A Short Story by Alexander Tomov Junior
I’ve been a wanderer all my life. I travel round the world to forget people I meet every day. I dream of meeting someone who will remain in my memory. It hasn’t happened yet. Tonight I stop in a remote village, at the house of an old woman. She lays the table for me. I look at her wrinkled face and empty green eyes. There is a wooden bed in one corner of the simple kitchen. Somebody, covered with a blanket, stirs on it.
“Who is sleeping there?” I ask her.
She looks at me and doesn’t answer. She sits opposite me.
“I want to ask you a favor. There is no one else to turn to,” she says cautiously.
The woman takes two gold rings from her pocket and brings them closer to my eyes.
“Tonight my daughter is getting marrying to a man who left her years ago. Now he has returned again, to make her happy. I want you to marry them!”
“What do you mean, she is getting marrying? And where? Why should I give them the rings? And why should I marry them? I am just a wanderer.”
“I have no relatives or close friends. There is no one else except you that I can ask. He won’t take the ring from me. He hates me because I drove him away. I thought he was not the right man for her at the time. But I was wrong. And since then my daughter is not feeling well.”
“Okay, but I don’t understand how…”
“Come,” she takes me by the hand and we walk towards the small fire-place. She puts the rings into my pocket. “Lie down and listen to the fire. I’ll be beside you. Hold your hand near the flames to feel the slight burning. That way you won’t get lost…”
I obey, although I don’t know why I am doing it. I close my eyes and start listening. The burning of my skin is getting less and less intense.
I found myself in the twilight of a forest. On a small clearing I see a man and a woman. They are dressed all in white. They are beautiful. They stay side by side…
“Come closer. They are expecting you,” I hear the old woman’s voice.
I do. Everything is vague and is turning around. Their eyes are piercing me. I take out the rings. I hand them to the man. He takes them. Puts one on the bride’s finger and the other on his own finger.
“Do you love him?” asks the distant voice of her mother.
“Yes,” says the daughter.
“And do you love her?”
“Yes,” answers the man.
“How do you know he is not lying? He has left her before, hasn’t he?” I ask the old woman ridiculously, in the presence of the newly married couple.
“He is not lying! Dead people always tell the truth!” she answers.
“You are now a husband and a wife, till death do you part,” I pronounce, endlessly surprised, with the voice of a stranger.
I feel a sharp burning on my hand. I jump. I am again by the fire-place. The old woman is smiling. She sheds a few tears.
“Thank you. Now they will be happy forever,” she says to me and leaves the room.
I am confused. I walk up to that bed. And lift the cover.
I find a woman as pale as death under it. I realize she has just died. This is obviously the old woman’s very ill daughter. I cover her again. I call the old woman. She doesn’t answer. I start looking for her all round the house. There is no sign of her. I take my baggage. I set the house on fire. It’s dark outside. The fire tears down the darkness. I turn my back to the place and leave, not knowing where.
And suddenly I understand…
All dreams are dead now.
Translated from the Bulgarian by Margarita Dogramadzhyan