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Acid Christ's Autobiography


A.C.
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Aaaages ago, back in the ERE, the first three chapters of Acid Christ's autobiography were serialised. After chatting with Colin last night I decided to post them here.

 

**********

 

 

Acid Christ: You've got to laugh, haven't you?

 

Chapter 1

 

I was born Igor Vasily Konstantin Mikulchik on the twenty-fifth day of February in the year 1948, In the district of Kirovskiy situated on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Finland, in the city now known as St Petersburg, to Klavdiya and Vasily Mikulchik. I was a sickly child, born more than three weeks prematurely and this being the Communist Soviet Union, my parents had to trust to luck rather than the medical system.

 

I don't remember much from birth until around the age of ten. I believe I was educated well, but by whom I'm unable to say. I do remember that in the Kirovsky district the winds blowing in from the Gulf of Finland to the west were the iciest I've encountered in all my long years. At ten years old I was already working, as a newspaper boy. I would stand on that corner from dawn until dusk, waving the current issue of Pravda at people to poor to buy it, too downtrodden to care for its contents.

 

The job did bring a wage, however, and every rouble counted for my family. My mother, Klavdiya (always shortened to Klava), worked in the textile mill, across the river to the North. As I recollect, her days were longer even than mine. She would usually be up at least an hour before my father and me. Always, our tattered clothes were laid out ready for when we finally rose from our beds. The clothes were seamed and darned but always clean, Klava being a very proud woman. As I said, she'd always be up before my father and me, but she'd never be home before I'd gone to bed. When I think of it now, it seems I always stayed awake, waiting for the slotted wooded door to clatter open with the wind and announce her arrival home, before I'd be able to sleep.

 

My mothers hours of work did mean that I spent a good deal more of my time with my father, Vasily, or Vasya. He was a mountain of a man; handsome, as I recall, with the deepest, darkest brown eyes you ever saw. He eyes would twinkle when he regarded you but that was, at least half of the time, down to drink. My father worked for what became known as the KGB. Having seen James Bond and various other spy films since I came to the West, I'm aware of an enormous gulf between the usual view of secret agents and the reality. My father wasn't a spy in the traditional sense: he never once foiled a plot to assassinate Khrushchev, nor were there any moonlit-chases across rooftops with counter-agents. My father's branch of the service was that of internal security which boiled down to the infiltration of native dissidents. The feeling in 50s Russia, much like 50s America, was one of paranoia and my father's job was a by-product of that.

 

I would return home in the middle of the evening and my father would be sat in the tired bentwood chair, rocking back and forth slightly, a miasmic fog of vodka rising around him. As I entered he'd look up and a grin would split his face. He'd rise to greet me and wrap me up in his bear-like arms.

 

"Igor my boy! How was your day?"

 

He'd set me down in the chair opposite his and give me a glass of water with a drop of vodka before seating himself and asking me about what I'd seen that day.

 

"Not much father, it was very cold, people just rushed by," I'd usually say, for it was generally the truth.

 

Unfortunately, the paranoia I've mentioned ran strongly through my father and, as the vodka coursed through his veins and his weathered brown face became ruddier he would become exasperated at my lack of activity.

 

"Nothing? You saw nothing? You stand all day in the Nevsky prospect and yet you see nothing?"

 

Now, even though I knew that no good would come of it I would sometimes elaborate. Sometimes truthfully, other times not.

 

"Nothing at all. Just people marching like tin soldiers. I did smell a woman though," I offered.

 

"Smell? How do you mean, smell?"

 

"I mean she smelled different, better, than most women,"

 

"And?"

 

"And... what?"

 

Did you follow her? What did she look like? Wait! let me get my pencil and book!" and he would bluster into his room to fetch said implements. When he returned he would become more and more dismayed at my answers.

 

"You don't now what she looked like. You don't know which direction she went in. You don't even know what colour her coat was!" and he would rise from the bentwood chair, unfasten his belt and raise his arm in fury.

 

Many was the night I wept, laying on my front so as not to put pressure on the welts across my back and legs. I would hear my mother enter the house and, hearing my father's deep-throated rumble of a snore from the next room, I'd rise silently to welcome her home.

 

I can still see her care-worn face trying to smile as silent tears coursed down her face; unable to embrace her only son for fear of hurting his injuries even more.

