Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Metro 2033 31

  ‘Why isn’t he recoiling from me like everybody else?’ thought Artyom. ‘He’s even ready to shake my hand. Why did he come up to me on his own, when everyone around was trying to get as far away from me as possible?’

  ‘I will help you, my brother!’ the rosy-cheeked fellow continued. ‘The brothers and I will give you shelter and restore your spiritual strength.’

  Artyom just nodded, but his new companion found that sufficient.

  ‘So allow me to take you to the Watchtower, O my beloved brother,’ he intoned and, firmly taking Artyom by the hand, drew him along.

  Artyom did not remember much, and certainly didn’t remember the road, but only understood that he was being led from the station into a tunnel, but which of the four, he did not know. His new acquaintance introduced himself as Brother Timothy. On the road, and at the grey, mundane Serpukhovskaya station, and in the dark tunnel, he never stopped talking:

  ‘Rejoice, O beloved brother of mine, that you met me on your way, for your life is about to undergo a momentous change. The cheerless gloom of your aimless wandering is at an end, because you will attain that which you seek.’

  Artyom did not understand very well what the man had in mind, because for him personally, his wanderings were far from over; but the rosy-cheeked and gentle Timothy spoke so smoothly and tenderly that he just wanted to keep on listening, to communicate with him in the same language, grateful for not rejecting him, when the whole world rejected him.

  ‘Do you believe in the one true God, O Brother Artyom?’ Timothy inquired, as if by the way, looking Artyom attentively in the eyes. Artyom could only shake his head in an indefinite way and mumble something unintelligible, which could be interpreted as desired: either as agreement or rejection.

  ‘That’s good, that’s wonderful, Brother Artyom,’ Timothy exclaimed. ‘Only belief in the truth will save you from the torments of eternal hell and grant you expiation of your sins. Because,’ he assumed a stern and triumphal expression, ‘the kingdom of the God of our Jehovah is coming, and the holy biblical prophecies will be fulfilled. Do you study the Bible, O brother?’

  Artyom mumbled again, and the rosy-cheeked fellow this time looked at him with some misgivings.

  ‘When we get to the Watchtower, your own eyes will convince you that you must study the Holy Book, given to us from on high, and that great blessings will come to those who have turned to the path of Truth. The Bible, a precious gift of the God of our Jehovah, can only be compared to a letter from a loving father to his young son,’ Brother Timothy added, for good measure. ‘Do you know who wrote the Bible?’ he asked Artyom a bit sternly.


  I Don’t Believe It

  Artyom decided that there was no sense in pretending any more, and honestly shook his head.

  ‘At the Watchtower, they will lead you to this, and to much more, and your eyes will be opened to many things,’ proclaimed Brother Timothy. ‘Do you know what Jesus Christ, the Son of God, said to his disciples at Laodicea?’ Seeing Artyom avert his eyes, he shook his head in mild reproach. ‘Jesus said, “I counsel you to buy from me salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.” But Jesus was not talking about physical illness,’ stressed Brother Timothy, raising his index finger, and his voice shifted to an exalted, intriguing intonation that promised to the inquiring mind an astonishing sequel.

  Artyom was quick to express lively interest.

  ‘Jesus was talking about spiritual blindness which had to be healed,’ said Timothy, in explanation of the riddle. ‘Like you and thousands of other lost souls who are wandering blindly in the dark. But belief in the true God of our Jehovah is that salve for the eyes which opens your eyelids wide, so that you can see the world as it really is; because you can see physically, but spiritually you are blind.’

  Artyom thought that eye ointment would have done him good four days ago. Since he didn’t reply, Brother Timothy decided that this complex idea required some further interpretation, and was quiet for a while, to allow what Artyom had heard to sink in.

