Vadik and Alyosha were in their woolens playing with the football in the snow. Alyosha’s baby brother, Lyosha, was sitting on a moss-covered rock watching the game intently. The elder boys cursed in their native language whenever the ball did not do what they wished it to do, and this was disturbing little Lyosha quite a bit. His mama had told him never to curse or swear and he obediently followed her instructions. As for his elder sibling Alyosha, he was brash and couldn’t care less. In fact, he regretted that he had to babysit his little brother that day while both his parents were selling their goods in the community market. They would only be back by nightfall, just in time for dinner and the rosary. However it was getting colder and Lyosha was squirming on the rock.
“Alyosha brat – Alyosha brat,” squealed the uneasy Lyosha. “I’m hungry and cold. Can you please stop playing and let’s go to the Vladmir’s for a meal?”
“Shut up Lyosha,” barked back Alyosha as he stole the football from Vadik, “I’m busy playing.”
“But I’m hungry Alyosha brat…”
“Shut up Lyosha or I’ll come over there and beat you hard.”
Lyosha sniffled, squatted down on the snow-covered earth and continued to watch his brother play while his stomach growled with hunger. Why did mama have to leave him alone with Alyosha brat when she knew they never got along? She took Sobaka their dog, but not timid Lyosha.
The game started to get more intense. Although Lyosha was too young to understand the intricacies of football, he knew that his elder brother was one up on Vadik, the son of the village school teacher. Soon Lyosha’s hunger disappeared and he started to cheer for his brother, the way those people on television used to cheer Messi, Alyosha’s favorite footballer.
“Come on Alyosha brat! You can do it!” cried Lyosha excitedly.
That did the trick. Alyosha smiled at his younger brother, nodded his head and yet again stole the football from Vadik. Vadik cursed loudly as Alyosha kicked the ball hard out of his reach, but Alyosha had kicked too hard.
The ball flew into the air and landed with a muffled ‘thump’ in the snow-covered backyard of a ramshackle cottage from where a single yellow light bulb emitted its artificial rays.
Alyosha cursed aloud while Vadik stood frozen in place.
“I’ll get it Alyosha brat,” cried Lyosha as he toddled towards the lonely unkempt backyard. Alyosha dived towards his brother and grabbed him before the lad could slip under a rather large hole in the fence to get the ball.
“Let me go brat – let me go!”
“Don’t go there Lyosha you idiot,” admonished Alyosha as he held on to his brother tightly. “That is the old koldun’s place.”
“What is ‘koldun’ Alyosha brat?” asked Lyosha who was not that well versed in the regional language because of his tender years.
Alyosha turned his brother’s face away from the cottage as he answered. “Lyosha don’t worry about what I said, and don’t worry about the ball. By tomorrow the koldun who lives there will place it back outside his fence. But don’t you dare go there now or God knows what will happen to us.”
“But what is the meaning of ‘koldun’ Alyosha brat!” said Lyosha in an irritated tone of voice. “I want to know or I’ll go under the fence.”
Alyosha slapped his little brother several times, “You will not go anywhere there Lyosha you hear me – you will not go to that wicked koldun’s cottage or he will….”
“Or he will what?”
Alyosha shrugged. “Or he will … I don’t know but papa says he is not a good man. He never goes to church and no one has seen him work in his backyard for the past 30 years. His light is always switched on, and if anyone drops something like a ball or a kite into his yard, he throws it back at night and you find it outside the fence the next morning.”
“Alyosha is right,” whispered Vadik with fear in his voice. “My papa too says that he isn’t a nice man. Papa once saw his face at night while coming back from a neighboring town.”
“What did he look like?” asked Lyosha timidly
Vadik shuddered at the very thought. “Papa said that he had the eyes of a devil.”
“Oh,” muttered Lyosha. He stared at the snow-covered ground, deep in thought while the other two boys looked fearfully at the cottage. They both saw the koldun’s light bulb through the single window in the cottage, and Alyosha held on to his younger brother tightly as he remembered the time when he and another friend were playing with a baseball when suddenly the wretched ball went over the fence. They found it the next day outside. Alyosha’s father told him that the ‘koldun’ threw it back at night…the ‘sorcerer’ threw it back at night.
(Inside the cottage)
The fragile frame of an old man with a long gray beard and even longer pepper-salt hair, with eyes so piercing it had transfixed many a man, looked outside from the corner of his tiny window. He would deal with the ball later, but such handsome children….
He stared at them with his vicious eyes. His stare went past them and he saw a young maiden in light blue jeans and a white woolen sweater passing behind them…such a beauty, if only he could have her for dinner. Oh! Her breasts…such beautiful breasts! However she walked out from his line of vision and there the three boys stood, still staring at the window.
One was really small who was being held by an older one with a lot of redness in his cheeks, while the third stood with dark brown hair paralyzed with fear.
Alexis, come closer to me. Do not be afraid little boy, I will take good care of you.
The wizened old man raised his left hand in the form of a blessing towards the direction of the three boys. All his fingers were bent in a grotesque way that even lifting it made the old man wince in pain, which he delighted in. Another woman passed them again with a man by her side. He must have been her husband, the protector of her virtue, but who could ever protect her from the wicked stare of this filthy skeleton of a man in the cottage.
