Archive for the ‘german’ Category

Yesterday I began with my work. First there was an uncountable number of notes to put in order. My friends have always laughed at me because my work is as detailed as a German professor’s is. It is not a disgrace, I believe, to be thorough when laying the foundation from which an entirely new science will arise.

Various types of notes formed this large quantity of papers. There was white paper, on which I had written down my experiments and singular thoughts; blue paper, on which the opposing opinions of other scholars were brought in and lastly yellow, on which I refuted these opinions. Everything had to fit into each other in an orderly manner…

But I scarcely began my work before having a small misfortune. Yesterday evening I had the first portion of these notes completely organized and laid out on the table. Today, as I rose out of my field cot early in the morning these hundreds of notes lay strewn all over the entire floor. They were very difficult to pick up from the cold marble floor and stuck to it as if they were attracted by static electricity.

During the night a gust of wind must have blown through the entrance slit and swept all these hundreds of pages down onto the floor. Now I must start my work all over from the beginning.

*                    *


Ivan could certainly tell me more about his mistress if he only wanted to speak. But I still know absolutely nothing. He never has anything other to say than “Good day” and “Goodbye” and he speaks these words imperfectly with a rattling voice like a parrot or an old time gramophone from the time before what we now call a phonograph.

Twice a day he appears punctually with his little wagon. The aluminum pots and pans are sunken into it and kept warm with a little system of flames. He pushes the little wagon in front of him like an Italian street vendor pushes his cart through the streets. He slowly comes up the hill, stops in front of the tomb of his mistress and sets my meal on the table. Then he sits across from me on the floor with his legs crossed in the Tartar fashion and stares at me.

It is not very pleasant having someone stare at you while you are eating. I’ve tried getting him to chat, to get around his wide eyed gaping stare and bring some life into his features. But it is like trying to get an answer out of a fence post.

Ivan is a small fellow with bristling hair, which he tops with a Tartar cap in the summer time. If he were younger and more handsome I would say that he did it to have it fall off and make the foreign girls from Britain crazy about him. Just like the Russian students do with their pipe boots and tied up skirts to find some little sales clerk that will run around for them and do what they want.

But with Ivan this is guaranteed not to be the case. His face is a mountain range–with creases. Between pockmarks countless red pimples stand out, each with a white puss filled point in the middle. The hairs of his drooping mustache stick into his devastated skin as if they had no roots. There are no connections under them. They are like little twigs that children have stuck into a sand pile. The arrangement of these grotesque monsters is similar, only one is higher and looks as if it were awkwardly torn off and then stuck back on again.

This crusty Tartar is the only servant Madame Wassilska brought back with her out of her homeland. He was in charge of all her other personal servants and able to endure working for his Mistress. He must know all of her customs and would be in a position to describe many of her peculiarities to me. This Russian lady would show no restraint in front of this familiar servant.

I would gladly learn more from him about the strange provisions in the last will and testament of his Mistress. I can scarcely imagine that she had any incentive out of the goodness of her heart. It contradicts every feature of her character that she would be motivated by a higher impulse to leave any more to anyone than she had to.

There appear three possible reasons for these provisions in her last will and testament. It could simply be out of a fear of being buried alive. From time to time horrible reports appear in the newspapers of such cases. Perhaps she wanted to know that someone would be there that could hear her if she woke up once more in the narrow confines of her grave. Wait! But then she would only have needed to arrange for her tomb to be guarded immediately after her burial, not to have the applicant watch over her corpse for an entire year and not be allowed to leave the entrance.

Maybe it was out of concern for corpse robbing and body snatchers or perhaps she had once heard the case of Sergeant Bertrand. I, myself, had once seen the Sergeant’s atrocities acted out at the theater.

One day while viewing the corpse of a beautiful young girl the Sergeant had suddenly been seized with the impulse to embrace her. In the night after her burial he crept into the cemetery, tore up the fresh grave and rolled around with the dead girl. The atrocious lust and satisfaction from this desecration was so great that from that time on Bertrand would roam around cemeteries at night searching for corpses.

A year later in a court trial he was accused of digging up twelve to fifteen corpses in one night before finding a dead woman to throw himself upon, to kiss, to mutilate and bite to pieces. This monster was extraordinarily clever, almost incomprehensible and perpetuated his handiwork for a long time despite all safe guards and precautions. He was finally wounded by a hellish contraption while climbing over a cemetery wall and captured.

