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When I got a call from my friend Martin, who was serving overseas, I thought the worst.

What’s going on, dude? Is everything okay?” I asked anxiously.

Oh, yeah, yeah!” replied Martin. “Listen, I won’t be in Boston next week. I am still in Bulgaria, in the village of Boarden. I was on my way to the capital but decided to stop in this village for a night, at a bed and breakfast place called Mora’s Inn. Oh, man, it’s so peaceful and clean, and the food is unbelievable! I am coming home at the end of the month.”

But Martin didn’t come home at the end of the month and didn’t respond to any of my messages and calls. After a couple of months rolled by with no news from him, I knew something was wrong. I took a few days off and hopped the first flight to Bulgaria.

I landed in the capital city of Sofia and took a bus to the village of Boarden. In a couple of hours, the bus dropped me off at the village center. The village, snuggled in the bosom of the Balkans, was very small. Most of the houses were built centuries ago. The village center consisted of a square surrounded by houses, one of which was converted to a library, another to a small general store, and a third to a guest house, which must be Mora’s Inn.

I opened the door and entered. An old woman with sharp facial features sat on a small rocking chair, spinning yarn with a drop spindle. Martin was sitting on a huge pillow on the floor, reading a book. I sighed with relief. The old woman saw me and gasped in surprise. Martin looked up. His initial confusion quickly vanished, and he jumped to his feet. I sensed he was truly happy to see me, and all my fears disappeared. He was still the good old Martin. We bro-hugged.

John! What are you doing here?” he exclaimed.

You were right!” I said bitterly. “This place is so quaint that it makes you forget all about your friends, who, in the meantime, wonder what the hell happened to you!”

He ignored my remark and turned toward the old woman.

Mora, this is John, my friend from America I was telling you about. John, this is my landlady―Mora!”

Hi John”, said Mora, “welcome. You stay tonight?”

Well, yes,” I said, “I can stay for a couple of nights.”

To my surprise, I noticed a shadow of vague apprehension on Martin’s face, but it vanished as quickly as it appeared.

An hour later, Mora set up the dinner table. “Eat,” she said, “this food is very tasty. Martin knows.” She smiled. “Now I leave you.”

I blurted the question I’d wanted to ask him for months.

Martin, what’s going on? What are you still doing here?”

Is that why you came?” Martin snapped, “to convince me to go back?”

No, Martin,” I said, “It’s not that! I just want to know what’s really going on! You are my best friend, and I wasn’t even sure if you were alive!”

I am sorry, John,” he said quietly, “I should’ve called. But this is my life now. I took a job as an English teacher at the local school. I am not going back!”

We had plenty to talk about, and by the time I finally retreated to my room, it was well past midnight. The windows were open, and cool night air had filled the room, promising to alleviate the slight hangover I was experiencing as a result of one too many shots of rakia, the local brandy. Soon I dozed off.

I woke up at the break of dawn at the sound of footsteps in my room. It was a woman. At first, I thought it was Mora. But as she came closer, I realized it wasn’t the old lady. This woman had thick, long brown hair. She was much younger than Mora―it could have been her granddaughter. She probably is, I thought. She probably arrived early this morning and nobody told her I was in this room.

She wore a sheer night gown, short and sleeveless, one of those attires that were designed for anything but warmth and coverage. She stood by my bed and stared at me.

Who are you?”, I said as I sat up, half-annoyed, half-alarmed.

I am Mora’s granddaughter. My name is Mora, too.”

That’s nice, Mora. Nice to meet you. I am John. It’s a bit early, though, so if you don’t mind, I’d like to go back to bed.”

I’m Martin’s girlfriend.” she said, ignoring my request.

His girlfriend?”

Yes. Didn’t he tell you?”

Come to think of it, I wasn’t surprised. I knew something was keeping Martin in this little village in this faraway country, and a girlfriend would be at the top of the list. I only wondered why he had to hide it from me.

She sighed and sat on the bed next to me.

