Наталья Поли, 35 лет, живу в Москве. По специальности – художник-дизайнер, более десяти лет занимаюсь дизайном поздравительных открыток. Литература – мое самое большое увлечение после графики и живописи. Пробую свои силы в разных жанрах: авторская сказка, фэнтези, любовная история, короткий рассказ, роман.
Natalia Poly, 35, postcard designer, live in Moscow. I’ve been doing greeting card designs for more than 10 years. Literature is my major area of interest after graphics and painting. I’m trying different genres: fairy-tales, fantasy novels, love stories, city novels, narrative biography.
Перевод рассказа “Ветер пустой изнутри”
The Wild Catching Wind
Mel was following her own path on her way home. Usually she would choose wide avenues and crowded parkways, as she enjoyed staring at passers-by, fantasizing about their lives by such glimpses as a button hanging by a thread, a wisp of a smile, military bearing, a tired or absent look. However, today she was intuitively tending to shy away from people, get lost in the tangled web of lanes and alleys. Her feet carried her down the familiar, well-trodden route. As she turned the corner, she found herself amid the empty echoing quadrangle. Mel happened to have run across this place before, but today it seemed to her alien and strange. The girl halted and listened warily. She was surprised to feel no movement in the air – not a single blow. Somewhere behind the buildings the restless sou’west was raging, but here, in a dusty cool courtyard its hot breath was deafly heard. Just hardly whipped cotton of the clouds was drifting so fast and so low that it almost seemed to brush against the roofs bristled with antenna spikes or the up-flung attic window. She could hear the wind flinging tiny pebbles and grit against the houses hereabout, unable though to get into narrow gaps between them. His wide canvases needed much more space, and he amused himself embracing squashed up five storeys, swaddling them in his clasp and having enjoyed fearful tinkle of the panes, receded, only to return in a heartbeat to attack them with renewed force.
Then, from afar off came an increasing roaring sound – like a thunder blast, but softer and more delicate. Drawing near, the voice of the wind became sharper as if a wasp nest fell down from the twig and tumbled down a steep slope with a loud crash. Like a white gull, a tank top sailed up into the sky torn off the balcony, as though someone angry flung it straight from the shoulder into the azure infinity of the sky. Mel could hear the maddened tornado pace vice-gripped in among the blocks. Finally, he found a loophole – and the next moment a headlong gust slipped through the masonry arch. Before she could say ‘knife’, unsubstantial fingers slid under the skirt of her dress – the air-blast billowed it around her, blew like a sail, sang as a church bell in the folds. Having discovered nothing of interest, the wind came up and easily climbed the drain pipe up onto the roof of the nearby house. The skirt waved after the jackanapes by its falling flounces.
Mel licked her suddenly dry lips, tiny grains of sand crunching between her teeth. The girl tied her hair up into a tight knot – just in time, because right away she was caught by a new, even stronger current of air. And now Mel did something unexpected. She did not avert her face from the sharp gust of wind, but turned towards it and took a deep breath, her arms wide open. Her body became filled with ozone, she felt light and weightless as a balloon. Before she got frightened, she was raised several meters above the ground in a twinkling. A playground sailing below the toes of her felt pumps, she had a moment to catch sight of the peeling monkey bars and a small red flag at the top of the tower. All of a sudden, Mel really got scared – more than ever before. It occurred to her that the wind might find a way from the fine-spun folds of her dress and leave her to fall to the ground. So she spread-eagled and let the elements capture her, lifting up her body higher and higher. Only when the grey-brown tapestry of the town was left far below, she managed to pull herself together. To fall six stories or from the very heart of the heavens – what’s the diff’? Invariably, she’ll be flattened into a pancake.
Mel looked around. She found herself being carried off in an unknown direction in thick fluffy clouds that looked like piles of whipped cream. Their tatters, like giant feathers were floating before her eyes. Mel recalled the magic beanstalk she used to dream about as a child – the one that would grow right up to the sky dome. The pristine white towering masses resembled huge, airy puffs of meringue and grandma’s marshmallow, and she had a violent urge to scoop out large portions of this tempting substance with a big wooden spoon to shovel it delightedly into her mouth. She had always smelt conspiracy here – the clouds intentionally ascended above the crowns of the highest birches so that no kid could enjoy their taste.
Mel fearlessly plunged her fingers into the velvet flesh of the fog she was floating in. At first her hands would meet no resistance. They penetrated all the way through the nimble pastous layers, like dolphin dorsal fins break the glassy surface of the sea. But soon the sense of lightness and featheriness changed into one of viscosity, the air felt oppressive and heavy, it became cloggy. Mel raised her hands to her face and looked at them in wonder – some kind of egg-white like foam flakes remained on them. She laughed happily as she licked her fingers and savored the rich flavor of vanilla and raspberry syrup. Meanwhile, the invisible prankster already dragged her down the giant slide lined white-pink, ivory, peach, lavender and pearly. This way the wild catching wind was playing with her, and she lost track of time.
Finally, the girl was dropped off on a park bench. Tired and messy, she looked pretty terrifying. Her disordered hair stood on end, an insane smile hovered on her lips, specks of dust and rubbish stuck on her cheeks with streaks of syrup and molasses across them. One emerald June bug earring lonely dangled from her left ear, another one was missing. Mel did not remember how she got home. She went to sleep and woke up two days later having on the same thing she was wearing when the wind ensnared her – the light blue dress and felt pumps.
