A PRIPYAT SUMMER


_________________________________________________________

День первый – В зоне отчуждения
Den’ pervyy – V zone otchuzhdeniya
Day 1 – Into the Exclusion Zone



_________________________________________________________

Пересечение в зоне отчуждения
   Peresecheniye v zone otchuzhdeniya
Crossing into the Exclusion Zone

Bathed in the fresh, bright glow of early summer, the borderlands of the Exclusion Zone are about an hours journey north from the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, by express coach. Or under 20 minutes with our heavy-footed, state-certified driver, who seems to regard every chance traffic encounter as tantamount to a Lauda-Hunt face-off. We arrive mid-morning, and well ahead of schedule.

Package tours to the area draw bus-loads of the morbidly curious from around the globe, and today is no exception.  A gaggle of inebriated Irish tourists saunter and stagger around by their bus in the exceptional weather, chattering buoyantly but incomprehensibly, and snapping pictures of the guards, the indigenous guides, and each other.

A unique festive atmosphere dominates here at the gateway to the contaminated lands surrounding Pripyat and Chernobyl. Perhaps it is the exhilaration and anticipation of entering an area so infamous, perilous, and haunted by its historical and cultural demons. Perhaps it is the warm weather and the vast expanse of the blue Ukrainian heavens. 


More likely than not, though, it’s the samples of nonicca beers and chocolates, which have  been surreptitiously distributed throughout the crowd by the entrepreneurial guides and bus chauffeurs. Extracted from the rich blue and yellow flowers of the nonicca bush, numerous local foodstuffs are traditionally infused with the powerful narcotic. Although an indispensible part of any tourist’s itinerary, nonicca consumption can exact a heavy toll on the unwary.

By the time we have arrive, the Irish are already half-assholed, sucking down the deliciously refreshing nonicca-infused beers like there will be no tomorrow. And, sadly for them, this will probably be the case. A serious nonicca binge will typically culminate in a deep, death-like coma lasting 24 hours or more. Hotel proprietors in Kiev, and other nearby towns and hamlets, are naturally delighted to accommodate the bus-loads of bug-eyed disaster voyeurs on day-trips to the Exclusion Zone. The guests tend not to create a disturbance (usually returning to their rooms on stretchers), and almost always stay at least a day or two longer than originally anticipated…

However, common sense dictates that you are at the mercies of your tour guide or coach driver (or members of their extended families...) when in such a state. In Kiev, tales are told in hushed whispers of theft, rape, and other unmentionable atrocities committed on the persons of the inebriated.
Even the pimping of the comatose to the Bezkozlie (the so-called “Goatless”) for small change is not unheard of, despite it being a capital offence throughout the Ukraine. 

Understandably, we’ve chosen an accredited state-run tour with a friendly, reliable driver with Formula 1 aspirations, and an informative, forthright and charming guide - Boris and Natasha respectively.





_________________________________________

Музей техники подверженной радиоактивному излучению
    Muzey tekhniki podverzhennoy radioaktivnomu izlucheniyu
Borderlands Radiated Vehicles Museum

We have some time to kill while we wait our turn for the final visas, stamps and signatures on our paperwork before entering the Exclusion Zone. We peel off from the rest of the throng to wander through the Borderlands Radiated Vehicles Museum, just a short walk from the Ministry of Ukraine of Emergencies and Affairs of Population Protection from the Consequences of the Chernobyl Catastrophe’s State Enterprise Agency of Information, International Co-operation and Development building. (No, really…!! I kid you not! I mean, who the fuck makes this shit up…? Goddam!!!)

The Museum stands on the grave of dozens of hazardously irradiated military and civil automobiles, said to have been buried and sealed here in lead and concrete during the lengthy “clean-up” of the worst of the Chernobyl disaster. However, in the wake of the systematic looting of the area that followed, the fate of anything not already fastened firmly in its place can be at best uncertain.  For all we know the vehicles reputedly entombed here could be transporting people, wares, livestock, and foodstuffs anywhere within the borders of the old Soviet Union.


Our driver, Boris, takes regular radiation readings and appears fascinated by the sometimes startling fluctuations. And maybe more than a little nervous, at times.  Although exposure to the vehicular gravestones on this quiet resting place is not specially life-threatening, collecting souvenirs (let alone hot-wiring them and driving them home) is most ill-advised.



The Department of Tourism of the Independent Democratic Republic of the Ukraine is not particularly choosy as to whom they allow on their tours. To our mounting chagrin we were forced to share our ride with two young, Belgian gentlemen - Edme van der Lort (below) and his cousin, Loy.



These two travelling companions became a constant source of unintentional and (more often than not) unwelcome entertainment during our first day in the Exclusion Zone, with their disparaging, snooty remarks about the quality of our digital photographic equipment and the unquestionable superiority of high-quality emulsion film (like theirs) versus stinky digital photography (like ours); their brainless, pointless banter and asinine jokes; their suspect tales of sexual conquests with compliant, damp-thighed nannies, and other rather less wholesome, zoo-curious fantasies acted out in the course of summer holidays on their grandfather’s state-of-the-art pig farm in the Rühr; Loy’s faux-heavy-metal pretensions and posturing, and Edme’s stupid, fucking cap and baggy jeans; their propensity to flashing their impressive, fucking top-of-the-line cameras in the face of whomsoever in desperate attempts to gain admiration and respect; oh! and lets not forget to mention Loy’s dad’s massive fortune, accrued in the 1970’s & ‘80’s through his ruthless stewardship of Belgium’s most notorious child pornography and snuff-film empire - evidently a well-guarded family secret (...until now...); their surreptitious, greedy consumption of unseemly quantities of smuggled Belgian chocolates and abbey ale, sweets, and pork rinds; their hopelessly short spans of attention; and did I mention their insanely expensive, fucking photographic equipment (Loy Senior is now a successful publisher in Antwerp, thank you very fucking much, and is evidently footing the bills. Hell! The bastard’s probably writing their whole expedition off as some kind of goddammed tax deduction. It must be nice for some, hey...?!?); their ceaseless questioning about town and country, art, culture, local gastronomy, history, the infamous insurgency of the the terrorist brotherhood, the BPH during April 1986, and its wanton, orgiastic partying at the Chernobyl Reactor complex that culminated in one of the 20th century’s most scandalous, nuclear disas… huh?!? ...w-wh-wha-whaaaaaat??!!??

Hey…! Wait just a goddam second!

Yes, indeed, it is on this first day that it dawns on us that cousins Edme & Loy - the Twerp Twins from Antwerp - are similarly engaged in “an epic and awesome, totally ground-breaking, photo-journalistic book project,” (to quote an enthusiastic, but eminently over-extended, young Loy van der Lort) apparently identical to our own project in virtually every way. Hmm… Well, something would have to be done about that... Well, yes... Yes, indeed...



