In a desert kingdom, in a city located on the borderline between the sea and the desert - let us call it OIL CITY because of its big oil refining terminals and a large and busy oil port - ...there lives and works an ancient dynasty of oil-well drillers - the BIGARTS, in the oilfields of Oil King EMERSON: greatgrandfather MICHAEL, grandfather ODID, father KIRYL. And a little boy, born to Kiryl and his Greek wife DIDO, named NIKYAS, who is the protagonist of the novel. While all the Bigarts are fanatically devoted to oil, Nikyas, the son of the Chief Engineer is indifferent to oil (or even despises it because it is the largest polluter of the earth)
His father sends Nikyas to a madrasa, a traditional school of Islamic learning, so that the boy will get to know the Muslim world. At the madrasa, Nikyas is a weak unsociable boy whom everyone ignores (except for ARMAN, the son of a Sikh and a white woman, who bullies and tortures Nikyas). The teacher (mulla) discovers the boy's hidden talents from the very beginning…
An inserted episode which is linked to the end of the novel and helps understand the structure and idea of the whole work:
In early boyhood Nikyas lost his way in the desert and got caught in a sandstorm. Having lost his camel, he took refuge in a tuft of mat grass, where he and a couple of trembling hares waited until the storm died down. Then he set off again… The sun beat fiercely upon his head, the sandy dunes stretched endlessly, and the boy set out on a hopeless journey through the desert. Young Bigart might have perished…
…bur for a solitary desert lark (thist is a true fact), who led him to the mountains, where water was found. There he met a snake catcher (and a snake priest) called MARAB, who led a secluded life in his stone cottage. The man revived young Bigart, treating his feet in his stone cottage and introducing Nikyas to his weird "congregation" - hundreds of different species of desert snakes. (Marab picked them up from the oil fields and from the desert roads, thus saving thousands of them from a certain death.) One evening, when the sun was setting and a wind was rising, Marab invited the boy into the desert and showed him something that he had never seen before - a WIND ORGAN. The "instrument" consisted of empty bottles, in various configurations, half buried in the sand at different angles… When at last the wind started blowing, Marab raised his finger to his lips and said: "L i s t e n!"
Miraculous sounds were produced one after another: the WIND ORGAN played a mystical melody to the tune of which the slender bodies of Marab's snakes moved.
At the age of fifteen Nikyas Bigart finishes primary school and continues at an English college, an institution surviving from the colonial times in the English part of the city. He is still a puny and humble young man with pimples on his face who has to endure the practical jokes and beatings of the boys (the most cruel bully is his classmate Galeb, nicknamed GOLEM, who suffers from gigantism) and the teasing of the girls. (A beautiful girl nicknamed LOURE-LAURA harrasses him). Nikyas has three faithful friends: the tortoise HELONE (on one of the school picnics the boys grill the little animal and force Nikyas to eat it), his history teacher SARAH SCHLIEMANN (40), (their relationship later turns into an original, heartbreaking romance), and EAMON, a handsome athletic figure (a champion of martial arts), and a remarkable person. (And as it soon turns out, Eamon, who is a year older than Nikyas, is the only son of Oil King Emerson). Neither Schliemann nor Eamon, who is a year ahead of him, can always protect Nikyas and thus the young man is one of the oppressed and the offended in the class ... It is clear that Nikyas is not cut out for the job of an engineer in the oil fields (which makes his father Kiryl sad), and is not a manly man (which makes his beautiful mother sad)...
At the end of the semester, the schools of Oil City organise a history quiz, which is won by the team led by Sarah Schliemann (who makes a fantastic claim that she is a relative of the famous archaeologist Schliemann). By a strange twist of fate, the wimpish Nikyas gives the best answer, and thus scores the winning point. The team is awarded a ten-day tour of ATHENS (there is a note on the noticeboard), which is sponsored by Oil King Emerson… Nikyas, who is not interested in anything, does not want to go, but his father, Kiryl, insists on his flying to GREECE. (On the plane he is subjected to the usual bullying from the boys and the sexual harassment from Loure-Laura)…
… but Schliemann intervenes (the women seem to be rivals). The plane lands in Hellinikon. A bus takes the quiz team to a small family hotel … where it turns out that Nikyas does not have a room (here as everywhere he is superfluous). The young man is allotted a corner in the junk room of the hotel. The quiz team carouses in the bar at night and they get Nikyas blind drunk and make fun of him.
