There have been two books I have read that really got under my skin because of the situation I was in when I read them. One of those books was Russalka by C.J. Cherryh. The book is set in ancient Russia. The two main characters have to flee town and they become trapped by a wizard in the woods. Most of the action takes place in a two room cabin in the woods. This being ancient times there is nothing more than candlelight. Every night they try to leave when the wizard falls asleep but they are foiled by one of the wizards servants, Babi.
Babi is an earth spirit. The wizard feeds Babi with offerings of vodka. When the characters try to leave Babi is waiting for them. He appears as something between a large black dog and a bear. When they go inside it is as if a large bear has made it’s den in the cellar underneath the cabin. The cabin itself bucks and twists as if a large beast is underneath.
I read the book just after my ex and I moved out into the country. We had a trailer but no regular electricity or running water. During the day we would work the land, planting gardens, clearing woods and working towards building out permanent home. At night I would sit up and read by candlelight.
About this time “something” started to visit our trailer at night. It would bump and then run alongside the edge of the trailer. It was big and heavy enough to rock the trailer slightly. The first time it happened we were certain that the neighbor’s cows had escaped. But when we went out with a flashlight there was nothing there.
This continued for some time. Some nights it would sound like a deer in rut running it’s antlers back and forth along the trailer. Other nights it would just be the bumping. Often there was a sense of a presence.
It matched the story almost too well and I started reading sections of the book to my ex. She agreed, the similarities were eery.
So the next time I was in town I bought a bottle of vodka. That night I filled a shot glass and set it on the outside edge of a window. I sat it up high enough that the chickens couldn’t disturb it. In the morning the glass was still there, undisturbed. The vodka however was gone.
After that he was our friend. Babi became a friendly helpful spirit on our land. I learned as time went on that our Babi like peppermint Schnapps even better than vodka. Many nights after working all day I would sit on the front porch, pour a glass of schnapps and then drink a toast in Babi’s honor. You could almost feel the sense of contentment rolling off the darkness.
As the years went by many friends and visitors had encounters with Babi as well. Once we left the chicken cage in the shade and then we were stuck in town longer than expected. We were terrified that the sun would have moved and the chickens would be scorched in the sun and died. We came home to find that something had undone the latch and let the chickens out so they could get in the shade. More than once something chased coyotes off our property. Visitors would see a black dog-like form checking them out or have something bump their tent at night. It was never unfriendly.
And that is the story of Babi. I still keep a bottle of vodka or schnapps handy whenever I go out to the land and I always leave him a little something.