said Zargaryan, his eyes searching among the
bathers  and the  half-naked  people in swim-suits sitting  in the  canteen.
"We'll find him in a moment. Igor!" he yelled.
     A  tanned athlete  in dark  sun-glasses playing  on  the near-by tennis
court now approached us, still holding his racket.
     "Is there somebody in the lab?" asked Zargaryan.
     "Why  should  there be?"  the boy answered lazily. "They're all  in the
sixth sector."
     "And the apparatus hasn't been switched off?"
     "No. But what's up?"
     "I'd like you to meet this professor to start with, Professor Gromov."
     "Nikodimov,"  murmured the athlete removing his glasses. He  was not at
all like the longhaired Faust.
     "Has something happened?" he asked.
     "Something unforeseen and very curious. You'll know  in a minute," said
Zargaryan, not without a note of triumph in his voice.
     A man with a  sense of humour would doubtless have found  something  in
this  situation  that  was common to my first  visit  to Faust's laboratory.
Zargaryan pressed  the lift  button with the  same sly, significant look and
then turned on the escalator - before, a moving corridor had taken me to the
entrance to the laboratory, now a stair escalator ran from the roof directly
into the lab. It moved smoothly down, clicking on the turns.
     "With  your permission," he smiled  at me,  "I'll explain everything to
this child in the jargon of  biophysics.  It will be more accurate, and take
less time."
     I tried  hard to get something out of  the conglomeration of unfamiliar
terms, ciphers and Greek letters.  I had  never  been so overwhelmed by  the
lexicology of my Zargaryan,  even when he got carried away and forgot I  was
there. A  few things were clear, at least. But young Nikodimov caught it all
on the fly and looked at me with unconcealed curiosity. He didn't  appear to
me to be in the mental  heavyweight class, and  I  was surprised at the ease
with which  he darted about among the  'maze of  plugs,  levers and handles'
that I knew so well.
     Incidentally, I didn't know them so well, to tell the truth. Everything
in  this duplicate-world  room was bigger, greater  in  scale,  and far more
complex than the equipment in  the neat laboratory I had  left  somewhere in
another space-time. Where one might be compared to a  doctor's surgery, this
one reminded you of  the control-room of a large automated factory. Only the
blinking control lamps, the tele-screens, the haphazardly hanging wires, and
the chair  in the centre of the room, of course, were somewhat familiar. Not
more so, by the way, than a new Moskvich car reminds you of an old 'Emka'. I
directed my attention to the arrangement of screens - they were built  in an
arc along panels curving around the room, something like the  control panels
of electronic BRAIN  computers.  The mobile control panel could, apparently,
slip along the line of screens according to the observer's wish.  And it was
interesting  to look at  them, even now when  they weren't in use.  Now they
would light up, now go  out, now flash as if reflecting some inner lighting,
now blindly freeze into a cold leadish dullness.
     "Well," laughed Zargaryan,  "so it's not much similar? What differences
are there, in particular?"
     "The screens," I said. "We have a different arrangement. And there's no
helmet," I pointed at the chair.
     There actually was no helmet. And no pickups. I sat in the chair, as if
in my own sitting-room, until Zargaryan spoke.
     "If you  compare your adventures with a game of chess, you  are in time
trouble. You  have played your opening  move in the space of  your world. In
ours, you  begin the midgame, without  any hope  of  winning. You understand
right away that you can't bring back any souvenirs with you except  sporadic
impressions. In other words, one more failure. How many times Igor Nikodimov
and  I have been  in the same position.  How many endless nights there were,
errors  in  calculations,  unjustified  hopes,  until  we  finally  found  a
brain-inductor with mathematical development. He brought a  formula  back in
his memory, one that set the academicians on their ears!  Now it is known as
the Janovski equation, and  is  used to figure out complex cosmic routes. To
our  great regret, your memory won't help  here. But then appeared a  saving
variant - you met me. The candle of hope is lit again, a slender candle, but
it's burning. Now we  have  to  hurry, now  the endgame is ahead of you, and
you're in time trouble, friend. We  are all in time trouble. The activity of
the field is at its limit, is on the  point of  falling.  Before you realize
it, Ulysses will have to return to Ithaca. Igor!" he cried. "Finish up, it's
time."  At this point he  sighed and  added in a faint voice: "Time  to  say
good-bye, Sergei Nikolaevich. Happy landings!  We  can't  count  on  meeting
again, I'm afraid."
     Only now the awesome thought got  through to me of what was going on. A
leap across a  century! Not simply into an adjacent world, but into  a world
of absolutely different things-different machines, habits and relations. For
several hours, or maybe twenty-four, Hyde would own Jekyll's soul, but could
he deceive those around  him if he wished to remain incognito?  He  would be
hidden  by  Jekyll's face, Jekyll's suit - but would he be given away by his
tongue, out-of-date ideas and feelings, conditional reflexes long unknown in
that world? Had the terrible risk of the jump gone to my head?
     However,  I  said  nothing  to  Zargaryan,  did not  reveal  my  sudden
awareness of danger, did not even start when he gave the command to  turn on
the  protector. Darkness,  as  before, again  surrounded  me.  Darkness  and
silence  through which as if from a distance  - to be exact, through a thick
grey fog - pierced scarcely  discernible voices,  also  familiar  but almost
forgotten as if  they were  already separated from me by a hundred-year leap
through time.
     "I can't understand it at all. What about you?"
     "It's disappeared. Something probed through, but there's no image."
     "But on  the sixth there is. Only the brightness is  weakening. Can you
figure it out?"
     "There is something showing. Again  it's out of phase.  Like that other
     "But we haven't registered any kind of shock."
     "Nor did we then."
     "That time the encephalograph charted sleep. The phase of a paradoxical
sleep. Remember?"
     "In  my opinion, this is  different. Take a  look at  Screen Four.  The
curves are pulsating."