In the meantime, in the midst of this automobile graveyard (as strange, silent, and unnerving by day as any haunted potter’s field in the dead of night) one of our travelling companions, Edme, seems to have been distracted from the gravity of the moment by a dandelion.
___________________________________________________________

Министерство Украины по вопросам чрезвычайных ситуаций и защиты населения от последствий Чернобыльской катастрофы. Государственное предприятие, Агентство информации международного сотрудничества и Чернобыль ИнтерИнформ агентства развития.
Ministerstvo Ukrainy po voprosam chrezvychaynykh situatsiy i zashchity naseleniya ot posledstviy Chernobyl’skoy katastrofy. Gosudarstvennoye predpriyatiye, Agentstvo informatsii mezhdunarodnogo sotrudnichestva i Chernobyl’InterInform agentstva razvitiya.
The Ministry Of Ukraine Of Emergencies And Affairs Of Population Protection from the Consequences of the Chernobyl Catastrophe’s State Enterprise Agency of Information, International Cooperation and Development’s “Chernobyl Interinform Agency”


(Above: Look! See? I’m not kidding! That’s actually what they call the place. Goddam!!!
And you probably thought I was just making all this shit up, didn’t you…?
And they’ve even mis-spelled “Chernobyl”! I mean, like... Hel-looooooooooo...!!!)



Back from the museum, we enter the Ministry Of Ukraine Of Emergencies And Affairs Of Population Protection from the Consequences of the Chernobyl Catastrophe’s State Enterprise Agency of Information, International Cooperation and Development’s Chernobyl Interinform Agency office to get our papers stamped, and are immediately struck by its warm, rustic style.

But the office is empty of officials except for a young woman chatting on her cell phone, clad in her traditional peasant dress. She doesn’t turn when we announce our presence. Instead she begins to toy with the hilt of a dagger in its ivory scabbard which lies on the table before her.

Oh shit!

Our photographer manages to snaps off a quick pic as we make a hasty retreat back to the minibus.



_____________________________________________________

Езжай же, ёб твою мать! Eзжай!!!
   Ezzaj ze, eb tvoju mat! EZZAJ!!!
Drive, mother-fucker! DRIVE!!!

The coachloads of Irish tourists have vanished now, and the place is eerie and deserted. Even all of the guards have mysteriously disappeared. As have the hawkers – their makeshift booths and their wares abandoned in haste and somewhat scattered about. This is starting to feel like a bad slasher film.... We pile into our vehicle, while Natasha walks over and raises the boom-gate. We drive through and halt to let Natasha take her seat.

Suddenly the passenger door flies open and Natasha bolts into the mini bus, pale and trembling, eyes wide, glazed and panicked. “Ezzaj ze, eb tvoju mat! EZZAJ!!!” she screams, leaving our ears ringing.

Boris floors the accelerator as the door slams, and the minibus roars into life with a squeal of tires and a cloud of burning rubber. “What did she say?” shrieks Loy like a little, whiney bitch. “What was it? What did you see?” asks our photographer, full of dread, everyone craning their necks to see what’s going on. “NET! NET! Net!!!” she shrieks. “Ne oglyadyvaysyaaaa!!! ... For God’s sake! Don’t look back… don’t… look… beh… it’s… gaaargh… gaarchrrrah…... arrggghhhkkh...”
But her words are garbled and disappear amidst the sobbing and retching, giggling and gagging.

We assume that it’s just a “girl thing”, and let it pass.

_____________________________________________________

Ворота Солнца
   Vorota Solntsa
The Sun Gate


A short drive north-west from the border into the Exclusion Zone brings us past the historic town gate to the ancient village of Chernobyl. While most known as the village which loaned its name to the ill-fated reactor complex, it seems now destined to enter the annals of history as the “Village of Stone”.

Chernobyl was established together with its twin-town, Pripyat, in 788 AD by the fugitive prophet, charlatan and infamous cross-dresser, St. Laban the Anthropophagist. It’s famous Vorota Solntsa (or “Sun Gate”) bares the celestial orb of the ancient Egyptian sun god, Amun. Festooned with rays of light, the image of Amun is echoed on shop-fronts, windows, doors, and gates around the entire oblast. Likewise adorning the Vorota Solntsa is the “Headless Prayer” ‑ a symbol bearing a mystical and all-together unwholesome significance within the cultist’s Faith. 



St. Laban taught that the ancient Egyptian sun-god to be synonymous with the deity referred to in the judaeo-christian Bible, and his name, Amun, to be the true, secret name of the God of Israel. In a similar vein, Jesus Christ was thought to be the reincarnation of the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Amenhotep I (16th century BC), himself Amun’s Son, born of a virgin, a holy prophet who preached celibacy and sobriety, converting Egypt to monotheism before being crucified by a libidinous, drunken, disgruntled priesthood and the usual flock of self-serving swine passing themselves off as the ruling classes. (Those utter BASTARDS!!!)

The so-called Labanian Bible slants cherry-picked, intentionally mistranslated and even fully re-worked extracts from the Old Testament and Christian scriptures to comfortably and conveniently accommodate the vicious, twisted, sado-masochistic theology recommended by the revered saint. Historically speaking, this cynical exercise in mischievous, malicious intent has only been exceeded by the publication of the nefarious, devisive and seditious Good News Bible, distributed since 1979 by the American Bible Society amidst storms of criticism, universal condemnation, rioting, violence and murder.

The entrance to the old town of Pripyat sported an identical portal for almost 12 centuries until, along with the rest of the town, it fell to the state contractor’s bulldozer in the 1960’s to make way for the “nuclear city” that would service the atomic power-plant and it’s workers.

Chernobyl’s Sun Gate has been sealed since the Charetthic Acid Cataclysm of May 3rd, 2012, so that a thorough scientific investigation of the incident might be carried out undisturbed. Precautions are being undertaken by the U.N. and the Ukrainian government to ensure that this environmental disaster ever repeats itself, unless under rigorously controlled conditions (such as are being proposed for the sealing of the Chernobyl Reactor compound). Or that the means for its replication not fall into the hands of terrorists. Or worse: the hands of a malignant Super Power, like the USA  - a dark, dystopian vision almost too horrible to contemplate.

Chernobyl village was slated to be opened to the public just in time for this our summer tour to the Exclusion Zone. However,  the tiny township was still strictly off limits even during our pursuant excursion the following winter. (Not that that would stop us…)

The first thing we notice as we park by the gate is the distant roaring crackle of something that sounds like a gigantic arc welder. Strange, white clouds rise above the tree-line and spread out across the sky, filling it with an unworldly luminescence.

But we only manage to snap a shot or two before a black, open Jeep suddenly pulls up to our back bumper, its horn blaring in one long, intense, jarring blast. The grim, square-jawed security guards remain in their vehicle, shrieking and gibbering incomprehendibly but with a malace that is impossible to misconstrue. They motion brusquely and threateningly for us to move along, and Boris complies in a heartbeat. A moment later, trembling all the way to our bowels, we are hurtling and careening north towards our destination - the ghost city of Pripyat.



