By Yuri Shymanovsky.
Translated from Russian by Glen Evans.


The Well at the Edge of the Forest

***
It's impossible to imagine a more terrifying story.
Even now, many years later, my hair stands on end when
I recall these events.
And all the time in my mind I see a tarantula, a
horrible wolf spider; a real monster that is afraid of
light and spends most of its life in a deep hole. It
only comes out at night, hunting around, soundlessly
and agilely stalking its victim.
***
After my graduation from college I found a job in a
very small town called Glades.
You think that if you graduated from college as an
engineer you will have your life made for you:
high-salary job, good career, international symposiums
etc? Well, life is life.
I found a position here, in the smallest country town
that I could imagine.
A company of local young people, always drunk and
intoxicated, did not attract me, and I quickly got
close with an agriculturist, who lived in the same
town and was named Ivan Il'ich. He was a man of a
colossal erudition, a true aristocrat that's rare to
meet in our filthy present time.
His home library was as big as a famous professor
could have. His thoughts and opinions were always so
deep and wise that no doubt he had read all these
books. Besides Ivan Il'ich was an exquisite music
amateur, and he played Beethoven sonatas pretty well,
using the old disheveled piano in the local club.
He always called me Vasily Andreevich, despite the
fact that he was older than fifty, and I could have
been his son.
During the long winter evenings, we would sit
together, drinking hooch and talking. We had endless
polite conversations. He and I, two persons
represented the local intellectual elite. Well, in the
town was a doctor, a lady about forty, but she always
hung out with the young farmers.
I clearly remember that rainy Saturday evening in
July.
I set some mousetraps and was about to fall onto the
couch with a book when I heard a knock at my door.
It was my friend, the agriculturist.
"May I come in? Oh, sorry my boots!" Looking at his
shoes I realized that Ivan Il'ich was very distracted.
Usually he washed his boots before coming in but
today, somehow, he forgot to do it.
"Big deal! It's just dirt." I said. "Look at mine!
It's real pig dung. Yep. I'm afraid it'll fall off in
August, no earlier. Why aren't you at home with this
weather? I have just made a jar of Raisin Jack with
your recipe. It's an exclusively tasteful beverage.
I'm simply amazed."
"I want to consult with you, Vasily Andreevich," he
said, paying no heed to my compliment. "It's a serious
matter, I'm afraid. May I sit down? Were you at the
glade on the edge of the forest today?"
Of course I was!
What had happened this morning shocked the citizens.
Once each week some Mafia guys had their meetings
using our town as a place for the encounter. They were
gathering on the big glade at the edge of the forest.
From the early morning hours Volvos and Jaguars,
Mercedeses and Rolls-Royces rolled along our streets.
At noon the glade looked like a parking lot, stuffed
with these luxury vehicles.
We, ordinary people, did not know their affairs. These
"boys" talked, crowded into groups, were going from
car to car.
Our Sheriff, however, was taking that easily. It was
no crime, no hooligan actions.
So why not?
But today a horrible accident took place. A "big man",
a boss, or whatever they call their leaders, a
godfather died a horrible death.
On the glade, at the border of the forest, there was
an old abandoned well. Nobody knows who built it and
when. It was about twenty meters deep, and there was
no water inside.
So, that boss sat on the board of the well, there was
no tall cobblestone fence around the shaft. Still
talking, the man shoved his hand into his pocket to
get his lighter. He leaned slightly back, lost his
balance and fell down into the well.
One hour later police, ambulance and a special rescue
group arrived here and all the people of the town as
well.
One of the rescuers with a gas-mask went down into the
well, and after he had talked for a long time with the
authorities. They announced that the man had died, but
they couldn't retrieve his body and then they left.
This was what had happened today.
"You know, Vasily Andreevich," said the agriculturist.
"I did see, how he fell. It's a very dirty matter."
"Did someone push him?" I shrugged my shoulders.
