Peter Pišťanek

The End of Freddy

(Rivers of Babylon 3)

translated by Peter Petro

Reprinted with permission of Garnett Press.

The mercenary looks round like a coyote caught in a trap. Then he starts to run zigzag across Megalomania avenue, wider than Moscow’s Red Square. He runs and the greater the distance he puts between Telgarth and himself, the more energy he gets from the illusion of freedom. But not for long. Freddy takes aim and fires. The prisoner spins round and falls to the pavement, next to the others. Yes, practice has made Telgarth an excellent shot.

A few days later, Geľo and the whole army, joined by enthusiastic town Slovaks, moves on.

“You’ll stay here, Telgarth,” he tells Freddy before he goes. “I’ll leave you a strong unit here. And, as you know, every day more of our brothers from every corner of the south coast are coming to join us. Soon a mighty army will be here. It will be at your disposal. But don’t get bogged down by military affairs, I’ll leave you Sirovec-Molnár to deal with them. He’ll take care of order in the city and of training new recruits. You do what you know best. Receive foreign visitors and journalists. Explain to them patiently that Slovaks are only fighting for freedom. Show them who we are and what we’re after. If you need to requisition anything, like a car or something, just do it. You’re one of the most important men in our revolution. Remember that. We’ll stay in touch. Keep your spirits high and fight your battles. They may be even more difficult than destroying enemies with a weapon in your hand.”

Friends till death do them part, they embrace. Then Geľo does a soldier’s about-turn and leaves the room without looking back.

Freddy sits at his desk. The feeling is indescribable. He has not sat at a desk for over two years. He passes his hand over its textured surface. It is a desk from a different world than the world Telgarth comes from. This desk was born and has spent its entire life here, in Junja. Who knows who used to sit at it? Freddy has a very special feeling. There’s something missing on this desk. He has to think for a while what it might be. A computer! Yes, he needs a computer and printer to write and print all the proclamations of the Provisional Revolutionary Government that he hereby proclaims, including all orders and regulations. The same applies to all materials for journalists, so that they know what to think and write about Junja. About Junja? All geographical names will change. Junja is a word invented by Junjans. Using this word amounts to legitimising the Junjan regime. For Slovaks and the whole world from now on the name will be the Slovak Archipelago. And Öggdbardd? No! New Liptov. Űŕģüllpoļ will henceforth be known as New Bystrica. And Ćmirçăpoļ will be known as New City. And this applies to everything. Each river, island, hill, valley, and settlement. Only after we name it, will the place really begin to belong to us and become a part of us!

Indescribable pride seizes Telgarth. Yes, he, once the fat boy from the brick-making settlement, whom nobody wanted to play with and who as an adult was rejected by every woman, though he later became Central Europe’s porn king, has now touched power that he never held before and that few people hold on this planet. People who believe in him have vested that power in him. And he’ll never betray them or let them down. Part of this power is the right to rename places. Telgarth almost trembles with excitement. If he now renames an island, the size of two Austrias, New Liptov, it will stay that way forever. Centuries after Telgarth departs this world, New Liptov will be on all world maps, American, French or Ugandan. Freddy gets out a new leather-covered, flat hip flask and takes a swig. That’s right. And now, let’s get a computer.

He takes a submachine gun, checks the magazine and steps outside the building. The guards click their boots. They are new volunteers from the city. They’ve never seen Telgarth in action. Never mind. They will.

“You two, come with me,” he orders them. “We’re off to get something.”

“And what sort of thing, Telgarth?” asks a guerrilla who looks at first sight like a simple fisherman from the North.

Telgarth reflects for a while. Then he waves his hand dismissively.

“You wouldn’t understand anyway,” he says. “Hurry up! Even if we have to turn the whole city upside down, we have to find it and requisition it in the name of the Slovak people, for God’s sake!”


© Mullek and Sherwood