Death Lives In The Water – Snippet 23

The three women stared at the diary. Bolotnik?

“What in the three hells is a bolotnik?” asked Bridgette.

“I have no idea,” replied Charity. “We will have to look it up later.”

But Bridgette already had her phone out and was Googling bolotnik. She gasped and then snorted in derision.

“This can’t be for real,” she said, even though she knew it was this very kind of thing for which she had been training the last three years.

From  “In Slavic mythology, bolotnik (Russian: болотник, literally «swamp man», translit. bolotnik), Belarusian balotnik (Belarusian: балотнiк), Ukrainian bolotyanik (Ukrainian: болотяник) is a male swamp spirit. There are many descriptions of bolotnik. Usually he was portrayed as a man or an old man who has big, frog-like eyes, a green beard and long hair. His body is covered with dirt, algae and fish scales. Other legends say that a bolotnik is a dirty, fat, eyeless creature that motionlessly sits at the bottom of the swamp. In some legends bolotnik is also said to have long arms and a tail. Like the vodyanoy or rusalka, he lures and drags people into the water if they get close to the edge. It is believed that bolotnik has neither wife nor children; in the other legends he is married on bolotnitsa (or bolotnica),[1] a female swamp spirit, similar to a rusalka.”


“It is believed that bolotnik and bolotnitsa lured people or animals to the swamp, where they would die.

“To lure people to the swamp, a bolotnik quacked like a duck, mooed like a cow, gurgled like a black cock or screamed.[2] He also grew near the swamp stupefying herbs, mostly rosemary and created will-o’-the-wisps on the surface of the water. When a person is already in the quagmire, the bolotnik grabs him by the feet and slowly, but inevitably drags him to the depths.”

“Well, that would explain a lot.” Charity broke the silence.

Jen sat silent for a while and then said, “Jim told me he heard quacking, on the river, when they were hunting for Rory.”

“Does it eat them?” quivered Bridgette.

“I don’t know. You have the phone. Is there more information anywhere?”

Jen immediately regretted her sharp tone, even though she knew it was prompted by fear. She leaned over and hugged her now tearful daughter.

“No, nothing else. Doesn’t say anything about their eating habits. Just that they drown people they catch.”

Charity picked up the diary.

“Let’s see if Stephan tells us more.”

This bolotnik has grown if it is eating this much. My other fear, one I dare not voice to the others yet, is that he has found a mate. We must face that possibility, but not yet. For now, we know that he is not like the bolotnik we encountered outside of Kiev. That one was easily disposed of, and as far as we know, never ate anyone. This bolotnik, taken by accident from his home, was transported here where he was dumped into the pond. We believe he may have been responsible for the death of little Mishka Sloven on the boat trip here, and if so he has developed a taste for both animal and human flesh.

Yuri and his family have been warned, and we believe they are staying away from the pond. Yuri is difficult, for he prides himself on being an educated man. But his wife, Maria, and her mother, Kateryna, are strong, willful women who will protect their families. We must assemble soon, before the bolotnik comes out of the pond seeking sustenance.

I fear for the future. Will the spell be forgotten? We have not yet found a way to keep him silenced for more than a year. But we are working on it. And this year we will try the vials of yarrow root, rosemary, and elderberry, all steeped into a liquid that should induce hibernation. We will also cover the sacrificial lambs with anise and elderberry juice. This plus the spells for sleeping and silence should keep him for another year.

“Well, isn’t that just terrific,” said Charity. “No spells here that I can see. I wonder if we will have to plow through more diaries and hope to find something in English.”

“I could take the ones in Ukrainian down to St. Louis,” said Jen. “There’s a young man at Washington University in St. Louis who has been studying folk history. He is from Ukraine.”

She blushed unexpectedly.

“You’ve been following his studies?” asked Charity, with a sly grin.

Bridgette just stared. Mom had shown no interest in anyone since Dad was killed in Afghanistan, other than Sheriff John. Was Mom looking for someone?

“No,” replied Jen. “I saw him mentioned on the evening news a while back and was interested in his work. I wrote to him to ask if he knew anything about our Ukrainian relatives who moved to this area. He was quite interested, though he didn’t have any information. He mentioned he would like to come up here. Maybe now is the time to invite him.”

“He could stay here in Stephan’s cabin, now that it is pretty much restored,” said Charity. “Unless you were planning to move in right away.”

“We could stay together in Jane’s,” blurted Bridgette. “And if he stays longer, we will probably have Mikhail’s cabin done soon.”

“Then I think I will call him,” said Jen, as she rose and walked to the bench by the well.

Charity stopped Bridgette from following her.

“Your mother’s been alone long enough,” she said. “Let her talk to him. Maybe we will all like him, you included.”

“I never really knew my father,” replied Bridgette. “It’s just that it has always been me and Mom. And what if he doesn’t like what we do? Who we are? I don’t want her to be hurt.”

“You mother has the strongest gift I’ve ever known,” responded Charity. “Except for you. If he was predisposed to judgment, she would know by now. See how she is talking to him? It’s obvious she’s been communicating with him for a while.”

Jen pocketed her cell and returned to the cottage.

“Dan will be here this coming Saturday,” she said, sitting down at the table. “Three days should be enough time to finish Stephan’s cottage.”

“What?” she said in response to the stare from the other two.

“Dan?” said Bridgette? “I thought you didn’t follow his studies.”

“He answered my letter. I couldn’t very well be rude, now could I?” Jen responded belligerently. She suddenly blushed a deep red and sighed deeply.

“Okay. His name is Danylo Balanchuk. He is from Ukraine, here on a permanent resident visa after claiming asylum as a religious refugee. He practices the old religion. He is my age. And yes, we have been talking to each other as well as writing. I’m lonely. I will never, ever, stop loving Will. But I am young, and I want to move on. Is that okay with you?”

“Of course it’s okay,” said Charity. “We all want you to be happy.”

Just then Charity’s cell phone rang. It was Arthur Willingham.

“I think maybe you should come on down here and bring Jen and Bridgette.”