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The Shades, A Phantasy

by Vladimir G. Korolenko

Overview I II III IV V


It seemed as if the unknown gods of eternal night had heard his
impious prayer. Ctesippus looked about, without being able to
recognise the place where he was. The lights of the city had long been
extinguished by the darkness. The roaring of the sea had died away in
the distance; his anxious soul had even lost the recollection of
having heard it. No single sound—no mournful cry of nocturnal bird,
nor whirr of wings, nor rustling of trees, nor murmur of a merry
stream—broke the deep silence. Only the blind will-o'-the-wisps
flickered here and there over rocks, and sheet-lightning,
unaccompanied by any sound, flared up and died down against
crag-peaks. This brief illumination merely emphasised the darkness;
and the dead light disclosed the outlines of dead deserts crossed by
gorges like crawling serpents, and rising into rocky heights in a wild

All the joyous gods that haunt green groves, purling brooks, and
mountain valleys seemed to have fled forever from these deserts. Pan
alone, the great and mysterious Pan, was hiding somewhere nearby in
the chaos of nature, and with mocking glance seemed to be pursuing the
tiny ant that a short time before had blasphemously asked to know the
secret of the world and of death. Dark, senseless horror overwhelmed
the soul of Ctesippus. It is thus that the sea in stormy floodtide
overwhelms a rock on the shore.

Was it a dream, was it reality, or was it the revelation of the
unknown divinity? Ctesippus felt that in an instant he would step
across the threshold of life, and that his soul would melt into an
ocean of unending, inconceivable horror like a drop of rain in the
waves of the grey sea on a dark and stormy night. But at this moment
he suddenly heard voices that seemed familiar to him, and in the glare
of the sheet-lightning his eyes recognised human figures.