_____________________________________________________

“Секунды до катастрофы”
   “ Sekundy do katastrofy “
“Seconds to Disaster”

Their seemingly bottomless supply of nonicca suddenly bone-dry, grim, crazed and junk-sick from withdrawal, BPH insurgents, their hoses primed and at the ready, approach the empty fuel-rod cooling-pools with that fatal night’s alternative liquid refreshment, care of Pripyat Hospital’s medical supply room and the Pripyat Collectivist Peoples’ Potato Distillery.



The recently fossilized goat-dung and mortar monument, Seconds to Disaster was erected at a rest stop on the main road just outside of Chernobyl in the mid-‘90’s by local jokers eager to immortalize what was then considered a “wives-tale” about the nuclear “accident” of 1986. Another decade would pass before falling radiation levels would allow for the extensive forensic investigations at the site that would propel farcical urban legend into historical record.

Despite the apparent normalcy of the scene, to stand here and experience this location first hand is more eerie than walking into an anechoic chamber. There is none of the rustling of the gentle, summer breeze through the trees. Every leaf and blade of grass is still, frozen into a stone diorama, impervious as the hardest steel, and so may it be for all time. The same terrifying, concentrated, airborne cloud of charetthic acid has passed this way on the night of May 3rd 2012 as has fossilized the entire village of Chernobyl and consumed its few recalcitrant inhabitants in a flash of combustion.

The landscape is as devoid of life and silent as a tomb. Not a bird sings, neither an insect stirs in the deathly quiet and the mounting, mid-morning heat. And only the movement of the clouds across the sky signifies that time has not stopped for good.



“Stay on paths! Keep off grass, Turisty!” warns Natascha sternly. “Grass sharp like knife and go through shoe like butter. Skewer foot like chicken at Kiev Chicken Fucker Festival...!” Ah, yes! Kiev’s reknowned Chicken Fucker Festival. Hmmm... So many quaint local traditions with which to be aquainted, yet so little time...

_____________________________________________________

Гильдия Дермособирателей и “Тихая Грязь”
   Gil’diya Dermosobirateley i “Tikhaya Gryaz’“
The Guild of Dung Gatherers and the “Silent Dirt”


The gentlemen of the Pripyat chapter of the Gil’diya Dermosobirateley (Guild of Dung Gatherers) eke out the most meagre of livings by collecting goat dung from fields, forests and roadsides, and forming the dung bricks utilized throughout the region for heating, cooking, building materials, Christmas decorations, artwork and doorstops. On this day, their normally gruelling labours are made light by the appearance of a sizable mound of the enigmatic tikhaya gryazi (“silent dirt”), large piles of unspecified manure that mysteriously materialize on the roadside on the darkest of moonless nights. The ear-splitting shrieks, roaring and clamours that accompany their appearance keep the local peasants cowering sleepless in their filthy stick and dung hovels as they have for countless generations.



What might have taken several days of scouring dangerously contaminated forests, fields and thoroughfares for animal and human waste, the timely appearance of these highly-prized piles of crap allow the Guilds-men a little downtime to saunter around lazily in the summer sunshine. Not otherwise preoccupied, they indulge in a little ass-scratching and furtive ball-fondling - a traditional folk practice handed down from their patron saint, St. Laban the Anthropophagist, calculated to give thanks and praise to the god Amun and the forest spirits for this inscrutable but most welcome road-side find.

Although numerous theories abound, neither scientific analysis nor idle speculation is yet to truly unravel the conundrum of the “silent dirt” – a puzzle rivalling England’s spectacular crop circle phenomenon in the depth of its mystery, or its deep impression on the Ukrainian psyche, culture, and popular mythology.

_____________________________________________________

Знамение в Припяти.
   Znameniye v Pripyat
Our first glimpse of Pripyat

Pripyat is clearly a city in free-fall. Nature inserts its entropic crowbar into every nook and cranny of the crumbling buildings, squares and thoroughfares. In a city built to house almost 50,000 individuals, there is room and accommodation a-plenty for the 1,970 who have ignored dire governmental and international health warnings and remained in the city, surrounding settlements, farmlands, swamps and forest.

The scenario being played out below is a daily one in Pripyat. The government has instigated a crackdown aimed at intimidating locals into leaving the area. This is, however, strangely at odds with them having unofficially opened the region for resettlement in the ‘90’s. As per usual in the political cesspools left in the wake of the Soviet Empire’s fall, nobody seems to quite know what’s going on.



Officials scour farms, houses and high-rise apartments daily for squatters, tourists and other trespassers.In the course of their day’s work they risk ambush, assault, rape, torture, murder, cannibalization (or worse...), contamination, radiation, disease, attacks by rabid cats, rats, dogs, wolverines, and all sorts of exotic, undeterminable creatures that nobody seems to be willing to speak about openly.

Three residents, bearing sleeping mats, clothing and their few other essentials, casually “flee” at a snail’s pace ahead of a lumbering, blundering kaki-clad public official. Overweight, breathless, and ineffectually slow, he pants and curses as he goes, grumbling nostalgically about crime and lawlessness and vandalism and the “Good ol’ Days” of order and discipline and torture and firing squads and state-sponsered rape. Ah, yes... those were the days, indeed.

One of the gentlemen being pursued stops for a few moments to smoke a cigarette and leisurely piss.








_____________________________________________________

Поздний завтрак в Припяте. Временный магазин и кафе-бар.
  Pozdniy zavtrak na Pripyati. Vremennyy magazin i kafe-bar.
Late brunch at the Pripyat Provisional Store and Café Bar

We stop at the Pripyat Visitor’s Hostel long enough to check in and drop off our belongings. Stomachs have been rumbling since Kiev as the promised breakfast supposedly included in our hotel package had failed to materialize. The dining room doors had remained heavily chained and padlocked, the kitchen dark, and the unmanned front desk offered cold comfort. But the Pripyat Provisional Store and Café Bar is but a short stroll away from our accommodation and Natasha has booked a table.

The Pripyat Provisional Store and Café Bar on Revolution Square is the last outpost of civilization in the Exclusion Zone. If not for its over-priced provisions, the denizens of The Zone would find life bleak, indeed. The toothy proprietor insists that his inventory can accommodate even the most demanding customer bent on anything from whipping up a spectacular borscht to arming a small militia for a war of world conquest. 

He also insists on being addressed as Queen Daenerys Targaryen.

“Can you change a 500 Euro bill, Your Majesty?” inquires Loy, clearly in awe of being served by royalty.  

“I repay injustice with justice!” the man replies resolutely, although admittedly a little out of context.

“Do you think he’s a real queen, Natasha?” inquires Edme, who seems to have taken a shine to our raven-haired guide, dispite her clear and evident irritation with the cousins.  

“What more likely?” she snarls. “Comrade Dueling-ffffARGK-ing-Banjos-With-Satellite-Dish is Mother of Dragons? Or you are perhaps ffffARGK-ing witless, dickless pussy-boy?!?”

The shelves stock a surprising variety of goods in which the prime ingredient is Nonicca, a locally concocted narcotic. It is prevelent in soft drinks and beers in various flavours, candy, chocolates, not to mention small, pastel-colored jars of the pure, unadulterated oil extracted directly from the blue-gold flowers of the Nonicca bush.