 

***

 

It was one of those very evenings, in 1962. She was bathing my wounds with swabs made from rags, murmuring to herself, "My poor dear Igor, what has he done to my sweet little Kostya?" when my father, unheard, burst into the kitchen.

 

My mother rose rapidly, her hand on her breast in surprise.

 

"Vasya, you startled me, how was work?" she cried in a quavering voice.

 

"Artur," he growled.

 

"Artur? Who is Artur?" she replied, her fear rising, mine at its peak already.

 

"Artur Rassnur!" he bellowed and punctuated the statement with a clubbing blow across her beautiful face.

 

She collapsed immediately, silently, as he strode from the room. I fell to her side crying "Mother, mother!"

 

She didn't speak to me but in a series of quiet yelps came my fathers name "Vasya, Vasya, Vasya"

 

Her cheek and temple became purple and misshapen before my eyes and she bade me with a horrible, contorted smile, "Go to bed boy,".

 

I left her on the kitchen floor, disgusted with myself for not being able to stop this from happening; disgusted with my father for his cruelty; disgusted with my mother for sharing a bed with him that night.

 

***

 

Two days later she was gone.

 

I arose at six in the morning to find my father in his chair, the bottle of vodka close at hand.

 

"Where's mother?" I asked, a feeling of lurching horror making its presence felt in my stomach.

 

My father looked at me with hooded eyes blazing with contempt.

 

"She is gone, she was conspiring against the party, and now she is gone."

 

"Gone where?" I cried, my fourteen year old vocal chords producing a strangely booming voice in my anger.

 

"Just... gone." He replied with a hideous leer.

 

I walked towards him and he knew my intentions so rose to his feet, bottle in hand.

 

***

 

I will not permit anymore of my childhood in Leningrad. Suffice to say, I left that very day, parentless, penniless and wanted.

 

I never found out who Artur Rassnur was. He could have been a conspirator against the Communist party with my mother. Both could have been guilty of nothing more than an affair. I prefer to cling to the idea that it was all a figment of my father's paranoia and it led him to have her taken away by the secret service. I hope she died swiftly, I can't bear to think of her lovely hands ruined at hard labour in the northern wastes with the other political prisoners, her face, no longer purple and swollen, but pitted and grimy. Better to remember her smile in the mornings as she laid out my clothes, or with the present of an apple and a ruffling of my hair told me more than she ever put into words.

 

***

 

As I say, that morning I left.

 

With nothing but a bundle of clothes and blankets, half a loaf of dark bread and a knife, I walked east.

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Chapter 2

 

Walking east, sleeping in the lee of hills, hiding from people on the road. This is how I spent the next few weeks. I made fairly slow going, stealing into barns at night and twisting the necks of chickens, milking cows in the moonlight, just to live.

 

I finally reached Volgograd, about three hundred miles east of my birthplace. I came to Naberezhnaya ark, nestled on the river Volga, and looked at the buildings there. A dilapidated Concert Hall and a cluster of buildings: Volga Port. I decided I ought to stop in this town and rest a while. The uppers of my shoes coming away from the soles and my midnight food expeditions hadn't provided a particularly good sustenance and I was looking somewhat emaciated.

 

I headed up Alleya Geroev and found the central park. Here, I removed my clothing, and bathed in the fountain. I dressed and, slicking down my wet hair in a more presentable image, I went back to the port.

 

***

 

I sat in the waiting room of the local shipping franchise and stared at the posters pinned to the peeling walls. The communist propaganda was well known to me but, for the first time in my life, I began to feel it was a little off the mark. The images all spoke of a fine, upstanding nation of brothers and sisters, always ready to lend a hand and-

 

"Mikulchok?"

 

I started out of my revery, "Mikulchik,"

 

"Come in, come in,"

 

The speaker was a short, fat, harrassed-looking individual named Vogel. He was one of the hundreds of intermediate managers at the port.

 

"Mikulchik, Igor Mikulchik... What do you want?"

 

"Work," I answered.

 

"Work? What can you do, boy?"

 

I disliked the intonation but I ignored it, "Anything you'd like, sir,"

 

Vogel appeared to appreciate the honorific because he offered me a post. It was a nameless position because "General Dogsbody" just isn't the sort of thing you'd like to tell someone if they asked your job title. So, I spent the next few weeks running around the yards and buildings of the port. Every evening I'd stop at a shop on Ulista Volodarskogo to purchase a stick of bread and some cheese: half for dinner, half for breakfast. And every night I'd go to sleep in one of the shipping buildings, my shoes under my head, my coat spread over me.

