Completed flow meter maintenance and calibrations - metering off my .25ppm
operations manager not concerned - fixed metering - chlorine?
Dear reader, Dear town, Dear party, Dear human, Dear devil, Dear goat, Dear God,
I do not know how to start. This is my last thought. For the love of the Almighty God, please be safe in your reading of this. Do swear to me that you are safe and warm and unharmed before you read another word. Do not stay. I fear I am cursed. It is all wretchedness.
Forgive me. I simply want nothing of this sort to happen to you. And forgive me for being in such a state before you, if you even have discovered this letter with me--on my body. And what if you are not reading this at all? What if I am only writing this to be consumed by devils? They will eat the paper. They will eat my whole notepad. Days of useless notes. Evidence. Now this letter. They will eat everything. They will eat me.
It is cold. Not bitterly. Not the frost-fanged cold I felt whaling on the Laptev Sea, sea spray and wind like fire on the skin. No. This is the slow cold. The cold that starts at the skin and digs as the sun cowers behind the mountain. It digs into the body until it flushes it with a madness. It is a madness of hoping for the terrified sun, like my skin may taste the sweetness of the yellow warmth. It's there but I can not taste it. I point my face to it like a prayer, but the devils steal it from me. I may perish from shaking or hunger before the cold gnaws the hole into me. Oh, God! Please let me pass into the blissful stupor before you send me into eternal damnation!
My name is Viktor Fedorov. I write you in English in hope that if you understand the words, you may understand my story without coming to judgment before reading. First let me tell you why I lay here dead before you. See my broken leg, that is why I am here, stuck on this rock high in these mountains. It is broken for many reasons, reasons that begin with a telephone call from Robert Popov. This man called one evening in Houston. He told me of an opportunity to help my countrymen in the old soviet southern provinces: Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan. I have old blood in these areas and felt it was my duty to assist. I am an hydraulic engineer, water treatment specialist, and water conservationist.
Water. It does not judge. It is all powerful. We live by it. We die without it. We are often destroyed by it. It is the bond, the shape of it--the hydrogen and the oxygen together like the proud family tree. The father and two sons. The structure of water is like the ancient Roman armies; each molecule shield to shield for the purpose of being itself. I do not know why water is, only that it is beautiful. Even the crystals around me. I can not help but marvel.
This Robert told me that it would be a matter of one week, tour these areas to speak with leaders and provide my expert advice. He made it clear that I would be paid one-hundred and fifty-thousand US dollars for my consultation. He told me of a new Russian-American program under a branch of the United Nations to promote cooperation for international aid. I did not confirm this. I could have retired on the money. I accepted the offer and within the hour Robert forwarded me the information for my flight booking to Almaty, Kazakhstan. I was excited to help these people, to do something that came so easily to me, making sure people had healthy water to drink, and not worry about the water flowing one day to the next. It was a lot of money.
I arrived to the airport in Almaty with no sleep. I could barely hold my bag from fatigue. There was a man in a brown suit and mustache that covered his upper lip. He held a sign with my name. I do not know if it was the time without sleep, the uneven lighting, or the strong smell of frankincense and oranges, but the man was like constipation. This is not to say he looked like a man constipated, but an embodiment of constipation. His shoulders, they were high, tight, and uneven. His torso was hard and contorted like that of frozen waste ejected from a high altitude. As I approached he nodded to me and the sign, his brown eyes under wild brows confirming I am his relief. I followed the man out into the darkness of the car lot. I was still thinking and watching the man, he walked like a man that never learned to walk, but I did not notice that there were no lights. Almaty is a city of repute and the international airport is unlike any other. But it was dark, and it was difficult to know where I was.
He drove me through the brilliant streets of Almaty to Hotel Kazakhstan. Warm yellow street lamps over clean black roads. Tall white-plastered buildings that reflected onto those glossy roads. It was all bright and shimmering, light floating on night-water.
