The Cossack's Fear: Part One
The Cossack's Fear
as told to
Be careful what you say, it might just come back to haunt you...
In which we are introduced to three siblings—and their devious minds.
Yekaterina “Katyusha” Yurievna Melnikova stomped out of the schoolhouse and down the steps, just in time to see the girls from her class head for the cluster of trees where their secret “hide-out” was. Ha! Some secret. Everyone knew that’s where they hung out. All the girls went there during recess.
A lump formed in her throat. She swallowed and looked back up the steps just as Ilya came crashing out, followed by Katyusha’s twin, Anton. Her brothers were pushing and shoving each other, like they normally did. Anton caught sight of her and gave her a shove as well.
She didn’t respond, only looked away.
“What’s wrong with you?” Ilya asked in Russian. He looked down at her with a frown, pushing his cap father back on his head. Ilya was eight years older than she and Anton were, cutting a tall figure at sixteen. “Someone being mean to you, Katyusha?”
Anton’s brown eyes darkened. He clutched his schoolbooks and eyed the schoolyard with suspicion. “Who do we need to beat up?”
“No one,” Katyusha responded flatly. “That’s just it—no one cares about us.”
The eight-year-old sucked in a breath and counted to ten, smoothing her skirt. She hated wearing a skirt, but Papa insisted she look like the other girls at school and not look like a wild Russian. It wasn’t “fitting” for an American girl to wear Cossack clothes like a boy, she should only wear that at home. How she wished she was at home. And not just home up in the hills, but home in Russia. Ever since they’d come here Katyusha had felt like an outcast. Her English wasn’t that good, and the girls didn’t seem interested in being friends with her.
Ilya and Anton were her best friends. Together the threesome created the Cossack Patrol of Hamilton, New Jersey, sworn to protect their home from evil outlaws like Jesse James, who had died a long time ago but that mattered little. What mattered was the fact they were warriors, and they weren’t afraid of anything.
“Why don’t you go over there?” Ilya suggested.
“Da, they can’t make you leave if you invite yourself,” Anton chipped in. He wiped his chubby face on his sleeve. “And if they tell you to leave we’ll bomb them, okay?”
For brothers they could be nice—when they wanted to be. Katyusha smiled gratefully at them. “I guess. There’s nothing much else we can do.”
“You can do,” Ilya corrected. “We are going to wrestle.”
Katyusha turned back to the tree grove. She could see the flaxen hair of Olivia, the most popular girl in class. She unconsciously tugged her own light brown hair, which looked like sticks compared to Olivia’s. Olivia is so mean.
Some of the other girls seemed nice, but they were too shy to talk to her, or were afraid of annoying Olivia.
Approaching the grove, she became aware that a heated argument was taking place. Katyusha crept up behind a tree and listened, trying to translate the English words into Russian so she could understand.
“I’ve touched the house twice,” Olivia was bragging.
“I don’t believe you!” Evelyn challenged. “No one touches MacGyver’s house! Only crazy people!”
“I dare you to touch it.” Olivia’s tone held an edge of superiority. Katyusha watched her jut out her chin like she was some sort of princess.“Or are you too scared, Evelyn?”
All the other girls ooed, glancing in Evelyn’s direction. Evelyn, though ten years old and very grown up in Katyusha’s perspective, seemed to shrink back. “I’m not stupid,” she said at last.
“What you talk about?”
Some of the girls squeaked when Katyusha came from behind the tree, her arms crossed. Olivia glanced over her shoulder, sending Katyusha a narrowed-eyed look.
“Oh, it’s the Cossack,” she sniffed. “What do you want, Katyusha?”
“I want to know about talking,” Katyusha demanded. She ignored the look of disdain from Olivia and plopped herself next to Evelyn. “What you talk about? What make Evelyn scared?”
“The haunted house of MacGyver,” Abigail leaned over and whispered. Her eyes were wide. “Olivia is daring us to touch it after school.”
A haunted house? That sounded interesting. She wasn’t sure what haunted meant, but it was supposed to be scary.
