We are never alone. Even if nobody is around you, still you have your shadow. It will always listen to you and it will always be with you. The shadow is what is left from the Altar, the primordial energy, inside each one of us. When you are talking to yourself or an imaginary character, in fact you talk to your shadow. And if you are patient enough, you can hear its answers.
Legend Of The Shadow
Outside, it must be -30 C. It is a foggy day. Trains cannot see too far. In the house, we feed the fire with everything: wood, coal. The stove is overheated, but all is useless. Even in the house, steam comes out of our mouths. In the railway station, it is a lost fight. Temperature fallen below freezing and we just let it this way. Only a little fire we keep burning, so that we can stay inside if a train is coming.
We move to the kitchen, where everything is cold. Some hot milk should be good now... but the milk just got partially frozen in the plastic bottle! We light the fire there. Maybe a fast tea should be good. Once we make it, we go back to the house.
I jump to the stove and take it in my arms, while Alia sits on the bed, watching me.
"I've never seen such cold weather", he says.
"I have all the clothes on me and I still freeze!"
"There is nothing we can do", he says. "We must survive. There is no way this weather will keep on forever. It must get warmer at some point".
I try to light a cigarette, but my hands are shaking. Alia - Atan comes and helps me.
"I am too frozen to open the pack!" I say.
He takes two cigarettes and puts one in my mouth and one in his. Then, he helps me light it. I breath the smoke in, keeping the cigarette between my lips. Then, I just breath normally, on my nose. With every breath, a small cloud of smoke gets out through my nostrils. I inhale again, but this time it is a bit better. The hot strove is making me recover from the cold weather outside. If there is something I don't like, it's cold weather. Dead freezing cold weather. Some ash falls on my clothes, but I really don't care. I take another drag of smoke, this time better, with an exhale through my nostrils.
"What should we do?" I ask. "I took all clothes on me, but still I am freezing. How do you cope with this extreme cold?"
"Once I was in a house, in winter, with no wood for fire. And I survived sleeping in there".
"How on Earth?" Then, I remember! A few days ago, when Alia - Atan was at work, I opened the laptop and searched about men wearing pantyhose and pantyhose fetish. I seen a guy wearing 6 layers of pantyhose! Well, that could be a solution. "Don't tell me you worn 6 layers of pantyhose on you!"
"You cannot wear 6 layers for long", he says. "But you can manage with 4".
"So, you tried to wear 6 layers?"
"Yes, I did. You can, but it is impossible to sleep with them. They will pressure your toes, no matter what you try. And if you wear them by day, they will tend to move down".
"This is how you survived that winter night?" I ask him.
I use to layer pantyhose or tights. This way, I can wear skirts in winter. You just need to be careful. The bottom layer must be opaque. If not, you will see something like waves on your feet. And that is not nice. The best way to layer is with black tights.
"I worn a few layers on my feet, but also some on my hands and chest", he answers.
"How did you do that?"
"Well, you need to make a hole in the fabric, between the feet. That's where your head will be. The hose will cover your hands and your chest. If they are long enough, they can get to your belly".
"Is that an invention of yours?" I ask him with a smile.
"No, Nicotiana. It is not my invention. Let me open the laptop".
He opens my laptop and goes to YouTube. There, he types 'pantyhose top' and immediately I see it. So simple! Well, that is not something hard to do. So, I take some ripped tights and pantyhose. I cut the place where toes once were and I make a hole between the feet, to make a hole for the head. We take some of the clothes off, so that we can wear them on the skin. I put on two pairs and he puts two pairs too. And for our feet, we add two pairs of tights for each one. Now, we have four layers covering our feet. We put on the other clothes, including sweaters and winter coats, as well as our green thigh boots.
It is interesting to feel this. Well, it is not quite comfortable. It is not pleasant the feeling on my neck and on the hands I feel how they keep on moving up. They don't stay as should do. What really is amazing, is that you really feel worm. It is just amazing how much body heat they can trap around you.
"How is it?" asks Alia.
"It is incredibly warm", I say. "Your strange fetish saved the day! Really, I never imagined that pantyhose can be used to keep the upper part of your body warm! Well, it is not comfortable, but it works. Just like the feet. With four layers, I cannot move as I used to".