"Among such guys it's a usual deed. Why are you
worrying? One less bastard."
"No, not PUSH. It's worse... Well, yes, splash me some
hooch, please. Thanks. You are new here, maybe you
don't know, but there are some scary stories about
this well. People say, perhaps some kind of devil
lives down there. He comes out at night..."
"C'mon, Ivan Il'ich!"
"I know, what you are going to say. But it's not empty
talk!"
I thought that I did make a great beverage. My
interlocutor had drunk just a half a glass, and
already is uttering drunken speeches.
"You know, Ivan Il'ich," I tried to change the
subject. "Your idea about ion rectification..."
"Let me finish!" interrupted the agriculturist. "I
didn't get to the point. Well, could you drop me some
more of the hooch? Thank you. So Do you know the
story about the cow of an old local man named
Stephan?"
I wanted to smile but I couldn't as the look of my
interlocutor became perplexed and full of fear.
"There was an old local man named  Stephan, a veteran,
he died last year," continued Ivan Il'ich. "He had
cattle, and one of his cows had a habit of getting
away from the herd. Usually a few days later someone
returned her to her owner, or she made her way back
herself.
"One evening the cow got lost for the zillionth time,
but in the middle of the night the whole town was
awoken with a horrible howl. It was a dreadful
bellow." My friend's face became greenish pale. "Next
morning we found the cow's remains next to the well.
The whole glade was covered in blood, and on the grass
there were bovine bones all around. That was all. I
saw it with my own eyes. And do you know, what I
thought?"
"What?" I asked whispering.
"The cow had been eaten up! Yes! Eaten to the last
bone, like a chicken! There was blood, blood and bones
all around the well. Nobody ever figured out what
happened that damned night."
"Well, your story sounds very serious," I said
thoughtfully. "I did overhear talk about this."
"Believe me, it's just a prelude. Now, the point. This
morning I went to the forest looking for some herbs
for my kidneys. I returned through the glade. And here
was the festival of those crooks. I can't stand these
bastards. I stood still in the bushes, thinking should
I go through the glade or skirt around? The well was
about ten steps in front of me.
"I saw this man sitting on the edge of the fence of
the well with his back to me. A few men were standing
next to him, listening. The man shoved his hand into
his pocket, and The witnesses saw how he fell down.
But I saw from behind! He was not pushed, but pulled
into the well!"
"My God!" I grew cold.
"You know, the bushes partly blocked the view, but it
was something moving very fast. Something gray or
brownish. You can imagine how he screamed! The turmoil
started, and I went home on the quiet. And I wanted to
consult with you. Should I report it?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "Everything you told me is so
strange, I'm afraid no one will believe you. Besides,
the rescuer went down and didn't find any demon."
"Oh yeah? Why was no body taken out then? I really
want to know what is in there. After the incident with
the cow, I was thinking about going down to explore.
I'm curious. But I don't have any equipment, and
honestly, I am afraid. Especially now. But it is an
opportunity to cast some light on this dark subject.
What if I report it to the Sheriff? Maybe some expert
will deal with that well. Because I'm afraid this
nightmare will continue. Someone else could be
killed."
"You're probably right. You should report it. Whether
they believe you or not - your conscience will be
clean."
"Then I've made up my mind. Glad that you are thinking
the same way. I hesitated. I thought, maybe I'm
stupid. Okay, pour me some Raisin Jack, for the
finish, and I'll go. It's pretty late... Thanks."
Ivan Il'ich left, and I tossed the book on the floor,
and went to bed.
Falling asleep, I was trying to summarize all that I
heard today. My mind was clouded but some foggy
opinion flashed into my head. I thought I already knew
the answer, or I have seen something like that But I
could not realize what an idea it was, as I fell
asleep.
***
Next morning was beautiful; sunny and warm. I got up
about ten, had breakfast, shaved with pleasure, jumped
into my dirty boots, and went to the porch, smoking.
