Old Halla is dying. Painless, speechless, he sits all day in a padded chair. As the sun shifts, he is spoonfed and wheeled among jungle views. Sometimes he grips a passing arm and holds on. For hours I have felt the flutter of his fingers. Blood eddies through brain muck, changing channels, silently his thoughts flow out on paper. I write for him in strange languages, or suddenly blurt out news I could not know: Congo copper strike; Makhno takes Monkey River. He will blink and nod. At other times his neck twists slowly upward like a vine. His eyes reflect an empty piece of sky and he will bask for hours, hardly breathing. Then his chair seems rooted, no one can budge it. If there are showers, he does not get wet.
I can’t remember him before. I must have known him when he whipped his servants, bought governments, built banks and churches. I was a little boy who watched things, like a dog, alert and puzzled. I had a good eye for details. But maybe I only imagined. Nothing changes here, so it’s easy to forget.