During the following days the quiz team is shown around by an experienced guide: Acropolis, museums, market, a boat trip to the Cyclades… They go to a bar in the evening, build a bonfire at the seaside, etc.- Ten days in Greece fly quickly past. Before the return flight the guide organises a surprise trip into a small VILLAGE in the mountains…Here the guide reveals their destination: the CENTAUR'S CAVE, high up in the mountains.
"There might be a cave, " one of the market-goers says, "but there's no path to it."
"What happened to the path?" the guide asks.
"The landslide, it fell into a ravine," the market-goer replies.
And suddenly a voice is heard from among the crowd:
"There is a path - open to the BRAVE." (Nobody knows the man, a basket seller, who says this.)
The history teacher, who realises that this is Nikyas's chance, pushes him forward and says proudly: "He is the bravest!"
Bigart turns pale, but after a scornful burst of laughter from the quiz team he pulls himself together and, to everybody's surprise, says clearly and decisively:
They set off. The stocky PATHFINDER with his long staff striding ahead, and Nikyas, stumbling and falling after him. He walked well behind… and then his classmate, the giant Golem, came out of hiding and pushed him hard (The giant felt that he was losing control over the puny Nikyas)…Nikyas, who could hardly recover from the blow, followed the Pathfinder, crawling on all fours. They reached the path which led to the cave, but all that was left after the landslide was a narrow ledge of the cliff, so that the only way for him to walk was on his heels, pressing his back and head against the cliff.
"ON we go!" the Pathfinder ordered strictly.
A yawning chasm was seen under the ledge and even the slightest leaning forward would send the young man into the ravine below. He tore his clothes and the back of his head bled against the sharp cliffs. Moreover, the unprotected face of the young man was attacked by the hornets… Cut and with swollen eyes he fumbled onwards - WHERE TO? TO THE CAVE?
It was damp and cool, and a waterfall came splashing down from a high cliff. Without seeing anything ahead or around, the tormented Nikyas stumbled on towards the sound of the waterfall. He stretched out his bleeding hands and head under the falling water …
…when the Pathfinder cried out warningly:
"Water, " answered the tormented young man and stepped trustingly under the fall.
"I warned you, " said the Pathfinder. "You have chosen YOUR WAY!"
Nikyas Bigart was standing under the water gushing forth from the crack in the cliff - and then something quite unexpected happened: his wounds closed, the swelling was reduced, and Nikyas opened slowly his eyes to…
… a red spout streaming from a crack high up.
"Can't you see, it's blood, " the Pathfinder said. "THE CENTAUR DID NOT OBEY THE GODS AND THEY CONDEMNED HIM TO THE ETERNAL WOUND."
Nikyas Bigart, startled, looked at his body and feet and did not understand what was going on…
At the end of the road in the mountain village Sarah Schliemann and the guide are anxiously waiting for the young man and the Pathfinder. At long last they notice the Pathfinder on the path that descends from the mountains…
…and an unknown young man, of giant stature, with a thick mane of black hair flying in the wind.
"Where did you leave our Nikyas? The boy is weak and small - I am responsible for him," teacher Sarah Schliemann demands angrily.
"S a r a h-h-h!" cries the giant; pulls up the teacher's kneesocks, adjusts the hem of her skirt and whirls her and the guide around. On the way back to the village, he takes his classmate Golem aside and pays back his debt: "For the grilled tortoise and all the rest!" (He fells Golem with a single blow.)
In the evening the village is celebrating a feast in honour of DEMETER, the goddess of fertility. Sarah Schliemann is elected to play Demeter, and the beautiful Laura is chosen as her daughter Persephone. They are wreathed and then lifted on a throne with phallos-like legs. At midnight, in the middle of the feast, Nikyas, who has changed beyond recognition, feels a sudden and strange change in his consciousness…
The bonfires were dying when suddenly a powerful dark CREATURE dashed through the darkness into the crowd, pulled Demeter and Persephone from the throne - and that was all that was seen of the goddesses.
