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E-kniha: The Choice - Jakub Trpiš

The Choice

Elektronická kniha: The Choice
Autor: Jakub Trpiš

- A bestseller that can change your life. -   - ‘’I dream of a world in flames: nuclear bombs falling on cities, consuming them like cancer; surviving in underground shelters, where we ... (celý popis)
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Specifikace
Nakladatelství: » Jakub Trpiš
Dostupné formáty
ke stažení:
EPUB, MOBI, PDF
Upozornění: většina e-knih je zabezpečena proti tisku a kopírování
Médium: e-book
Rok vydání: 2018
Počet stran: 247
Rozměr: 22 cm
Vydání: 1st edition
Spolupracovali: translated by Melvyn Clarke
Skupina třídění: Česká próza
Jazyk: EN
ADOBE DRM: bez
ISBN: 978-80-907-0444-2
Ukázka: » zobrazit ukázku
Popis

A bestseller that can change your life.

 

‘’I dream of a world in flames: nuclear bombs falling on cities, consuming them like cancer; surviving in underground shelters, where we slowly turn into animals. These dreams are so lifelike. I’m afraid that one day I’m going to want to wake up, only to find it’s too late.’’

 

Tomáš is a young man in the prime of life. Though he appears to lack nothing, he is becoming increasingly depressed. At work things are going from bad to worse, and he gives up his vain efforts to revive his relationship with Eliška, his wife. As if that weren’t enough he is haunted by post-apocalyptical dreams of despair. His depressive state does not lift until he gets to know the eccentric therapist Kohl, who shows him how to be a better, happier person, but that is just the start of Tomáš’s story, which ends in a thrilling finale.

 

The Choice  is the literary debut of young Czech author Jakub Trpiš, bringing together elements from spiritual literature, science fiction, crime stories, psychological thrillers and romances. The plot offers a strong message that can change the lives of individuals and indeed society as a whole.

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*

*

Jakub Trpiš

THE

CHOICE

2018



*

*

 

Publishing © 2018 Jakub Trpiš Copyright © 2018 Jakub Trpiš

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced

in any form or by any means without the prior written consent

of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.

ISBN 978-80-907044-4-2 (print) ISBN 978-80-907044-8-0 (ePub) ISBN 978-80-907044-9-7 (mobi) ISBN 978-80-907346-1-6 (PDF)

5

Contents

Part one: I

1/1 The car accident 9

1/2 Awakening 18

1/3 Problems 22

1/4 Difficult decision 28

1/5 Soul and ego 34

1/6 Open mind 45

1/7 Matěj 50

1/8 A fulfilled life 59

1/9 Freedom 65

1/10 Important news 73

1/11 Kohl’s family 79

Part two: We

2/12 The connector 88

2/13 The hooded boy 93

2/14 The team 99

2/15 In prison 110

2/16 Dream future 118

2/17 The miracle 129

2/18 What if? 137

2/19 Lost 144

2/20 All evil is for some good 150

2/21 A well-deserved holiday 158

2/22 The argument 167

6

Part three: The Choice

3/23 Between two worlds 174

3/24 Electoral system 186

3/25 Prime Minister 193

3/26 The interview 206

3/27 The key moment 217

3/28 Unquiet world 228

3/29 Bomb attacks 236

3/30 The final meeting 241

3/31 Escape from the shelter 252

3/32 The square 260

3/33 A new beginning 267 *

8

*

*

Prayer of the soul

Close your eyes. Stop perceiving the noise around,

And focus within.

Breathe in deep and slowly breathe out,

Like the ocean’s ebb and flow.

Perceive the vast oceans within.

Breathe in deep and slowly breathe out,

Like the wind rustling in the leaves.

Perceive the great mountains within.

Breathe in deep and slowly breathe out,

Like the sun’s aureola.

Perceive the endless universe.

Perceive the beauty here and now.

Savour this present moment.

9

*

Part one: I

1/1 The car accident

I

t came like a  bolt from the blue. Quickly donning his jacket,

Tomáš could think of only one thing: If I’d guessed I’d be se

eing Eliška for the last time this morning, I wouldn’t have said

good-bye that way at all. He hurried to the door and told the

doorman what had happened.

‘My wife has been in an accident! I have to get to the hos

pit a l.’

Though he was trying to get a  grip on his feelings, tears

welled up in his eyes. He couldn’t find his staff card to open the

door, but after an embarrassing silence that lasted some time

10

the doorman let him through. Tomáš managed to thank the do

orman, who called out after him sympathetically.

‘It’ll turn out all right, you’ll see!’

Outside it was raining. He turned up the collar of his

brown leather jacket to at least cover up his bare neck a  little.

The small, cold droplets fell quietly on the chill earth.

‘Brrr, thank goodness I  came to work in my car today.

Otherwise I’d have to call a taxi,’ he muttered as he rummaged

for his keys in his pocket. He dropped them a couple of times

before he managed to unlock the door. He couldn’t recall how he

got into the car, and he didn’t regain his presence of mind until

he’d been driving for several minutes.

That was a mistake. Better keep my eyes on the road now,

he thought. He tried to focus all his attention on his driving, but

various memories kept getting the better of him. He recalled the

day they had got to know each other, and another thought took

him back to the home where he had grown up. It was a  cold

day like today, and he introduced her to his parents. She kept

checking to make sure she was doing the right thing – she was

really nervous.

‘Do you think they’re going to like me?’ she asked when

they were on their own.

He just smiled and answered, ‘Definitely not as much as

I do.’

