A Great Man

I had known Cucoanesh as far back as the first high school years, but we had never made friends. In university, I lost touch with him. I only learnt that he entered the PolytechnicUniversity. Meeting him, by accident, in a tobacconist's, he told me that he had graduated and had got an unexpectedly well-paid job in a town in Transylvania. I hadn't seen him since. So, great was my wonder when, on an incommensurately sad sunset of July 1933, he suddenly entered my study. Obviously, I recognized him at once, but he seemed changed; even those five, six years that had passed since our last meeting didn't account for the unexpected change in his appearance. "I started growing, you know!" he suddenly confessed, before I had time to ask him any question. "First, I couldn't believe my eyes, but I measured myself and I realized that it's true: it's been a week since I've been growing enormously. Six maybe seven centimeters… I was on the street with Lenora and we suddenly noticed, both of us. And this morning, the difference was even bigger…"There was some certain uneasiness in his voice. And he couldn't find his place; he leaned on the back of an armchair, then started from one end of the study to the other, walking nervously, his hands at the back. I noticed that he didn't know how to hide his hands any longer and I understood; the wrists were coming out, no matter how hard he tried to pull down the sleeves of the coat. "I must send all of them to the tailor, to let them out," he said, catching my eye. I tried to comfort him, reminding him that during high school he was complaining that he would remain short. He interrupted me again. "If I had grown like all humans, in a year or two… but like this, in a few days! Well, what can I tell you, I started to be afraid. I'm very much afraid that it might be a bone disease…" And because he saw I didn't know what to tell him, he changed the subject:"I dropped by, just like that, with no particular reason, to see if you hadn't left on holiday by any chance… for, you know, I moved to Bucharest and we are more or less neighbors. I found a small apartment on Lucaci Street…"He left with me the house number and told me the hours when I could find him. Then, he shook my hand and left. It's easy to imagine my bewilderment throughout that entire week. There was no doctor friend that I knew, whom I didn't look for, and to whom I didn't retell Cucoanesh's case. As it was to be expected, he himself went to see a specialist in osseous tuberculosis the next day, to run the necessary tests. All he could find out was that, for the time being, it was not osseous tuberculosis, but a macranthropy phenomenon, as the doctor had termed it, known, of course, in the medical annals, but this time with a totally unusual rhythm. Unusual indeed: for, seeing Cucoanesh, the third day, before supper, an hour when he told me I would always find him at home, I got scared when I entered the room; my friend was taller than me by at least fifteen centimeters. And he grew proportionately; he became, as one might say, a tall and well built man. The clothes fitted him so badly, that out of shame, Cucoanesh took out his vest and put on a bath-gown, whose sleeves he unpicked and let out. And in vain had he loosened his belt to make the trousers longer; they barely touched the upper part of the ankle, and when he sat down, they rose substantially, giving him a destitute air of poverty-stricken man, wearing the clothes of another. "Well, what's the news?" I asked, in an undertone, to break the silence that prolonged infinitely. "What does the doctor say?" "Macranthropy!" Cucoanesh answered with an odd tranquility. "Splendid!" I exclaimed. "This means that you'll become a 'great man'… it isn't even that bad!...""You picked up the wrong time to make a joke," Cucoanesh interrupted me. Then he stood up and started to walk. Seeing that I took out my cigarette pack to light a cigarette, he drew near and asked for one. "But when did you start smoking?" I asked, so as to say something. "Well, right now… perhaps it might do me good…"That cigarette did not do him any good for sure, and he threw it after a few smokes, which he didn't know how to breathe in without choking. But after a few minutes he asked for a second cigarette, and he smoked this one up to the filter, clumsily but stubbornly. "I measured myself before you came," Cucoanesh started suddenly, with a weary amazement in his voice. "Look, here, at this door. And since nine o'clock this morning, I grew more than one centimeter. Do you understand what this means?! I'm growing as we speak!...""Maybe you're eating too much," I tried a timid reassurance. "Or maybe you eat dishes that are forbidden. You probably must avoid calcium." "Calcium, and iron, and vitamin B, and almost all the other vitamins, all are forbidden," burst out Cucoanesh. I haven't eaten anything since last night except for a slice of dry bread and a cup of tea with little sugar. So as not to trouble my head with the diet, I crossed out all courses. I simply crossed them out.""Well, yes?!" I asked him, seeing that he suddenly kept quiet. "I'm starving! I get faint from hunger, but as for growing, I grow on and on, I'm always growing, grown