I. A. Brodsky
In the second century after our era, two people are sitting in the prison cell – Tullius Varro and Publius Marcellus. The prison is located in a huge steel tower, about a kilometer in height, and the chamber Publius and Tullia is located approximately at an altitude of seven hundred meters. Tullius and Publius did not commit any crimes, but according to the laws of the Empire established by Emperor Tiberius, they serve a life sentence. These laws are based on statistics, according to which at all times in prisons is about 6.7 percent of the population of any country. The emperor Tiberius reduced this number to 3 percent, abolished the death penalty and issued a decree according to which 3 percent must sit for life, regardless of whether a particular
The camera of Tullius and Publius is “something in between a one-room apartment and the cabin of a spaceship.” In the middle of the chamber there is a steel pillar of the Tower that runs through the entire height, in the chamber it is decorated with a Doric column. Inside it there is a lift and a refuse chute shaft. The bodies of the deceased prisoners are lowered into the garbage chute, below which there are steel cutter knives, and even lower – live crocodiles. All this serves as a means of preventing escape from prison. With the help of an elevator located inside the pipe, everything necessary is supplied to the cells, as well as what the prisoners order, the waste is removed through the garbage chute. Inside the chamber on the shelves and in the niches are the marble busts of classical writers and poets.
Tullius is of Roman origin, and Publius is a native of the province, a barbarian, as his cellmate calls him. This is not only a characteristic of their origin, but also a characteristic of the attitude of the world. The Roman Tullius does not protest against his position, but this does not mean humility with fate, but the attitude to it as a form of being, the most adequate to its essence, for the lack of space is compensated
The time in the cell is held in the constant pickings of Tullius and Publius, during which Tullius reproaches Publius for his striving for freedom, which he also considers a manifestation of barbarism. Escape is the output of their History in Anthropology, “or better: from Time to History.” The idea of the Tower is a struggle with space, “for the absence of space is the presence of Time.” Therefore, he believes, the Tower is so hateful to Publius that the passion for space is the essence of barbarism, while the truly Roman prerogative is the desire to know the pure Time. Tullius does not seek freedom, although he believes that it is possible to get out of prison. But it is the desire for the possible and disgusting for the Romans. Publius, according to Tullius, is easier, like a barbarian, to become a Christian than a Roman, because out of pity for himself he dreams of either escaping,
Tullius offers Publius a wager on sleeping pills, which are given to the prisoners, that he will escape. While Publius is asleep, Tullius, leaving only the busts of Ovid and Horace in the cell, drops the remaining marble statues into the garbage chute, in the expectation that they will destroy the cutlass knives and kill the crocodiles with their weight, increased acceleration of free fall from a height of seven hundred meters. Then he pushes the mattress and pillows into the garbage can and climbs there himself.
Waking up, Publius notices something wrong in the cell and discovers the absence of busts. He notices that Tully has disappeared, but can not believe it, realizing what happened. Publius begins to think about a new cellmate and on the inner phone informs the praetor, that is, the jailer, about the disappearance of Tullius Varro. But it turns out that the praetor already knows this, since Tullius himself called him from the city and said that he was returning home, that is, to the Tower. Publius is in turmoil, and at this moment Tully appears in the cell, to the amazement of Publius, who can not understand why Tullius, successfully escaping, has returned, but he replies that only then, in order to prove that he won the bet, and get the won sleeping pills, which, in essence, is freedom, and freedom is thereby a sleeping pill. But Publius is alien to these paradoxes. He is sure that if he had fled, then I certainly would not have returned, but now there is less than one way to escape. But Tullius says that escape is always possible, but this proves only that the system is imperfect. Such a thought can be arranged by a barbarian, but not his, a Roman, striving for the absolute. He demands to give him the slumber he has won. Publius asks to tell how he managed to escape from the Tower, and Tullius opens the escape mechanism to him and says that the idea prompted him just a bottle with sleeping pills, which, like a garbage chute, has a cylindrical shape. But Publius wants to escape from prison not as a place of life, but as a place of death. Freedom he needs, because she “is a variation on the theme of death.” But, according to Tullius, the main drawback of any space, including this camera, is that there is a place in it where we will not be, Time has no shortcomings, because he has everything except the place. And so he is not interested in where he dies, nor when it happens. He is only interested in “how many hours of wakefulness is the minimum necessary for a computer to determine” the state of a person as being. That is to determine whether he is alive. And how many tablets of sleeping pills he “must take at a time, in order to ensure this minimum.” This maximum being beyond life, he believes, will really help him become like Time, “that is, his rhythm.” Publius is puzzled why Tully needs so much time to sleep, if their imprisonment is for life. But Tullius replies that “for life passes into posthumous, and if this is so, then it goes posthumously to life… That is, during life there is an opportunity to find out how it will be there…
Tullius falls asleep, and Publius is frightened of the upcoming seventeen hours of solitude, but Tullius comforts him by waking up and telling what he saw… about Time… He asks him to draw closer to him the busts of Horace and Ovid, and in response to the reproaches of Publius, that marble classics are more precious to him than a person, he notes that a person is lonely, as “a thought that is forgotten.”