     "Raise the power, perhaps?"
     "Let's wait."
     "Are you worried?"
     "So far there's no reason to. Check the breathing."
     "As before."
     "The  same. And the blood pressure hasn't gone up. Perhaps some  change
in the biochemical processes?"
     "So far, there's  no  proof. But I  have the impression that  there  is
outside  interference.  Either  resistance from  the  receptor or artificial
     "It's fantastic."
     "I don't know. Let's wait."
     "But I am waiting. Though...."
     "Look! Look!"
     "I don't get it. Where is that from?"
     "There's no use guessing. How's the reflection?"
     "In the same phase."
     "In the one we need?"
     And again silence, like ooze,  swallowing all sound. I no longer heard,
nor saw, nor felt.

     The transference from darkness to light  was accompanied by  a  strange
state of peacefulness. As if I were swimming in transparent cool oil  or was
in  a  state  of  weightlessness  in  milky-white  space.  The  quiet  of  a
sound-proof chamber surrounded me. There were no  doors, no windows  - light
came from  nowhere, soft  and  warm like sunlight through clouds. The  snowy
cloud of the ceiling invisibly fused with the cloudy swirl of the walls. The
whiteness of the sheets  dissolved in the whiteness of the room. I could not
feel the  touch of blanket  or sheets; it was as  if they were woven of  air
like the clothing of Andersen's naked king.
     Gradually I  began to make out the things around me. Suddenly I saw the
outline of a screen with white leather behind it. At first it was completely
invisible, but if you looked at it hard it took on the appearance of a metal
sheet, reflecting like a mirror the white  walls, the bed and myself. It was
facing me as if it were somebody's eye or ear, and it seemed to be listening
and watching my every movement  or intention. As it turned out later,  I was
not mistaken.
     Beside the bed floated a flat white pillow with a fine-grained surface.
When  I reached out  to touch it,  it turned out  to be the seat of a  chair
resting on three legs made of thick transparent plastic material  which  was
quite  new  to  me. In  addition,  I noticed  the same  kind  of  table, and
something  like  a  thermometer   or  barometer  under  a  glass-like  dome,
apparently an apparatus for registering air fluctuations.
     The snowy whiteness all  around me  created the feeling of  peace,  but
alarm and  curiosity were beginning  to grow inside  me. Throwing  back  the
weightless blanket, I  sat  up. The underclothing I wore  reminded  me  of a
hunting outfit: it  fitted snugly  yet one wasn't  aware of its  presence. I
gave a  sudden start, though, when I noticed  the blurred image of a  person
sitting  up in bed reflected in the dim surface  of the screen. He wasn't at
all like me, seemed taller, younger and had a more athletic build.
     "You may get up and walk to and fro," said a woman's voice.
     I looked around involuntarily, though I realized I wouldn't see anybody
in the room.
     "Don't be surprised  at anything, not  at anything!" I  ordered myself,
and obediently walked to the wall and back.
     "Once more," said the voice.
     I  repeated  the  exercise,  guessing  that  somebody,  somewhere,  was
observing me.
     "Raise your arms."
     I obeyed.
     "Lower them. Once more. Now sit down. Stand up."
     I  conscientiously  did  everything  required  of  me,  without  asking
     "Well, and now lie down."
     "I don't want to. What for?" I said.
     "One more check-up in a state of quiet."
     Some strange force  lightly pushed me back  on the pillow, and  my  own
hands  pulled up the  blanket. Curious. How  did  my  unseen observer manage
that? Mechanically or by  suggestion?  The  imp  of  protest inside me burst
stormily out.
     "Where am I?"
     "At home."
     "But this is some kind of hospital room."
     "It's an ordinary revitalizing room. We set it up in your home."
     "Who's 'we'?"
     "GEMS. Of the thirty-second district."
     "GEMS?" I asked blankly.
     "Central Medical Service. Have you forgotten?"
     I fell silent. What could I answer?
     "A partial loss of memory following shock," explained the voice. "Don't
try to make yourself remember. Don't strain  yourself. Just ask, if you want
to know something."
     "Then I'll do just that," I agreed. "Who are you, for instance?"
     "A curator on duty. Vera-seven."
     "What?" I asked in surprise. "Why seven?"
     "You sound odd with your  'why  seven?' Because in our sector,  besides
me, there is Vera-one, Vera-two, and so on."
     "And your last name?"
     "I still haven't done anything remarkable enough for that."
     It was  dangerous to  ask more. A clearly risky turn of affairs had set
     "Can you show yourself?" I asked.
     "That is not obligatory."
     Probably she's an ugly,  disgusting  old woman. Pedantic and nagging. I
heard laughter.
     "Nagging, that's true," said the voice. "Pedantic? Maybe."
     "Can you read the mind?" I asked embarrassed.
     "Not I, but the cogitator. A special apparatus."
     I did  not answer,  wondering whether the  devilish apparatus  could be
     "It can't be," said the voice.
     "It's not fair, or even respectable."
     "It's not res-pec-ta-ble!" I cried angrily. "It's not  nice! Dishonest!
To  look and listen in isn't honest, and to  crawl into a person's skull-box
is very low."
     The voice was silent. Then it spoke severely and with reproach.
     "The first patient in all my practice to object to the cogitator. We do
not tune  it in to  a healthy, sound person.  But with a patient, we observe
everything: the  nervous system, the heart vessels, the breathing apparatus,
all the functions of the body."
     "Then why do you use it on me? I 'm sound as a bell."
     "Usually observers do not meet their patients, but I am allowed to."
     Now I could  see who the  voice belonged to. The reflecting  surface of
the screen  darkened like water  in  a  muddy pool, and  faded  out. Looking
straight at me  was the face  of a young woman with short wavy hair. She was
dressed in white.
     "You may ask questions - your memory will come back."
