Book 1. Anastasia (1996)
A mortal sin
“I still need to tell you, Vladimir, about the terms under which you will receive money in the bank, when there will be a great deal of money in your accounts.”
“Go ahead, Anastasia, it will be a pleasant experience,” I replied.
However, I was devastated by what I heard. Judge for yourselves: here is what she set forth:
“In order to withdraw the money from your bank account, you must meet the following conditions: first of all, for three days before receiving it you must not drink anything alcoholic. When you arrive at the bank, the manager must verify, with the help of the devices you have, your compliance with this condition in the presence of not less than two witnesses. If this first condition is met, you may then proceed to carry out the second: you must do no less than nine deep knee-bends in front of the bank manager and the two witnesses present.”
When the significance — or rather, the absurdity — of her words finally sunk in, I jumped up, and she stood up as well. I couldn’t believe my ears and countered:
“First they’re going to check my alcohol content, and then I am to do at least nine deep knee-bends like this, is that it?”
“Yes,” responded Anastasia. ‘And for each knee-bend they will be able to release from your account no more than one million of your roubles at their present worth.”
I was overwhelmed by a sense of rage, anger and annoyance.
“What did you say that for? Well, what for?! I was feeling so good. I believed you. I was starting to think that you were right about a lot of things, that there was logic in your arguments. But you... Now I am absolutely convinced that you’re a schizophrenic, a stupid hick, a mad woman! This latest thing you said has wiped out everything else. It’s completely devoid of any sense or logic — that’s not just my
opinion, any sane person would agree with me. Ha! Don’t tell me you still want me to write out these conditions in your book?”
“Now you’ve really gone mad. Do you mean to tell me you were planning to write out instructions to the banks or publish this order?” “No. They will read it in the book, and they will act accordingly with you. Otherwise they can expect to go bankrupt.”
“Oh, my God!!! And I’ve been listening to this creature three days already? Don’t tell me you would like the bank manager to do knee- bends with me too in the presence of witnesses?”
“It would be good for him, as it will be for you. But for them I have not set such strict conditions as I have for you.”
“So, you’re only doing this for my benefit? Do you have the slightest idea what a mockery you’ve made of me? See what the love of a crazy recluse can spill over into! Only it won’t work — not one single bank will ever agree to serve me under those conditions, no matter how much you have visualised such a situation. In your dreams, eh?! Well, you can stand here and do all the deep knee-bends you want, you nincompoop!”
“The banks will agree and whether you know it or not will open accounts for you — granted, only those banks which are willing to operate ethically, and people will trust them and come to them,” Anastasia went on, not budging an inch from her position.
I found myself becoming increasingly irritated and angry Angry with myself or angry at Anastasia. Come on now, think how long I’ve listened to her, trying to understand what she was saying, and here she’s turned out to be simply half-crazy I started laying into her, using, to put it mildly, some pretty coarse language.
She stood there, leaning with her back to a tree, her head just slightly bowed. One hand was clasped to her chest, the other was raised upward, lightly waving.
I recognised that gesture. She used it every time she needed to bring calm to the surrounding natural environment so I wouldn’t get fearful of it, and I realised why she needed to calm them down on this occasion.
Every insulting or coarse word directed at Anastasia felt like a whip cracking against her flesh, making her whole body tremble.
I fell silent. I sat down again, on the grass, turned away from Anastasia, deciding Fd better calm down myself and head back to the riverbank, and not talk with her any more at all. But when I heard her voice call out behind me, I was amazed that it didn’t have the slightest hint of resentment or rebuke:
“You know, Vladimir, everything bad that happens to Man is brought on by Man himself, whenever he disobeys the laws of spiritual being and breaks his connection with Nature.
“The forces of darkness try to distract their attention with the instant attraction of your technocratic way of life, to make them forget the simple truths and commandments set forth way back in the Bible. And they all too often succeed.
“One of the mortal sins of Man is pride. Most people are subject to it, this sin. I shall not at the moment go into all the terrible, disastrous effects it produces. After you return home and try to make sense of it, you will understand, either on your own or through the help of enlightened individuals who come to see you. For now I shall just say this: the forces of darkness, which are diametrically opposed to the forces of light, are every moment working to make sure Man does not let go of this sin, and money is one of their basic tools in this campaign.
“They were the ones that thought up this concept of money. Money is like a high-tension zone. The forces of darkness are proud of this invention. They even think themselves stronger than the forces of light for having come up with money. And for being able to use money to distract people from their true purpose.
“This great confrontation has lasted for millennia, and Man is at its centre. But I do not want you to be enslaved to this sin.
“I realise that mere explanations are not enough to settle this question. Because in spite of thousands of years of explanations mankind has not understood nor discovered the means of counteracting this sin. It is only natural that you would not be able to discover it either. But I really, very much, want to save you from this mortal danger which can corrupt the spirit. That is why I thought up a special situation just for you, one that would cause this device of the forces of darkness to be broken, or fail, or even work the opposite way, for the extermination of the sin.
“That is why they have become so enraged. Their anger has been implanted in you, and you for your part started shouting your insults at me. They wanted to make me angry at you in return, but I will never do that. I realised that what I thought up would hit the mark precisely, and now it is clear that their system which has worked flawlessly for thousands of years can indeed be broken. Right now I have done this only for you, but I shall think up something for other people too.
“Now what harm is there in drinking less of that alcoholic poison and in becoming less arrogant and stubborn? What were you so upset over? Of course, it was pride that was upsetting you.”
She fell silent, and I thought: Improbable as it is, her brain — or something besides — may have put into this comic, utterly abnormal situation of doing deep knee-bends in a bank such a deep meaningfulness that there really could be some logic in it. I’d better think about this a little more calmly
All my anger at Anastasia passed and, in its place, arose a feeling of uneasy guilt. However, instead of apologising on the spot, I simply turned to her with a desire for reconciliation. Anastasia, it turned out, felt my inner state. She at once gave a joyful shudder all over and began talking at top speed.