 

***

 

It was after about five weeks, a monday afternoon around 3 o' clock, when the passanger boat came in. This was nothing new, Volgograd was one of the main regional administrations in the Soviet Union at the time, and I was used to seeing stuffy dignitaries and their entourages coming and going.

 

This was different, though. I was wheeling a crate of something-or-other (I was usually told very little about the work I did or the errands I ran) and whistling when I saw her and stood, transfixed. She was young, fifteen or sixteen (I was only fourteen at the time though) and quite the most beautiful thing I ever saw. She wore a white dress and hat and carried herself with such a haughty attitude that one would think her a princess or something. Our eyes met, for only a moment and from a distance of at least thirty yards, but something was communicated. As suddenly as it had happened she had turned and was gone.

 

I stood a while longer until one of the yard-men cuffed me a round the ear and bawled at me to get on with work. But all through the day I couldn't get this young beauty out of my mind. I decided she must be the daughter of a very high-up member of the Party and therefore would be staying at one of the hotels on the Ulista Mira, near the administration centre.

 

At six I had assured myself that I ought to go and find her so I collected my pay from Vogel and made my way hurridly up the Alleya Gereov, pusing past the packs of men heading home from their days work at the port, to the Ulista Mira. I spent a couple of hours wandering up and down, peering through the windows of the restaurents there in an effort to catch sight of her, but to no avail.

 

In the end, I gave up and decided to head back to the port. It was too late to think about going to the shop to buy dinner, and my funds wouldn't stretch to the cost of a restaurent, so I went the long way round, in an attempt to tire myself out and, therefore, forget about my empty stomach. This meant I came to the port from the opposite direction than usual and had to pass the Concert Hall. I was doing so, my head down, when my ears caught the sound of a gorgeous voice issuing from one of the windows of the Hall. It had to be her. I looked around me and saw a tree with an easily climbable configuration of branches. Once I'd gained my vantage point I cast my eyes around, looking for the window from whih the sound came. I cast my eys around and looked straight into hers, not ten feet away.

 

She stopped singing with a yelp but her face soo softened and she leant out of the window.

 

"You're the boy at the port, yes?" she called out.

 

"Yes! I am Igor!" I shouted and, with a horrible, youthful naivity, continued, "And you are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen!"

 

She smiled and pushed her chin down to her chest, coquettishly.

 

"I am Yelizaveta, Liza! I sing for the company!"

 

I glanced down and saw the billboard naming her amongst the rest of the troupe.

 

"We're here for a week, giving a concert!"

 

"Alas, I cannot afford to come see you sing my sweet!" God! I cringe at the way I spoke to her!

 

"Why not come to my room and I shall sing for you?"

 

I didn't need telling twice. I reached up and took hold of a branch that reached almost to her window. I manouvered, hand-over-hand, close enough to her window to swing myself through it. I collided with her and we tumbled to the floor.

 

"Ouch!" she cried out, but I could only laugh and giggle.

 

I helped her up and, regaining my compsure, I apologised and kissed her hand. "Sing for me,"

 

***

 

She sang and the rest may not be said in a book aimed at all ages. Let's just say I was a young starter and did myself proud.

 

As we lay there in our post-coital cocoon, the sheets of her bed rucked around us she began to sing again, in a quiet whispering voice:

 

"The cattails whispered, the trees wagged their branches

And the night was gloomy and dark.

But two lovers walked together until morning

 

Why are you crying, my love -

He asked her noticing the tears on her cheeks.

'Maybe you don't love me anymore?

 

Oh my darling I love you very much

And I cry because I don't want to part with you,

Because I feel that I can't live without you.

 

The cattails whispered, the trees wagged their branches

And the night was gloomy and dark.

But two lovers walked together until morning."

 

Not quite until morning, unfortunately. As soon as the song was over the door burst open and a tall gentleman in shirt and tails strode in.

 

"Liza, darling, are you dressed for the performance yet?"

 

He froze as he saw us laying on the bed and I made my move. I dived for the window and jumped for the branch. I almost made it, too...

 

***

 

I awoke in Vogel's office in the port. What on earth was I doing here? I tried to move but my head throbbed madly and I thought better of it.