It was warm. Yesterday rain wet my garden enough, and
I was glad that I did not have to water it.
I closed my eyes, enjoying the sunshine, thinking how
better to spend this free day.
The Sheriff's Jeep screeched his tires next to my
house, driving away my dreamy meditation.
"Let's go!" The voice of my friend-agriculturist
sounded from behind the fence. The gates opened and
Ivan Il'ich appeared, shining with excitement. His
boots were clean now, and as polished as a mirror and
his clothes were emitting the tender aroma of French
cologne.
"Let's go!" he repeated, slightly dancing with
ardency. "It's started!"
"Let's go!" I reacted in a moment, tossing away the
cigarette and getting into the vehicle. "What's
started? Where are we going?"
The Jeep sped toward the forest.
"To the glade, to the well," explained the
agriculturist, sitting in the back seat next to me. "I
reported it this morning. Today they are doing some
investigating."
"They believed you? I didn't expect it."
"They did believe me, but not just because of my
report. That man was some important figure, first of
all. Second, the rescuer that was in the well, said
something to the authorities. I don't know exactly
what. But they were riled up!"
The Jeep veered from the road, and making its way
between poultry farm and potato fields, stopped
finally at the glade.
Real excitement was reigned here. I easily recognized
rescue and police vehicles from yesterday. Also here
were two other cars with lights on their roofs, and
some people, my first impression was that they were
some government officials, were walking around with
significant looks.
Ivan Il'ich was immediately led to them.
He was talking as usual, very emotionally, swinging
his arms, and one of these officials was making some
notes into his book, nodding with a serious
appearance.
After my friend and his escort struggled into the
bushes, as Ivan Il'ich explained where he was and what
he had seen.
Nobody paid attention to me, so I caught the moment,
and went to the well.
The well seemed like a well. I've seen a hundred
wells. Very old for sure. Not less than hundred years.
The fence around the opening was built with old
massive blocks, stuck together because of the way of
the building, no adhesive had been used.
Some stones of the fence were crushed with age, and
moss-covered.
Honest, I hesitated to approach it. Yesterday's
stories scared me, arousing into my soul some foggy
foreboding.
However, I tossed away these stupid thoughts, and
carefully leaning onto the fence, I looked down into
the hole. The dark cobblestone shaft went deep into
the blackness as deep as an eye could see.
Suddenly a feeling like an electric charge struck me.
I clearly recalled my night dreams or rather, my
nightmare.
A tarantula. Huge wolf-spider, with brownish hair.
He's afraid of the sunlight and always hides in its
hole. The hole is usually very small, about a
penny-size, round and vertical like a shaft. It seems
impossible how such a monster could toss itself
through such a small opening.
But if an unlucky grasshopper or beetle would get
close here goes a quick catch, and next the victim is
deep under the ground and a bloody feast has begun.
A deep instinctive horror captured me for a moment. I
recalled the words of my friend: 'It was something
adroit, gray-colored or brownish. Hairy. It seized his
back and pulled him down into the well...'
I stepped back, stumbled over something and collapsed
onto the grass.
Falling gave back my wits. My God! What thoughts!
I quickly walked away, into the shadows of the trees,
barely forcing myself not to run.
I was shaken. I sat on the grass and smoked.
Someone drew close and sat next to me.
"It's hot today." I heard an unknown voice. Yet I
recognize that person. It was the same rescuer that
was in the well yesterday. A very young guy, about
nineteen, wearing a khaki jacket. He held a strange
device, it looked as a gas-mask. "It's an
oxygen-mask," he explained and sighed. "They will tell
me to go in again. I'd rather go anywhere but this
place."
"Isn't there air?"
"Maybe so. But it's a rule."
"And what is on the bottom?" I asked as my insides
went cold.
"It's horrible," replied the guy very seriously. "This
is why I'm afraid of going down there. Some feeling of
dread. You know a man fell down yesterday, yet I
didn't find his body. But all around is blood-stained;
the bottom and the walls as well. Blood, so much
blood, and a pile of bones. I can't imagine why. I'd
rather give my money to someone else instead of me
going down there."
