May 01, 2008

The Tunguska X-File

June 30, 1908 

There were three of us in the chum [teepee] – my husband Ivan and I, and the old man Vasily. Suddenly someone gave our chum a hard jolt. I was startled, cried out, and woke up Ivan, and we started to climb out of the sleeping bag. Again someone gave our chum a hard jolt, and we fell onto the ground. Old man Vasily fell on top of us, as if someone had tossed him up in the air. There was noise all around, someone was making noise and banging on the ellyun [the reindeer hide covering of the chum]. Suddenly it became very light, a bright sun was shining on us and a strong wind was blowing. Then someone fired a mighty shot, as if ice was exploding the way it does in the winter on the Katanga, and a dancing Uchir [tornado] immediately swooped down and grabbed the ellyun, started to twist it and spin it and then carried it off somewhere. There was nothing left but the dyukcha [frame of the chum]. I was scared out of my wits and started to go bucho [lose consciousness]; I saw the Uchir dancing. I cried out and immediately came back to life. The Uchir dumped the entire dyukcha on me and banged up my leg with one of the poles. I crawled out from under the poles and started to cry: the chest with the dishware had been thrown out of the tent and it was lying far away, opened and with many of the cups broken. I was looking at our forest and I couldn’t see it. Many tree trunks were standing branchless, leafless. Many, many trunks were lying on the ground. Dry tree trunks, branches, and reindeer moss were burning on the ground. I looked around and saw some kind of clothing burning; I walked up and saw that it was our rabbit-fur blanket and the fur sleeping bag that Ivan and I slept in. 

A bright summer night dawned and the fire began to die out. Instead of heat we started to have cold. We decided to move toward the Katanga. All around were wonders, horrible wonders. It wasn’t our forest. I had never seen such a forest. It was some kind of alien forest – we had a thick forest, an old forest. And now in many places there was no forest at all. On the mountains, all the tree trunks were lying down, and it was light, and you could see everything off in the distance. But you couldn’t walk through the swamps at the foot of the mountains: some tree trunks were standing, some were lying, some were leaning, some had fallen on one another. Many tree trunks were burned, and the dried sticks and moss were still burning and smoking.

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