He was half-way to the hospital when he stopped at a cro

ssing for a red light. The rain pitter-pattered on the metal roof

– and from time to time the wipers creaked lazily across the

windscreen. Trickles of water streaked seamlessly across the

side window, each droplet going its own way, regardless of the

others. Or were they complying with some precise preordained

plan? His attention shifted from the droplets to the people cro

ssing in front of him. Their expressions were vacant, as if their

bodies were on autopilot, and their minds were somewhere else

entirely. When he saw two lovers he paradoxically recalled the

day he had confided to her that he wasn‘t sure if he still loved

her. If he’d only known what pain he would cause, he would

never have let those words pass his lips. It flashed through his

mind that he had to tell her what he felt about her and how

much she mattered to him. This thought was rapidly overshado

wed by all the others. His body filled with an unusually strong

urge to tell her everything. His heart beat twice as fast. He was

startled by a car hooting behind him: the lights were on green

and he was standing at the crossroads holding up the traffic.

When he had spoken to a hospital nurse on the phone she

didn’t tell him what had happened. He didn’t know how serious

ly his wife had been injured, or if her life was in danger. The

uncertainty was the worst he had ever felt in his life. He wanted to immediately be with her and feel she was safe. It took him

some time to find his bearings in the hospital complex. At the

emergency reception he told the nearest nurse his wife’s name.

‘I’ll just ring my colleagues. Just take a seat for a moment

please,’ she quietly said, disappearing through a  nearby door.

The section was full of people, but nobody took any notice of

the distraught Tomáš, who was so on edge that he couldn’t even

sit down. Is she all right? Or are the doctors fighting for her life

at this very moment? Or perhaps...?! These thoughts kept going round in his head, as his mind taunted him with the darkest

scenarios. Then it seemed to calm down and show him some far more optimistic possibilities. Perhaps they had just taken

her to hospital for an examination, or maybe she just had con

cussion, he mused, letting his thoughts run their course. On the

one hand he felt agitated and confused, while on the other he

felt a  sense of resignation. Eventually a  senior nurse came up

and asked him his name.

‘Come with me, Mr Jedlička,’ she said, heading towards

a  dimly lit corridor to the right. He followed her into a  small,

12

bright room that clearly served as a doctors’ office. A thickset,

gray-haired doctor was sitting at a  computer. Next to the mo

nitor there was a photograph of a woman holding a small boy

in her arms (they looked very happy). When the doctor noticed

how distraught he was, he immediately put him at his ease.

‘Don’t worry. Your wife is going to be fine.’

His eyes moistened and he felt an enormous sense of joy.

Suddenly he felt several years younger.

The doctor continued, ‘Your wife has had a  severe shock,

but fortunately there are no signs of any serious injury. Just to

be certain we are going to perform some more tests on her to

make sure she doesn’t have any internal injuries. We’ re going

to keep her in for another couple of days. You can see her if you

want. She’s in Ward C. Blanka here will tell you which room.’

Tomáš offered his hand and stammered, ‘Thank you very

much .’

The doctor just smiled and walked into a side room, where

his colleagues were evidently going over a diagnosis.

Tomáš asked Nurse Blanka how to get to Ward C and

headed off for it at a swift pace. On the way he could not help

but notice the unhappy scenes that were taking place in one of

the waiting rooms. A  young doctor was telling relatives that

their loved one had died. A fair-haired woman went into hyste

rics, while the man nearby tried to comfort her, without much

success. At this moment Tomáš realized just how awfully fortu

nate he had been. Suddenly it was of no importance that there

was a  leak behind the chimney flue, that he had not received

a bonus at work and that he had problems with his car. He wal

ked through the door into Ward C and asked a nurse where he

could find Eliška Jedličková.

‘Room 7,’ the tall young blonde answered, smiling at him as

she continued to pass out medicine. He practically ran to get to

Eliška as quickly as possible. So agitated was he that he did not

13

even knock on the door. Before he managed to reach her she had

sat up in bed. They embraced, and it felt like the most beautiful

feeling in the world.

She burst out crying and blurted out, ‘I didn’t see it. That

car. There were children inside.’ And she began to sob again. He

stroked her hair.

‘It’ll be all right, Eli. They’ll be okay, you’ll see.’

They kept hugging for a while without saying a word. Af

ter some time Eliška spoke.

‘Karolína at work was supposed to come with me, but she

was late and didn’t answer my phone call, so I left on my own.

When I eventually drove out, everything seemed okay.’

She then confusedly described the crossroads (while

attempting to gesture, even though she could barely move her

arms) where the collision happened. She should have given way,

but she only spotted the other car at the last moment. At length

she uttered:

‘It hit me from the right. I  don’t know what would have

happened if somebody had been sitting beside me.’

Tomáš listened to all this. It was extremely fortunate that

Karolína had not gone with her that day. Then he told her eve

rything he had been thinking about in the car.

‘I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to you.’

‘Just don’t think about that, dear,’ she answered, stroking

his unshaven cheek. She loved the way he always put on a face

when she did that. Then they carried on talking and talking.

About important matters and silly things. They had not had

such a good chat for a long time. Eventually a nurse appeared at

the door with lunch, stating with a gruff expression:

‘Your wife must get some rest. You should be on your way

now.’ She pointed at her watch. He kissed Eliška goodbye and

disappeared through the doorway.

14

– • –

The next few days were of no great interest. It rained non-stop

outside. Tomáš’s family and friends often asked him about Eliš

ka, who was released from hospital two days later. The passen

gers from the other car were also all right. Perhaps it was be

cause of the accident that they both decided to take off for the

mountains that weekend. They were able to spend three days

at their best friend Ondra’s chalet. Ondra always had a strange

sense of humour. When he saw Tomáš’s wife (with the scar hea

ling on her forehead) he immediately started ribbing her:

‘Why do you give us such worries, Eliška? Didn’t you see

the car or something?’ and he started laughing. Tomáš now

found this quite amusing.

On the Friday they headed off for the Jeseník Mountains.