“Isn’t all that stuff highly illegal, Your Highness?” asks Loy coyly. 


“They are my children and they will die without me!” the sales assistant proudly declares.

“What are you queen of?” inquires Edme.

“Where’s your dress?” queries Loy.

Natasha throws her hands in the air. “I swear I am strangling you with your own guts!” she mutters, glaring dangerously. Although amidst this babble of inanities it is unclear to whom her threat is directed, Loy and Edme take no chances and retire to the adjacent restaurant.

Our photographer and I browse in the Dried Meats section, with its exotic selection of bear, wolf, goat, snake, moose, gopher, reindeer, and squirrel. Even dried strips of smoked vradorvicia, a vicious migratory bird prized by locals for its tender, succulent flesh, and curiously pork-like flavor.



Natasha and the sales assistant trade words and cash, and she procures an iridescent blue & gold box of assorted nonicca chocolates (soft centres – Nice!), a packet of XXL, black, ribbed condoms, a container of goat cheese, a quite imposing salami, a hypodermic syringe, and a small jar also decorated in phospherescent blues and golds. The Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms deftly deposites the wares in an anonymous brown paper bag.

“For later…,” Natasha whispers. “Little Belgian barsh-tards... We fix little, red, ffffarrrgk-ing wagon, yes...?” She winks conspiratorially as she and Boris pass by Dried Meats en route to brunch.

And I guess that’s all we need to know for now, really. Sometimes too much knowledge can be an affliction.



“There’s a condom in my soup…,” whines Edme, naturally unfamiliar with the local cuisine.

“It’z jaarst pickled ball-sack,” snaps Natasha between spoonfuls of broth. “Now shut up (snarff! chomp!) and eat, (slurp!) ... you ... ffff-arghk-ing, pussy, liiiittle man-biiitsch! (snuffle! glarg!)” She evidently relies on her job’s freebies for sustenance, and is already finishing her third bowl with a forth cooling by its side.

Meanwhile a hitherto dormant synapse fires up in the landfill site that separates Edme’s ears, and his sour grimace is replaced by a boyish grin and an almost infantile fascination. “ooOOoo! Is it Elk Scrotum Soup?” he inquires. “Yum-nummah-nummm-nummm-nummy-num-NUMMMMmmm….”

Natasha barely pauses to speak as she shovels the pork-flavoured consommé into her eager, seemingly bottomless maw with industrial precision. “I swear … (chomp! slurp!) ... I’m gonna tayk … this  fff-ARK-ing forrrk … (guzzle! munch!) ... and tayk... (chomp! snarf!) … tayk ouwt … (slurp!) ... yourrrr fff-AAAAAARK-ing eye … yooooo ... (gulp!) wiiiiit - lesss fffff - AAAAARRRRGHK - iiiiiiing EEEEEEE-DIOT!!!” (sic)

Edme doesn’t seem to comprehend the substance of her threat and has been regarding the dish with a dreamy, almost perverse enthralment. “Yummy-nummy-num-num-nummy-num-nummmmmmmm…”

Natasha ceases her relentless consumption momentarily and clenches her jaw, struggling for control in an admirable display of will.... ”Jeee-sus H. Zoombie Chrrr-rist in a strrrrap-less fffffAAARRRGKing DRESS!!!”

“Yummm-yummm-yummy in my tummy-tummm-tummmeee….,” gurgles Edme, completely oblivious. We gaze on in dismay as he begins to devour his meal in an alarming display of unrestrained, bestial ingurgitation. But we’ll spare you the graphic details, gentle reader, in the name of all that is decent.
_____________________________________________________

жри давай-и валим отсюда !
   “ Zri davaj- i valim otsjuda ! “
“Drink! Drink! Then we DRIVE!!!”

“Drink! Drink! Then… we DRIVE!!!” ejaculates Boris, laughing and waving unsteadily from the driver’s seat of the minibus.  We are to hear this a lot in the next days, as it represents not only the summation of our driver’s life-philosophy, but evidently the full extent of his command of the English language. Boris has skipped brunch, and is already well-assholed on smuggled Black Label Johnny Walker. Fortified by our splendid meal, we pile into our transport and are soon hurtling at break-neck speed out of the decaying city and north-west towards the infamous reactor.

After years of unwanted media attention, farmers and villages inhabiting the surrounding countryside are notoriously hostile towards the uninvited. The 10 kilometre drive between Pripyat and the Chernobyl Reactor is peppered with billboards, bulletins and creatively constructed signs baring suggestive, even crude slogans, erected by the introverted locals and calculated to deter the inquisitive. The construction pictured below is an unashamed invitation to passers-by to insert two fingers in the anus of a local farmer’s prize goat.



As we near the Reactor compound, our Geiger Counter’s alarm sounds in a shrill, unnerving electronic shriek, undoubtedly calculated to induce just the right amount of dry-mouthed panic. We are picking up a high dose of radiation emanating out of a so-called “hot spot” in the forest.
“If you are eating raw egg for breakfast, it hard-boiled by now,” quips Natasha.

Naturally, Edme & Loy go into flight or fight mode. They jostle our photographer and myself in the back seats as they struggle to maintain cover beneath the single lead-impregnated plastic sheet that our lovely guide has had the foresight to bring with her. But there’s only room for one…

She whips around in the front seat and fixes them with a bayonette glare. “You re-TAAARRRD-ed, fff-ARGHK-ing, witless ARSCH-holes!” She screeches with a ferocity, venom and volume that is unexpected and somehow appalling in a woman of such a petite build. “Fffff-AARGHK you mothers, you pussy, sex-less harbour-whores! I’m going to break your fff-ARGHK-ing heads open and take my morning shiiit inside if you don’t stop this fff-ARGHK-ing baby, pussy bull-SHHHIIIIIT...!” The Belgians stare at her in gap-mouthed shock, pale-faced and abashed.

Edme’s bottom lip begins to quiver and his nose is running as he buries his face into the blanket.

“Ew, for fffARK’s sake!!!! Get snot on my fff-ARGHK-ing blanket and I strangle you with turd in your fff-ARGHK-ing sleep, you fff-ARGHK-ing limp-dick pussy-boy! Why not your fff-ARGHK-ing mother drown you in shiiit-bucket when you born, you fffARGHKing hamster-penis?” Hmmm… An interesting turn of phrase… “GODDAM… FffffFFF-ARGKGGK!!!!!” she regurgitates verbally in the Belgian’s direction, a gurgling eruption which almost has her strangling on the bile of her outrage and contempt.

Please, God! Not three days of this…



_____________________________________________________

Чернобыль Третий
    Chernobyl’ Tretiy
Chernobyl 3

Ostensibly constructed as a Cold War deception, this mock nuclear power facility (jokingly dubbed Chernobyl 3) undoubtedly appeared impressive on satellite photography, but fooled no-one. The otherwise useless edifices were ingeniously adapted by the hunters of town and country towards the trapping of migrating flocks of Vradorvicia – huge, vicious, carnivorous birds that hold an essential place in Ukrainian tradition, mythology, and the culinary arts.