be my name, damn it!..."I started feeling useless."I will come and visit you again," I said, holding out my hand.I came every night after that. In front of his house, groups of curious people started gathering, as they found out about his strange disease, and hardly anybody could believe it unless they saw it with their own eyes. As my friend did not leave the house anymore, the curious were satisfied with the news whispered by the neighbors. The only pieces of information could be given by the cook, but everybody amplified them according to their own imagination. "Well, how do we stand?" I asked him two nights before, entering Cucoanesh's bedroom. "This morning two meters and two centimeters, at lunch two and five and this evening two and eight!...""Impossible!" I exclaimed"Nothing is impossible in nature," said Cucoanesh with false cordiality. "For mother-nature nothing is impossible! Look!" And suddenly jumping out of his bed, he stretched out his arms in front of me, as much as possible, his head backwards, as if he wanted to imitate a monstrous clown. I concealed my surprise as much as I could. Cucoanesh seemed bigger than the two meters and eight centimeters that he announced. "It is, as they say, a unique case not only in the medical annals," he added on the same languid, sardonic tone, "but also for the comprehension capacity of modern science. The professor claims I possess a gland that disappeared in the Pleistocene, a gland that mammals had possessed and then, he says, abandoned because it stood in their way. Of course it stood in their way!..."His voice showed a smoldered despair. He opened another pack of cigarettes and flung himself on the bed, coiled up in order to be able to fit. "They asked me to come to the faculty all day, they called me to the clinic to make a new X-ray, the professor called me right now, this evening, to his surgery, for a new exam… I didn't go. What's the purpose? They can't help me anymore. They are interested in my case, I admit, but I couldn't care less what they are interested in. For the progress of science, they said. The progress or regress of science is all the same to me. I am interested in one thing only: to cure myself! And I see I can't…""How do you know?!" I interrupted him. "The research has just begun. You said yourself just now that it's a unique case in the medical annals. They can't find the cure in the twinkling of an eye.""As far as I'm concerned, if they haven't found it by now, they may not find it at all. Because I'm not a man like any other, already, at two meters and eight centimeters. And that was an hour ago. Their cure, if they should find it, and send it to me tomorrow morning, would stop me at over two meters and fifteen. I'm not interested anymore. I'm not interested anymore if I am no longer able to walk on the street beside Lenora ever again!..."Suddenly, he started crying. He still held the cigarette between his lips when he started crying; at first only a few tears, then his eyes twinkled under the flow of tears and his face got all wet. "To stay here, in bed, to know that a week ago you were staying here, in the same bed, and that this week something you can't understand, something nobody understands happened, something that makes you different from other people and forbids you to walk on the street with the woman you love; it simply forbids you to walk with her on the street, to take her out, because you don't want to embarrass her… nothing has changed apparently, no disaster, no death, and still, now we are separated, simply because there is no other way!... it's awful!..."I felt that any reassurance would have been useless and I kept silent, looking downwards. But suddenly, as if he were ashamed of his weakness, Cucoanesh burst out laughing and clacked his fingers. His laughter seemed to me totally different, it started to sound not so human like, acquiring a strange resonance, of a tree that cracks, of a forest bent down by the wind. I kept silent, in prey of grim thoughts. "But the most amusing is the story with the journalists!" Cucoanesh said with a smile. "First, I got mad at the professor, because it was him who made all these things public. But now, I'm not mad anymore. Each and every one does their job according to the abilities God gave them. In fact, the reporter is also a human being, he has to live, too, just as we, engineers, have to. But it's funny how they reached in here, to measure me…"Actually, the incident was not that funny as Cucoanesh tried to make it. As his extraordinary macranthropy became known, the journalists were waiting for him at the clinic and at the faculty to take pictures of him, but the doctors always concealed him as much as possible. Two reporters succeeded in entering his apartment, pretending to be the professor's assistants, who came with the latest X-ray results, and took pictures of him. Obviously Cucoanesh had enough time to break their cameras and push them down the stairs. "I'm sorry now, because they are, poor them, people in want, and I took their means of making a living. But I will compensate them. I will send them money to their editorial office. I have no use for it now, anyway…"Indeed, as he said, he had nothing to do with