By Oksana Kushlyaeva
Illustrator – Ksenia Shuh

Translated by Sasha Skorykh
One Girl
Once upon a time, there was Katya. Katya was a girl. Lonely she was, as she had no father, no mother, no sister, no brother. She only had herself as a family, so she could do whatever she wanted. When she did not want to do anything, she just sat on a clay stove and looked out the window.

Outside the window there was a road. Many people walked along it. They were young and old, they walked in pairs and threes, some of them with dogs, others with geese or other animals. There were many people outside, but Katya was alone in the house. It had always been that way: five years ago, ten years ago, even earlier than that. Always. But one day the girl woke up, and said:

- I do not want to be lonely anymore, I want to have a friend, maybe even two.

So she said, and no one objected to her. She put on her boots and a wadded coat, and went to the market.

The whole village was there. They saw Katya and started to laugh:

- Hey girl, do you want to buy our chicken?

- Maybe, - answered Katya.

- Should we sell you our cat?

- Well, I'll take the cat, too.

- We won't sell you anything, Katya! We cannot trust you to care for such a little animal. You'll kill it right away!

Katya was surprised - she did not know that the people in her village were so stupid. She went home, took a witchcraft book and began to read: "How to bring a plague on the livestock... No... How to get rid of offenders ... Not that... How to create a living being at home. Here it is! Ingredients: flour, yeast, sugar, butter..." Katya copied the recipe, put the book back on the shelf, and began to cook. She mixed the dough, put it on the window, and wondered whom to shape from it.

- I can make a bun, as it is depicted in the witchcraft book, but what if this round creature turns out to be dumber than the neighbor's chicken? No, I will make a girl like me.

And she made a girl exactly like herself, only a little smaller. She put it in the oven, waited sixty minutes, as the recipy said, then put the fire in the oven out, opened the door and said:

- Hello, Katya the Second! I am Katya the First, let's live here together, if you want!

- Hey! - said Katya the Second. - I see no reason to refuse! Do you have anything to eat?

So the two Katyas started to live together. They sat on the clay stove together and did whatever they wanted.

The people in the village came to Katya's house and tried to look in the windows.

- What is going on?! - shouted some of them. - There was one Katya, and now there are two. What if tomorrow there will be a million of them?

- We should have sold the cat to Katya, - said the others. - She made the second Katya to annoy us!

They walked around Katya's house, cursed her, and then they sent matchmakers:

- Katya the First, give Katya the Second out to marry our boy!

Then they wrote a complaint to the police, that girls are backed illegally in the house number five on Pushkin street.

Then Katya the Second said to Katya the First:

- Listen, I think I will go, this village is not the right place for me!

- Yes, you're right, Katya the Second, I can see it myself - you don't belong here. Although I love you very much and I will miss you terribly, I will not stop you. Farewell, Katya the Second!

They hugged each other, and each of them walked in her own direction.

Stupid village people looked out of the windows, they cried and demanded the runaway to come back. But Katya the First paid no attention, she just walked on and on alone to her place.

Katya the First returned home to live alone, as she had lived before. Again, her name was just Katya. Katya got a cat and a chicken.

The villagers contradicted her no longer and avoided her house.

She began to sit on the clay stove again hugging her cat and her chicken. Life went almost exactly like before. But something worried Katya.

She shuddered, then she listened - had the door creaked? Had someone come in? But who could come to visit her now? "It was so good to live together, - Katya thought, - so nice to sit, each of us in her corner, and read books. Now I have a chicken under one arm, and a cat under another arm - but it still feels bad. Maybe I should bake another Katya? But what's the good? She will leave soon! Who wants lo live here with these stupid people?"

And then it struck her:

- And why am I sitting here? Why did I stay ?

Katya returned the animals to the neighbors, took some food and set out on a journey. Soon she found a place where two roads met.

- If I go to the right, I will catch up with Katya the Second, but she did not ask me to catch up with her.

Katya turned around and walked along the road in the opposite direction.

Katya walked in the field, then through the forest. Along the river she walked, and crossed the river. She walked wherever her feet took her, and she walked at night, when she could see nothing at all. It was nice to walk on and on like that, further and further. Katya left rivers, forests and mountains behind. She was glad that she made no stops, so that the house, from where she left, stayed further and further behind.

Once a wide asphalt road took Katya to the great golden gate. The gate was open, and she saw a glimmering city. The city had the same streets of Pushkin and Lenin, as in Katya's village, but they all were crowded. All the people were colorful, shiny, and shimmered in the dark. They walked around, chatted, made photos and asked to follow them.

- How beautiful these people are! Maybe I'll stay here a little longer, - Katya thought.

But as soon as those people noticed her, they dropped what they had been doing, and began to look at her like predators - like they were going to swallow her.

- Come here, come here, - people shouted, - we will gild you, we will paint you!

- Leave, leave our beautiful city, - she heard from the other side.

- Buy at least a blush, - begged voices from another street.

- Beautiful, but just as stupid! - said Katya out loud and ran away.

Having escaped from the beautiful city, Katya went on farther, and once found herself in an ugly city. The city gate was green, paint-peeled and crooked, the streets of Pushkin and Lenin were all in ditches and potholes, there was rubbish everywhere. Nobody looked at Katya. People didn't look at each other at all, they looked at their feet, at puddles and ditches. That's why they often hit each other, and then they swore so much, that there was a constant terrible raket in the streets. Katya ran away and went on farther, from city to city, from village to village. She never stopped anywhere, because the people she met wanted either to change Katya's clothes, or curse her, or give her away to marry.

- How many people are there in the world, - Katya sighed, crossing another shallow river, - but they are so similar to the people of my village, as if they were all baked in one oven! Probably, I need to go even further from home. I'll take a big ship and go to the place where there are no Pushkin streets or Lenin streets.

Katya boarded a large ship, and went overseas. She saw many cities and villages, where there was not a single Pushkin street and almost no Lenin streets. People there were different, not like anywhere else. And all the same, Katya did not stay anywhere long enough.

- I'm used to walking on and on, why should I suddenly stop? People are good here, some of them are not so stupid, but they are completely strangers to me.

So Katya walked, not stopping long in one place. One day she stopped for the night near a small village. Katya went to sleep, and when the day dawned, she went to see where she was.

Katya walked through the streets and wondered why that place looked like Katya's village and at the same time - completely different. Here was the street, exactly like the one in which Katya had lived, and the house exactly like Katya's house, but it seemed completely different. Katya opened the gate, knocked on the door and entered the house. And there, on the clay stove sat Katya the Second, dangling her feet and reading the book of spells.

- It's good that you came, - said Katya the Second. - Come in, sit down, let's have some tea.

Katya the First climbed onto the clay stove, sipped hot tea from the saucer, and listened to what Katya the Second was telling her. And she had a lot to tell: about her trip around the world, about cities, big and small, beautiful and ugly, and how one day Katya the Second returned to their village and began to change everything there. She closed up ditches, painted fences, opened a club where she showed movies about other countries. The village people first wrote complaints to the city administration, but then they got used to it, they even helped Katya the Second, and they made her someone important as a sign of public approval. Half dreamimg, Katya the First listened to those stories and thought:

- So nice that our Earth is round!

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