“Why it scary?” Katyusha asked at last.
“Because it belonged to the late murderer MacGyver. It’s said he killed someone in that house,” Evelyn replied sullenly. “And it’s a stupid idea to touch it. They say if you touch it you’re cursed.”
Oh! Katyusha knew about curses. She didn’t like them. In her old country, it was said the priest Rasputin put a curse on the empire and that’s why it fell apart. That house did sound somewhat scary.
But wait, what if she were brave enough to touch it? Would that make everyone like her more?
“Touching house is not scary,” Katyusha scoffed before she thought it all the way through. She immediately regretted it when everyone turned to her and stared.
“Really?” Olivia smirked. “Well then, Katyusha, I dare you to touch it after school!”
More whispers. Everyone watched Katyusha to see what she’d say.
Katyusha had to think fast. She needed to sound like she wasn’t afraid. She racked her brain for an answer, but the truth was she didn’t want to touch a house that would curse her. That didn’t sound fun. What if I just scare everyone else until they think the haunted house isn’t scary?
Now Katyusha let a small grin of her own cross her face. She flicked her hair behind her shoulder and looked Olivia in the eye, sneering just as big. Olivia seemed a bit surprise. “I will touch scary house,” she announced to everyone. The girls gasped. “Because that is not scary. Red Soldier, Andrassy Borisovich, much scarier. He make your MacGyver sound like child story.” She laughed and stood up. “You would be scared if I told you story about Red Soldier Andrassy Borisovich. Oh well. I will touch house.”
“What is the story of Andrassy?” Evelyn asked. “I doubt he’s scarier than MacGyver.”
“Yeah, what makes your Russian story scarier than ours?” Olivia crossed her arms. “Just because it’s Russian?”
Ha! She had their interest. Katyusha felt proud of herself. This was working better than she thought. She smiled and let out a small, low chuckle, like Ilya did when he was about to tell a frightening tale. “Only Cossacks can hear story of Red soldier and not get scared,” she stated quietly. “You would not sleep.”
“We’re brave,” Abigail defended. “We’re not scared.”
“I doubt you could scare us, Katyusha,” Olivia scoffed. “You’re probably just making the whole thing up.”
“That’s where you’re wrong.” She said it so harsh that the younger girls scooted closer to the older, unsure of Katyusha’s commanding tone. Katyusha stepped closer to Olivia, looking down at her. Olivia, for the first time in Katyusha’s memory, looked a bit unsure of herself. “Andrassy Borisovich is so evil that grown Cossack warriors jerk heads up at sound of name. They know to fear him.” She paused. “I afraid of him.”
` That really got everyone’s attention. She bent down, inches from Olivia’s face. “Because, unlike your MacGyver bad guy, Andrassy Borisovich is alive. And he come to kill all the Cossacks and the people who talk to them.”
“Why?” Hailey, a little girl of six, whispered.
“Because Andrassy Borisovich is a Red.” Katyusha was getting animated now. She sat down again and looked the girls over. “The most evil Red the Bolsheviks could find. Some say he is no man, he is tigr. He is someone who is tigr and man put together.”
“A… tiger?” Evelyn prodded.
“Da, da, tiger. Tiger-man,” Katyusha responded. “They say that Andrassy Borisovich, when he was young, was Cossack like my Papa is. That he was Siberian Kuban Cossack, of the hardiest of all Cossacks. When he was little, the great evil tiger Alexandr the D’yavol, came and killed all his family. The tiger ate up his brothers and sisters and Papa and Mama, and he grew bigger. Andrassy Borisovich got away because he hid on roof where tiger no see him.”
“There are no tigers in Russia,” Olivia objected.
“Da! There is!” Katyusha snapped. “Siberian tiger. You can ask teacher, she know. It is true. And the most evil tiger of all was Alexandr the D’yavol tiger. Well, Andrassy Borisovich, he grow up and he decide he will kill tiger. He will kill tiger and avenge family. So when he fifteen, he went looking for tiger. He found Alexandr the D’yavol tiger in the deep, deep snow, and they fought.” Katyusha paused for effect. “They fought for all night, and then Alexandr the D’yavol and Andrassy Borisovich fall off cliff in snow, and Andrassy Borisovich kill tiger, and then died, too.”
