I had a dream about you. It's been a while since I could remember any of my dreams and still, this one has left me with such strong impression. Even now, when I am fully awake, your face flashes before my eyes. It's a face I can totally relate to, as if it wasn't any more yours than it is mine. Terrifying thing, you know? I can't say I've felt that sort of intimacy with anyone. For a moment you knew all my secrets, without me even having to tell them. For a moment I even knew them myself…While I was looking into your eyes, I suddenly started to realize things about myself that were unspoken for years, like fragments of my inner life that were deeply repressed. It’s hard to distinguish if they were buried inside because dealing with them was such a dirty work, or if leaving them unnamed meant that it was not possible to define them precisely enough, so they would keep their true meaning. Perhaps, all this life that I've known so far was in fact no more but a dream about living. The only thing that has kept me in touch with reality was you…I know it comes as a surprise and you may be wondering why it took me so long to come clean. You also may be wondering how come you've never noticed before. I've tricked you on purpose, yes and you must realize it really has nothing to do with you. It’s always been me. This is why, seeing you in my dream like that, came out as a shock. You also must forgive me. You must forgive me because I know how it looks like, that everything we ever shared was a lie and it wasn't…I am more of an illusionist that a deceiver, but it all comes from being in fact, a very private person. Even if it was true that you knew me better than anyone, I’d never admit it. I’d rather dig my own heart out, with a rotten spoon, than admitting it. I may let people in my own little world occasionally, but I would never let them be aware of it. I don’t throw my intimacy in front of others, especially when I care. The more I care, the less I give away and this is something for you to understand and grant me your forgiveness. I didn't play my tricks on you in order to deceive you, but rather to save myself and maybe even deceive myself as well. I’ve had hidden my feelings for you so deeply that I've learned to live with them, as if any other casualty. I have done wrong to myself as much as I did to you and I don’t know if I can forgive myself. So now I wonder, could you forgive me without feeling sorry for me? I certainly don’t deserve your pity. Especially not now that I am awake.
Aleksandra Ninkovic
Shukhov had been told that this old man'd been in camps and prisons more years than you could count and had never come under any amnesty. When one ten-year stretch was over they slapped on another. Shukhov took a good look at him close up. In the camp you could pick him out among all the men with their bent backs because he was straight as a ramrod. When he sat at the table it looked like he was sitting on something to raise himself up higher. There hadn't been anything to shave off his head for a long time-he'd lost all his hair because of the good life. His eyes didn't shift around the mess hall all the time to see what was going on and he was staring over Shukhov's head and looking at something nobody else could see. He ate his thin gruel with a worn old wooden spoon and he took his time. He didn't bend down low over the bowl like all the others did, but brought the spoon up to his mouth. He didn't have a single tooth either top or bottom-he chewed the bread with his hard gums like they were teeth. His face was all worn-out but not like a goner's-it was dark and looked like it had been hewed out of stone. And you could tell from his big rough hands with the dirt worked in them he hadn't spent many of his long years doing any of the soft jobs. You could see his mind was set on one thing-never to give in. He didn't put his eight ounces of bread in all the filth on the table like everybody else but laid it on a clean little piece of rag that'd been washed over and over again.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The studio was immense and gloomy, the sole light within it proceeding from a stove, around which the three were seated. Although they were bold and of the age when men are most jovial, the conversation had taken, in spite of their efforts to the contrary, a reflection from the dull weather without and their jokes and frivolity were soon exhausted.In addition to the light which issued from the crannies in the stove, there was another emitted from a bowl of spirits, which was ceaselessly stirred by one of the young men, as he poured from an antique silver ladle some of the flaming spirit into the quaint old glasses from which the students drank. The blue flame of the spirit lighted up in a wild and fantastic manner the surrounding objects in the room, so that the heads of old prophets, of satyrs, or Madonnas, clothed in the same ghastly hue, seemed to move and to dance along the walls like a fantastic procession of the dead; and the vast room, which in the day time sparkled with the creations of genius, seemed now, in its alternate darkness and sulphuric light, to be peopled with its dreams.Each time also that the silver spoon agitated the liquid, strange shadows traced themselves along the walls, hideous and of fantastic form. Unearthly tints spread also upon the hangings of the studio, from the old bearded prophet of Michael Angelo to those eccentric caricatures which the artist had scrawled upon his walls and which resembled an army of demons that one sees in a dream, or such as Goya has painted; whilst the lull and rise of the tempest without but added to the fantastic and nervous feeling which pervaded those within.Besides this, to add to the terror which was creeping over the three occupants of the room, each time that they looked at each other they appeared with faces of a blue tone, with eyes fixed and glittering like live embers and with pale lips and sunken cheeks; but the most fearful object of all was that of a plaster mask taken from the face of an intimate friend but lately dead, which, hanging near the window, let the light from the spirit fall upon its face, turned three parts towards them, which gave it a strange, vivid and mocking expression.All people have felt the influence of large and dark rooms, such as Hoffmann has portrayed and Rembrandt has painted; and all the world has experienced those wild and unaccountable terrors - panics without a cause - which seize on one like a spontaneous fever, at the sight of objects to which a stray glimpse of the moon or a feeble ray from a lamp gives a mysterious form; nay, all, we should imagine, have at some period of their lives found themselves by the side of a friend, in a dark and dismal chamber, listening to some wild story, which so enchains them, that although the mere lighting of a candle could put an end to their terror, they would not do so; so much need has the human heart of emotions, whether they be true or false. So it was upon the evening mentioned. The conversation of the three companions never took a direct line, but followed all the phases of their thoughts; sometimes it was light as the smoke which curled from their cigars, then for a moment fantastic as the flame of the burning spirit and then again dark, lurid and sombre as the smile which lit up the mask from their dead friend's face.At last the conversation ceased altogether and the respiration of the smokers was the only sound heard; and their cigars glowed in the dark, like Will-of-the-wisps brooding o'er a stagnant pool.It was evident to them all, that the first who should break the silence, even if he spoke in jest, would cause in the hearts of the others a start and tremor, for each felt that he had almost unwittingly plunged into a ghastly reverie. (The Dead Man's Story)
James Hain Friswell