The Village

by Mikhail Strannik

The Village

Joan drove her car along the winding mountain road. Her thoughts were far away. She has had a hard day in the laboratory where she worked. So Joan didn’t pay enough attention to the road, but it seemed not a big deal for her since oncoming cars were rare. Then something suddenly appeared right before her. Joan instinctively applied the brakes. It was too late. She felt a slight blow, and a body fell down in front of the car. The faces of her husband and children flashed before Joan’s mind. Pale and trembling, she jumped out and ran to see whom she hit. It was a young deer that was unlucky to cross the road in the wrong place at the wrong time.

After carefully examining the fawn, Joan concluded that most likely it wasn’t seriously injured. However, the young deer could not stand up. Joan sighed and decided to take the fawn to the veterinary clinic. So she had to drive back. Joan took a blanket from her car and wrapped the deer. Then she opened the back door of the car and, with an effort, lifted the fawn and placed it on the back seat. After that, she took the driver’s seat and started the engine. But within some seconds, just before she turned back to the city, her car stalled. Joan felt dizzy, she saw the radiance around her, and she came to her senses only after a few minutes.

The mountains ended. There were the woods visible to the right of the road and a small village to the left. Looking closely, Joan shuddered, recognizing the places of her childhood. In fact, it was impossible, since she had moved from there many years ago and those places were thousands of miles away. Not knowing what to think, Joan got out of the car and headed toward the village. She decided that these places only looked like those dear to her heart, and that there might be someone in the village who could fix her car.

A quarter of an hour later, Joan was already walking past familiar houses, recognizing every detail she still remembered clear and a lot of details she had nearly forgotten. Then Joan came to the place where her childhood home should be. The house looked exactly the same. She saw two girls and a boy playing in the yard. There was also a woman in her late forties who looked exactly like Joan’s mother.

“Mom!” the word escaped Joan.

The older girl turned to her voice, and Joan recognized herself in her. The girl’s mother noticed that someone is standing near their house and went to the gate. Joan couldn’t take her eyes off the woman’s face, which was so dear.

“Good afternoon!” the woman greeted her. “Why do you come here?”

“You see, my car has stalled, but I urgently need to return to the city,” Joan said.

“Sorry, my husband is not at home, but you can wait for him,” the woman replied.

“I’m not sure if I have time…” Joan moved her gaze to the older girl and asked her, “What is your name?”

“I am Jenny,” the girl answered.

“My name is almost the same,” Joan smiled. “Excuse me, I have to go.”

“What about your car?” the woman stared at her in surprise.

“I think I can handle it,” Joan said, trying to calm her beating heart.

This does not exist, she convinced herself, so the most important thing now is to leave. I should not be here!

“Okay,” the woman smiled. “But your face seems very familiar to me. Haven’t we met before?.. Or do you live somewhere nearby?..”

“No, I am afraid you are wrong,” Joan gathered all her courage to say it. “My face just somehow reminds you of someone of your acquaintance.”

“Yes, yes of course…” the woman agreed. “All the best!” She and the older girl went back to the other children.

Joan nodded and walked slowly toward her car. Tears welled up in her eyes. As she returned, she looked at the back seat. The fawn was lying under the blanket and its sides calmly moved in sync with its breath. Joan sighed and tried to start the engine. Somehow it worked now. She saw the winding mountain road in front of her again. Joan turned her car toward the city and drove to the veterinary clinic.

April 1, 2023.

Translated from Russian by Maxim Sviridenkov.

About the author

Mikhail Strannik

Mikhail Strannik is the pen name of Mikhail Dymshyts, a Russian poet and fiction writer. Born in 1969, he graduated from the First Moscow State Medical University in 1995. His first book of poems On the edge of reality (Na grani realnosti) appeared in 2010. Since then he has published more than a dozen books of poetry and fiction for children and adults. Mikhail is a member of the Writers’ Union of Russia. For his literary work, he was awarded several Russian prizes, including Nekrasov Prize and Chekhov Prize. He lives in Moscow, Russia.

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