     "What's the matter with me?"
     "You  had an  operation. A heart transplant. After  an accident. Do you
     "Now I remember," I cried. "Is it plastic?"
     "Is what plastic?"
     "The heart, naturally. Or is it a metal one?"
     She  laughed with the superiority of a  school-teacher who  receives  a
stupid answer from a pupil.
     "It's not for nothing that they say you live in the twentieth century."
     I was frightened. Could they know everything? But perhaps that was even
better....  I  wouldn't have to  explain anything,  not make up stories. But
just in case, I asked: "Why?"
     "But  don't  you? Artificial  hearts were employed  very  long  ago. We
changed  that,  and use  organic material grown in a special medium. But you
think  in  terms of the twentieth  century: the usual thing with historians.
They say you know all about the  twentieth century. Even what kind of  shoos
were worn."
     "Heels on spikes," I laughed.
     "What's that?"
     "Spike-heel shoes."
     "I don't understand."
     I gave a start. The wide-spread, century-old daily word which had lived
to the age of nuclear physics apparently had disappeared from the vocabulary
of the twenty-first century. What do they use in place of nails or spikes, I
wonder? Glue?
     "Look here, my dear girl..." I began.
     But she interrupted with a laugh.
     "Is that how they spoke in that century - 'my dear girl'?"
     "Absolutely,"  I  assured her seriously. "I'm fed up lying here. I want
to get dressed and go out."
     She frowned.
     "You may get dressed: clothes will be given you. But you mustn't go out
yet. The process of observation  is  still not over. The more so after shock
with  loss  of  memory.  We  shall  still check  your  organism  as  to  the
neuro-functions habitual to you."
     "Of course. You will receive  your 'mechanical historian', the best and
latest  model, by  the way.  Without any  button controls. Fully  automatic,
responds to your voice."
     "And will you look and listen?"
     "Then it's  no  go," I said. "I'm not going to get dressed and work  in
front of you."
     A  merry  surprise  was  reflected  in her eyes. She had  difficulty in
muffling her laughter.
     "Why not?" she asked, her hand covering her mouth.
     "Because I live in the twentieth century," I snapped.
     "All right,"  she said. "I'll  turn off the video-graph.  But the inner
organic processes will remain under observation."
     "All right," I said. "You may be the seventh, but you're smart."
     Again she failed to catch my meaning, but I only waved good-bye. Either
she had never read  Chekhov  or  had forgotten.  Her sweet face  had already
disappeared from the screen. Suddenly, part of the wall melted away, letting
into   the   room  something  resembling  a   radiator  made  of  interlaced
right-angled  pipes. The 'something'  turned  out to  be an  ordinary mobile
wardrobe hanger, on which my proposed clothes were conveniently hung.
     I chose  narrow, light-coloured trousers,  which fastened  at the ankle
like our ski-pants; then a sweater to match that reminded me of our familiar
West-Side style.  The reflection in the mirrored  surface  of the screen was
not much like me, but quite respectable and nice to  look at. It wouldn't do
to meet the people of this new century in underclothing! I turned round when
I heard a  noise behind  me, as if  someone was  tip-toeing in. However,  it
wasn't a  person, but an object somewhat  reminiscent of a refrigerator or a
fire-proof safe. How it came in I don't know: it seemed to appear out of the
air  in place  of  the  disappearing mobile  clothes  hanger. It came in and
stopped, winking the green eye of its indicator.
     "I wonder," I said aloud, "if this could be my 'mechanical historian'?"
     The green eye turned red.
     "Mist-12 for short," said the safe in an even, hollow voice lacking all
richness of intonation. "I'm at your service."


     I was long silent before I opened the conversation. I trusted the girl:
she wouldn't eavesdrop  or  watch. But what  could I talk to this mechanical
Cyclops about? Couldn't carry on social talk.
     "How great is your information?" I asked carefully.
     "Encyclopaedic,"   came  the   quick  answer.  "More  than  a   million
references. I can name the exact figure."
     "No need of that. And the subjects of the references? "
     "The limit of  the  glossary  extends to the  start  of  the  twentieth
century. The nature of the references is unlimited."
     I wanted to check up on it.
     "Give me the name and surname of the third cosmonaut."
     "Andriyan Nikolaev."
     It was  quite  correct  - the  answers  coincided  with  the  facts.  I
pondered, and asked another question.
     "Who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1964?"
     "Sartre. But he refused it."
     "And who is Sartre?"
     "A French writer and an existentialist-philosopher. I can formulate the
essence of existentialism."
     "No need for that either. When was the Aswan Dam built?"
     "The first part was finished in 1969. The second...."
     "Enough,"  I  interrupted  him, thinking with satisfaction that we  had
built  it  five years  earlier. Apparently,  not  everything  in  this world
coincided literally with ours.
     The Mist was silent. It knew a great deal. I could begin a conversation
about our experiment, the next important topic for me. But I couldn't decide
to approach it directly.
     "Tell me what the biggest scientific discovery was in the early part of
the century," I began, choosing my way carefully.
     "The theory of relativity," it replied without hesitation.
     "And at the end of the century?"
     "The   scientists  Nikodimov   and   Janovski  discovered   the   phase
trajectories of space."
     I almost jumped  up on the  spot, ready to kiss this impassive  Cyclops
with the winking eye-it winked at me every time he rapped out an answer. But
all I did was ask another question.
     "Why Janovski and not Zargaryan?"
     "At the end of the eighties, the Polish mathematician  Janovski brought
out additional corrections to the theory. Zargaryan did not take part,  save
in the early  experiments. He died  in  a  motor  accident  long before  the
success  of the  first cross-world  traveller permitted Nikodimov to publish
the discovery."
     I understood, of course, that it wasn't my Zargaryan, but just the same
my heart missed a beat.
     "Who was the first cross-world traveller then?"