"Why do you need to go again?" I asked.
"I dunno what the heck for, they said, look for clues.
But nothing's there! Only dirt, and karst."
"What?"
"Karst, I said. Like in caves sometimes. The shaft has
been mined through the limestone, and the walls are
with cracks, chinks, gaps. The water was coming
through them in the past."
"Big gaps?"
"No, even a child wouldn't fit... See, they call me.
Have to go."
The man took up his device, and plodded towards his
co-workers, who were taking the equipment out of the
vehicle. I followed.
Now here is the last, and the most dramatic part of my
story.
The man, that I was talking with had an oxygen-mask
and a strong light on his helmet, had been tied to a
cable going through a block, and he started his way
down.
Besides this major rope, held by four hefty men, there
was a line, like scuba divers use. If the man down
tugs the line it's a signal to lift him out.
The chief of the rescuers, a gloomy gray-haired man
held the other end of the line.
Meter-by-meter the cord went out until it stopped,
showing the mark "twenty-eight".
The rescuers recklessly lied down on the grass, but
uneasy with my foggy foreboding, I went close to the
well again. Awfully deep, I saw a tiny spark, like a
small star, the light on the helmet of the guy. It was
all that I could see.
Suddenly the line showed a tug.
"Lift!" told the chief. The hefty men lazily got up,
and held the rope. The line showed another tug, and
another, and again, it trembled as if convulses.
"Pull! Pull! Hurry up! What the hell?" The line had
been torn out from his hands.
The light down below dashed from side-to-side and went
out. At the same time an awful scream sounded from
below.
"He's out of mask!" The gray-haired rescuer blanched.
"Pull! Hey! Someone help us!"
Everybody around; me, Ivan Il'ich, even the
authorities grabbed the rope.
When I was a boy, we often caught tarantulas. You take
a small piece of plasticine, and put in into a
tarantula's hole with a string. The spider takes it as
a bait. At this moment you should quickly pull it out,
and then you have the tarantula! Here it stays, the
fat hairy monster, used to dark and now stunned with
sunlight.
We pulled, pulled, pulled...
The rope went up with a few meters per second. Now I
was sure what I would see.
The horrible blood-stained face of the guy rose above
the edge. He jumped over the well's fence and ran
away.
I jerked to follow him, and clashed into Ivan Il'ich.
My friend stood still motionless as a stone, staring
toward the well with his eyes wide open.
"My God!" he whispered. "Just look at that!"
I spun. Huge brownish rats were leaping out of the
well. They were as big as beavers. The sunlight
blinded them. The disgusting creatures with blind
tearing eyes bunched next to the well showing their
fangs. A second later they all rushed back down.
***
In the evening Ivan Il'ich, as usual, visited me. We
were drinking and having talk.
"What a day!" said my friend, dropping down the next
portion of hooch. "No wonder, the guy got so scared.
What disgusting creatures live in the world! Probably
they are mutants, as they are capable of running on
vertical walls. I heard they rushed out dozens from
every gap. Thank God, he's alive! He could have been
eaten up like that cow. Do you know if he's badly
injured?"
"Nothing serious. Just three scratches. He got them
during his way up. Our doctor took care of him. It's
her lucky day!"
"You know, Vasily Andreevich, I'll go to the mayor
tomorrow. We have to cement that damned well. Someone
could get hurt again. Pour me some more, please. Thank
you. And could you honestly tell me what you had been
thinking of that matter before?"
"I feel ashamed to say." I smiled shamefully. "But I
was thinking it was a giant tarantula. And you?"
"I though it was a devil," the agriculturist replied
very seriously.

	
 (C)    *** JES 2000***      Yuri Shymanovsky  yury@unitrends.com
                             http://www.geocities.com/Paris/Salon/1821






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