The chalet was quite high up with no road leading to it, so they

parked the car in a parking lot below and they had to keep going

on foot for another two hours.

Several rained-off days later the sky was cloudless, and it

grew warmer. Having walked for about five minutes they met

a  young woman with an Alsatian dog running free without

a muzzle.

‘Don‘t be afraid, she’s never bitten anyone,’ her mistress

smiled proudly.

‘The fact she has never done it before doesn’t mean I won’t

be the first,’ Tomáš retorted, smiling to cover up his fear.

They walked deeper and deeper into the forest. Not a living

soul to be seen. The further they got from civilization, the better

Tomáš felt. The trees around them seemed to light up. He left

the path a little when he saw a young fir tree some three metres

tall. The ends of its branches had beautiful green needles. This

year’s growth, he thought, pulling one of the branches to his

15

face. It had a magnificent smell, reminding him of his youth. He

had spent a lot of time with his grandfather in the mountains.

He was naive in those days and thought he could change

the world. He wanted to visit every single mountain, as well as

places that were not even on the map. To be the first where no

one had gone before. As he thought of his carefree childhood,

he remembered the children he taught at school. He sudden

ly regretted the fact that he always removed their rose-tinted

spectacles whenever they described what they wanted to be

when they grew up. If I  didn’t do it then somebody else most

certainly would, he had tried telling himself. Somebody has to

tell them how the world works. He looked at the trees again, but

now they just looked ordinary again. One more time he sni

ffed the young fir and set off at a  rapid pace along the path

after Eliška. By the time they arrived back at the chalet the sun

had already set behind the ridge and the air had grown chilly.

Everywhere peace and quiet. The orange glow on the horizon

gradually faded into grey and a frosty autumn night settled over

the mountains.

When they opened the creaking door they first checked to

see how clean and tidy it all was.

‘We mustn’t leave it any untidier than we first found it,’ she

smiled.

‘It’s not that bad,’ he decided, having gone over the chest of

drawers opposite the fireplace with his finger, while flashing

his usual little-boy smile. He lit a  fire in the fireplace, while

Eliška prepared a modest supper.

‘Tomorrow we can go up to the lookout tower. What do you

think?’ he suggested.

‘Do I have a choice?’

‘Ah, you and your fear of heights,’ he smiled slyly.

‘Ah, you and your fear of dogs,’ she retorted.

16

Tomáš rather enjoyed the evening. They reminisced about

various incidents from the past.

‘And do you remember what your father said when you

brought me home?’ she asked him.

‘How could I forget? He yelled, ‘‘Thank God. I thought you

were gay!’’ Then he fell on his knees and gave you a hug.’ They

both burst out laughing.

‘It was only later that I understood your dad’s really weird

sense of humour.’

‘Just like you have got used to mine,’ and he stuck his finger

up her nose.

‘Hey,’ Eliška laughed, as she defended herself. ‘You are a du

m my.’

But then she grew serious and her voice quivered. ‘Whene

ver I close my eyes I see shards of glass flying everywhere, and

my ears are shattered by the grating metal sound of those cars.

I can’t get the noise out of my head.’

He stroked her chestnut hair and embraced her, placing her

head on his chest. The beating of his heart soothed her, and she

soon felt safe. Her memory of the crash slowly dissolved, like ice

thawing in spring sunshine.

Outside it was really cold and dark. The windows had mis

ted up. The wood in the fireplace crackled as it gave off a plea

sant warmth. The fire lit up the cosy room’s walls with its hand

-painted pictures of chalets and log cabins, which had hung the

re for over a  century (each painting was dated). They chatted

for a while and then made love. Over the last year their sexual

life had not been all that passionate. They had tried to conceive.

Recently his doctor had told him the worst: he couldn’t have his

own children. Perhaps that was why over the last few months

their relationship had cooled. Perhaps that was why they didn’t

enjoy sex that much. They had tried so hard for a  pregnancy

that they’d forgotten what fun sex could be.

17

A thought passed throughTomáš’s mind as he fell asleep: It

wasn’t that bad at all today.

18

*

1/2 Awakening

T

omáš awoke to a chilly morning. It was still dark. The lights

in the shelter did not turn on until seven o‘ clock, enabling

him to at least tell if it was daytime or not. A  strange smell

wafted through the air, stinging his eyes. Like every morning

he ‘made himself’ a  glass of water, pouring it from a  jerrycan

into a little cup with an engaging faded kitsch picture of a dog

on it, and tossed a chlorine tablet into it. It didn’t go down very

well, but he had become quite used to the peculiar taste, and it

always made him think of the taste of clean drinking water. Of

course, he was still a lot better off than on the surface, or even

in an adaptation camp. Thousands of people that had been cau

ght and successfully identified by the police and the army were

taken off there every day. The civil war had been raging throu

ghout Europe, and he had lost sight of who was fighting whom.

He put his feet on the rough floor and shivered. It was cold and

damp. He quickly put his shoes on and stood up.

He noticed his neighbour was not lying on his bed. It took

him a while to realize he had perished in a roof-fall a couple of

days earlier.

He walked out of a medium-sized dormitory, where some

twenty of them were sleeping, and headed down a dark corridor

towards the showers. The walls were dirty and wet. The hum

of a giant ventilator pumping fresh air from the surface down

to this part of the complex echoed along the empty corridor. It

once used to be the underground Metro. During the war the

underground tunnels had been used as shelters for hundreds

of thousands of people. The fighting had rampaged all over the

world. Dozens of atom bombs had fallen on China, the USA and

Japan, while a new kind of virus, probably a biological weapon,

raged across Africa. Europe had been ravaged by civil war, while

19

Asia had seen a once-in-a-millennium famine and the continual

waves of refugees could barely be contained in Australia, which

as the only country that maintained neutral status was now

struggling with huge overpopulation and pirate raids.

