The Ocean by Leonid N. Andreyev
"Your hands are in blood, Haggart. Whom have you killed, Haggart?"
"Silence, Khorre, I killed that man. Be silent and listen--he will commence to play soon. I stood here and listened, but suddenly my heart sank, and I cannot stay here alone."
"Don't confuse my mind, Noni; don't tempt me. I will run away from here. At night, when I am already fast asleep, you swoop down on me like a demon, grab me by the neck, and drag me over here--I can't understand anything. Tell me, my boy, is it necessary to hide the body?"
"Why didn't you throw it into the sea?"
"Silence! What are you prating about? I have nothing to throw into the sea."
"But your hands are in blood."
"Silence, Khorre! He will commence soon. Be silent and listen--I say to you--Are you a friend to me or not, Khorre?"
He drags him closer to the dark window of the church. Khorre mutters:
"How dark it is. If you raised me out of bed for this accursed music--"
"Yes, yes; for this accursed music."
"Then you have disturbed my honest sleep in vain; I want no music, Noni."
"So! Was I perhaps to run through the street, knock at the windows and shout: 'Eh, who is there; where's a living soul? Come and help Haggart, stand up with him against the cannons.'"
"You are confusing things, Noni. Drink some gin, my boy. What cannons?"
He drags him away from the window.
"Oh, you shake me like a squall!"
"Silence! I think he looked at us from the window; something white flashed behind the window pane. You may laugh. Khorre--if he came out now I would scream like a woman."
He laughs softly.
"Are you speaking of Dan? I don't understand anything, Noni."
"But is that Dan? Of course it is not Dan--it is some one else. Give me your hand, sailor."
"I think that you simply drank too much, like that time--remember, in the castle? And your hand is quivering. But then the game was different--"
Khorre lowers his voice:
"But your hand is really in blood. Oh, you are breaking my fingers!"
"If you don't keep still, dog, I'll break every bone of your body! I'll pull every vein out of your body, if you don't keep still, you dog!"
Silence. The distant breakers are softly groaning, as if complaining-- the sea has gone far away from the black earth. And the night is silent. It came no one knows whence and spread over the earth; it spread over the earth and is silent; it is silent, waiting for something. And ferocious mists have swung themselves to meet it--the sea breathed phantoms, driving to the earth a herd of headless submissive giants. A heavy fog is coming.
"Why doesn't he light a lamp?" asks Khorre sternly but submissively.
"He needs no light."
"Perhaps there is no one there any longer."
"Yes, he's there."
"A fog is coming. How quiet it is! There's something wrong in the air--what do you think, Noni?"
The first soft sounds of the organ resound. Some one is sitting alone in the dark and is speaking to God in an incomprehensible language about the most important things. And however faint the sounds--suddenly the silence vanishes, the night trembles and stares into the dark church with all its myriads of phantom eyes. An agitated voice whispers:
"Listen! He always begins that way. He gets a hold of your soul at once! Where does he get the power? He gets a hold of your heart!"
"I don't like it."
"Listen! Now he makes believe he is Haggart, Khorre! Little Haggart in his mother's lap. Look, all hands are filled with golden rays; little Haggart is playing with golden rays. Look!"
"I don't see it, Noni. Leave my hand alone, it hurts."
"Now he makes believe he is Haggart! Listen!"
The oppressive chords resound faintly. Haggart moans softly.
"What is it, Noni? Do you feel any pain?"
"Yes. Do you understand of what he speaks?"
"He speaks of the most important--of the most vital, Khorre--if we could only understand it--I want to understand it. Listen, Khorre, listen! Why does he make believe that he is Haggart? It is not my soul. My soul does not know this."
"I don't know. What terrible dreams there are in this land! Listen. There! Now he will cry and he will say: 'It is Haggart crying.' He will call God and will say: 'Haggart is calling.' He lies--Haggart did not call, Haggart does not know God."
He moans again, trying to restrain himself.
"Do you feel any pain?"
Haggart exclaims in a muffled voice:
"What is it, Noni?"
"Why don't you tell him that it isn't Haggart? It is a lie!" whispers Haggart rapidly. "He thinks that he knows, but he does not know anything. He is a small, wretched old man with red eyes, like those of a rabbit, and to-morrow death will mow him down. Ha! He is dealing in diamonds, he throws them from one hand to the other like an old miser, and he himself is dying of hunger. It is a fraud, Khorre, a fraud. Let us shout loudly, Khorre, we are alone here."
He shouts, turning to the thundering organ:
"Eh, musician! Even a fly cannot rise on your wings, even the smallest fly cannot rise on your wings. Eh, musician! Let me have your torn hat and I will throw a penny into it; your lie is worth no more. What are you prating there about God, you rabbit's eyes? Be silent, I am shamed to listen to you. I swear, I am ashamed to listen to you! Don't you believe me? You are still calling? Whither?"
"Strike them on the head, Noni."
"Be silent, you dog! But what a terrible land! What are they doing here with the human heart? What terrible dreams there are in this land?"
He stops speaking. The organ sings solemnly.
"Why did you stop speaking, Noni?" asks the sailor with alarm.
"I am listening. It is good music, Khorre. Have I said anything?"
"You even shouted, Noni, and you forced me to shout with you."
"That is not true. I have been silent all the time. Do you know, I haven't even opened my mouth once! You must have been dreaming, Khorre. Perhaps you are thinking that you are near the church? You are simply sleeping in your bed, sailor. It is a dream."
Khorre is terrified.
"Drink some gin, Noni."
"I don't need it. I drank something else already."
"Be silent, Khorre. Don't you see that everything is silent and is listening, and you alone are talking? The musician may feel offended!"
He laughs quietly. Brass trumpets are roaring harmoniously about the triumphant conciliation between man and God. The fog is growing thicker.
A loud stamping of feet--some one runs through the deserted street in agitation.
"Noni!" whispers the sailor. "Who ran by?"
"Noni! Another one is running. Something is wrong."
Frightened people are running about in the middle of the night--the echo of the night doubles the sound of their footsteps, increasing their terror tenfold, and it seems as if the entire village, terror-stricken, is running away somewhere. Rocking, dancing silently, as upon waves, a lantern floats by.
"They have found him, Khorre. They have found the man I killed, sailor! I did not throw him into the sea; I brought him and set his head up against the door of his house. They have found him."
Another lantern floats by, swinging from side to side. As if hearing the alarm, the organ breaks off at a high chord. An instant of silence, emptiness of dread waiting, and then a woman's sob of despair fills it up to the brim.
The mist is growing thicker.