You are not a witch, are you? A Short Mystical Tale for the Night.

You are not a witch, are you? A Short Mystical Tale for the Night.

In winter, grandmother’s house burned down. She had many relatives, so she had somewhere to stay. But the fate of the house in the village was a matter of concern for everyone. Firstly, it was the favorite place for the summer vacation of many grandmother’s grandchildren and the source of homemade supplies for the whole family… And so began the Mystical Story… Meet – A Short Mystical Tale for the Night “You are not a witch” by the author Alexey Viktorovich Ponomarenko.

Юридическая Помощь и Трудоустройство для Эмигрантов. ВНЖ, ПМЖ, Гражданство и Беженство

You are not a witch, are you? A Short Mystical Tale for the Night.

Secondly, Grandma Arina couldn’t imagine facing old age anywhere else but her native village.

Here her parents are buried, here she happily lived with her husband, gave birth to four children. And besides, she knows everyone here, while in the city (none of her children stayed in the village) she wouldn’t even have anyone to talk to. And most importantly, what about the garden?

The discussion at the family council didn’t last long. It was decided to rebuild Grandma’s house from scratch. All the adult members of the family allocated a certain amount for this noble cause. And the responsibility for the construction itself was entrusted to me.

Why me? Because I’m a civil engineer by profession. True, I don’t have much experience, I graduated from university just two years ago. But the others in the family didn’t have even that.

Besides, I don’t have any money. Where would a young specialist at the beginning of his career get them?

So, unable to invest financially in this project, I will work for free myself. My colleagues understood my situation at work and allowed me to go on leave at their own expense.

When the snow melted and the ground dried up, I brought grandmother to the ashes. Tomorrow morning the workers were supposed to arrive, so I needed to prepare for their arrival. While I was looking around, the old woman herself went to the neighbors to arrange to stay for a while.

As far as I remembered, in the neighboring, rather dilapidated house lived a lonely old woman much older than Grandma Arina, so I was very surprised when she returned accompanied by a young, dark-haired, short-haired person.

“Here’s Vanechka, Nila, our neighbor. You’ll move my things to her house later,” Grandma said.

“What? Sorry, I didn’t catch your name,” I asked.

The girl smiled, lifting her thick lashes from under her black bangs:

“Nila. Strange name, I know. But that’s what they called me. And why are you addressing me formally, Vanya? Forgot how you used to bring me candies and apples in childhood?”

I searched my memory and shook my head negatively:

“No, I don’t remember… You were probably very little. I hung out with older guys, peers.”

“Oh, you’re such a grown-up now! I’m just a couple of years younger than you,” she replied.

Grandma intervened in the conversation:

“What’s wrong, Ivan? Of course, you spent more time with the boys… But she lived nearby, how could you forget?”

But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t remember Nila. I remembered Irina and Lena, sisters who lived on the edge of the village, I remembered chubby Tanka, lively giggling Angela from the cottage by the river, but I couldn’t find the dark-eyed girl with the strange name in my memory.

“All right, I’ll go to the Smirnovs and say hello. And you, grandson, chat with Nila while I’m gone. I asked her to help me with cooking for the builders. You don’t mind hiring such a cook, do you?”

She left. I stood there like a fool, silent, shifting from one foot to the other. Nila, smiling, looked at me.

“Strange, I remember your grandmother perfectly well. But you…”

“Evdokia Pavlovna was my great-grandmother. Was. She passed away this winter. Just on the day when your house caught fire.”

“Oh, really? I didn’t know, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize. She was ninety-nine. She didn’t live half a year before her hundredth birthday. So, will you hire me as the head chef? I won’t charge much.”

We discussed the terms. At the end of the conversation, Nila asked:

“So, you still haven’t remembered me? It’s disappointing, I won’t deny it. And do you remember the well?”

She looked straight into my eyes for a couple of seconds, then turned and walked back to her house.

That was our first meeting. But it wasn’t the last strange encounter that day.

I spent the whole day tidying up the construction site. I was busy until evening. Grandma came by once, brought a bottle of milk and some pastries in a clay bowl: “Here, Nila made this in a hurry. Have a snack, and come over to us by evening, we’ll feed you properly.”

Nila’s house, low and crooked, seemed even smaller from the inside than it did from the outside. A Russian stove occupied most of the kitchen. The ceilings were low, and the floor was covered in colorful rugs.

During dinner, only one grandmother spoke. I don’t know why, but I felt awkward. And it seemed like Nila simply didn’t have anything to talk about with me.