the money. He hardly ate anything, and he no longer seemed to be hungry. After a cup of tea, he felt replete for a whole day. Regarding clothes, it was useless to order new ones, as they would not have fitted him the following week. He decided to wear an enormous robe, which he fitted with the help of a tailor in the neighborhood and which, at least, covered him. Nobody was allowed to enter his room except for Lenora, me and the professor. I understood, from the fret that took hold of him a few minutes before, that his fiancé was about to come, and I withdrew. The next evening, the group of nosy people was smaller. It rained cats and dogs. Only a few reporters, taking shelter in front of the passage, persisted in waiting. I found him quieter than I had left him, lying across the bed and smoking. "Well?" I asked. "How are you feeling?""What did you say?...speak louder!... I seem not to hear very well…""I asked how you were feeling," I repeated, drawing near and raising my voice. "Pretty well… two meters and twenty three… but this was quite some time ago… I am not measuring myself anymore!..."And after a short break he added in a low voice:"It's over with me, boy!..."He talked quite peacefully, but it was as if this peace hurt him even more. His face started to change. I couldn't say exactly what had changed, as the proportions were completely preserved, but he started not to be himself. I noticed this by carefully watching his head and I had the impression that I saw him through a magnifying glass; he was just as I had known him for years, but still, he wasn't the same. "Did you say anything?" he suddenly asked. "I asked you to speak louder. I think I'm hearing less and less well…""I asked you what the doctor was saying…"My friend looked at me in surprise, and then he burst out in a bitter laughter:"He says I should go to his clinic.""It might be a good idea," I added feebly. "To stay under their permanent supervision.""Speak louder, dear!" he broke out, irritated.I repeated, almost shouting every word."I don't know what's happening to me," he said thoughtfully. "I don't understand why I'm hearing less and less well…""You should have asked the professor," I said, stressing every word. "Since when did you notice that?""Since last night… and it's quite curious, because I hear something else, though, I hear some sounds very well… I mean, I don't even know if they are sounds… any way, I hear other things…""What kind of things?""I don't know how to tell you… it's very hard to explain… I sometimes feel I am losing my mind, but it's true, I do hear strange things… I seem to hear the clock tick all the time, but it's not exactly a clock, it seems something else, which ticks regularly, like a pulse, and ticks in all the things at once… look, in this chair, for instance… and still, it ticks with a totally different pulse than the desk… but it's not a pulse, it's something else, I don't know how to tell you…" "This is very interesting," I interrupted him. "Certain occult practices…." "Please don't tell me about any occult practice!" he broke out. "I'm not interested. This whole thing with the occult sciences is a huge farce. I'm interested in one thing only: to be like before. I don't want to become unique! I don't want extraordinary things to be happening to me! Let them happen to those who want them and look for them! I don't want to hear strange things, even if they have an extraordinary significance for you. I don't want it, I simply don't want it!..."I waited for his anger to cool off, looking thoughtfully downwards. What else could I have told him? The only comfort I could have offered was to tell him that what was happening to him resembled some results of Indian meditation techniques, but obviously, all these were completely of no interest to him. He had no curiosity to fathom the new world that opened to his strangely amplified senses. He was not interested to see the world from the level of his macranthropy and, deep down, I agreed with him. "Please forgive me," he added a minute later. "I was unfair… you wanted to help… I know you can't help me, and you know it as well, but you tried to comfort me… I'm sorry, pal… especially since I want to ask you to do me a great favor."He stopped, as if lacking the courage to confess his thoughts. Then, he drew near and asked me:"Can you hear me well? I mean, normally? I think I speak quite loud… but maybe I'm wrong…"Truth was he spoke less loud than before, but loud enough for me to understand him with no effort."I would like to ask you to do me a great favor," he said, looking me deep in the eyes. "But please, don't say no, and do exactly as I tell you. I won't have time to explain why and how. You can figure out yourself that… but, anyway, it's no use wasting time with general things… I will ask you to take care of Lenora… I mean…"He stopped for a few moments, looking at me with an intensity that dazed me. It was as if he was trying for the last time to seal his lips, to bury his secret."