“What!” Abigail looked pale. “But—if Andrassy died, then how can he still be out to kill Cossacks?”
“Because Andrassy’s blood mixed with Alexandr the D’yavol.”
All the girls screeched and jumped to their feet to find Anton and Ilya behind them, a couple other boys as well. Ilya caught Katyusha’s eye, a sparkle in his sea-green ones. He crouched down for affect, and in a low, gravelly voice, continued in a slow manner. “You see, Alexandr the D’yavol tiger was cursed, and when Andrassy Borisovich fell off the cliff with him their blood mixed together. Alexandr the D’yavol blood revived Andrassy Borisovich, and he stood up. But the blood of the tiger, the very tiger who killed his parents, changed him.”
“He became the man-tiger,” Anton echoed eerily.
No one said a word. They stared at the Melnikov siblings, not sure if they believed it or not. Olivia cleared her throat. “That’s stupid.”
“And that is what White Army say,” Katyusha agreed. “But Reds, Red soldiers were smart. They go and find Andrassy Borisovich and promise him if he join Red army, he would get to fight. He would get—blood.”
“I don’t like this story,” Hailey whimpered.
“The rest of the tale is too gruesome to tell,” Ilya said, taking off his cap in mock respect. “Many Cossacks died at the hands of Andrassy Borisovich. He looked like a man, but he killed like a tiger. Our Papa managed to escape him, but that is why our mama is not here.” He let the air hang in terrified silence.
Ilya looked at Katyusha with a sad, sober look. Katyusha almost lost it right there and laughed. This was too good. “Papa brought us here to save us from Red soldiers who hate Cossacks, but mostly he brought us to Hamilton to keep us safe from Andrassy Borisovich. No man can kill Andrassy, no bullet can stop him. He is invincible, because of the curse of Alexandr the D’yavol tiger. Papa fled Rossiya and saved us from his wrath. Except…” Ilya trailed off and didn’t say anymore.
“Except what?” Abigail whispered.
“The Cossacks in South Dakota telegram Papa,” Anton said seriously. “And they told him that Andrassy Borisovich is no longer in Soviet Union.”
“He jumped a boat,” Katyusha finished. “And is on way to America. He come to kill all Cossacks and everyone else. Because once he starts…” She shrugged. “No one stop him. He mostly wants Papa, though, so he’ll probably come here first.”
“You’re lying.” Olivia swallowed. Katyusha was enjoying seeing her so uncomfortable. “You’re all lying.”
“Just tell us first if you see him,” Anton begged. “So we can warn Papa. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get the chance to run away.”
“What does he look like?” Evelyn looked from one Melnikov to the other. “How will we know him?”
“Simple.” Katyusha got to her feet, conjuring up an image of the terrifying Andrassy Borisovich they’d created. She remembered the book Mrs. O’Connell, their teacher, had shown her on Irish legends and the scary guy with glasses in a painting. “He is very, very tall, has very blonde hair, blue eyes and wears teacher glasses.” She put her fingers around her eyes to pretend she had spectacles. “And he doesn’t talk. He just stares, wondering who he will kill next.”
“I’m scared, Katyusha, what if he comes here?” another girl, Lilly, whimpered.
“Then pray to God and run,” Ilya said with a snort. “Because if Andrassy Borisovich comes here, we’ll all die.”
“And that is why I no afraid of haunted house.” Katyusha shrugged. “In fact it is not worth time for me to touch. I have other things to worry about. Ilya, Anton, let’s play ball.”
Together the three left the group of girls and boys who had come over to hear the story and sauntered to the playground. Only when they were sure no one could hear them did they dare to let out the fit of giggles that threatened to blow their cover.
That was the best idea Katyusha had conjured up in a long time. She felt respected for once in her life. She was proud of herself.
Little did she know how much that story would come back to haunt her.
To Be Continued...