We may only film from a distance, Natasha explains. Forested areas such as lie between us and Chernobyl 3 are heavily contaminated and can normally only be traversed in winter, when a blanket of snow puts a damper on the life-threatening fallout and pollutants.

A meeting with local hunter-gatherers is equally ill-advised as they can be uncouth, unpredictable, and nurture hungers that the occasional goat may not necessarily appease.




We disembark from our vehicle to take in the fullness of the scene: the width and beauty of the Ukrainian summer sky, the crickets in the grass, the all-too-terrifying, real-life Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor in the near distance. (Not just some stinky phoney one, like Chernobyl 3, or the one under construction at the Disney Park in Kiev...) Here are the very roads travelled by the very BPH incursionists themselves as they made their way to the reactor complex around the 18th April, 1986. The facility was taken with uncanny military precision from under Ukrainian noses without a shot being fired and without a word reaching intoxicated officialdom in Pripyat, let alone the highest echelons of disorderly drunkenness in Kiev or Moscow.

Until it was too late. Far too late.

Here is the very railway that conveyed the haunches of goat and horse, and grill sausages in the dead of night from the Pripyat Collectivist Meat Packing, Dioxin Plant, and Men’s Social Club, into the grounds around the reactor, as well as the bulging tanks and barrels “liberated” from the Nonicca Bordello & Bar. This is the lifeline that fuelled the orgy of gluttony and drugged, drunken excess that climaxed in the fatal events of the 26th April, 1986.



Our photographer and I stroll along the banks of this tributary to the Pripyat River (who builds an atomic plant on the banks of a major waterway? Jeez!), while the others make their way out onto the bridge. Boris never wanders too far from the car, his chief responsibility, and saunters in the grass by the tracks, draining yet another freshly uncapped nonicca beer.

We haven’t gone far when there is a great commotion in the waters below and Loy, Edme and Natasha have gathered hurriedly to the bridge’s railing, snapping off pictures in a rapid fire of clicks and the whirring of film spooling mechanisms. We, too, knock off some shots in their direction but can’t make out the object of their attentions and scurry back towards the bridge. The Belgians and Natasha are jumping, hopping and pointing, jammering with excitement and jostling for position.



Suddenly things turn heated and there’s a brief altercation. “Hey! You can be fffargking you mother, you fff-ARRRRGHK-ing arsh-… hole!” There’s no mistaking who’s doing the talking, and by the time we make the bridge Natasha has already stormed off it, clutching her camera, her face dark as an approaching thunder cloud.

“What is it?!?” inquires our photographer.

“Ffff-AAARGHK-ing asshole told me get my piece of digi-shit camera our of way! Is fff-AAARGHK-ing Canon 1D X! Is best camera in fff-AAARGHK-ing WORLD last year! This fff-AAARGHK-ing-your-mother cost me 3 months fff-AAARGHK-ing pay! Ffff-AAAARRRRGHK these guys! They really getting on my fff-AAARGHK-ing TITS!”

“No-no! What was in the water??”

She’s suddenly silent and the cloud passes, but she remains grim, measuring us cooly while she decides her next course of action. “Yes! Whaat waaaZ eeeeen waaaaa-ter…?” she drawls out, taking her time.

Her gaze falls on Boris whose face reveals a growing dread.  She pauses theatrically, and then in a hushed tone she whispers: “Heh! Chernopripezd….”

Our shock is accentuated by the shattering of glass, as the beer has slipped from Boris’s hand and struck a train track, the liquid foaming strangely iridescent blues and golds across the sleepers and the pink stones. Son-of-a-BITCH! It’s well-neigh a century since anyone has laid eyes on one of the Chernopripezd, let alone captured one on film. We haven’t been here more than a few hours and the Belgians have scooped us already.

Those... utter... BASTARDS!!!

Our photographer likewise realises our dilemma at that instant, and beats me to the punch: “Are you going to use your pictures? I mean, could we buy them off you…?”

She considers this a moment before refusing curtly. “Net. Net. State-fff-arghk-ing-secret. I should like to, I promise... just to piss off dickless, wiiitless donkey-boys.” She glances back to the Belgians on the bridge.  “But you are having to stay right here, now... And you are taking no pictures, comprendre?!”

Suddenly a light goes on in Boris’s head and he snaps out of his shock. Both guide and chauffeur begin to argue heatedly in Russian, gesturing wildly towards the bridge and the Belgians, and then falling silent as one. After a moment Boris reaches under his jacket and begins to solemnly unholster a Russian military issue firearm from its hiding place.

“Net... net...,” she whispers urgently, grabbing his hand in alarm and forcing the weapon back into concealment. “Oni ispol’zuyut plenku ... !”

Boris doesn’t seem to comprehend for a moment, and his jaw drops slack. But then the eyes roll skywards, his head rocks back and he roars with laughter. He casually holsters the firearm, and when his hand appears again from beneath his jacket, he has drawn out yet another in a long succession of Nonicca beers. He pops the cap and begins to drain it, still convulsing with mirth. Natasha chimes in with a raucous bray and the tension of the moment dissipates.

“They using filming…,” she confides. “You are believing these arsh-holes...? Radiation fff-arghk-ing up fff-arghk-ing everything... How much you think they getting...? Little-tiny-shriveled-limp-dick naaa-da!”


A shrill squawk emanates from the direction of the bridge, cutting the conversation short. “SHIT! You noisy fuckerz!! You frighten it orf!”

Natasha snorts in irritation, secures her camera in its case and pulls a hypodermic syringe from out of a side pocket, as well as the small blue and gold bottle from the Provisional Store. “Don’t worry, boys,” she confides, backing away towards the minivan, her voice rising in sync with her good humour. “Is time to kick party up a notch. Is time maybe for a little… CHOC.. OH… LATE FIII-ESSSTAAA!!” She throws her head back and howls like a lycanthropic Peter Pan and scuttles back to the privacy of our transport.

Boris issues a long, low, knowing chuckle deep into his bottle.

A moment later the Belgians emerge from the bridge, grinning broadly, mockingly, and dangling their fucking Canon F6’s right up in our fucking faces like forbidden candy. “Vi godt de pic-tures! Vi godt de pic-tures!” they chime in unison, victorious, blissfully bereft of the self-awareness of metacognition to objectively evaluate their competance or lack thereof.

”You are getting Noble fff-aarghk-ing Prize,” quips Boris, who seems to know a little more English than he lets on.

“You think zo?” asks Loy excitedly.

“Did I hear somebody mention chocolate?” inquires Edme.

_____________________________________________________

Чернобыльская АЭС - убирайтесь как можно быстрее!
   Chernobyl’skaya AES - ubiraytes’ kak mozhno bystreye!
The Chernobyl Nuclear Plant – a visit best kept short!

“You plan normal children in future? Not two-headed horse? You take pictures! Then we fuck off quicker than Kiev whore lift skirt…!” Sounder advice could not be given, and, anyway, Natasha doesn’t look in the mood to argue. “Then… we DRIVE!!” concurs Boris, popping the top on his third Nonicca beer since we left Pripyat.

