Descent from Fahrenheit 451°

good_baba_bye

The finale of The Babushka Society II (six part series): for the first story, click here.

An hour later, the sun is coming in through the windows. I am running. The sound of rusted metal follows.

“American bastard,” rough voices call at my back. The Hollow suit of armor runs beside me.

“That was stupid,” it reminds me.

I don’t usually run. I am too out of breath to respond. I trip and fall.

“Shit.” I pull myself up and panic my way into the Baba Yaga exhibit. It is empty. The hut sits in the glass box at the center. I run up to it.

“Hut, hut, turn your back to the forest and your front to me!” I pant. It rotates in its glass case. Light spills in through the high windows revealing an open door. A scraping, clanking, thunderous mess of metal fills the halls behind me.

The suit of armor beside me nudges my arm.

“What now?” it says from what I imagine is the corner of his non-existent mouth.

“Shit,” I mutter.

“Shit is right,” a voice calls from behind me. I turn. L stands in the doorway. Her face is mutated. Her nose longer, her leg is stiff. She walks with a limp. She grows as she does, her eyes bulging.

“Back again? Your fancy modern technology won’t help you this time, boy.”

The Baba Yaga towers over me, no longer resembling L at all. I back up.

“I uh,”

The Baba Yaga laughs, “You uh, you uh, fool! A dead fo—“

There is a loud crack from the door. The Baba Yaga looks behind me. I don’t dare turn. She frowns. I can hear it. The Dyedushkas are moving, crashing into each other, pouring into the room.

“What did you do?” The Baba Yaga growls down at me.

“I, uh,” I pull the empty bottle of vodka from my pocket. I toss it to the Baba Yaga. She catches it and turns it over in her hand.

“No, you wouldn’t. You’ll destroy a thousand years of art,” she mutters. “No one would,” she whispers in disbelief.

I shrug. She looks down at me, wide eyed.

“Open up big man,” I tell the suit of armor. It opens up and sucks me inside without question.

The cold voice in my ear sounds surprised. “Now what?” it asks.

“Run, yeah. Run,” I say, hearing the first click-boom of an unstable Dyedushka blowing itself to bits. Then we are moving. We plow right past the Baba Yaga and burst out a window. It isn’t far down. Just in time. The room behind us explodes. The only thing louder is the Baba Yaga screeching after us.

The scene is fire. The Knight spits me out into the snow. I stand up, stumble, and fall. The whole of the Hermitage is in flames around us. Most art is just paper, after all.

“Come on!” I tell the knight, heading for the arch to freedom.

The Knight is looking behind us at the flames. He shakes his head.

“Sorry,” is all I can say. He doesn’t respond.

He walks back into the building, the entry-way falls down around him.

I turn and walk out of the courtyard into the square. People are starting to gather in the morning light, watching it burn. A group of college students, in linen scarfs and fedoras, hold each other, weeping.

THE END.

The Portrait of Baba Yaga

 

“Bad idea,” The Knight whispers in my helmet. I can’t help but agree. All the babushkas have turned. Slowly, L does as well. She smiles. My ears go cold.

“Hey.”

“Hi,” I stutter, awkwardly.

“It’s okay,” she says. I’m not sure if she is talking to me or the babushkas, who look murderous. I back toward the wall either way.

“Are you okay?” I ask.

She laughs. It is cold and sharp. I can feel it in my own throat. It hurts.

“I am perfectly fine. You look a bit,” she raises and eyebrow, “warm.”

The Knight’s voice whispers in my ear “run.”

“No. I have to save her.”

“Doesn’t look like she wants to be saved,” The Knight informs me. He is right, she doesn’t.

“Silly boy,” L says. I have to remind myself that I am older than her, though I don’t feel it at the moment. I look closer at her eyes. They are black from lash to lash.

“You’re not L,” I say.

Not-L shrugs. “Not anymore, no, I had to get back to my hut somehow. And, it’s not like you were desperate to get to a museum. So, I took advantage of your friend who only wanted to make you a bit more, cultural.” Not-L rolls her eyes. “Though, this was not the knight who was supposed to take you. No matter. You, like the fool you are, came to me anyways,” she says.

“Who are you?”

She takes a step toward me. “Can’t you guess?”

