Chapter I. The fear of my youth
I was born and lived in a small provincial southern town. My family was quite well-off, although we could hardly be called rich. Nevertheless, we lived in prosperity, and I didn’t need anything, well, that’s what my parents thought. Yes, and my parents were very strict and never spoiled me with excesses. But it should be noted that this did not prevent me from being a naughty child at all. If there was an expression in my childhood — “Golden Child”, that’s what people who knew me would call me. Dad never allowed me to brag in front of friends or people who at that time were living poorly, you could even say half-starved. Once, I decided to brag to my friends about our wealth, as my father heard the same thing, returning from service at that moment. There was a very serious and long conversation on this topic, which I have learned for the rest of my life. Nevertheless, I was very happy with my life!
We lived in an ordinary three-room apartment, in a very ordinary apartment building. But the apartment was beautifully renovated and expensive furniture. In general, chic, shine, beauty! And we also had a beautiful dacha, which was located in a picturesque place, not far from a beautiful lake in which wild ducks swam. Nothing here could disturb the beauty and silence of this place.
The two-storey house, standing in the middle of the garden, looked very nice, among fruit trees and luxurious roses. There were other dachas nearby, but some of them were completely abandoned. From the earliest spring to late autumn, we spent all weekends at our dacha. My father and I loved to go fishing early in the morning. There was still fog on the lake, which shrouded the whole lake, reeds and trees growing nearby. It’s an amazing time when it seems that everything around you, alive and inanimate, is still sleeping.
We loved to gather at our dacha, on holidays with our friends and numerous relatives. Dad knew a lot of jokes and always knew what and when would be appropriate and funny. Everyone loved him for his sense of humor, and he was also distinguished by such a trait as truthfulness and honesty, it is these traits that I am very similar to my father.
My mother, though she was a hospitable and hospitable woman, an excellent hostess and a beauty, but nevertheless she was a very strict wife and mother.
Once, when I was about fifteen, I woke up in the middle of the night and, lying on the bed, looked around the dark room. There was no one around. I felt very lonely, but I was not afraid to stay in the room alone; I was one of those children who were not told scary fairy tales or ghost stories at night, because of which children are afraid and hide under the pillow as soon as the door creaks or the light goes out. I wasn’t scared, but I decided to call my mom, and I just decided to shout at the top of my voice, when suddenly, to my surprise, I saw a young man standing by the bed, very tall, with an attractive appearance, he looked at me, not smiling at all, but with this severity he didn’t seem angry and angry at all. He was on his knees, his hands were covered with a blanket. I liked him, and I stopped whining. His hands caressed me; he lay down on the bed, smiled and hugged me. I felt very good, I calmed down and immediately fell asleep. I woke up from a sharp pain: it seemed to me that two sharp needles pierced my chest. I screamed loudly. The unknown young man jumped back, not taking his eyes off me, and slid to the floor. It seemed to me that he hid under the bed.
Only now I was really scared and screamed with all my might. The parents came running to the cry. After listening to my story, they did not take it seriously and began to console me as best they could. But even though I was a child, I still noticed that they were alarmed, although they did not show any kind. They rushed to search the room: they looked under the bed, looked under the tables, opened the cabinets. I heard my mother whisper to my father: “Feel the dent on the bed: clearly someone was lying here. This place is still warm.”
Mom stroked my head, she carefully examined my chest, where I felt the injections, and stated that there were no traces left on the skin.
Mom sat with me until morning. From that day until I was seventeen, my mother always stayed with me at night.
After this incident, I became very afraid of the dark and stayed in the room alone at night. My grandmother, my mother’s mother, came to my mother’s aid. Grandma was a very strict woman, loved order in everything. She was a very devout person and every night before going to bed she read a prayer. She started living with us and sleeping in the same room with me.
I remember my father coming into the bedroom; he was standing by the bed and talking to me affectionately. Then he asked me a few questions and laughed heartily at my answer. He stroked my hair, kissed me and told me not to be afraid of anything: it’s just a dream, nothing bad has happened to me.