It could be that Madame Wassilska thought the idea of falling into the hands of such a beast was too embarrassing.

But there is still a third possibility and to me it appears to be the one best suited to the nature of this Asian tyrant. Perhaps she had these two hundred thousand Francs set out only for the purpose of anticipating with pleasure the torment, fear and horror the applicant would feel at being kept spell bound in a cemetery for so long and how it would wear on a person. Now if that was Madame Anna Feodorowna Wassilska’s real intention she will be thoroughly disappointed. I eat like a tiger and sleep like a rat.

It is late. I have drunken a bottle of burgundy and am in a good mood. I must take leave of my benefactor. I rise up, take a bow and knock on the bronze plaque with a curled finger.

“Good night Anna Feodorowna, good night!”

The entire tomb reverberated with the ringing of the bronze plaque, “Good night!”

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This Madame Anna Feodorowna Wassilska must have been a strange piece of furniture–may my benefactor graciously forgive me–a crazy hen, much more so than we Parisians or any of her usual countrymen. I have some very definite ideas of what Madame Wassilska was like based upon a portrait of her and on the reports of her neighbors.

I think she was like a kind of Empress Katherine, full of greed for life, seizing it in all of its forms from the most refined to the most brutal. She was a rich Russian with immeasurable property somewhere on the dusty steppes and came to live here somewhere between the moors and endless grain fields of Paris. For years she oppressed her farmers and for amusement participated in little conspiracies before coming to Paris. It was here that she hoped to enjoy in full gulps the life that she at home had only been able to have drop by drop.

That is what I believe I read in her facial expression after being shown her portrait and left with it for one hour according to the provisions of her last will and testament. This was only after I had declared myself willing to fulfill the provisions of her will before the court.

Now Lady Wassilska did not present the painter any great difficulty in her choice of clothing. She was no common Lady dressed in white, red or green like you can see by the dozens every where. She was, so to say, a lady in nothing at all. She stood before a window completely unveiled and anyone would say that she had a beautiful body. Her head showed the austere autumn beauty of a lady in her fifties. She had sharp, cold eyes under gorgeous arched eyebrows, a coarse Russian nose, and a full, voluptuous mouth with blood red lips that appeared to soften and slowly give way to reveal strong white teeth. She wore a cruel and cold smile–a true predator’s smile–which was more suspect than it was self-expression. The painter had shaped the hands curiously. The fingers were long and pointed. The strange way the shadows lay on them made them almost look like claws.

Oh, in viewing this portrait you could only imagine the unprecedented fortune and love madness this woman must have experienced and granted as a teenager. This portrait was a good confirmation of what her neighbors had told me about her. Naturally as soon as I was once resolved to earn the two hundred thousand Francs I inquired about her. You can’t live for an entire year in the tomb of a completely unknown person. You need to know whom you are sending your good night greetings to.

An entire assortment of strange tales had been related to me but there appeared to be even more that were not said. Perhaps that was because they were the strangest and most unbelievable, because people didn’t want to be laughed at. These good people didn’t realize how many charming or otherwise fantastic tales turned out to be true after further experiment and investigation.

Madame Wassilska loved the fine arts as well, in her own Katherine way, as one might expect. In her estate, for example, could be found an entire collection of paintings from the period of Goya to Van Gogh. They were all placed together. Landscapes, still-lifes and portraits appeared to have no appeal to her.

To this collection of paintings was joined a porcelain cabinet of similar taste consisting of nymphs, naiads, Aphrodite, Galatheon and Grazien from the hands of the masters in Meissen, Nymphemburg, Vienna and Sevre’s.

They were arranged so the light played on the round smooth forms of delicate beloved figurines, those of gallant kings, of women whose pleasure it was to give themselves as candle holders or of goddesses that held mirrors so ladies could make themselves beautiful for their lovers at their dressing table.

But Madame Wassilska didn’t waste her love on the arts alone. She also always had a lust for living and her needs were very active, brutal and fantastic. Like Katherine the second, men, especially young men, were led to her. She left her house in men’s clothing to wander around on the streets searching for God knows what kind of adventure. At times she would rent the rooms of a large hotel and give splendid parties. I remember here and there hearing of those nights as half Court ball and half orgy. They left Paris stirred up for several days afterward.

