From the beginning, Vasya was alone. It was etched indelibly in the codes of the universe that this
should be. It was imprinted on his very soul. Fate must have been choleric at the moment Vasya came
into being, for nothing else could have caused him to be invisibly marked for rejection by all of
humanity. Indeed, Vasya was born to be overlooked and born to be forgotten. It is quite possible that
Vasya was also born to fade.
The earliest tatters of memory that Vasya could bear to recall held nothing even worth recalling: a
fishing shack, drafty and abandoned, more like a pile of musty boards than an actual structure; the
inside, stuffy with mildew, as well as dim; ten children huddled under blankets, with barely a whole shirt
between them. They were disgustingly gaunt and wasted, with sunken eyes that never lost their tears.
Odors of vomit, waste, and fish in various stages of decomposition choked off the only clean air that
dared try to enter. Two adults visited the shack only once or twice a month, never more. They brought
with them a meager sack of stale crusts. The two adults might have been Vasya’s parents, and for
that matter the parents of every other child in the shack. Likewise, the children might have been Vasya’
s sisters and brothers. Vasya himself honestly had no earthly idea, and for the lack of love everyone
showed, he learned not to care.
There came a time when the year was sliding slowly to an end, and once it reached that end, it
remained in the deathly standstill called winter for some time. The eldest of the children, now almost
grown, delivered the youngest of the children to a home for orphans in a nearby town. No explanation
was given for their actions, and none was expected. Soon after that most insignificant occasion, the
eldest themselves crossed the threshold of the shack for the last time. The others didn’t bother to
take notice of their absence, so Vasya did the same. As the winds blew fiercer, and the snow piled
higher, a small number of boys from the group set out to try their luck picking pockets on the streets.
That would undoubtedly prove to be their end. Only Vasya and a few others still resided in the shack,
each day opening the door to the terror of blinding whiteness, in feeble hopes that a new sack of
crusts would appear.
One morning, Vasya awoke to the sound of the open door slamming against the outside wall in the
winds. He saw footprints leading away from the shack, but after a few feet, they just vanished. In a
moment of irate madness, he ran out into the storm and threw his whole body against the side of the
shack. Vasya kicked at it until the whole thing toppled over into a pile of wood. Within a half hour,
snow had covered the shack completely, leaving Vasya standing bewildered in the middle of a blizzard.
He was unable to see even his own hands. For the first time in his life, Vasya was unequivocally alone.
Moving forward into the shrill, piercing howl of the icy storm, he willed a part of himself to linger. Vasya
ordered a part of himself to stay and die in the snow, for reasons he didn’t fully comprehend. One
Vasya perished in the icy blaze of a childhood lost, and another Vasya vanished into wall of pure white.
When both were gone, only the Russian winter remained, and it had nothing to offer.
Like a projector wheel that’s been neglected, this early memory of Vasya’s spun constantly around,
with its trail end flapping obnoxiously. When the reel was finally attended to and switched, Vasya was
in a cramped, sweltering ammunition plant. As fumes clogged his lungs, he hastily poured hot lead into
tiny molds, scorching his hands until they were raw and blistering. Sweat and dirt were permanently
caked to his skin, and his hair hung in greasy clumps. Vasya was constantly bruised and trampled by
the daily jostle to the pot of broth that was his only source of nourishment, if he even managed to get
any before it was gone. He slept in a tiny cell with six other boys, on a mattress full of straw and
maggots. After room and board was deducted from his already miniscule paycheck, he ended up with
about two cents a day. Those two cents a day turned into a whopping seven dollars a year, and life
Once more, the projector wheel went around unendingly, flapping for no one to hear. When the reel
was finally removed, there was no other to replace it. There was nothing more to see. Those were the
extent of Vasya’s memories, and as time wore on, the fog would eat at them, eventually leaving him
with none. As a man with no remembered past, no prospective future, and virtually no known identity
at all, it was easy for Vasya to slip out of existence altogether.
