Daily Archives: January 3, 2020

The Long Night, Chapter One

This is a little scary for me, but here goes. Last year I wrote a story for http://www.nanowrimo.org and this year I want to edit it. The thing is I have no particular talent and no training for writing fiction. So, the scary part is exposing my attempts to my nonexistent readers. I’m going to do it a little bit at a time. Please please feel free to make suggestions. In my opinion, this first bit is kind of flat, but that’s okay. If I don’t jump in, I’ll never jump in. I’ll improve it later.

Copyright, all rights reserved, 2020

Greetings.  I have wanted to write a story set in Norilsk, and now I have.  It is a very rough first draft.  I would like to know if you finished it and, if so, what you think of the setting and whether the story is worth editing and revising.  Please be honest.

Things that need to be done to the rough draft, in no particular order:

Research:  the % of minerals that come from Norilsk Nickel, hierarchy in Russian police force, use of mercury street lights, laws about gun ownership, nature of permafrost, juvenile delinquency regulations in Russia, use of search warrants in Russia,

Also, must attend to: Last names where needed, Punctuation and formatting of quotations, Time line – events in sequence, in reasonable amount of time, editing for word choice, grammer, flow

 Author’s Note

Norilsk is a real city.  It is located in Siberia and is the northernmost city of more than 100,000 people in the world.  It was founded as a gulag for prisoners, but is now inhabited by 170,000 people who live their voluntarily. The reason for its existence is the presence of nickel and other minerals.  The main industry is Norilsk Nickel, a vast mine that is the source of XX percent of the world’s nickel and other minerals. 

Pollution.  Minerals are mined and smelted in Norilsk and the resultant pollution is reduces life expectancy significantly, to approximately 50 to 55.  Workers are entitled to full retirement at 45, and no plants or trees grow for miles around due to the pollution.  However, in recent years, Norilsk Nickel has taken steps to remedy this.

Weather:  It snows 270 days of the year.  In winter there are about 45 days when the sun never rises, and in the summer 8 weeks when the sun never sets.  For several months the temperature is below zero.  In the brief summer it may go up to 40 or 50.

Ravelry is an actual website, where over 8,000,000 knitters post on hundreds of forums and record their yarny exploits. 

What is not necessarily true:  everything else. I hereby state the customary disclaimer that the people are all imaginary and not intended to bear any resemblance to anyone living or dead. 

But it goes farther than that. I made all this up.  Norilsk is what is called a closed city.  In order to visit, one needs government permission, presumably because of the strategic significance of the mining that takes place there.  Because it’s a closed city, there are few tourists and no published guides. Also, there are no roads or passenger trains to Norilsk.  There is a freight train that goes further north, but people must arrive by air.  This makes it difficult to get an accurate picture of daily life, sights to see, customs, views, local habits and festivals, favorite foods, social patterns, living arrangements, hobbies, and so on. 

I resolved the problem of obtaining accurate information about daily life in Norilsk by making it all up. I have no idea if any of the description of life in Norilsk bears the slightest resemblance to reality.

Chapter One: Introduction

        Our story opens on December 4 in Norilsk, Siberia, in the Russian Federation. Several days earlier, the sun had risen and set for the last time for the next six weeks.  At the moment our heroine, Roza, was in an orange grove, with bees buzzing near her head. Of course, Roza had never been in an orange grove or seen a bee, but such is the magic of dreams. The bees continued buzzing loudly until Roza awoke to realize that she had forgotten to turn off her alarm. That remedied, she slept for 2 more hours.

When she woke again, Roza reached for her laptop and checked a few sites, then closed its battered top and tucked it between her mattress and the bed board.  Standing, she twisted and stretched from side to side with her arms raised overhead before moving to a window.  Although the sky outside was a deep bluish grey, she could see across the courtyard to several other five story concrete apartment buildings that mirrored her own.  Harsh street lamps illuminated the few people who were outside in the gathering darkness. It was 2:00 in the afternoon.