…Well, take care of her!..."He suddenly felt his cheek and forehead with his hand."It's strange, I sometimes have the impression that my senses have changed… God forbid! It's as if I started raving!..."He frowned, trying, as it seemed, to understand rumors discerned only by him. But he shook himself quickly, feeling his forehead with his hand again, pressing his eyes. "This is what I wanted to ask you," he started with a different voice, "this is what I wanted to ask you most of all: to help me disappear… don't interrupt me! Listen up to the end. I'm not asking you to collaborate to a suicide, because, if I wanted to commit suicide, it would have been quite easy. But, either because I don't have enough courage yet, or because of an absurd stubbornness of mine, I don't intend to end my life. After all, I do have this right at least: to see what mother-nature is capable of doing to me, how far she can go. I will keep on growing, and growing again, but how much? At least I want to see this: the limit of macranthropy. And that's why I won't kill myself. But I can't live in this town, among these people either. I want to disappear. To hide. To get away from the journalists, the doctors, the specialists, the neighbors, the acquaintances. And I figured that I would need your help for this… I thought of hiding somewhere, in the mountains, in Bucegi, for instance… to build a cabin there, or repair a deserted one and live like a hermit…""But you will die of hunger, alone, in the heart of the mountains…""I won't. Food is not a problem, for now. I will take, just in case, a few kilos of crackers, a few cans, some tea… but, I repeat, for now, I'm not eating and neither am I hungry. The only difficulty will be finding the cabin and the clothes… look, this robe is all I can take with me… I made it loose and shapeless. The rest of the clothes are useless. And still, I'll have to take warm mountain clothes with me. I thought of buying several blankets, of all sorts, and to take with me a pair of scissors, and a tool for sewing. Or, maybe I won't even need this. A dozen safety pins will be enough. But I will need blankets and sheets. And I would like you to buy them… tomorrow morning, by noon at the latest, because at 2 pm I would like to leave…""Why at 2 pm by all means?"He hesitated for a few minutes: should he tell me, shouldn't he? Finally, he made up his mind. "Because tomorrow at 4 pm, I and Lenora had planned to elope. To elope in the mountains, too… to get married, naturally, before God, for we have no other way, and to live together in a hut… but then I thought that I had no right to do this. I cannot destroy her youth because of me… that's why I decided to disappear tomorrow, before her arrival. The rest is at God's will… she is young, she'll find somebody else."I understood, from the effort with which he uttered the last sentences, how much that decision hurt him, but I also understood that any attempt to change it would be in vain. If I had refused to become an accomplice, he might have tried to run all by himself, and would have been caught before he arrived at the mountains, and who knows what he could have done, then, out of despair? On the other hand, as I quickly told him, the departure the following afternoon was completely risky, with all those journalists at his gate, and with all the street swarming with nosy people. The flight could only take place at night, and by no means straight from his place. One had to find a shopping car, large enough for us, the blankets and the food we would buy."A closed light lorry would be better," Cucoanesh suggested. "You offer a few thousands more to the driver and the discretion is ensured for a week or two, exactly what we need…"We agreed that everything I would buy I would deposit at my place. He would send a note to Lenora, telling her that the escape is put off for a few days, and I would come to pick him up by taxi towards the evening, letting the reporters believe that we went to the clinic. He would be ready and waiting for me, and would come down immediately, so as not to give the nosy ones time to follow us in another car. At nightfall we would be in front of my house, where the light lorry would be waiting. "May it be as you say!" said Cucoanesh. "And now, I will ask you to leave. I have several other issues to settle and small things to set straight. I don't want people saying that I have left behind a muddled youth… and I want to write Lenora, too, for later on…"Only after reaching home did I realize that I thought of everything except the most important thing: the place where my friend would hide. He mentioned a cabin in the mountains, but this cabin had to be found, and we had to get there before the break of dawn, in order not to attract attention. Our plan seemed childish: to get off from the lorry at dawn, and to start climbing the mountain with a dozen blankets on our backs, without knowing where we headed, risking for my friend to stop after a few hundred meters, because he hadn't eaten for a week and especially, because he would have to climb, almost certainly, in his socks only, as I didn't know if I could find him a pair of boots his size, in the six hours I had at my disposal…Nevertheless, the escape could not be postponed any longer. We had to leave, taking any risks, the next evening. But, knowing we couldn't hope to find an empty cabin that would have been waiting for us there, in the mountains, immediately, away from