Yuri Shymanovsky. Translated from Russian by Glen Evans. The Host *** "...I've been here in the forest for just a few days, but I think I'm already going crazy. I will record each event so as to not lose myself completely. This story started a few years ago, when we came here, my friends and I. Not many places on Earth remain so beautiful, wild and untouched. Far away from populated areas, this forest was virginally savage. Even the animals are not afraid of people. My friends had a helicopter, and as it was a holiday, we took a big pack of vodka and decided to go into the forest as far as the fuel allowed us. And we found this place. But the most interesting part is - there was a cabin here, in the middle of the forest! Who built it and when? We didn't know, and we didn't care. We drank a lot. But before we left I was washing my face in the small river next to the cabin and I found a few native gold nuggets. I did not say a word about it to my friends, but decided to come back. Now I'm here. With me is a huge mongrel dog named Gosha. He could be a star in the movie 'The Hound of the Baskervilles" for sure! I'm afraid of nothing when he's by my side. Well, the place is unusual, and even looks mysterious. Picture it: forest covered territory down about two hundred meters. There is some kind of valley about two kilometers long and one-and-half kilometers wide. The trees are only on the lowest part, plain and smooth. And it surrounded by bright white abrupt acclivities. The only way that you can get here is via the south end of the gorge. There are a few waterfalls; a creek channeling the water into a small river that goes along the base of the valley. It leaves the valley in the north through a very narrow canyon. I don't know if a human can go this way. I'll check some day. Probably here the climate is much warmer than above. No wind comes in, and the bright white walls surrounding the valley, cast back the sunlight like a reflector, concentrating the heat in the middle. This is why the forest here looks like a jungle. Near the center of the valley is a big, football field sized glade. Here, next to the river, are three old cedars. They probably grew from the same pinecone. And beneath them is that strange cabin, built with stones without any adhesive. Just one small opening, some kind of window, and the entry. I can't figure out how old it is. Maybe - twenty, or two hundred or even thousands of years. The first day, forgetting everything, I rushed with Gosha to get the gold. However, I forgot the place where I found the gold! No wonder, after such drinking, and it was a few years ago... Oh well, I'm a free person and I have the entire summer ahead. I just have to carefully check out the whole river. It's about two kilometers long. This day I was making my new home more comfortable. I made a new one-pitched roof with thin logs, and covered it with cedar branches. I constructed a door with poles and lashed it with pieces of a leather belt. Great job! From inside I managed a small hook with some wire for a lock. Just in case as nobody's around. I covered the window with polyethylene pellicle. Inside I made a fluffy pile of hay for sleeping. Made a small table, dragged in two small tree trunks for chairs. Now it is evening, and I am writing in my diary with candlelight. Behind the cabin my dinner is cooking on the fire. Gosha is out, probably hunting. *** "It's the next day and I'm continuing my records. Yesterday an event happened, that alarmed and even scared me. About midnight when Gosha and I had our supper, I heard a distant human shout. I thought I'd just imagined it, as there's no reason for a person to be here. But Gosha sprang up, and roared a little. It means he heard it also. For a long time I couldn't fall asleep. Who could it possibly be? Why did he scream like that? It was certainly a human voice. Maybe someone fell into the cliff in the darkness? In the morning I took my shotgun, and with Gosha went to the place from where I thought the cry sounded. Soon I realized that making my way through such a jungle is a task that is very fatiguing and probably pointless. If someone really fell from above yesterday why should I care? It was his own fault - why did he wander into the darkness? The whole day I spent searching the river, but I didn't find any gold. However, I'm positive it should be there. The bottom of the river is quartz sand, and the gold is next to quartz. I read about it. I just need to find it. The brinks look similar all river long. I can't recall the exact place. I went home tired and wet. I caught some fish with my shirt. I don't know their name, but they're delicious and there's a lot here. *** "It's evening now. Another day has passed. Strange. Yesterday, during