 

Then I heard Vogel's voice, "So you fall, naked, out of the sky and land in front of my horse! My boy, you're lucky to be alive!"

 

"What happened?"

 

"I was hoping you'd tell me, Igor..."

 

I told him all I could remember, about seeing the girl, Liza, at the port, lookin for her, finding her, sharing her bed, and my daring moonlight flit.

 

By the end of it Vogel was rocking back and forth on his chair, slap his thigh and roaring with laughter.

 

"My boy! You're now a man! Come, have a drink!"

 

He gave me a large glass of vodka and I sat up slowly to drink it.

 

"It will help your head too!" and he continued to laugh.

 

"Won't there be trouble?" I asked.

 

"There would have been, had you been seen by anyone else. I saw you fall in front of my horse and immediately assumed there was trouble, so I threw you into the cart and came back here at the gallop,"

 

"So what were you doing there?"

 

Vogel's eyes became shifty, "A little errand..." He smiled to himself.

 

"Yes? What was it?" I felt Vogel was in a playful mood and wanted to goad what I could out of him, plus the vodka was quickly going to my head.

 

"Well," he said, "Did you see the sign? 'Yelizaveta and Liza, mother and daughter singing sensation'"

 

"Um, yes?" In truth, I hadn't noticed that.

 

"It turns out that Yelizaveta the elder has a similar itch to her daughter,"

 

"Her mother?"

 

"And you, her daughter! What a pair of ticks we are! Scratching the itches of only the finest of ladies!" He roared with laughter again and I joined him.

 

***

 

We caroused until very late in the night, discussing our adventures and I awoke to make a great discovery: that of the now-legendary "hangover".

Edited by A.C.
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Chapter 3

 

My days in Volgograd were apparently numbered. Word was out that one of the leading lights of the entertainment community had been "Defiled" by a mere peasant. Vogel allowed me to keep a low profile by giving me work that allowed me to stay within the bounds of the warehouses and offices of the port. It turned out that instead of performing for two or three weeks and moving on to the next town or city, the company of performers had decided to stay on. This meant my internment in the port extended from weeks to months.

 

After four or five months of this existence - waking hours spent within a couple of square miles of dock-land; nights spent sleeping in the offices or stealing out into the town with collars up and cloth hat down - I felt like I needed to move on.

 

I explained my position to Vogel and, to his credit, he seemed to understand.

 

"You are, what, fourteen?" he asked.

 

"Fifteen in a couple of months!" I replied, it being the end of November 1962.

 

"Old enough, old enough," he said, nodding. I remember he looked a lot wiser and prouder than the short, fat man I originally saw, "Where will you go?" he asked.

 

And, all of a sudden, I remembered just why I was moving east. The relative happiness of my life in the docks had scabbed over the memory of my last day in St Petersburg but Vogel's question had torn the scab away.

 

"I... I don't know." I realised how much of a fool I'd been, parading in the open (apart from the last couple of months) as if I had not care in the world!

 

Vogel was looking at me, his shining eyes staring through his bushy eyebrows, "I think... a boat trip would be in order for you my boy. Something, how should I put this? Something inconspicuous my be in order?"

 

I don't know how much Vogel knew, probably a lot less than I thought at the time, but he was undoubtedly aware that I was running.

 

***

 

It's probably worth explaining that at that time the Volgograd (and the river Volga) was not the tourist attraction that it's nowadays become. Getting aboard a boat heading east is not a matter of picking up a package deal at the travel agent. Water-borne travel for one of the lower classes such as myself was generally on freight ships and, while they sailed through our busy port frequently, travel was dependant on whether you could work your passage or sneak aboard. Vogel, knowing not the exact details of my predicament, but knowing enough, took care of the arrangements for me, but these took more than a while.

 

His first thought was that I should be stowed away in a container secretly, but the perils at the other end of my journey made us discard that option early. In the end, it was decided that he would recommend me to one of his more favoured Captains the next time he passed through. Unfortunately, this would not be for a fair while, as water travel was not something that ran on strict timetables in 60s Eastern Europe.