I must admit, this did not calm me down: after all, I knew that the visit of a strange young man was not a dream.
Dad tried to convince me that it was he who came into the room, looked at me and lay down next to me; I must have been half asleep and didn’t recognize his face. His mother echoed him, but I was not completely convinced by these explanations.
On the same day, my parents, on the advice of my grandmother, invited the old priest. He came into the room, accompanied by his mother and grandmother, asked them a few questions and talked to me very affectionately. His face was kind and calm. He said that we would pray together, joined my hands and told me to repeat softly: “Lord, hear our prayers, for Christ’s sake.” I think I remembered these words for sure, because I often repeated them to myself, and my grandmother taught me for many years to end my prayers with them. I distinctly remember the kind, thoughtful face of a gray-haired priest in a black cassock. He was standing in the middle of my dim room, furnished with fashionable furniture. A ray of light barely penetrated through the heavy curtains.
The priest was on his knees, my mother, grandmother and I followed his example, and he began to read prayers. He prayed tremulously and quietly, as it seemed to me then, for a very long time. I don’t remember anything that happened before this event, and much of what happened afterwards. However, this picture, described by me, is always before my eyes.
Chapter 2. A strange incident
I want to tell you an unusual story that you will hardly believe in it. But nevertheless, everything that I will tell here is the pure truth; these events took place before my eyes. After a few years.
It was a warm summer evening. My father and I decided to go to the lake to go fishing. As I said earlier, we often went fishing together, both early in the morning and in the evening. And each time of the day has its own charm, in the morning — dawn, when all living things begin to wake up, and in the evening-sunset.
Approaching the lake, the father said:
— My brother promised to visit us, but, unfortunately, his visit to us is postponed. He will arrive a little later than we expected.
Dad’s brother was going to stay with us for a few days, and we were expecting his arrival any day now. He intended to introduce us to his adopted daughter, who was in his care. I’ve never seen this girl before. But it seemed to me that her company would bring a pleasant variety to my life. Therefore, when I found out that they postponed their arrival to us, I was very upset. I was looking forward to my uncle’s arrival and meeting his adopted daughter, Anna.
— And when will they arrive? I asked.
— Not earlier than in a month, maybe two, — the father replied.
Then he said the following:
— And I’m glad, my dear daughter, that you never had time to meet Anna.
— Why? I asked, burning with curiosity.
“The poor thing is dead — » my father replied. — Your uncle called me today and told me this terrible news. I’m sorry I didn’t say it right away, but I just didn’t know how to tell you about it.
I was shocked by this news. And tears gushed from my eyes. I clung to my father and began to sob. When my uncle called us, four or five weeks ago, he reported that his adopted daughter was a little sick, but he believed that there was nothing terrible in her ill health.
My poor brother has completely lost his head from grief. Judging by the phone conversation, he had completely lost his mind.
We sat down by the lake on a warm blanket spread out. Nature gave out a sad breath. The sun was sinking below the horizon, turning the surface of the lake scarlet. The crimson surface of the lake flowed and splashed almost at our very feet. And Dad told me the essence of the conversation with my uncle on the phone, word for word. I replayed this conversation in my head several times — but I could not fully understand the essence, because in many places my uncle contradicted himself. This chaotic conversation was so sincere, so fervent that I agreed with my father — grief clouded my uncle’s mind.
Father’s conversation with uncle:
I lost my dear daughter-yes, I loved her like a daughter. During the last days of Anna’s illness, I could not call you because I did not fully understand how serious the danger that threatened her was. I lost my daughter, I found out everything too late. She died in ignorance, full of hope, for happiness. It’s all the fault of the villain I let into my house, who took advantage of my hospitality. I thought I was taking in a decent, charming girlfriend for my daughter Anna. Oh, gods! How blind I was! My lovely daughter died without even knowing who caused her death. She went to another world, unaware of her illness and low addiction, the culprit of our troubles. I will devote the rest of my life to finding and destroying this monster. I hope to achieve my goal. Now only a barely noticeable ray of light is leading me on the trail. People warned me about the seriousness of what was happening, but I didn’t believe anyone. Now I curse my stubbornness, blindness, self-confidence, but it’s too late. I am in a severe nervous breakdown and cannot talk coherently about what happened. My thoughts are confused. As soon as I come to my senses, I’m going to devote myself entirely to investigating this terrible atrocity. I don’t know where my investigation will lead. If I am alive, then in the fall, if you allow me, I will visit you and tell you about what I can’t trust now, talking on the phone.
