Horror story in English: Allen had worked at five separate nursing homes before taking a maintenance position at the Ray Chandler Home in Hingham, Massachusetts. He had also been let go from each of the previous five establishments. Not fired. No, never fired, Allen thought, grinning. Too careful for that to happen. His grin spread to a smile as he filled the mop bucket with hot water.
Bubbles foamed directly beneath the heavy flow from the spigot in the custodian’s closet, the strong, comforting smell of cleanser filling the small room. While the water level rose in the bucket, Allen quickly glanced out the doorway. When he saw no one was around, he ducked back in and checked his stash.
In an old laundry detergent bottle marked clearly with the words, “Vomit Cleaner” on masking tape, Allen hid his gems. His extra source of income. The pain meds he swiped from the residents. Mostly muscle relaxers, mixed with the occasional oxy.
He was never heavy-handed, only stealing one or two each shift. Any more and people would notice. They figure it out eventually anyway, Allen thought, tucking the ‘Vomit Cleaner’ back behind a stack of one-ply toilet paper rolls.
He turned off the water, carefully backed out into the hall as he held onto the smooth handle of the mop, and looked around. Two in the morning on the graveyard shift and the fourth floor was quiet. Perfect, Allen thought. When it was quiet, he usually could find his insurance. The reason why he’d been let go but never fired.
No, he grinned. Never fired. Not Allen Wells. In the quiet hours of the morning, when even the worst insomniacs had gone to sleep, the nurses and staff showed they were worse than a group of hormone-riddled teens at a boy-girl sleepover.
Allen had caught plenty of people in compromising situations. And never with their spouses. Allen always made a big production out of the discovery, too. Oh! I’m so sorry, he would say. This is so embarrassing!
He would scurry out of the room or office. He never took pictures. Pictures could be seen as evidence of blackmail. He smiled and thought, Who needs pictures? They live in fear of me telling their husband or wife. Fear of me going to the press and saying, I was fired ‘cause I caught Nurse Nancy with Doctor Dan! The idea of it made him chuckle.
Any sort of investigation would show he didn’t use the pills he stole but sold them instead. He had a different addiction, a problem with horses and how they ran. I never pick a winner, Allen sighed, shaking his head. He didn’t want to go to the papers. It would have been bad for everyone. Better to quietly suggest they let him go. They always did. And he always got another job. Janitors were in high demand at nursing homes.
No matter how much you clean, Allen thought, stopping at the nurse’s station, you can never get the smell of death out of the air. “Hey, Allen,” Mary Beth said, coming out of the back of the station. “Hey yourself,” Allen said, grinning. He put the mop in the wringer, squeezed it out, and began to clean around the desk. He liked Mary Beth. She never gave him a hard time about his job, so he always took care of her area first.
She stifled a yawn and asked, “Did they tell you Dr. Chandler was coming in to do rounds at three?” Allen paused, saying, “No.” “He is,” Mary Beth said. “You may want to take your break then. He’s a little different.
Katya Denisovich, the first shift supervisor, she’ll be in here with him. I’m taking my break when they show up. You’re welcome to join me.” “Thanks,” Allen said, “but I’ve got to leave early, so no break for me. Just a quick cigarette. But I’ll take it at three, to be on the safe side.” “All right, Allen,” Mary Beth said. She yawned again, shook her head, and started to work on the computer. Allen whistled to himself as he mopped the floor.
He moved steadily away from the nurse’s station. Dr. Chandler’s coming in, Allen thought happily. And with the head nurse. At three. Three in the morning.
Sometimes, he thought, whistling a little louder, it’s just too easy. For nearly an hour, Allen worked steadily. Attempting to clean the uncleanable. At 2:55 AM, Mary Beth found him. “You may want to grab that cigarette now, Allen,” she said softly. “They’re here.” “Thanks,” he said, pushing the mop and bucket into a corner by a fire door. “I’ll grab my smokes and be outside.” She nodded. “Do yourself a favour.