Sometimes her love needs expressed themselves in cruelty. None of her girls could endure it for long. She loved sticking long needles into the flesh of her Roman chambermaids or suddenly scorching them with a glowing coal. It was truly a noble and classical taste that Parisian chambermaids could not be forced to endure and was more suited to Libyan or Persian slaves.

Just as strange was the matter of the baker’s apprentice. One day Madame Wassilska saw the young baker that brought rolls to her house. He had a handsome round neck that Madame Wassilska found pleasure in. She asked the youth if he would allow her to bite him three times in the neck. A considerable number of Francs appeased his hesitation and made him agreeable but after the second bite he ran out of the house screaming, became ill, and refused to ever set foot again in the house of the Russian.

That is the portrait of my benefactor. You must admit that I have moved into the entrance hall of the last resting-place of a very interesting lady and that under these smooth hard tiles a very passionate desire has finally come to rest.

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The Tomb at Père Lachaise

By Karl Hans Strobl  1917 (Das Grabmal auf dem Père Lachaise) From Lemuria

Translated by Joe E. Bandel

Copyright 2010 by Joe E. Bandel

Today I moved into the dwelling from which I may not leave for an entire year. All around me are smooth, cool marble walls that are excellently crafted with no other decoration than a molding above and below, a molding that carries the winged image of the sun disk, the symbol of eternity for the Egyptians.

Even more than the quality of the craftsmanship, I am moved by the simplicity in the spirit of this sculptor like décor. It is perfection. I look at these stones that are so closely matched and joined with such extreme care. Only a master craftsman could do this.

I run my finger across one and feel the cool, smooth polished stone surface. The touch is delightful. The marble has little veins in it like delicate moss, like plants or other ocean animals encased in clumps of crystal.

When I look at these lightly scalloped, pointed and colored bands for a long time it seems as if they form curiously shaped letters under a layer of transparent ice. They lie so deeply within that the eye can scarcely make them out. It is a stiff, frozen world of impossibly delightful shapes that gives the sensation of life and movement. It is a most precious material for a tomb.

In the middle of the back wall a few spans across the floor is a bronze plaque adorned with the simple inscription “Anna Feodorowna Wassilska, died 13 March 1911”. Her coffin was lowered down into a shaft below the floor and then sealed off.

A narrow slit leads out of the marble chamber to the outside. The cemetery lies in the sunlight of an August day. Here, inside, it is cool. The air still plays a little around the entrance bringing warm waves and the scent of flowers with it. At times bees buzz past or a blue iridescent fly stays for a moment in front of the slit with buzzing wings only to suddenly draw back.

Besides the buzzing of these little lives over the graves there is a still deeper, uninterrupted sound that trembles in the air. Beyond these barriers lies Paris. Paris, the sparkling city with its work, pleasures and passions that I must now leave behind here at Père Lachaise.

When I stepped through the entrance, scarcely the width of a man, I had arrived at the boundary of my territory. For an entire year this view of the outside world seen from the entrance of the tomb is the only one that I am allowed. It is a simple view of other graves and monuments. But I can be contented with this view. If I bend forward I can see Bartholomew’s miraculous heartfelt work directly to the right.

It is the deepest, most sensitive stone memorial of a love that will not fade. I see the miserable, broken and desperate shapes that stagger even the gates of death. I see them both moving and loving through the darkness that goes beyond. They are of a man, strong, compared to the woman across from him and of the woman that shares his path in infinite trust and confidence.

*                    *


I will not be bored in my marble chamber even though I must spend an entire year in it. I sit like Hieronymus in his cage. But I hear Paris. I smell the fragrance of the flowers that bloom among the graves. I have my glimpse of great art and like Hieronymus in his cage I am well stocked with books, writing materials and paper.

In this solitude I will compose my great work. It is not a work of God like that of Hieronymus, but one of science. Here I will take my thoughts about entropy and the decay of matter which I have prepared over the last ten years and work out the details of a surprising new system of science that will bear my own name.

What is it that I really want? Haven’t I already fulfilled all of my wishes? Haven’t I, the poor, self-taught private student, already done the independent research to my own satisfaction? It has been possible only through love and belt tightening at the risk of starvation.

Here I will have the time to complete my work. Every interruption and disturbance will be kept away. I am permitted to speak with no one else but the servant that brings me my meals twice a day. Neither friendship nor love is permitted to me but I have no worries about my daily bread. Madame Feodorowna Wassilska provides for me. She has even had the menu for the entire week prepared and truthfully, as far as I can say on this third day of my solitude–the menu leaves nothing to be desired.