  But after five minutes, a light flickered up ahead, and Brother Timothy interrupted his reflections to report the joyous news:

  ‘Do you see the light in the distance? That is the Watchtower. We’re here!’ There was no tower at all, and Artyom felt slightly disappointed. It was a regular train standing in a tunnel, whose headlights shone softly in the darkness, illuminating fifteen metres in front of it. When Brother Timothy and Artyom arrived at the train, a chubby man came down from the engineer’s cab to meet them, wearing the same type of robe as Brother Timothy; he embraced Rosy-Cheeks and also called him ‘my beloved brother,’ from which Artyom deduced that this was more a figure of speech than a declaration of love.

  ‘Who is this young fellow?’ the chubby guy asked in a low voice, smiling tenderly at Artyom.

  ‘Artyom, our new brother, who wants to walk with us on the path to Truth, to study the Holy Bible, and to renounce the Devil,’ explained rosy-cheeked Timothy.

  ‘Then permit the Watchtower to welcome you, O my beloved Brother Artyom!’ droned Fatso, and Artyom was again amazed that he too did not seem to notice the unbearable stench that had now permeated his entire being.

  ‘And now,’ cooed Brother Timothy, as they were making their leisurely way through the first car, ‘before you meet the brothers in the Hall of the Kingdom, you have to clean your body, for Jehovah God is clean and holy, and expects his worshippers to maintain their spiritual, moral, and physical cleanliness, as well as cleanliness of thoughts. We live in an unclean world,’ he said, glancing sadly at Artyom’s clothes, which were certainly in a deplorable condition, ‘and serious efforts are required of us to remain clean in God’s eyes, my brother,’ he concluded, and hustled Artyom into a nook that was decked out with plastic sheets, set up not far from the entrance to the car. Timothy asked him to undress, and then handed him a bar of grey soap with a nauseating smell, and five minutes later ran water for him from a rubber hose.

  Artyom tried not to think about what the soap was made out of. At any event, it not only ate up the dirt on his skin, but also destroyed the disgusting smell emanating from his body. After the procedures were complete, Brother Timothy gave Artyom a relatively fresh robe, like his own, and looked disapprovingly at the cartridge case hanging around his neck, perceiving it to be a pagan talisman, but limited himself to a reproachful sigh.

  It was also surprising that on this strange train, stuck, who knows when, in the middle of a tunnel, and now serving as a shelter for the brethren, there was water, and it came out under such strong pressure.

  But when Artyom asked about the strange water that was coming from the hose and how it was possible to build such a structure, brother Timothy only mysteriously smiled and declared that the aspiration to please Lord Jehovah really moved people to heroic and glorious acts. The explanation was more than a bit foggy but it would have to suffice.

  Then they went into the second wagon where long, empty tables were built between rigid lateral benches. Brother Timothy walked up to a man who was conjuring something over a big cauldron from which a seductive steam was rising, and he returned with a big dish of some kind of thin gruel, which turned out to be quite edible even though Artyom couldn’t work out what it was made from.

  While he hastily scooped up the hot soup with an old aluminium spoon, Brother Timothy watched affectionately, not missing a chance to proselytize:

  ‘Don’t think that I don’t trust you, brother, but your answer to my question about belief in our God didn’t sound very solid. Can you really imagine a world in which He doesn’t exist? Surely our world can’t have created itself, not according to His wise will? Could the infinite variety of forms of life, the beauty of the earth,’ he gestured around the dining room with his beard, ‘could all this be just an accident?’

  Artyom looked around the wagon attentively but didn’t see any other forms of life in it apart from themselves and the cook. Again, he bent over his bowl and only
issued some sceptical rumblings.

  Contrary to his expectations, his disagreement didn’t embitter Brother Timothy at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. He had visibly enlivened, his pink cheeks were lit with a fervent, fighting flush.

  ‘If this doesn’t convince you of His existence,’ brother Timothy continued energetically, ‘then think about it in a different way. If this world isn’t a display of divine will then it means . . .’ his voice froze, as if from fright, and only after several long moments, during which Artyom completely lost his appetite, did he finish his thought: ‘Then that means that people are left to their own devices, and there’s no point to our existence, and there’s no point in prolonging it . . . It means that we are completely alone, and no one cares for us. It means that we are plunged into chaos and there isn’t the slightest hope of a light at the end of the tunnel . . . And it’s frightening to live in such a world. It’s impossible to live in such a world.’