     "Sergei  Gromov, your great grandfather," rapped out  the Mist  in  its
hollow, metallic voice.
     It was not at all surprised at the stupidity of my question. Who should
know  all  about  the  doings of his forefather if not  his descendant?  But
surprise  had not been programmed into the crystals of the Mist's cybernetic
     "Do you need the bibliographic references?" he asked.
     "No," I said, and sat on the bed gripping my temples.
     However, my invisible Vera-seven hadn't forgotten me.
     "Your pulse is fast," she said.
     "That's possible."
     "I'll turn on the videograph."
     "Wait," I stopped her.  "I'm very interested  in working with the Mist.
It's an amazing machine. Thank you for sending it."
     The Mist waited. Its red eye was again green.
     "Did Nikodimov have scientific opponents?" I asked.
     "Even Einstein had them," said the Mist. "Who pays them any attention?"
     "What were their objections?"
     "The  theory was completely refuted by the church. A World  Congress of
Church  Organizations,  held in Brussels in  the  eighties, looked upon  the
theory  as  the  most  harmful  heresy to  be  proclaimed over the last  two
thousand years. Three years before  that, a special Papal Bull had  declared
it a  blasphemous  perversion of  the  teachings of Jesus Christ, the Son of
God, and a return to the pagan doctrine of many gods. As many Christs for as
many worlds. This could not be endured  by either bishops or patriarchs. And
an eminent scientist,  the Italian physiologist  Pirelli, called  the  phase
theory the most  effective scientific discovery of the century as far as its
anti-religious trend went which was absolutely incompatible with the idea of
one God. It is true, however, that something was done to make it compatible.
The  American  philosopher   Hellman,  for  instance,   explained  that  the
Berkeleian 'thing in itself ' was a phase movement of material."
     "Ravings of the Old Grey Mare," I said.
     "I do not understand," responded my Cyclops. "A mare is a sexual gender
of  a  horse. Grey  is a colour. Ravings are  disconnected speech.  A  crazy
horse? No, I do not understand."
     "Simply  an  idiom  of speech.  The approximate  idea is absurd,  below
normal. Comes from  'The old grey mare, she ain't  what she used to be' -  a
     "I  shall  programme  it,"  said  the  Mist.  "Correction  of Gromov to
idiomatic speech."
     "All right," I stopped him. "Better tell me about phases.  Are they all
     "Marxist science affirms they are. By  way of experiment, it  has  been
shown that many are similar. Theoretically, it relates to all of them."
     "And were there any objections to the idea?"
     "Of  course.  Opponents  of  the  materialistic  conception of  history
insisted that similarity was not obligatory. They proceeded from the premise
that chance plays a  role  in the life of man and society. If it weren't for
the  crusades,  they said,  the history of the Middle Ages  would  have been
different. Without Napoleon, the  map of new Europe would have differed. And
if Hitler had been absent from German  political life,  the  world would not
have been  led  into  World War  Two.  All  this  has  long been  disproved.
Historical and social processes do not depend on chance which changes one or
another  individual destiny.  Such processes  are  obedient  to the  laws of
historical development that are common to all."
     I remembered  my  argument  with Klenov and my question: 'But, you see,
there is such a possibility - there is no  Hitler. He  was  never born. What
     And  the  Mist repeated  Klenov's answer almost  word for  word: 'There
would have appeared another fuehrer. A little earlier, or  a bit later,  but
he would  have appeared. You see, the  deciding factor  is not  a  matter of
personality, but  the  economic  situation of the  thirties.  The  objective
chance of the appearance  of such a  personality obeys the law of historical
     "So everywhere it is one and the same thing?" I asked. "In all  phases,
in  all  worlds?  The  same  historical  figures? The  same crusades,  wars,
revolutions? The same changes of social formations? "
     "Everywhere. The difference  is only in time, but  not in  development.
The changes of the  social and economic formations  in  any phase are  akin.
They are dictated by the development of the productive forces."
     "So they thought last century. But now?"
     "I don't know. I am not programmed on that. But my design conforms with
the  probability   theory  and   I  can  make  conclusions  independent   of
programming. The laws  of  dialectical materialism remain true  not only for
the past."
     "Another  question, Mist.  Is the  mathematical expression of the phase
theory very complicated?"
     "It includes  the general  formulas,  the calculations of Janovski  and
Shual's system of equations. There are three pages on it in the textbooks. I
can recite them."
     "Only orally?"
     "I can give them graphically."
     "Will it take long?"
     "One minute."
     I heard a slight noise, like  the buzzing of an electric razor, and the
front panel of the machine lowered to become a shelf on metal hinges. On the
shelf  lay  two  white  accurate  right-angled  cards, closely  covered with
certain ciphers and signs. When I picked them up, the panel closed so  tight
I could not see any line of demarcation.
     Behind me came a thin, childish voice.
     "I'm here, Pop. Are you angry?"
     I turned. A boy of six or seven years stood by  the white wall. He wore
a sky-blue suit tightly outlining his body. He looked  like a picture from a
children's  fashion  magazine  where   they  always  draw   such   handsome,
athletic-looking boys.


     "How did you come in?" I asked.
     He walked backward and  disappeared. The wall was as even and white  as
before. Then a cunning  face peeked through it, and the boy appeared in  the
room like 'the man who walked through walls'.
     "Light  and  sound protectors," I remembered. Here  they used white  to
give a complete illusion of walls.
     "I  sneaked in secretly," admitted  the boy. "Mom didn't  see, and Vera
turned off the eye."
     "How do you know?"
     "The  eye  looks  in here through  the gym. When you  run in there, she
cries out: 'Go away, Ram. You're in the field of vision.'"
     "Where does she cry out from?"
     "From  far  away.  In the hospital."  He pointed  off  somewhere  as if
pointing to it.
