Coloured Snow

Dr. Juan Moisés De La Serna
Coloured Snow

Coloured

Snow

Juan Moisés de la Serna

Translated by Aline Nicolai

Editorial Tektime

2020

"Coloured Snow"

Written by Juan Moisés de la Serna

Translated by Aline Nicolai

1st edition: november 2020

© Juan Moisés de la Serna, 2020

© Tektime Editions, 2020

All rights reserved

Distributed by Tektime

https://www.traduzionelibri.it

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Preface

Finally the time to end an intense day of work, full of annoyances has arrived. An actual marathon to complete my part in the gearbox that is the company in which I work, a company where it is impossible to stop without damaging the rest.

I was collecting some papers from my office when I heard the familiar sound that the computer makes when I receive a new email. At those hours, I usually don’t check them as I prefer to be fresh when I see them, and today had been an exhausting day. I’ll see it tomorrow when I come back. Generally, I don’t read them until the next morning, I don’t even do it at home with the intention of separating my professional and personal life.

Dedicated to my parents

Table of Contents

Preface

Chapter 1. The strange image

Chapter 2: The start of the search

Chapter 3: Born again

Chapter 4: Someone wants to speak to you

Chapter 5: The child thief

Chapter 6: The return home

Chapter 1. The strange image

Finally the time to end an intense day of work, full of annoyances has arrived. An actual marathon to complete my part in the gearbox that is the company in which I work, a company where it is impossible to stop without damaging the rest.

I was collecting some papers from my office when I heard the familiar sound that the computer makes when I receive a new email. At those hours, I usually don’t check them as I prefer to be fresh when I see them, and today had been an exhausting day. I’ll see it tomorrow when I come back. Generally, I don’t read them until the next morning, I don’t even do it at home with the intention of separating my professional and personal life.

“Work is work and home…” is another thing, it is something that I had taken a long time to learn, after having overcome an exhausting sickness that is very frequent nowadays: an addiction to work.

That which had been my refuge for many years, even more when my interpersonal relationships didn’t work out the way I wanted or hoped.

This thing which could have been something negative because of the effort that it demanded, was compensated both economically and through the recognition from my colleagues.

I thought myself cured of it, even more so since I had started this job, a small magazine, well placed at the national level, but with no possibility of development.

It had refined my anxiety and my competitive spirit quite a bit, and I had managed to come to terms with the actual opportunities that I had in my life. But still, curiosity held its sway over me.

This auditory signal indicating a new email had disrupted my resolve and went as far as making me anxious to open it.

When I did, surprisingly, I saw a strange photo. It was a picture with varying colors, or more of a…, I didn’t know very well what it was. On a white background I could distinguish the colors yellow and blue without actually being able to tell what I was looking at.

I looked at who sent it to me in the hopes of discovering something more about this image, and to my surprise it was from a friend from work, with whom I had had passing affections without it leading to anything serious.

I knew that she had worked in multiple television companies and that she had specialised in climate news. She didn’t just give weather forecasts but also sometimes went to the scene of the news, she had been in zones with hurricanes, storms, tornados and many other meteorological phenomena that were large or rare enough to make the news.

I went back to look at the picture, some white lines, it had to be a photograph, but it was so strange. Suddenly I realised that it must be snow or at least it appeared to be.

It must have been a hill covered in snow because you could see small mounds that rose up at the bottom and at the top of the colors.

Was it colored snow? What a strange thing! Maybe the file was damaged or it had been corrupted during the transfer.

But where was my friend? The bottom of the photograph had the date and time, the day was correct but the time was not.

Maybe she had taken the photo a few hours ago and had just sent it to me, I didn’t know, but I continued to wonder, where could she be?

Determined to resolve this question, I went towards the IT department with the idea of asking for help to localise the origin of this message.

After one of the managers had explained to me that every message that was sent left a trail and that, using the right software, it was possible to discover through what countries the message had travelled from its origin until it reached me, he set himself to the task of finding it out and in under two minutes, he told me that the server number from which the message had been sent had a code that was from a program of Russian origin.

“Russia?”, I wondered, surprised by this information. I knew that my friend travelled a lot but so far? What had drawn her to go over there? What was she doing? And what did this bizarre photograph have to do with all of this?

It was a very weird way to get back in contact with someone after two decades.

Life is like that, if we don’t nurture a friendship every day, it will go out like the flame of a candle, and it will continue fading until you forget the names of your best friends and the only thing that is left is a few albums filled with photos of people that if you met again, would surprise you with how much they have changed.

