— Next! — shouted a disgruntled aunt on the other side of the window.
Ignoring my question. I obediently pulled away and an elderly man immediately took my place. After taking a couple of steps to the side, I thought about it and hurried back. The crowd buzzed with displeasure:
«Where are you going?» the woman in the blue raincoat screamed.
— Yes, I would just like to ask…
— Everyone here needs to ask. Wait and ask,» the man who came to the window after me inserted his five kopecks.
— Look what you’ve decided, do you need more than others? – an old lady stuck her head out from somewhere in the back rows.
While I was politely explaining to the raging about my, I’m not afraid to say, a tiny question that does not require much time, four more people passed the queue. The cashier punched a ticket for everyone.
— Let him ask, he won’t let go anyway. What do you want? – the woman behind the glass muttered.
— I’m sorry, I’m very sorry. And when will my wife arrive? Could you tell me more precisely so that I would wait. Suddenly we will get lost, I really would not like to. Please tell me.
— I didn’t understand, is it possible to make a profit here? A bald man in a leather jacket perked up. – This, cashier, let’s talk, I’ll cough up the money, in those cross, I answer.
«Ugh, you blasphemer,» spat an old woman who came to the window.
— No, Grandma, but what. I know how to negotiate, it’s such a job. There is no other way in Moscow. I have a kebab shop there, an auto repair shop, a couple of cafes, tents at the market. I know how to market be healthy. Honey, can we come up with something for me?
— Yeah, be it that simple, — the cashier playfully said looking at the man.
Then she turned her head at me, changed her face and squeezed out:
– Wait like everyone else. Next!
When I heard «everyone else», I shuddered and looked around – a string of people was reaching for the cash register, the end of which disappeared somewhere very far away in the fog. What a huge building. Even when I was working in Gosplan, I did not see such projects. There was nothing to do – twirling the ticket in my hands, I went to the waiting room. I sat down on one of the many empty chairs and looked around. Trains could be seen approaching through the glass door. Get in and drive. Or maybe sneak in? Come on, nonsense, they’ll catch it. I’m not the first one, I think they have a good guard. It should be understood that the trains arrived almost non-stop. One by one, around the clock, without breaks and weekends. The difference between arrival was around ten to fifteen seconds. At the same time, there were no fewer people on the platform. Wouldn’t it have been easier to launch one huge train with a bunch of locomotives at all? I even tensed up – what to do while waiting. There’s no dessert here…
— A citizen in a gray coat with a black leather suitcase – you have violated the first rule. Last warning. Sanctions will follow in the future.– The megaphone spoke to the entire station.
Some people in the crowd turned their heads in search of a man in a gray coat. I instinctively hid my head and looked at the ticket. On the reverse side it says:
— Rule number 1 is not to mention the devil in the walls of the station. Penalty: ticket cancellation.
— Rule number 2 – do not take the train out of turn. Penalty: ticket cancellation.
— Rule number 3 – do not stand in front of the viewing glass out of turn.
Penalty: ticket cancellation. What kind of technology has come to – at a distance they will find out who cursed.
At the same time, their trains are all old, the sky is covered with smoke, there is nothing to breathe. We wrote them off back in the seventies. The rules are quite interesting. They were constantly violated and no sanctions were imposed for them. The reason is simple – if you take tickets from all violators, then the trains will go half-empty, and the station will be packed with people in a matter of hours. Therefore, someone from the security department twice an hour chose a person from the crowd and scolded him to the whole station. After each such demonstrative flogging, the rustle of tickets ran through the station – the newcomers read the rules.
Rule number one was violated by every second in line. Simply because in our culture phrases containing «devil» or «devil» are quite common.
Rule number two was broken less often. At first, no one is in a hurry to catch the train, but over time, almost everyone gets tired of the station and the monotony of life there. Not everyone can withstand a long wait. The fugitives are methodically caught and taken somewhere out of sight. Sometimes even whole families. They do not return to the train station.
The third rule has been violated by everyone at least once – right now several thousand people actually live on the observation deck. Everyone is waiting for the window to open, afraid to miss even a second. And all these cunning people step over.
— What are you thinking about? What a mess around? So I think about him all the time. I would like to visit the German train station, how everything is organized. Maybe they go faster than ours. – said a young man with the face of a village teacher who sat down next to him.
So, you know, spirited, intelligent, but malnourished.
— Thank God, — I looked at the ceiling, — that we are not in Africa. Not so long ago, a family from Tanzania was here – walking, smiling, looking at the building. They said that everything was in the open sky and they were constantly stealing tickets.
«How did they get here in the first place?» «What is it?» he asked, puzzled.
— I don’t know. Bureaucracy.