people, especially made ready for us, we had to be satisfied with less. For instance, with a tent that Cucoanesh could have installed in some obscure backwoods, away from any path. There, he could deposit his blankets and the food, until he had the necessary tools to build a cabin to his size and where he wished. Naturally, those carpentry tools could not be bought that same morning, when I had to find and buy so many other things, more urgent and necessary. For a night or two, my friend had to sleep on an improvised mattress, covered only with blankets, inside the tent. I would bring the tools and everything else needed, after a few days. Things happened exactly as planned. When I came to take him, at the agreed hour, Cucoanesh was so agitated that I didn't even have time to explain why I was forced to change the plan we had made an evening before. He was waiting for me, his head almost touching the ceiling, wringing his hands, in his huge robe, from which came out, robust, his legs wrapped in strange thick cloth rags, sewn together with the coarsest string It was useless to ask him "how he was feeling." He looked of perhaps three meters, and his scanty clothes, his enormous hairy hands, the face that his several-day-beard had darkened and deepened, gave him the air of a prophet of apocalyptical dread. You couldn't look at him without fear, for both his deep phosphorescent eyes, as well as his big teeth, that he revealed at every tendency to smile, exceeded very much the degree of abnormality that we are used to accept in a human being. "We must leave as quickly as possible!" I heard him whistling. I mostly guessed what he was saying, as the sounds he made had lost their human intensity and preciseness, starting to resemble the infrasonic explosions, the whistling, the whispers and the groan, familiar in the natural world; sometimes it seemed like a distant brook murmur, other times like the flow of a waterfall, or like the wind over a field of wheat, or, like stormy wind, bending the branches in a tall forest. I was increasingly attentive to the strange modulations and inrushes of my friend's voice, in order to be able to guess the words that he was trying hard to utter. His speech had altered surprisingly in the last 24 hours. Sometimes, the sounds he made had the harshness of some complicated boxes in which the metal, the wood and the bones were, without any sense, glued together. Such sounds terrified me. I didn't dare to look at him then, waiting for a miracle to happen, for something which I knew could no longer happen: to hear him, that is, speaking with his old, familiar voice, the human one. If he was nervous, Cucoanesh spoke almost incomprehensibly. Terrible sibilants and weird palatal consonants, similar to the popping-up of monstrous corks inside a damp compressed violin, whistling and guttural trills, sometimes that low as if being rent from who knows what object from the dead things world – a desk moved from its place, a huge box hauled on the earth, the fall of a sack of sand – atrophied nasals, suddenly stifled by convulsive choking, all of these followed for tens of seconds, interrupted now and then only by breaks when one could hear a slight snoring."We must go because Lenora is coming!" Cucoanesh shouted, wrapping the robe, shyly, around his thighs. But guessing from my alarmed surprise how difficult it was for me to understand him, he stood still for a moment, confused, his arms in the air, looking at me avidly, waiting for a sign from me that everything he guessed was just an opinion, that I could still hear and understand him, that however unique his fate was, there still remained between us a possibility of communion and understanding. "I bought you a pair of boots, the biggest size I found!" I shouted to him. "Otherwise, with these things, you will not be able to walk more than a kilometer."He listened to me frowning, making a visible effort to understand. I think he succeeded. But he must have found my attempt to change the subject so comical that he burst out laughing and, directing his arm towards me, tapped me on the shoulder, in a friendly manner. I shuddered. His hand seemed to me hard, cold, inhuman. Feeling it, I had the impression that I was caught by a monster and the barking stifled by froth produced by his laughter magnified to absurdity my sensation of living a nightmare. I broke off from his caress and made for the door. I had to go down the first, so as not to attract the attention of the nosy. When I opened the door, Cucoanesh looked once more at the room. He took the last packs of cigarettes from the table – with a huge effort, as if his hands were frozen – and he went out. Then I saw that he had a big envelope in his right hand, probably with several letters and papers, which he gave me, showing me through signs – as he was afraid of saying anything else – that it is very important. The envelope was addressed to Lenora.It's useless to recall the adventures of our escape. They were copiously recounted by the entire press, and no matter how many exaggerations might have been slipped in those famous reportages, the rendition is still valid in its general aspects, because it is based on the confessions of the two