The Lady in whose tomb I sit understands something of a good meal. Why should I lie about it? I really enjoy being able to eat such good and plentiful food … My meals have my full attention. Every one of them is an experience to me. I have starved far too long not to appreciate a stuffed hen or pickled tongue with a wonderful Polish sauce or some other types of little Russian appetizers.

I feel completely healthy as well and know that this well being will last the entire year of my imprisonment. Then, when the year is up I will receive from the late Madame Wassilska the small matter of two hundred thousand Francs. Two hundred thousand Francs? That means I won’t need to see some whining publisher about publishing my work. Naturally the rascal would laugh out loud at me if I were a poor devil that expected him to publish a book that would threaten all of those hollow heads at the university. Now I don’t need him. I can be my own publisher or hire one of them if I wanted to. Two hundred thousand Francs? That means I can travel and give lectures about my theories and carry copies of my book around everywhere that it is not in print.

It means I can pack my little Margaret into an auto and take her to the train station. The next day we can be in Marseilles with the white laughing waves of the ocean waiting for us. My poor little one, she has gone through so many troubled times with me that she has truly earned a journey into fairytale happiness.  Every day there will be sun, ocean breezes and nothing else to do except spend her time being as cozy as possible.

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The Witch Finder

By Karl Hans Stobl

Die Hexen Richter (Lemuria)

Translated by Joe Bandel

Copyright Joe Bandel

Tap… tap…tap…tap…tap…came up the wooden stairs… It was Herr Doctor…uncertain, damned uncertain like his blade today that normally so firmly declared his decree. Tap…tap. Suddenly with a rattle an entire ring of keys rolled down the stairs… again… tap… but now downwards. Then a long stillness… finally once more, very soft and hesitant, as if ashamed and embarrassed of this nightly spectacle of feet on the steps. Tap… tap. There was a soft scraping like when someone touches a rough wall with a groping hand… step by step… wary… long…crash… a collision of steel and stone… It was the iron wall brace that held the pine torch to illuminate the stairs colliding against the stone head of the highly educated Herr Doctor, a celebrated member of the inquisition, known far and wide across the land as a distinguished and highly praised witch-finder. Tap… tap… At last, in front of the door to the bedchamber came a sigh of relief… The key grated in the lock and the rusty bolt slid back.

It was dark… pitch dark… in the bachelor’s bedchamber. The Herr Doctor groped for a match…tried to make it stay lit… finally the tinder glowed and ignited  threads of sulfur, illuminating a circle three paces wide around the unlit candle with a horrible reddish-yellow light.

The Herr Doctor had a red face—his velvet beret sat deeply back on the nape of his neck. The fur collar of his overcoat was turned inside out on the left side and on the right was in its accustomed place nestled around his shoulder…. With wide set legs the doctor bent over in order to read the glowing lines of sulfur on the floor.

The lines of sulfur had already burned an ugly black hole in the snow white sand strewn floor. The doctor muttered something inaudible… then moaned in fear… there, sitting on his table in the middle of the room, was Satan. He had his tail casually pulled tucked under his left arm and looked good naturedly at the doctor with large, round, fiery and glowing eyes.

“Ah,” thought the doctor… too damned much straw wine.

When His Majesty noticed that he had been seen he jumped down from the table… tap, went the human foot—click, went the horse hoof. With a jerk he pulled his tail down between his legs and up to the front holding it straight and stiff like a candle in front of him. He looked like a guard at the Prince’s castle that holds out his musket when his Highness walks past. The Herr Doctor was very flattered. He put his hand to his beret in a salute and waved his thanks. Then His Majesty went out onto the balcony, came in again and pulled himself back up onto the table, but immediately hopped down again… tap—click… He had seen the disapproving look of the master of the house. He went to the flower painted chest in the corner behind the wardrobe and took out a wool blanket. He knew the customs of the house. He spread the wool blanket out on the table and only then allowed himself to sit comfortably back down on it.

A suppressed laugh came from out of the darkened corner where the wide bed stood. A virginal head with a rosy face peeped out from under the heavy covers and a disheveled flood of blond curls flowed out over the pillows. When two of the heavy curls moved thousands of tiny sparks glowed and a light crackling sounded in the stillness… Under the tangle of curls two eyes looked out, so alluring and mysterious, so fearfully tempting and promising. They were angel eyes—vampire eyes… The doctor felt very strange… it was as if those two eyes were glowing balls of fire that could warm and do good one moment and in the next hurt and set fire to anything flammable around them. He rubbed his temples. His head was pounding like a hammer.

