Translated by Gergana Simeonova
Grandpa Milyanko died just before he hit ninety-five. He wasn’t ill, it was just that his strength abandoned him and he died of old age. Milyanko was such a sweetheart – a hard-working and modest person. Together with his wife, he raised three boys, the boys got married, and they gifted Milyanko and his wife with six grandchildren. The grandkids kept the family tradition and themselves had ten children, and two of those even had kids of their own already, which added three great-great-grandchildren to the big family. Milyanko’s offspring was his greatest pride. He lived his life nobly and left this world as happy as anyone who is at peace with himself and who knows that he will be well spoken of. All his children came to his funeral and this made a good impression in the great beyond, where Milyanko was already traveling to. Nobody knows whom this made a good impression on, but apparently the person in question had a certain amount of influence there, so the deceased grandfather was granted something that was only given to a very few – he was awarded reincarnation. There is a great difference from one reincarnation to another – and sometimes that difference is as big as the dissimilarity between the Versailles Palace and a tiny apartment in the projects. Reincarnation may sometimes indulge you with extreme comfort, sometimes … less so. The nearly-one-century old grandfather secured the former, as he turned into a Ferris wheel.
At the very beginning he was disappointed, but soon afterwards he pulled himself together and got excited. What a kick and what luck – he would constantly be around children, which was something he loved! Maybe one of his children would visit the amusement park, or one of his great-grandchildren, or even his great-great-grandchildren. Grandfather Milyanko tried to cross himself with his fingers, but suddenly he realized it was not possible to bless or to cross yourself when you are a bodyless spirit. So, he did this in his head instead – he thanked whoever was to be thanked for this luck and took a look around. What a difference there was between the world of spirits and the human world! There were thousands of things that a regular mortal would die to see, as well as things mortals had better not see – countless colors and auras, energies and rainbows, and light, but also darkness, and some kind of tension, lurking in the edge of the visible. And everything spun endlessly. Extremely strange. When the short confusion faded, Grandpa Milyanko realized that actually it wasn’t the scenery that spun, but the Ferris he was inextricably bound up with. This made him a little disoriented but he hoped that once the spinning stopped, the dizziness would go away. As could be expected, when the mechanism of the wheel stopped, Grandpa Milyanko found himself with his head pointing downwards and was stunned. He curled up, waiting for the high blood pressure to hit him, but nothing happened. Ghosts don’t have blood pressure of any type. Amazing! The official end of neck stiffness. Unfortunately, some of his previous complaints were still there, and in the specific situation they were as follows: the creaking from his knees had found its place in the engine, that already hardly worked. And as far as his arthritis was concerned – it had gone to the spokes. A lot of questions bothered the old man – whether all this iron would torture him in cold weather, or whether the transmission would get stuck when it rains, but the old man didn’t have any answers. Cabin number four, which was covered in rust and no longer in use, was now home to the pain from his left ingrown toenail while the back pain was now housed in the upper part of the iron rim, which held the cabins. That was all.
Apart from these complaints, the newly-fledged phantom was chill and relaxed. First of all, he appeared to be the soul of the party and secondly – pop hits were played there. He didn’t know any of them, but learned them by listening, he and even started occasionally singing along: “Mommy Blew”; “Cherry Cherry Lady”, “One Whey Ticket.” When Milyanko was still alive, he had been a true admirer of authentic Bulgarian folk music and used to listen to several warped vinyl records from the 60s and 70s on his old-school record player.
Soon everyone noticed that there was a change in the Ferris wheel. Whereas it looked dejected before and moved without much enthusiasm, the grandpa’s joyful personality now made the Ferris wheel cheerful too. It started to attract more and more visitors, the revenue rose significantly, and the owners decided to refurbish it. For the old guy this was almost like surgery, similar to when he had his hip joint replaced. When the whole construction of the wheel was repainted, he felt as though he was being made-up and got embarrassed, even though the machine now looked brand new. More bonus points in the notebook up there.
Each and every one of us dreams of being reincarnated in a different body, but keeping our own mind. Everyone has imagined what we would do, redo, and undo. Milyanko was no exception. Unfortunately, his current shell didn’t give him freedom of movement, but he was used to living in deprivation, so he didn’t feel too hurt. He tried to release himself from the wheel structure and walk around, but an invisible force stopped him from moving even a millimeter away from the iron. At least he learned how to position himself in order not to be with his head downwards. In his now orthogonal position, he was able to experience the whole picturesque view of the amusement park. He observed couples who secretly made out in the corners. Mothers who chased their naughty kids; slightly drunk party people, beggars, pickpockets and cheats. He was astonished by the perpetual queue in front of the most profitable booth – the woman who predicted the future by reading barbeque meat and homemade pickles. He saw how the charlatan at the shooting range magnetized the targets or crooked the rifle barrels every day, how the owners of the bumper cars fixed the dilapidated cars, how the freak with the pony, which kids would ride during the day beat the creature when he drove it in the narrow and stinky cattle-shed. The venerable forefather was angry and wanted to stop the frauds and violence, but as we already said, he wasn’t able to move.