It had already happened to me on a few occasions, to meet someone again after a while and they were nothing like what I remembered.

It might be that the passage of time changed my memories, leaving only the good ones, forgetting the aspects that I disliked about the person. Or that the person had changed with the passage of time, and that the person that I met after a period without contact did not resemble the person that I had known.

Maybe the same had happened to me with this friend but still, why would she have sent me a message and with such a strange photograph?

If I didn’t know her well, i would have thought that she had made a mistake but I knew that she didn’t like bothering people and that she didn’t know how to ask for help when she needed it either, she only left notes or pictures hinting at what she wanted or needed.

I still remember fondly of the time when she left a review of wedding dresses on my study notes when I went to the toilet and when I came back to my study material in the library I found it there.

At first I was a little bewildered and then I saw her smiling in the distance, waiting for my reaction. It was a little childish for my taste but it was very clear and precise.

It was certain that that photo was meant to communicate something or as a call for help, but I was not able to understand the message, especially considering that observing it showed nothing more than a pile of color streaked snow. Maybe that was it! The color must be of importance.

After thanking the IT manager for his help, I returned to my work space and began an internet search to see if it brought up anything about snow, colors and Russia.

To my surprise, I found multiple articles that referred to strange atmospheric phenomena, yellow or blue snow, and the explanation that these colors occurred because of a high concentration of ferrous materials and other metals in the clouds.

In Western Siberia, it rained colored snow, most of it was yellow but hues of orange and blue could also be seen. All of this snow fell in an area 100 km long and 1 km wide, affecting around 30,000 inhabitants. Furthermore, this snow was viscous and let off a bad smell.

According to ecologist groups mentioned in these journal articles, this could be caused because of a malfunction in a refinery or chemical fertilizer factory that had let substances seep out into the environment and “stain” the clouds.

Other than the fact that this was bizarre, I couldn’t see how this could have provided reason enough for her to have gone there herself, it was nothing more than a spectacle like fireworks were, pretty, but that was it.

 

What was clear was that she was in Russia when she had sent me this message and everything revolved around this coloured snow.

I understood a little better now what all this was about but I still didn’t comprehend what I was supposed to do, wait for her call, go find her? If she had at least left me a phone number to contact her, I could have asked her.

As I was doing this, a friend called me and said, “Look there, at the TV.” And to my surprise it was a piece of news about Russia where you could see a river where there were thousands of dead fish.

This wouldn’t have had too big an importance in such a country where environmental care was not a priority except that these were pictures of the Neva river as it passed through Saint Petersburg and that they had been taken by some tourists.

At first I didn’t pay it too much attention, it is something that happens everyday even in countries that are more industrialised, where factories dump contaminated substances that destroy all aquatic life into rivers by mistake and then these rivers dilute the substances, reducing the environmental impact while at the same time extending it to far away regions. These images of Saint Petersburg were surely referring to areas of high levelled contamination in the river, hence the concentration of dead fish.

Well all of this began to seem like a puzzle, two pieces of news about Russia in the same day, and both about harmful effects on the environment, I didn’t know if this was enough to launch a journalist investigation so I went to my superior and remarked on the situation, emphasising the opportunity to provide a new story and the large media interest in news brought from the scene where events were happening.

He was reluctant at first, because he didn’t see what the relationship could be between the two events, even more so when the distance between the two locations was so large, but I insisted and the only thing that I got was a mere half a page that I had to complete in one week. And what could I do in one week? If I didn’t know anyone in Russia, who could I turn to?

Work was fine, I was sure that with the little information that I already had collected I would be able to write that half a page without problems. But what was more important for me was that I had used it as an excuse to have time to search for my friend.

I returned to my office and continued to search on the internet, trying to see what I could find out about her life since we had separated. In this way I could ascertain that she had hopped from job to job, and that she had started giving classes in a university, that was her last known employment. Her in a university, I couldn’t believe it!

She was anti establishment, at every little snag she said that she was only working to pay the bills but that she didn’t believe in how society was functioning, and look at where she had ended up, indoctrinating new generations, molding them so that they became good citizens.

Once I had made this discovery, I called the university and asked about this professor, my friend.

“Hello, good morning. How are you?”

“Good, thank you. How may I help you?”

“I am trying to locate a professor that teaches here.”

“Alright, who is it?”