  Artyom didn’t say anything to him in reply, but these words made him think. Until this moment he had in fact viewed his life as total chaos, like a chain of accidents without connection or sense. Though this oppressed him and the temptation to trust any simple truth that might fill his life with meaning was great, he considered it cowardice and through the pain and the doubt, he gained strength in the thought that his life was of no use and that each living thing should resist nonsense and the chaos of life. But he didn’t feel at all like arguing with the gentle Timothy right now.

  He felt a satisfied and benevolent feeling, and he felt sincere gratitude to the person who had picked him up, tired, hungry and stinking, and who had spoken warmly to him, who now fed him and had given him clean clothes. He wanted to somehow thank him and so when the man beckoned him to join a meeting of brothers, Artyom stood up readily, showing with his every mannerism, that he would go with pleasure to this meeting and wherever he was led.

  The meeting was to take place in the next, that is, the third, carriage. It was full of all sorts of people, mostly dressed in the same overalls. In the middle of the carriage there was a small scaffold and the person standing on it towered over everybody at floor level, almost resting his head on the ceiling.

  ‘It’s important that you listen to everything,’ Brother Timothy told Artyom instructively, clearing their path with gentle nudges and leading Artyom to the very middle of the crowd.

  The orator was rather old, and there was a handsome grey beard falling down his chest, and his deep-set eyes of an indeterminate colour looked down wisely and calmly. His face wasn’t thin or round, it was furrowed with deep wrinkles but it didn’t portray an old man’s weakness or helplessness but rather a wisdom. It radiated an inexplicable force.

  ‘That’s Elder John,’ Brother Timothy whispered to Artyom in a reverential voice. ‘You are really lucky, Brother Artyom, as soon as the sermon begins you will receive teachings at once.’

  The elder raised his hand; the rustlings and whisperings stopped immediately. Then he began in a deep and sonorous voice:

  ‘My first lesson to you, my beloved brothers, is about how to know what God is asking of you. To do this you must answer three questions. What important information is contained in the Bible? Who is its author? Why should we study it?’

  His speech differed from Brother Timothy’s meandering manner. He spoke absolutely simply, plainly navigating short propositions. Artyom was at first surprised by this, but then he looked from side to side and saw that the majority of people there were only able to understand words like this, and the pink-cheeked Timothy had no more effect on them than the walls or the table. Meanwhile, the grey-haired preacher informed them that God’s truth lay in the Bible: who He is and which were His laws. After that he turned to the second question and told them that the Bible was written by about forty different people over 1600 years and they were all inspired by God.

  ‘That’s why,’ the elder concluded, ‘the author of the Bible isn’t a person but it is God, living in the heavens. And now, answer me this, brothers, why do we need to study the Bible?’

  And, not waiting for the brothers to answer, he explained it himself: ‘Because to know God and to do His will is a pledge of your eternal future. Not everyone will be pleased that you are studying the Bible,’ he warned, ‘but don’t let anyone prevent you!’ He cast a stern look around the congregation.

  There was a moment’s silence and then the old man, having taken a sip of water, continued: ‘My second lesson to you, brothers, is about who God is. So, give me an answer to these three questions: Who is the true God and what is His name? What are His most important qualities? What is the right way to worship Him?’

  Someone from the crowd had wanted to answer one of the questions but he was thrown furious looks and John indifferently started to answer the questions himself: ‘People worship many things. But in the Bible it says there is only one God. He created everything in heaven and on earth. And since he gave us life, we must worship Him alone. What is the name of the true God?’ cried the aged man after a pause.

  ‘Jehovah!’ The crowd burst out with one voice.

  Artyom looked from side to side warily.

  ‘The true name of God is Jehovah!’ the preacher confirmed. ‘He has lots of titles but one name. Remember the name of our God and don’t call him by his titles like a coward but straight, by name! Who will tell me now, what is the main quality of our God?’