I was about to get up from the table when the door creaked open, and a tall old man confidently stepped into the kitchen: shovel-like beard, black hair with gray streaks, piercing black eyes, and round glasses with thin frames.

“Hello,” he said softly. “Nila, I heard you were looking for me?”

“Yes, Yuriy Semyonovich, let’s go outside and talk.”

She shrugged on a thin jacket and walked out, the old man following behind her. I wanted to ask Grandma who he was, but she beat me to it with questions:

“Will the builders arrive in the morning? Do they need breakfast prepared? And what time will you have lunch?”

We finished discussing the details when Nila returned to the hut.

“So, did you come to an agreement?” Grandma asked her.

“Yes,” Nila replied. Seeing that I needed explanations, she added, “Semyonych is a fisherman. I asked him to bring us fish once or twice a week. Is that okay?”

You are not a witch, are you? A Short Mystical Tale for the Night.

I agreed and stepped out onto the porch. To my surprise, Yuriy Semyonovich hadn’t left yet. He was sitting on the step, smoking. When he saw me, the old man patted the porch, indicating for me to sit next to him. I sat down. He offered me a pack of cigarettes.

“Thanks, I don’t smoke.”

“Seriously? Alright.”

He put away the pack and fell silent. And seeing that I was waiting for him to say something, he asked:

“So, you hired Nila to cook porridge?”

“Yes. What’s wrong with that?”


He fell silent again, puffing on his cigarette.

“You’re Mikhaylovna’s eldest grandson, right?”


“All grown up now. I remember you as a little boy.”

“So what did you want?”

He fell silent again, not looking at me, flicking the cigarette butt between his fingers. Then he tossed it into the nearby bushes and stood up.

“You’re a good guy. That’s why I’m warning you: stay away from Nila. She’s a witch.”

“Are you joking?”

“No. All the women in their family are witches. She may not want to be, but she only brings harm to people. Be careful around her. Remember the well?”

He left. And I headed towards the well, standing deep in the garden, by the fence. What was the point of this well to them? I shook the iron handle of the gate. It creaked. The rusty chain attached to the bucket rattled. I opened the lid: water shimmered below.

Not knowing what else to do with the well, I went back to the house. A flexible, slender black cat leaped out of the bushes and recoiled from me. I flinched and stopped in surprise.

“Who’s there? Vanya, you’re still here?” Nila stood on the porch. “Where will you sleep, neighbor?” she asked.

“I was thinking of sleeping in the car.”

She nodded. “I won’t invite you into the house. I only have the kitchen and one room. But there’s a hayloft above the shed. If you want…”

“Thanks. I haven’t slept in a hayloft since childhood.”

“Do you need a blanket?”

“I have a sleeping bag.”

The hayloft was soft, cozy, and smelled of hay. The strange sounds coming from below, from the shed, bothered me a bit. But then I realized it was just the chickens settling in for the night. I relaxed and drifted off to sleep.

I hadn’t fully fallen asleep yet when I saw right in front of me a wet, charred log wall of the well.

In vain, I tried to grab onto any protrusion with my fingers: the wet logs slipped, the half-rotted splinters broke off from them. There was no support under my feet, no matter how hard I tried to find it.

But the most terrifying thing was the bone-chilling cold that surrounded and penetrated me, not allowing me to breathe, paralyzing my movements. I lifted my head and against the backdrop of the distant square of blue sky, I saw the face of a girl leaning over me.

Her black braids with red bows dangled amusingly. Horror splashed in her wide-open eyes. And then everything disappeared beneath the greenish water, my chest torn apart by pain… and I woke up.

I was still lying on the fragrant hay. Stars peered through the cracks in the roof. A chicken clucked below me.

“So that’s what happened,” I thought. “I fell into the well. Strange that I don’t remember any of it. Nila was there. Or was it just a dream? Who pulled me out, I wonder? I’ll ask Grandma tomorrow.” I rolled over onto my side and fell asleep.

I didn’t get a chance to talk to Grandma in the morning. Barely awake, the builders called, saying they were approaching the district center. I hurried to meet them: it’s easy to get lost on these roads.

The day passed in busyness, arranging things for the six young men who had arrived. They built a temporary shelter with bunk beds and a table in the center. They had breakfast and lunch outdoors, and dinner was already served at the table.

It was only after dinner that I managed to be alone with Grandma. Of course, the first thing I asked was:

“Did I fall into the well when I was a child? Is it true?”

She looked at me thoughtfully and sadly.

“You were just a little boy, six years old. I thought you didn’t remember that.”

“I didn’t. I had a dream yesterday, and I remembered.”

“What is it called in science? Repressed memories. The mind gets rid of what traumatizes the psyche.”