He timidly neared the foot of the bed and attempted to lift the corner of the cover with the tips of his fingers. He had an irresistible urge to see the feet of this creature. He had the definite idea that these feet hand to be small, warm and white. He wanted to take them between his large, red and clammy frog hands. His horned Majesty moved over the table and across to him with a mighty leap and gave him a sound slap on the hands.

“Ow,” said the doctor and rubbed the burned spots.

“Stand there,” said the dark one. “I will do that.”

With a sudden movement he pulled the covers down to her feet. The woman’s white body lay there in its naked beauty. It seemed to the doctor as if hot water had been throw over his head. At first he couldn’t see anything. Then he sat down on the edge of the bed and taking his hand as softly as possible moved it caressingly along the soft lines of her hip.

“Don’t tickle,” she said coyly. Yet her large eyes looked at him provocatively.

At that the doctor threw himself on top of her and covered her mouth with hot kisses…she wrapped her arms around him…the last thing he remembered before losing consciousness was that her arms did not seem to be the white, warm arms of a woman, but the hard sinewy, long hairy arms of a gorilla… then he sank into her…

He awoke with a mighty grip on his shoulder. At first he didn’t know where he was, yet the shaking continued. His black Majesty had seized him solidly and would not let him go until he entirely came to. The light had burned out, an unbearable stench filled the room… that of fat and burnt out wick. The moon had risen and shown bright as day into the room—the woman lay in the middle of the rumpled bed. Her face was blue, liked that of a strangled person—her tongue had swelled up and protruded far out from her throat—her body was convulsively distorted. The doctor was entirely confused.

“I want to show you something,” said His Majesty and poked with his black pointed finger at a spot between the breasts of the woman. The doctor got agitated and didn’t feel well.

“Pfui, the Devil!” he said.

“If you please,” said His Majesty.

The doctor became quiet. The dark one poked once more and with a bang the navel flew out of the belly of the woman, like the cork out of a pop gun. A long white cord was attached to the navel. It had notches or segments like those of a tapeworm. The navel fell to the floor and pulled the white tapeworm with it. It coiled around on the floor as if it were alive. More and more of the white cord kept coming out, faster… in spirals… coiling about like snakes… the womb of the woman was inexhaustible. Already the entire floor was covered.

The doctor climbed up onto a chair. It shook underneath him. The thin white cord became thicker. It was already the size of an earthworm. The segments became deeper and limbs started poking out of each one… and still more kept gushing out of the hole where the navel used to be…. Now the cord was as thick as a thumb. The segments swelled and became almost ball shaped. Then they began to cut away from each other and separate, began rolling around on the floor very much alive.—some hopped into the air, others raced around with terrible speed between their siblings.

Then all of these round white balls assumed a new appearance. They grew feet with bird claws, a long, heavy sloping hind part and a head—a serious bearded head with a velvet beret—noisy little doctor heads. They were already the size of a fist and growing larger.

“Look at your children,” said Satan.

A red flame shot through the doctor’s head. He jumped down from his chair and trampled angrily among the quibbling masses…

“Ho, Ho!” he screamed, “Ho, Ho!”

He made wild leaps as he trampled millions of the squeaking and squealing young birds.

“What are you doing?” yelled Satan grimly.

He seized the doctor by one leg and whirled him around his head until he lost his breath. Then he put him down again. But as soon as the doctor came to his senses he once more jumped into the masses stomping and trampling them.

“Ho, Ho!” he screamed, “Ho, Ho!”

Then Satan became quiet and serious. He pulled some hairs from the tip of his pointed tail, tied them into a red silk cord and handed it to the doctor. The doctor’s eyes became glassy. He stood still and motionless. Then he made a noose out of the cord, placed it around his neck and pulled and pulled—until he collapsed. The woman on the bed sat up and looked at him with glowing eyes.

In the distance sounded the horn of the night watch. The measured steps of troops rang under the window. The fountain in the market place murmured in the moonlight. The sandstone statue of the river god with his water spewing vase straightened up and looked over across at the doctor’s window.

