“Wolf’s Time” is the literary debut of the President of the Knife Federation of Ukraine and the owner of the Blade Brothers Knives brand Oleksandr Vorobya.
This is a collection of mystical stories about a Ukrainian city where there is a community of vampires, an angel can save you from death, and a fairy seems to want to kidnap a child.
Here is a translation of one of the stories.
No One Will Ever Hurt You.
Serhii was spending his usual evening dozing off on the sofa with the television on. His wife had already fallen asleep next to him. He glanced at the clock, it was 10.30 p.m. He ought to go to bed earlier, because he needed to wake up on time for work tomorrow, the same as every weekday.
Serhii got up from the sofa, straightened the bottom of his housecoat, fumbled his feet into his slippers in the half-light and went towards the bathroom. Shuffling along the corridor, he heard a pleasant melody coming from his son’s room; a female voice was singing a simple, but beautiful song without accompaniment. Being sleepy, he thought that a boy of eight years old should have been asleep at this time. Serhii opened the door and poked his shaggy head into the room. The light was off and his son was sitting on the bed looking at the bright screen of the tablet that his grandmother had given him for his birthday. Serhii considered such a “toy” not appropriate for his child’s age, but could not deprive the child of his present.
“ Ivan, no way you’re still up!”
”Okay, dad!” – the child switched off the tablet without argument and jumped under the blanket.
“ Who was singing, by the way?”
“Just a girl”…
“Got it. Sleep well.” — Serhii shut the child’s bedroom door and finally went to the bathroom. Then he walked into the kitchen for some water, peeked into the fridge to see what was good to snack on, but decided to refrain from late-night eating and lazily went to carry his wife to bed.
As he passed his son’s bedroom, he heard a familiar tune again.
“What the hell is going on there, I told him to sleep!” – cursed Serhii and opened the door to the room.
Ivan was standing on a chair in front of the open window on the eighth floor and was staring into the night with the obvious intention of taking a step.
A leap forward.
Serhii had never been particularly fond of sports, but considering his height and weight, he made a leap that even a rugby player would have been proud of.
Grabbing his son in his arms, he stepped back, closing the window with his free hand. He put the boy on the bed and sat down in front of him, staring at his face:
“ Ivan! Have you lost your mind?! What are you doing?! Why did you open the window?!”
The son lowered his eyes guiltily.
“The girl asked me to… ”
“ Ivan, it’s nearly eleven o’clock at night……. what girl?! I told you not to open windows when there are no adults around!”
Serhii’s heart was beating out of his chest, and it horrified him to think what might have happened if he hadn’t looked into the room……. I mean what girl? Just to be sure, Serhii opened the window, leaned out and looked around — in those old high-rise buildings, like everywhere in Northern Saltivka, lived a range of families from quite decent ones to outright lowlifes. What if a girl of the latter type couldn’t get to sleep and was looking for things to entertain herself, sitting on a balcony on that cold April evening. But there wasn’t a single sign of life from balconies nearby. He closed the window.
“ Come with me, you will sleep with us tonight” — holding the boy in his arms Serhii went to wake his wife.
The sleepy mother did not ask any questions and just nodded when Serhii told her that Ivan would sleep with them that night.
The son was laid in the middle of the bed, with his father on the left and his mother on the right. The wife immediately fell asleep while Serhii, anxious and stunned by what had happened, lay sleepless for some time until sleep finally overcame him. As he sank deeper into a pleasant sleep, he heard the familiar tune again, luring him into oblivion. On the verge of sleep, Serhii was brought back to consciousness by an instinctive sense of danger, as if a torch had suddenly flared up in the darkness and illuminated the snout of a cave bear.
He jumped up like a shot and, sitting up in bed, he saw his son climbing up on the windowsill.
Being only half-awake Serhii underestimated the power of his voice and yelled so loudly that everybody sprang into the air — his son, his wife and even the cat, sleeping calmly on the mat at her side.
Ivan fell back from the windowsill and burst into tears.
The cat hopped over the table and fled into the corridor, shattering a vase on its way.
The mum just shrieked in fear.
“ Be quiet!” Serhii ordered in his most authoritative manner as the head of the family. For a moment, total silence prevailed in the room. Then all hell broke loose
“Why are you yelling in the middle of the night?” his wife asked with outrage, trying to talk over their crying son wrapped in her arms. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
Serhii became infuriated, but managed to restrain his temper. He leaned toward his son and asked him strictly:
“ Ivan, why did you climb onto the windowsill again?”
Then, turning to his wife he said “It’s the second time he’s tried to get out of the window tonight!”
The mum stared at her son with a questioning gaze..
“Ivan!” Serhii shook his son by the shoulders, perhaps harder than he should.
