It was my idea to discuss this piece of weird fiction over at LibraryThing, and I’m glad I did.
Review: “The White Wyrak”, Stefan Grabiński, trans. Miroslaw Lipinski, 1921.
Our narrator genially recounts his early days as a journeyman in the chimney sweeping trade to some young men starting the same career.
He worked under Master Kalina, and his fellow journeymen included Antarek, gloomy and silent, but always seeming to grasp the philosophic truth in the many tales Kalina tells his employees.
When Antarek doesn’t show up one night after a job, Kalina goes looking for him at the brewery where he was sent to clean a chimney. The brewery stopped operating years ago. Eventually the property was picked up cheap by a family. They don’t know what happened to Antarek but complain the chimney is still smoking.
Another apprentice is sent out, and he doesn’t come back either. Kalina, whom the narrator says was a wise man, seems to know what’s up. He takes the narrator with him when they go to the brewery.
He gives the narrator a hatchet and talks to him about the evil that can be in the soot of long unused chimneys.
Something vindictive resides in soot, something evil lurks there. You never know what will emerge from it or when.
They find the apprentices.
They’ve been killed by the White Wyrak (Kalina even knows the names of the things) who fed on them.
The White Wyrak is described as “part monkey, part large frog” with huge yellow eyes and white fur and a long proboscis which it attaches to the forehead of its victims to feed. Both apprentices are dead. The narrator kills the White Wyrak, and it disintegrates into a “large mass of soot”.
It is implied, at story’s end, that the soot has some sort of transformative powers. Both Kalina and the narrator, shortly afterward, are covered in “large white pimples”. But they are back to normal in a few weeks. It seems that, since they were in contact with the soot for a short time, they were not affected much. However, the same transformative power could spontaneously generate a White Wyrak.
I liked this story, simply told, about an unusual monster. Incidentally, “wyrak” seems to be the Polish word for “tarsier”. Those are those cute, tiny primates whose eyes are bigger than their brains. Their description matches roughly, without the white fur and proboscis, the wyrak.