In the early morning the guide phoned the tourist police:
"A teacher, named Sarah Schliemann, and a student, called Laura from my group were kidnapped last night… Sorry, they are coming!"
Sarah, and Laura, the recent rivals, were walking arms around each other's necks over the Alpine meadow. Their clothes were torn, they were bruised and broken, but obviously happy!
(In ten months' time, at archaeological excavations, Sarah Schliemann gives birth to
sextuplets; and dies. In nine months' time Laura gives birth to quintuplets in a modern hospital of the oil company; the young mother and the babies are alive and kicking.)
The airplane carrying the quiz team lands in Oil City. children. Kiryl Bigart and his boss Erebus Emerson are at the airport. Kiryl does not at first recognise his son. (Emerson does not recognise him either.)
"What the hell is going on?" Nikyas is annoyed.
The tall and muscular young man, who has just disembarked, has a big can of sloshing liquid in his rucksack.
"What have you got in your can, young man?" Emerson asks.
"The oil of the Hellenes… I told the customs that it was wine.They asked me to drink it…", the giant says.
"And what did you do?"
"I drank of it."
"This is m y son ," Kiryl shouts joyously.
Nikyas Bigart has not only changed outwardly, the inner change is equally noticeable. To his father's great joy (the legendary oilman is to die soon), his son is now devoted to oil. Besides, he knows all the languages of the world, including some long-forgotten ancient languages. He finishes the five-year programme in two and a half years, graduating from the Institute of Petroleum Technology with distinction. As an engineer Bigart shows a brilliant mind for innovation (he invents a drilling mechanism that enables to drill oil without the oil rig. He introduces synthetic high pressure pipes that revolutionises the entire process of oil production. He strikes oil in inaccessible places…)
Nikyas Bigart purchases most of the world's oil fields and creates an Oil Empire. He controls the oil markets and influences politics. To protect his empire, he establishes the most powerful army in the world. A strongman, who possesses miraculous strength and speed of reaction (faster than the sound), he is not hit by enemy bullets or blows, and Bigart becomes the world champion in martial arts… The women find him irresistible and his love affairs resemble the centaur's love making.
Strange changes still affect Nikyas. In a mutant state, in another dimension, Nikyas does not remember later what or where he has been or what he has done…
… a chopper pilot checking the oil pipes spots a running centaur in the desert and reports what he has seen. The dispatcher advises him to see an eye doctor, or a psychiatrist."
Strange events take place: while Nikyas was doing his fieldwork in a desert in his student days, an unknown super CREATURE attacked the campsite of cotton pickers at night; and grabbing several sleeping girls disappeared in the desert…
A similar Creature assaulted the Cistercian nuns strolling in the convent garden, as well as the members of the High-Principled and Asexual Women's Association sleeping in a hotel….
To capture this monstrous Creature (dubbed Super Sex Maniac by the media) a special department is established at the Interpol. Bigart, disturbed by the serial sex offender who is still at large, finances the Interpol generously.)
The world is facing AN ENERGY CRISIS. The painful rumble of empty pipes is the evidence of this. The global crude oil reserves are gradually being exhausted. (The streets and squares of world capitals are filled with rusty stationary cars, the ports and harbours are crowded with stranded ships, the airfields full of aircraft incapable of flight…
…And then Bigart (true to his name - BIG ART) finds rich new oil fields on the Earth by means of a geological satellite and a unique Kosmozond space probe, at which stage he is conferred the title of Sir by the Christian world and the title of ghazi by the Islamic world.
We are forgetting the EMERSONS. Regrettably, the Oil King has been left in the shadow of the oil tycoon Bigart. His son Eamon (the boyhood friend and protector of the then puny Nikyas) makes his appearance at the martial arts world championships…
…As a contender for the highest title against Nikyas in the finals. Both fighters cast off their headbands onto the arena. They cannot fight. But still, a fight - which is cruel and relentless -takes place.