— – Goodbye. Pray for me, dear brother.
So ended this strange conversation. Although I had never seen Anna, but I felt so sorry for her that my soul and heart were torn by sadness and grief, my eyes were overflowing with tears.
The sun had already completely disappeared below the horizon, twilight was coming. A quiet evening came. Sitting by the lake, we tried to unravel the meaning of my uncle’s phrases. We began to gather, after walking about a few hundred meters, we came out on the road leading to our dacha. We headed for the house. The moon was shining brightly, which illuminated our path.
The path we had just walked along opened up in front of us. Majestic trees grew on our left side, and a ruined water tower towered on our right. In the distance there was a steep hill overgrown with trees and shrubs; ivy-covered pillars could be seen in the shade.
In the lowlands, fog was creeping over the grass and the lake, hiding the distance. The dim reflections of the moonlight glittered in the lake. The evening breathed silence and peace. Moonlight always fills it with some kind of mystery and magic. I was sad, and nature seemed to be sad with me, but still nothing could disturb the calm grandeur of these enchanted distances.
My father and I were silent, admiring the magic of these picturesque places, admiring the beauty of the landscape and the magical moonlight.
The full moon has the most unexpected effects on a person. They manifest themselves in dreams; and some people, especially nervous and impulsive, may fall into sleepwalking or even insanity. In some magical way, the moon is physically connected to life. And dreams on a full moon have a special, and sometimes even, explicit meaning that warns a person, predicts his future, scares him, inspires new actions and deeds. For example, when my grandmother died, before her death I had a dream: a tall, slender woman in a long white dress, smiling, approached me, as if hovering above the floor. And as soon as she got very close to me, abruptly stretched out her hands to my neck and began to strangle me, and her face became sinister and turned into a skull. I woke up in a cold sweat and for the first seconds I couldn’t breathe or utter a single word.
Tonight-the moon seemed formidable and magical. Looking back at the lake, I noticed how its surface shimmered with silver, as if invisible hands had lit candles and were waiting for guests from the other world.
I was in a mood when I didn’t want to talk about anything. Listening to the silence, I looked dreamily at the lake.
— Somehow sad at heart, — said the father and, after a pause, quoted Shakespeare:
Sadness, like a weight, oppresses my chest. Add your own — you will increase the oppression; With your longing — you will press me down harder.
And then, unfortunately, I don’t remember. But it seems to me that some kind of trouble is coming to us. And perhaps it has something to do with the ringing of my poor brother.
At that moment, the sound of a passing car was heard on the road, it was clear from the sounds that the car was rushing at great speed, such a sound, very unusual in our area, and even at this time of day.
Soon the car itself appeared. It was a huge black jeep, and even the windows were so black that it was impossible to see it on a white day, it was so black! This car was followed by a minibus, but just as gloomy.
The cars were very expensive and high-status, as my dad said, apparently they belonged to a high-ranking person. We, without taking our eyes off, looked at such an unusual sight. However, after a fraction of seconds, events took a threatening turn: when these cars almost approached us, the jeep began to turn to the right, then to the left, and my father and I panicked. The Jeep was rushing towards us, with the speed of a hurricane.
We were horrified by what was happening, and a woman’s scream could be heard from the window of the jeep. My father abruptly grabbed me in his arms, and then rushed to the side with me.
The finale of this scene came very quickly. On the way to the car, a huge poplar tree grew near the road, opposite it, on the other side of the road, there was a street lamp. Now the car was racing straight into the tree.
I looked at what was happening with horror and understood what was about to happen. I closed my eyes with my palms, turned away and for some reason screamed.
