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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hallucination Is More Real Than Imagined

In my last column, I wrote about the problems that arise as my wife and I gradually lose our memory. But they are nothing compared to what's happening with other pensioners our age.

Take our second-floor neighbor Mikhail. Whenever he leaves his apartment, he turns back at least a dozen times to check to see if the gas is on, if the windows are open, if the water is running, if the flowers on the balcony are wilting, and so on.

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Just the other day, Mikhail locked his apartment door, said a friendly hello to a fellow in a cap standing by the window on the landing and went downstairs. He was about to go out into the courtyard when it suddenly occurred to him that he had forgotten to lock the door. He went back upstairs, gave the door handle a good tug, said another friendly hello to the fellow in the cap and went downstairs. He was already on the street when he was seized by the thought that he had left the gas on. He hurried back, unlocked his apartment and ran into the kitchen. All of the knobs on the gas stove were turned off. He left the apartment, greeted the fellow in the cap a third time and went downstairs. This time he made it all the way to the intersection before he froze: The water was running in the bathtub. The apartment would flood. He turned back once again. He couldn't get the key in the lock for some reason and wanted to ask the fellow in the cap for help, but he was gone. The lock finally opened, and Mikhail rushed headlong into the bathroom. The faucet was turned off.

Mikhail cursed his failing memory and started inspecting the apartment. Several times it seemed to him that someone's shadow was flitting through the apartment, hiding from him. "Things are bad," Mikhail said. "Hallucinations. I'd better get to a doctor." And then he remembered -- the flowers! He grabbed a pitcher and walked through the living room to the balcony. Again he thought he saw a shadow flashing ahead of him through the room in the half-light of evening.

The balcony door was unlocked for some reason. "Forgot that, too!" Mikhail said to himself. He crossed the threshold and, in that instant, a strange sound caught his attention, as if something heavy had fallen with a thud on the sidewalk. He looked down to see the fellow in the cap writhing in pain.

"Do you need help?" Mikhail shouted. "Shall I call an ambulance?"

The young man rose heavily, picked up a large bag and answered by tapping his index finger demonstratively on his temple.

"Call one for yourself," he cried. "You need help!"

That evening, comfortably settled in his armchair, Mikhail suddenly noticed an empty space on the secretary where his antique gilded clock decorated with Cupid figurines had stood.

Vladislav Schnitzer is a journalist and pensioner living in Moscow.