Angush was clearly an experienced carpenter. Yuri watched him closely, mentally noting all he did with the tools. Over the course of a morning, Angush and Yuri had felled two big pine trees. Yuri wasn’t a lazy person, but the constant sawing to clear the branches off the trunk was tiring, even for a resurrected body. The two men mainly worked in silence, content not to talk, but to focus on the work in hand. Angush looked up and Yuri met his eye. They seemed to have the same thought at the same moment.
Laughing at the intuition, Angush put down his end of the two-handled saw and Yuri followed suit.
“Come, let’s take a break now.”
Yuri couldn’t help but feel like Angush was trying to get the upper hand by being the one to suggest.
“This way,” gestured Yuri, hoping to win back control.
Angush shrugged and followed Yuri out of the tree line and over a small field to a spring. Both men drank from their hands and splashed their faces with the cool water that naturally came up from the earth.
“Tell me about yourself?” offered Angush as he sat on a mossy tuffet.
Yuri immediately felt uncomfortable.
“I don’t know what to tell you?” Yuri said, trying to conceal embarrassment.
“Where are you from?” suggested Angush.
“I am from Russia. 21st Century.”
“You speak good English?”
“I learned from the TV and the internet. I had to learn to do well in my work.”
“What did you do?”
Yuri felt, for the first time, a twinge deep down. How would he describe what he did? It was a strange, knotted feeling in his stomach. He didn’t want to go into details and tell this new acquaintance about his violent past.
“I did a lot of things, but I had to do what I did to survive.”
“I see,” said Angush.
“What about you?” said Yuri, hoping to deflect the conversation away from himself.
“I sold the world’s finest opium,” Angush said brazenly.
Yuri was suddenly interested.
“Yes. Pakistan, Afghanistan, India.”
“But you’re skilled? You’re educated?”
“That’s true. But I saw an opportunity. My family were already rich from weapons deals. I just saw a way to make even more money. I was able to pay a private militia to protect me and the trade routes.”
“We sold heroin and cocaine across Eastern Europe, and we sold girls.”
“Just girls?” asked Angush with a slightly raised eyebrow.
Yuri still felt uncomfortable, yet was pleased to speak to someone from a similar background.
“I know… good money for children. We sold some to pimps in Thailand. War orphans. Easy.”
Yuri hadn’t thought about the children he had sold into sexual slavery for a very long time. He felt suddenly hot and nauseous at the memory of their cries as they were sold to strangers.
“Heroin to the West was the best money spinner, though!” continued Angush, who seemed almost wistful in talking of his life. “America wasn’t so easy for me, but Europe? No problem.”
Yuri tried to converse with Angush with similar ease, but he was internally surprised at how much he didn’t want to think of his life in the Previous Age.
“I bet you had some stories, if you’re here?” smirked Angush.
“I saw things. I did things. Yeah.” Yuri was out of energy for this conversation. In his mind he saw the faces of frightened children being loaded into shipping containers bound for brothels in nearby cities.
“I had a good life. I enjoyed money. I lived a long and happy life,” mused Angush. “I am not so sad that I am here. I like being alive again. Jesus was rather underwhelming though, wasn’t he? Pathetic really.”
Yuri was jarred. Despite the way he had walked out on Jesus, thinking of him now, made Yuri feel strangely emotional.
“Underwhelming? How so?” asked Yuri, intrigued.
“He welcomed me, and wasn’t nasty, but he was – I don’t know… I couldn’t get him to laugh with me, y’know?”
“I don’t think I tried,” murmured Yuri, without irony.
“I like to laugh. I don’t have a care!”
Yuri was disturbed by Angush. For all Yuri had done, he never felt that any of his methods or trade was funny. His was a life with very little happiness. Pleasure was fleeting and empty. All the suffering he had seen and even inflicted was rooted in misery. It was all he knew and looking back, he hated his life. Here was a man with a similar background, but he seemed to have no disgust or shame over what he had done. Yuri felt like a mirror had been held up to him and for the first time he genuinely felt hatred for what he saw. Gone was the numb feeling that had incarcerated him in the first Jubilee, and here was something new – and visceral.
Angush continued. “Isn’t it good to feel so free? Clearly Jesus is making us all alive again. All’s well that end’s well? Isn’t that what they say? I wonder what becomes of those snotty little children that were fucked senseless all day?”
Yuri felt rage this time. Rage toward Angush, and hot, angry hatred toward himself. Once again, he wished he was dead. There were images in Yuri’s head that made Yuri want to vomit.
“You’re very quiet, Yuri?”
“Yeah. Well. I didn’t have the silver spoon you did. I haven’t felt happy for a single fucking day of my life. I don’t know how you can laugh like you do. Are you a psychopath?”
Angush laughed into Yuri’s face.
“Oh dear! Poor Yuri! Did I make you jealous because I don’t give a fuck?”
Yuri had run out of patience. He remembered the machete in his pocket, used for hacking off the stubs of branches. Quickly and instinctively, he unclipped it from its sheath. Spinning it skilfully around in his hand so that the handle was firmly in his grip, Yuri lunged at Angush, bringing the knife down swiftly. He plunged the machete into Angush’s left eye, sending blood spurting out into Yuri’s face. Angush stumbled back a couple of steps. It took a couple of seconds for Angush to scream. Yuri followed the stabbing with a forceful push, sending Angush into the spring, his hands flailing around the handle of the blade still buried in his eye as he lay writhing in the water.
Yuri turned his back and walked away. His body shook, overtaken with hatred and revulsion.
“Fuck you, Angush. Fuck you,” he hissed under his breath, over and over.
Arriving back at his dwelling, Yuri slumped into a chair. He became aware his fists were balled tight and his whole body felt tense. Blood had soaked into his shirt in dark crimson blotches.
‘I am not like him. I am better than him. I am going to make sure he knows it,’ Yuri thought as he skulked in the increasing gloom of the day, his lip curled in disgust.
Eventually he became aware of a commotion somewhere not far away. He heard shouts and banging on doors. The sound seemed to get closer until fists were beating on Yuri’s door. Taking the machete in his hand again, Yuri opened the door violently.
A man stepped out and stood still in front of Yuri. It was clear it was not Angush.
“Let me inside,” he hissed.
Yuri looked the man up and down.
“No, get off my door and leave.”
“I think you will want to hear what I have to say. I am not here for Angush.”
Yuri flicked his head and the man followed him inside, checking behind him, his weapon concealed.
“Listen, I know you hurt Angush today. I am glad you did. I also want to kill that man.”
“Why?” asked Yuri, intrigued.
“Angush is not like me. He doesn’t play fair. He boasts of the pain he caused. He never had to fight for his survival, like you and I did.”
“It’s true,” said Yuri pensively. “He is just another rich boy playing with daddy’s money.”
“There are many who hate him,” said the man. “No one has done anything about it, except you. Angush needs to know that we don’t respect his type here. We will follow you, Yuri. You just need to say when and where.”
Yuri was pleased to hear this. He felt vindicated.
“Sit down. What’s your name?” said Yuri, motioning toward a chair.