I opened my eyes a little: it was a terrible sight. Both cars were smashed, one drove into a tree, the other into a lamppost, and two wheels were spinning in the air. Smoke was pouring out of the cars. A woman got out of the jeep, she was muttering something and only swear words could be understood from her speech. She sat down by the car, leaning her back on it, but her appearance was very majestic. She kept throwing her head back, pressing a handkerchief to her nose. Through the door of the minibus, two strong men crawled out. They ran up to the woman, she told them something sternly, and they rushed to the minibus. One of them carried out a young boy; he showed no signs of life.
My father was already standing by the woman from the jeep at that moment, offering her his help. The woman didn’t seem to hear him. She stared intently at the skinny guy who was being sat down on the ground by two sturdy guards.
I came closer. The young man was in a faint, but alive. My father also came up and took his hand to take his pulse. He assured the woman from the jeep, who introduced herself as the young man’s mother, that there was a pulse, uneven and very sluggish, but distinguishable. The woman shook my father’s hand and gratefully leaned forward. It looked very mannered and even somehow theatrical. This is typical of many people from such circles as this woman, apparently they believe that this behavior is natural.
Oh, this woman, as they say, was well preserved, she looked no more than thirty, and she was very beautiful: medium height, not thin, I would say yes, with a perfect figure, in black leather shorts, high red patent leather boots with high heels, in a fashionable black leather jacket, her face was pale with excitement, but very beautiful, her eyes were large dark brown, almost black, long fluffy eyelashes, long slightly wavy hair, in general she looked stunning and carried herself majestically and confident.
— Is anyone able to withstand everything that has fallen on me? — she said.
— I’m going on a very important matter, and life or death may depend on any delay, even for an hour. My son will not be able to recover from the accident for God knows how long and continue our trip. I have to leave him; I swear, business does not allow me to stay. Man, tell me, is it far to the nearest village or town, or what do you have here? I will have to leave my son there; I will not see him for another three months, until my return. Oh, well, what to do?
I pulled my father’s hand and whispered in his ear:
— Dad, please invite her son to us, it would be so great. Invite me, please.
— Madam, you can, if you trust us, leave your son with us. Let him stay in our house until you return. We are only glad to have such a guest!
“ — I can’t abuse your kindness,” the woman said.
— On the contrary, you will do us a great honor. My daughter and I have just received the news that the visit we were waiting for has been canceled, and we are very upset. If you entrust your son to us and leave him, you will please my daughter with this. There are no injuries, he is conscious, let him stay with us and then I will go for a doctor who will examine him. If you are really in a hurry, leave it, and I assure you, your son will not meet such a kind attitude anywhere.
Chapter 3. Our guest
We followed the car with our eyes. She disappeared over the horizon, soon everything became quiet again around.
Nothing else reminded of the incident, except for the jeep left behind, near the tree and the young man, the son of this strange woman, who at that moment opened his eyes. I noticed that he raised his head and looked around in confusion, and quietly asked:
— Where’s my mom?”
My father told him what had happened and hastened to assure him that everything would be fine.
— Where am I? What is this place? — What is it?” he asked, confused. Then she added — “And where’s the minibus?” Where is everyone?
How could my father answer all these questions. Gradually, the young man came to his senses and finally remembered everything about the accident and was very glad that no one was injured; after learning that his mother had left him here for three months, he became very sad.
I wanted to come over, but my father waved me to stay where I was.:
— Wait, my daughter, he’s not up to talking right now; even a slight excitement is stressful for him. Let him calm down.
As soon as he gets into bed, I thought, I’ll go up to him and meet him.
The father decided not to delay the examination and therefore went for a familiar doctor. By that time, Mom had prepared a bedroom for the young man.
My mother brought the stranger into the house, supporting him by the hand. Then she escorted him to the bedroom.
The room that served as our living room overlooked our garden. A lake could be seen in the distance.
The living room was furnished with carved oak wooden furniture, with large cupboards and armchairs upholstered in beige velvet. The walls were covered with wallpaper that looked very much like tapestries. The figures on the tapestries were depicted as heroes in ancient costumes, ladies and gentlemen were relaxing in nature. But at the same time, our living room did not look too solemn and was very cozy; here we usually received guests, celebrated holidays and just drank tea.