I nod slowly. I do know.

“Baba Yaga.”

She makes finger guns at me. “Bingo baby,” she says. Then, says it again to the air, “bingo baby.” She sighs. “English is strange, like spitting marbles. Either way, It suits me I think.”

She does a little jig in L’s jeans. She smiles.

She starts walking toward me.

“You know, we are helping, really. People are so confused these days. Aren’t you confused? We are living in the generation of confusion. Why don’t we go back to simpler times. When things made sense. But, this isn’t about that. You won’t live to see it.”

She is so close by the time she finishes talking, I can feel her breath. My legs feel weak. Her mouth begins to open. It goes wider and wider. Thick iron teeth bulge out of her gums.

Then, my arms move without my brain. They push L aside and then my legs are moving.

“Sorry, kid,” the Knight whispers in my ear. I don’t fight him. From behind me the Babushka’s are scrambling, L is hollering after me. I can feel it on my back, like being chased by thunder. The knight carries me to the exit of the museum and it opens. I fall onto the ground.

“Go!” the hollow voice calls from within the suit. I pull myself up and dash out into the cold, wet and wobbling. I get an idea.

I head for the closest friendly liquor store.

TO BE CONTINUED…

The Sacrifice of the Poet

dostoevskyI cannot see as we tread through the dark passage. The knight grumbles as we go.

“I just wanted to show you a nice night, you know. It gets so lonely here.”

I ignore him. I am soaked in sweat. We stop.

“Well?” I demand. The knight sighs. My hand is lifted up and a slot in the wall is pulled aside. I look through. It is the Baba Yaga exhibit. There is a crowd of babushkas gathered along one wall. In the center of the room is a young man; he is a bit younger than me. He is crying. He has a long waxed mustache catching his tears, his cardigan is pulled open revealing a compass tattooed to his chest. The Babushkas are chanting something. I can’t understand.

“Do you speak Russian?” I whisper.

“I speak many languages,” he says something in Russian I don’t gather.

“See,” he says, “that was Russian.”

He says something again, soft and round and lyrical. “That was Spanish.”

He coughs in my ear. I cringe. “And that was fren—“

“Got it!” I snap, cutting him off. “What are they saying?”

“I can just tell you. They do this often. The Babushkas are getting their revenge.”

I frown at the young man in the floor.

“What did he do to them?”

“Oh not him, Dostoevsky.”

“Huh?”

“Dostoevsky, wrote a book called Crime and Punishment.”

“Yeah, I know it.”

“Well, it wasn’t just a story. Dostoevsky was responsible for killing the two older sisters of the Baba Yaga. He wrote the book first as a way to work himself up to actually committing a crime of his own. And, when he did, it was flawless. But, the Babushkas knew, the Baba Yaga knew. They managed to rid themselves of Dostoevsky, eventually, and have worked to kill any potential great writers before they can become a threat.”

I watched as I listened. The Babushkas have stopped chanting. They approach the man in the middle of the floor. They raise their cold fists. He moans. The slit in the wall slides shut.

“I can’t watch,” The Knight murmurs. The other side of the wall screams. My insides shake. I jerk my hand up. The suit of armor goes with it. I slide the small window open.

“Hey!” The Knight calls into my ear. I look out, the young man is motionless on the floor. My whole body tenses.

“Stop that.” The Knight says, a hint of fear in his voice. I struggle and manage to move one arm, then the next. I tilt my head to the right, then left. I take a breath and look at my armored hands.

“This is no fair. Give me back my body,” The Knight whines.

I look through the window. There is movement coming from the far side. A pair of babushkas walk through. Between them, a smaller, more human figure. It’s L. They lead her into the center of the room. She stands. They begin chanting.

In my ear the Knight whines “please, let me take you to see something cool. I can show you the Davinci!”

I grab onto the edge of the small window.

“You seem nice,” I say, “but please, shut up.”

I tear through the wall.

TO BE CONTINUED…

The Fool Recognizes his Fate

babushkas_pt3

“Are you awake?” the voice says.

I try to move, I can’t. I try to scream, it echoes around the helmet.

“That won’t help,” the voice tells me in a reassuring tone.

“What? What is going on, who are you?” I sputter. The suit of armor around me shrugs, my shoulders go with it, I wince.

