Grandfather ( Melancholy )
by R.T. Allenson
I only remember fleeting memories of my early childhood. It is an unfortunate thing to forget, your innocent moments and times as they are all that’s left to brighten the dreary and the monotony of, shall we say, advanced age.
Now what remains with you is the hurt; the petty and not so petty squabbles and disagreements, the embarrassing moments and actions you’ve done in front of people you deemed important. The people you’ve worked for and how awkward you were to meet them, either due to your own insecurity or by fear of transgressing some social law. The glances you made to people you liked or loved and their face as they refuted you. That is what remains. Perhaps you’ll remember the happiness…and then the hurt stings back like a knife in the dark…
But apart from the pain, there are certain memories that persist even further. The scary ones not of anxiety but of fear, as simple as the four-letter word. How many times did you look behind you in a dark room as you restlessly typed, scribbled or studied? Those moments when you attempted to find the source of that unsettling sound in the kitchen, dark as the night with your sweating hands desperately clawing and looking for that blasted light switch. Those memories, old ones that seem to die and resurface when you’re at your weakest, memories of empty corridors that seemed like the maws of some great monster…melancholy, that’s what remains when you reach that ‘certain’ age.
I’m an old man now, older than your father or your grandfather perhaps, but I still cower at night and hide beneath the bed sheets as you or your younger sibling do. Memories are cruel things you see, ‘specially the frightening ones and it is unfortunate that our minds are such powerful things, so puissant that we can easily envision and make real what isn’t there. I am far old to run away from monsters and I believe my certain boogeyman may just come for me when I sink back into dream-filled memory.
It…It happened back when I first started teaching at Wilhelm University, some thirty years back if my memory still serves me well. I mostly instructed history, politics and sometimes tutored the Queen’s English to foreigners from the east. I was at my prime then, handsome and a bit proud for my own good. But I wasn’t a rapscallion; true, I was a bachelor and I still am but I never pursued a woman if she said no to me the first time. A gentleman’s thing, if such chivalry still exists – fishes in the sea and how plentiful and all that. I stayed or rather, rented an old house just a few blocks away from the university and though I clearly could pass off as a student, no one else bothered to rent the place when they knew I was the one teaching their classes. Their most hated classes, as they whispered and jeered. Ah, many things change but somethings do persist. Anyways I rented the old house as I said and there was nary a soul save the housekeeper, a beautiful girl by the name of Elisa. She was a beauty, that one – light crimson hair and skin as white as snow. She was soft spoken and well, was sort of like a nun; exceedingly demure but we both had a love for the strange.
When I say strange, I don’t mean the masochistic things you do in bed. Oiled leather and chains; such things were rare those times. Of course we made love here and there; it was useless to resist after all, but in quiet times we shared our other fetishes, the strange knowledges and books that we’ve come to read. Ideologies far advanced even back then and stories of pain and shock that chilled both of us to the bone. Her house had a wondrous cache of books and we, or sometimes myself on my own, spent majority of the time reading them.
Again, I go far aways from my memory. Such strange things they are. Anyways, it happened during a cold night – winter fast approaching, we shared the warmth of our bed and our body. She kissed me in many places and was nearing the culmination of my ecstatic fury when I saw yellow eyes, as big as dinner plates, staring at me from the corner of the room. I pushed her away from me, interrupting our intimate congress, and slumped back into the bed; pointing at the place where the eyes stared. I was scared out of my wits; they were angry eyes like that of an old man seeing children playing in his lawn, the kind a father makes when he sees his daughter laying with some fool drunkard on his bed. I finally screamed and the yellow eyes vanished.
“What the hell was that for?” she said furiously, collecting herself and covering her nakedness. “Why’d you have to push me off the bed, you bugger.”
I simply screamed and pointed at the space where the eyes were. She turned around, and after seeing nothing, left me for the night to sleep on her own bed. She didn’t speak to me in three days, though I tried hard to strike a conversation. I had disgraced her and I paid for it with the coldness of my empty bed. And of course, there were the yellow eyes that peered into my soul from the dark corners of the old house. Yellow eyes, tired and straining and marked by age; I would see them everyday after I roused Elisa’s anger. They stared at me with such fury that I often found myself bowing, closing my eyes for some reason with fear in my heart. Every night I would see them at the same spot, there by at the corner of the room.
As big as dinner plates; I remember my grandfather and remembered him each time I saw those eyes. A disappointed stare, or simple fury – either way, I was scared and I soon opted to stay and sleep in the living room close to Elisa’s lest I take my chance elsewhere. The fireplace would provide me the warmth anyhow.