“And who pulled me out?”

“Yuriy Semyonovich, you saw him yesterday. He heard Nila calling for help.”

“Really… He told me that Nila is a witch and mentioned the well.”

Grandma laughed.

“Oh, that old fool! He talks nonsense about everything. And you, too, are quite something. Young man, did you really believe him?”

“No. But why is he spouting such nonsense about Nila?”

“They don’t talk about it openly here, but everyone knows. So you shouldn’t tell anyone either, okay? He’s not a stranger to her, Semyonych.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, Evdokiya, Nila’s great-grandmother, was a lonely woman, I don’t know why. She was a striking woman, both in face and figure. But she never had a husband. I don’t know who she raised her daughter from.”

Tamara was even more beautiful than her mother. Semyonych, a young man at the time, often visited them, helped with the manly chores: fixing the gates, slaughtering pigs, rearranging the stove, you name it…

He had his own family, two children, but when Tamara was born, everyone decided that she was Semyonych’s. If that’s the case, then Nila’s mother is his daughter, and Nila is his granddaughter.

“And where are they, Grandma, and Nila’s mother?”

“Tamara, the grandmother, passed away about ten years ago. Nila’s mother is alive and well, living in the district center. But she’s been estranged from Evdokiya for a long time, hasn’t visited her.”

But Nila used to come regularly. She loved her great-grandmother. Last year, when the old lady fell ill, she quit her job and moved here. Taking care of her great-grandmother, looking after the house. She also graduated from medical college. She’s a nurse.

Grandma sighed and added:

“Don’t listen to the old man. He’s just protecting his granddaughter, so he spreads rumors to keep the boys away.”

Of course, I didn’t believe the old man for a second, but I felt relieved after Grandma’s explanation.

For about three weeks, everything was going great. We worked from dawn to dusk, as they say. The guys, though young, were experienced and competent. Overall, the construction was progressing quickly. Grandma and Nila turned out to be excellent cooks. Everyone was satisfied. And then this stupid incident with Sergey happened.

He had been flirting with Nila from the start. Not seriously, just playful banter and compliments. Nila wasn’t one to be sharp-tongued, so she mostly kept quiet.

Once, when everyone was already sitting at the dining table, he, as usual, was joking, trying to get Nila’s attention. And she was serving hot soup into bowls.

With the words, “Come join us for lunch, don’t worry, we won’t eat you, even though you’re so sweet,” this clumsy clown grabbed her hand, the one holding the bowl. He grabbed her above the wrist and pulled slightly towards himself. Nila didn’t have time to say anything before the guy yelled and jumped up, shaking his burnt fingers.

“Don’t grab hands when I’m holding a bowl of hot soup,” Nila said calmly. “There, got burned. How will you hold a hammer now?”

She finished setting the bowls on the table and left. Sergey shook his reddened hand and glared at her. Everyone remained silent.

“I’ll bring ice from the freezer,” I said and went to Nila’s house.

She was standing by the stove, watching the kettle boil.

“What was that, Nila? Why did you injure one of our workers?”

She shot me a sharp glance and went into the room. She came back with a tube of ointment.

“Here, give it to him.”

“I thought of applying ice.”

“Take it from the freezer. And after half an hour, apply some pantenol.”


“It wasn’t me!” she suddenly exclaimed. “He grabbed, the bowl tipped, the soup spilled. That’s it! What’s it got to do with me?”

“Nila, I’m not blaming you. But I saw that he touched much higher than the wrist. And why didn’t you get burned? Why didn’t the soup spill on you?”

Nila turned to me, she was laughing, but tears were in her eyes.

“My skin is thick, not sensitive to burns. Here, take the kettle and pastries there.”

When I returned to the table, Sergey was still holding his hand up, trying to convince the others that he couldn’t have been burned by the soup.

“If it had splashed on me while it was hot, the burn wouldn’t be on the palm, but on the back of the hand. And it’s on the palm. Damn, looks like the skin’s peeling.”

I handed him the bag of ice and the ointment.

“Apply the cold. Then put on the ointment.”

The guys were silently chewing, with expressions of understanding and even sympathy on their faces. And then our welder, Andrey, spoke up:

“I heard that this Nila is a hereditary witch.”

“Did an old man tell you that? The big one, with the graying beard?”

“No. Some guy in the store approached me, asked if it was true that we were rebuilding the house burned by a witch. I said, ‘I know nothing about that.'”

“And he said: ‘The old witch who lived nearby burned the house. She died, but her granddaughter remained. Watch out, so as not to burn down again.'”

