The Blue-skinned Man with Green Hair

4 Jun

“There must be a reason for the number of reports that have come in,” sighed the police captain of Ristovac. “These can not all be illusions imagined by drunken villagers. But what is the cause of these strange forest sighting? How are we going to explain them to our district superiors up the ladder?”

The patrolman, Zoran Ilic, made a sour face expressing the pain he felt. “I am curious about these reports. They are persistent, and appear to be all the same. There has to be something in the woods out there causing them. But what can it be?”

“That is what I want you to investigate and find out for me, Zoran,” cynically smiled the superior officer.

There had been sightings of the bluish form coming from Ribnice, Kupinince, and Crni Lug. Zoran had talked to the witnesses in all of those communities, but left with no definite, specific information on what the object seen actually was. The viewers seemed too excited by their experiences to relate anything useful to the patroller.

But now the newest occasion occurred in Golemo Jezero, so he rode his horse to that peasant community to ask questions and nose around.

The person he had to talk with first of all was the village headman, Nikola Krstic. This spare, spry old man with bushy white hair lived close to the edge of the small community of tillers. He wore the simple country costume of Turkish times, though the region had come under the rule of distant Beograd over twenty years before, in 1878.

Zoran found the local official sitting outside on his elevated chardak, smoking his old-fashioned long pipe.

Nikola asked the patrolman to sit down with him, offered a drink from his plum brandy bottle, which the visitor refused. “I am here on official business, concerned with finding out what people saw coming out of the lake at various times. Did they imagine that it was some blue creature that walked like a man? They could not all have been crazy or terribly drunken and intoxicated. What is the answer to this riddle, Elder Nikola?”

The chief rubbed his wrinkled chin as he thought and considered what to say.

“I don’t know, and can’t say for sure. But there are stories that were passed on to us by our forefathers. It seems that the lake and the village suffered a horrible earthquake over a hundred or so years ago. Nobody alive today was around then, and all the villagers from that day are deceased and gone. But there was left a tradition that strange creatures emerged out of Golemo Jezero, awakened by the quaking and going forth out of the water in search of survival and salvation. I remember being told as a child that their appearance was weird and terrifying.

“For a long time, the story of what happened has been mostly forgotten. We are in the twentieth century, aren’t we? We are no longer under Turkish rule and domination, and we are learning to become modern Europeans. But, who can say? Perhaps this blue man that has been seen around the lake is the last reminder of the awful earthquake of long ago. Is that possible, Zoran? What do you think?”

The young man in blue uniform was uncertain how to reply, but managed to excuse himself. “I have to see a number of people in this region,” he informed Nikola, shaking his hand and climbing down from the chardak porch.

There was a lone cottager who herded sheep apart from all the villages of the district who claimed to have seen the blue-colored man while in a pine forest near the lake. Zoran wanted to learn whether this semi-hermit might shed light on the nature of the phenomenon that was being reported.

The patrolman found the ragged-looking giant named Stoyan working on his sheep fold, repairing the dissolving wooden fence. Beaming a sunny smile, the cottager came over to speak with the figure of legal authority.

“How are you, Stoyan? I can see that your flock is healthy and increasing in its numbers.”

“I am doing fine, and so are all my sheep and lambs, God be praised,” said the towering loner. “I can imagine why you were over in Golemo Jezero village: it had to do with the man of blue. I am glad that I was not the only person who caught sight of that strange being. Otherwise, who would believe what I say about the creature?

“I was hunting for rabbits in the forest up on Leshtak Ridge, looking down toward the waters of the lake, when I noticed someone coming closer to me, a tall figure with his back bent at an angle. I stood still and watched the shape walk up toward me. It seems that the person only saw me when it looked around more carefully, then stopped in its tracks.

“The bluish form had straggly green hair that fell in long locks, I observed. The face looked horrible. It was ugly and freakishly distorted. The eyes were dark and looked very sinister. I had the strong impression that this being was attempting to cast a magical spell of some sort upon me. So, I turned and hurried away with my rifle in my hand.

“I had no reason to fire at it, even if the purpose had been to frighten it away. But it looked menacing and unfriendly, that’s for certain. I did not have enough courage to remain and face what might have been a monster.”

The two men looked at each other for awhile in silent thought.

“Do you have any idea what this blue thing with green hair might be?” softly asked the policeman.

Stoyan pursed his thin lips. “I have thought a lot about that question. All I can say is that I do not know for sure, but I remember what I used to hear in my youth from my father and my grandfather. They often mentioned that in olden times there existed the leshak of the forests. When the land was wild and there were few villages and little farming here in the Pcinje valley, the woodlands and high areas had such protective creatures guarding the plants and the animals growing in them. These were the supernatural spirits in charge of the wilderness of Southern Serbia. The leshak has become part of the unspoken, but not forgotten, heritage left to us by countless earlier generations.