— Guys, good evening, hello everyone, there is a proposal, a very sensible proposal, I give you a tooth very important, — a short man of indeterminate age ran up. — I bet my briefcase that he is a gambler or a person of another slippery profession.
— Listen, I’m exchanging my ticket for yours, what do you say? Mine is being sent very soon, so this is a great offer, here, look at the number, I’m not cheating.
He handed us the ticket, looking around. I took a closer look – the room was much better than ours.
— Let’s do it quickly, without palev yet. The garbage shift is from six to half past six, there are no them yet. I’ve been watching you, you’re normal guys, let’s change, huh?
— And why do you need this, — I asked, examining the ticket.
– You’ll leave faster, won’t you? It doesn’t add up.
— Yes, I don’t need to go faster, well, what kind of questions. I’ve done a lot of things, oh, I’ve done it, my head is bad. Now you can’t, not in any way. And here it’s quiet, peaceful, walking yourself, great.
— The tickets are registered, right? – my last interlocutor asked.
— Well, why are you so simple, eh, – the type said in disappointment. — Look at the platform. See, people are sitting down. Take a closer look at how they check their tickets. One, one, missed. One, one, missed. Physically do not have time to check. They only look at the length of the number, they don’t have enough eyes to look at the other. So who to swap with?
— Maybe with me? The teacher’s eyes flashed. – My turn won’t come soon, I got my ticket just yesterday.
— How many rows?
— How much of what?
— How many rows do the numbers have? They count in rows.
— Just a second, — he ran his eyes narrowed without glasses over the ticket. – eighteen.
— In, and I have seven. Consider it the deal of the century,» the merchant smiled.
— Do they check inside the train? Or on arrival?
— They don’t check anything anywhere, calm down. The main thing is not to rustle too much and everything will be fine.
— Don’t rustle? – the teacher asked again. – How’s that?
— Do not open your mittens once again, — said the merchant and added, seeing that the teacher did not understand this either. – I say, don’t talk, don’t tell anyone.
— Oh, no, no, what are you, I’ll be dumb as a fish, — he smiled.
— Well, that’s settled, you’re my fish – the merchant smiled in response.
This situation seemed strange to me, to say the least. Well, the guy really didn’t want to go – so throw away the ticket, get in line and take a new one. So do all those who do not leave the viewing window. Nobody keeps a file anyway.
«I’m not an egoist, man,» the merchant replied. – I want to butter myself and people up. You blew your chance, so shut up.
They exchanged tickets and said goodbye. Looking ahead, I will say that when the joyful teacher waited for his turn and went to the platform, during the ticket check he was tied up and taken away somewhere. The scheme was cynical and simple – the cops could not cope with ensuring the safety of the station. And they hired people inside who handed over the found criminals directly into the hands of Themis. For which they received a serious reduction in the waiting period. But man even here shows his goat nature. When the vigilantes are too lazy to identify violators, they created them themselves, bringing newcomers under sanctions. The new people here are like blind moles.
At the train station there is only one thing to do – wait. You are waiting for the train, waiting for interesting interlocutors, the latest news. You’re waiting for interesting entertainment to appear. Waiting for the observation deck to open. The whole existence –you can’t call it life-consists of endless waiting. Almost everyone is waiting for the observation deck. They don’t wait only for personal reasons – who is angry at what they saw, or there was no one to wait for. But there are a minority of such people here. The playground itself looks very simple – in the far corner of the building there is a glass of indescribable length and two meters in height. Ninety percent of the time it is covered with a gray impenetrable haze. The smoke is constantly moving, moving, changing inside itself.
He’s practically breathing. It was said that at one time there was a sect of smoke worshippers. Allegedly, they whispered to the smoke who needed to be shown and he obediently obeyed. Bullshit. The task of glass is a short–term window. At a particular time, the smoke dissipated and you see one of your relatives. The device had no other tasks. You won’t watch TV. The playground was the only serious reason to stay at the station. For the sake of a five-minute window, a grandmother is able to sit for eternity – just to see her granddaughter grow up. People watch their children grow up, where they go, where they work, snatch out individual moments of their lives. There is nothing more valuable than understanding that a child lives a decent life, and a granddaughter was named after you. It is impossible to influence the frequency of window opening. Everyone knows this. The cursed smoke lives its own life, opening up whenever it pleases. At first there was no smoke at all – there were windows smeared with paint all around the perimeter of the station. It was necessary to scrape off this paint with a nail, as if you were erasing a lottery ticket. And look through the hole in the strictly allotted time according to the cards. The current glass is a more modern thing. No need to run– the smoke works individually. And the coupons are gone – the approaching queue is reported by the strikes of the station clock, which are audible only to the addressee. Thanks to the progress! Windows open in different ways – for someone more often, for someone less often. They do not open to suicides – they announce this immediately when they get to the train station.
