“I want to set them loose.”
—Siberia (the sleeping land), 199X
The snow had let up, but the temperature remained below zero. The road was hemmed in on each side by a forest of white birches. The young man trudged onward, bundled from head to toe against the cold, snow crunching underfoot. He had been walking an hour already. Then, at last, he saw a house. A cabin—made of logs, rough-hewn. Clearly inhabited. The smoking chimney proved that.
The young man’s face brightened.
The place looked as if it belonged to a hunter. The man noted the four skis propped against the wall. Two inhabitants, maybe? Or was one pair an extra? You’d think there’d be a guard dog, but there wasn’t. Instead, the owner himself pushed the door open, stepped outdoors. Must have heard the footsteps in the snow. Realized he had an unanticipated visitor. He was old. An old man. His expression softened in response to the young man’s greeting. “What are you doing way out here?” he said. “So deep in the hills, this time of year, in this no man’s land? There is not a dacha for miles. Lost your way?”
“Does the road lead to a village?” the young man asked.