A journal of narrative writing.
Of That Very Fact
Page 2

Now Ludmila didn’t know what to do with herself. Mechanically she straightened up the books next to the elephant. She opened one but couldn’t read. That’s how she spent the rest of the afternoon. She waited and waited for Josek to call and when he didn’t call she waited, still more worried. She had already worried like this once before and that time took the bus to Záminka and ran from the bus stop all the way to her mother’s house. There on the living room sofa sat Josek, watching TV and smoking. Her mother was dozing off in the armchair. On the sofa next to Josek slept Martínek. Josek said:

“Look at that pleasant documentary on space travel.” He didn’t seem surprised. Only then she realized she saw Josek’s truck from far away.

Now she tried to remind herself of that episode but it was useless. Josek usually called when he promised to. Since he didn’t call who knows what happened. They might have had an accident or maybe they stopped on the way and someone kidnapped her son, or her son might have gotten lost, or maybe Josek met another woman. Both of them could have gotten lost or maybe the car broke down in the forest. This went on and on until dusk came and then evening and there was no one in sight and the phone didn’t ring once. Finally she decided to go to Záminka. She glanced at the quiet elephant. It was early July.   

The rain stopped. She crossed the street to the bus station and found out the last bus to Veltrusy had left. Hungry, she spent the few coins in her clenched fist on a candy bar but didn’t know what to do next. It was late. Ludmila headed automatically for the road. Grey asphalt stretched mysteriously in the murky distance before her. Stars stood by the several clouds in the sky. The indifferent moon looked on. Ludmila continued walking because she didn’t know what to do. Embarrassed that she started out on a journey that couldn’t be completed, she couldn’t turn back now. She heard nothing except her own steps. Here and there a truck passed by. The air got cooler. Ludmila didn’t look around. She remembered how she felt sick yesterday in the forest. That increased her fear and she heard her heart beat together with her steps on the sand. Suddenly a car came up to her and stopped.                 



Josek and Martínek stepped out of the house. The street was still lively but the crowds were thinning out. Buses come and went. People were waiting for a bus.

Soon they left Prague. The cabin was glaring with light. They drove against the late afternoon sun toward the eternally unknown horizon, against the same sun that was leaning at home on the furniture, walls and Ludmila. Martínek sniffled a bit. He watched the road posts racing them. The distance behind the posts and fields had no end. Forests watched Martínek riding in his father’s pickup truck. Then there was a steel plant. It stood in the woods like a great steamboat, a drowning mammoth. This must be a jungle. The steel plant let out grey breath in orange flames. Far ahead flickered the faint light of a transmission tower.

“Do you know what,” Josek said to Martínek. “Let’s go see a castle.” He knew it would get dark soon and that’s what tempted him; he wanted to watch the dusk at the Mělník Castle. That’s how it happened that they went to Mělník instead of Záminka. By the road they saw a sunflower field in the light of the last sunbeams. They’d arrive at Záminka really late or tomorrow. They might sleep over somewhere, maybe even in the truck. Like soldiers.

Martínek turned to see the steel plant one more time. Josek said, “We’ll see if it’s flooded.” He turned the car and they drove away toward Ctiněves.



It was an old, dark green ugly Peugeot with two men. Silently they motioned her to get in. Ludmila opened the back door, sat down and they took off. At first they drove in silence. Finally the passenger spoke. He had a beard.

“When we find a spot here in the forest we’ll stop there and rape you,” he said. Indeed, they soon stopped by a clearing at the wood. Ludmila cried out in terror.

“No, no, you can do whatever you want with me but please, take me first to my mother. I have to know if my son is all right. My husband took him to visit and god knows what happened to them. I beg you on my knees. Then I’ll do whatever you want,” she said. The men looked at each other.

“Fine, we’ll rape you later,” said the bearded man. And they didn’t rape Ludmila right away because they promised to take her first to her mother in Záminka. That scared Ludmila even more. She wanted to get out but it was too late. The car was moving and Ludmila was afraid to make them angry by asking to let her out. Besides, she knew she couldn’t walk all the way to Záminka. What if another car stopped with someone even worse in it? Now a forgotten memory came to her, how she came home after two years in the orphanage. Her mother had remarried. Her stepfather had an eleven-year old son who was thrilled to get a six-year old sister. He and his friends would regularly lift up her skirt to look at her, feel her and pull open her folds. Ludmila sometimes cried and once complained to her mother. Her mother told her it was her own fault. She only threw her husband and his son out after the stepfather began drinking and beat Ludmila. But she never forgave Ludmila for it and for the fact that she asked in court to not go home with her mother or father but go to the orphanage. The orphanage was far also, far enough to drive there. Ludmila remembered all this now and her heart beat loudly and the driver and his companion drove her in silence far into the night as if Záminka was farther than it really was, passing night trees, villages and misty fields. A small airport on the horizon resembled in the fog the northern lights. A steel plant burned with orange flames into the night.

