UNDER THE DOME

Then they all heard a dreadful sound outside – a great hissing roar. The lamp went out and they were in complete darkness. There was a rush of air as if a million rockets were being let off at once, and the earth shook. The comet roared with its flaming tail right through the valley, across the forest and the mountains, and then disappeared again over the edge of the world. But in the cave they didn’t know all this. They thought everything had been burnt up or smashed to atoms when the comet came down, and that their cave was the only thing left in the whole world. They listened and listened...

Tove Jansson, «Comet in Moominland» 

Amazement and delight of discovery weren't first – they appeared later. At first there was fear. It came with a searing flash that bleached all around, nullified the urban landscape and erased time. The horizon tilted, concrete walls trembled, and shards of broken windows rushed to the ground like a wasp swarm. Many days after I'll be looking under my feet more focused than usually, avoiding the glass scattered by the blast wave, but also trying to make out the fragments of the broken dome.

Transparent, yet seemingly so reliable, it protected the planet from contact with а dark block of timeless space. There is no longer this barrier. From now on I see how fragile it is, how thin fractures run quickly on its surface. Its fragments are scattered around. They dig into the landscape, throw up the grass and clods of soil, cut tree trunks, break metal. They pass right through the walls and foundations of the houses, settled on the bottom of lakes and rivers. The damaged landscape fumes and shrivels, but swallows these fragments. Fresh green shoots wrap the riddled earth, creating new outlines of the landscape.

After decades, nothing in it will reveal the trail of the once-broken dome. There will be only numerous visual evidences and scientific research in which the incident will be recorded. As for the landscape – it will forget everything. The landscape had done it more than once.

In May 1891 after two meteorites the fragments of the dome dived into the factory pond of Nyazepetrovsk and the river Nyazya. In August 1909, they burned together with a night meteor that passed over Chelyabinsk. In the 1910s and 1920s, they dispersed along the Yetkul and Yemanzhelinsk districts. In 1933 they crossed out the rising dawn sky with a broken scarlet line and disappeared on the border of Chelyabinsk and Kurgan regions, near Staroye Pesyanoye.

There will be a small layer of evidence in archival cases, in photocopies of provincial newspapers, in the last pages of Soviet publications, in scientific magazines, in local lore sketches. But all material traces will be absorbed by the landscape, as if it tries to calm fear, which was born by another break of the dome.

The outlines of plains and forests are too big by themselves, too impersonal, too anonymous. They don't provide places and objects available to dimension where a person could see recognizable markers of what happened. That is why it's impossible to determine which of the dried up small tributaries of the Uvelka river near Krasnogorskiy became a haven for a meteorite, sought by historians in November 1926 and, which probably, was used by the locals for some farm building in the nearest village. We can't find a house in Selezyan village (Yetkul district in Chelyabinsk region), which foundation is made up of fragments of another 10-pood meteorite which fell in the fields in the early 1910s. And we can't find any signs of the Katav-Ivanovsk bolid which fall in 1941 – its search was canceled by the beginning of the Great Patriotic war.

In search of relevant points on the map that could become the bearers of memory of the meteorite fallings – of these previous damages of the dome – I was walking for miles across the fields and coastlines and inspecting the remains of old structures. In most cases I couldn't say where exactly the particular place mentioned in the archives or rare newspaper publications is located. Moving through the landscape, I didn't find any signposts or memorials. I only tried to guess whether the destroyed house, or a funnel in a meadow, or a thicket of reeds, or a cracked mountain are that wanted places. I outlined the landscape, as if thinking: if it will be uncovered as a tin can, if I'll find any lost traces in it, then fear will go away, and the dome will be restored above my head.

But it won't.

2018