Everyone looked at me, waiting for a response. I didn’t say anything, just chuckled softly and shook my head, as if to say it was all nonsense.

You are not a witch, are you? A Short Mystical Tale for the Night.
About a week passed. Everything settled down, Sergey’s hand healed, and the topic wasn’t brought up again. But one day Andrey, the welder, caught a cold. In the evening during dinner, Nila noticed his pale complexion and cough.

“Come by later. I’ll give you something for your cold,” she said.

“You know what’s good for a cold?” Sergey interjected, clearly about to make a joke in his own unique style. Nila didn’t even glance his way.

“He should warm up properly under the covers with a pretty nurse,” the joker persisted.

“Your mouth is filthy, your tongue is filthy,” Nila said seriously, without a hint of a smile. “Strange that flies aren’t buzzing around you. They love crap.”

She left, and we jumped on Sergey:

“Why are you bothering the girl? What do you want from her?”

“Nila works hard, cooks like in a restaurant, and still has to put up with nonsense?”

“I was just joking…” Sergey tried to justify himself.

“You’re a fool, and your jokes are foolish…”

It was dark when Andrey and I approached Nila’s house. I knocked on the door and, without waiting for an answer, entered, with Andrey following me.

“Nila, are you here?”


“Nila! We came for the medicine.”

Still silence. There was a rustle behind us. The black cat that I was familiar with darted past me into the room. We followed her. The house was empty. Grandma went to the bathhouse today to visit her friend. But where was Nila?

We stepped out and stood on the porch for a few minutes, debating whether to wait or come back later. And then the door creaked, opened, and Nila stepped out of the house.

“You came? Let’s go, Andrey, I made chamomile tea for you. Drink it with honey before bed. Do you have honey?”

Andrey nodded, not taking his eyes off the girl, and remained standing. I nudged him, but he didn’t move.

“I’ll take it, Nila. We don’t have honey. Can you lend us some?”

I followed her into the house. Nila took out a teacup, put several spoonfuls of honey from the jar on the buffet into it. I thanked her, took the teapot with the decoction, the cup with honey, and left. Andrey was still standing by the porch.

“Well, did you see?” he asked as soon as we moved away from the house. “How can she not be a witch? No one was home, only the cat. And then she comes out, as if nothing happened.”

“Are you saying Nila can turn into a cat?”

“I’m not saying anything. But now I don’t know if I’ll drink that decoction.”

“We’ve been eating what she cooks for a month now. No one died.”

“I don’t know, I don’t know. It’s scary.”


In the morning, when I got off the hayloft, Sergey was already waiting for me.

“Tell your girlfriend I didn’t mean to offend her.”

“You can tell her yourself. Feeling guilty now?”

He shook his head oddly.

“Guilty… How can you not feel guilty here? Damn flies tormented me.”


“Yeah. As soon as I lay down to sleep, they came out of nowhere: buzzing, circling around me, landing on my face, disgusting. I spent the whole night shooing them away, hiding under the covers, but as soon as I stuck my nose out, they were back: buzz-buzz-buzz.”

It was only then that I noticed the guy jerking his head every minute and waving his hands to ward something off.

“The guys kicked me out of the bunkhouse at dawn. They said, ‘You don’t let us sleep, tossing and turning, cursing, spitting.’ But even if I don’t spit, they crawl into my mouth, you bastards… Tell her…”

I hadn’t seen any flies and wanted to tell him, but then Nila came out of the house herself.

“Good morning!” she cheerfully greeted. “How did you sleep?”

Sergey’s face twisted. He waved his hand again, warding off invisible flies, and pleaded:

“Nila, for God’s sake, forgive me, I’m an idiot. Didn’t mean to offend, I swear, it’s just my nature. Forgive me!”

“What are you talking about, Sergey? I’m not mad. I understand, you were just joking.”

“Thank you, thank you,” Sergey hurriedly spoke and rushed away, almost fleeing.

Breakfast was tense. Not that the guys were hostile towards Nila, but you could feel the tension in the air.

After breakfast, I drove to the district center. I needed to buy something at the hardware store. Yuriy Semyonovich was standing at the bus stop on the way out of the village. I slowed down.

“Good day! Heading to the district center? Need a lift?”

He was pleased.

“Thank you, I won’t refuse. Need to go to the hospital, you know, and the bus is running late.”

He settled into the front seat and asked:

“So, how’s the construction going? Making progress?”

“We’ll be finished soon.”

We drove in silence for a few minutes, and then I mustered the courage:

“Yuriy Semyonovich, could you explain to me what’s wrong with Nila?”