  Artyom thought that he would now see that there was someone vaguely educated in the crowd who could answer such a question. And standing nearby, a serious-looking young man put his hand up to answer but the old man beat him to it.

  ‘The nature of Jehovah is revealed in the Bible! And His main qualities are love, justice, wisdom and strength. It is said in the Bible that God is merciful, kind, ready to forgive, magnanimous and patient. We, like obedient children, should be like Him in every way.’

  What he said caused no objection amongst the congregation, and the aged man, stroking his magnificent beard, asked, ‘So tell me how should we worship our God Jehovah? Jehovah says that we should only worship Him. We must not revere images, pictures, symbols and pray to them! Our God will not share his glory with someone else! Images are powerless to help us!’ the voice rumbled threateningly.

  The crowd murmured approvingly and Brother Timothy turned his joyful, radiant face to Artyom and said, ‘Elder John is a great orator, and thanks to him our brotherhood is growing with every day, and the community of followers of the true faith is spreading!’

  Artyom smiled bitterly. The ardent speech of Elder John did not have the same fiery effect on him as it had on the rest of them. But maybe it was worth listening some more?

  ‘For my third lesson I will tell you about Jesus Christ,’ said the old man. ‘And here are three questions: Why is Jesus Christ called the first-born son of God? Why did He come to the earth as a person? What would Jesus do in the near future?’

  Then it became clear that Jesus was called the first-born son of God because he was the first creation of God, an embodiment on earth of the holy spirit and he lived in heaven. Artyom was very surprised by this - he’d only seen the sky once before, on that fateful day at the Botanical Gardens. Someone had once told him that there may be life up there in the stars. Was that what the preacher was talking about?

  Then Elder John explained: ‘But who among you will tell me why Jesus Christ, the son of God, came to the earth?’ And he paused dramatically.

  Now Artyom had started to realize what was going on around him, and it became clear that those present belonged to the ranks of the converted and they had been coming to these lectures for some time. Veterans of these lessons never made attempts to answer the elder’s questions whereas the new initiates were trying to show their knowledge and eagerness, crying out answers and waving their hands but only until the old man explained it all himself.

  ‘When Adam didn’t follow God’s command, he became the first person to commit what the Bible calls a sin,’ the elder b
egan from afar. ‘Therefore God sentenced Adam to death. And gradually Adam grew old and died, but he transferred his sin to his children and therefore we also get older and become ill and die. And then God sent his first-born son, so he could teach man about God’s truth, and in his pure example, he showed people an example, and he sacrificed his life to free humankind from sin and death.’

  This idea seemed very strange to Artyom. Why was it necessary to punish all men with death in order to later sacrifice your only son so that everything would be returned to its original state? How could that be if He was omnipotent?

  ‘Jesus returned to heaven, resurrected. Later God called him king. Soon Jesus will wipe all evil and suffering from the earth!’ the old man promised. ‘But we’ll speak about this after praying, my brothers!’

  Obediently inclined heads gathered and joined in the sacrament of prayer. Artyom bathed in the many-voiced buzz from which separate words could not be distinguished, but the general sense made itself clear. After five minutes of prayer, the brothers began to exchange words briskly, apparently worrying about the arrival of the holy spirit.

  Something wasn’t sitting right within Artyom. He had a nagging feeling but he decided to stay there for a while because it might be that the most convincing part of the lecture lay ahead.

  ‘And the fourth lesson I will give to you is about the Devil.’ And looking around him with a gloomy and damning look, the elder warned, ‘Are you all ready for this? Are you brothers strong enough in spirit to know about this?’

  Then it was absolutely necessary to answer but Artyom couldn’t get a sound out of himself. How could he know if he was sufficiently strong in spirit if he wasn’t clear what this was all about anyway?

  ‘And so here are three questions: Where did Satan come from? How does Satan betray people? Why is it necessary for us to resist the Devil?’