if we have no heretics we must invent them, for heresy is essential for health.”
a story written by Yevgeny Zamyatin entitled ‘The Dragon’ translated and edited by Mirra Ginsburg.
‘Gripped with bitter cold, ice locked, Petersburg burned in delirium. One knew: out there, invisible behind the curtain of fog, the red and yellow columns, spires, and hoary gates and fences crept on tiptoe, creaking and shufling. A fevered, impossible, icy sun hung in the fog – to the left, to the right, above, below – a dove over a house on fire. From the delirium-born, misty world, dragon men dived up into the earthly world, belched fog – heard in the misty world as words, but here becoming nothing – round white puffs of smoke. The dragon men dived up and disapeared again into the fog. And trolleys rushed screeching out of the earthly world into the unknown.
On the trolley platform a dragon with a gun existed briefly, rushing into the unknown. His cap was down over his nose and would have swallowed the dragon’s head but for his ears; on the protruding ears the cap had come to rest. His army greatcoat dangled to the floor; the sleeves flapped loosely; the tips of the boots were turned up, empty. And inthe dimness of the fog – a hole: the mouth.
This was now in the leaping, rushing world; and here the bitter fog belched out by the dragon was visible and audible: ‘So I was taking him along, the bastard: an intellectual mug – it turned your stomach just to look at him. And it talks, the scum! Wouldn’t you know? it talks!’
‘And did you bring him in?’
‘I sure did – non-stop to the heavenly kingdom. With the bayonet.’
The hole in the fog closed. There was nothing now but the empty cap, empty, an empty coat. The trolley, gnashing, out of the world.
And suddenly – from the empty sleeves – from out of their depths, a pair of raw, red dragon claws emerged. The empty coat squatted down on the floor, and in the paws there was a tiny, grey, cold lump that had materialised out of the bitterly cold fog.
‘Mother in heaven! a baby starling – frozen stiff! Just look at it!
The dragon pushed back his cap – and in the fog two eyes appeared, two small chinks from the nightmare world into the human.
The dragon blew with all his might into the red paws, and there were clearly words, spoken to the starling – but in the nightmare world they were unheard. The trolley screeched.
‘The little bastard: he gave a flutter, didn’t he? Not yet? He’ll come around, by Go… Just think!’
He blew with all his strength. The gun dropped to the floor. And at that moment ordained by destiny, at a point ordained in space, the starling gave a jerk, another – and flutterd off the dragon’s paws into the unknown.
The dragon’s fog-belching maw gaped open to his ears. Then slowly the cap slid down over the chinks into the human world and settled back on the protruding ears. The guide to the heavenly kingdom picked up his gun.
The trolley gnashed and screeched and rushed into the unknown, out of the human world.’
the original story in it’s original russian seems have been written not long after the first world war.