drivers – of the taxi that brought us to my home, and of the light lorry in which we traveled all night long. We were lucky to get rid of the reporters following us in less than an hour. But how embarrassing the ride we took that day was! Cucoanesh hardly found room for himself, coiled at the back of the car, not daring to utter a single word, so as not to scare the driver who, trembling, with beads of sweat on his forehead, clenched his hands on the steering wheel, looking ahead only, terrified by the frightful presence of my friend, when the latter headed towards him holding his robe with both hands, and shaking the car at his first step. It was only late at night, when we were securely sitting in the light lorry, safe from the nosy gazes, that Cucoanesh started talking again. He talked slowly, in a whisper, and I barely understood what he was saying. I nodded my head all the time, so as not to discourage him, but sometimes I had the impression that I was not fooling him, that he was perfectly aware and realized that everything he was saying I could no longer comprehend, but he couldn't find it in himself to give up the word, to give up this last possibility to communicate with a living being. The driver of the lorry, warned by everything the newspapers published in the last two days, did not seem scared; on the contrary, the important part he was playing in our escape flattered him and he gave us all sorts of useful pieces of advice. At 4 am we arrived on the PaduchiosulMountain, where, basically, Cucoanesh had to hide for a few days, until I returned with the necessary equipment to erect a cabin. The car stopped at a turn surrounded from all parts by woods, a wisely chosen edge among several valleys, with endless thickets and glens, having, not too far, a spring whose gentle murmur I heard clearly. The moon hadn't set yet and we could examine the place at leisure. When Cucoanesh got off and, in order to take the numbness out of his bones, suddenly stretched as big as he was, cracking his joints, rising on his tiptoes a bit and leaning his head backwards voluptuously, towards his nape, the valley howled with his moan and the two of us remained speechless, looking at how he developed and grew, crushing the mountain horizon with his huge back and the turned up sleeves of his robe. "It's good... it's good!..." we made out from a long and voracious waterfall of sounds, moans and whistles.He looked at once in the bag that he kept at his disposal all the time and took out an unopened pack of cigarettes. He crumpled it for a few moments between his fingers, then he handed it to me, exhausted. I had to tear the paper and to take off the gilding above. Cucoanesh's fingers started to become useless for such petty things. However, he could still hold the cigarette quite well and use the lighter with certain easiness. But I realized the difficulty he had in smoking when, after puffing, thirstily, several smokes, he tried to keep the cigarette between his lips. He had a stray air about himself, that tiny cigarette in the corner of his huge mouth was about to fall, and at every wince of his lips, it started too, like a spring. In fact, Cucoanesh only managed to puff a few smokes, as they were enough to burn the cigarette up to the filter. I'll have to bring him other cigarettes, I told myself looking at him, perhaps some cigars, or a special order from the tobacconist's made to the size of his mouth. "It's good!..." I guessed him whistling again. But this time he was trying as hard as he could to make clear the other words, too, which he strived to repeat without ever succeeding to render them as they were. "Borx!..." I seemed to hear. "Borx…Bretinx…creti tinx …tues…tues…""Talk slower!" I shouted at him as loud as I could."It's goord!" he started again. "Borx!...Borx borbruli! Borx borbruli!..."There followed another fit of laughter, whose echo amplified by the valley seized me with sacred terror. At least, from what I understood, Cucoanesh was in an excellent mood. If only he could still hear our words! He, however, between roars of laughter, kept repeating "Borx borbruli!..." I'm transcribing very approximately the sound I heard, the same way we transcribe by "whizz!" the whistling of a bullet or by other alphabetical signs the knock on the door, the breaking of a crystal, the fall of a bomb. Borx however only distantly resembles the sounds Cucoanesh kept uttering, constantly altering them, in such a way that a few minutes ago I was wondering if they referred to the same initial word. And suddenly I understood: Vox populi! Shouting this to him, I saw his face brighten up and bowing slightly, smiling, he put his hand on my shoulder. He then resumed with more vigor: "Borx…bretinx…kretinx (?) tues…" It wasn't difficult to guess that he referred to another phrase that also started with vox. And I shouted: "Vox clamantis in deserto?!" He nodded his head transfigured with joy. And moving away from us, reaching the hill in front of the car by making only a few steps, he raised his arms towards the sky, making up a frightful prophetic image, and started to talk, howl, call, sing, addressing the valleys and mountains directly, without looking at us anymore. "Now, there