Nobody could now remember when the war had started.

Nobody was sure which side this nation or that was on. Some

countries changed sides during the conflict as often as their go

vernments were replaced by various insurgent factions. People

worldwide were plagued by fear and mistrust. Nobody could be

sure if the next faction to seize power would find them incon

venient. The Czech Republic was now in a tug of war between

movements made up of military personnel from Russia before

its collapse.

People stopped saying what they thought and started

parroting the opinions of those in power. Too many of their

relatives had disappeared after they tried to change things. To

máš’s thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a scream. Perhaps

someone has been robbed again, he thought. Eventually he got

to the showers. The queue was shorter than usual, so it was

soon his turn. Alas a five-minute shower a week barely patched

up his ailing, languishing body, and he took care in the shower

not to touch anything much with his bare skin, as various skin

diseases were rife throughout the shelter. After showering, he

went off to the canteen for breakfast. He bent over the dirty, gre

asy hatch and muttered between clenched teeth: ‘Thirty-four.’

Of all the meals served there, this one was at least edible, even

if it bore about as much resemblance to ordinary food as chess

did to other sports. As he ate he looked around. Everyone was

staring at their own plate in silence.

Again he became absorbed in his thoughts. It might well

have been awful in the shelter, but he was still very lucky. He

was a  healthy man with a  decent background and an outstan

ding teacher. They had found him a  job at the central shelter.

20

Originally it was the Prague Metro, but that had stopped ru

nning soon after the first bombing raids had become a regular

part of life. His job was now to teach the children of the leading

politicians (that is, the ones currently in power) at a local school.

He glanced at his scuffed old watch, gulped down a last mouth

ful and hurried off to his lessons.

The children in his class wore careworn, grown-up expre

ssions. They should have been enjoying a  carefree childhood,

but they barely smiled and only spoke among themselves when

it was really necessary. One little girl in a blue dress looked at

him differently. When he looked her over he noticed bruises on

her hand, while her face was greasy and almost expressionless.

She looked like a doll that had been thrown into the gutter years

ago. He often had to give her a shake to bring her round. Apart

from teaching the children he also had the task of providing

his biological material for selected women. Here his thoughts

returned to Eliška. She should have been in the shelter with him,

but something had gone wrong. The transport hadn’t made it.

Now she was almost certainly dead. He bowed his head and

started to pound his forehead with his fist. Two children on the

first row raised their heads for a moment, but then got back to

their copying work.

Tomáš lost all hope when he found out about his wife’s de

ath. He would never forget that day. Everywhere was dark, dank

and terribly cold. The frost and despair crept into the marrow

of his bones, as if iced water were being pumped into his veins.

There was nothing on earth to console him. He used the last of

his money to buy adulterated alcohol and a rope, but at the last

moment he was rescued. Nobody said anything to him. Suicides

were frequent here. No one wanted to live like a rat underground.

Nobody wanted a  life without hope any more. The world had

become a dark place. This darkness could be felt at every step

and could be seen in the eyes of everybody he looked at. The

21

little girl in the blue dress, who he had just been watching, stood

up from her desk. Her pitiful, greasy face leant over his shoulder

so she could whisper to him:

‘The darkness is drawing in. The world will die, because

you have stopped fighting for it. The world will be consumed

in fire!’

‘What darkness? What are you talking about?’ he cried in

horror. He woke up with these feelings and thoughts. It was all

just a dream!

He tried to catch his breath, but with the same sense of de

spair as in the dream. He pressed his head to his knees, as tears

ran down his cheeks. His heart thumped as if his life were in

danger. He must have awoken Eliška too, as she began to stroke

his sweat-soaked back: ‘It was only a  dream, dear. It’s alright

now.’

‘Uh-oh. I thought those dreams were over.’

22

*

1/3 Problems

T

he weekend in the mountains was a pleasant interlude, but

now he had to get back to the everyday routine of loan repa

yments, arguments with colleagues and giving his pupils a good

talking to. Still, things were a little simpler now. On the Monday

he was teaching until late in the afternoon. During the day his

colleagues often asked him how Eliška was getting on after the

accident. He always answered smilingly that everything was

now just fine.

After lunch, which was not up to much, he could look for

ward to a civic studies lesson with 4A, his favourite class. One

way or another they got round to a discussion on helping other

people. One girl told a  story about her cousin Jakub. He was

twenty-five years old, in and out of work, expecting a child with

his girlfriend and now they were deep in debt.

‘Auntie and Uncle don’t have much money themselves, and

if anything their situation’s getting worse. Who knows what

they’re going to do now?’ she added.

‘I’d leave them right in it,’ Robert, the class smart-guy, smu

gly declared.

Lenka, the local hippy, snapped, ‘You’ve always been clu

eless.’

Tomáš often gave his pupils some leeway for an exchange

of views, which was another reason why most of the class natu

rally held him in great respect.

‘What would you advise Jakub to do?’ he asked, inviting

them to engage in open discussion.

‘Jakub’s girlfriend should get an abortion,’ said Lukáš, Ro

bert’s best friend.

Then Beáta floored him: ‘You’ll probably never get a bloody

girlfriend,’ and she added in a calm voice: ‘I think they should

23

go round all the banks and explain their situation. The banks

would definitely agree to reduce the instalments.’

Dominik, Tomáš’s favourite, joined in the discussion:

‘Banks are only interested in profit. The women behind the

counter will smile at you to persuade you that you need a loan,

but when you go and tell them you can’t pay it back they won’t

help you .’

‘You’re right, Dominik. You can’t usually negotiate a  re

duction in payments, even though the banks’ attitudes towards

this have been changing in recent times. What would you reco

mmend for Jakub?’