One marvelous circumstance about Milyanko’s new habitat was that he found friends there. You might ask “How is that? Wasn’t he a ghost?” That’s right, but what makes you think that he was the only one haunting the amusement park? It is true that most of the amusement booths and objects were inanimate and you weren’t able to talk to them, but here comes the surprise – one evening the trash bin shined with a mysterious glow that was otherwise invisible to human eye. It appeared that a Norwegian man had been reincarnated in the bin. This Scandinavian guy used to be a bar fighter when alive and due to the very rough way of getting rid of drunk guys in the bar, his punishment was to be a place for peels and leftovers. The old guy was very happy, because nights were dark and lonely, but now there was someone to bat the breeze with. But the Scandinavian guy wasn’t the only one there.
Even more curious was the reincarnation of the Albanian man, who inhabited the arrow for the air gun at the shooting range. Poor guy was constantly being shot out by the ice-cold air blast and used to say that this was the reason he suffered from arthritis in his fleshless ass.
There was a third guy, too – a Greek man was embodied in a box of modeling clay, which was to be given out as a prize. He was constantly afraid that someone would win him and this stress made him really anxious. Luckily, it was not possible to win and squeeze him, because, as we already know, owners of shooting ranges do not like to give out prizes. The condition to get the clay was to hit an almost invisible hole, which was also covered in glue so – almost zero chance to get it.
The worst situation seemed to be that of an Armenian man, who was appointed as a punching bag. It made your heart bleed for him – he was constantly beaten, hit, and pulled, which gave him neurosis and made him stutter. There wasn’t a more skittish apparition anywhere .
Generally, they all took care of their jobs during the day, and during the night they talked to each other. They spoke about events that happened when they were alive, they recalled to mind happy experiences, fortune and misfortune; long story short – they prattled during the night and time passed faster.
The amusement park moved from town to town, from village to village, from one fun fair to another. Whole families visited to have fun and to waste some money. Milyanko worked hard to reinvigorate the Ferris wheel and it soon became the children’s favorite destination. But bit by bit he felt that he was forgetting a number of things. When he was born, his wife’s name, where they used to live… His memories gradually faded and new ones came in their place. The ghost was increasingly turning into the steel corpus. His ghost brothers also became absent-minded and indifferent and their night talks were now only about what happened during the day, rather than about earlier memories.
One morning the grandfather was spinning around and smiling on the inside, because there was a young father with his two small boys in the third cabin. There was some distant resemblance between them and Milyanko’s own children and grandchildren and he was happy about it. But something wasn’t right. A sudden sharp pain cut him through what previously would have been his left toenail but now was the assembly, which held the construction. That very place was missing an important nut – it was unfastened and because of this the metal box could fall to the ground if it swirled more strongly. Тhe old man got scared, because it was windy and the wheel was swaying to the left and to the right in the air. The kids were laughing, clearly unaware of the grave danger they were in. Then the strongest blast of wind appeared and the unthinkable happened – the cabin slipped from the axis and remained hanging in the air. It’s a good thing that the father spontaneously held them closely at the spur of the moment.
He had no time to lose. Milyanko tried to speed up the engine, so the family would go down, but he didn’t manage, and the assembly slipped more and the family would fly into the abyss any moment now. Then suddenly another idea flashed across his mind. He got down to work once again, concentrated his whole energy and in front of the staring public the construction started moving again with a scary metal sound. He smashed himself instantaneously , but the movement was so smooth that none of the people riding the wheel was injured, and most importantly the father, who was holding his kids, safely jumped out of the cabin.
A big fuss followed, people who had watched the spectacle discussed it, unable to understand what had just happened. The owners bustled around the pile of metal and cursed their bad luck. The father was arguing and accused the park management of criminal negligence. The clamor and uproar were unbearable.
Only one secret participant in the event didn’t hear the turmoil. It was Grandpa Milyanko. Immediately after the family got off safely, something amazing happened to the grandpa – he stopped hearing. Just like this, as if his ears filled with vacuum and the sounds faded. Then the aches also disappeared and he was wrapped in a nice warmth.
The old man didn’t know that this accident was his final trial. The last step before the light lured him in. And it came – pretty, tempting, and inviting. The old man couldn’t take his eyes off it, because deep inside the light there was another amusement park – crisp and glowing, and his mother and father, his brother and sisters were there, smiling, waiting for him, and riding the carousels and they were happy, and they called for him. Their call was irresistible. It echoed like the sound of a thousand bells, like countless church choruses singing along. |Grandpa Milyanko split off from the Ferris wheel and flew away. He wasn’t afraid, on the contrary – he felt one with the air, the clouds, and the wind. He turned around and for the last time saw the ground from up above, and then he entered the shining and was never seen again.
He was light and colorless.