Not one of them knows why he has got into this house, or who the men are with him. On all faces there is disquiet and melancholy ... all, in turn, approach the windows and gaze attentively about them, as though expecting something from without.
Then again they set to roaming up and down. Among us a lad of short stature is running about; from time to time he screams in a shrill, monotonous voice: “Daddy, I’m afraid!”—This shrill cry makes me sick at heart—and I also begin to be afraid.... Of what? I myself do not know. Only I feel that a great, great calamity is on its way, and is drawing near.
And the little lad keeps screaming. Akh, if I could only get away from here! How stifling it is! How oppressive!... But it is impossible to escape.
That sky is like a shroud. And there is no wind.... Is the air dead?
Suddenly the boy ran to the window and began to scream with the same plaintive voice as usual: “Look! Look! The earth has fallen in!”
“What? Fallen in?”—In fact: there had been a plain in front of the house, but now the house is standing on the crest of a frightful mountain!—The horizon has fallen, has gone down, and from the very house itself a black, almost perpendicular declivity descends.
We have all thronged to the window.... Horror freezes our hearts.—“There it is ... there it is!” whispers my neighbour.
And lo! along the whole distant boundary of the earth something has begun to stir, some small, round hillocks have begun to rise and fall.
“It is the sea!” occurs to us all at one and the same moment.—“It will drown us all directly.... Only, how can it wax and rise up? On that precipice?”
And nevertheless it does wax, and wax hugely.... It is no longer separate hillocks which are tumbling in the distance.... A dense, monstrous wave engulfs the entire circle of the horizon.
It is flying, flying upon us!—Like an icy hurricane it sweeps on, swirling with the outer darkness. Everything round about has begun to quiver,—and yonder, in that oncoming mass,—there are crashing and thunder, and a thousand-throated, iron barking....
Ha! What a roaring and howling! It is the earth roaring with terror....
It is the end of it! The end of all things!
The boy screamed once more.... I tried to seize hold of my comrades, but we, all of us, were already crushed, buried, drowned, swept away by that icy, rumbling flood, as black as ink.
Darkness ... eternal darkness!
Gasping for breath, I awoke.
When I was living in Petersburg,—many years ago,—whenever I had occasion to hire a public cabman I entered into conversation with him.
I was specially fond of conversing with the night cabmen,—poor peasants of the suburbs, who have come to town with their ochre-tinted little sledges and miserable little nags in the hope of supporting themselves and collecting enough money to pay their quit-rent to their owners.