‘The banks’ attitudes are changing, because the banks re

alize it’s better to get less money back from the clients than no

money at all, so they’re willing to come to an agreement. Jakub

should ask his parents if he can move back in with them for

a while. Then he could use the money he would otherwise have

paid in rent to pay back his debts.’

Robert and Lukáš started laughing out loud at this, and Ro

bert commented, ‘Smartass, they’ll be glad to get rid of a failure

of a son like that.’

At this point the calm class debate turned into a pub brawl,

as some five pupils started shouting at each other (while Lenka

banged her textbook on the desk) and of course none of them

could be heard. Tomáš looked sternly at Robert and Lukáš.

‘Your parents must be really proud of you. Come out to the

blackboard, both of you. I’ll cut you down to size! The discu

ssion’s over, thanks to these two.’

The room resounded with a murmur of disapproval, more

because the discussion was over than because the class smart

-guys were being tested.

The test ended as expected. Robert got a bottom mark and

Lukáš not much better, ‘since you did at least try, Lukáš,’ Tomáš

explained.

24

The rest of the day’s lessons were by no means ideal. He

was supposed to go over the increasing incidence of bullying at

school with the first formers, but they did not want to go along

with this at all, and if anything actually defended bullying. To

máš completely lost control of the discussion. The headmistress

had warned him the previous time that if the situation did not

improve between him and the class then another teacher would

ta ke over.

‘Phew,’ he came out of the class, exhausted. The corridor

was empty and cold, with the same pictures hanging on the

walls for years. Now he was feeling old and forlorn. Several pu

pils walked past and greeted him, but he only managed to gri

mace back. He then headed off to the staff room, where a week

ly meeting was taking place. On the way he reconsidered Robert

and Lukáš’s test. Perhaps I was a little harsh on them, he thought.

The meeting was really seething. The school was having

financial difficulties, and Honza was explaining why the gra

mmar school was getting less money from the local authority

than they had anticipated. Tomáš joined in the argument by re

sponding to the idea that the local council could be given a fri

ght by warning them that pupil numbers might be reduced: ‘We

can’t just blackmail the council like that.’

‘You’ve always been soft, sunshine. I  can see you’ve never

been in the army,’ Karel challenged him, and Tomáš suddenly

realized just how much he couldn’t stand him. He only needed

to bump into him in the corridor and his mood was immediate

ly ruined. And now he was putting Tomáš down in front of his

colleagues. Instantly he counterattacked: ‘You’re so henpecked

you have to make up for it here at school!’

Karel was taking a  deep breath to deliver the final death

blow when he was stopped short by Jindřiška.

‘Now, now, gentlemen,’ she said with the calm and expe

rience of many long years as headmistress. ‘You won’t resolve

25

the issue that way. We have to be united. I suggest we meet up

with the mayor to explain the situation to him. We can tell him

that pupil numbers may be reduced, because that’s the way it is.

There’s nothing else we can make savings on. Honza is well in

there, so he can go over it all with him. But he is definitely not

going to blackmail anybody,’ and with these words she looked

sternly at Karel.

The meeting came to an end, so Karel came to wind up

what he had started: ‘We haven’t finished yet, mummy‘s little

p et.’

Tomáš wanted to respond somehow, but he couldn’t man

age any more than ‘Sure’. The incident had robbed him of the

last vestiges of his good mood.

On the way home he got wet. Apart from his damp socks

he was beset by other problems that had been bothering him

for some time. All afternoon and evening, in fact, he was wei

ghed down with debilitating thoughts: debt repayments, hatred

of Karel, his bad nutritional habits and other issues. What was

more, he felt worse and worse physically.

He was irritable because he had to smile at everyone and

act as if he were doing just fine. He was distraught, but couldn’t

tell anybody. Everybody wanted something from him, but he

couldn’t please everybody. He felt like a student at college. Eve

ry teacher thinks his subject is the most important, but these

weren’t teachers, these were his family, friends and colleagues.

He had the feeling that somewhere along the way he had

lost an important part of himself, but he couldn’t remember

where and what it was. Then his thoughts started revolving

around his nightmares. His throat dried up and he had to sit

down. The very thought of them almost paralysed him. Eliška

was not at home, so he felt all alone. The ticking of the wall

clock was the most interesting thing in the apartment and inde

ed in his entire life. He went off to the local for a beer. When he

came back home late in the evening she was already asleep. As

he lay down beside her, he no longer had any doubts...

The feeling he had been fighting for so long, which had

vanished after the car accident, had come back. He was lying

beside his wife, and yet he felt so enormously remote from her. No matter how hard he tried, he could not get rid of the feeling. He felt like he was in his dream. Everywhere it was dark, dank

and horribly cold. His bones and joints started to ache. A part

of him had died. And then a little later it died again. This repe

ated death, return of hope and then death again was wearing

him down. Depression engulfed his entire body. Thousands of thoughts raced through his mind. He couldn’t remember when it happened. When he stopped loving her. The girl he wanted to

spend the rest of his life with. That feeling of love following the

car accident was only a side effect that covered up his problems

for a while. Now he was forcing himself to love her like he used to. He didn’t want to break her heart, as he had once long ago

promised himself never to hurt her.

It had been going on all that year. He hadn’t said anything

to her. He had tried to once, but it didn’t work out. Eliška gu

essed it when a  month previously she’d asked him if he loved

her. He hadn’t been able to answer her properly then. She was fretting over him, but then she was pretending nothing was the

matter just like he was. They were playing a  game of happy

couples, so that nobody around them ever found out it was all

over. Eventually he had realized. He didn’t want to hurt her,

so they were acting out a performance of Look Everyone! The

Happiest Couple in the World. Except the charade was actually

hurting her far more.