"I know", he says.
"Have you long been practicing this, Alia?"
"Well, when I was a kid, I tried to layer many pairs".
"As many as I had. But at some point I stopped. I did this only in cold winters".
"Do you like it?"
"I like the firm strength on my feet. The pressure, when I touch them with my hands. Do you like layering more pairs once?"
"Well, only when it's cold. I like the new color combinations I get. For example, if you wear fishnets over pantyhose, your legs will look much better".
"Nicotiana, I always worn them hidden or in dim light. Never had enough time to admire my feet. Sine we are together, it is the first time I exposed my feet in public. For this, I must thank you".
"And I must thank you for learning me how to make a top from pantyhose. I never imagined this to be possible".
As we speak, I hear a train coming. The radio did not beep? What is going on? We go to the station immediately, to see what is going on. It is true that from our station, starts an industrial branch line, about 9 km long. It leads to a remote coal mine, but trains on that line are rare. It is a surface mine, a quarry in fact. Coal is mined there only in autumn, to make a reserve for winter. Well, this train comes from somewhere else. And it is out of schedule. What is going on? As it approaches, the train keeps on beeping, warning of its presence.
We reach the station just after the train arrives. It is a mix, passenger-cargo train. But it shouldn't be here! The driver is Amir and he doesn't look drunk. There are almost no passengers in and he is heading to the mine.
"What's up?", I ask him. "You should arrive about 40 minutes later".
"That is what Arnold told me, to hurry, to bring these empty wagons to the mine", says Amir.
"Was he drunk?" I ask.
"As a pig! As a pig, Ana! But, he is the boss here. You know we have to listen".
"Just let me radio signal upstream and downstream stations", I say.
"No need to tell downstream station, Ana. Hans is dead-drunk! He was moving in four feet... trying to get inside the station. I just left him there and came to you".
How I hate drunk people! I signal the train to go upstream. Oh mine! Now, if a train comes from downstream and there is nobody awake at Almathea, that train will pass forward. If Amir is returning, what will happen? Just hope the engineer will not be drunk too! Well, this happens in every year at the same date... and in every year something must happen. An year ago, two trains collided. Two years ago, a train ran over the end of the line. Three years ago, a train derailed. And all happens in this particular day.
We watch the train going upstream, then return to the house.
We both light a cigarette.
"Christmas is the celebration", I say. "It is the birth of god Jesus. So, people should go to church and pray. I don't know why they drink so much in this day! Well, I know, but at some point this is too much".
"Nicotiana, tomorrow it will be all gone. And we will have our papers. Just think about that! Resist one day. Tomorrow all will be back to normal".
"I know. But the worse is yet to come. Wait for the evening train, Alia!"
"I've never seen drunk people on the railway. Just hope airplane pilots stay sober enough this day!"
"Well, everything is with a purpose. The real reason why people drink this much today, is because they are told to, on TV. And this is with a certain purpose. Today is the day when much illegal things are done. In fact, it was the only way to make our papers. Since everyone is drunk and busy with other staff, nobody is paying attention to a state employee, bribed to make some papers".
"I understand now..." says Alia, with big eyes.
"This is how things work here", I continue to say. "You see things like the shadows on a wall, but you must realize what really is causing the shadows".
"Still it is much better then in the place where I was born", he says.
We stay a bit, then I take two cigarettes and we smoke again.
"When the miners will come home", I say, "they will be drunk for sure, like everyone this day. Well, I don't know for them, but this is the day when husbands, drunk, beat their wives and children. This is the day when many horrible things happen".
Well, the train comes, but it is almost empty. And the day has passed. This extreme cold might have prevented many people from coming and going around, even my parents. They remained home today. Now, the sky is dark. Tomorrow we will find out what happened on the railways and in the village.
After five days, when Alia - Atan is free again, we go to the city, for our papers. Our long dream has come true. Now, we have a new identity. We give the state employee the remaining 500 $ from his bribery. From now, I am officially named Nicotiana Ana and he is Alia Atan. We see our marriage certificate, our regional passports and a few other papers. All is done, with our fake signatures on each document. All is made as it should be.
From this point, a chapter of our lives has ended. A new chapter and a new life waits us.
END OF PART 1
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