Stay out there until you see them leave, all right? It’s best to give them their ‘alone time’.” “Sure thing.” Mary Beth smiled, glanced nervously back toward the center of the wing and then left. Allen wandered back to the custodian’s closet and went in and got his cigarettes and lighter out of his coat pocket. He made sure to pass by the nurse’s station so he could get a look at the lovebirds.
They were the oddest couple he had ever seen. Katya Denisovich was middle-aged, shorter than average, and she looked as though she could have worked in a circus as a strongman. Her face was broad, slightly tanned, and topped with platinum blonde hair kept in a neat bun at the back of her head. Dr. Chandler was the polar opposite.
He was tall, almost freakishly so, and looked as though he would hit his head if he didn’t duck when he passed through a doorway. His skin was exceptionally pale and seemed as though it was paper thin. His arms and legs were longer than they should have been, bare wrists showing where his shirtsleeves ended.
He was bald, too, and his skull was slightly elongated, almost coming to a point in the back. I might have to take pictures of this, Allen thought gleefully as he kept a solemn expression on his face. Bet I could sell them to some dirty website.
He smiled at the curious couple, received near-simultaneous nods in reply, and made his way to the elevator. He rode it down to the ground floor, hurried over to the service elevator and took it to the third floor. The trick, he reminded himself, was to be quick and quiet. From the third floor, he took the back stairs to the fourth and slipped out onto the wing.
He stood in the corner by his mop and bucket and listened. It won’t be long now, he thought. Over the years, Allen had learned how to be patient. So he waited, and he listened. Soon, he heard them, the noises coming from Mr. Gunderson’s room.
Allen sighed, disgusted. Poor Mr. G, he thought. The old man has the room to himself, and they do it in there while he’s sleeping? He shook the disgusted feeling off and crept along the hall to Mr. Gunderson’s room. Mr. Wilkins.
Gunderson’s former roommate, had passed away the week before. People usually got new roommates quickly, but not Mr. Gunderson. Bet this is why, Allen thought, nearing the open door. So they can have their little meetings. Guy’s on so many meds, he’d never notice what they’re up to. Allen stopped at the placard under the room number and listened. One of the room’s beds creaked and groaned.
Someone was panting and moaning, the bed occasionally slamming into the wall. A smile moved across Allen’s face, and he quickly got it under control. It wouldn’t do to look like the cat who caught the canary, not when he needed to pretend to surprise. Allen took a deep breath, allowed a mask of innocence to slip over his face, and he stepped into the doorway.
“I’m sorry,” Allen started, but the rest of the sentence died in his mouth. The scene before him robbed him of the ability to speak. Almost of the power to think. Mr. Gunderson was on his bed, the blankets thrown off and lying in a heap on the linoleum floor. His flannel pajama shirt was torn open, the buttons shining in the pale light of the bed table’s lamp. Pale skin, splashed with dark red blood, greeted Allen’s eyes, as did the sight of Katya Denisovich perched on the old man’s frail legs.
Her hands were wrist deep in Mr. Gunderson’s open stomach, some unknown organ held lovingly in front of her. The same blood which stained the old man’s flesh was spread around her lips, the muscles in her jaw moving steadily as she chewed her grim food. And Katya was looking at Allen. Her eyes were a brilliant, breathtaking blue, and Allen found he couldn’t look away from her.
She swallowed, took another bite of the recently deceased Mr. Gunderson’s inner works, and never took her gaze from Allen. Run, he told himself. His legs wouldn’t obey. Turn around and run, he commanded. His body refused, and he remained perfectly still, unable to move or stop watching the horror before him.
The whisper of a footstep reminded him of Dr. Chandler. The tall man ducked his head and stepped out of the darkened bathroom. He looked curiously at Allen, and then to Katya. The doctor’s voice was deep and grating as he spoke to the woman, the words unintelligible, a language Allen had never heard before.