The huge plant has been looming above the treetops on the flat plane for the last few kilometres and I’ve been trying to imagine the plants exterior and towering chimneys shrouded in dark billows of smoke by day and illuminated by night with a smoky red glow from the vast barbecue pits, Metallica’s Master of Puppets or Megadeth’s Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good! thundering for kilometres across the countryside from the festival-sized loudspeakers, and the shells, rockets and flares exploding in bursts across the sky above, 24 hours a day.

I could picture the convoys of trucks rolling in at all hours, bulging with freshly slaughtered animal carcasses, burger buns and barbecue sauce, tanks of freshly brewed nonicca, and laughing, cheering men in the army fatigues of all nations hanging off the sides and swilling nonicca from their fabulous, embossed beer steins. So it must have appeared over the 8 days that the plant’s compound was occupied in April, 1986.

The loose-knit, international affiliation of party-going hit men and guns-for-hire that the western media refer to (perhaps mistakenly) as the “Berserker Party Hats” can reputedly trace their organization’s genealogy to Hassan-i- Sabbah and his Ḥashshāshīn back in the 11th and 12th century.

The 2014 deathbed confession of Mossad hit-man and veteran party-goer, Lt. Col. Ari Horowitz, revealed, however, that BPH is not the group’s title, but rather the designation given to the actual incursion in question (in this case: “Operation Berserker Party Hat”). This is a name normally bestowed by the individual who is calling upon the members to convene, usually to celebrate a successful and highly lucrative liquidation. (I nevertheless follow the lead of the international media and refer to the group as the “BPH” throughout this book to avoid confusion and provide a certain degree of consistency.)

Media speculation around the BHP’s name has suggested a possible Scandinavian entomology, “Berserker” referring to the Norse warriors who would work themselves into a blood rage prior to battle, primed to the gills on mead and “paddehatte” (“magic mushrooms”) – thus “Party Hats”.

In his final hours, the afore-mention Lt. Col. Horowitz confirmed that the Chernobyl rave was convened as a 10-day celebration by a Yugoslavian gentleman and a retired Swedish pornographer (no names were given). It had been expected to conclude with an enormous fireworks and mortar display at 11:30pm on April 28th, and as some media pundits have quite reasonably suggested, this would have closed the event precisely 2 months (to the minute) after the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister, Olaf Palmer, outside a Stockholm cinema.

Whatever the inspiration for their festivities, the general, real-world activities of the so-called BPH as a whole doesn’t seem to be driven by any political or religious philosophy, a desire for conquest or dominion, or anything approaching real malice. Rather, their motives are entirely hedonistic in nature, convening from all the world’s corners, invading and occupying remote sites in the world’s trouble spots so that they might party on a massive scale, undisturbed by authorities and unchecked in the magnitude of their jubilant excess.



The BPH’s drugged, drunken metal-fests are said to have lasted for days and weeks, the participants only magically dispersing to the four winds when some over-whelming military might stepped in to close the party, or something went terribly, horribly wrong. As it inevitably would.

BPH festivities have taken place amidst some of the most outstanding wars and catastrophes of modern times, and may have inadvertently contributed to exacerbating a number of already dire situations. These include the Prague Spring of 1968, the Cambodian Incursion during the mid-1970’s, the Jonestown massacre of 1978, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the 1982 Falkland Islands War, the Bopal gas tragedy of 1984, and our current case in study in 1986, just to name a few that we now know of for certain.

It is impossible to access the size of the BPH’s membership during the 1980’s. Or how many of its number attended the Chernobyl event. Or how many perished in the conflagration of hospital alcohol and vodka unleashed when this volatile mixture exploded on contact with exposed plutonium fuel rods and their super-heated graphite casings. But certainly their numbers were diminished considerably in the event.

Apart from tantalising hints of a possibly grief-stricken BPH survivor leaving dedications to the town’s discarded, deceased children amongst the “Totems of Pripyat”, no serious evidence has come to light of any BPH activities on the world stage since the end of April, 1986.

Or perhaps they have simply become more adept at keeping a low profile...



_____________________________________________________

Чернобыль, Дерьмо и ёбаный Kарась
   Chernobyl’ , Der’mo i  ebanniy Charetth
Chernobyl, Shit and fucking Charetth

Lying about 20kms south of the reactor that bares its name, the town of Chernobyl is the ancient home to the celibate, habitually drunken Guild of Goat-Herders. The Guild, whose unfettered consumption of nonicca (the local mind-bending beverage) is legendary, have stubbornly defied all attempts to relocate them since the general evacuation in 1986. During the night of May 3rd 2012, the town was subject to a chemical fog of charetth toxin of unprecedented concentration, which spontaneously combusted the entirety of its small, recalcitrant population.

The emission was naturally traced to the Pripyat Charetth Kitchen, which came as no surprise. Rodents had perhaps accessed some improperly stored charetth, managing to rupture the internal organs of not one, but perhaps as many three or four of the lethally toxic fish. How fucked up is that...?“

   
“And Death reigneth across the land, enfolding every creature unto His embrace, and prejudice knoweth He not. Nor mercy neither. Verily, even regret knoweth He not. He is Carion. He is Corruption. And Decay. He is Death. His armpits doth reek of the rotted charetth, and from out his maw, and from out under His codpiece also, and from beneath His thigh, even from out His the foulest of bug-caves.”
        - from The Apocalypse of St. Laban the Anthropophagist 21:12 


What proved truly remarkable was that the entire town of Chernobyl had been gripped in some gigantic chemical reaction hitherto unseen on such a grand scale. Every building and structure, every surface had been rendered harder than stone. 

This came as some surprise to the authorities, although it probably shouldn’t have. The practice of having your walls “flayed and stone-blanched” is common in the more stylish homes and apartments in Pripyat. Owners would expose their abodes to the rare ultra-corrosive, airborne smog from resulting from the convergence of the nauseating, noxious vapours emanating from both the city’s meat works and the distant Charetth Kitchen. This in turn reacted with anything with a dung base (in this case: paint) to produce beautiful, abstract, virtually indestructible artworks across the walls. However, nothing as impressively apocalyptic as the fossilization of Chernobyl is to be found in any historical record.

Chernobyl came from small beginnings, and goat dung has always been the brick and mortar of choice. It paves the streets, the walls, the floors; the dust blow up by the dry spring winds coat every plant and tree, every leaf and blade of grass. It’s moulded into furniture, utensils, art, you name it... It’s everywhere!! Essentially, Chernobyl and its environs had chemically re-bonded into a perfect, hermetically sealed and virtually indestructible time capsule of a dirt-poor, Ukrainian, back-woods shithole, which might prove more durable than Pompeii or the Pyramids. And as commercially viable, too, perhaps? Or so some governmental officials speculated, personal economic spin-offs from the Disaster Tourism Industry rarely far from mind. Not much water flowed beneath the bridge before some bright spark put 2 and 2 together and realized that here could lie the answer to Ukraine’s prayers. 