“I am a knight. At least, that’s what they tell me. I don’t remember anything before they put me here.”

“Why? Why did you take me?” I ask, trying to ignore the suffocating darkness.

The Knight is silent.

“Hello?” I call. It reverberates around the inside of the helmet.

“I—“ the knight whispers, “I don’t know, you looked sad and I wanted to help.”

I frown in the dark.

“I’m not sad. I’m perfectly happy and my friend is waiting for me so, could you let me out?”

An uncomfortable sigh fills the helmet.

“I, I don’t think that is a good idea. If I let you out now, they will get you. Like they did your friend.”

I feel a pulsing in my head. “What do you mean?”

“But!” the knight says, ignoring me. “No reason we can’t have a nice evening together, so!” My leg moves, not of my own accord. I begin walking, the suit of armor controls everything. My hands swing awkwardly, my left leg cramps. My stomach flips twice over.

“Stop! Stop!” I call. The moving stops.

“I feel like I am going to vomit.”

“Oh, sorry.” The knight says. The visor of the helmet slides open. The room is in a dull light, the cold air feels good on my face. I vomit anyways.

“Aww,” the knight moans.

I cough. “Sorry,” I grumble.

“That’s okay,” the knight tells me, moping. I begin moving again. Each step cracks along the marble floor. We stop in front of a wall of what appears to be knights. Except they are made from rusted iron, old broken gun barrels, ammo shells, and all sorts of scrap metal. One even has an empty can of instant borsch as a head. I frown up at them.

“What are these?” I ask, my curiosity taking over for a moment.

“They are called Dyedushkas,” it informs me. “The Babushkas created them from war-scraps to be their servants. These ones are some of the first models. Today you can hardly tell the difference between them and a normal man. It says here they run on cognac and canned gin and tonics. These models are old. Very volatile. If you were to put, say, vodka in them. Well, it isn’t pretty, boom,” the knight finishes, dramatically.

I stare for a moment into the depths of the twisted barrel of a grenade launcher acting as a forearm. I wonder what L would have told me about them. Then suddenly I realize.

“Wait!” I cry as the knight begins moving me again. “What did you mean they got my friend?”

The knight scratches its own head. It pierces my ears.

“I really shouldn’t say.”

“Tell me right now!” I flounce.

The voice mutters something.

“What?”

“The babushkas,” it groans.

I shudder inside of the suit of armor.

“Let me out right now.”

“I can’t. Not till morning.”

I grind my teeth. “Then take me to where she is.”

“But—“

“No buts!” I growl, channeling my mother.

“Geez, fine,” The Knight pouts. We are moving again. He walks to a wall and presses on the head of an antique mace hanging there. The wall opens. We go through.

TO BE CONTINUED…

For the prequel, click here

The Fool’s Parting from The Damsel

babushka_2_pt2

For Part I, click here.

L skips up to the glass case.

“Hut, hut! Turn your back to the forest and your fron—“

I run up behind her and clasp a hand over her mouth.

She jerks away and stares at me, wide eyed.

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

I look at the hut. Then at a babushka guarding the door. The Babushka is smiling. I feel a sick sinking feeling in my stomach. I’ve never seen a babushka smile. I want to vomit.

“Just, please, trust me,” I manage.

L turns and walks off to the wall to read the plaque below the phantom hand. I step up behind her. I read the plaque:

In Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga is a supernatural being (or one of a trio of sisters of the same name) who appears as a deformed and/or ferocious-looking witch. Baba Yaga flies around in a mortar, wields a pestle, and dwells deep in the forest in a hut usually described as standing on chicken legs.

L frowns at the plaque.

“That sounds like it’s copied straight from Wikipedia,” she says.

I nod, unaware of what I am agreeing to.

“Can we get out of this room?”

L sighs, “sure, scared-y-cat.”

She walks off through a door. I follow. I take a breath of fresh air, feeling the fear subside a little.

L turns. “Okay, emperors or other stuff?”

“I don’t care,” I think.

“Other stuff?”

L nods, “right, this way.”

I follow her, not looking back. We past a whole slew of various classic paintings. I don’t recognize them, but occasionally L will stop at one and tell me some of its history. The Babushkas are less ubiquitous the further we get and even a few of them are sleeping. I begin to feel more calm. I even begin enjoying myself.