Katya nodded, placed the remnants of the organ on Mr. Gunderson’s thin chest, and climbed down. Dr. Chandler’s large hand wrapped firmly around Allen’s bicep, and suddenly Allen was walking. His steps were mechanical, obeying someone else’s command.
He was marched drunkenly to the bedside of the late Mr. Gunderson and forced to stand in front of Katya. The woman picked up a wet wipe from the bed table, tore the small package open and removed the thin, soft paper from within. In silence, she unfolded it, the sharp smell of the cleanser stinging Allen’s nose.
With careful, delicate movements she cleaned the blood from her face and hands. Finally, she deposited the wipe upon the organ and looked at Allen. “Well,” she said, smiling at him, “this is quite the predicament we find ourselves in, is it not?” Allen wanted to answer but found he couldn’t. “No,” Katya said, “you can’t answer me. I don’t want you to. I’ve heard enough whining from the likes of you for one day. The amount of prattling you all do is mind-numbing.”
Dr. Chandler asked her a question in their strange language, and she nodded, smiling. “My familiar is quite concerned about you,” Katya said, walking to Mr. Gunderson’s easy chair and sitting down. “It has been decades since someone was so rude as to walk in on me. He is wondering what we are to do with you. I’m sure you’re wondering the same.” Just let me go! Allen wanted to shout.
I won’t say a word, I promise! “I’m certain,” Katya continued, “that right now you’re saying you’ll keep your mouth shut. And I do believe you, by the way. You are, quite frankly, rank with fear. I know when someone tells the truth, and when they don’t. When they mean what they say, and whether or not they’ll be able to do what they promise. And you, Allen, you mean what you say, and you would do it as well.”
Oh, thank God, Allen said. Tears welled up in his eyes, and he felt joy and relief rush through him simultaneously. “That being said,” she said, smiling, “I’m not letting you go.” A cold wall of fear slammed into Allen. “No, not at all. Because of your ‘modern’ society, I am forced to feed on the likes of this,” she said, gesturing toward Mr. Gunderson’s corpse. “Younger, though not necessarily fresher meat is so rarely available to me. And to think that Baba Yaga has been brought down so low.” Dr. Chandler spoke, and she shrugged.
“It doesn’t matter if he knows my name or not,” she said, sighing as she stood up. “I’ll be having his tongue for breakfast.
Bring him home, my dear, I shall see you as soon as I’ve finished my dinner.” Panic swarmed over Allen and he turned. Dr. Chandler stood directly behind him. The man’s pale face was emotionless. Expressionless. His features were masklike, no more real than a child’s Halloween costume.
With his heart thundering in his chest, Allen tried to run past the man. Dr. Chandler’s great hands were too fast, a blur of movement, and Allen was slapped backward. He spun, smashed into the wall, staggered and fell into Mr. Gunderson’s bureau. Pictures tumbled, a frame fell, and the glass smashed on the cold floor.
Allen slipped off of the edge of the bureau, a throbbing pain exploding in his hip. He caught himself as he dropped down, screaming as glass cut into the palms of his hands and the tips of his fingers. He struggled to get to his feet, his mind racing. He could no longer think coherently, his eyes locking onto the steady drip of blood from Mr. Gunderson’s bed.
Baba Yaga’s tall, strange familiar stepped closer, and Allen weakly swung a lacerated hand toward him. The woman laughed, spoke in the curious language, and her tall familiar responded with a foot to Allen’s ribs. Allen gagged, bile springing into his mouth, his ribs breaking beneath the force of the blow.
He dropped painfully to the floor, glass cutting deeply into his face. Seconds later, Allen felt himself being picked up easily by Dr. Chandler, the strange man cradling him against his chest. For the first time, he realized the doctor was cold to the touch, and that there was no heartbeat to hear beneath the man’s breast. Oh, Christ, Allen thought. Oh, Jesus Christ.
What have I done? I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean any of it. Christ almighty, it isn’t worth this!
The sounds of Baba Yaga’s feast filled his ears and Allen, gasping for breath and unable to move or scream, wept as he was carried from the room.