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Andrei Platonov

Inhabitant of the State

An aged man liked transportation to the same extent as co-operative enterprises and the perspectives of future construction. In the morning he would take a bite at yesterday's tidbits and would go out to observe and to enjoy. At first he would visit the railway station, mostly platforms for storage of incoming freights, and there he felt joy at the accumulation of goods. The steam locomotive snuffled with its thick, peaceful force and slowly pulled off carloads of public substances: bottles of sulphuric acid, mounds of ropes, institutional luggage, and unmarked bags with something useful. The aged man, by the name Pyotr Yevseyevich Veretennikov, was glad that his city was being supplied, and would go to the cargo delivery platform to see whether the trains were leaving for the far ends of the Republic, where people worked and waited for the cargo. The springs of the departing trains were tightly compressed: they were carrying so much of the required weight. This also was satisfying to Pyotr Yevseyevich — the people over there, for whom the goods were intended, will be provided for.

Not far from the station a settlement of dwellings was being built. Pyotr Yevseyevich daily followed the growth of the constructions because thousands of working families will be sheltered under their warm roofs, and the world will become happier and more honest after their settlement. Pyotr Yevseyevich would leave the construction field deeply touched by the sight of labour and material. All this prepared substance would soon, through the diligence of comradely labour, become a sturdy coziness from the harm of the weather during fall and winter, for the very contents of the State, in the form of its population, to be whole and tranquil.

Farther on Pyotr Yevseyevich's way was a smallish forest already used by the rural public. The wood was only marginally enriched by standing pines which were however a little worn down. In a dividing trough in that forest an earth surveyor was sleeping; he was not yet old but weary, perhaps from earth management. His mouth had opened itself in sleepy lassitude, and a live, disturbing smell of resinous pines entered the depth of the surveyor's body and made him healthier there, so that the body was again capable of managing the wheat ploughmen's earth. The man rested and was being filled with the happiness of shared repose; his tools, the theodolite and the measuring tape, lay on the ground and were being hurriedly examined by ants and a dry spider that always lived individually due to its stinginess. Pyotr Yevseyevich tore some grass out of its accumulation in the trough, shaped that grass into a soft pulp of sorts and put it underneath the sleeping head of the earth surveyor, bothering him gently to attain comfort. The surveyor did not awake; he only moaned something like a plaintive orphan and sunk again into sleep. However, it was already better for him to rest on a soft grass. He would sleep tighter and survey the earth more accurately — with this feeling of useful participation Pyotr Yevseyevich went on to his next activities.

The forest ceased quickly, and the earth under the trees became trenchy furrows and yet undivided lots of rye ploughland. Ordinary villages lived behind the rye, and above them was air from the frightening space, — Pyotr Yevseyevich considered air a good thing also, since from it breathing was delivered to the entire area of the State. Windless days bothered him however; the peasants have nothing to grind with, and the infected air stays over the city, whereby the sanitary condition is worsened. But Pyotr Yevseyevich bore his anxiety not as a suffering but as a concerned necessity which occupies the entire soul by its meaning and thereby makes the burden of one's own life imperceptible. At the moment, Pyotr Yevseyevich was a little worried for a locomotive that was hauling up some rough freights with sharp, stifled wisps of steam which reached at Pyotr Yevseyevich's tense feelings. Pyotr Yevseyevich stopped and with a helpful compassion imagined the ordeal of a machine pushing the stagnation of sedimentary weight forward and uphill.

«If only nothing bursts in the couplings,» Pyotr Yevseyevich whispered, grinding his teeth between the itching gums. «And if only there is enough fire, it has to burn the water! Let it be patient, it's not far until the end now…»

The locomotive slithered up slope with screeching rims but did not give in to the cars that stuck to the rails. Suddenly the locomotive started giving out frequent and worried honking, asking for the way through. Apparently the semaphore was closed and the engine-driver was afraid that he would not be able to start the train up the slope after a stop.

«Oh my God, and what is going on!» Pyotr Yevseyevich exclaimed and, smitten with sorrow, energetically set out to the station in order to examine the accident.

The locomotive gave three whistles, meaning stop, while Pyotr Yevseyevich found a total calmness reign at the station. He sat down in the third class waiting hall and began to torment himself: «Where is the State?» he thought. «Where can its automatic order be found?»

«Shchepotko!» the agent on duty shouted to the train marshall. «Let the fifty-first through to the eighth. Make a remark to the mechanic and to the head that we are full with transit. Did you dispose of the tanks there?»

«Yes, sir!» answered Shchepotko. «Do not accept any more, I have no place to put it. We need to finish with the fifty-first.»

«Now it's quite understandable,» Pyotr Yevseyevich calmed down. «The State is here because the concern is here. We only need to tell the population to exist quieter, or else the machines would burst under its demands.»

With a satisfied distress, Pyotr Yevseyevich left the railroad juncture to visit a nearby village named Koz'ma.

In that Koz'ma village there lived twenty-four homesteads. The huts were built on the slopes of a functional ravine and have suffered this condition for seventy years. Beside the ravine, the village suffered from thirst; due to thirst people ate poorly and did not procreate properly. There was no fresh and quenching water in Koz'ma: there was a small pond amidst the village, at the bottom of the ravine, but this pond was hedged by a dam made from manure, while the water flew there from under the dwellings and places of farming necessity. All manure and the dead remnants of human life were washed down to the hollow of the pond and were settled into a yellowish-brown viscous soup that could not serve as a quenching liquid. During the common epidemics among citizens, namely cholera, typhus or a poor wheat harvest due to the local soil containing few of the bountiful good, the people of Koz'ma would lie down on warm stoves and came to their end, gazing at flies and cockroaches with their eyes. In the old times, they say, Koz'ma had almost a hundred homesteads, but now there are no traces of the past thickness of population. Vegetative shrubbery covered the spots previously populated by the now desolate villas, and there were neither ashes nor brick or limestone spots under that shrubbery. Pyotr Yevseyevich had already dug through that place, for he did not believe that the State could shrink; he felt the multiplying strength of order and sociality, everywhere he observed the automatic growth of the State-born happiness.

The peasants who lived in Koz'ma respected Pyotr Yevseyevich for giving them hope and correctly deemed that the whole Republic should know their need of drinking water, while Pyotr Yevseyevich would support them in that opinion:

«You will be provided with drinking,» he would promise. «It's the State after all. The justice occurs automatically, not to mention drinking water! It is not any kind of dermal disease, is it? No, it is an internal affair: each citizen needs water as much as the mind!»

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