comes the end!" I remember I heard him, or rather I felt him say that. But as I saw that the driver had remained speechless, growing pale, not able to take his eyes from my friend's coat, bloated by the morning wind, I got on the lorry and started to unload the luggage. We worked like that, the driver and I, for about 10 minutes, while Cucoanesh kept on addressing the woods and the sky. Maybe he is praying, I told myself; or maybe he is cursing. Who could know?!... I made for the mound and I started calling him mightily. He hardly heard me. He bowed, childishly, bent his knees and drew his ear close to my cheek. I told him, roaring, that all things had been unloaded from the car, that we had to look for the place to set up the tent, somewhere in the thickets, for we wouldn't have much time to waste. The lorry must arrive in Bucharest before noon. I had several necessary things to buy, so as to be able to return as soon as possible, on one of the following nights. He would be waiting for me starting from the next night, at certain hours, somewhere near that place. We will beckon at him with the lantern and I will also call him with a strong honk. I talked to him for five minutes, until I felt a great exhaustion, because I was shouting each and every word, repeating it countless times whenever he shook his head to tell me that he didn't understand. Then, my friend hugged me, lifting me up in his arms, like a child, and told me a series of words, of which, as I had feared, I didn't understand almost anything. He slapped the driver on his back, and all three of us, with loads on our backs, started for the valley. We chose a place that seemed to have been especially created for a loner's burrow. The beginning of a meadow, caught between the rough ascent of the wooded ridge and the precipitous ravine above the river. Cucoanesh gestured at us, saying he didn't need our help to set up the tent. He only gave me several packs of cigarettes to open. Then, he sat on a stone, pulled the robe over the bare knee and started to sing a song that was taking shape right then, out of his loneliness, out of the mountain's loneliness. It was only after I got home, exhausted after another five hours in the car, and after I had read that morning's newspapers, that I realized that my friend had become the sensation of the day, topping even the most important political events. His picture – from the ordinary days or from the first days of macranthropy – was published on the front page, accompanied by reportages on his mysterious disappearance, by articles and interviews from the medical world. The case was, of course, unique, but not beyond the capacity of explanation that science was endowed with, the dean of the MedicalSchool had declared. The foreign correspondents had wired sensational articles, a few days before, which roused the greatest interest all over the world. Several famous reporters announced their arrival in Romania, to meet and interview a "macranthropus". In the evening, I phoned the number indicated by Cucoanesh, and I established a meeting with Lenora, saying that I had to tell her some important news. I hadn't met her before, and I was surprised when I did. She had a matte forehead, the hair of a noble, saddened red, a straight nose, from another century, her eyes irreverently open – eyes before which you always felt intimidated. She opened the envelope I gave her with a barely restrained frenzy and glanced at the first page of a long letter. But as, I assume, its reading was difficult to bear under the eyes of a stranger, she folded and put it in her purse, starting to leaf, absent-mindedly, the other papers. They contained, I suppose, a will, several official papers, a pile of banknotes and several photos. "Where is he?" she suddenly asked me, pushing all the papers in the envelope. I explained to her, hesitatingly, that I am bound to the promises I had made to him, but that, for now, he was better where he was than anywhere else. She listened to me, looking doubtfully in my eyes. "How big is he now?!" she interrupted me with a gesture of impatience. "It's hard to say. This morning I think he was around three meters and a half, maybe more…" She closed her eyes and bit her lips, without uttering a word. "And more critical is the fact that he can't speak… one can barely understand what he is saying…" "I understand him!" exclaimed Lenora passionately. "I understand him no matter how he is! I know him. I guess everything he says. I guess from his lips, from his eyes…"She stood still for a few moments, her eyes lost in tears, then she held out her hand."Next time, I'll come with you. I'll call you in the morning."I complied. In fact, I told myself, the girl is right. Much as Cucoanesh might suffer seeing her and then parting for good with her, he would suffer even more if they separated as they did, without seeing each other. The most difficult will be for them to talk to each other. They will need another means of communication, perhaps a blackboard, as in school, on which to write, both we and him, with chalk. I put down this thing as well, on the list of things I had to buy, and once I arrived home, I fell asleep smiling, thinking of Eugen's happiness. We couldn't