The next Alexi Zolnerovich/ Baba Yaga story is begun:
“Very funny, Babushka,” Sergeant Alexander Zolnerovich muttered under his breath, removing the framed photograph from the shipping box. The little tag on the back read, “From one warrior to another.”
“What’s that, Z?” his office mate asked, peering over his shoulder.
Alexi had no idea how to explain and he really didn’t want to. Marty would probably call the psych-eval guys if Alexi even tried. Instead he sighed, “My grandmother’s idea of funny.” He unfolded the easel back of the frame and stood it up on his desk.
Martin Krehbiel shook his head. “A photo of her cat? With an inked-on paw print?”
“Yeah. It’s a paw-tograph’d picture of Ivan the Purrable.”
“Uugh, that’s terrible.” Marty looked into the box, saw nothing edible, and returned to his own cluttered, oil-spattered desk.
More importantly, at least to Alexi, were the three books of Russian folk tales and a very small, freshly blessed icon of St. George. The books came from the Old Country and threatened to fall apart in his hands. These weren’t the folk tales in the children’s books he’d read as a child, oh no. These were the real, hair-curling accounts of people who had crossed paths with things like rusalkas and the Sweeper. Alexi still couldn’t bring himself to use Baba Yaga’s real name, even here, by daylight, hundreds of miles from where they’d last crossed paths.
“Your grandmother must really like that cat,” Marty observed after several minutes.
“Yeah. Ivan’s kind of unusual as cats go.” Which was like saying that an Abrams tank needed a little space to turn, or that the Bradley could be a bit noisy inside when an IED went off under it. The more he read about Russian folk-lore, the more Alexi wondered if Ivan was really a cat at all. Not that he, Alexi, was going to ask Ivan outright the next time he video-chatted with Babushka.
Alexi returned to what he was supposed to be doing, which was studying the plans, such as he’d been given, for a civil defense maneuver out in the back-of-beyond that was western Kansas. In theory, tornado season ended in September. In theory, once you got west of Hays, hail replaced tornadoes as Mother Nature’s way of saying, “eff you and the horse you rode in on.” Kansas never had been a state for theories, and so the drill, which, the way Alexi’s year was going, would probably turn into the regiment’s first ever tornado response disaster drill conducted during a blizzard. No, he decided as he turned the page, locust plague. Blizzards were too prosaic.
Two hours later, his electronic in-box pinged. Alexi logged in, read the notice, and decided he needed to go to the NCO club and get stinking, shit-faced drunk. “Base security has reported multiple sightings of a deformed, grey, miniature horse outside the north fence. No missing livestock has been reported to the sheriff’s office, but if you encounter a loose horse with a humped back, or with a large pack on its back, report the sighting to the shift supervisor at extension 5432.” Why me, he whimpered silently? What did I do to piss you off so badly, oh Holy Lord God? He added a heart-felt “Please don’t answer that, Sir,” and deleted the message.
Because where the Little Humpbacked Horse went, Baba Yaga was probably close behind.
(C) 2015 Alma T. C. Boykin All Rights Reserved.
I’m aiming for a September 5 release date, but no promises.