In a sunless kingdom of murk and cold
Dwells the Water Tsar’s servant and daughter
Of her laughter and singing I was told
Deadly to men, for no one had caught her

I met her along the Western Dvina
So enchanted by her sonorous spell
I approached her water-filled arena
And thus I began my journey to hell

She tickled me once and laughter followed
Plunged beneath the waves, I felt she might love
But her foul smile, as the whitecaps swallowed
I saw all the vile she was so full of

Watch the Western Dvina with a sharp eye
And beware the Rusulka’s lullaby

The evening was chill and a light fog painted a horizon flushed with conifer. Clutching my lantern, I turned to Shastli relieving himself upon a tree. I took the old boy on a walk, as I often have since Marfa died, but I usually didn’t travel this far. I had almost made it to the Western Dvina, and figured I would make that my turning point.
“Come on, boy…” I called while patting my thighs. Shastli responded shaking his hind leg, and then rushed over to me. I could already hear the soft, gentle current of the river, and the fog thinned as we approached further.
Through the haze I could see a light along the riverbanks. I rushed down to see who was there, but Shastli resisted. Tugging on his collar, I dragged the old boy closer to where I could see the figure.
“Shastli, stay.”
Not that he had any intentions of getting closer; the torchlight seemed to have noticed me now. A burly silhouette approached along the riverbank. He was such a young man with a well trimmed beard.
“Good evening, sir. What brings you out here on such a night?” I inquired smiling at him.
He looked at me rather confused, “Is that your dog back there?”
“Yes, he… uh… isn’t fond of strangers.” This wasn’t true, Shastli normally enjoys the company of many people. He’s just been acting a little strange lately.
“Oh. I see,” he responded noting my obvious fib, “Sorry for not introducing myself… Andrei.” He outstretched his hand to shake, “Andrei Buslovich.”
Stretching my hand to meet Andrei’s, I heard Shastli yapping loudly. I turned to see him running towards us. Quickly I flung my body towards the old boy.
“Quiet!” I scolded pointing my finger menacingly down at him. He responded stopping dead in his tracks.
“I’m truly sorry. I’m Stepan Il’ich… from Polotsk. I don’t believe I’ve seen you before. Are you from around here?”
“Yes. It was such a beautiful night out; I decided to take a stroll.”
Looking around the dense fog, I pondered the man’s sanity. Gazing out upon the Dvina’s gentle current, I strained my eyes to try to see the river’s other end, but the haze hemmed my vision in.
“It was very nice meeting you, Stepan. I really must be on my way.”
“The pleasure was all mine. Maybe our paths will cross again,” I replied turning back only to see he had already disappeared amidst clouded film. I whistled for Shastli as I knelt on the brink of the river. Splashed some water on my face, and looked around for him.
“Shastli!” I called. I waited a couple of seconds and stuck my palms back into the river. Peering down at my reflection I realized I had really let myself go.
“Shastli, you aren’t the only one whose age has crept up on him.” I said aloud. Lately, when I’ve been alone I say things out loud like that. It’s usually just when it’s a eureka statement like that. It’s as if my age is obvious to everyone but myself.
“I think you look just as good as ever,” a very familiar voice rang. Scanning over the river I struck upon her reflection.
“Marfa!” I exclaimed jumping to my feet, “But… but…”
“Shh…”, she said setting her index finger in front of her lips, “It doesn’t matter…” I stared blankly at her. This was really Marfa. It’s been over ten years, but she still looks twenty. I felt my left eye begin to tear as I began to break down. She signaled me nearer with her index finger.
“Marfa…” I uttered, “It’s been so long!” With that I rushed into the river with my arms outstretched, and heaved myself upon her. I combed through her soft, damp hair with my fingers. It was as if I were young again. As if time went back, before Marfa had died giving birth to Sofia. I held her tightly, or rather she held me. I clutched on with all my strength. I wasn’t going to loose her again.
“RUFF! RUFF! RUFF!” Shastli was barking loudly somewhere. Still weeping I turned to look for him but he wasn’t in visible distance. I looked back at Marfa and pushed her scattering back to the riverbank.
She was no longer the beautiful Marfa I saw before. She wasn’t Marfa at all. She was a demonic figure, a skeletal witch with coarse, bristly hair and a foul expression upon her face. Seaweed was draped across her frighteningly naked body.
Speechless, I ran in the direction I heard Shastli’s bark. I found him standing staring out into mist. I looked to see what his eyes were locked on, but I could only see what looked to be Andrei’s torchlight nearing the cemetery where Marfa is kept.
“Don’t let him give you any problems, Shastli.” I said looking down at the old boy, “I think he’s a decent guy…”
I caught my breath and walked towards the cemetery picking a handful of flowers before entering the gate. I couldn’t quite remember where her grave was kept. I’ve never been fond of visiting it, so I had to look around a bit. When I found her grave I placed flowers upon it, and started to weep again. Staying for only a minute or so I turned to leave. Blocking my path was a small gravestone I hadn’t noticed on my way here. The Epitaph read: Andrei and Darya Buslovich. There were no dates or eulogies only these two names. A tear crept out of my left eye lid and my heart sighed.


G.T. Roe

Joined December 2007

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