 

So, finding myself with a few weeks to wait, and learning that my more localised notoriety had subsided, I ventured into the town more often during the evenings. Wandering carelessly one evening, I found myself outside the Concert Hall where first I'd heard Liza's voice. I glanced up at the sign at saw that it read "The Wonderful Voice of Yelizaveta". I made to walk on but stopped as I realised what it was I read. Where before the marquee had advertised "Yelizaveta and Liza", my Liza's name was nowhere to be seen!

 

Pulling my hat low I stepped up to the doors, peering inside through the dark glass. At that very moment the doors burst open, knocking onto my behind more through surprise than impetus, and Yelizaveta and her entourage bustled through.

 

Forgetting myself I shouted out "Yelizaveta! Yelizaveta!" but was ignored. So I cried Liza!"

 

The group stopped and Yelizaveta turned her imperious gaze upon me, "What was that?"

 

"Where is Liza?" I asked.

 

"Liza? What Liza is this?"

 

"Your daughter!" said I.

 

She glared at me for a moment before her face broke into a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes, "She's... gone."

 

"Where?" My voice held steady as did my gaze.

 

"Oh, around," said Yelizaveta carelessly with a wave of the hand and another of her smiles.

 

With this, she turned and her entourage followed, leaving me stood on the steps of the concert hall, staring after her.

 

***

 

It turned out the wait for Vogel's favourite Captain was even longer than he had expected. It totalled a wait of five and a half months until he came into port. I was lounging in Vogel's office when he brought Captain Tarasov in from the chill winter air. Tarasov had, I still believe, the biggest and hardest hand I ever laid eyes upon. His face was rose-cheeked with the winds of the Caspian Sea.

 

I jumped to me feet and was introduced as, "Ilya Savin, a very worthy lad in my employ whom I think it would find it beneficial to work on the waters for a while,"

 

This was, it seems, an old dance between the two.

 

"Savin? Do you have any papers?"

 

I shook my head.

 

"Hmm? Speak up lad!"

 

"No sir," I replied.

 

"Good."

 

And that was my interview.

 

***

 

So it was, three days later on the first of December 1962, I was taking my last turn around the town of Volgograd, bidding goodbye to shopkeepers of the Ulista Volodarskogo, the tramps of the central park, and most of all the Concert Hall.

 

The marquee at the hall no longer advertised "The Wonderful Voice of Yelizaveta". I gazed, unseeing, at the building. I was suddenly aware of a presence at my elbow. It was one of the young girls that lurked, grimy faced, in the alleyways of Volgograd.

 

 

"A little change, sir?" she asked in a cracked and low voice.

 

"I'm sorry, no," I replied.

 

"For the baby?"

 

She opened her filthy shawl and I saw my mother's eyes staring out at me from a face no more than a month or two old.

 

I looked up at the girl.

 

"For the baby?" she repeated and fell into a cough fit. She was doubled over and I snagged the baby from her hands as she clawed at the mouth and chest. The fit went on for a minute or two but my eyes and ears and mind were fixed on the child in my arms.

 

When her coughing had subsided I looked again at the girl and saw a little blood on her bottom lip - tuberculosis.

 

"For the baby?" her voice was barely a croaking whisper and her blood-shot eyes were filling with tears.

 

I quickly pushed the baby back into her arms and reached into my pocket. I pulled out a handful of roubles, many of which fell to the floor.

 

"For the baby," I said.

 

I turned and ran in the opposite direction as the coughing girl bent to pick up the money.

 

***

 

I didn't stop running until I reached the docks and the boat "Sovaka" (literally "Dog") bound for Shevchenko (now called "Aqtau") in Kazakhstan. My meagre possessions were already on board and I said my goodbyes and thank-yous to Vogel (who had given me a new set of clothes and a little extra money).

 

We were set to travel south east down the Vogel and across the northern part of the Caspian Sea. In a short time I would be free of the Soviet Union, free of my history. I felt in my pocket for my money and remembered it tinkling onto the street at the feet of the coughing girl.

 

I remembered a song:

 

"The cattails whispered, the trees wagged their branches

And the night was gloomy and dark.

But two lovers walked together until morning

 

Why are you crying, my love -

He asked her noticing the tears on her cheeks.

'Maybe you don't love me anymore?

 

Oh my darling I love you very much

And I cry because I don't want to part with you,

Because I feel that I can't live without you.

 

The cattails whispered, the trees wagged their branches

And the night was gloomy and dark.

But two lovers walked together until morning."

 

The words took on a strange prescience...

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