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  • Writer's pictureAmr Abbas

Burya 4: Chapter 2

Read Burya 4: Prologue (The Night Before) here.

Read Burya 4: Chapter 1 (Into the Belly of the Beast) here.


The Fridge


When kicks came to shove, silence was perhaps the sound that he enjoyed the most inside the submarine. Alas, winds do not blow as the vessels wish. There was always a noise in the submarine, even in the most secure and soundproof room of the vessel the noise did not dull out. While it was the most spacious single room in the submarine, the space did not serve to relieve the captain of the ship from the unease.

Anatoly sat by his desk, as he often did, and intently brushed the gold-plated belt buckle with the soft bristles of the brush. He wiped it off with a soft cotton towel, and then he dipped another cloth into some liquid that sat on his desk in a jar, brushed it slowly in small circles, then again, he wiped it off with another dry towel. He continued to do so contently for no less than twenty minutes. And when he was done cleaning the belt buckle, he hung the belt on a hanger, took off the cleaning gloves, and sat back down to look at the calendar intently. He repeated the same routine with the head of his cane, and the buckles of his boots for double the amount of time. He had brushes of different sizes for each part of the gold-plated falcon head cane that was neither comfortable to hold nor useful to carry, but he did so, and he did so intently.

When the vinyl record stopped playing, he took off his gloves, one finger after the other, one glove after the other, and placed them on the bowl that sat obediently by the corner of his desk. He walked over to the record player and carefully placed the needle at the beginning of the record once again. He was so meticulous with every detail that it was difficult for him to even find the time to check on his crew.

Certainly, the captain was supposed to provide guidance to the rest of the crew, but in Anatoly’s case, he was more than content to receive a briefing from the first mate once every two shifts. The briefings were his way of knowing what day it was, after all. Despite being the captain, he knew little about ships and submarines. He knew little about the sea or the ocean except for the memories he carried from a childhood that he was glad to leave entirely behind on the shore. He excelled, however, at receiving and following orders, and so, he was promoted to captain without the knowledge required to be one. And yet, with his lack of knowledge, he found no reason that the crew would stand against his every order for he was a most intimidating figure in stature.

He was not without reflection, however. He knew well enough that the crew was just as content to stay as far away from him as possible. They were, at the end of the day, soldiers, and soldiers did their best work when they followed the orders of their superior officers. They did not view him as equal, for better or worse, but wherever he went onboard Burya 4, they seemed to stutter and stumble, as they were supposed to, in his presence.

Most importantly, they could not revolt against him, for he, and he alone, knew the mission ahead. He was the only one who knew what to do for all its six stages.

 

When Anatoly had finished the cleaning of his exquisite accessories, he sat back down after hanging every item in place. His suit was taken care of by the cleaning crew, but he couldn’t trust the belts, boots, or cane to any of them. The final item that he occasionally cleaned and serviced was his handgun, an M1911 pistol that was most uncommon for a Soviet officer to carry. But he was no ordinary officer, and an extraordinary officer deserved a weapon that spoke of his extraordinaire in extravagance. However, the moment he sat down, the record player stopped.

It was not an uncommon occurrence that things moved around a little. After all, he was in a submarine. He went to check on the record player and moved the needle carefully, but then he stopped. His thick brown eyebrows met, and he squinted. There was a noise that he was not familiar with. It was not from outside, but from within. A distorted whooshing that made him stop the record player altogether. He walked around the room.

His room, or his rooms, were divided into two. A sleeping chamber with a bathroom and a wardrobe and the office, which contained the desk, a smaller wardrobe in which there was a chest; the fridge, and a small liquor cabinet upon which the record player sat.

The static whooshing noise sounded much like an electric buzz. He began to inspect the power plugs, but there was not much of that, and he didn’t need long to realize that it was not an electric noise. He began to pace around the room, and then after a while of pacing, he went into the sleeping chamber. He inspected every corner of the room, the wardrobe, the clothes, even the pillows, the mattress, he flipped the bed, unhooked it from the wall, and turned everything around. When he was done, he returned to the study and began to inspect every part of the room. The noise grew louder and harsher, but the constancy of it only numbed his ears to it. He did not meddle too much with the desk, for it was what he needed the most.

With the constant lack of daylight, Anatoly could not tell the time of day or night it was. It was only the vagueness of what he perceived as time that flowed into the submarine, or his vision of the submarine. At the end of his misadventure, he sat on the chair, looking at the portrait of Leonid Brezhnev that hung highest on his wall. He had a tumbler of whiskey in his palm which he raised to the leader’s image before taking a heartful chug.

“History shows that no army is invincible,” he said, then he echoed to himself, “Even those that lie in the shadow are not invincible.”

Louder the whooshing became, almost a humming melody, a lullaby of sorrows, creeping into the folds of his brain, sparking and stinging like a murmur forgotten.

“Ice,” he demanded. And so, he stood and strolled to the fridge. He opened it and pulled out the tray of ice cubes from the freezer.

The whooshing stopped.

Anatoly stood before the fridge, stammered and evoked. He began to chuckle and he placed the tumbler on the desk when a knock came from the door of his chamber.

“Comrade Anatoly,” he heard the first mate’s voice, and he opened the door. It was unlike him to open the door, for he often invited the one who knocked inside from his seat. But when the first mate saw him, he immediately raised his hand in salutation which Anatoly brushed off.

“At ease, Leiv,” he spoke.

Leiv looked at him with eyes wide and he said, “What happened, sir?”

The first mate was at least a decade older than the captain. Anatoly watched his grave gaze but said nothing for a moment.

“Anatoly, what happened?” For once, the first mate’s words were friendly and concerned.

Anatoly finally gazed at where Leiv was looking, into his chamber. The desk was on its side, the fridge was wide open and everything was out of it. Even the liquor was on the ground, broken glass scattered on the floor. And on the white suit that Anatoly wore, there were smudges of scarlet red. His hands were red, and blood was dripping from them, but he knew not whether the blood was his or not.

“Do you have news?” Anatoly asked calmly, even as his lips trembled.

“Sir?”

“News, first mate. Do you have news, or have you come to disturb me for no reason?”


Read Chapter 3: Matryoshka of the Sea here.


Written by Amr Abbas.

Cover illustration by Amr Abbas.


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