**Part four of six in The Babushka Society story line. For all the stories together, click here**
The Baba Yaga screeches, tired of our conversation, she advances. She goes for N. The hand has reappeared stronger than ever. It latches itself around my throat and begins dragging me. I can feel heat on my back. An old brick oven stands behind me, blazing. I try to fight, try to pull away. It’s no use. I watch N just barely dodge a bite from the Baba Yaga.
“WAIT, we can help you!” he calls. The Baba Yaga pauses. She raises an eyebrow. The hand on my throat stops pulling but still holds firm.
N takes a breath.
“I know the youth of this city. We can help you.”
Up until this point in my life I’d thought joining the “bad-guys” was a cowardly move. But, that flame is really hot on my back. So, I nod vigorously.
“I know the communities that runs the English library, the Post-Modern art society, the anti-cafes. I know them all. I can bring them all to you if you just spare us.”
The Baba Yaga sits back. She stares at N, contemplating. Then she smiles. An ugly, savage smile.
“First you must prove you’re worth. Go from here. Bring me what has been known by at least five, given by at least two, taken by at least one and loved by at least two.”
After a moment, N nods.
“Do you understand?”
N nods again.
“We shall see,” The Baba Yaga says, soft and sinister.
N looks over at me.
“I need him.”
The Baba Yaga laughs.
“No, he stays. He must be burned. He is not Russian. He must be burned.”
“But he is in Russia, by choice. He actually likes it here. I need him.”
The Baba Yaga turns to me and frowns.
“You like it here?”
“Why?” she raises an eyebrow, suspicious.
I feel mild frustration mix in with my pants-crapping-fear.
“I just do.”
The Baba Yaga moves closer. Warm gusts of dirty breath wash over me.
“You think you understand our goals? You think you understand Russia?”
I shrug, because I can’t imagine any other course of action.
“Then you will answer my question. If you are correct, you may serve us. If not, you burn.”
She moves even closer.
“A Tsar and a farmer find themselves trapped by a storm in a small tavern. There is but one bed and you are the owner of this tavern. Who do you give the bed to? The Tsar or the farmer?”
In a panic, I look all around the room for the answer. I look to N. He gives me a sad, defeated look.
I decide, in this moment, death is coming. I only hope for the teeth instead of the flames. I sigh, at least I’ll die the way I lived. Sarcastically.
“Just cut the damn mattress in half.”
To be continued…