Vassili and Koulikov.

This image is taken from ZypherChef’s rather wonderful Deviant Art page. It was featured on the io9 website as a concept writing prompt. Whist many responses focused on telling a story using the imagery, I chose to focus on imagining the dialogue between the two characters pictured. And this is what I came up with.


They have marched for many hours. Now far from the shattering death of the front, their magnificent spoil has become a sullen burden, a weight that increases with every tired heave. This is the hinterland where fires still burn like long candles in the night and towers of black soot ascend into the heavens around them. No aid will come to them amongst this toxic bleached wasteland, for soon enough with the night will come the uni-bombers and scourers. This is no man’s land and they must not linger.

Vassili stops and takes a long drag on the cigarette that protrudes from between his numb fingers.

Koulikov: ‘Pull Vassili! Pull!’
Vassili: ‘You want to pull, you pull. How many ropes do you have to pull on anyway? I have all of the weight of this thing.’
Koulikov: ‘I do not have your legs Vassili.’

Vassili taps his steel knee joint with the butt of his rifle.

Vassili: ‘You think this is a good thing for me?’

Koulikov does not reply.

Vassili: ‘I am tired.’
Koulikov: ‘What do you want? Maybe to put some more coal in your furnace eh?’

Koulikov stares at Vassili indignantly.

Koulikov: ‘Or maybe you want that I go back and tell the Bratslev not to bother with killing us? That would be easy now wouldn’t it.’

Vassili spits into the snow and stamps his feet in frustration.

Vassili: ‘No I do not want any more coal in my furnace.’

Vassili sighs and turns to address his companion directly.

Vassili: ‘What I want is to see my wife and children again, what I want is to go home and tend to my horses, what I want is to take off these damn legs and this bloody furnace and swim in the Corvak shallows with the sun on my shoulders and to be free from this endless madness. That is what I want Comrade Koulikov!’

Koulikov thinks about the situation in silence for a few moments. Then mutters apologetically.

Koulikov: ‘I did not know that you were married Vassili.’

Vassil draws on a cigarette and then releases a long plume of smoke up above his head and into the cool air through pursed lips.

Vassili: ‘I am not.’


Koulikov: ‘What? You want to see your wife and children but you are not married?’

Vassili nods and kicks at the frozen ground in a matter of fact manner.

Vassili: ‘There is a girl in Korvorach, is 50 mile from our village, she is very handsome. One day soon I will marry her.’
Koulikov: ‘A girl.’
Vassili: ‘Of course.’
Koulikov: ‘And you will marry this girl?’
Vassili: ‘For sure.’
Koulikov: ‘Does she know this?’
Vassili: ‘No, but I saw her milk a horse once.’
Koulikov: ‘WHAT?! …’

Koulikov drops his ropes and raises his hands in the air in exasperation, before gripping his hat tightly.

Koulikov: ‘Vassili does she even know you?’
Vassili: ‘I don’t think so…’


Vassili: ‘Well not yet.’

Vassili turns toward his companion noting the stunned expression on his comrades face.

Vassili: ‘Do you think this will be a problem?’

Koulikov stares back at Vassili in mute astonishment, before stating the obvious.

Koulikov: ‘With your legs? … Yes!’

September 18, 2012

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