By mid-summer the puzzle surrounding the mysterious fossilization of Chernobyl had been solved. Soviet scientists had also determined and verified a process that could replicate the event under suitable conditions. A controlled but catastrophic release of charetthic acid into the atmosphere would foreseeably seal the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor off from the outside world for as good as forever. All that was required to launch the operation was the pooling of millions of metric tons of the land’s ample resources of goat excrement in which to bury the entire reactor compound. Legislation to this end was rushed through the Ukraine Parliament by August.

But where to store it all? But of course! The only place in Ukraine where foul mountains of rancid, steaming, evil-smelling corruption couldn’t make any possible, noticeable difference: The Crimea!

Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in 2014 put a major spanner in Ukraine’s plans, and at the time of writing the Republic now stands in the unenviable position of having to establish its sovereignty over 5 million metric tons of goat shit and negotiate its safe return to its motherland. No end is in sight for the already protracted negotiations, and in the meantime the rhetoric, diplomatic jibes, and political satire surrounding them continues to make an international laughing stock of the embattled nations. 

All work on capping the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor has subsequently ground to a halt, and it endures as an open, festering cancer on the landscape of the northern Ukraine and in the zeitgeist of its hapless people.



We mingle around the entrance to the reactor compound beneath the vast Ukrainian sky, taking radiation readings and marvelling at our proximity to a site so haunted by catastrophe and infamy.
Our intrepid photographer (above) poses briefly with his radiation meter on this the site of the world’s most significant nuclear disaster. Lingering in proximity to the Chernobyl Reactor compound is not to be recommended if you value the welfare of your spleen, bone marrow and lymph nodes. Even holding down breakfast isn’t necessarily guaranteed.

How far more immeasurably unpleasant our present location must have been immediately after April, 1986, when clean-up work was done in shifts of no longer than 20-seconds, as lengthier exposure to the environment would prove fatal. Even prior to the disaster, radiation levels at Chernobyl could cause flashes and white-outs on emulsion film, as is evident in this aerial shot from the late 1970’s (below).


Boris eyes his own meter nervously and mumbles something in Russian to Natasha who yelps in alarm, then claps her hands loudly to draw our attention. “OK! Ffff-ARGHK this shit!” she barks with casual authority. “I am feeling like ovaries are shrivel up like little fff-aarghk-ing raisins. Let’s blow this turkey-town! Chop-Chop, Turisty!!!!



We leave the reactor compound behind and speed off, presumably in the direction of Lake Bostok, which lies nearby. The lagoon is only a few kilometres from the reactor, but few Ukrainians apart from state-authorized guides, charetth-catchers,  moonshiners and nonicca-cultivators are aware of its precise location. By decree of the State, Lake Bostok has not stood on any map for almost a century. We can almost smell the excitement in our van. Or is it just the Elk Scrotum Soup from this morning’s late brunch repeating on the Belgians...?

Boris pops a cassette in the player and a moment later the greatest hits of Cindy Lauper are pounding out of the speakers. Natasha, who has been sulky and withdrawn since the incident with the blanket, brightens and smiles across at Boris. She begins to bounce up and down in her seat in time to the thudding bass beat which is erupting out of a cunningly concealed sub-woofer, somewhere in the vehicle.

“Just-a-wannn-naaaaah! Just-a-wannnn-naaaaah-ah-aaaaah…!” she posits at the top of her lungs.  A moment later she reaches across and lowers the volume and turns to Edme & Loy, her spirits apparently lifted and the very picture of congeniality. “Hey, guys!” They cringe away like beaten curs in expectation of another tirade of abuse and profanity. “I am soooo sorrrry, Belgian boyz...” she coos. “I am being big bitch from very boring woman’s blood curse and am acting like fff-arghk-ing arsch-hole all morning at you guys.”

She reaches into the depths of her knapsack, draws out a flat, rectangular, iridescent blue & yellow box, and as she hands it to the Belgians their eyes light up like Christmas. Our photographer and I exchange glances (“oh........ fuck!........”), each holding his breathe in anticipation’s keen grip as this cosmic drama unfolds before our eyes.

Natasha! Our Dark Angel! You are every true man’s dream.

“In Ukraine, when you are saying sorry, you are making nice gift to witless pussyboyz you are treating like goat in binding cage…,“ she murmurs, gentle as a lamb, doting as a hen on her chicks, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

“You are liking chocolates, maybe,..? ...yes…?”
_____________________________________________________

Черноприпезд озера Босток 
   Chernopripezd ozera Bostok 
The Lagoon People of Lake Bostok

Situated maybe 10-15km outside Pripyat, but in perilous proximity to both the Pripyat Charetth Kitchen and the arguably less hazardous Chernobyl Nuclear Plant, the scenic chemical soup that is Lake Bostok has been home to the shy, indigenous Chernopripezd for centuries.

Their ingeniously constructed, traditional, wood, goat dung, red clay and earth houses, although falling into disrepair after a century of neglect, rise precariously, sometimes two or three stories out of the secluded lake to which their ancestors once took refuge from marauding Mongol hoards.

These very same ancestors brought the nonicca bush (nonicca divinorum sibericus) all the way from central Asia, along with the art of brewing a potent elixir from its iridescent blue and yellow flowers. However, their practice of drawing water from Lake Bostok for brewing purposes proved ill-advised. The lake is the breeding grounds for the charetth fish, and it remains unclear as to whether the almost supernatural toxicity of this marine delicacy is responsible for the lake’s singularly foul waters, or visa-versa. Whatever, it would appear that the unbridled production and consumption of nonicca on Lake Bostok over untold generations has gradually unwound the Chernopripezd’s genes.



Widespread contamination from the Chernobyl accident is just the most recent of a long line of catastrophes which the Chernopripezd have endured time and again over the centuries.

Lake Bostok is located an uncomfortably short distance from the Pripyat Charetth Kitchen, and well within the off-limits, no-fly Dead Zone that encircles the Kitchen in a 10km radius. Generations of the Chernopripezd have consequently been subjected to countless clouds of drifting charetthic acid. They have likewise suffered long exposure over the centuries to these mega-neurotoxins as charetth are native to the waters of the very same Lake Bostok. All this is said to have contributed to reportedly alarming genetic mutations in the lake dwellers.

The Chernopripezd ceased all commercial production of nonicca around the end of the 1800’s and withdrew completely from the sight of men, never to be seen again during the daylight hours. But bizarre nocturnal sightings of huge, uncanny, semi-reptilian creatures with monstrous tails slithering through the icy waters of the lake continue down to this day. Leading crypto-anthropologists have even suggested a very real connection between the evasive inhabitants of Lake Bostok and the tikhaya gryazi (“silent dirt”) phenomenon.

This gigantic nest (below) on an equally impressive ancient sun-deck is evidence that strange, monsterous “some-things” share the thick, black, toxic waters of the lake with the charetth.



