In many Russian apartments there is a treasure box. It is a room where the landlords keep all manner of junk. Once I found boots, again a tribal ornament from somewhere in Africa or China; a soviet pregnancy test–opened, unused.
I am always curious about the treasure boxes in various homes; I always ask, and always look.
This time, in my friend G’s treasure box, I find an actual treasure box.
“Dude, don’t,” he tells me as I drag the treasure box out into the hall. It’s dirtier than the hall we stand it, only a bit less dirty than the room it came from.
I stand over it, so curious that I start to feel genuinely hungry.
“It’s my landlord’s man–he’s a creep, just leave it.”
I nod. “There’s no lock,”
“Nothing good will come of this,” G warns.
I shrug, “nothing good comes of anything, eventually.”
He frowns, “don’t try to philosophically bullshit your way out of this one.”
“I’m not!” I gasp. “I’m trying to philosophically bullshit my way into this one.”
G gives me a look–then, there is a thump. We both look at the treasure box. I am ravenous. G backs away.
“We have to now, you know.”
He doesn’t say anything. I take it as a yes–kicking over the treasure box. It rolls and bursts open. Before we can look inside, a hare–fat and gray, sprints out.
“Shit!” G cries as we both run after it. It heads for his bedroom and, before we can stop it, leaps from the window. We run over and look down.
The hare lays, broken in the road below. G grabs his hair. “God dammit, you idiot!” he cries.
“Hold on,” I tell him, pointing down. The hare is moving. Shaking, almost. Suddenly, it’s side bursts open and a duck’s head pops out, covered in blood. It shakes off the corpse of the hare and stands in the road, looking around.
“What the shit?” I ask. I turn, G is pale. He looks out of the window just in time to see the duck leap into the air only to brutally be crushed beneath the tire of a passing truck.
We turn and run for the door, down the stairs, out into the road. G runs over to the duck and starts tearing it open.
“Dude!” I cry. But, he doesn’t stop.
“I have to find it, before he gets here.”
The air around us gets colder. A voice, even colder than the air, splits it, “How dare you challenge Koschei!”
I turn just in time to see a tall muscular man get flung into the air. I look back at G. He has something in his hand, an egg held high above his head.
“What the hell is that?” I ask, looking from him to the man hanging in mid-air.
“My landlord, Koschei,” he says. “And this,” he shakes the egg, the man in the air flails about, “is his soul.”
I look at the egg, then up at G’s landlord. I shake my head.
“Man, I’m sorry I opened that box, so sorry. What do we do?”
G shrugs, “it actually worked out, watch.”
He shakes the egg, Koschei cries out as his body flops around in the air.
“Fix my goddamn sink!” G cries up at him, in Russian.
G brings the egg down, Koschei hits the pavement. G goes and stands over him.
“Fix my sink or I’ll break the needle inside this egg and we both know you don’t want that.”
Koschei groans, “okay.”
G smiles, placing the egg in his pocket and heading inside. I take one last nervous look at Koschei, then follow, reconsidering my fascination with treasure boxes.
**Koschei is a character out of Slavic Folklore. If you want to learn a bit more about him, click HERE.