“What do you think of what I am telling you, Zoran? Is it superstitious nonsense, or is there a wild leshak spirit roaming around Golemo Jezero?”

The patrolman lowered his eyes. “I must look deeper into the matter, Stoyan. Right now, though, I have reached no particular conclusion about the blue creature.”

Zoran stopped at police headquarters in Bujanovac before going home to his room at the local inn.

“How did things go for you?” asked the police chief. “Did you find out what may be behind these alarming reports of seeing a blue man wandering about in the forests?”

The patrolman frowned with frustration. “There is nothing definite or concrete that I can conclude about the whole matter. Different individuals gave me their own, original versions of what they saw and what they think it may be. I heard about the traditional belief in the ancient leshak, a wild, untamed spirit that hides in the woods around the lake. But I have no clue as to what any of it means. I am afraid that I am as lost as I was this morning, when I started my investigation there on the spot.” He looked with desperation at his superior officer. “Do you have any specific knowledge about the nature of a leshak, sir?”

The captain gave a jolt of surprise. “Yes, in my own native area near Nish, there is the widespread concept of the lesnik. It supposedly has very strong bonds with wolves and bears. The creature is said to cast no shadow with its manlike body. A lesnik is able to imitate the human voice. It leads innocent peasants astray and can make them extremely ill. I have seen drawings in books in which the thing has horns, hooves, and a long tail. So, it can vary a great deal from one area to another.”

Having no more to say, Zoran excused himself and left for the inn.

That night proved devoid of much sleep, for the patrolman was deeply troubled by all he had heard the previous day about the blue-skinned leshak. Is that being turning into an obsession for me? he wondered the next morning.

It was impossible for him to avoid returning to the fields and forests surrounding Golemo Jezero. It was as if an invisible magnet were drawing him toward a meeting, a confrontation with that unnatural form of life.

Zoran walked back the way he had yesterday with slow, cautious steps, as if he had reason to fear something lurking there ahead of him. Could the leshak know he was on his way and waiting for his presence? That idea did not appear to be as impossible as it might have a little earlier.

A thin mist over the blue waters was rapidly disappearing. It was going to be a clear, cloudless day.

The policeman kept moving his eyes from side to side. Sight of it could come from any angle, at any moment.

Would he have the good fortune or misfortune to see the blue-skinned object he was on the hunt for?

Zoran climbed up and down ridges with names he had learned and memorized since being assigned to the Golemo Jezero locality by his chief in Bujanovac. He could identify which was Bishevacki, Shuplji, and Leshtak ridge from experience exploring them in the past. There were no signs of human habitation in the thick, dark woodland he slowly crossed in the hope of solving the mystery of the truth that he sought. Was it a Leshak that he was after? Could he prove for himself that it had ever existed in reality?

All at once, though absorbed with inner thoughts and questions, the young policeman stopped. His attention became focused on something in the distance that did not fit the leafy green background of oak leaves. Could it be a tiny patch of bluish color that his eyes had just caught?

The forest around him was still and noiseless, as if anticipating something that was about to occur.

As seconds passed, he grew certain that there was something out in the distant forest staring at him. At its highest point, there seemed to be a mass of green coloring. Was that the hair of a leshak?

A decision had to be made quickly, he decided. His feet moved forward, almost on their own. He had to obtain a clearer, better focused view of what he now knew to be the creature remembered in Serbian folklore.

As he made his way toward it, the thing did not retreat or try to escape, but stood motionless. Was it waiting to spring on him from a position of advantage? What were its hidden intentions, for it had to know that he was advancing on it?

As he came ever nearer to the leshak, Zoran could make out increasing details. The green hair was long and stringy, falling in wild tufts. The dark green eyes had a surreal attraction to them that resembled some hypnotic power.

As he approached the stolid figure, his feet advanced with less speed and greater caution.

But then his ears caught what seemed to be a rumbling sound that came from inside the ground below him.

It continued and became more noticeable.

All at once, his mind had a new center of attention. Was it an earthquake that he was sensing? The incredible was turning into an actual event as he ruminated and speculated.

Yes, it had to be that category of once-in-a-century catastrophe that shook the world that people inhabited.

Zoran concentrated once again on the blue creature in front of him, not more than ten meters ahead of him.

The face of the blue leshak formed itself into a fearful grimace. It was impossible for the viewer to identify what particular emotion the being was feeling. Was it some twisted sense of vengeance on the peasants who intruded into the forests that fell under its protective domain?

Zoran had no time to decide what the truth of the matter was.

The blue- colored spirit literally disappeared. He never was certain how it happened in a couple of seconds. But it did, and the leshak was gone. His eyes no longer registered it as present anymore.

There were years of service ahead for Zoran. He would surely be reassigned to some other community in Southern Serbia. But he doubted that he would ever acquire complete understanding of what he had witnessed that day in the forest above Golemo Jezero.

He came to doubt that any human mind was capable of figuring out what the blue-skinned creature had been up to in the period before the earthquake struck.

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