Елена Вахненко

The golden world

The English version of the story "ЗОЛОТОЙ МИР, или ЗОВ ВЕТРА"

The original version of the story (in Russian)
The Ukrainian version of the story


It was a small cozy honey-yellow world. Everything around was permeated with dense solar breath: the sky, the ground beneath the feet, and even people. Pure gold had penetrated into every alley, settled on each petal and blade of grass…

An elderly janitor in an orange coat and with an untidy brown beard was lazily sweeping the ocher-yellow street and grumpily complaining himself about the world, about the unlucky fate  and the unfairness of life… He complained more out of habit and, in general, good-naturedly. Hearing someone's hurried cheerful steps, quite unexpected at this early hour, the old man raised his head and stared in disbelief at a young girl - perhaps, about 15-16 years old. Thin, red-haired, with a shock of sparkling lush curls, she was really nice... such an unusual type of beauty created by sun rays and solar charms.

-Good morning! - the charming stranger greeted him very happily as if it was not a cool early morning, but a sunny afternoon. Only the youth can enjoy the life process so recklessly…

-Good morning, - the janitor confirmed with a great hesitation, suspiciously looking at the uninvited companion. - Where are you from, such a funny little thing?

Heat-orange eyes shone with a laugh.

-What do you mean speaking about little thing? - she asked archly.

The janitor began smiling too; it was hard to resist the power of the trouble-free youth.

-Well... - he chewed his thin wrinkled lips thoughtfully and leaned on his broom. - You’re an early bird! You need to sleep…

And again, redhead girl burst out laughing; she seemed to enjoy all around.

-And when shall I live? No, no, I don’t like sleeping, I like living! And morning streets are so beautiful!

The janitor chuckled, casting a frown to a sleepy street. Personally, he didn't see anything beautiful there. All around was yellow-orange, faded…

-No, all around is like honey! - the girl didn't agree when he voiced his thoughts. - Like gold!

-Gold is much more significant, - the janitor spotted darkly, shaking his shaggy head. - And it rings louder! - and he grinned, extremely pleased with his own phrase that sounded very ingenious to him.

-And the world is ringing too! Just listen…

The conversation was too strange. The janitor even pinched his brush slightly: not sleeping? Well, he hadn't been drinking anything since last evening… so what was happening?! What and why?!

-Do you walk around the streets every morning? - he asked cautiously.

-Not every morning, - the girl shrugged her shoulders. - But often... when I wake up in the morning... I feel so euphoric that I want to hug the whole world!

- Well... it's strange but I've not seen you before... - the janitor said with suspicion.

-Yes, it is true, I have never been here before, - the young charming stranger admitted easily. - But the world isn't limited to this alleyway, is it?

But the janitor's world was limited to just this alley... well, and several nearest blocks, maybe. And in this boring dull pale yellow world all the best gifts were given to somebody else. Apparently, the reality of his pretty companion was different, exciting, bright gold, always new. Funny and wonderful!

-What are you doing? - the little girl asked in a joyful voice. - Sweeping?

-Well, yeah… - he scowled. - Why?

-You have such an important job! - the "early bird" exclaimed almost enviously. - Thanks to you, the streets begin to shine with cleanliness again…

The janitor just groaned, not finding the answer. Definitely it was an incredibly strange little girl! He was suddenly tempted to destroy her unreasonably good mood…

-You know, baby, now the world is not the one in the old century, - he mentioned profoundly. - Our world is said to have been green and bright before.

But the girl didn’t get upset.

-Why do you think the gold world is worse? It’s just different!

-Well, I don't know... - the janitor drawled lazily. - Even when I was young, the sky was not so... boring!

-As for me, I'm in love with this corn sky and lemon clouds... ochre buildings and sidewalks of the old gold color…

-You’ve just never seen the green world… - the janitor said stubbornly, although he did not know, why arguing with such a naive child. - You only heard about it…

-So did you! - the insolent girl grinned. - It's been years... or even centuries ago. Am I wrong?

The janitor snorted angrily. Well, what could one say?! She's right, hellion...

-Still I'm older and therefore smarter than you are! - the old man said with defiant sternness, frowning. - And you shouldn't argue with someone who is so experienced.

-But I'm not arguing! I'm just saying... - she protested shaking her golden head. The sun sparkled in her thick hair of the ripe wheat color, and the janitor who had lost faith in good long ago and never had a sense of beauty, was sincerely admiring his lovely companion.

-Well, all right, all right, - he muttered much more genially, and his lips cracked into a curved smile. - You're too young... in youth, the world always seems more beautiful than it really is…

-Or maybe Vice versa? - she was laughing and squinting against the insistent rays of the awakening morning. - Maybe, in the old age world seems worse than it is? Maybe it dims over time?

The janitor gasped, very outraged; he was smitten with the daring golden-haired girl. So he was in old age, wasn't he? Well, well!