     I didn't say the probably  expected  'Clear enough' because  it  wasn't
clear at all.
     "And Julia's been crying," Ram informed me.
     "Why is that?"
     "Over you. You objected to  the experiment. That's  bad, Pop. That's no
way to act."
     "What experiment is it?" I asked out of curiosity.
     "They want to turn her into  an invisible cloud. Like in a fairy story.
The  cloud will fly and fly away, and then  return. And it will become Julia
     "And I wouldn't give my permission?"
     "You refused to. You're afraid the cloud won't come back."
     Now I was completely lost. Lost in the woods.
     Vera came to my rescue by reminding me of my pulse again.
     "Vera," I begged, "can you clear this up? Why did I refuse to let Julia
become invisible? It's all my rotten memory!"
     I heard a familiar laugh.
     "How oddly you talk. Rot-ten.... It sounds so funny. As for  Julia, you
must decide  that  for yourself  - it's a family matter. That's  why  Aglaya
tries  to get in to see you. I wouldn't let her, afraid of exciting you. But
she insists."
     "Let her in," I said. "I'll try to keep calm."
     I couldn't risk asking who Aglaya was.  I'd get by somehow. I looked at
the place where Ram had just vanished, but Aglaya came in from the  opposite
side. She came in as if she had every right to be here,  and sat across from
me. She  was a tall woman, under forty,  and wore a dress  of marvellous cut
and colour. She would have looked just right in our world on the platform at
any kind of international festival.
     "You look well," she remarked, looking at me closely. "Even better than
before  the  operation.  And  with a  new heart you'll  probably  live  to a
     "But what if I won't live to a hundred?"
     "Why shouldn't you? Biological  incompatibility was frightening only in
your favourite century."
     I hesitantly shrugged, leaving the conversation in her hands. A game of
surprises  was beginning. Who was she to me? And I to her? What did she want
of me?  The  ground was getting slippery, every step called for a quick wit,
and fast thinking.
     Our talk began at once.
     "So you've agreed?" she asked unexpectedly.
     "To what?"
     "As if you don't know. I spoke with Anna."
     "About what?"
     "Don't  pretend. You know  what  I'm  talking about. You agreed to  the
     What experiment? And who was Anna? Why must I agree or disagree?
     "Did they force you to?" she asked me.
     "Don't mention names, the child will hear. And after such an operation.
Before you're  yourself  again.  A new  heart.  Blood vessels with  cosmetic
seals! And they come to you with an ultimatum: agree, and that's all!"
     "There's no need to exaggerate," I said, feeling my way.
     "I'm not. I know all  about it. And Anna  supports it because she's all
wrapped up  in  science. She simply has no biological feelings! Julia's  not
her daughter. But she's yours. And she's my granddaughter."
     I thought that for  a father and grandmother, we were too young-looking
to have a  grown-up daughter who  was  going in  for some  kind  of  complex
scientific experiment. I remembered Ram's story and smiled.
     "And he can still smile!" cried out my companion.
     I  had  to  tell  her  the story  of  the invisible cloud,  as Ram  had
interpreted it.
     "So Anna hasn't told  her. That was wise. Now  you  can  withdraw  your
     "Why should I?"
     "And you  will  permit  them to turn  your daughter  into some  kind of
cloud? What  if it melts away? Or the atomic  structure cannot be  restored?
Let Bogomolov experiment on himself! They won't let him, d'you see. Too old,
they say,  and weak. Is it  any easier  for you and I that she is  young and
strong?" Aglaya  paced around the room  like  an  angry Brunhilda. "I  don't
understand you, Sergei. You were so hotly against it."
     "But I agreed, you see," I objected.
     "I  don't believe there was an agreement!"  she  screamed.  "And  Julia
doesn't know anything about it. You  tell her  they'll have  to  cancel  the
experiment ... she'll be  here  in a minute. A person is not the sole master
of his fate when he has a mother or father."
     I had  a flash  of hope: "Maybe the  experiment  won't take  place very
     "It's arranged for today."
     I  thought it over. Julia,  apparently, was around twenty,  maybe a bit
younger  or older.  She was the  assistant of a professor, or something like
that. They  were going to carry out an experiment  which  to  us  would seem
utterly fantastic.  And here, too, it was apparently associated  with mortal
danger. A father had the right to interfere,  and not permit the  risk to be
taken. Now I had been handed this right. And I couldn't even  refuse to  use
it  without giving  myself away and creating a far more  critical situation.
Aglaya's eyes stared at me with unconcealed anger but I could not answer her
at  once. To  say 'no' to the  experiment and  eliminate the alarm  of those
people to whom the girl's fate  was so dear? But her place would be taken by
another, I was sure  of that. Somebody else would  just  as readily take the
risk as Julia. So how could I take away from her the right to do  this brave
act?  But to say 'yes' and perhaps deal a death blow to  the person  who was
unable now to interfere and correct me?
     "So  man  is not the sole master of  his fate when he has  a  mother or
father," I repeated thoughtfully.
     "Such is the tradition of this century," she snapped back.
     "A good tradition  when the risk is merely a foolhardy one. But if not?
If a man  or a girl takes the risk in the name of a higher interest than the
happiness or grief of his or her dear ones?"
     "Whose interests are higher?" asked Aglaya.
     "Those of one's native land, of course."
     "It is not threatened with danger."
     "Then those of science!"
     "It doesn't need human  lives. If somebody  dies, the scientists are to
blame who permit death to occur."
     "And if there's no blame, if the risk was a brave act?"
     'Brunhilda' again rose to her feet, magnificent as a monument.
     "They did not only transplant your heart."
     Without another  glance  at me, she swept through the wall which parted
before her like the obedient Red Sea in the Bible.
     "You did right," said Vera.
     I sighed. "But if not?"
     "One more talk, and then we'll take off the observation."