We find ourselves in a room connecting halls of paintings. This room is decked out in case after case of various medieval armor and weapons. In the center of the room, five nights on horses are frozen in mid-gallop. Three gray, one white and one red. They look fierce.

L points to the toes.

“You can tell how prestigious a family they came from based on how wide their toes are,” she says, pointing at the different boots.

I look.

“See, here, this guy wasn’t very well respected.”

I look at the toes, they are thick, wide, fat.

“But these,” she motions to the knight in black armor. I look at his toes. They come to a sickening point.

“He must have been from a royal family.”

I look up at the knight. I look down at its foot. It twitches, ever so slightly. I jump away.

“You alright?” L asks. I nod, moving around the blood that has recently returned to my face.

“I’m going to find a bathroom, will you wait here?”

“What?” I turn. She is already walking away. I look back up at the black knight. I back away slowly toward the knight with big flat poor-man’s feet. I hear a scraping of metal behind me. I turn in time to see the suit of poor-man’s armor open wide and suck me in.

Everything is dark.

“Hey there,” a cold voice whispers in my ear. I pass out.

TO BE CONTINUED…

The Return of the Fool

I stand in line for the Hermitage. It is frigid. My feet feel like pancakes, oppressed by the cold.

A girl hops out of line. She dashes to a pile of snow, mounded beside a tree. She climbs it and jumps up and down, laughing.

That’s the most fun she’ll have all day, I think.

A woman, I hope is her mother, storms up, snatches her by the arm, hobbles her with a few words, and brings her back into formation, limping.

I turn to L, “that was the most fun she’ll have all day,” I say, confidently.

L nods, less confidently, and laughs, politely. We’d met a few weeks prior and started seeing each other. She agreed to come to The Hermitage with me on the condition that she doesn’t judge my utter lack of artistic spirit.

The line moves slower than I’d like but faster than I expected. Tickets are bought, jackets are stowed; steps, softened.

As we reach the top of the staircase toward the yawn of a door into the main exhibits, I stop.

“What are they doing here?”

“Who?” L asks.

I lean closer to her, averting my eyes.

“The Babushkas,” I whisper.

L looks to the doors. On either side there sits a babushka. Their faces passive, their stone frames braced for conflict. I shudder.

“They are security. There is one in every room.”

My eyes go wide. “Every room?” I gasp.

L nods, frowning at me, “they are fine. They won’t hurt you as long as you don’t try to touch the art or make too much noise,” L pauses, thinking. “Or, run, yeah, don’t run, they don’t like that. And they will catch you.”

I nod. “I know,” I mutter.

“Will you be okay?” L asks. I straighten myself up and deepen my voice, the way you do whenever a pretty girl challenges your manhood.

“Yes,” I say, “of course,” I add. Then, internally, shit myself.

L smiles, “let’s go then.”

She walks ahead through the Babushka guards, fearless. I follow, demanding my legs to stop shaking. The babushkas remain as solid as the statues they guard. I pass them, I take a deep breathe. I choke on it.

In each corner of a vast hall of gold, is another babushka. I swallow hard. I cough. One of the Babushkas gives me a warning look. I cover my mouth. L turns back to me.

“You alright?”

“Yeah, yeah.”

I trot up beside her. “Where first?” I ask, looking at her and only her.

She shrugs. She motions to one exit, “through there are the emperors,” she waves to the next, “the main exhibits,” she turns around to face the smallest of the exits. “Through there are temporary exhibits.”

I shrug, “let’s do that one.”

“Cool.”

L leads the way, I follow.

In through the door I stop. I can feel the blood draining from my face. It fills my stomach making me feel as though a need a bathroom. In the center of the room is a hut. It is battered and stuck together from a thousand pieces.

I look along the walls. A hand with a hole through it hangs to the left. A great hen leg is pinned to the wall above and beyond the hut. The hut itself is encased in glass, one hen leg splayed out to the right.

L turns, her face grows concerned. She touches my arm.

“What’s wrong?”

“Wha—what is this? Some sort of joke?” I manage.

L frowns, “No, it’s the Baba Yaga exhibit.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

If you liked this and want to read the prequel, the links can be found here