The next morning the Justice Commission needed his signature to justify yesterday’s burning but the messenger could not get into the room. All kinds of gossip and speculation went through the people. They had heard strange things in the house. When the door was finally sprung—the doctor lay there dead on the floor with a red silk cord around his neck—on his hands was two large burn marks. In the rumpled bed swam a putrefied, stinking slop.

“Hm, hm,” said the Elder.

“Hm—hm”, said the remaining wise Gentlemen of the jury.

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The old man took his wife’s son, the one that she loved, the last king of the Bogumil. They fled out of the country to the Turks, took on the beliefs of Mohamed and convinced that country that we were now enemies. With war they broke the fortress, destroyed the city and made a wasteland out of our home.”

We stood by a sarcophagus that lay across our path. The outlander unslung his rifle and set the stone solidly on the ground.

“I know many such stones. They are troublesome to maintain. The blood won’t let them rest. Our blood is not like yours which runs peacefully, allowing itself time to build, to write, to think, to conquer the world. We don’t think about the world. We only think about the enemy, the next murder and the next love. Love and murder, that is our history. Always more love and murder. Our lives have never been enriched with the great things because we must hang our neighbor by the gullet, tear him to pieces. Our blood is our curse.”

It struck me suddenly like a red-hot steel nail through my head, something new that broke painfully through my dulled senses. Which language did this man speak? It was the language of this mountain. It was Serbian and until now I had not known that I understood Serbian. I understood him like I understood myself when I spoke my thoughts out loud. But I scarcely felt this astonishment before it gave way to an aching fear that left me stunned as I once more followed my guide further. Would the road never come?

Where was this man pulling me like a chained prisoner? We came into a still, savage and sinister landscape like the one where I had first encountered him. The limestone blocks lay like giant hewn bones in the night and they were all glowing with a shimmering skin of green and yellow that covered them. It was a soft trembling shimmering light. They looked like parts of broken up skeletons.  Broken ribs and crushed leg bones surrounded us creeping out of the black earth. There was a hole here, a dark hole that you couldn’t see down into. Another mass grave perhaps…

“I’ve seen seven hundred dead women here. Seven hundred corpses of women fallen in battle. There is no foot of earth on this mountain that has not already drunk our blood, our savage, and wild, impetuous blood. It rushes through us until our brain is confused and our hand grabs a knife. Our empire could not stand because our blood would not allow it. They are all fallen because of greed in particular and once more I see our empire overthrown because of the greed of the raging blood that has climbed into our brains. And our earth drinks our blood and is not sated, can’t get enough, is always still dry…dry…”

He stood across from me, a head taller than I… or had he grown?…and a voice inside my head said concise and clear, “It is over.”

It is over? What? Me? My pelvis felt like it was paralyzed; a lead weight pressed my feet into the ground. The only thing I could still move was my arm. I slowly pushed my right hand into my jacket pocket but the pistol I had hidden there was gone… or had the feeling left my hand? Did the nerves of this sleeping sack of skin not flow to my brain any more?

What I saw in slow motion was horrible and unsettling. The outlander stood in front of me at the edge of a deep hole and towered gigantically over the dark crater. His head was under a long stretched out cloud, behind which a trace of moonlight gleamed and then vanished.

“Dry, dry,” he said.

I saw how he aimed the rifle at me.

“All our stones want blood, hewn and unhewn,” he murmured. “Always more blood, hot blood… there is never enough…”

I believe that he fired. I don’t know. Later the border patrol said they didn’t hear anything. Almost at the same time as the bang of the rifle I heard voices and immediately after that a light flickered in front of my feet. It was a lantern that one of the border guards carried. Four or five soldiers surrounded me…

I looked down and saw the solid white road under me. The outlander had not run away. He stood on the edge of the road in the dark still threatening, still with his rifle aimed. I could move my hand again and stuck it out, pointing at the figure. A border guard raised his lantern. A Bogumil stone stood there on the edge of the road, a grave stone, shaped like a cross, and yet almost like a crude human. It was covered with mysterious markings.

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The Bogumil Stone

By Karl Hans Strobl 1917 (Der Bogumilenstein) From Lemuria

Translated by Joe E. Bandel

Copyright 2010 by Joe E. Bandel

As evening came I went a little ways out of Bilek up the Vardar. Over in Macedonia that is the name of a great river, here it is a mountain that carries an ancient fortress. God knows who laid the foundations. The Serbs settled there, then later the Turks and finally the Austrian forces as border guards against Montenegro.