I cannot even begin to describe the lavishness of Hotel Kazakhstan. It was monumental and old. It felt like my father's father's bones. I felt I had made the right choice when I laid in such an enveloping bed that night. Oh, how comfortable I was! Oh, how warm I was! I slept until my door opened and a different man, a quite normal looking man wearing a shiny tuxedo let himself in. He informed me that my party requested me in the lobby. "Sir," he said, "they say that they will be leaving in thirty minutes, and to take your time, and to not rush, and," he pulled out a card from his back pocket, "Welcome to Kazakhstan. We are pleased to have your expertise in the mission." The tuxedoed man bowed a little, pulled open the curtains and left. I could not even say thank you before. I was not even awake then, but I was blinded. Those curtains swayed back and forth, twelve feet from the ceiling, thick cotton fabric, purple with golden threading and golden tassels scraping the wooden floor. Maybe the sleep, or simply the beauty of the hypnotic motion of the curtain's sway kept my eyes from the blinding window. I saw the mountains. Oh, the mountains! I could hate them now, but who could not love them from that place and that time. I was warm, and comfortable, and could see them as an ideal. They climbed so high into the sky, with white peaks blending into the clouds. They are the mark of purity. Angelic crystals, touched only by God. They were the reason I wanted to come, I had told myself. I loved the money. And here I am dying from what I lied I wanted and loving what I lied. It is a thing to be deserved. My desire was too powerful that not even the mountains could stop me, and so I dressed and met the party.
They were five men. Two I swear were twins. They wore matching blue jeans, black shirts, and black boots, and had faces that had never smiled and never ate a full meal. One man, mostly bald with blond hair warming his ears, wore a tight vest on his fat body and laughed too much. He said to call him Bog.
"Vik, nice to meet you." He shook my hand. It was cool, wet, and weak. "This is Z and W," he said, pointing to the other two men. Z talked of his sister getting pregnant and the man that did so leaving her. He wanted to kill him, and showed me his gun tucked in his pants. W did not speak, but pulled his long sleeve up to show me the tattoo of an elephant standing on a ball.
"We will head to the border and check one of the water treatment plants there," Bog said. "It is a long drive. You should try and get some sleep."
"Oh, no thank you. I would much like to see the mountains as we travel."
"I insist, Vik. We want you to be in good order when we arrive." He handed me a pill. "It will help you feel well and rest."
"What is it?"
"Dramamine with Aspirin."
I took it, I hate vomiting on the turns in the mountains. I can never ask for a break to pull off the road because I love the mountains. I know it is the pride. I took it, and saw the mountains as we drove from the city and had dreams of the mountains and beautiful flowing waters.
I woke with Z holding something near my face. What it was I do not know, but it was unpleasant. Smelled of cleaning. Bog laughed. I was awake but felt tired still. I sat in a room, a small office of a sort. There was a low, loud murmur and vibration in the place, and a console with monitors on one wall.
"We need to know what the proper quantity is for chlorinating the water."
"I thought I was to speak with the leaders. The local engineers. Someone local here. What town is this?"
"We have already spoken with them. We need to know how much chlorine is safe to drink, but will clean the water quickly." Bog pulled a red cloth from his vest and wiped his head.
"That is not how it works. Where are we?" The Aspirin did not work.
"Just tell us." Bog and Z sat at the little table with me with papers and charts laid out.
"Four parts per million is the highest for human safety," I said. "Everyone working water knows this." Z left the room. The twins left with him as he passed the door.
"Thank you, Vik." Bog neatly folded his red kerchief. "The machines here are broken."
"What is wrong? I can fix them." My head was still buzzing. And if the machines were broken why was the facility so loud?
"No time for that now. I need you to go with W outside to help the others measure the chlorine and mix it into the water supply."
I could hear the single-stage centrifugal pumps running at around two-thousand rotations per minute. That's close to six-thousand gallons per minute cycled through if the pump is in good order. But it was louder, so probably more. Maybe three pumps.
"Is it the valve exchange module? We must fix it before we calibrate."
"It's a different system. I'll show you after."
I don't know if it was my head or the buzz, or the money that made me stand. Oh, God, but I did it! I stood and went to them by their large plastic tanks hovering next to the adding pool. It is like an American backyard pool, a square boring thing with concrete around it. But this had pipes and tanks instead of chairs and happy children. The water looked like it was boiling. Everything looked to be working. Maybe the output. Maybe the distributor lines.
"It is ready!" Z yelled over the churning waters.
"No! It cannot be. I need many measurements. I need to know the water supply. We cannot add the chlorine before I can calculate the volume needed."
"Measurements have been done already."
"What? Then why am I here?" Chlorine fumes wafted from the murky plastic tanks.
"You must add the chlorine. Specialist must do it for terms to satisfy UN," Z said. I was standing next to him now.