“I’ve told you everything.”

“About the well. I remembered falling into it when I was little. But how did I fall? The log walls are high. Grandma says you pulled me out…”

The old man scratched his forehead, frowned.

“I don’t know how you fell, son. Or how you got out. I walked into the gate and heard Nila screaming. At first, I didn’t know where she was. I searched the garden, checked the shed. And when I ran to the well, you were lying there, unconscious, wet, water streaming from your clothes. I turned you over to let the water drain out, shook you, pressed on your chest. You coughed, water gushed from your throat. By the time the others arrived, you had already opened your eyes, started breathing.”

“And everyone thought you saved me?”

“Yeah, I was all wet, struggling with you. And I didn’t deny it. Not to become a hero, but to protect Nila. She was alone there with you.”

“How did I end up in the well in the first place?”

“Nila said you dropped a doll in there, and you tried to fish it out with a bucket. Leaned over the log walls and fell.”

“I see.”

“I did see that doll, though. It was lying on the bench by the well. Dry.”

As we got out of the car at the district clinic, Semyonich shook my hand and said:

“Nila is a good girl, kind, hardworking, honest. What sometimes happens to her doesn’t depend on her wishes. Don’t hurt her, okay? Just be careful.”

The whole day I wanted to talk to Nila. About what? I don’t even know. Strange thoughts wandered in my head, strange feelings surged in my chest… I only managed to talk to her in the evening, already in the twilight.

I found my beauty in the garden. The cherry and apple trees were blooming. A heady scent filled the air. Somewhere among the bushes, a nightingale was singing. Nila, in a blue sundress, stood by the old apple tree near the well. It was the most romantic scene I had ever seen.

“Vanechka!” Her tender voice made my heart skip a beat. “Isn’t it wonderful? Look at how the apple tree is blossoming. And the moon is so big!”

I wanted to talk to her about the beauty of the summer night, recite Fet’s poetry while holding her delicate hand. But there was so much that was unclear, so much that needed to be understood.

“Nila, you probably noticed…”

She sighed.

“Ivan, there’s no need. I understand everything. I won’t scare your friends, I’ll leave tomorrow. Your grandmother can manage without me. You don’t have long left, right?”

“I’m not talking about that. I want you to explain to me…”

She said with a bitter smile:

“Just ask directly, am I a witch?”

I fell silent. Nila approached me closely and, looking me straight in the eyes, said:

“No, Ivanushka-durachok, I’m not a witch. And your grandmother Eudokia wasn’t Baba Yaga.”

“Maybe I’m a fool, but explain to me how you ended up in the house yesterday evening? Andrei and I went in – you weren’t there.”

“A silly story. I was changing clothes. I took off my dress and heard the door opening, panicked…”


“And I couldn’t think of anything smarter than to hide under the bed. Does that explanation satisfy you?”

“And were the flies bothering Sergey all night?”

“Do I look like the master of flies? They convinced a foolish man that I’m a witch. Self-suggestion out of fear.”

“They say your great-grandmother caused a fire.”

“My grandmother doesn’t even blame herself for that. She was very unwell at the time. Delirious, didn’t recognize people. Afraid they’d bury her alive. Threatened, cried, cursed. Someone heard something, and they made up that she threatened to burn down the neighbor’s house before she died.”

“Most importantly, Nila. How did I fall into the well? What happened?”

“How old were you, Vanya? Six? I was even younger. I only remember looking down at you, calling for help. That’s all.”

“And who saved me?”

“Semyonich. Who else?”

“He claims he didn’t.”

Nila looked momentarily puzzled. But then she confidently repeated:

“He did. Definitely him. I don’t know why he denies it. What do you want from me?”

“Nila, you’re not a witch, right? I won’t get burned if I touch you? Nothing will happen to me?”

She laughed and shook her head.

“Absolutely nothing?”

“Try it.”

I hugged her shoulders and pulled her close. Her upturned face paled in the moonlight, her lips slightly parted… The moon shone. The nightingale sang. The apple trees were in bloom.

You are not a witch, are you? A Short Mystical Tale for the Night.

On this magical night, I saw Nila for the last time. Waking up in the morning, I learned that she had already left. I searched for Nila in the district center.

But I didn’t have her mother’s address, and there was no nurse with that name in any of the hospitals in the district center. Why didn’t I think to take her phone number?

Only later did I realize that I had never seen Nila with a phone in her hands. I regularly visit Grandma Arina’s hoping to meet my enchantress, but so far, no luck.

Maybe next time will be different.


You are not a witch, are you? A Short Mystical Tale for the Night.

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