“The girl called me”…. he almost whined.
“But WHO’S the girl”…
Serhii wanted to swear, but refrained. He stood up, looked out of the window again and carefully examined the rows of balconies and windows nearby. There were still some windows showing lights but in general, all the areas from which the girl’s voice might have come were dark.
He closed the window and frowned. He was terribly sleepy, but couldn’t just leave it. On the other hand, Serhii knew that there was no point in trying to deal with it until morning. Suddenly he came up with an idea.
“Why are you sealing the window with duct tape?” asked his wife in bewilderment while she watched what he was doing.
“Our son is obviously going to do this again. The duct tape cannot prevent it, but at least we’ll hear him . ” He unrolled the tape and in a spectacular manner tore off a piece with a loud cracking sound.
The rest of the night passed placidly.
In the morning, the boy was taken to a child psychologist. Half an hour of tests, half an hour of conversation in the presence of parents and another half hour without them. Giving feedback the doctor explained that the episode had been caused by the child’s impressionability resulting from watching too much video and nightmares.
“ Limit your child’s screen time in the evening.”
“Well, thank God, our son has no mental problems.”
The rest of the day followed the usual pattern for everyone — the parents went to work, the son was taken to school.
After giving the night’s incident a lot of thought, there was only one thing that made Serhii uneasy. When he had been falling asleep in his bedroom with his son in the middle of the bed, he felt he had heard that tune playing. Then, as he jumped up, he had caught a quick glimpse of a girl’s silhouette in the window.
Nonsense, it must have been his mind playing tricks on him. But that haunting tune was spinning in his head, and Serhii became interested in finding it and listening to the entire track.
But was there any chance to find the track if he couldn’t actually recollect the lyrics? Of course, his son’s tablet could be of help to him.
As soon as Serhii got home, he immediately switched on the tablet that he had taken away from his son. He looked through some YouTube stuff, without result, so he tried to search in video and music download folders, but again in vain. Serhii scratched his head in bewilderment and looked through activity history data — it might seem surprising, but the last application that was running on that device was the video camera. He went to the folder where records were stored and launched the last one, which lasted no more than a few seconds. A cold shiver ran down Serhii’s spine while he waited for the video to finish downloading
At the beginning, the camera had recorded a dark background that seemed to be a blanket, and then suddenly focused on the window.
Outside the window, a girl was swaying in a light haze and singing that damn melody. Then he heard his own voice saying, “Ivan, no way you’re still up!” and the recording ended abruptly..
As the cold sweat dried off, Serhii rewatched the video nearly twenty times and realized that he needed to calm down and get his thoughts together.
On the one hand, both he himself and his son saw that girl.
On the other hand, weird things can feel real during the transition between being asleep and awake.
Thirdly, the girl was caught on the video.
Fourthly, being recorded in darkness, the video was vague and too short, the girl was captured for less than a second. It was difficult to figure out what exactly was filmed there
With those heavy thoughts in mind, Serhii came to a decision worthy of Solomon — not to succumb to paranoid fear, but to gain control of the situation. When his wife went to pick up their son from school, he went to a local builders merchant, bought several rolls of wide reinforced tape and sealed through and around the window sashes. It wouldn’t be easy for Ivan to remove such tape, and certainly he wouldn’t be able to do it without making any noise.
They passed an anxious evening and went to bed early. That night the son again slept between his parents. Serhii tried to stay awake as long as possible, but finally he fell into a light and anxious sleep.
He woke up when he felt his son getting out of bed, and right away he heard the familiar tune. Despite a sudden rush of panic, Serhii managed his emotions and remained calm, pretending to be asleep as he was confident that his son would not be able to open the window.
He waited for about thirty seconds and opened his eyes slightly — Ivan was kneeling on the windowsill, leaning his palms against the glass.
Serhii threw back the blanket gently and trying to be silent, he carefully got up and looked out of the window.
Outside the window, a girl with a thin body, large head and disproportionately large, though beautiful, eyes, was floating in the air. What had appeared to be a light haze to him on the video was actually a pair of rapidly flapping wings, as in dragonflies. For some time the smiling girl continued singing, looking at his son, then she stopped and glanced sullenly at Serhii, stretched out her hand, pointed at him, and without changing her facial expression, wagged her finger.
As Serhii felt a tingle run down his spine, she suddenly blew on her palm and he immediately had a feeling of sand thrown into his eyes. He rubbed his eyes and looked out of the window again, the girl had gone. His son was still kneeling on the windowsill.
”Ivan” Serhii called softly as he stepped to the window with his hands outstretched, “come to me.”
Ivan turned and looked at him with blind looking eyes:
”Dad, let’s open the window.”