“Her name is Magui Robtson.”

“Please wait a minute. Yes, she doesn’t have any lessons this semester. What is the reason for your call?”

“I am trying to locate her, I’m an old friend.”

“Well I’ll see if she’s in her office, wait a minute,” and she played one of those tranquil, almost hypnotising musics and after a moment she told me, “I didn’t find here in the office but I will put you in touch with her thesis supervisor, wait a moment.”

Thesis supervisor! Well, it was better than nothing, at least I would begin to know what she was pursuing.

“Good morning, tell me,” said a gruff voice at the other end of the phone.

“Good morning, I’m looking for Magui Robtson. Do you know where I can find her?”

“Of course, in Antartica. She’s doing an investigation in the south pole.

“She’s not in Russia?” I asked, confused.

“No, in Antartica. Apparently, the frost came early and they’ve been isolated for months. Nothing to worry yourself about, they have food and food to spare and they’re well sheltered.”

This was extremely bizarre to me. Nevertheless, I thanked him and hung up.

If she was in Antarctica, why had she sent me a picture of Siberia from Russia? It didn’t make sense! Something didn’t match.

All of this was making me uneasy so I looked up information about this thesis supervisor and the projects that he was working on, and at the moment he was investigating climate change and the melting of the poles. A study that had no relationship with any work my friend had done until now, as a weatherwoman.

Well, it could be that by curiosity or by some chance of destiny she had ended up with something that she didn’t want, or she was looking for some new information.

What was clear is that she must have changed a lot since I knew her because she now seemed to be a woman molded into society that was pursuing academic goals.

Despite all the doubts that I had, I was sure that I wanted to know what had happened to my friend. Even though it had been a long time since I had heard from her, for some reason that I couldn’t understand she had come back into my life and at the very least, I wanted to find out how she was.

Her thesis supervisor must have known that answer, they spent a lot of time together in addition to having similar concerns and interests, but I was still not convinced about this fact concerning her whereabouts.

The alternative was that someone in Russia had discovered the password of my friend’s account and had sent me this picture without anything more than an artistic interest, but this explanation seemed too unreasonable to be possible.

I knew that sooner or later I would have to head to Russia, I was so convinced by it that I didn’t think about it more and instead focused on finding plane tickets; they all stopped either in Frankfurt or Vienna. Still, I felt preoccupied, “Sure I could go, but once there what should I start with? I mean, I was talking about the largest country in the world.”

There were two clear options for me, go to the location where the picture must have been taken, or go to Saint Petersburg. Both would lead me to where there was information which I could then use to obtain funding for the magazine in order to do a report.

I decided to begin with the most accessible, Saint Petersburg. So I finalized my ticket to Moscow and from there, I would take a domestic flight of two hours.

Another matter that I had to resolve was how to communicate. Even though I would have liked to know a lot of languages, Russian was not on the list of the ones I understood.

As such, I wrote an email to a local newspaper to see if they could provide me with a translator, something that I would need during my stay, thinking that, since we were in the same sector, they would provide me with all the help I needed.

I already had everything ready, I had even obtained a list of Russian words and had written down how they sounded so as to facilitate my journey between Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

In this short space of time during which I would certainly have to change terminals, I would have to pass the security checks quickly and for all of that, I needed to at least be able to say hello and thank you.

Despite my rush, I had to wait three days to be able to get this plane that was taking me on a search almost as pointless as one to get back a lost love. Maybe I was motivated by the feeling of mystery that surrounded the whole affair. Be that as it may, I couldn’t sleep much as I thought of all the obstacles that I would have to confront in a country where I wouldn’t be able to understand a single word and would therefore be fully reliant on the help of the locals.

Finally the day arrived, I was seated in a plane headed for Moscow and my hands began sweating just at the thought of meeting her again. A lot of time had passed but I nevertheless felt that there was still a deep and sincere feeling within me ready to come out.

I still couldn’t remember why we had broken up since we had been so good together, maybe because we were young and we had preferred to follow our own lives, more preoccupied with finding our place in work and in society than with fulfilling one in our hearts.

Maybe if the circumstances had been different, we would now be married, and I am sure we would be happy.

Maybe she wouldn’t have finished her studies, or she wouldn’t have reached the heights that she seemed to have reached since I last heard from her.

As I was thinking of her, my heart was beating faster and faster and my mind was filled with memories of my first love.