-I'm not too old! - he replied dryly and took his broom again. - And stop talking! I've been busy... People're going to wake up soon…

-No offense! - she twittered and grabbed his wrist. Her hand was warm and gentle. - Just look at the world, as I'm looking at it!

They had been talking for quite some time. Actually, the girl was talking and the janitor reluctantly listened, occasionally inserting meager comments. And gradually, minute by minute, he began to charge her passion, her energy and lust for life... he had almost seen the reality through HER eyes.

The golden-haired girl's world was warm, friendly... sunlit... his world used to be the same... many, many years and decades ago... in a distant youth. He remembered how in those lost years the mischievous wind had been revenging orange dust over the dark golden asphalt; remembered beautiful ochre clouds, floating in the amber sky… but the wind had changed, the clouds had faded, the dust had become gray-brown. Or maybe the girl was right, and it was not about the faded world? Maybe the real reason was short-sighted aging?

Their world was said to have been poured by all shades of green color centuries ago: olive clouds were swirling in the pistachio sky, and the sun reminded a huge emerald… However, the world had grown old and turned yellow... did it mean the world had become worse? For the first time the janitor was doubtful of this assumption. It's strange that a young child should have forced him to admit such a simple point: the old age could be noble and beautiful in its own way! Well, why not?!

The janitor squinted, trying to re-assess a familiar street, red walkways and sparkling puddles... and he seemed to almost have felt the young wind that often called him away in reckless teenage years. The wind, whose calls he, the little fool, had ignored.

The old man closed his eyes, listening to the Wind... hoping to find out what it was willing to say. And when he straightened up and opened his eyes again, the charming companion had disappeared.

Surprised, the janitor turned his head, but didn't notice anybody. Shrugging his shoulders angrily, he began to clean the brown street, sweeping away the dirty red dust and grumbling with displeasure.

* * *

He loved this unique feeling of freedom and absolute power over the world.

There is nothing more beautiful, nothing sweeter than the sensation of lightness, the awareness that you are omnipotent... you don't owe anything to anyone...you're just by yourself. You're Free... and that's it. You need nothing else…

The Wind thought of these things picking up armfuls of autumn leaves from the ground, raising dust clouds, having real fun... he was sincerely amused, ripping hats from the heads of especially important gentlemen or disrupting the perfect harmony of ladies’ impeccable hairstyles. And sometimes he was altogether naughty, lifting the skirts of women and enjoying their girlish frightened squeals!

Playing, the Wind picked up another gold leaf, but this time didn't release the wanderer into the wild. Something attracted him attention, a kind of touching magic of noble and vintage beauty... something elusive, fragile and incredibly wonderful, autumnal, glorified by Pushkin himself!

Fascinated and inspired, the Wind peered into the world hidden on the surface of the leaf. After all, only few people know that each petal, every twig and blade of grass harbors its own innermost life; unique universes are lurked everywhere. And there are "inhabitants" living in these tiny universes: little persons are born, die, enjoy and suffer... they don't know that their little world is limited to the surface of the leaf, a life of which is so fleeting!

The Wind peered more closely, trying to distinguish at least one of these inhabitants, and finally noticed the odd couple - the old man and the young girl, who were talking passionately and even arguing. The old man was angry, the girl was laughing. What could the youth and the old age be talking about? The old age is myopic, the youth is arrogant…

"Maybe I should ask them to come? - the nomadic Wind thought suddenly. - Shall I call them to join me?"

Sometimes, in lazy placable minutes, the Wind loved to throw the invisible guiding thread to the special little people — throwing in a hope that they would be sensitive enough to catch it. But there was a very small amount of sighted persons... alas!

However, this time he was more fortunate: the girl had heard his call and responded. One brief moment - and here she was, rapidly rushing, picked up by the swift air flow: amazed by the grandeur and vastness of the Real World, conquered by its unique beauty... the Wind wished her luck, and then the charming traveler had disappeared into the distance.

Well, well... may all her dreams come true! After all, now she is free…

P.S. Since then the janitor had a new habit: before work, he always glanced around the alley, hoping that the "Golden head" would appear again: she would laugh contagious laughter, she would make cheeky jokes, transfiguring everything around by her warm presence.

"Golden head", he'd chosen this bright name for his young interlocutor; their “friendship” was so short... and still so striking and memorable!

Alas, she never appeared in his sleepy dull street, which after the voiced Beauty's disappearance had lost its fragile charm again. But something had changed this time: the janitor felt sadness more and more often - the sadness, the nature of which he could not understand... and this melancholy had been illuminating the surrounding world, making it almost perfect.

And the janitor was waiting for the return of his Wind, waiting and swearing that next time he would surely listen to him. The Wind was in no hurry but the old man did not lose the hope to hear this magical call again... one day.

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