At the top, they decided that since you passed away voluntarily, then there is nothing for you to be interested in it. At the site there is a group of people called an Agency. They sell information collected from all over the station. For example, you saw your son with a diploma, but it is unclear which university he graduated from. Remember all the details – the color of the cover, inscriptions, abbreviations. Contact the Agency and maybe they will help you. Of course not for free.
The first time I ran headlong through the entire train station, because the clock started working when I participated in a hastily organized chess tournament. The haze cleared and a black-haired girl appeared walking along the sidewalk with a grocery bag in her hand. This is Yana, my daughter. And how you’ve grown! When I left, she was very tiny – she barely stopped fitting into the stroller. Now she is a statuesque girl of about twenty. So I’ve been at the station for at least eighteen years. Time is not felt here.
«I can’t understand it,» said an old man standing next to him. – Is this my grandson or not?
— Yours, yours, the glass shows only relatives or very close people. Don’t make any noise,» a girl nearby replied.
— Well, then he’s a fool. I told you when he was little – learn, otherwise you will load bags. And what do you think? – I look, and he loads bags. My eyes wouldn’t have seen him.
— And my Vova became the president, — the woman sitting on the floor, staring steadily into the smoke, said quietly.
«We know, we know,» someone in the crowd muttered.
Glass was a place of lively discussions on any topic. Especially if someone managed to get fresh data. Fortunately, any information was relevant, because people were here from different times. The news of the victory of the Soviet Union in World War II brings someone to happy tears every day.
— Is there anything for us? – a guy from the Agency met me at the exit.
— Well, I’ve been here for about 18 years.
— Ay, — he waved away frustrated.
«Time doesn’t matter.
Any information unknown to the Agency was useful. It can be sold profitably. For example, while watching a relative, you accidentally picked up a piece of news on TV. If there is a benefit in what you see, the Agency offers a runner to pay for the information. Runners are the local currency. These are ordinary people like you and me, but they did the most valuable work – they were looking for relatives. They interviewed newcomers, ran around the station, shouting names and surnames.
The turnover was simple – you paid the Agency with one information, they paid the runners with another. And everyone is happy. One person physically does not have enough resources to inspect each of the dozens of station entrances. In addition, the observation deck took up time. And what if your spouse appears at this very moment? Well, how do you order to look for her all over the building? This gap in the organization was filled by runners. Often the reward was information on other relatives. Therefore, if someone can tell you your son’s university, you will have to sweat to find out.
Fortunately, the human age is short and it was not long to wait. And there are no other important things here – it remains only to cling to the past. Sometimes the past drags on. Rumor has it that an old man lived on the observation deck. He looked at his relatives, moreover, so far away that there was nothing in common between them anymore. But the system still showed. Grandfather sat for so long that the administration found out about it and forcibly put him on the train. They say he screamed and resisted. Usually it doesn’t come to this – people follow the lives of children, grandchildren, at most some other close relatives. When the heart stops jumping at the sight of great-grandchildren, when all the relatives are gathered nearby, people calmly board the train.
Life at the train station was not one–dimensional — the chronic emptiness of waiting had to be filled with something. Entertainment appeared – people were looking for footballs, cards, chess, and organized mass competitions. Speaking of things, people get to the train station with exactly what they had at the last minute. There was definitely no shortage of items. In addition to entertainment, they also did more important things – for example, science. Scientists gathered together, formed improvised institutes, the number of which by the time of my departure exceeded several thousand. As a rule, one thing was studied – the train station. Who built it, who is behind all this, how it is managed, where the train goes and what is happening here in general. There were few reasonable answers. However, shortly before the arrival of my wife, one of the groups stated that they had found an explanation for an important issue – they say there are many train stations and each of them gathers a certain cultural group. To facilitate the organization. I would like to know who invented all this. But sooner or later it all gets boring. Time is not felt, but a subtle fatigue accumulates in every person.
It has accumulated in me too. I’ve seen everything–including the growing up of great-grandchildren. Their life was decent, smooth, without great misfortunes. While waiting for my spouse, I saw millions of people, led discussions on thousands of topics. I wouldn’t say it was boring. But there was no peace until I waited for Masha and the children. The three of us, all together, received a special family set of tickets, with numbers in order. When the time came, I managed to go outside the station for the first time and gasped at what I saw – the building was of incredible size. There was no beginning or end in sight. It occupied the entire horizon. It seemed that apart from the building and the platform, nothing in this world existed. Yes, there are also railway tracks. Leading to no one knows where.
«Well, God be with them,» I grumbled, helping my girls up the steps of the carriage.
I do not know where we will go. All tickets say «Final». Even the longest wait ever ends.