It was true that I had gone out with other girls before her, but those had been fuelled more by a youthful desire to know and discover than by a real feeling of love.

Everything was very quick between us, it felt like we had been made for each other: we had similar interests, ways of speaking and thinking and we even studied together.

What was at first a friendship turned into something more until we began to almost depend on each other, we couldn’t spend two minutes without thinking of each other.

All of that was a beautiful stage of my life, one to which I hadn’t returned as I had a principle in my life to look to the future so as to not waste time pondering about whether I had done things right or wrong, or whether a different decision would have changed the result.

This had sometimes brought me unpleasant consequences as I sometimes repeated the same mistake that I had committed in the past, having not learnt from its consequences as I had not dedicated any time to reconsider and recapitulate the events that had taken place.

In reality, I didn’t know why, but looking at the past saddened me, maybe because of the huge number of good times that I had had, but also because of the people that had shaped part of my life and with who I could not share the present because they had either, like my friend, been untraceable for years or because they had died.

It was surprising for me to find myself feeling these sensations that take over your whole body, almost as if it was chilly, or as it happens when you drink a cold drink after continuous exercise, but it was a pleasurable experience in the end.

I felt nervous, as if I was fifteen again, as if it was the first time I was going to pick a girl up at her house. I felt all of it with such an intensity that I surprised myself to see me so nervous.

How would my friend be? The last time I had seen her in person she had been at the end of her teenage years, and in the pictures of her that I had seen on the internet, she didn’t look anything like that; her hair was a different colour, and she was using contacts.

I had to look closely to be able to appreciate these features that I had fallen in love with in my youth. I had come to learn every centimeter of her face and now, it seemed so changed.

Maybe it was a result of the passage of time, maybe of experiences, the good and the bad moments of life leave a mark on our face, or so a social psychologist had once told me.

According to him, looking at a person’s face, you could tell what had happened to them in life, if it had treated them well or not, if they had suffered or laughed a lot, as, he told me, when we use a muscle frequently, it becomes more developed.

By our face and our expression, he could tell what muscles were the ones that we used the most and according to that, determine if we had spent more time being happy or sad.

Perhaps I had let myself be carried away with my imagination that had been meant to anticipate my meeting with her, a meeting that I wasn’t even sure would happen. Well once in Saint Petersburg I didn’t have a clear idea of where to go, maybe the best would be to go directly to see her.

She was in the Western Siberian region according to where the photograph with the strange colours had been sent from, but it would be so complicated and fruitless to try and find her, like finding a needle in a haystack. The extent of land was so large that it would take me more than a month to cover all of it, and of course, that was supposing that she was still there and hadn’t moved from that region.

 

The first thing that I had to do when I landed was to ensure that she had entered the country. It was a difficult task but I supposed that the embassy could help me, since they had to keep a register of the citizens that entered.

The other possibility would be to ask the Russian government but with what authority could I do that, simply because I had the itch to locate an old friend? I didn’t think that that would suffice.

According to her thesis supervisor she was supposed to be in Antartica, but I didn’t understand how she had got out from there and, even more intriguing, why had she sent me that photo?

Perhaps these were too many questions so I decided to focus on what I was certain of: a contaminated river with thousands of dead fish, and coloured snow. Maybe these were isolated incidents but I at least knew where to begin my search.

My director had asked me for an article and the first thing that I had to do was to complete it, and later, taking advantage of being in the country, I would begin my own research.

A few pictures of each of these places and statements from people living in the zone would be sufficient to complete the official information. Information which had been vague enough, claiming that the two cases were caused by malfunctions in a chemical plant that had spilled contaminating substances into the river and into the atmosphere.

This was a fight that had brought many groups to protest in industrialized countries given the high level of contaminants that had initially been thrown into the environment.

Protocols now existed in these countries both to recycle these residues so as to minimize the environmental impact as well as to detect leaks and put in place vaccination or evacuation plans for the nearby populations.

I felt sympathetic to those groups that complained when something didn’t function as it should, as far as security and protection measures went. Although it seemed to me that in some respects they abused their power, damaging the industry and stopping progress.

It was difficult to maintain a balance between what was demanded and progress.

Personally, I wanted to give this article more of a humanitarian focus, although I was open to hearing everyone that wanted to give their opinions, including the ecologist groups. But for me, I was more interested in how the common man, the citizens with whom the readers could identify, the ones that worked from dawn to dusk, and the ones that kept accounts to get to the end of the month, had lived this.