The homes of the Chernopripezd are in a sorry condition. The fact that they have not long since fallen into Lake Bostok owes a debt of thanks to the nearby Pripyat Charetth Kitchen and the far more distant meat conveyor belts in town. Under certain conditions, the rank, toxic vapors arising from these locations combine into an airborne chemical stew vilified in both town and country. As previously illucidated, the exposure of common goat dung to the grey-brown fog produces an alarming chemical chain reaction, rendering it as harder than steel. Goat dung being a prime ingredient in the building materials and whitewash of the Chernopripezd. virtually every surface has been seared, sealed and tempered in the process, and has long preserved the structures from decay.

It would appear, though, from the condition of their abodes that the Chernopripezd are apparently no longer physically capable of maintaining them. Most of their once proud dwellings are subsiding and lean precariously on their foundations. Some are just one story tall with barely enough shelter and floor space for a bed. Others are grand in stature with no doubt a great deal of space within. However, no one can be certain of the nature of their interiors or furnishings as no one dares to enter.



Silent walkways lead down into the poisonous Lake, or simply nowhere at all for no reason, ending at a bare wall or a dead fall into the singularly uninviting waters below. Others lead into dark portals and doorways and the dead, pitch blackness wherein the Lagoon People furtively conceal themselves from our sight.

At night the Chernopripezd are said to bushwhack wayward travelers and indulge unsavoury sexual proclivities upon these unfortunates. The lake-dwellers are widely recognized locally as Bezkozlie (or “Goatless”, a derisive term implying the lack of customary access to a goat).

Either oblivious to the danger, or confident that the Chernopripezd will not come out by day, the Belgians stroll about in the sunlight on a walkway with cameras and spray cans, documenting and vandalising the ancient structures as they go. They gleefully gorge themselves on the box of Natasha’s good-will chocolates, and the abbey ale they’ve smuggled through customs all the way from Belgium.

Well, yes… Skål, you poor, dumb bastards!

Little do they know that Natasha has fortified the already industrial strength nonicca chocolates with injections of a tiny drop of pure nonicca oil extract into each.

Or that we’ve pissed into their bottles of St. Feuillien tripel and recorked them.

Nothing on Earth (not even a lifetime of consumption of the hardest psychedelic drugs, like DMT, LSD, the various opiates, or Crocodile...) can prepare you for the psyche-punishing contortions and distortions of a full-throttle nonicca high: the piercing blue and gold luminescence that streams and courses around and through everything in sight; the way moments stretch out over decades, minutes into millennia, hours into eons; the visions of hideous, gap-mouthed, shrieking horrors that parade, prance and gibber across the stage of one’s stunned consciousness. And all the while the universe grows impossibly ancient and dies all around you. Damn...!

Their choice of graffiti seems strangely prescient, considering that within the hour, shitting, pissing and vomiting uncontrollably, their senses pummeled, assaulted and consumed by waking nightmares, they will ultimately stumble through a rusted doorway into the dark, dank, lonely world of the Chernopripezd. There they will be forced to contend with the dubious delights of multiple rounds of “Your Goat - My Goat” until the morning light.



Jolly good sports, the Belgians! Yes, jolly good sports, indeed....



We leave the eminently pre-occupied Edme & Loy to their own devices and make our way back to our transport through the thick, thorny brush along Lake Bostok’s rancid shoreline.

The beautiful blues and yellows of this dragonfly reveals that it has been feeding on a nearby crop of nonicca bushes, and spells imminent danger to our guide. Nonicca is as highly valued by the local guilds of farmers and brewers as the silkworm once was by the Chinese. Therefore, the guilds go to considerable effort to ensure that their primary source of income is not lost to foreign corporate commercial interests.

The plantations are cunningly concealed, and well-guarded by brutes, thieves, rapists, murderers and other itinerant “goatless”, and to fall into the hands of such as these is not be recommended.



And after dark…? Well, it’s best to be far, far away from Lake Bostok when night falls.

The roads, too, are unsafe even in the daylight hours, and the sky is already begun to bruise. We snap a pic or two to prove to the skeptical just how close we are to a jolly good ass-raping, and make all haste to haul our butts back to Pripyat while they are still “unsullied”.

Boris has been guarding our minivan and has it spluttering and roaring into life at the first sight of us. “Drink! DRINK!! Then… we DRIVE!” he cries cheerily, whilst clearing away emptied bottles of nonicca beer and dozens of Black Label Johnny Walker mini-bar miniatures from the front seat.
Yes, but what of Edme & Loy? They are nowhere to be seen.

And, as our official guide and “minder”, doesn’t Natasha have some kind of personal responsibility for the safety and well-being of our little group of urban explorers?



“What? You are thinking seriously I am giving rat’s ARSCH-hole? Hey! Ffff-ARGHK those guys!”

Fabulous Natasha. Never out of character. What a gal!



When the district was re-classified as “not entirely uninhabitable” in 1992, 5% of the original population chose to return, despite the government having never officially opened up the lands for resettlement. Only 1,970 persons (stubborn peasants and nonicca farmers, squatters, crazies, “goatless”, and service industry employees) are known to reside in this still highly-restricted area. Curiously, studies have shown that this number has remained constant since the mid-’90’s, despite everything from mysterious mass-pregnancies to plagues, animal attacks, instances of spontaneous human combustion, murderous raids from a nearby viking enclave, and alien abductions.

At the Grand 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Free People’s of the Ukraine’s Revolutionary Reclassification of the Pripyat and Chernobyl Environs, the Tourettes-stricken Prypyat Preservation Committee chairperson, Irena Renko, pronounced the anomalous number “1,970” as “Here to stay! Fff-FARGHK you! Fff-FARGHK you! BIIITCH! SHIIIIT!”

The mystic figure is immortalized in the classy, styrofoam, cardboard and goat-dung sign that we pass at the entrance to the city.



Darkness is rapidly approaching and the weather has turned to shit by the time we make it back to our lead-lined lodgings at the Pripyat Visitors’ Hostel.

A loathsome odor wafts from out of the kitchen where some local road workers grin at us toothlessly as they prepare their evening repast. Something resembling live worms writhe in the thick brown sauce that bubbles at the bottom of their skillet. Our appetites are already curtailed by a touch of nausia (presumably a little radiation sickness) and this is the last straw. We drop all thought of dinner and retire early, exhausted from our day’s high adventures.

This evening I take my well-earned rest in air-conditioned comfort beneath a couple of down quilts. The rain beats heavily against the lead-impregnated window to my room. The Hostel is an island of warmth, safety and calm in an otherwise hostile and indifferent environment.

A long, faint howl drifts through the vents and filters. Perhaps the road workers have tuned the TV to the Ukranian National Dog Fight Network. Or they’ve discovered the contents of the minibar. Or perhaps it’s the some nameless, mutant vision of Hell, grotesque and malformed, crawling and caterwauling, floundering and shitting its way through the poisoned, rain-dashed, dystopian forest. Who can say?

In these last moments as I glide effortlessly towards sleep, I wonder what Edme & Loy are up to...

Jolly good sports, those Belgians! Yes, indeed...! Jolly good sports...



Copyright © 2019 Jan Emil Christiansen (photos) and Jon Anderson (text)

Kommentarer