The fog was dense as it rolled in and utterly enveloped the street. Its mugginess clung to his throat,
causing breathing to become a thing of effort. As the fog wrapped around Vasya, he became
uncomfortably warm, and his skin grew clammy. The fact that the autumnal night should have rightly
been a biting cold one, laced with arctic, icy winds, the fog paid no mind to. It was an unearthly,
haunting fog. The harsh, putrid, orange light of the street lamps could scarcely filter through it,
causing everything within the fog to have a slight tinge. Through the fog, he could see shadows
moving in and out. They’d glide into view for a second before moving into some unseen pocket of the
fog. The shadows were unnerving to him for he’d see something shift out of the corner of his eye, and
upon turning around, observe a gray figure vanish into nothing. The sounds were particularly uncanny
as well. Various low growls, high pitched shrieks, soft moaning and loud breathing that grew closer
came through the fog in muffled waves, making determination of distance uneasily difficult.
Vasya shuffled along the sidewalk with his eyes averted downwards, hands jammed into his pockets.
He was so exhausted, both mentally and physically, and his fatigue shuddered through his body.
Loading heavy crates onto trucks for ten hours each day took a lot out of him, and all it gave back was
sore arms and a small paycheck. Vasya began to feel a tingling sensation in the small of his back, and
the hairs at the nape of his neck stood up when he detected a presence approaching from behind him.
Soon he heard the familiar pound of footsteps on concrete. As Vasya turned and prepared himself to
fight off whatever crazy drunk who dared approach, the figure flew right past him, followed swiftly by
another. Vasya crept warily forward, and in the haze of a streetlight, he could see the second figure
tackle the first. He stood there dumbfounded as shrill screams and heavy grunts pierced the fog. A
flash of silver and the sound of metal clicking preceded the inevitable boom that silenced the ongoing
struggle. The first figure lay crumpled on the grass, and the second figure tore off into the night.
Sirens began to wail from somewhere in the distance, and Vasya broke out of his trance. His legs
carried him across the street, where he would not have to view the result of hatred. The siren-emitting
beast, with its red and blue flashing eyes, rounded a corner. Its headlights briefly illuminated Vasya,
who instantly turned and bolted down the street. He knew that his decision to flee was not wise, yet in
his reckless state of mind, he didn’t care.
The sirens, which only moments ago had been out of his range of hearing, grew louder again.
Suddenly, a burst of white light shone behind him. A glance over his shoulder revealed the red-and-
blue-eyed beast, pursuing its prey. As Vasya dashed through the empty streets, he caught his
reflection in a storefront window. He was pale to the point of being ghastly. Only his jet-black hair and
clothing made him visible. With the light of the predator consuming him, his entire body glowed with a
supernatural quality. Vasya’s image was altogether very spectral. As he emerged from the shopping
district, he spun a hard left onto a lengthy bridge that went over a river. The light from the moon cast
another unnatural reflection of him, this time onto the water below. Though Vasya was sprinting at top
speed, the monstrous creature was catching up and would surely run him down. Just then, a second
red-and-blue-eyed beast appeared in the opposite direction, accelerating towards him. A hasty glance
at the water showed the very narrow one-way bridge, two colorful splotches moving head-on, and a
shining white figure between them. Still running, Vasya’s mind was flooded with thoughts.
“I am a ghost. I have no physical form. I’m just an image that they see, a trick of the light. I was never
alive, was never real. I don’t exist. I will fade into nothing!!!” In his intense concentration, Vasya
stopped moving and stood completely still, his eyes fixed on the water. As both colorful splotches
sped towards him, he thought of nothing but the fact that he wasn’t real. The fact that he was no
more real than the reflection he saw. Yes, that was the key. His reflection was only an image projected
on water. Therefore, he must be only an image projected on air. Vasya turned and smiled at his
oncoming attackers, as the tips of his fingers began to shimmer and fade into a void of nothingness.
He watched the shimmering spread up his limbs and torso, and eventually to his neck and head, until
his whole body was shimmering. Then, just as a cloud may do on a sunny day, he faded from sight.
The two police cars rammed into each other, causing a brilliant explosion that rained sparks into the
darkness below. The reflection of Vasya remained in the water for a moment, before it, too, vanished.
Reflection of the Mind
By: Teresa Symons