Looking through the window, I saw a large white patch, it wasn’t a bank of clouds like the one we had travelled through a while back but the wide plains of Russia. Admiring the landscape, I realised that I still didn’t have an idea of what I would do if the newspaper with which I had gotten in contact with did not provide me with a translator, but those were problems that I would solve as they came up.

Upon my arrival in Moscow, everything went smoothly, despite the heavy armed vigilance in the airport and despite me having to identify myself a few times, there were no major problems in boarding my next flight to Saint Petersburg.

The change in graphic characters with which all the signs were written caused me a lot of agony to understand how everything functioned.

But after asking some tourists that had looked like they understood English, I managed to reach the information office and there, they informed me from what hall and at what time my flight would depart.

After almost two hours of waiting between my two flights, I reached the airport. Since it was late and despite having set up a meeting with a person from the newspaper, I didn’t think that anyone would come at such an hour. However, to my surprise, after having collected my suitcases and directing myself towards the exit, I was met with a sign that a young person was carrying. She was a girl with very black hair and a very pale complexion, creating a great contrast.

There were probably other people carrying signs for lost tourists like me and some of them even referred to travel agencies.

I approached her and identified myself, intending to use gestures to indicate that I was the person on the sign, but to my surprise she responded,

“I speak your language perfectly, that is why they sent me to pick you up. I will be your guide during your brief stay.”

“Who said it was brief?”, I asked, both astonished and annoyed.

“They told me that it would be a visit of two or at the most three days. That is how foreign journalists like to do it, they come, see the news and then return to their countries to publish it.”

“Well yes, that is the idea, but I also want to look for a friend.”

“I don’t know anything about a friend,” she told me, puzzled.

“ I didn’t tell the newspaper everything. You see, I’m searching for a friend that has disappeared.”

“Well if it’s like that, the newspaper must know her last position.”

“She doesn’t work for any newspaper, she was conducting an investigation in Antarctica.”

“I don’t understand anything, you will have to explain everything to me if you want me to help you,” she told me as we walked towards the exit with my suitcases.

Leaving behind the wall of taxis, we went into the car park where, after walking by multiple rows of cars, she said,

“This is my car. Leave the suitcases on the backseat, the trunk is occupied.”

I did so, sat down in the navigator’s seat, and we left the international airport of Pulkovo in direction of the city.

Although it wasn’t late, it was barely six o’clock, it seemed to be late at night. Maybe it was because of the time difference or maybe because of the hours of flying, but I was already quite tired, despite the hour.

“I took the liberty of cancelling your hotel reservation.”

“You did what?” I asked, surprised.

“You see, I have a rent to pay and that money would do me a lot of good. With the amount you earn in one day, I could pay half of my month’s rent. My apartment is big and clean, I’m asking you this as a favor, colleague to colleague.”

“I don’t know, this seems a little strange.”

“If you are here for a while, you will realise that we are good people, despite the reputation that we have in the west.

Although we also have a lot of shortages despite having a large economy, the wealth is concentrated with just a few and it is very difficult to maintain an acceptable mode of live. Many have two or even three jobs.

Right now, I’m studying and working at the newspaper, but because that doesn’t give me enough to live I also take on other types of work such as tourist guide since I know multiple languages.”

“I’m surprised by what you’re telling me, I thought this country that so many people fear was better off.”

“Yes it is, but it depends who you’re talking about; government employees receive very good salaries but as for the rest, we have to earn our bread little by little.”

After a moment of reflection, I told her,

“Alright, but with one condition, you will accompany me and will act as my translator as long as I need, whether it be three days or a month.”

She looked at me with very wide eyes and amazed, asked me,

“You will pay me a month in hotel fees? That would be millions here.”

“Well, no. The newspaper has given me a week maximum, that is all I will be able to pay you,” I said, remembering my conversation with my boss.

“Deal,” she said, extending her hand for me to shake.

“One more thing,” I said, before shaking her hand.

“Didn’t you say just one condition?” she asked me, surprised.

“I will pay the gas fees for this car as well,” I said with a slight smile.

“You’re the one who’s paying, you know,” she said, returning my gesture with a wink.

I didn’t really understand this gesture but it seemed like I was finally beginning to have some clarity in this world of uncertainty; I had found a translator and she would be my driver and tourist guide for as long as I needed.

I supposed that for her this was very advantageous, economically speaking, but for me, meeting her had been a total relief.

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