Musmal wants to eat again
I saw this news while eating a salad and sandwiches that I bought at a food stall. That's what office job does to you- I was too lazy to go to the canteen, although it is just a ten minute walk from our building. Instead, I buy at the food stall on the ground floor questionable looking salads and even more questionable sandwiches.
I take them up to the fourth floor, where I eat my lunch staring at the computer monitor. But my colleagues are even worse, because instead of salads they buy "main dishes" from the same food stall.
"In Khakassia on the river bank they found a third in recent months severed hand. All hands are right hands, and belonged to men. The police noted that the link between the three findings has not been established yet. The identities of the people to whom the severed hands belong have also not yet been established. Locals suggest that the hands may belong to the victims of organized crime. It is reported that ... "
I did not keep reading. I closed the news site, threw the leftovers into trash can and took out cigarettes from my desk drawer. Musmal returned. And apparently, he wants to eat again!
This story happened a long time ago. I was still in high school and lived in a small village in Khakassia. That summer my parents went on a long business trip, and the whole summer break I spent with my grandfather. I did not complain. I liked spending time with my grandfather: he told me different stories, sometimes took me with him into the woods to pick mushrooms and berries. In addition, in the morning I was allowed to sleep as long as I wanted, and in the evening I could stay up late. I could watch old black-and-white TV until late at night, or play in the backyard of our little crooked house. That ill-fated summer I met Musmal. And lost my grandfather. This happened all on the same day.
The first hand was found by a local fisherman when in the morning he went to prepare his boat for rafting on the Abakan river. The severed hand was floating in a small creek where fishermen usually left their little boats. It was rocked by the water banging with its cold knuckles on the side of the boat. Bang! Bang! Bang! As if asking to take it on board. It was the right hand.
A few days later some kids went swimming at the dam. One of them nearly drowned from getting scared when he saw in the water another hand. Its fingers were tightly clenched and only an index finger was sticking out. When the finger popped out of the water and pointed directly at the boy, he screamed so loudly that half the village came running. Parents grabbed their children and took them home, and strictly forbade them to go swimming. And then hand was sent to the regional center for forensic examination. Later it turned out that it belonged to a shepherd from Tashtypsky region.
When the sixth hand was washed ashore, although not in our village but in the neighboring one, my grandfather started packing. For half a day he disappeared somewhere in the village, and after returning home, he began packing his backpack.
— Grandfather, where are you going?
—I have an important business to attend to. Musmal is hungry and he got out of his hole, so I need to calm him down.
— Who is Musmal?
— It is an evil spirit, dear. Ancient Khakassian spirit.
— Grandpa, did Musmal eat those people whose hands were found in the river?
— Yes, it is him. Okay, while I still have time, let me tell you about him. Sit down beside me.
He lit a handmade cigarette and began his story. We were sitting on the porch, the sun was setting, and there was silence over the village which was broken only by the occasional barking of dogs and the sound of wind in the trees. I watched how the light of grandpa’s cigarette was twinkling and listened attentively.
- I learned this from my father, and he learned it from his father. In the early days, when these lands were populated only by Khakasses, everyone knew that besides for humans and animals we were surrounded by spirits. Now very few people believe in them, but they still exist. And because we have forgotten about them, they are less likely to come out to people. There are good spirits, and there are evil ones. The main evil spirits by ancient Khakasses were considered Poonchah and Musmal. Poonchah is a devil who came to people in a body of a beautiful woman and persuaded them to hang themselves. Often his victims were those people who lost peace of mind and gave in to temptation of Poonchaha. He promised that after death those people would meet those they had lost, or would find their happiness on the other side of life. Now, Musmal is an ogre. They say that it looks like a half-man, half-bear. For years he has been sleeping in his hole somewhere in the forests of Khakassia, but if it wakes up, it goes on the hunt to fill up its belly. After that, he again falls asleep for a long time until someone wakes him up…
- Who wakes him up? - I asked.
- The one who tries human flesh.
- How the Papuans in Africa? Do we have people that eat people?
- Yes, like the Papuans. No, of course nobody eats human flesh here. But sometimes it still happens. Today I walked through the village, learned some news. It turns out that a few weeks ago in a forest near Tashtyp some tourists got lost. They wandered through the woods for a long time, and one of them died – he got crushed by a tree. They have long run out of food, and they were not able to find enough food in the forest - urban, gentle people, why the heck they went to taiga in the first place? Basically, not to starve to death they ate their friend.
- Unbelievable! - I was shocked. Somehow, in that moment, this story about tourists seemed even scarier to me than the legend about the spirit-cannibal.
- Yeah, that’s what happened. So Musmal smelled human flesh and woke up. Now he will keep killing people until he is fed up or until someone stops him. There is an ancient Khakassian spell that can put Musmal to sleep. It should be said three times while looking him straight in the eye. That's what I'm going to do. And you'll sit at home and wait for me.
- No, grandpa! I'll go with you! - I yelled.