leave the next night or the night after that. I couldn't find some things, others, for instance the huge boots that I had ordered, were not ready yet. Actually, even the lorry driver was not free until the third night, and by no means did I intend to let somebody else in on our secret. Hence, I could leave only the fourth night since my parting with Cucoanesh. It had rained few hours before, and we advanced rather slowly for a considerable part of the journey, so instead of reaching Paduchiosul before 3 am as we had planned, we arrived there at 4 am. It had already dawned when we stopped the car at the established place. The driver started honking a lot. All three of us remained in the car, anxious, without daring to look at each other. And suddenly, from a place we didn't expect, Cucoanesh rose slowly, bored. Lenora stifled a scream. My friend was now indeed unrecognizable. The robe was obviously too small – for, the way he appeared, he seemed to be 6-7 meters high and his chest widened strikingly, everything growing proportionally with his height – and therefore he covered his thighs with several blankets pinned randomly together, he wore two other blankets on the shoulders, and he was barefoot, as the cloths he used to wrap his feet up in had come off, and he didn't succeed in putting them back with those huge fingers, which could only hold boulders and trunks. I can hardly render the impression that his extraordinary appearance made on me, above the road ditch. When he raised his shoulders he seemed like Neptune rising from the billows. Such a terror ended up by dumbfounding you. It was no longer a fright proper, but a strange wonder, that took you out of time, projecting you into a mythological dawn. You expected to see him lifting the Neptunian trident or setting on the lightening like Jupiter – and everything that followed would not have amazed you more than his own appearance. His beard had grown prodigiously in these last days, totally altering his face, converting it into a theophany. The head – completely normal for the proportions of the body – became though impossible to look at the moment he started laughing or talking, because then he showed his teeth and the hole of his mouth, and his dragon-like tongue. Actually, at the first sound he uttered you shuddered, stepping backwards, for you had the impression that he triggered that sound in an unnatural manner, moving his shoulders, or cracking his fingers, or from a rattle in his chest. I feel totally incapable of calling to mind those sounds. I cannot say they resembled one of the countless sighs, moans, snaps, and whizzes that I had heard in nature and still, they evoked something, something from an uncertain realm of dreams, of animal fright and excitement, and this sole involuntary evocation overwhelmed one with its terror, fascinating, suspending for so many shattering moments the feeling of being anchored in the present. It's quite probable that my friend realized the magic of the sounds he gave out, because he refrained all the time from talking as much as possible. However, seeing Lenora, at the beginning, when we got off the lorry, he raised his bare arms towards the sky, bursting into a cathartic cry which petrified us. Then, he made some steps and, with certain difficulty, knelt beside us, smiling. He knelt and stooped his back, in order to be able to draw near us better, succeeding only in reducing his stature to half though, still exceeding us with more than a meter. Then I shouted at him, rising to his ear:"She wanted to come! She did!!..." I thought he didn't understand me and I rushed to take out the blackboard on which I wrote, with huge capitals the same words. When I lifted the board for him to read, he looked at the letters and nodded his head, smiling. Then, with infinite care, he reached for Lenora, groping, not daring to grasp her, he raised her like a child and set her on the lorry. This way, he could see her better and caress her without risking to crush her. "Eugen! Eugen!" whispered Lenora, clenching both her hands on his fist. It was clear that he didn't hear anything, but he didn't even feel the need to do so. He was happy that he could see her so close to him and that he could talk to her. Because, even if the sounds he made were very feeble, he was talking to her; he moved his lips slowly, being afraid to try more. I heard from time to time sighs and rattling as if coming from his chest; they were the whispers of the lover. "What can we do now? What is there to be done?!" shouted Lenora bursting into tears. "Louder!" I told her. "Louder and very close to his ear!..."Lenora repeated her question several times, but although Cucoanesh drew his ear near her, he didn't understand almost anything, for he simply raised his shoulders and smiled with infinite, resigned sadness. He bent down and lifted the blackboard. He could hardly clasp the piece of chalk between his fingers. However, patient, without getting discouraged, trying hard, like a child at his first letters, he wrote in capitals across the board: "It's good." "What do you mean by 'good'?" I shouted. "Do you feel more peaceful? Do you see the world with different eyes? Can you see things that we can't?..."