I’m your confidant my lady. Do not listen to those others, they are jealous. Listen to me only.
The ancient man without blinking at all turned his face to the cross of the Christ on his wall which was infested with a whole army of white ants. He wore only a long tattered ebony black robe which had by now stuck grossly to his flesh like his own skin. He tried peeling it off him once, but he tore his tender skin in the bargain and bled for a whole week.
He made the sign of the cross with his left hand reverently, without blinking. His face was wrinkled and his flesh seemed to have turned gray along with his hair. He walked slowly, his eyes fixed on the yellow cross, never blinking even once.
I speak the word of the Lord Himself my lady. You must give me pleasure and I’ll heal Alexis.
The cross that the man stared at was his favorite one. Instead of the sculpted body of Jesus, in His place on the yellow cross, there hung the small rotting body of a dead rat with his dark eyes transfixed…the poor animal had died of fear.
The old man they called ‘koldun’ again made the sign of the cross with a grin on his face. He then, after whispering a chant, sat down at his study where there lay many pages written upon in a neat hand. No – not by the old man, for he had never learned to read or write, but yet he could cite scripture and could read everything he laid his hypnotic eyes upon.
Bring me the fairest women of the land my lady and Alexis will be healed I promise you.
There were many photographs framed on the walls of the cottage which had yellowed with time. A picture of a regal family…a picture of a monastery…a picture of a younger version of the old man with many young women surrounding him…a picture of an orgy…a picture of a middle-aged version of the old man with his eyes fixed on the camera and his left arm held above his head in the form of a blessing…
Lust is not a sin my lady. It is a way to salvation. It will not bring the calamity upon you.
…a picture of a well-groomed man in uniform with a mite of a boy by his side in a uniform …a picture of a naked woman…a picture of a dead body with bullet wounds all over it, especially on its face….
Give me power and your family will live my lady. Kill me and in two years…and in two years….
The old man whispered a word to the ceiling. Immediately from the ripped portions in his robe, maggots emerged, and the old man smiled wickedly. The maggots crawled towards the desk and began to make impressions on a fresh sheet of paper, which looked a lot like words written by a human. As the maggots stained the sheets, the sinister old man dusted his robe and then got up slowly.
He went towards a glass cabinet next to the study table where the maggots were doing their business. There inside the glass cabinet were placed a number of disgusting and nauseating things. He glared at them with fondness. He had collected them over the years, one by one. It had made him the most mystical man of the kingdom of old. Ah! Those were the days. He could have collected more but weren’t these quite enough?
If you fail me my lady then I promise you, your family will die in two years…so give into me…
In the cabinet lay, in separate liquid filled glass jars, human blood now clotted over time…a pair of a dissected woman’s breasts…the purple head of a new born infant…dead maggots…nail clippings…the dead body of a large vampire bat with its fangs still intact…
If they kill me my lady, then let that foretell the grief that shall befall you and your empire.
…a king cobra’s mangled body…a number of bullets stained in blood…a great number of human fingers…semen of a man…a heart of a swine…the tongue of a frog…and much more…
See, I’ve cured Alexis. He bleeds no more even if I cut him. Now for my reward my lady….
The man chuckled to himself and opened the sliding door of the glass cabinet. From there he pulled out a vial of holy water from Jerusalem. He pulled open the plug and smelt the water which smelled of wet earth. So many memories were brought back to the old man. He remembered his mother, poor soul, who saw from the beginning the growth of a licentious nature in her son. She therefore took refuge in the Lord Jesus to cure him and he was blessed by the Lord with healing powers…‘koldun’ they call him…no he was a monk…a servant of the Lord!
We have laced his cake and wine with poison but the devil still is alive. How can that be?
Servants of the Lord don’t speak a falsehood. They thought they could kill him many years ago, but yet he lives. He lives with the wounds they inflicted upon him, and in return the Lord Jesus blessed him with maggots, his comrades.
Shoot the devil! Don’t look into his eyes just shoot him – Shoot him!
But if he is alive that means, all the royals are not dead. Someone must be alive, but who? For his prophesy was always right. He tried to search for the missing royal but he could not go on without causing pain to his maggots. They needed to live…they needed to feed on him. He needed them and they needed him.
My Lord! After so many bullets the Satan’s heart still beats. Put him in a sack and drown him.
The old man went back to his study table. The maggots had finished their writing for the day. He allowed them to re-enter him and he read, with the eye in his chest, what they had written.
He rises! By God he is fighting for his life in the water! Make him stay under water!
The maggots had written:
It has been a hundred years since my so called death. But I have lived and will continue to live until I find the missing Romanov. It is 2016 and I have still been faithful to my vocation of lust. But beware people of Russia for a storm heads your way. An evil head has risen among you to ruin your nation, just the way you ruined my beautiful Alexandra. This being will be the cause of your destruction. So take heed and pray to God by lusting after sin for only that shall save you, my people of Russia. For sin does not openly admit it’s failings like I do. Sin arrives stating it has no failings. Take heed my people of Russia.
Copyright © 2018 Fiza Pathan
Image courtesy: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Template:PD-old-100