She had forgiven me then and invited me to her room but I was afraid I would see the yellow eyes again, and feared even more of whom they belonged to and what it was capable of doing to me. I stayed and slept, tried to sleep, on the couch or sometimes on the wooden floor but my mind raced to frightening thoughts and conclusions. I had almost fallen asleep when I heard heavy footsteps coming from Elisa’s room. My heart jumped, raced to a frightening beat and found my teeth chattering uncontrollably. Slowly I tiptoed towards the room, sweaty palms clenching the doorknob; opening the door carefully without so much as a sound.
Eventually I mustered the courage to peer into the faintly lit room. What I saw made my heart pound like a drum.
There standing right beside Elisa’s bed was a man, about six feet in height covered in thick hair. Its bodily proportions were stretched and gaunt, as if he was small for his size; hunchbacked. He was naked but coarse hair covered the entirety of his privates. His face was bearded and there was no distinction where the hair on his head started and where his beard began. His left hand rested above Elisa’s head, stroking her head gently like one would pet a dog or a daughter. I winced; uncontrollably made a guttural sound and then, quick as light, the man turned to me with yellow eyes fixed into an angry stare. It opened its mouth and made a frightening sound that only I heard, for the lady stayed soundly asleep. It seemed to be talking to me, or tried to but I couldn’t understand it. His eyes – as yellow as a cat’s stared at me angrily, had me spellbound and stricken with fear. The thing crept closer, crooked toenails scraping the wooden floor, and bayed at me again with arms outstretched. The smell of burning wood overcame my senses.
In the end, though I don’t know how I found the strength or courage, I managed to snap myself from the shock and charged at the beast. But instead of my quickly predetermined plan to save my ladylove from the thing, I felt instead a cold hand smack me on the face with such force that it threw me right across the room and into the closet. The sound of my pained screaming and the crashing and splintering of wood woke Elisa. And though I know I blacked out then, I could distinctly hear her desperate pleas: ‘Stop, Grandfather! Stop!’
I woke the next morning in a hospital bed, my back inflamed by pain and covered with bandages. The nurse greeted me, told me I would be okay in a few days but would need to take care when walking or jumping. Hell, I could barely walk upright even after a year. Elisa was there too, staring at me with red eyes strained and with tears. She called out to me and embraced me. My back was killing me but I was happy that she was safe.
“What happened Elisa? How did you—”
“He’s angry with you.” She interrupted. She started sobbing and broke our embrace. “Grandfather is angry at you.”
“Your grandfather? That was your grandfather?” I asked. She shook her head and stared at me again, as if trying to find the words.
“He’s not my grandfather but he’s the grandfather. Of the house I mean. He is displeased with what we had done…no, what we’re doing. Every night, it disturbs him.”
She stopped for a moment and whimpered softly to herself; all the while I sat there confused and with a broken back.
“It sickens him to see me, us doing that. He took care of the house, of my family and me when I was still a child. He knows me more than my own father, took care of me and loved me more than my father could ever had.”
“What is he, Elisa?” I asked. “A grandfather? Why don’t we move away?”
“No!” She cried and stood from her chair. “It is you who has to move away, you are in danger! He will not stop until he either kills you or if you move away.”
“Or kill me.” She whispered. “But…he loves me as if I was his own, it would kill him too.”
I asked her what his grandfather was and told me he was a Domovoi, a pretty old one even for his kind. There was nothing I could do about it, as she said, as Grandfather was the house. His hospitality I asked for, not hers. And I suppose, I violated his terms. When I was deemed fit to leave the hospital, I collected my things and spent one last night in her house. I slept on my own room, far away from Elisa but I swore; I could feel those yellow eyes burning through my soul, angrily like the kind a father makes when he sees his daughter laying with some fool drunkard on his bed.
We spent our last day together in a park by the university, me and Elisa – just the two of us. It was a cold day, fitting for endings I suppose. We kissed and embraced and she cried when I told her I would have married her and would have lived in her house until our time passed. After that day, I never saw her again.
All I have of her are memories, of painful times and how my love was wasted and lost. I still carry the scars of that memory of a time so long ago, both emotionally and physically. It is simple enough to cherish them, but to forget them? Impossible. Pain is hard to unremember.
And sometimes, when the days are cold like this and I sit here on my chair looking over the park where we last met, I can’t help but feel those yellow eyes in the house just across mine stare back angrily; a disappointed stare, or simple fury – either way, I’m certain that’s all there is now. Perhaps one day, I too would stare with yellow eyes in the darkness of my house…