When she woke up it was already twilight. The sunset tinged the windows of her small flat with a broad palette of flame and blood red hues, partially faded by the ink of the coming night. At the horizon puffs of smoke whiffing from the chimneys merged with a long cloud – sharp tower cranes pricked its plum belly. Mel cracked the window a bit to breathe in some evening air. It took her a moment to realize that the wind – her wind was wandering somewhere around. She thought he might have fallen in love with her and have been waiting all along, his tail caught on a window sash. Mel ran out to the balcony, intrepidly climbed up the parapet and sat on the edge like a small bird with her legs dangling. A minute had not elapsed, when the hem of her dress rustled, as if someone elusive fingered over its smooth fabric. A smile touched the corners of her mouth as she pushed off the concrete wall.
The wind would come to call unexpectedly. He could visit Mel almost every day and could stay away for weeks. But every time he showed her something new. The sparkling turquoise waters of the south sea succeeded ocherous undulating hills of hot deserts, soft fleece of sandy beaches argued with concrete docks of bustling harbors, multicolored candy of cobblestone pavements clinked under the feet of the enchanted traveller. Poppy towns imbued with cloying, sweet vapors of opium dens mixed with the smoke of fragrant oil burners, the fleshpots of port districts, like Venus flytraps tried to seduce and swallow her, but failed and disappointedly spat her out – mundane pleasures and vanities no longer tempted her. Now she could get anything and needed nothing: no wealth, splendor, entertainments, divine luxuries or even men – tall or short, sophisticated or having both feet on the ground, young or at the ripe old age, those in power or devoted their lives to the capricious muse – musicians, artists, inventors, ready to throw all the gold of the world at her feet. Ecstatic mating games just made her smile – she already had everything that she could possibly want. Mel climbed the highest snowy peaks of the haughty mountains, not the least bit afraid of cold, steep rocky slopes or the jaws of spooky gorges. The wind warmed her in his embrace, held her tightly by her bleached, always messy – too hard to comb – hair, gently caught her as she stumbled at the edge of the precipice or slippery moss-covered ledge over the rapid river. Mel’s tanned skin gleamed like bronze, her lips were chapped and cracked, black resin of the giant trees, which names she had forgotten or never knew trapped underneath her nails. But all good things have to come to an end, and one day he didn’t come. He could go missing before and his absences didn’t affect her much – however, today Mel knew, she felt it in some way: this one would run and run, maybe for good.
Since then she’d become obsessed with catching the wind. She squeezed into the space between the walls of high buildings, climbed the fire escapes to a giddy height, with cautious steps made her way across the echoing roof space. She examined all forsaken dovecotes, damp silence of basements and trouble scented dead-ends and suburbs. From time to time Mel seemed to hear a gruffish mocking whisper behind her back, gentle whistling in the roll call of the night birds, melodious waft in the rumble of an approaching thunderstorm. But the wind vanished, as though he’d never been.
The summer has passed, giving a farewell slap in the face with its small warm palm. September city was drowned in the fall so fast, as if it sank to the bottom of the icebound pond – with all its houses, yards, cafes, thin spires and skydecks. Gelid waters filled the pores of grey walls, covered windows. People moved in this wet expanse slowly, dozy, having turned into inhabitants of the depths overnight.
Usually at this time of the year Mel started to prepare for winter: picked the sweetness of the woods in wicker baskets, boiled in deep copper cauldrons a sunny dandelion syrup, ambrosia and rosewater; canned amber and rouge marble in glass thick-walled jars; with her deft fingers she squeezed the harsh odor of spices from amaranthine, terra-cotta, blue ultramarine, carmine and greyish black seeds, grains, cones; split firewood, bound flavoring herbs into sheaves and put them on the net hung below the ceiling – she could outlast long winters only having a cup of hot herbal tea. But this autumn Mel was captured by untold, invincible, spanless melancholy. She didn’t even touch bronze seeds and liquid gold of honeycomb, gave cinnabar berries and scented bines a miss. Instead, she inspected every corner of her home, drew out all warm blankets, plaids and capes, unpacked her grandma’s trunk and took all her shawls – old, impersonal, faded and whole new, festive, with embroidery and fringes. She collected warm socks and mittens, wool scarves and knitted hats into a pile, unwound clews of yarn and frogged old pullovers, fished out of the pockets of her coats forgotten handkerchiefs. When the work was done, Mel dumped all her findings in one room, then grooved in the heap a deep hole, got into the very core of the breathing warm lair and fell asleep.
Some strange rustle woke her – as if a kitty was playing with a cotton mouse. Mel could barely raise her head, motley threads caught in her hair, her eyelashes covered with fluff. The girl hardly made her way out. Nobody. Just a movement of air blew her papers off the table. For a moment she fancied she could see a light shining, a sort of a silvery web – over there, in the far corner cluttered with dust bunnies. Mel scrambled to her feet and lumped along into the heart of the room. Empty. It was just a gust of wind. The ordinary wind, carrying the smell of the coming spring, damp ground and the first gluey buds. Mel sighed and took a few steps toward the kitchen. Her throat was covered in tortoiseshell and now cried out for water. Suddenly coral curtains shuddered, light as a feather hands were laid upon her shoulders, rumpled her hair. Mel didn’t hear, but felt like she was wrapped by a merry – like a pollen cloud:
– Hi there! I’m back.
Mel opened the door to her balcony and without hesitation sank into a dark, star twinkling abyss.