Listen,” I said, “you have to leave. I don’t think Martin would appreciate you coming up here at this time of the night.”

A lonely tear rolled down her cheek.

Hey, what’s the matter? Is there anything I can…”?

She put her hand on my thigh. In my imagination I wiped that lonely tear with the back of my finger.

All I wanted was for someone to stay in this house, generation after generation, and me looking after it, as it has always been. But now this house is empty, and I am useless. I know one day Martin will get sick of me and leave. I know I can’t keep him here forever with great food and sex. And besides, he will die one day, and I will be alone again. People leave these villages and things are not what they used to be.”

Mora, how do you know that he will die before you?”

He will, John, and you will, too.”

Her hand was still resting on my thigh.

You know, Mora,” I said as I stood up abruptly, “I still don’t know what the problem is, but Martin is my best friend. If you are trying to seduce me, maybe Martin should leave you now anyway. I can’t do this to him! Leave!”

Then the door opened, and Martin entered the room, pointed a gun at Mora, and pulled the trigger. The shot echoed through the empty house and, surely, woke up the whole village.

Whoa, whoa! What the hell are you doing, dude!” I shouted, terrified out of my mind. “Drop the gun, Martin! Drop the fucking gun!”

Mora’s body fell off the bed and hit the floor.

So, we wait for the police now,” I managed to utter. “How are the prisons here, Martin? Not that it matters now, but we weren’t doing anything wrong. She came up to my room because she was upset about something. Something about empty houses and you and I dying before her! Made no sense to me. She was leaving anyway!” my voice had gradually gone from a whisper back to hysterical screaming.

Martin dropped the gun, and I noticed he was holding a book.

John,” said Martin calmly, tossing the book on the bed, “Look at her face!”

I knew this was never a good idea, but I kneeled next to Mora and carefully turned over her body.

What was in front of me was Mora’s grandmother, the old woman with long white hair and wrinkles. I jumped, horrified.

Very well played, you two, very well played!” I yelled and then started laughing, tears streaming down my face. “I don’t know how you did it, but you got me, buddy! Is that what you do for fun around here?

This is not a prank, John. We had to show you what was going on, because, otherwise, you would have never believed me. She will be as good as new in a couple of hours. Read this book, or at least the chapter called ‘Kikimora.’”

I looked at the book. The title read, Household Spirits and Creatures of Eastern Europe.

Okay,” I said, “since we are not going to jail, can you brief me on this?”

Mora is a creature―a kikimora, what you would call a household spirit. She’s been living in this house for generations. But now that the last owner has moved away and visits only in the summer, she started to feel lonely. Until I moved in.”

How long did it take you to realize what was going on, Martin?”

Well, I’d been renting this place for a week before the owner left for the winter. I saw Mora the very first day and thought she was the owner’s mother. But nobody in the village knew Mora, and nobody called this house Mora’s Inn. I was getting uneasy about the whole situation, when one night, Mora brought in a bottle of rakia and sat down to dine with me. At the end of the night she turned into a beautiful young woman. I thought I had drunk too much, so I went to bed. But the following morning, the same beautiful woman appeared in my room with my coffee and breakfast.”

I understand why you didn’t want to tell me all this over the phone, Martin.”

I glanced through the content page. Martin had circled the heading of one of the chapters. It read, “Domovik ― Household God and Husband of Kikimora”.

What do you have to do to become one of them?” I whispered, pointing at the black circle. Martin…?”

He didn’t respond. He looked at me, hesitated for a moment, then turned around and slowly walked towards the door. He grabbed the handle, but before he left the room, the subdued light from the nightstand washed over his slouched shoulders and feeble, grey hair.


Milkana N. Mingels grew up in Bulgaria―ancient land reigned by feuding Slavic gods, and home of quirky mythical creatures. She is the author of the Tales from the Mountain of Perun duology. Her short fiction has appeared in Sirens Call, and Every Day Fiction e-zines. She currently lives in Massachusetts. She would love to hear from you on her Facebook page


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