The river flowing just outside the windows of Wanda and Jan’s flat was black. Its channel, which was a good four meters wide, meandering through various wastelands, parts of parks and the city centre, was filled with a substance that was generally like water, but it was black and smelled of tar. That smell deserves a separate story on its own; it was rich and variable, depending on the section of the river, the season, and maybe some other – objective and subjective – factors. 


In any case, the river evoked different emotions. Some laughed at it, saying what an excuse of a river it was; others went angry, asking who in their right mind would allow it; and still others noted with some pride that every river is a river, after all. I gazed eagerly into its depths whenever I could, despite being reprimanded over and over that the fumes were bound to be fatal, and imagined how deep it was and what its bottom might look like. Never, ever, at any point, could the bottom be seen. It was horrifying. I would sometimes dream about it. It was death itself, disguised as a symbol of life.


Once upon a time I found a hard, shiny piece of something on the bank of that river. I concluded that it had to be a piece of the river’s substance turned into solid form, a piece of its bottom perhaps, a true treasure anyway, and I put it in the box.

(transl. Magdalena Małek-Andrzejowska)