Nikyas receives an invitation to his friend Eamon Emerson's wedding. He is going to be married to a world-famous dancer DIDO DRUMMOND. The wedding ceremony is followed by a party to be held in the rose-decorated terrace garden, in an artificial oasis, in the palace of Erebus Emerson… Dido, whose body is covered in exotic paintings, performs a sensuous Tahitan wedding dance in the spotlight...
…suddenly a powerful Creature rushes in and takes the bride away. The alarm sounds; the jeeps and helicopters take off, the security squad goes after the robber in hot pursuit. (Eamon saddles a fast horse and gallops into the desert.) The chase is fruitless, - it seems as if the bride had been taken to heaven - and the pursuers return to the palace in the dark night.
At daybreak, the Emersons see Bigart ascending the stairs of the palace carrying the unconscious bride.
"You found her," says Eamon, who goes to meet him. "Where?"
"In the desert," is Nikyas's brief answer.
(About the women in the novel.) There are four Didos in the novel: Nikyas's greatgrandmother, grandmother, mother and his lover. In the contextual structure the centaur myth is accompanied by another myth. The mythical Dido of Tyre, later Queen of Carthage, who, abandoned by Aeneas, sacrifices herself to the unrequited love, and dies on the pyre. For the same reason all the four Didos burn themselves.
Dido Drummond loves them both: Nikyas as a man and Eamon as a friend. But seeing how the former friends turn foes, Dido disappears. The friends are suspicious of each other. Old Emerson, who had recognised the robber of the bride as Nikyas in the light of a rocket, makes a tragic mistake and confesses to his son that Nikyas is the Centaur.
"The Centaur can only be defeated in a fair fight. I will kill him," announces Eamon.
Eamon Emerson takes up serious training, challenges the prizewinners of heavyweight championships and - fights wild animals . (Note: the novel develops similarly to an action film, but is its mirror image ).
At the same time Nikyas Bigart, who has lost a strange mythical woman, exhausts himself. Trying to forget Dido, he has many love affairs, and establishes a perfect harem. To manage this harem, Bigart employes a Rumanian-born PERSONAL SECRETARY, a disabled woman. The woman tells him that she had been badly hurt in a train crash. (The disabled woman, who lacks sex appeal, suits him.) As the contract says the Personal Secretary, who is called MELANIA MOUZHES, will have to run the harem and follow his boss everywhere.
There are two signposts on Bigart's highway of life. One is acoustic: at all important events the favourite music of his father, Bach's By the Waters of Babylon sounds. The other is phantasmagorical: beginning with the funeral of Sarah Schliemann, he is accompanied by a weird weakling, with pimples on his face. Since to others the boy is invisible, Nikyas calls him his SHADOWMAN. A strange relationship develops between them: the boy warns him about big dangers to his life, advises him, sometimes even makes decisions for him… The older Bigart grows - the younger the boy gets. Bigart does not know him, and there is no one to tell him that the weakling is …
...HIS OWN BOYHOOD IMAGE.
The life of Nikyas Bigart, the oil tycoon, gradually stabilises. In addition to the Shadowman, he is always supported by his Personal Secretary, the Rumanian Melania Mouzhes. Still trying to forget Dido, Bigart marries, has a family. He expands his oil empire by opening new oil fields in the desert and in the sea. Bigart's power and influence are limitless. He determines the oil production quota levels in the world and sets the tone for political discussions; he appoints and dismisses the presidents and eliminates the troublesome oil mafia. In accordance with his father Kiryl Bigart's last wishes, he builds a huge OIL HERITAGE MUSEUM complex …
...in the desert, in the vicinity of the capital city of his oil empire. The Museum displays all ways of oil extraction since the beginning of history, starting from Titusville wooden rigs to revolutionary methods implemented by Bigart himself: drilling oil without rigs, synthetic high-pressure pipes, submarine tankers, etc.
At the opening ceremony of the World Oil Heritage Museum the so-called OIL GIANTS' BOULEVARD is also opened. On this occasion a one-thousand-strong orchestra is performing Bach's By the Waters of Babylon . The Boulevard features two rows of marble pedestals on either side for beautiful amphoras which contain PLANT PEOPLE, the miraculous offspring of modern eugenics, small and living human creatures, who, instead of feet have developed roots that are stuck in the earth. The Plant People, the great men of oil history in person - the Chinese Quin Emperor, King Mentuhotep of Egypt… "Colonel" Drake, Nobel, the Rockefellers, Heinrich Deterding…Erebus Emerson, the Bigarts : Michael, Odid, Kiryl…
On the next pedestal there is an empty amphora.
