The novice prison guard Yolkov was taken hostage during a riot at a notorious Russian penitentiary. He would have suffered an excruciating death if not for Zhirov, a burly and soulful inmate who protected him. After the ordeal Yolkov can’t help but seek out Zhirov’s companionship. He believes that his hero was sent from a higher power not just to protect him, but to save him from the abyss his life has become. Zhirov may be feared by the other inmates, but Yolkov sees him for his wisdom, depth, and sublime spirit. He’s put in the precarious position of being willing to do anything for the prisoner.
There’s talk of a Corrective Colony on a polluted arctic island. Volunteer prisoners can have their sentences reduced if they complete the clean-up. Zhirov is too extreme a criminal to be eligible, but this is the favor he asks of Yolkov. He wants to be outside again, even if it’s working with toxic waste. Yolkov takes his request to the warden. She’s incredulous, but finally agrees when Yolkov volunteers to go to the island also.
Yolkov has only heard rumors of the disaster at the last Corrective Colony. He has no idea what kind of chaos he’s signed up for. He only knows he’ll do anything for Zhirov, and that may mean relying on his protection once again.
A poignant and touching single-installment novella by the author of Maelstrom!