     The person I was to  talk with was already in the room. It is difficult
to describe her appearance, for men  usually don't  understand all the  fine
points  about hair-do and  dress. The latter was severe in cut, bright,  and
not so far in advance of our styles. The face  had something in  common with
the photographs in my family album - the Gromov look.
     I automatically studied the purity of her features, her discreet charm.
     "I'm waiting, Daddy," she said dryly.  "And they are waiting to hear at
the institute."
     "Didn't they tell you?" I asked.
     "That I'm no longer against it."
     She sat down and got up again. Her lips trembled.
     "Daddykins, you dear..." she sobbed, and buried her face in my sweater.
     I was aware of a faint,  strange scent. Like flowers  on a meadow after
rain when all the dust is washed away.
     "Have you a bit of time to spare?" I asked.
     "Tell  me  about  the  experiment.  After  the  shock, I seem  to  have
forgotten things."
     "I know. But it will pass."
     "Of course. But that's why I ask. Is it your discovery?"
     "Well, really," she laughed. "Naturally it's not mine,  nor Bogomolov's
either. It's  a  discovery from the future, from some  adjacent phase.  Just
picture any object in the shape of a rarefied electronic cloud. The speed of
displacement  is  terrific.  No  obstacle can withstand it, it  goes through
anything. As the experiments have shown, you can throw anything you wish for
an unlimited distance - transmit pictures, statues,  trees, houses. By  this
means  a day  or  so ago,  they  transmitted  from near Moscow a single-span
bridge right  across the Caspian  Sea,  setting  it down right  on  the spot
between Baku and Krasnovodsk. And now the experiment is  to be made  on man.
So far, only within the city limits."
     "All the same, I don't see how...."
     "Of course you wouldn't understand, Daddy, my dear old  historian. But,
roughly speaking, schematically, it's about like this: in any solid body the
atoms  are packed tight. They cannot spread  out, nor do they penetrate each
other because  of the presence  of electrostatic forces  of  attraction  and
repulsion. Now imagine that a  way has been found to reconstruct these inner
connections between the atoms and, without changing  the atomic structure of
the body, to  reduce it  to a rarefied state in which, let us say, atoms are
found  in gases. What do we get?  An  atomic-electronic cloud which one  can
again condense into the molecular-crystalline structure of a solid body."
     "But if...."
     "What 'if? The  technological process was mastered long ago." She rose.
"Wish me good luck, Daddy."
     "One question, child." I took her hand. "Do you know the phase theory?"
     "Of course. It's taught in school now."
     "Well, but I never had it. And I need  to memorize everything about it,
even if I do so mechanically."
     "There's nothing simpler.  Tell  Eric,  he's Mother's  chief hypnotist.
You've  forgotten everything, Dad. We  have a suggestion-concentrator  and a
dispersion unit." She  raised her wrist to  her face and  spoke into a  tiny
microphone on a bracelet.
     "In a minute... just a minute. Everything's  ready, and it's all right.
No,  that's not necessary, don't send for me ... I'll come by  the movement.
Of course,  it's  simpler.  And more convenient. No  rising,  no landing, no
noise or wind. I'll stand on the pavement ... and be there in two minutes."
     She  hugged me and, saying  good-bye, added:  "Only  no watching.  I've
turned off the super.  You'll be  kept  regularly informed and in good time.
And tell Eric and Dir no tricks, and not to switch into the network."
     And all in flight,  tense  and ethereal, as if skimming over waves, she
disappeared through the white swirling wall which closed after her.
     I  walked over to what looked to me like  a wall. Vera never raised her
voice. Glancing over my shoulder like a thief, I walked through the wall.
     Before me stretched a long corridor leading, apparently, to a verandah.
Through the glass door, if it  was glass, I  saw a twilight-darkened sky and
the rather distant outline of a skyscraper. When  I  came closer, there  was
neither glass nor door. I just walked through. A woman and  two men sat at a
low table. Ram  was hopping on one foot along the verandah which was guarded
by  low,  clipped bushes in  place  of a railing. They were covered by large
creamy flowers,  gleaming  with evening  dew, that  reminded  me  of  bright
Christmas tree ornaments.
     "Daddy's come," cried Ram, hanging on my neck.
     "Leave Daddy alone, Ram," said the woman severely.
     A soft light, falling from somewhere above,  slipped past  and left her
in the shadow. "Probably Anna," I thought.
     "Observation has been removed," she continued.
     "So now you've complete freedom to move about," laughed the older  man,
who must have been Eric.
     "Not complete," corrected the woman. "No farther than the verandah."
     The  younger man, Dir  apparently, jumped  up  and walked  along by the
bushes, not glancing  at me.  Long-legged, dressed in shorts that fitted his
waist snugly, he looked like an athlete in training.
     "Julia just left," I said.
     "You shouldn't have given permission," snapped Dir over his shoulder.
     "We all heard it," explained Anna.
     I was annoyed.  Everybody in this house hears and sees all. Just try to
be alone. Like living on a stage, I thought.
     "But you really have changed," smiled Anna. "Only I can't put my finger
on just what it is. Perhaps it's for the better?"
     I was silent, meeting Eric's attentive and observant glance.
     "Gromova has entered the eino-chamber," said a voice, but where it came
from I couldn't make out.
     "Do  you hear that?" Dir turned to us. "All the time  it was Julia-two,
and now she's already Gromova!"
     "Glory begins with a surname," laughed Eric.
     I  reminded him  that the super was  turned off, adding that Julia  had
asked the guests not to tune into the network.
     "WHAT did you say - guests?" asked Anna in surprise.
     "So what?" I asked guardedly.
     "There certainly is something wrong  with your memory. We  haven't used
the word 'guest' in its former meaning for half a century. Are you so buried
in history that you've forgotten?"
     "Now we  use the word 'guests'  only for visitors from other phases  of
space and time," explained Eric in a rather odd tone.