"Why aren't you there?"Emerson asks Bigart, pointing to the empty vessel.
"They can't do it…"
"The eugenics people say there's some"genetic anomaly".
"What do the modellers say?" asks Emerson.
"The dimension change," answers Bigart, unmoving, looking into the far distance.
As there was still some hope of finding her lover, the dancer, Nikyas Bigart employed an entire intelligence service. All in vain. And then the Personal Secretary offered to help him; the Rumanian Melania Mouzhes, who is silent most of the time, promised that she would help him f i n d Dido Drummond.
Eamon challenges Nikyas to fight to the death. They go to a place in the desert that they have previously agreed upon. (Three people rush to avoid the tragedy: the pimple-faced kid, Melania Mouzhes and old Emerson. But all of them, for different reasons , are late…) Having pledged friendship in their boyhood, Nikyas and Eamon try to reach reconciliation. They swear to tell each other about Dido's whereabouts... But as neither of them really knows anything about it, they blame each other for cheating. THEY FIGHT. Their blood stains the sand red. Vultures are circling overhead, shakals are lurking on the dunes in the distance.
"CENTAUR, you're going to die. Tell me where Dido is," Eamon asks in a hoarse voice.
(Emerson has trained harder and he is obviously stronger than Bigart.) A couple of more blows and Eamon will deal a fatal blow. ..
... when suddenly Eamon slips an a round object - a stone ? - and it's Nikyas who deals the fatal blow. "Helone! (tortoise in Greek)", Nikyas says tenderly, hugging the tortoise to his breast. "You saved my life." And the fighter goes down, unconscious.
In the morning when he recovers consciousness, he cannot find Eamon's body on the arena - the shakals have dragged it away. Cruel are Nature's laws in the desert.
The human heart stops, but Time does not stop... Bigart perceives the whole tragedy of his victory. His friend has perished, his lover has been lost (Dido was never found). Sorrow freezes his face and makes his heart as cold as ice. He does not seem to notice that Melania Mouzhes sympathises with him. Emerson, instead of hating the murderer of his son, treats Nikyas like a son.
Bigart abandons everything: society, women, politics, sports, he becomes numbed to his enormous wealth and his oil empire, which he has built over several decades.
Once Bigart and Emerson ran into each other in the Oil Giants' Boulevard of the World Oil Heritage Museum. Bareheaded, they walked in silence between the rows of great oilmen of the past. The Plant People (freshly watered) smiled kindly at them. Suddenly they came to a halt in front of the marble pedestal on which the empty vessel stood…
"Climb onto the pedestal", Emerson cracked a joke to start the conversation.
Unexpectedly Bigart's face turned pale and sweaty: the giant seemed to suffer a gnawing pain, a nameless disease, an aimless torture.
Emerson touched him caringly and said:
"You've got to find yourself, Nikyas, Otherwise you'll perish".
Nigart stared into the void and nodded in agreement.
He did not know from where to start. Nevertheless, he made some preparations: he appointed his replacement to rule over the oil empire, he said goodbye to his friends... Finally he fired his personal secretary:
"I've given you salary for ten more years, Melania Mouzhes. I don't need you any longer - you can go to Rumania if you please".
"Our contract is valid for two more weeks, sir."
"Then it is up to you to decide how you spend your time," said Bigart during their last meeting…
… and disappeared. In fact, he was still around; saying goodbye to the places of his childhood (sometimes he met his Shadowman) and to the places, which evoked memories of his mother Dido and his father Kiryl… Suddenly he happened to be in front of the college in the English part of the town. The schoolhouse seemed empty, although the melody of By the Waters of Babylon was clearly heard from the assembly hall… Bigart rushed up the spiral staircase - and there was an empty assembly hall with no music stands, no scores, no musicians. While trying to find his way out of the college, he passed a long corridor, recognised the classroom in which he had studied, then stopped in front of the noticeboard, and there was a freshly printed notice:
The winners of the 30 th Antiquity History Quiz.