That night we sat in the living room for a long time and discussed what had happened. And the young stranger was already fast asleep.
— Mom, do you like our guest? I asked as soon as Mom entered the living room. “Tell me about him.”
“A very nice young man,” Mom replied. A very charming creature. He’s about your age, very nice.
— He’s just handsome! And he has a nice voice! Mom added.
“Did you notice there was another woman in the car?” my father asked me. — But she never got out of the car, even when the wheels were changed. I just glanced out of the window.
“No, Dad, I didn’t notice anyone,” I replied.
My father described a black woman of terrible appearance; she looked out of the car window, grinning and nodding her head, crowned with a colorful turban. She sparkled with the whites of her huge eyes, and bared her teeth, as if gloating over everything that was happening.
— And what, these guards! I said.
“That’s right,” my father said, leaning back in his chair. — A bunch of criminals. I hope they don’t kill anyone on the way. Notorious gangsters, but they know their business: they quickly put the cars in order.
“Maybe they’re just tired after a long journey,” Mom said.
— It should be noted that they look terrifying; their faces are somehow huge and dark, they look sullen. “I don’t like all this; I hope when this young man comes to his senses tomorrow we will find out everything,” mom said.
“I don’t think he wants to talk about it,” my father said.
His mysterious face intrigued me, and now it was even more interesting to me what that woman whispered to him before leaving.
And as soon as we were alone, I immediately asked my father about that conversation. I didn’t have to persuade him.
— I see no reason to hide it from you. The woman said that she did not want to inconvenience us by taking care of her son, and then added that her son was a nervous creature, in poor health, but did not suffer from seizures and was in his right mind. She told me about it herself, I didn’t even ask about anything.
— Very strange! I said. — Why did she need to tell us about it at all?
“Well, anyway, what’s said is said,” the father laughed. — I have to say, there’s still something left for you to hear. The woman said: “I’m going on matters of vital importance — » she stressed, “on very secret and urgent matters. I’ll be back for my son in three months. Until then, he won’t tell you who we are, where we come from, and everything about our family.” That’s it, period. Then she was silent for a few seconds and looked at me very sternly. It must be very important to her. You saw how quickly they left. I hope I did the right thing and didn’t do anything stupid by leaving this young man with us.
I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to see our guest and talk to him. I waited for the doctor to examine him and let me go up to his bedroom. You can’t imagine how shocked I was by such an event in my life, this strange appearance of a new friend.
The doctor, who was brought by his father at night, had already finished examining the young man by that time. It was the middle of the night, but to go to bed when this happens, and also a mysterious guest! Well, no way!!!!
The doctor came into the living room, he said that the young man was in perfect health. His pulse is steady and even. He received no injuries, only a slight nervous shock, which will soon pass without a trace. So it won’t hurt him, my visit, of course, with his consent. After receiving the doctor’s approval, I asked my mother to ask if I could stop by for a few minutes.
Mom immediately returned with an answer. The stranger really wanted to meet me. And I rushed to him like a bullet.
Our guest was laid in one of the most beautiful rooms of our dacha. But, perhaps, a little heavy. The wallpaper on the walls was dark gray, almost black, and there were red poppies of extraordinary beauty on them. However, the gloomy appearance of the room. Softened by a beautiful white, translucent organza, a carpet lying near the bed, the same white color and a beautiful dark gray pattern on it, a white bed made of wrought iron. In general, everything was combined and it was very beautiful.
Floor lamps shone near the bed. The young man was sitting; he was wearing soft silk night pajamas. His legs were covered with a quilt, which his mother had covered him with at the scene of the accident.
I went to his bed and wanted to talk to him, what is it? But I could not utter a word, I was seized with horror and fear.
And the following happened. I saw the same face that had been standing in front of my eyes since I was a teenager, that once bent over my bed, the same face that I remembered with horror for many years, but no one suspected what was in my soul.
The young man was very handsome. At first, his face was as sad as I remembered it.
But the next moment it lit up with a strange smile: he recognized me.