The entire truth weighed down heavily upon him, pressing

on his chest like an enormous boulder. He had betrayed her. He had betrayed himself. She would be a  lot better off on her

own than with a  husband who didn’t love her. Three months

27

before that he was actually thinking of being unfaithful, and it

was only his principles that had prevented him. He had finally

understood that it was better to live alone than to live in a re

lationship that didn’t work. But he didn’t have the strength to

change it.

Tomáš was now entirely engulfed by a  feeling of total

emptiness, self-betrayal, alienation and sadness. Financial pro

blems at school, dreams of despair and his total torment regar

ding his wife meant that everything he thought of upset him.

When he was twenty he’d always thought that by this time he’d

have a well-paid job which he would enjoy. He imagined a wife

he would love above all else, and marvellous children. Instead

he was deep in debt with a  tiny apartment and a  relationship

that was falling apart. He no longer enjoyed his work. And he

had failed as a  man since he hadn’t managed to give his wife

a child.

I’m thirty-two, I’ve achieved nothing in life and I hate my

self, he concluded.

He felt like disappearing. He wanted to jump out of bed

and get away somewhere. Anywhere. Just away from there.

Away from that screwed-up life with nothing to grasp hold of

and nothing to support him. It was over! The final performance.

He no longer even had the strength to be annoyed.

I might just be better off if I don’t wake up tomorrow, he

thought as he fell asleep. It was dark, dank and horribly cold all

around.

28

*

1/4 Difficult decision

W

hen Tomáš woke up in the morning, it took him a  long

time to decide to open his eyes. He wasn’t feeling any be

tter. Fortunately the night had gone by without any more ni

ghtmares, or did he just not remember them? On the way to work

he considered the situation again, with hundreds of thoughts

gushing from his unquiet mind, until he was suddenly roused

from his total lack of focus on his surroundings by a little girl.

‘I can’t find my little doggie. What am I going to do?’ she

sniffed. He couldn’t guess where she’d come from. She wore red

tracksuit trousers (muddy from the knees down) and a  coarse

yellow jacket. She held an empty leash, her nose was running,

her freckled face was tear-stained and her ears were burning

red – the perfect picture of misfortune.

Marvellous, my entire life up the spout, and now I have to

go looking for some mutt, when I totally hate dogs! Whose idea

was that, to send a  little kid out to walk a  dog? Probably so

mething wrong with her parents, he silently vented, surprising

himself at just how much anger he was holding in. He looked

at the little girl smiling at him and did not even know why he

offered to help her.

‘He might have run off down to the river. Come on, let’s go

and have a look.’ It was as if someone else were talking. They

went down to the river in silence. The morning mist, which was

now increasingly frequent, had thickened so much that visibi

lity was down to a few paces. The little girl happily and noisily

ran over to the nearby trees, where her carefree dog was taking

itself for a walk. This cheered Tomáš up. Well, at least that’s one

problem sorted out, he thought as he hurried off to work. On the

way he realized: I really must do something about that. I can’t

remember the last time I felt happy. I can’t go on like this.

29

During the lunch break he had the idea of going off to visit

the school psychologist, but then he immediately had second

thoughts: I  don’t trust him that much. What if he told Karel?

They’re good mates. I really don’t need any of that.

Suddenly he realized: Hold on! I could call my friend Klára.

She had once mentioned someone she knew who helped her out

of depression after a miscarriage. She said he was a marvellous

guy, and ever since he’d helped her she looked far happier and

more balanced, and she was determined to have another baby,

which turned out to be perfectly healthy. He didn’t want to say

too much to her, so he preferred to sort it out using text me

ssages. She gave him an exact address and arranged an appo

intment with Kohl for Thursday afternoon. That’s what he was

called. I’m feeling better already, he thought and the corners of

his mouth lifted slightly.

Over the next few days he kept wondering if it made sense

to go off to see some stranger and tell him his problems. Could

it be a mistake? But then again this man had helped Klára come

to terms with something as awful as a  miscarriage. At length

he told himself he would at least give it a try. He lied to Eliška

that he would be held up at work and he headed off for the

city centre, where Kohl had his office. It was a sunny autumn

day. He ran up the stairs to a door marked Dr Martin Konečný,

Psychologist and Healer, just as Klára had described. At the last

moment he hesitated, but at length he knocked and went in.

He instantly caught the scent of marijuana. The battered

cabinets were covered in odd pieces of paper, while the floor in

the middle of the office was covered by a faded Persian carpet.

Fresh, cold air wafted in through an open window, but other

wise the room was quite tidy, and everything there seemed to

belong. In an old leather armchair a man was sitting, seemingly

as old-fashioned as the rest of his office. He wore a loose, dark

printed t-shirt, the kind that used to be worn years ago. His

30

thinning curly hair fell down around his rather bronzed com

plexion. He must have been around fifty years of age. Going off

Klára’s description, he was the one.

Tomáš introduced himself.

‘I am the light,’ the man answered, taking another drag.

Tomáš stood there, stunned. He did not know what to an

swer, which clearly amused the man.

‘My light greets you and the light that shines within you,’

the man said with a  smile, adding: ‘Now come and park your

backside.’

Eventually Tomáš managed to come out with a few words:

‘And where am I to sit?’

Kohl took another drag, fixed his gaze on his guest for

a while, making him rather nervous, and then retorted, ‘There’s

enough room on the floor, but I’d recommend that Persian car

pet. It’s good to sit on, and we’ll be able to see one other.’

Tomáš had expected all kinds of things, but not that! Fee

ling quite hard done by, he objected, ‘What, am I to sit on the

floor like some kind of menial of yours? I deal with people equal

to equal, and I expect that from others.’

‘You shall sit on the floor as my pupil. Your reaction surpri

ses me. I thought you were further forward.’