"I need to see how the chlorine reacts with the water. The organic and inorganic materials as well as metals. I must test the free chlorine after the reactions to determine the level of disinfection and adjust the levels. It is a process. It takes time."
"We do not have time. We must travel to many places."
"What is the problem!" Bog yelled on approach.
"I can not do this," I said.
"Vik, you must. These are our old countrymen and they need our help. Do you not think we care for them?"
"No, of course. It is not that. I am simply used to a certain procedure."
"And you must be. But here we do not need to have such procedures. People, they are suffering and we need to help them. This is a large population and the water is extensive. Add the chlorine and we will move on."
"Where are we?"
"Vik, add the chlorine and let us move on. I will tell you. We're running behind. You slept too much and we had to work slowly without you."
I did it. I felt bad. Unprofessional. How did I fall asleep so hard with Dramamine?
I walked to each of the three tanks and turned the valves. The chlorine flowed out evenly down from the tanks through small tubes like at a death hospital. Almost like water, but it was not water. I watched the chlorine empty from the tanks into the open pool. The tubes were yellowish and old with cracks that let the chlorine seep onto the concrete. My head was worse with the chlorine vapors that escaped with the liquid. It is a burning sensation in the lungs that hits the head like white phosphorous. As the last drips fell into the pool, the twins came and urged me back out to the large van with the others.
"Welcome to the team," Bog said.
"I don't understand."
"The people here," Bog said, "they hate you. Now they will want to kill you."
Z pulled out his hand sized pistol and said to me, "Safety, off. Shoot. Bang. Bang."
It was then that I realized that I was not in the southern borderlands. I did not know where I was, but I was farther south, and I had just condemned an unknown number of innocent Afghanis. I tell you, it was a colder, more damning feeling than how I feel now waiting for death to take me.
It took me some time to piece together their motivations as we drove to another water treatment plant. I do not think I will ever know how they managed their operations and why there was no one at the last treatment plant. I do know why I was there. I am the American on the dossier. The hole in the trust between nations. I am another bullet point on a deskman's list to why we should not be trusted. W showed me a Polaroid with my name on it. It was me turning the valves. They have a deep hate for Afghanistan. The war is still alive in them.
I do not know for certain, but I believe the twins were Chechen, possibly W as well. The others I am not sure. Bog especially. Such a fat man is not hard to find in these places, but to be fat, and have money, and with blond hair. He may not even be Russian. I am not fat. And I do not mean that to boast. I wish that I were, that I could last longer without food, maybe escape this death, or maybe if I was not small they would have not chosen me and I would not be here writing to you in my water-data notepad from this frozen rock. But that is not the situation. Maybe in this, my life will have some further meaning beyond that of schooling and naivety, beyond poisoning populations by the means I wished to save whole peoples. This life is a joke.
Why me? Why must I have been chosen for this insidiousness? I fear it was my love for water. That I answer the phone. That I want to help. I want money.
Apologies. Let me continue. We arrived to the next treatment plant. I assure you, I had no intention of complying with them. I was to now show my loyalty. I did not know what was to come either way. I feigned a stomach sickness before we entered the gate of the treatment plant. Like before there was no personnel present. It is still strange how they managed to know when it was empty, or I fear they cleared them out. It was not possible for this area to be informed of the chlorine poisoning this soon. People would not die that soon. And the communications were not always reliable, I hoped. I found a small hill to climb over.
"Ready to kill more, my friend?" Z said following me.
I pretended to vomit. Z stood next to me and turned away.
"When we are done with this, I will kill the man who did shame to my sister." He unzipped his pants and a stream of yellow splattered into the dust.
I vomited. The tan and yellow insulted everything that water was to be. I heaved and heaved into the dirt. It was not enough water. It was not much. I needed to drink, but wouldn't let myself. I then saw the rock in my bile. And by what courage struck me then, I do not know. Like never before in the life of a waterman, I stood and turned with such force and slammed the rock into the side of Z's head. I fell with the effort. He fell half holding himself. Yellow dribbled onto his pants and blood ran from his head. I turned him as urine still escaped from his body, pooling in the dirt. I took his gun. Safety off. Shoot. Bang. Bang. I ran.