Even during the 45 days a year when the sun does not rise in Norilsk, there are brief periods of twilight – civil, nautical, and astronomical. Civil twilight is defined as the time when the sun is no more than 6 degrees below the horizon and daily activities can be conducted without artificial light.  Nautical twilight occurs when the sun is between 6 and 12 degrees below the horizon, and the sky is a deep blue.  Astronomical twilight, when the sun is more than 12 degrees below the horizon, is the period just before full darkness.  At 2 in the afternoon, nautical twilight was yielding to astronomical twilight’s deeper darkness.

Roza’s apartment was on the second floor at the end of the hall, a location that she considered ideal.  The apartments on the first floor were exposed to the brutal winds that blew into the building.  On the other hand, she was glad not to be any higher in the building because Roza shared the apartment with her grandmother, Nadya, and did not want her to climb to the 3rd, 4th, or 5th floor.  Furthermore, they had windows on three sides because their apartment was at the end of the hall.

Roza moved from her bedroom to the main room, where she and Nadya spent most of their time. This room had a kitchen area, a table and chairs, and a small couch.  Next to windows on one side were tiered shelves holding over 100 plants, including herbs, vegetables, and flowers. Although Norilsk Nickel was engaged in an ambitious effort to alleviate it, the air pollution was still too severe for trees and plants to grow near the city.  There is a human need for greenery, which in Norilsk was met by indoor plants.

Nadya had been born in Norilsk, but her parents grew up where the soil was living, and so Nadya was skilled at nurturing plant life.  She crooned old Russian folk songs to her flowers, exhorted the herbs to be strong and healthy, and attended to her flowers and vegetables with the dedication of a governess or besotted admirer.  Her indoor garden rewarded her devotion by blooming, sprouting, or leafing out. Roza’s job was to water the garden, to save Nadya the back strain of filling the water and bending over repeatedly.

After watering the small indoor garden, Roza brewed a cup of tea for Nadya and coffee for herself.  She set the table automatically, having made the same gestures daily for over a decade, since Nadya came to live with her.  Without having to think about it, she cooked an oat porridge, adding a small amount of honey.  Then she crossed the hall to bring Nadya her tea.

“I’m up, I’m up,” she heard Nadya say from their tiny bathroom. It was tiny, but – wonderfully – it was private.  Roza thanked the fates every day that they did not have to share a bathroom with other apartments.  “I’ll leave your tea by the bed, Babushka.”  Nadya had adapted to Roza’s schedule and generally slept until Roza fixed breakfast at around 3:00.  Roza returned to the kitchen, and looked more closely at a small miniature orange tree growing among the other plants.  “Nadya, I think we can add one of the little oranges to our cereal – what do you think?”  “Wait until I can look at it.”

Roza sat down and sipped her coffee.  The garden contained a large onion and mustard greens that were on the verge of bolting.  Roza thought that if she got to the market when it first opened, after she got off work at 7:00 a.m., she could buy a piece of meat, a few potatoes, and a carrot, with which to make a stew.  And, of course, no one would blame her if she happened to stop by the Stolle bakery to buy her babushka a sweet roll . . . and maybe visit with Sergei.  Nadya came into the main room, set her tea on the table, and went over to the garden area.  “Okay, which of you are ready for cereal, eh?” she murmured over the little oranges.  No, you need to get larger.  You – come with me.”  She sat at the table and handed Roza a calamondin orange no more than an inch or two in diameter.  Roza hopped up, kissed the top of Nadya’s head and carefully dissected the orange.  All of it, including the peel, was added to their cereal.  The seeds she put in a bottle cap and set by Nadya for future gardening.  The orange bits added welcome flavor to the otherwise bland cooked cereal.  As they ate, Roza shared her proposed shopping list with Nadya, who approved, adding only that she should get a garlic clove as well.  “I’ll dig up Mr. Onion and cut the greens while you’re gone,” she said.