By Yuri Shymanovsky.
Translated from Russian by Glen Evans.

         The Ghost of the Foggy Mountains

"That's it!" Mulia gasped. "We stay here for the
He tumbled onto the dry fallen leaves and sprawled
onto the ground. The rucksack and the bicycle were
dropped next. Then Chistiakov and I did the same. We
had left behind ten kilometers of long steep twisted
highway. And we were halfway to our destination.
Tomorrow we would have to do the next ten.
How wonderful, when you are seventeen!
You can bike for miles around, telling your parents
that you're only going to the next forest.
You can spend a night under the open sky without a
tent. A spring cold mountain night and you only wrap
yourself into a thin blanket, but you know, tomorrow,
when you wake, you will have neither sore kidneys nor
A wonderful age, when you can openly stare at
beautiful girls, sincerely thinking of them only as
some kind of flower.
In the morning when we had almost reached the ridge
and pedaled with all our remaining strength, a girl
passed us.
On her way up! Also on a bike! Gosh, what a shame for
male feelings!
Not saying a word to each other, we struggled to at
least keep up with her at.
What a woman! Probably ten years older than we were,
she was simply a beauty.
It seemed that she even slowed down to show herself
despite us being just kids for her.
She was wearing red sport shorts with high thigh
openings, showing her strong toned legs. Tied with a
red band, her long black hair was floating on air.
Blowing with the wind, her frail T-shirt almost failed
to hide everything underneath.
Looking for a better view, I lost myself, went on the
opposite lane of the highway, and barely avoid
crashing with an oncoming car.
At the same time the beauty easily passed the ridge,
and stormed down, leaving a dainty female scent.
Exhausted, we veered to the side bushes. Indignant, we
drank water, telling each other that it was simply
mean to bike with such speed, wearing that type of
A light kick on my neck tossed me back to the present.
It was Chistiakov.
"Enough laying around, it's getting dark," he said,
still laying. I got up.
"I'll get wood for the fire and you serve stuff... By
the way, the vodka's in my backpack, just don't break
it, buddy."
When I came back with an armful of brushwood
preparations for the nights camping was in full swing.
Chistiakov and Mulia had taken the blankets and food
out, brought some water, and started a small fire. I
added some of the brushwood to the fire and put the
remainder aside for later. We would have instant soup!
Night was falling fast now.
The place that we chose was very wild and beautiful.
It wasn't for nothing that we had made our way through
the thick forest and rocks, getting far from the
Here, up high, the forest became thinner giving way to
show the colossal mountains that were reaching the
sky. Next was a cliff, already sunken in the darkness.
The crystal clear creek jumped from rock to rock
making lots of small waterfalls.
And the air! Such air can only be found in a mountain
Quickly making the soup, we lied down around the
campfire, and ate with a great appetite. Well, it was
our first hot meal that day. And we drank vodka from
metallic mugs, trying not to swallow the floating
"So, let it go," toasted Chistiakov, taking a gulp.
"I'll tell you a ghost story... It happened about two
hundred years ago..."
And he started telling his new scary story. He was an
expert storyteller and he knew lots of them. And all
the time he told a story relevant to the current
So, now he was telling a story about a Dark Man, some
kind of Devil, huge and tall, who lived in the
mountains, hiding during the day, and going out at
night looking for human blood.
I was never afraid of such stories, but all the time I
listened with interest, taking them as a kind of
A tiny spider went down from a tree straight onto the
Chistiakov's mug but he still continued his
The night took its right. A light fog clouded around.
The moonlight turned the landscape into a fantastic
A cloud moved slowly above the mountains. It slid down
the hill and flowed into the cliffs like thick white
"...One week later they had been found in the same
place. All of them were dead. And everyone had the
same mark on the forehead," finished Chistiakov, and
kept silent, enjoying the effect.
"Look, Chistiakov, where do you get your stories?" I
asked lazily after the pause. "Do you make them up
yourself or what? Okay, so let it go."
We clanked our mugs, and drank. Mulia and me.
Chistiakov tried to take away a dead spider from his
I smoked and got up stretching my legs.
It was getting colder. I hugged myself and turned my
back to the campfire. The cliff beneath was full with
thick fog.
I lifted my eyes, and... screamed with horror.
In front of me I saw a huge dark man. The ghostly
figure was huge, about twenty meters tall. He was
standing in casual pose, his arms crossed in front of
his chest. His feet were hidden in the fog in the
cliff, and his head reached the sky. He was awfully
dark, incredibly black, but at the same time he was
semi-transparent. The stars and the rocks covered with
puffs of the fallen fog could be seen through his
Just a moment later I realized everything. My heart
stopped pounding, and started beating wildly, getting
back to its natural rhythm. My legs got weak, and I
sat down straight onto the ground. At the same time
the dark man collapsed into the foggy cliff.
I got scared with my very own shadow! But what a
shadow! The shadow made with the light of the
campfire. Beside the thick fog that was flowing from
the mountains, there was flimsy mist, invisible in the
When I turned my back to the fire my shadow was
projected on the wall of the mist and created the
giant ghost, standing straight into the air.
Later, I saw this kind an optical illusion a few
times, but never since have I seen such a grandiose
effect. Only that night.
Chistiakov was swearing more than anyone else,
because, startled with my scream, he splashed his
vodka into the fire.
For a long time we enjoyably played with the "dark
ghosts". Then fell asleep, tired and happy.
How wonderful life is when you are seventeen!
The fog still flowed from the mountains like wide, but
smooth rivers.
 (C)    *** JES 1997***      Yuri Shymanovsky

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