Nicolai paused and turned to me. "Now the magic unfolds," he said, " and this magic takes us further and further away from the ice crusted world in which it located. In a dream our princess sees mice coming from under the Christmas tree, and she sees the toy soldiers coming to life with the nutcracker leading the charge against the mouse soldiers. Just then, as the soldiers are about to loose against mouse king and his forces, the princess intervenes; the invaders flee. At this instant the nutcracker becomes transformed into a handsome prince. The prince invites her to a journey to his kingdom. On the way they stop and explore the depth of their love in the glittering world of a snow covered pine forest. Except they cannot tarry long. Love cannot long exist in isolation. They must go on to the kingdom of the prince where they are lavishly honored with celebrations and entertainment. This magic, too, seems to be just barely enough to match the miracle that an unfolding love had wrought."
Nicolai added that this richly created oasis is the world of humanity. "It is the miracle of the sublime that unfolds in the dessert snows and outshines the night of its stark emptiness. Without humanity, without the human spirit, without creativity and love, this oasis would not be. The stark, drab, empty world of primitive nature, doesn't create such miracles. They could never unfold from it. This marvelous human world is a miracle worth fighting for. This is the soul of Russia, and Germany, and America. Here is where my own story unfolds," Nicolai added. "I was this nutcracker once, made of 'wood.' By some miracle I was touched by a love that none of us could really define, a love that gives meaning to life. The wood has been transformed into something beautiful by the sublimity of love. This is what Drosselmeyer signifies. Love is the magician that can make the impossible happen. Humanity cannot exist without love. The two are one."
I felt that Nicolai was speaking about our mission, its importance, its danger, and its indispensable connection to the "dimension of love, without which humanity could not exist." I answered Nicolai with a nod. He understood. We seemed to agree that anything more on the subject would be about details concerning technicalities. The weighty matters had been revealed. This was going to be a mission that is vital for the existence of Russia, if not humanity, and a dangerous mission, but a mission that the miracle of love would cause one to carry out to protect its riches.
During the performance of the ballet, Nicolai did break his silence once more, to speak about the technicalities. We had front row seats in the first balcony. Nicolai was dressed in black, as was Antonovna. There was a gentleness flowing between them that had nothing to do with sex and desire, but had to do with supporting each other to face the new world that dawned with a dangerous political unfolding. What did it mean that biological weapons could be dropped from space that left no radar signature?
Half way through the first act Nicolai handed me the binoculars and told me to watch the dancers. "It has become dangerous to talk," he whispered, leaning close to me. "Our country is almost totally governed by traitors. Money governs everything. Money buys people. The fondi that Steve talked to you about are everywhere. Our government doesn't represent Russia anymore, nor its people, but foreign interests. The revolution has been betrayed, the people have been betrayed. Of course, this happens throughout the world now. Every country on earth, with the possible exception of China and a few others, is run by traitors. Humanity is being betrayed. Its beautiful soul has been put asleep to be snuffed out. Democracy has been turned into a farce. It has been betrayed like everything else that is noble and human. Justice has become a relic of the past. I thought I would never see the day when our country is in so great a danger as it is today, and one can't even talk about out it. That's why I can't tell you anymore about your mission, except that it is dangerous. Anton will fill you in on the way. I can also tell you that the matter is extremely urgent," he said.
I put the binoculars down. "You just called Antonovna, Anton," I said, surprised.
He grinned. "There are only two persons in the whole wide world who have been accorded that privilege," he replied, "and they are both sitting right here. This makes us very special people," he added.
"No, that makes us two extraordinarily lucky people," I replied.
"I know that, Pete, I know," he answered back. "That's why we must keep this world alive, Pete. This, all by itself, is worth the risk."
I agreed with all my heart.
We spent a few happy hours together that evening, and a few more at Nicolai's place, but we hardly slept. There wasn't enough time for that. We had to be at the airport by six o'clock. The plane left at seven.
As it turned out we had barely enough time left for a proper good bye. Still, it wasn't a sad occasion. Nicolai had brought each of us a fare will present: a fur covered Russian hat for me, and a thick woolen scarf for Antonovna. We parted with a brief embrace. "Come back safely, protect each other," said Nicolai as we were about to pass through the security gate. We waved to each other across the gate until the next person coming through blocked the view.
So, there we were. Before I fully understood what it was all about, I found myself on an airplane again, this time destined for Novosibirsk with Anton at my side. The speed with which this had unfolded was bewildering, as bewildering as the speed with which the world had changed. I felt I had been caught up in a kaleidoscope that had been turning faster and faster. Everything had tumbled together; my mission, Nicolai's gentleness, our dinner of the night before, the dance, the ballet, and now we were tourists. Perhaps it was the speed that made everything seem unreal.
Now, however, on the plane, time seemed to stand still once more. There was time for everything now. We had time to reflect, time for smalltalk, time to smile at each other for however long that seemed right. Since we couldn't talk about our mission, we talked about the ballet of the night before that had evolved from a very old magical tale that was set to music by an extraordinary composer, which was now portrayed in dance. In a way, it portrayed our story, too. Only Nicolai wasn't Drosselmeyer. Nicolai was not directing the magic. The magician was love, as he had pointed out, and that part of him was with us. I told Anton that Steve had frequently pointed out at such occasions, "we bring to each other the gift of love. This always seemed to be enough. It made us feel rich. It changed our life."
"Didn't Nicolai say essentially the same?" Anton asked.
"He did so in deed, more than in words," I replied. "He is somewhat of a puzzle to me," I added.
"And I, am I a puzzle too?" said Anton and smiled.
"You never were. You were a miracle right from the start," I said.
"A miracle?" She repeated.
I nodded. "You are both a miracle and the answer to a prayer. I always wanted to meet someone like you. I felt that being married to Sylvia and knowing Ushi wasn't enough. Something was spiritually lacking. If the Principle of Universal Love was to be our guiding light, I felt that it needed to have an ever fuller and wider expression, like falling in love again and again in ever widening circles, bringing the light of love into more and more people's life across borders that would never allow this to be possible."
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