     I didn't manage to answer - the voice again interrupted.
     "Preparations for the experiment  are  proceeding in cycles," he rapped
out. "No deviations have been observed."
     "In twenty minutes," said Dir. "They won't begin earlier."
     Everybody was silent. Eric did  not take his attentive curious gaze off
me. There  was nothing unpleasant in his look, but it aroused my involuntary
     "I heard your  request  about  formulas, when you  were  speaking  with
Julia,"  he said suddenly, with a quite benevolent intonation.  "I'd be glad
to help you. There's plenty of time, so come along."
     I got up, glancing down  past the green border.  The verandah  hung  at
skyscraper  height. Beneath  were  the  dark crowns of  trees, probably  the
corner of a city park. I went out with Eric.
     "Light!"  said Eric as  we entered  a  room,  apparently not addressing
anyone in particular. "Only on our faces and on the table."
     The  light in  the room,  as  if  compressed,  was  condensed  into  an
invisible projector that picked out of  the darkness my face and Eric's, and
a small table I found beside me.
     "Have you the formulas with you?" asked Eric. I gave him the cards from
the Mist.
     "I don't need them,"  he laughed. "This is your lesson. Put them on the
table and give them your complete attention.  Only the upper rows, the lower
ones aren't necessary. Those are calculations  which are filled  out by  the
electronic computer. Now read the upper rows line by line."
     "I shan't remember them," I protested.
     "That isn't necessary. Merely look at them."
     "For very long?"
     "Until I tell you not to."
     "Somewhere  you have  a suggestion concentrator," I  remembered Julia's
     "What for?" laughed Eric.  "I work  by the old  methods. Now look at my
     I saw only the pupils of the eyes, as big as burning icon-lamps.
     "Sleep!" he cried.
     Exactly what happened after that I don't remember.  I think I opened my
eyes and saw an empty table.
     "Where are the formulas?"
     "I threw them away."
     "But look here, I remember nothing."
     "It only  seems that way.  You'll remember later when you get home. You
are a guest, aren't you? Am I right?"
     "Quite right," I said decisively.
     "From what time?"
     "From the last century, in the sixties."
     He laughed softly  in  delight. "I  knew  it  from  the  results of the
medical  observations. Both  the  shock  and  loss  of  memory  looked  very
suspicious.  I  studied  you  by  videograph  when  Julia  was  speaking  to
Bogomolov. You  had such a  look on your  face,  as  if  you were  seeing  a
miracle. When she  said that she'd  go by the 'movement', I realized you had
never once stepped on  a  travelling panel-pavement. And we've had  them for
half a century. You had forgotten all that has come into being in our times,
right  up to the semantics of the  word 'guest'. You might deceive surgeons,
but not a parapsychologist."
     "All the better," I said. "Lucky for me  that I met you. I'm only sorry
I must leave without seeing anything, neither  the  houses nor  the streets,
neither  the  travelling-panels, nor  your technology,  nor even your social
system. To be on the heights of communist society - and not see anything but
a hospital room!"
     "Why on  the heights? Communism  isn't  stationary, it's  a  developing
system. We have to go far yet before we reach the heights. Now we are making
a  gigantic leap into the future  ...  with the conclusion of Julia's dream.
Your world will do the same after you take back the formulas  of our century
that are imprinted in your memory.  Although only minds meet so far, all the
same these meetings of worlds enrich us, and advance the dreams of mankind."
     I wanted to leave a remembrance behind me in this world, to a man whose
brain I had usurped.
     "May I leave a note for him?" I asked Eric.
     "Why a note? Simply tell him. It will be his voice, but your words."
     I looked around, perplexed.
     "You're looking for a tape-recorder? We  have  another and better means
of reproducing speech. Too long to explain. Simply talk."
     "I beg  you to  forgive me, Gromov, for usurping your place in life for
these  nine or ten hours," I began  hesitantly,  but  a sympathetic nod from
Eric urged me on. "I am only a guest, Gromov, and I'm leaving as suddenly as
I came. But I want to tell you that I've been very happy living  these hours
of your life. I interfered in it by giving Julia my blessing and letting her
do  this brave deed.  But I couldn't do otherwise. To refuse would have been
cowardly, and to stop her - obscurantism. I regret only one thing: I  cannot
wait for the victory of your daughter, nor for the  victory of your  science
and system. That great happiness will belong to you."
     "Sergei, Eric!" cried Dir, running in. "It's starting!"
     "Too  late," I  said,  feeling  the  familiar  approach  of  the  dark,
soundless abyss. "I'm leaving you. Good-bye."

     Outside my window lies the street lashed by wind and rain. The electric
lamps in the murky rain-curtain are  like spiders  lost in their own webs. A
bus goes tearing through the gloom of the slanting shield of water. It is an
ordinary autumn evening in Moscow.
     I  have  finished the last lines of  the  essay or  memoirs, or perhaps
personal diary -  I don't  know what  to  call  it - which I shall  not risk
publishing.  But it  had  to be written. Klenov rang up early this  morning,
stating the exact number of lines for the column. By the way, he immediately
made  a reservation;  it  all  depended on the  reaction of world scientific
societies. Maybe I'd be given a whole page.
     The Academy of  Sciences  starts its  session  tomorrow  at ten in  the
morning, and nobody knows when it will end. There will be Nikodimov's report
and Zargaryan's,  then  my speech and those of  foreign scientists and ours.
According to  Klenov, more than  two hundred people  have  arrived. All  the
stars  of  our  physico-mathematical  galaxies,  not counting  visitors  and
correspondents. I  shall not cite the government's communique, for everybody
knows it. After it came out, not  only my scientific  friends  but  reporter
Sergei Gromov woke up famous.