- Don’t even think about it! - He interrupted me. – Your parents trusted me to look after you. So you’ll stay at home, and I’ll be back soon. I’ll leave early tomorrow morning, so hopefully I’ll be back at night. I think I know where Musmal lives – behind the old Khakas cemetery. Evil spirits love places like that.
- Wait grandpa, but why does he throw out the hands? - I asked.
- After eating Musmal goes to the river to drink. He throws in the river the right hand of a man, because it holds the power of the man. If he swallows this power, it might kill him from the inside. So he throws the hand into the water so the river took it further away from his burrow. And the rest of the body he eats along with the bones. The power of a person is in his right hand; he works with it, creates, eats and greets other people. This hand and its energy can kill the spirit.
- Grandpa, but...
- Okay, enough talking - he spat out his cigarette and got up from the porch.
He would have never taken him, but I left him no choice. In the morning, pretending to be asleep, I listened the floorboards were creaking. Then the door slammed shot. After waiting a little longer, I quickly got up, got dressed, and ran after my grandfather. I realized that if I reveal myself too soon, then he will simply send me back home. That is why I only came out to him in the evening, when the grandfather stopped to rest. Looking up from the fire, he stared at me in disbelief.
He used every possible word to scold me, and promised me any kind of known punishment and more.
- You deserve to be seriously punished! – My grandpa was fuming.
But he couldn’t do much, and of course he didn’t send me home alone at night through the woods.
- Well, look, grandson. You did not think I was telling you tales, did you?. We are going to meet a real monster. Are you afraid?
- With you, grandfather, I fear nothing - I assured him.
Grandpa decided not to postpone it till the morning. We went out to the old cemetery when the sun almost got over the horizon. I was expecting to see the usual cemetery crosses and fences, but everything was different there. In a small meadow roughly hewn stone slabs were dug deep into the ground. No names, no dates, there was nothing on them. Maybe ancient Khakasses could not write, I thought. I decided not to ask my grandfather about it. He seemed very focused, whispering something to himself and was not even looking at me. He was walking so fast that I could barely catch up with him.
And he was right! A few meters from the cemetery we saw uprooted trees that lay near a large hole in the ground. That is when I got really scared. Grandpa finally turned to me, started saying something, but then the monster jumped out of the hole! It was Musmal - half man, half bear.
I smoked a cigarette in the office hallway, and then called the station and booked a ticket to Khakassia for the next morning. My boss listened to my lie about a sick relative with obvious disbelief, but I did not care. I had a business to attend to, and I intended to finish it once and for all.
Walking the streets of Novosibirsk, I realized that I don’t even remember how my native Khakassian village looks like. Leaving it right after graduating high school, I never came back. I didn’t even come to the funeral of my father, and then my mother. I tried my best to throw out of my head what made my hair turn gray long before adulthood and killed my grandfather. But now I realized that I should do it, should stop the monster for good so that it did not cause any harm to anyone else. That is what my grandfather wanted, and he did not get scared then in the woods near the old cemetery. And who better to finish his business than me.
A deafening roar burst out from the bear's head, sitting on a large human body completely covered with thick bristly fur. Red evil eyes flashed and Musmal lumbering on the ground moved towards my grandfather.
- Nyika-azah aina kara nama uzut! - Loudly said grandfather in the Khakassia language.
Musmal stopped and growled.
- Nyika-azah aina kara nama uzut! - Repeated my grandfather.
And then the monster ran towards him.
- Nyika-azah aina ka ... – yelled out my grandfather, but he did not finish.
Musmal hit him with his long bear claws right on the face. Grandfather fell and I saw how the monster ripped out his lips and tongue. Grandfather tried to say something, but only blood ran out of his mouth. Then he stretched out his right hand and literally stuck into Musamal mouth. In the right hand there is the power of a person, and it can kill the monster from the inside! But Musmal jumped back from my grandfather. He tore off my grandpa’s right hand and threw it aside. Then he ate the rest of him. And I just sat there on the ground, as if glued to the spot. In horror I could not even move. In front of my eyes Musmal was devouring my grandfather, and I just sat there. I could neither cry nor escape. When Musmal approached me, licking the blood from his muzzle, I looked into his red eyes and wept. Then he burped into my face. In the smell of this monstrous burp there was my grandfather’s flesh and animal stench. And then he left.
Musmal had enough to eat.
At that time, of course, no one believed me. Everyone thought that my grandfather was attacked by an ordinary bear. And later I actually forced myself to believe it as well. It was just a bear, a regular bear, I told myself. Over that summer, no one else died. The body of my grandfather finally satiated him, and the spirit fell asleep. He slept for a long time, until he got hungry again.
Having eaten my last Chinese instant noodles, I stretched out on the bed in the train. Very soon I will meet with the monster again. But I will not read out the spell, because I don’t want him to just fall asleep. I have to kill him. I, like my grandfather, will stretch out my right hand to him. Someone will then find it by the river. And then Musmal will eat me together with my bones and my left hand. And this will be his last meal.
I have been left handed since my childhood.