In the morning, his wife woke Serhii, who was sleeping in an armchair, his son wrapped in a blanket in his arms. He woke up in a gloomy mood and said that no one would go to work and they would go to the countryside instead. The tone of his voice did not allow for any objections, and his wife began obediently to pack for a trip.
Having arrived in Malaya Danylivka, where their family owned a small rural cottage with an attic, inherited from his late father-in-law, Serhii spent half the day preparing it; he nailed a durable wire mesh to all windows, installed mortise locks in all doors and gave his wife a set of keys, the other one he kept for himself.
He went to a local grocery store, bought some meat and vodka, and then he called his friend Petrovych.
“Hi, Petrovych! I decided to spend a few days with my family in the country, and we’ve already arrived, come and visit us! Let’s grill some shashlik and take a sip. Is your pump-action still working? Bring it, let’s shoot some cans!” .
Petrovych, their neighbour, was an ex military man, who retired early with a generous pension, and languished with boredom, so every time Serhii visited was a special occasion for him.
They grilled delicious shashlik and were shooting at empty tin cans. Since Serhii’s land plot was adjacent to the forest, it was a safe place for them to shoot. Petrovych couldn’t handle his happiness, so he tossed off his glass and right away was ready for another one, while Serhii only pretended to drink. In the late afternoon, when Petrovych was about to go home, since he was drunk and could hardly stand, Serhii reasonably suggested:
“ Petrovych, you can hardly stand, you’d better leave your pump-action with me.”
“ If you lose it on your way, the police will torture you to death ” he joked.”My place is a safe haven, you know.”
“You’re right”, agreed Petrovych, said goodbye and staggered home.
Then Serhii got himself ready. He put a plastic garden armchair in front of the house, sat in it with his arms wrapped around the gun, and pretended to be asleep. He couldn’t pretend for very long, as the fresh air overcame him and he succumbed to sleep.
He woke up, because his son was shaking him by the shoulder.
“ Dad, let’s go home, it’s getting cold…”
Serhii shook off the remnants of sleep and looked around — as judged from the darkness, it was already late enough, and the evening cold had begun to make itself felt.
“Let’s go inside, dad, it’s cold here!”
“ Go indoors, son, I’ll have a cigarette and be right there.” Serhii was not a regular smoker, but sometimes he would light up after he had had a drink or to calm his nerves. He took out a cigarette, struck a match, lit it and drew on it fiercely.
“ Daddy, let’s go, you’re going to catch a cold!” Ivan tugged at his father’s sleeve
At that moment he heard his wife inside the house ordering their son to go to bed. The boy answered and Serhii heard the patter of childish feet.
Simultaneously, he and Ivan were still staring into each other’s eyes.
In astonishment Serhii blew cigarette smoke directly into his son’s face, something he had always tried to avoid doing.He noticed that the smoke passed through Ivan’s face, as if through a holographic illusion.
Serhii let out a low growl and with a quick circular motion hit his son on the head with the butt of the rifle.
A cloud of moon dust flared up and the girl with wings flew away, hissing as she rubbed her bruised forehead.
Serhii cursed, pulled the trigger and fired at the girl.
While he was still pointing the gun at her, she skirted the rifle in a graceful flight and, still hissing, flew into the house.
“Stop, bitch!” Serhii roared and started chasing her.
The doors to the living room were open for some reason, but his security measures proved to be effective and the girl began scurrying around the room looking for a way out. As she saw Serhii burst in with a gun in his hands, she huddled up in a corner in fear.
With a malevolent smile on his face he came close to her and prepared to shoot. Suddenly Ivan jumped in right in front of the rifle muzzle and waved with his hands:
“Dad, dad! What are you doing? Don’t shoot!”
“Ivan, step aside right now! It’s dangerous here!”
“ Daddy, wake up! Don’t shoot! There’s nobody here! It’s just my Teddy bear!”
Without uttering a word Serhii moved the boy away with the barrel and aimed it at the corner again. There was really only an old battered Teddy bear, which Ivan had had for three years.
Serhii grinned; he didn’t let anyone fool him and fired three shots at the bear. Pieces of plush were floating in the air…
“ What will they do with him?” She always crossed her hands over her chest in times of stress.
“ Damned if I know, it depends on the psychiatrist” The district police officer scratched his head. ”It’s not a crime, but to shoot indoors is not good… And Petrovych will catch it! Right now it all appears to be confusing; I don’t even know what to say.”
Ivan was watching through the stair bannisters as his mother talked to the police officer. Then he jumped up and ran upstairs.
He entered his room, carefully closing the door behind him.
He opened the closet door and looked at the girl inside.
“ He won’t hurt you again. No one will ever hurt you.”
The fairy smiled back, fluttering her wings.
Great thanks to Diana Jackson for translation!