Piotr Karpenko

Simultaneously, there arose in me for the first time the ‘whole sensation of myself, which grew stronger and stronger, and a clear realization that through my thoughtlessness I had put myself in a situation of almost certain annihilation, because at that moment my death seemed inevitable.

Instinctive fear in face of this inevitability so took possession of my entire being that surrounding realities seemed to disappear, leaving only an unconquerable living terror.

I remember I tried to make myself as small as possible and to take shelter behind a ridge in the ground, so as to hear nothing and think about nothing.

The trembling which began in the whole of my body reached such a frightful intensity that it was as if each tissue vibrated independently, and, in spite of the roaring of the guns, I very distinctly heard the beating of my heart, and my teeth chattered so hard that it seemed as if at any moment they would break.

I will remark here, by the way, that in my opinion it was owing to this incident in my youth that there first arose in my individuality certain data—which later took definite form, thanks to various conscious actions upon me on the part of certain normally educated people—data which have always prevented me from being perturbed by life questions in which exclusively my own egoistic interests were at stake, and from acknowledging or experiencing any but authentic fears, while on the other hand, they have enabled me, without being carried away or deluded, to understand the fear of another and to enter into his position.

I do not remember how long I lay there in this state; I can only say that in this case, as always and in everything, our most supreme, inexorable Sovereign, Time, did not fail to assert his rights, and I began to grow accustomed to my ordeal as well as to the roar of the cannon and the bursting of the shells round me.

Little by little the tormenting thoughts of the possibility of my sad end began to disappear. Although as usual the firing was broken up into several periods, it was impossible to escape during the intervals, chiefly because of the danger of falling into the hands of the guards.

There was nothing to be done but to keep lying there quietly.