He could not understand this at all. ‘Your pupil? Further

forward? You don’t actually know anything about me!’ he yelled,

thinking some very unpleasant thoughts.

‘I could smell your ego even as you were coming up the

stairs,’ Kohl struck back, yet all the while he had a  singular

ly affectionate expression. And that was not all: ‘You let your

self be governed by your ego – you are its prisoner. The ego is

a  good servant but a  bad master. You’re just thinking of your

own problems. You have the feeling that the entire world has

been plotting against you. You’re unable to eat, sleep or make

love properly. You commute to and from work like a  zombie.

31

That’s not life, but slow death. You hate yourself for what you’ve

become, but you’re unable to admit it. You only look at yourself,

and you don’t notice the world around you. You have lost your

spark. You’ve forgotten everything else completely. Everything!

Do you still have the feeling that I  know nothing at all about

you?’

Again he was lost for words. He did not know how to react.

The creaking of the armchair now just made him feel even more

embarrassed. He decided to leave to escape the humiliation, but

before he managed to say anything, Kohl smiled at him: ‘You

may go – our first lesson is over. Come back when you think it

appropriate. My doors are open to you every Wednesday from

two in the afternoon.’

‘What? Come back here so you can put me down like that?

Sure thing,’ he retorted, silently adding: you moron, you! He did

not even look at him, but just left without saying anything else.

As he stood in the doorway, Kohl called after him: ‘You can

be more than that!’

He thought he would explode with anger as he walked

down the stairs. So distraught was he that he had no recollecti

on how he actually got home. When Eliška tried to prize out of

him what the matter was, he just fobbed her off.

‘Oh, I’ve just got some problems at school.’

‘Is it that Karel again?’

‘I don’t want to talk about it just now,’ he snapped and

went off to have a strum on his guitar. That was the only thing

that could calm him down. His mind was focused on just one

thought: I’m never going back there!

– • –

The next day he was unable to think of anything else. The ma

n’s a  drug addict, who should never have been given medical

32

accreditation, one part of him said. And what on earth did he

have in mind when he called himself the light? Another part

of him was asking. And what else have I entirely forgotten? Se

veral voices were speaking together in his mind, but these two

were uppermost. He was no longer so sure that he would not go

back. The crank had something that he did not have. What was

it? He wanted to know the answers to his life and he felt that

Kohl could provide them.

Should he remain proud and never go back there or... seek

for some meaning to life? As always, when he was unable to

make a  decision, he headed off for the mountains, where the

re was no one to bother him with constant worries, stupid co

mments and pretences. Today there was fog all around. The city

was covered in smog and the sun looked like a full moon – ba

rely visible. It looked just as cold and burnt-out as he felt. What

was more, the city air smelled awful. Tomáš looked forward to

get t i ng away.

As soon as he got above the smog level, he was met by

a  marvellous view of an emerald cloudless sky. Up he went

higher.

I’d almost forgotten how beautiful it is here, he thought.

He took a drink from his bottle. He did not know anything that

tasted as good as ordinary water, and he relished every sip.

He walked on even higher. The sunrays stroked his fatigu

ed body. He was even able to take off his jacket because it was

far warmer here than in the smog-drowned city. Autumn was

drawing to its end – these were the last warm days of the year.

When he got to the top he was almost a  mile above sea

level. He settled down in his favourite spot. There was a good

view from here, and no hikers ever wandered by. What he saw

looked more like an impressionistic painting than reality.

There wasn’t a  single cloud up above, although the river

that flowed down into a  valley to the south was lost in a  sea

33

of clouds below. The peaks that grew out of this ocean had as

many colours as he could possibly imagine. The sun warmed

his face pleasantly, and a gentle breeze blew. He did not know

how long he was ‘out of it’, but he fell entirely under the spell of

this artwork. He went back to his childhood. When he was ei

ght years old he had once got lost in an unknown town. To this

day, years later, the same horror would seize him. He wandered

around streets that all looked alike, turning his head this way

and that in search of his mum. Exhausted, he sat down on some

grimy steps, buried his face in his little palms and whimpered.

A short while later he heard her velvet voice: ‘Here you are, my

l it t le a ngel.’

Little angel, he smiled.

Why am I so dissatisfied? Why can’t I say goodbye to Eliš

ka? Where have all those dreams gone? What actually happe

ned at Kohl’s? How come he knew so much about me? What is

drawing me back there like that, damn it?! The feeling that he

had to go back was all the stronger up there. When his mind

had calmed down, only one thought remained: I must go back.

34

*

1/5 Soul and ego

S

everal days had passed since his trip to the mountains. To

máš was beset by the same old apathy, slowly gnawing away

at him and showing itself for the most part in his irritability.

His colleagues and friends noticed that he was feeling down, but

he always kicked their questions into touch. He knew he had

to see Kohl on Wednesday, otherwise he would never dare go

back. Now or never. On Wednesday he’d had normal afternoon

lessons, but today they had been called off. So he could go. Now

his dreams were repeating with almost daily regularity. Identi

cal with just small variations. As if the needle had stuck.

He couldn’t bear squeezing into public transport, preferri

ng a  brisk walk to Kohl‘s office in the centre. He ran up the

stairs to the second floor. There was a slight whiff of marijuana

in the air, but it was too weak to be recent. As soon as he walked

through the door he was met by a  similar sight to the one he

had previously faced. The faded Persian carpet, the battered ca

binets and Kohl sitting in an old leather armchair. As Tomáš en

tered the room he raised his head and smiled at him. Tomáš was

surprised by something he had not previously noticed. Kohl’s

features were very distinctive. His eyes were wise and kindly,

sparkling like those of a young boy.

‘I’m very glad you’ve come,’ Kohl began in a  tender voice.

