A Quiet Evening

In Russian folklore, brownies are benevolent, mischievous spirits that guard and protect the home. 

It was one of those perfect after dinner moments, when your stomach is comfortably full, the fire is lit, and the telly is at a soothingly low volume, spouting rubbish that is vacuous enough as to not be irritating; in fact, it is so cozy that I am beginning to doze off to the general lullaby of well-being. I briefly notice my cat on the settee by the fireplace and ponder whether I might be drifting into the beginning of a dream, in which case the cat’s somewhat bizarre posture does not alarm me.

Little by little, the familiar evening sounds of the house begin to fade away and as I continue to believe I am gradually descending into the unknown, which is my dreamscape universe, the fact of a weird apparition behind my strangely positioned cat does not surprise me at all. By now I have no doubts whatsoever about being in a dream, so when the apparition begins to solidify at an incredible speed, it does not strike me as unusual.

Finally, the weirdo by the chimney develops into the tangible presence of a shorter than average stature, which I would describe as dwarfish. It is quite impossible to determine either the creature’s age or gender, although upon closer inspection I come to the conclusion that it is a male, for it has a beard. His hair is unkempt. It sticks out in all directions, looking positively greasy with bits and pieces stuck in its tangled mess. His face is unpleasant to say the least.

The dwarf’s close set, mean, little eyes are glistening with an acute dislike of …surely not me? He slowly nods his head, never dropping the violence-filled gaze in his confirmation of his acute hatred of me. Now I see that the ferocious apparition is holding my poor Oscar by its neck, pulling and twisting the animal’s skin into a vicious choking noose. The cat is entirely transfixed by utter fear, paralyzed into immobility, and clearly its last breath. Another little tightening of the evil hand and I will no longer have a cat at all!

I am trying to shout, to get to Oscar and stop his terrifying ordeal, but it seems that my only functioning organs besides my eyes are my ears, for suddenly I hear the dwarf’s growl:

“I hate your house and I hate this foul creature!”

I want to wake up from this nightmare, and I suddenly understand that I am very much awake and that I have never been asleep at all!

I attempt to get up and snatch Oscar from the death-grip of the revolting dwarf, but I fail miserably: it transpires that I can scarcely move, my limbs weigh a tonne each, and I have a sinking feeling in my guts that I’ll never be fast enough and Oscar will die.

“All those miserable years I have been looking after this wretched house– and I have done a good job! I have never neglected the duties of a Domovoy, a brownie that I am! I have never asked for anything!

“You have never even believed in me, which is all right in its own way: those are the times we are living in.

“But this here creature,” and he shakes the poor cat, “it has made my life a true misery, a nightmare! Although I never sleep!

“I’ll kill him, and then I’ll leave your house forever, and it will be neat and tidy and boring, for nobody will be playing pranks, hiding glasses, books and mobiles, or leaving dirty footsteps on freshly washed floors.”

“Let Oscar go!” – I manage to croak, “What has he ever done to you?”

The Domovoi’s features screw up into a fiery ball of frenetic hatred and he screams at the top of his lungs:

“He shits in my slippers!”

I come to my senses with a start. I am sitting by the dying fire. My cat is between my legs rubbing its fluffy back against my leg.

I have a cat flap in the garage, I am going to install it right now.


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