If you wish to participate in the award trip to Greece…
(etc. the text was the same as in the past.)
It seemed as if in a brilliant flash of lightning Bigart saw everything. He knew clearly: he would have to retrace his own steps. Without a moment's hesitation he entered his name at the end of the list of the participants.
Bigart and the quiz team walk up the ramp into the airplane. Sir Erebus Emerson, the sponsor of the trip, dressed in a white suit and a carnation in his buttonhole, has come to see them off. (Emerson pretends not to see Bigart.)
The airplane takes off. In the cabin Nikyas notices a weakling boy in the window seat … holding a tortoise in his lap. The airplane lands in Greece, at the Hellinikon international airport. Everything is the same: the quiz team travels to the hotel by bus (the same small hotel, although the owners are new). This time Bigart gets a luxurious suite. But he refuses to take it, and wants to stay in the junk room (he is retracing his steps). The quiz team visits the Acropolis and the museums, they go on a voyage to the Cyclades, etc. At the end of the trip the guide announces a surprise: they are going to the CENTAUR'S CAVE. But Bigart, who stayed in the bar the night before, sleeps in and the bus departs. Bigart rushes out, spots a red dilapidated station waggon, pushes his muscular body into the seat and chases after the bus.
There is no bus. Bigart, who knows the road with surprising accuracy, stops the station waggon at a sloping cliff from where a meandering path leads up into the mountains. ( Nikyas remembered the path very well, seemed to see the footprints of a boy who had trodden it a long time ago .) However, before setting out into the mountains, he should ask if it was the RIGHT PATH. And lo! A man with a bundle of baskets on his back descends the mountains.
"The basketmaker. The PATHFINDER. The same man".
But it is not the same man, it is a stranger. Yet Bigart addresses him.
"This trail is not for men, it's the goats' path. And there's no village…" replies the basketmaker.
"There is," insists Bigart. "And a white church in the middle of the village."
"I'm not a churchgoer," the basketmaker grins.
"There was a fair in the village… and a feast afterwards," Bigart claims aggressively.
"When they have fairs, they always have feasts," the basketmaker chuckles.
"The Centaur's cave ," Bigart presents his strongest argument.
"Oh, is this an antiquity quiz?" laughs the basketmaker, and continues on his way, with baskets hanging on his back.
All the hopes to find himself were shattered; Bigart staggered to the station waggon and drove down the mountain path. But he got lost in the maze of the paths and stopped at a dead end at a rock, beside the ruins of a small white temple. He got out of the station waggon, sat on the steps of the temple and completely forgetting himself, said:
"Dido, where are you?"
"I'm here." There was an immediate response.
Raising his head slowly, Bigart saw his secretary:
"How the hell did you get here?"
"I was in the station waggon."
A tragic truth is revealed: to be able to stay close to her lover, Dido Drummond (alias Melania Mouzhes) had asked a surgeon to distort her face and body beyond recognition. The only proof of Dido's identity is the dark starlet above her right eyebrow, hidden by hair, which, although operated on three times, reappeared after each operation. It seems as if there was nothing that could separate them now; after all the trials and tribulations they have redeemed themselves and can be happy and love each other.
Bigart hugs her tenderly and alleviates the dramatism of the situation by a humorous quip:
"Dido, I'm going to fire you as my personal secretary and employ you…"
"YOU KILLED YOUR BROTHER."
Eamon. How can that be?”
"Emerson took his son away when your mother gave birth to him abroad. "
Bigart stood still, with his face turned upwards,his eyes closed.
"Nikyas, swear, " Dido begged him softly and tenderly.
"Now - whatever you want me to."
"Don't follow me!"
Bigart swears. Melania-Dido goes to the station waggon, takes a can of petrol…
… and climbs the slope of the mountain. Bigart wants to stop her, but the oath binds him, physically. In the middle of the night the human torch is burning on the mountain. A fiery flower, an eternal sacrifice to unfulfilled love.