Driving through the woods, Ludmila pictured the smell of the trees behind the closed window. She was breathing in the odor of the strangers but still, they were in the woods. She seldom sat in the back seat. Only minutes ago she walked and breathed along the wet road and the evening forest and almost liked her desperate situation. Her fear earlier that day had been strangely satisfying in its intensity; now it was as if a large glass paperweight rested on her chest. If it weren’t for fear she wouldn’t have been in this situation. The monk had said one should not think of the past or future but always only of the present.

From the branches she heard frightened birds, like in her dream. Stars shimmered in the sky. Silence lingered. 

The car seemed to have no air. Dying was as scary as any social activity. The sight of the male heads before her reminded her that women were better than men, but maybe they weren’t better, only weaker. She knew her whole life should flash before her eyes but the only thing she could think of was that the three months she spent in Prostorov on bread and wine were a mystical overture to this night, and that she unknowingly served a requiem mass for herself. In Prostorov days went by as fast as the landscape now behind the car window.

A memory came to her of believing death wasn’t the end of self, only the end of its cognizance, or maybe of cognizance in general? Loss was sweet and Ludmila felt no sweetness now. Now, under threat, she no longer doubted the existence of the self.

The steel plant was gone and its fire too. Only the orange color still painted the little clouds in the sky. They drove again among trees. To have was probably impossible.      



No one spoke, not even the men, as if they, too, were tense, as if the outcome didn’t depend on them. Ludmila realized she couldn’t see their faces. But she saw the passenger had a white beard. She wanted to say something and didn’t and thought how lucky it was they met her and then thought about what they would do with her and in her fear kept falling asleep.

They drove and drove until they reached Záminka.

After crossing Záminka they passed by a row of shabby, half deserted cottages. The road became a wide gravel path. Ludmila showed the driver the way. Finally they stopped by her mother’s house. The driver shut off the engine and after a moment of hesitation, Ludmila opened the door and jumped out of the car. She stood by the door in amazement. No one got in her way. The men made no move. She ran up the long path to the house.

There was no one, not even Josek’s truck. The house was dark. Ludmila grabbed the handle and knocked loudly on the locked door. Usually a light bulb was on but today neither the phone nor electricity worked. Nothing worked. Ludmila sat down on the steps. The Peugeot’s cylinder double lights lazily wallowed on the muddy path. Then they too went out.

Rubbing the cold gravel in her fingers she thought of the three months on bread and wine, the magical night ride through the woods, and the darkness that enfolded her along with the fear, disappointment and hope that are normally a part of such people and such situations.

She sighed, stood up, and started for the car. The men were waiting for her.



The radio tower and an airplane high above the road blinked into the night. Ludmila tripped and breathed in dust but kept on walking. Her heart beat like an anvil in the steel plant they passed a while back. That seemed so long ago. In the dark she could barely see the car’s silhouette. It waited back there like a message from another world. Everywhere was another world.

Maybe everything, brief moments and whole years, everything, had to do with words and their lack, or just with lack. Why else would have Ludmila been in an orphanage as a child? Since then she had confused insecurity with experience. Knowledge and insecurity, experience and ignorance went hand in hand.

I live in a place, thought Ludmila, full of mountains and hills, a basilica here, a pond there, everything so pretty between Prague and Záminka. Wherever you looked there was something beautiful, and what good was it? What good were castles with translated information and rainy castles on the overflowing Labe? Excessive beauty bound people. Fear bound her now too.

She reached the car and stood there, sweating. The driver rolled down the window. Ludmila bent lightly toward him.

“Now I’ll go with you like I promised,” she said. No one answered and she cleared her throat. The men looked at each other, shaking their heads.

The driver spit on the ground. “Get lost… Jesus Christ!” he said, closed the window, lips still moving.

His companion said nothing. The driver kept talking under his breath. He put his key in the engine, turned it on and the car moved. It was raining again. Ludmila watched the car driving away and inhaled the rain like a queen of black solitude. The car’s red lights kept getting farther, nearer to the eternal light of the radio tower. A breeze sailed though the countryside, tender like loss – tangible but invisible in the dark.