‘I know it wasn’t easy for you, but you have mastered the first

lesson .’

Tomáš was taken aback. It was only after about thirty se

conds that he let slip:

‘What? What first lesson?’

Kohl closed his notebook and settled himself comfortably

into his armchair, which gave out a long creak. He then started

explaining:

35

‘Above all, you have to regain control of your ego. It took

you exactly twelve days. With time you will learn to handle it

fa ster.’

‘I was in quite some doubt, but in the end I decided to come.

I really was very angry.’

‘Doubts are quite normal, but you must not allow them to

overwhelm you. Anger, feelings of guilt and fear are a gift. They

tell you that you are dreaming a bad dream. They show you that

you are living a false story. They warn you that you are living

an irrelevant situation.’

Tomáš did not know why, but he poured everything out:

‘Everybody has moved on, everybody has moved somewhe

re, but I have the feeling I’m going back. I feel lost. I have this

feeling I’m in some kind of game, but I have no influence over

its result. I don’t have the remote control in my hand. As if I can

only observe.’

‘People often have it encoded somewhere inside them that

life has to be a fight. Try putting your hands behind your head

and waving them.’

Without thinking, he placed his hands behind his head and

waved them, while asking: ‘And is this going to he-elp?’

Kohl smiled broadly: ‘No, but it gives me a good laugh.’

‘You’re just playing around with me again. Just like last

time,’ Tomáš retorted.

‘Last time I did what had to be done to help you get out of

your personal hell. Now I am trying to get you to learn to laugh

at you rsel f.’

‘What did you mean when you said I had mastered my ego?’

‘That will be a long story. Now sit down on the carpet and

listen carefully. Of course, you may ask if you do not under

stand anything,’ and Kohl pointed down.

‘Why do I have to sit on the floor like some menial?’

36

‘I see you have no problem with honesty. That’s good. You

have to sit on the floor. That is the only way you are going to

learn how to master your ego.’

He just grimaced and reluctantly sat on the floor beside

Kohl, who began to explain:

‘When you were born, your soul and your ego wished for

the same thing – to breathe. This was the first and the most

difficult task that we all face in life. Your entire being focused

on this single objective. All your cells had to learn within a few

seconds to live in a different world, in a world without your mo

ther. The world of the womb was full of security, certainty and

love. In the womb your soul and your ego were as one. Just as

they were in the first months after you were born.’

Tomáš interrupted: ‘And what does this have to do with my

pre-sent difficulties in life?’

‘Absolutely everything. Even months after your birth your

soul and your ego were as one. You no longer felt as secure,

because your mother sometimes went off, leaving you alone.

Occasionally she would not feed you, when you were hungry,

so you no longer felt that security. Sometimes something bad

happened, you had a twinge of pain, so you no longer felt the

safety of your mother’s womb. One part of you automatically

started to ask why. Soon afterwards the same part started to say

that you had to somehow ensure that sense of security, safety

and attention.’

‘The ego – so that is when my ego was born!’ Tomáš in

terrupted him again. This suddenly made him realize why his

pupils would occasionally interrupt him.

‘Exactly,’ Kohl nodded. ‘That is when your ego separated.’

‘You’re even worse than I am when it comes to hairsplitting.

And that is saying something!’ Tomáš grinned.

Kohl did not respond to this comment, but carried on with

his explanation: ‘The ego began to look for ways to make sure

37

it had that feeling of security, safety and attention. It took com

mand of your soul. The soul is able to obtain energy from itself.

It is a kind of perpetuum mobile. The ego cannot do that, so it

has to acquire its energy from the outside – from people. It tri

ed all kinds of ways. Really, all kinds! At first it was still quite

undeveloped, so it only knew one way – crying. Whenever you

didn’t like something, you started bawling. Many people stay

that way all the way into adulthood.’

‘So the ego steals energy from other people. It cannot pro

duce energy itself. Just like my sister. Whenever she doesn’t like

something, she bursts out crying and draws all the attention to

herself. She really annoyed me that way when I was younger!’

‘Yes, that is a  very popular way. Even though it is very

primitive, it works again and again on a  lot of us. Some have

attained a second level. If they don’t like something, they start

banging and smashing things until they get what they want.

Unfortunately, their parents are too weak to stop them, so their

children remain that way into adulthood. Aggression is a very

popular way to acquire energy in today’s patriarchal society.

But then some children get even further. They keep asking their

parents the same question until they hear a favourable answer.

Some parents fall for that. Anybody who has stuck with this

method of acquiring energy can be a very persistent debater in

adulthood. They will pressure you into what they want to hear.’

‘Yes, that is exactly how my father does it. And I know ano

ther aggressive type. Karel, a  colleague at work. He harbours

this tremendous resentment against me, I  think. He would de

finitely very much like to smash my head against a  wall, if it

weren’t socially frowned upon.’

‘Oh yes, he’s certainly done that a few times in his mind’s

eye.’ Kohl smiled. Leaning back in his armchair, he looked out

of the window for a while and continued:

38

‘As a boy, Karel certainly tried other approaches – he tried

to ask and he tried crying, but he succeeded most with aggre

ssion. Crying, asking and aggression – these are all ways to

obtain energy. When you have enough energy you feel strong.

That is the task of the ego. To construct the strongest stronghold,

so that others cannot get at you, since the ego conceives all be

ings as separate. It considers each individual to be a danger to be

protected against. This is a relic of our animal ancestors.’

‘But there’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone tries to pro

tect themselves and their family.’

‘But then I  didn’t say there’s anything wrong with that,

Tom, but it is bad, when this yearning for security makes you

control yourself so much that it holds back your soul. Remember,

when you were born, your soul and your ego were as one. They

harmonized together. Then the ego separated, began to build

its stronghold and unf



       
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