The brisk autumn wind blew the fallen leaves around an old, slightly worn down red bench in the park, wherein sat the still figure of Mr. Nikolay Nisselovich, mumbling incoherently to himself. I watched from some distance away so as not to be discerned, but near enough that Mr. Nisselovich was still clear in view and earshot.
He wasn't a particularly striking man, to be sure; seemingly in his early-thirties, with dark eyes and silvery blond hair. A short, barely visible light beard graced his chin, giving him a more distinguished sort of appearance. From afar, it would seem he was unapproachable and perhaps even unkind, but in truth his expression was perfectly mild and indifferent, even gentle. His attire was simple, but for an emerald-colored floral silk scarf that he wore tied around his forearm everyday. It is unknown why he does so.
Mr. Nisselovich did not converse much with others, and preferred instead to take time for himself. I mean this in the sense that he rather conversed with himself, nearly himself only, but in the presence of others was taciturn and unsociable unless provoked enough to involvement. And even so, he would say little.
My name is Andrei Silashevsky. As a student at the university in which he works, I have been studying (not in the academic sense, of course) Mr. Nisselovich for quite some time. One could even say I befriended him, for he does not shy away when I engage in conversation, and regards me not with timid indifference but a certain friendliness that he seldom shows others. Of this, I am grateful for him. He is not so alone because of my friendship. This isn't to say that he is not still quiet and distanced, but much less so with me than any other.
Today I had the opportunity to be witness to one of his private sessions. It was much more animated than previous ones I'd encountered, to say the least.
"Fools…they are absurd, self-righteous fools! And hypocrites too, I may add! For they cannot say they have never done it. If that were true, they most certainly are not human. They dare to presume I am out of my right mind for speaking to myself when they are just as guilty!"
He suddenly rose from his seat and looked about himself, as though fearing someone was watching. But there was nothing; it was only I, who thankfully, he had not seen. Still, for the sake of general precaution, I inched further back behind that oak that concealed me.
To my dismay, he looked in my direction. I could swear that for a moment, our eyes met, and my heart skipped a beat as my body froze. He had seen me, I thought. I may have lost his trust…
Unexpectedly, however, he took his seat once more and shook his head in dismissal.
"No matter…I must say, Nikolay, you fret much too often. There is no other soul present, and even so, what of it? Let them hear! Let them have more reason to call you ridiculous. However, if that were not my status, I daresay I shall forever be forgotten to those to whom my name is known.
"But what of that Silashevsky boy? He would not abandon me, I hope. No, certainly not. His heart is true."
Upon hearing my name mentioned in such context, I could not help but feel a general warmth invade my soul, for I then knew of what particular esteem I was held in, and that my endeavors were not in vain. I confess that I wished, at that very moment, to go to him and embrace him for the honor he'd just given me, but knowing full well the consequences of so rash an action, I shortly retained myself. Mr. Nisselovich continued thereafter:
"Yes…and it is of my ridiculousness that I am thus great!" he stood once more and leapt upon the bench.
"I am Napoleon!" he cried, thrusting his fist forward into the air. "I am every great man who has ever walked this earth, and every great one to come. It does not matter that no person outside of Petersburg is even remotely aware of my existence, nor that they never will. Without their knowledge, I shall slip silently into their minds and reside their until they are cold in their graves. You!" Nisselovich pointed his index finger absently off to the side.
"I am inside of you. I shall be in your future, in your past. I'm your every mindless action, your every incoherent reason, the eyes from which you see, and the whispers that break from your lips. I will always be there to remind you of your sin, your folly..Do not forget it."
Here, he ended. I was quite in awe of this speech, as it was so completely unexpected. But I learned of his true spirit. I hadn't he slightest idea before that he'd be prone to such passionate outbursts, for I'd only ever seen him as a quiet, timid man. It is always the silent ones, isn't it? Those who speak the very least, who are to us invisible, have within them all the ambition of a nobleman, the darkness of a criminal, the despair of a lover, and the cunning of a general. They would not dare reveal their true colors to anyone, for they would soon wither away into nothing; their purpose would be lost forever, and all mystery attached to their name would cease to exist. Men like this cannot survive, after the depths of their soul had been thus invaded, but would think even that death is too good for them, and so they throw aside the pistol that not a moment before, greeted them with welcoming eyes.
"No, I shall continue to suffer!" Nisselovich cried, eyes glazed over with a kind of remorse. "I hope you all hear me, and watch how you have torn me apart, stripping me down and releasing me to the world's judgment. But I shall not move, no, not as you mock, jeer, ignore, or look down upon me! I am inside of you; I controll your wretched, filthy hands. Your own scorn gives conviction to all I have said. I –"
He broke off, unable to gather his thoughts entirely. He sat down once more, and lowered his head, suddenly crestfallen and silent. My heart ached; I could bear the scene no longer. Mr. Nisselovich began to sob. I stood up and emerged from behind the oak, then quietly and cautiously walked over to him. He did not see me, as his head was buried in his hands. I hesitated.
He raised his eyes, perplexed. Slowly, he looked down at the ground and then back at me.
"Andrei, what are you doing here?" he posed quietly.
"I was studying behind that oak there," I motioned in the direction of the tree. He appeared more concerned than perplexed now, as though irritated.
"You did not hear me at all, did you?"
I opened my mouth to speak but said nothing, and his eyes dropped to the ground.
"Now you know. And you shall turn on me…oh! I suppose I could have suspected it. You always were a curious young man—"
"No, go, Andrei! Leave me to my self-destruction," he waved his hand around absently as if to dismiss me.
"Mr. Nisselovich…" I repeated firmly, and rested my hand gently upon his shoulder, "I will not abandon you."