     More than two months have  passed since my return, but it seems like it
was  only yesterday  that  I  woke up in Faust's  laboratory in the familiar
chair with its electrodes and pick-ups. I woke  up tired and  with a feeling
of bitter,  almost unbearable loss. Zargaryan was asking me something, but I
answered  unwillingly  and  uncertainly. Nikodimov  silently  looked at  me,
studying the oscillograph results.
     "We began  at 10.15," he  said suddenly,  "and at one  o'clock  we lost
     "Not completely," said Zargaryan.
     "Right. Brightness  fell first to  zero, then  it revived  but was very
faint,  and rose  to  the supreme point.  Even  with a more exact  direction
sighting. To tell the truth, I was all at sea."
     "At  one o'clock,"  I repeated thoughtfully, looking at Zargaryan,  "at
exactly one or a bit earlier, I was with you in the Sofia restaurant."
     "Are you delirious?" he asked, after a moment's silence.
     "Yes, with you older by twenty years and  wearing a  'Kurchatov'  beard
that covered half  your chest. In a word, it was  Moscow at the close of the
century. In that same Sofia. By the way, it's quite different from ours. And
Mayakovsky, too. He stands taller than the Nelson column." I drew in a whole
lungful  of air, and blurted out: "And you got hold of me and threw me ahead
by  a  whole  century.  That's when  you  lost  me  ...  during  the  second
     Now they were both looking at me, not  so  much with  distrust as  with
sharp suspicion. But I went on, not even leaving the chair for  I hadn't the
strength to rise.
     "You  don't  believe me?  It's  hard to believe, naturally.  Fantastic.
Incidentally, the screens  in their lab  are in one line forming a parabola,
and with a  mobile  control  panel.  And  on the  roof  there's  a  swimming
pool...." I swallowed, and was silent.
     "You need some doping," said  Zargaryan.  He  mixed two egg  yolks with
half a glass of cognac and gave it to me, almost spilling  it his hands were
so shaky.  The drink  revived me. Now I could  go  on....  And I talked  and
talked without stopping for breath, and they listened as if bewitched,  with
the reverence  of  habitues  of premiere performances at the  conservatoire.
Then  they  interrupted,  shooting  questions like  machine-gun bursts. They
questioned and cross-examined me. Zargaryan cried out something in Armenian,
and over and over  again I  had  to repeat  my recollections: now  about the
monorail track, now  the gold and crystal Sofia, now  the  chair without the
helmet  or  pick-ups,  now  the  white  revitalizing  room  and  the  unseen
Vera-seven, then about the Mist with its glossary and the story  of Julia in
which the mysterious image of a century was reflected as in frosted glass. I
still could  not  bring myself to describe the most important thing of all -
my meeting with Eric. And when I got to it, something suddenly erupted in my
memory like a blinding flash of magnesium.
     "Paper," I cried out hoarsely. "Quickly! And a pencil."
     Zargaryan handed me a fountain pen and pad. I closed my eyes. Now I saw
them  absolutely  clear-cut, as  if held before my eyes  -  all  the rows of
ciphers  and  letters expressing the  formulas on  the Mist's cards. I could
write them one after another without  missing a thing, without getting mixed
up, reproducing  exactly  everything  engraved  in my  memory in that  other
world, all of  which appeared  with  indelible vividness.  I  wrote blindly,
vaguely  hearing   Zargaryan's  whisper:   "Look,  look   ...  he's  writing
automatically  with  closed eyes." And  that is how I wrote, not  opening my
eyes,  not  stopping,  with  feverish  swiftness  and  clarity  until  I had
reproduced on paper the last concluding equation of mathematical symbols.
     When I opened  my  eyes, the first thing  I  saw  was  Nikodimov's face
leaning over me, whiter than the sheet of paper I'd been writing on.
     "That's all," I said, throwing down the pen.
     Nikodimov took the  pad and raised it close to his  short-sighted eyes.
Then he froze  motionless -  it was as if a cinema  reel  had suddenly  been
brought to a stop in the middle of a film showing.
     "This needs a wiser mathematician than I," he said finally, passing the
pad to Zargaryan. "And he won't  manage  without  an electronic computer. It
will have to be computed."
     It took Nikodimov  and Zargaryan one and a half to two months to do it,
working  in  Moscow and the Brain centre  in  Novosibirsk.  Academicians and
post-graduate researchers worked with them. The baffling calculation secrets
of the mathematics  of the future were  finally solved by Yuri Privalov, the
youngest Doctor of  Mathematical Science in the world. The  phase theory  of
Nikodimov-Zargaryan was now firmly established on a sound mathematical basis
proved  by  experiments  from  the  future.  The  equations translated  into
mathematical language became the Shual-Privalov equations. And tomorrow they
would be made available to all mankind.
     Olga's asleep, faintly lit by a pencil  gleam from my lamp. She doesn't
seem very content, in fact there is a slightly frightened look on  her face.
She already told Galya and me of her fear that fame and popularity, all this
sensational  excitement that  awaits  me  tomorrow,  will  become  a barrier
between us that might break up our  life together. Of course, the talk  of a
barrier  is nonsense, but  even  now  my life is beginning  to look like  an
idiotic Hollywood true story.
     Foreign  correspondents, who  earlier  sniffed out  that something  was
brewing, follow me through the streets.  The telephone rings all  day and we
have to smother it with a pillow at night, so that the  sound of its ringing
doesn't awaken us. Already a certain American publishing house has made me a
wild offer for my impressions.  And I,  parrot-like, have to repeat over and
over  that no impressions are to be printed  as yet; and when  they are they
can be  read in Soviet publications. And  Klenov chaffs me in a friendly way
that all  the  same I shall have  to  write  about my  JOURNEY  ACROSS THREE
     I  don't agree  -  not three!  Many  more.  And  among  them there will
definitely be  the one that I never really  saw - that wonderful, inimitable
world of Julia and Eric.

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