Dream Tales and Prose Poems/Poems in Prose/The End of the World. A Dream.

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I fancied I was somewhere in Russia, in the wilds, in a simple country house.

The room big and low pitched with three windows; the walls whitewashed; no furniture. Before the house a barren plain; gradually sloping downwards, it stretches into the distance; a grey monotonous sky hangs over it, like the canopy of a bed.

I am not alone; there are some ten persons in the room with me. All quite plain people, simply dressed. They walk up and down in silence, as it were stealthily. They avoid one another, and yet are continually looking anxiously at one another.

Not one knows why he has come into this house and what people there are with him. On all the faces uneasiness and despondency . . . all in turn approach the windows and look about intently as though expecting something from without.

Then again they fall to wandering up and down. Among us is a small-sized boy; from time to time he whimpers in the same thin voice, 'Father, I'm frightened!' My heart turns sick at his whimper, and I too begin to be afraid . . . of what? I don't know myself. Only I feel, there is coming nearer and nearer a great, great calamity.

The boy keeps on and on with his wail. Oh, to escape from here! How stifling! How weary! how heavy. . . . But escape is impossible.

That sky is like a shroud. And no wind. . . . Is the air dead or what?

All at once the boy runs up to the window and shrieks in the same piteous voice, 'Look! look! the earth has fallen away!'

'How? fallen away?' Yes; just now there was a plain before the house, and now it stands on a fearful height ! The horizon has sunk, has gone down, and from the very house drops an almost overhanging, as it were scooped-out, black precipice.

We all crowded to the window. . . . Horror froze our hearts. 'Here it is . . . here it is!' whispers one next me.

And behold, along the whole far boundary of the earth, something began to stir, some sort of small, roundish hillocks began heaving and failing.

'It is the sea!' the thought flashed on us all at the same instant. 'It will swallow us all up directly. . . . Only how can it grow and rise upwards? To this precipice?'

And yet, it grows, grows enormously. . . . Already there are not separate hillocks heaving in the distance. . . . One continuous, monstrous wave embraces the whole circle of the horizon. It is swooping, swooping, down upon us! In an icy hurricane it flies, swirling in the darkness of hell. Everything shuddered—and there, in this flying mass—was the crash of thunder, the iron wail of thousands of throats. . . .

Ah! what a roaring and moaning! It was the earth howling for terror. . . .

The end of it! the end of all!

The child whimpered once more. . . . I tried to clutch at my companions, but already we were all crushed, buried, drowned, swept away by that pitch-black, icy, thundering wave!

Darkness . . . darkness everlasting!

Scarcely breathing, I awoke.

March 1878.