We were silent for perhaps a minute, then he spoke. I still couldn’t say any words.
— That’s so wonderful! — exclaimed the guest. — Three or four years ago I saw your face in a dream; it has remained in my head forever.
— And really, miracles! I said, trying to cope with the horror that seized me and deprived me of speech. — Three years ago I saw you too, but I don’t know if it was a dream. I can’t forget your face. It is constantly in front of my eyes.
His smile became softer, and the strange grimace on his face disappeared; his face shone with charm, and the dimple on his left cheek gave him charm.
I became more confident and continued the conversation in a friendly way: I came closer and shook the guest’s hand and told him how happy we were all for his unexpected visit, and especially for me.
I am a very timid and shy girl, and then I began to feel uninhibited and even brave. He squeezed my hand with his own, his eyes sparkled, he smiled again and blushed.
The guest returned my greeting. My surprise did not leave me, I sat down on the bed next to him. He said:
— I will tell you a dream in which I saw you. It is so strange that the dream was so clear; we have not seen each other like this, and for the first time we see each other like we have become now.
I was about sixteen years old; when one night I had a strange dream, I woke up and saw that I was in some unfamiliar room, completely unlike mine; the room was furnished with furniture that I had not seen before. It seemed to me that no one was sleeping on the bed, and in general, the rooms were empty, there was no one but me. I looked around; I remember I really liked the lamp, which resembled an old iron candelabra for two candles — I would recognize it out of a thousand if I saw it again. For some reason, I crawled under the bed, but then, I heard someone crying; On my knees, I looked up and saw you. Yes, I’m sure it was you: a beautiful girl with light brown hair and huge brown eyes, and scarlet lips — it was your lips. You were the same as you are now, I saw you as clearly as I see you now. I liked you very much; I got on the bed and hugged you; we fell asleep. I woke up from a loud scream; you were sitting and screaming loudly. I got scared, slipped to the floor and, as it seemed to me, I lost consciousness. I woke up at home, in my room. I haven’t been able to forget your face since. I didn’t make a mistake — you are the same girl I saw in my dream.
I, in turn, told my dream that I had seen, to the amazement of my new acquaintance.
— It’s hard to say which of us scared whom — – he smiled. — If you weren’t so beautiful, I would probably be very scared; but we were teenagers, and I have a feeling that I met you three years ago, which means I can call myself your close friend; apparently we were destined to become friends. Tell me, do you feel the same attraction to me as I do to you? I’ve never had a girlfriend, would you agree to become one? He sighed, his beautiful blue eyes burning with passion.
To tell the truth, I had strange ambiguous feelings for the charming stranger. I, like him, was “inexplicably attracted”, but this feeling was mixed with fear. However, it should be noted that attraction prevailed. His beauty and endless charm caused a trembling excitement in me, my heart beat faster and my interest became more and more.
The guest leaned back on the pillow; I felt that he was very tired, and hurried to wish him good night.
“The doctor recommended,” I said, “that you rest more. A good sweet sleep will not hurt you, but will only benefit. My mom will be sitting with you all night.
— That’s very kind of you, but I won’t be able to sleep if there’s someone in the room.” I don’t need any help, I’ll be fine. And I’m sorry, but I always close the door at night.
Once, our house was robbed, since then, I’m terribly afraid of thieves now. I won’t bother you. This is already my habit; please don’t be angry with me. And can we switch to You? I nodded my head in agreement.
For a moment he touched my hand gently and whispered:
— Good night, dear; I hate to part with you. I’ll see you tomorrow morning, just don’t wake me up too early.
He didn’t take his eyes off me. The look was kind of dreamy, he took a deep breath and leaned back on the pillow and whispered again:
— Good night, dear.
In our youth, we often make friends and even fall in love at first sight. His enthusiasm was so pleasant to me, although I did not understand what caused such delight. I was flattered that he immediately confided to me the secret of his childhood. Yes, he was destined to become my closest friend.
Chapter 4. Once on a walk
As I told you earlier, I admired every little thing about him. But I didn’t like a lot of things.
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