The airplane is returning to Oil City. The quiz team, full of impressions, chat away. (The weakling pimple-faced boy, with a tortoise in his lap, is sitting in his window seat, as if he has never moved.) The athletic Bigart feels that he is cramped in his seat, the giant feels psysical and mental pain - another moment and he will go out of his head… And then Nikyas feels that somebody places a round and warm thing into his lap.
"Helone ," Nikyas is moved.
Nikyas feels the warmth of the tortoise's body slowly flow into him, his muddled brain clears and his spirit recovers. He clearly perceives that the basketmaker of yesterday was genuine: it was the PATHFINDER who had led him to the Centaur's Cave. The space expands, his spirit is freed… and Bigart falls soundly asleep in his narrow seat.
The airplane is approaching the capital of the Oil Empire. The people, among them the parents of the quiz team, who have come to meet, are excited. Farther away a white limousine has stopped; Emerson, dressed in a white suit, with a huge bouquet of flowers in his hand is waiting by it. There is an announcement from the loudspeaker that the flight from Greece will be five minutes late… At last! The airplane lands with a screeching of the brakes, the people rush forward. The quiz team is the last to disembark. The pilots and stewardesses leave the plane. The mechanics are the only ones now surrounding the plane.
Emerson is all nerves:
"Where is Bigart?"
"Don't worry, sidi, he's coming on the next flight," Emerson's driver tries to console him.
The door to the airplane opens again, and a thin grey-haired man stands at the door. He disembarks and hurries away. When the man gets closer to Emerson, the latter asks impatiently:
"One moment, please… was someone left behind on the airplane?"
The stranger stops for a moment to take a puff at the cigarette (Emerson notices that his fingertips are yellowed from smoking and that his nails are dirty).
"No, Erebus, I was the last one."
"Wh-who are you?"
"The shift engineer of the16th drilling unit. "
"Wh-where are you coming from?"
"From Greece. I was on leave."
"Okay." Emerson is ironic. "And during the whole of your holiday you never washed your hands..."
"Fuel oil with metal additives, Erebus. I can't wash my hands of it, as you can't wash yours of blood."
"What the hell? ..NIKYAS! Emerson cries out. "You have found yourself…now you can climb the pedestal.
"No, " the Passenger says and walks on.
"Wh- where are you going?" Emerson shouts and trudges on, trying to keep pace with the light-footed Passenger.
"To the oilfield, the shift is starting … The plane was late… I can't be late for the shift." Emerson tries to keep up with him, but he cannot, he stumbles, falls, crawls on all fours after the Passenger - and falls into the dust face down. Deep sobs shake his body.
(the final passage of the novel.)
If Nikyas Bigart had made it, it would have been to the 16 th unit… but this had been shut down by sir Nikyas Bigart about twenty years ago because of its poor productivity. Yet the rusty oil rigs were still standing, half buried by the sand, and around them dark pink tamarisk bushes were in blossom like reddish flames.
(The epilogue of the novel.)
A R e v e r b e r a t i o n
In the desert the snake-catcher Marab is tuning his WIND ORGAN, made of bottles half buried under the sand. There is still time before the sunset wind rises, and Marab makes use of the respite to finish his work in the stone cottage. Casting aside the flap of the door and bowing his salty-white head, Marab enters the cottage…
...and sees the strangest vision of his life:
In the shafts of the sun, which have penetrated through the flimsy stone walls, the sparkling specks of dust float (a sign that the wind has risen!). In this sparkling dust a green-eyed boy, about twelve years old, is standing - the wanderer in the desert, with injured legs, who had come from the sandstorm in the prime of his life. Marab is neither shocked nor surprised. This merely confirms his knowledge that time does not pass. What passes is our imagination of time that does not know aim or direction. At the moment he has travelled against time…
… and found this GREEN-EYED BOY!
However, the boy's legs are not hurt.
With the golden dusting of sand, the boy's image thins out; it crumbles into floating specks
...the right shoulder -the left hand -the eyes and the heart - separate from the boy and float back into the desert through the openings in the walls. At the samer time the WIND ORGAN booms, playing a tune that Marab does not understand and has never in his life heard… ( By the Waters of Babylon by Bach)
The epilogue of the novel, "A Reverberation", does not show the death of the protagonist, but his crossing over into the infinity.