I could not hide here, the people, when they found out, they would kill me just the same. I ran between the squat buildings on the skirts of the town to get lost in the maze of them. Beyond the town, nearer to me than through the taller buildings, stood the rising mountains. It was stupid of me to think of them as the path to safety, but it was the only way away from danger. Maybe I thought it was North, or maybe into Pakistan. The truth is that I did not know where I was. The early winter sun plays tricks and I am never good with knowing my way. The mountains were still far away on the other side of the city.
I ran, stumbling and falling at times into the town's rocky paths. I flew past narrow doors and human faces that had too much sun and not enough warmth. A man stood silent and examined his broken cart axle without moving. Children kicked balls without smiling. A goat blocked my path at every turn. Brown. Black. Grey. Some with longer hair. Some with short. They were devils. A people owned by goats. Owned by devils. I hated them, the devils. The people were silent, as if afraid of the devils, or afraid to speak under the mountains. I could hear only my hurried stumbling and the devils crying.
Oh, God have mercy on me! I thought it was one of them. One of the five murderers. A man stepped into my way from around a corner and yelled at me. I did not understand. He pulled out something from his side. I shot him. In the face, I shot him. It was a small hole, just under the eye by the nose. His body fell back and to the side and did not stop moving. It was a stick that he held, for the goats, there were many of them between the buildings here. There were pieces of his skull and brains on the devils and on the wall. It smelled like freshly salted iron. It gleamed in the light like the only thing alive in the place. I tried to not shake. I could not move. The devils ate the chunks of brain off of the ground and off of each other. God help me!
"Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me." I said to the man. I was kneeling by him with the bloody devils all around. The back of his head was gone and it was empty inside. The devils tried to chew at it. I dropped the gun and ran. I ran so hard to the mountains.
I do not know how they did not find me, the murderers, or the town. Maybe they found each other. I could not hear if they did. I did not hear a gun battle. I ran hard against the wind and my heart beat filled my ears with constant ringing. I ran for hours until I collapsed in a grove of birch trees. They were tall and white and flaking away like snake's skin. I slept here in the cold, the first time in the cold. I did not sleep long. And I hated when I woke.
I found a goat path and followed it up higher into the mountains until there were no more birch trees. Stupid of me to go higher without supplies, I know this. I did not know if they would find me and I knew I wanted to get further.
The sun is starting to set. It is getting colder. I must hurry tell you now.
I followed this path for many days. It is the truth. I survived the cold night without food. I piled dirt and needles and bark over me each night and made a bed of the needles and bark to keep the frozen ground from freezing me. I did not learn this until the second night. I learned I could eat the small gray worms when I dug. I dug more, but the ground it cold. The first night was endless with much pain. The cold ate at me and I could think only of the devils eating the man's empty head, and the numberless people now dying, blood slowing boiling and melting their tissues, the blood pouring out of them like diarrhea. They may never know what kills them.
On the fourth day I saw a devil with large horns on a high rock. He was majestic, evil, and stupid. I watched him jump from the rock to another and then another. I watched him jump and fall, and fail. He became trapped in the rocks. And I thought I would not die. I thought that this devil would be my salvation. I would go to him and kill him with a rock and eat him with my teeth and live another night in my hole.
I climbed over to him with a large rock. He was unhurt, there was no blood. But the devil cried. And those devil eyes. They looked at me with horror. I could feel it in me. I slammed the rock down on the devil's head. It cracked loud. His long black hair shook, but nothing happened. He did not bleed, he did not move. The devil cried and looked at me. I hit him again. And nothing again. I cried, "Oh, God! Must I save this devil that cannot be killed?" It was clear to me that this devil was here for me to decide. I grabbed tight the horns and pulled up. His body freed from the tight spot and he kicked wildly and threw his devil horns at me. They missed and the devil jumped away. But I lost my balance and fell. I fell to where I lay and heard the snap of my leg. That is how I am here.
I have no wife. I have no kids. My family does not care for me and I do not really know them. I had a friend, but his wife had died and I never comforted him. This story is for you to know and for me to know. We know how I am here. Why did I come to be in this place? I will discover that in hell. Please burn my body.
I can see the stars now. They are warm. Orion is hunting
devils. Devils. Orion's nebula. There was a man once
who says he saw the nebula in the sky of day. His wife died. He was my friend.
It is hot. Thank you Almighty God. I will leave this note in my jacket. God it is hot!
The mountains are beautiful in the stars. They are singing. It is sweet. I think I will go walk to cool and sing with them
sing with me
keep your eyes up
do not look down