our supper, I heard the cry again. However it seemed much closer now. It's the voice of a human being for sure, but very odd. It was an awful howl. Gosha sprang up and barked. I shouted at him, and heard intensively. I think I heard someone making his way through the forest, but these sounds were gone, and only crickets were chirping in the stillness. I hurriedly splashed the water on the fire, bringing it down just in case. It became cold and dark around me. Now I'm sure that I'm not alone in the valley. I don't know what he's doing here, and how our neighborhood would finish. In the cabin I was afraid to close my eyes. It seemed to me as something cryptic and horrible is getting close in the darkness, and walks around my shelter. Gosha was all alert as well. Sometimes he was still, listening, sometimes he started to roar. When it was almost morning I drunk some pure alcohol, and was finally able to have a restless sleep. In the morning I awoke tired and angry. After the breakfast, as usual Gosha and I went on our search along the river. I was trying to drive away some stupid thoughts. I caught myself looking not for the gold, but for clues of the stranger's presence. Sometimes I was sure someone was staring at me from the bushes. In such moments I was still, listening intently. Of course I didn't find any gold. *** "Next day, I'm writing again. Yesterday, when dark fell, I locked myself with my dog inside the cabin, and waited without any light, holding the shotgun. Something was telling me, today the strange nighttime journey would continue. I was right. Involuntarily I fell asleep, and was awoken when Gosha pressed himself to my legs, whimpering and trembling all over. The dog was scared half to death. And at the same time, to my horror, I clearly heard very heavy but careful steps. Someone huge was slinking toward my home. The steps faded, I glanced at the window, and my hair stood on end. As I said before, I covered the window with polyethylene pellicle. There was a full moon and on the screen I saw a shadow! Someone peeped into the window. And that silhouette was... My God! It was some hairy mug with long donkey like ears. At that moment a wild shriek broke the silence, and the echo repeated it many times. The shadow rushed aside and disappeared. Then I heard steps again, but this time they were hurrying away, then something like the chatter of horses' hoofs sounded, and they were gone. In the fallen silence I could only hear the chirp of the crickets and beats of my pounding heart. The shotgun almost fell from my shaking hands, and the whimpering dog was still pressing himself to my legs. I spent the rest of the night in the same position - cringing in the corner, afraid to move a limb. I swore that in the morning I'll take my stuff and get out of this damned place. When the sun was up, and the birds' voices sounded I felt myself in some safety and decided to take a little sleep before going. I threw down the whole mug of pure alcohol and passed out. I woke up in the afternoon, but didn't change my plans. I have to get out of here. My head was cracking after the drink. I staggered to the river, knelt and eagerly started to drink. And at that moment I saw a gold nugget. It was the same size and shape as an egg. As I gazed at the weighty yellowish piece I suddenly made another decision. I wouldn't leave. By the way, why was I so scared? Tonight I will wait for this thing. It will come for sure. But I won't wait in the cabin. I'll hide in the tall grass on the glade. When it comes, it will have a couple of steel bullets, 12 mm caliber, right in its head. You can put down a rhinoceros with such a load. If it's an animal - its pelt will decorate my home. If it's human - it will be his own fault, why did he organize such a stupid spectacle. No court will charge me for that. But if it is some kind of demon... Well, nothing to do then. He'll get you anywhere. I'm finishing now, it's getting dark. I'll go to check my shotgun." *** This strange diary was found in a thin school exercise book inside a cabin in the middle of the forest. Also here were a rucksack, axe, flashlight, some dishes and blankets, set in order. Obviously no one had touched them for many years. Without doubt the owner planned to be back shortly, but was gone forever. Next to the cabin on the glade a human skeleton had been found. The skull was smashed, empty used cartridges were all around a shotgun with its butt crushed. Evidently the man was killed with it. As plain as day he shot a few times before it had happened. Beside, in the thick tall grass, a skeleton of an enormous dog was found. (C) *** JES 1999*** Yuri Shymanovsky http://www.geocities.com/shimanovsky 1
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