Now the old walls have been burst asunder and hostile Steifuni often go inside at night and on the streets down below appear things that are taken from Bilek to Kobilja Glava to be sold.

But the flanks of the mountain are riddled with uncountable boulders and strewn with the gravestones of a vanished race. In this area the Bogumil once had a large and mighty empire and perhaps somewhere nearby laid one of their cities. Nothing remains of them other than perhaps the fragments of a tower on the top of the Vardar and this swarm of graves. It is a city of the dead on the flanks of the mountain. The remainder of the fortress was destroyed from bloody wars or under the hammer of time. I think the region is so wasted and bleak because the ruins of a Bogumil city are scattered all over the soil.

I deviated from the road onto a narrow path into the confusing rocks. It did not take long to find the graves I was seeking and soon I was in the midst of them. Christians, Jews and Turks all have gravestones of standard shapes and sizes but with the Bogumil there appears to be no standard set for them. Arbitrariness was the rule for the manifold stone shapes. There were sarcophagi, urns, plain stone slabs, upright and flat, as well as simple holes dug into the rocks…

In the growing dusk I carried a thought between the surrounding graves. What were the Bogumil? A race? A sect? An empire? History knew very little of them and I knew even less. A serious and quiet man, a first lieutenant, in Bilek had once told me about them. Their religion was of no known religion. It was classified as a type of ethics from which came the best phrases of Christianity and Islam. Traces of their teachings could still be found here in the countryside where the inhabitants were not Muslims or Christians in the orthodox sense. They had no churches and needed no priests. The farmers were plain, upright, hospitable and chaste. There were none of the great crimes committed that you heard of in Europe.

I thought it over and considered how cities and nations could go to ruin and yet a thought or idea survive them and how we would gladly prepare this Bogumil fate for our enemies. It was important to recognize not only the German idea but that of entire humanity as well.

By this time it had become very dark. I stumbled among the surrounding graves and became a little confused. Then for the first time I noticed not far from me the strangest of all the Bogumil stones in this wasted cemetery.

It looked like a cross and yet like the crude shape of a person. The top end was round like a head and the stone angled down from it like two sloping shoulders to the arms of the crossbeam. It appeared that both the upright beam and the crossbeam were covered with mysterious markings.

As I bent down low to examine them someone behind me, almost at my neck said, “Good evening Herr!”

I jumped up taking a quick step to the side. In an instant my hand was in my jacket pocket where my pistol was stuck. But the man stood there calmly, motionless as if he were just one of the gravestones that had begun to speak.

“You seek the old ones, Herr,” he continued. “They are gone. There is nothing remaining of them except these stones. Their entire empire is lost.”

Now I could see that an old farmer stood before me. He was dressed in the customary garb, had a rifle slung over his back and the white wraps covering his legs and his sleeveless jacket glowed a little in the darkness. He was certainly a head taller than I was and it made me feel uncomfortable to encounter a stranger in the darkness, perhaps a wild man, so near the Montenegro border.

“Come along,” he said. “I will bring you to the road.”

Then he went past me indicating I should follow him through a crack in the darkness. I didn’t know at all anymore where the road was and in any case it was not a good idea to be lost in the territory of the Montenegro Streifuni. After some wandering and snaking between the boulders and around the edges of the gravestones the man stopped and stood as if he had a compelling thought.

“Everything of the empire that was here is lost. You must have become lost here too.”

I was not surprised of what the man spoke. It occurred to me that I had seen him in the bright light of the officer’s mess in Bilek and then his earlier remarks. There was only one question that rang shrill in my brain at that point. It swelled in my consciousness and perhaps did amaze me somewhat.

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“I am from here,” he answered. “And you are one of the Swabians that arrived here today in the wagon without horses. I stood on the road and saw you.”

“Are you from the guard post?” I asked further.

He didn’t answer, but it seemed to me that he turned his head and looked down at me from his height. I stumbled along behind him without further questions.

Then he stopped once more, “Not everything here today is of stone, hewn or unhewn. Do you know how this empire was destroyed? Through licentiousness. That is the curse that lays on the land and the people. It is the blood that has deceived and cheated us of everything around us. It lies in the blood. In every one of us is this wild, hotheaded, stream that explodes and destroys everything. Do you know how the empire was destroyed?

