“The Fatal Eggs”, Chapter XII – Weekly Reads

Dear friends!

It seemed that the reptilian attack on Moscow was inevitable, but the course of events has been radically altered… What has spared Moscow from this disaster?

The final chapter, Chapter XII is below. We hope you have enjoyed this gripping read!


CHAPTER XII. A Frosty God Ex Machina

On the night of 19th August, 1928, there was an unheard-of frost the likes of which no elderly folk could recall within living memory. It lasted forty-eight hours and reached eighteen degrees below. Panic-stricken Moscow closed all its doors and windows. Only towards the end of the third day did the public realise that the frost had saved the capital and the endless expanses under its sway afflicted by the terrible disaster of 1928. The cavalry army by Mozhaisk, which had lost three-quarters of its men, was on its last legs, and the poison gas squads had been unable to halt the loathsome reptiles, who were advancing on Moscow in a semi-circle from the west, south-west and south.

They were killed off by the frost. The foul hordes could not survive two days of minus eighteen degrees centigrade, and come the last week of August, when the frost disappeared leaving only damp and wet behind it, moisture in the air and trees with leaves dead from the unexpected cold, there was nothing to fight. The catastrophe was over. The forests, fields and boundless marshes were still covered with coloured eggs, some bearing the strange pattern unfamiliar in these parts, which Feight, who had disappeared no one knew where, had taken to be muck, but these eggs were now completely harmless. They were dead, the embryos inside them had been killed.

For a long time afterwards these vast expanses were heavy with the rotting corpses of crocodiles and snakes brought to life by the ray engendered in Herzen Street under a genius’s eye, but they were no longer dangerous. These precarious creations of putrid tropical swamps perished in two days, leaving a terrible stench, putrefaction and decay over three provinces. There were epidemics and widespread diseases from the corpses of reptiles and people, and the army was kept busy for a long time, now supplied not with poison gas, but with engineering equipment, kerosene tanks and hoses to clean the ground. It completed this work by the spring of 1929.

And in the spring of ‘twenty-nine Moscow began to dance, whirl and shimmer with lights again. Once more you could hear the old shuffling sound of the mechanical carriages, a crescent moon hung, as if by a thread, over the dome of Christ the Saviour, and on the site of the two-storey Institute which burnt down in August ‘twenty-eight they built a new zoological palace, with Docent Ivanov in charge. But Persikov was no more. No more did people see the persuasive crooked finger thrust at them or hear the rasping croaking voice. The world went on talking and writing about the ray and the catastrophe of ’28 for a long time afterwards, but then the name of Professor Vladimir Ipatievich Persikov was enveloped in mist and extinguished, like the red ray discovered by him on that fateful April night. No one succeeded in producing this ray again, although that refined gentleman, Pyotr Stepanovich Ivanov, now a professor, occasionally tried. The first chamber was destroyed by the frenzied crowd on the night of Persikov’s murder. The other three chambers were burnt on the Red Ray State Farm in Nikolskoye during the first battle of the aeroplanes with the reptiles, and it did not prove possible to reconstruct them. Simple though the combination of the lenses with the mirror-reflected light may have been, it could not be reproduced a second time, in spite of Ivanov’s efforts. Evidently, in addition to mere knowledge it required something special, something possessed by one man alone in the whole world, the late Professor Vladimir Ipatievich Persikov.

Source: “The Fatal Eggs”, Mikhail Bulgakov, translated by Kathleen Gook-Horujy, Raduga, Moscow, 1990