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Then she crouched down and took the head in her lap. She stroked the cheeks a couple of times as if with a loving caress — the men settled down in a circle around her — and then she had one of the small enameled nails in one hand and gripped a hammer in the other, and with a short hammer blow she pounded the nail up to its head into the temple. Again a short hammer blow, and again one of the nails disappeared into the woman’s thick hair.

Then she started humming a song, a very fearful, joyous and strange folksong of ancient magic.

The bloody monsters sitting around looked over at her pale and terrified — their fearful eyes stared at her from out of their dark hollows. And she hammered and hammered, driving one nail after another into the head in time to the music of the strange old magical song that she was humming.

Suddenly a piercing scream pushed out of one of the men and he jumped up. His eyes were opened wide and protruding. Drool dribbled from his mouth. He threw his arms backwards and twisted his upper body as if from a terrible cramp and from out of his mouth came the shrill and piercing scream of an animal.

The young woman hammered and sang her song.

Then, a second man jumped up from the ground and howled as he waved his arms around him. He tore a burning brand from out of the fire and pushed it against his breast — again and again, until his clothing began to smolder and a thick stinking smoke spread out from him. The others sat stiff and pale and did not prevent him from doing it.

Then a third jumped up — and at the same time the others staggered to their feet as well.  There was a deafening noise, a shrieking, a yelling, a screaming, a bellowing and howling; a tangle of moving limbs. Whoever fell . . . remained there to be trampled on by the others . . .

In this orgy of madness, the young woman sat there and hammered and sang.

Then she was finished, and she stuck the head studded with little enameled nails onto the tip of a bayonet and held it high over the howling, jumping masses. Someone tore the fire apart, the pieces of burning wood were put out and glowing sparks flew out into the dark corners of the courtyard where they were extinguished . . . it became dark — only a single passionate scream and a wild noise, as if from a fearful scuffle — I knew, that all of these insane men, these wild beasts were now fighting over this single woman, with teeth and claws . . .

Everything became dark before my eyes.

My consciousness remained only long enough to see everything become gray around me . . . It was dawn . . . dark and indistinct, like the ending of day on a dreary winter afternoon. It rained on my head. A cold wind ruffled my hair. My flesh became soft and weak. Was this the beginning of decomposition?

Then something changed for me. My head was in another place, in a dark pit, but it was warm and peaceful there. Inside of me it was once again bright and clear. There were many other heads with me in the dark pit, heads and bodies. And I realized that the heads and bodies had found each other as best they could. And in this position they had again found their speech, but it was a quiet, inaudible, thought speech, in which they talked to one another.

I yearned for a body, like I once yearned after one to finally find relief from the unbearable cold on the cross-section of my neck which had now almost already become burning hot. But I yearned in vain. All the heads and bodies had found each other. There remained no body for my head. Yet finally, after a long wearisome search I found a body . . . at the very bottom, modestly in a corner . . . a body, that still had no head — a woman’s body. Something in me strove against a connection with this body, but my desire, my longing, triumphed and I moved closer — moving by the power of my will — toward the headless trunk and I saw how it also strove toward my head — and then both severed surfaces touched each other . . . there was a slight shock, the feeling of a soft warmth. Then the most important thing happened, I had a body again.

But strangely . . . after the first feeling of well-being had passed, I sensed a huge difference in my other half . . . it was as if entirely different juices were being mixed together, juices that had nothing in common with each other.

The woman’s body, which my head now sat upon, was slender and white and had the cool marble skin of an aristocrat, one who took wine and milk baths and squandered costly ointments and oils. On the side of the right breast, over the hip and across a portion of the belly was a strange design . . . a tattoo. And within it, thoroughly entwined among the blue points, hearts, anchor, and other arabesques were the letters “J” and “B”. Who could this woman have been?

I sensed that I would know — soon! Something was forming from out of the vague darkness of the body beneath me. Minute by minute this image became clearer and more distinct. It was due to the painful penetration of the juices into my head, and suddenly it seemed me, as if I had two heads . . . and the second head — the woman’s head, — was bloody, disfigured, distorted, — I saw it in front of me — completely covered with little enameled nails. It was the head that belonged to this body — at the same time in my own head, I felt perfectly the hundreds of pointed nails in my temples, the top of my head and in my brain; I wanted to scream out in pain. But everything around me sank into a red veil, one which moved back and forth as if pushed by a strong breeze.

Then I felt it, I was a woman, only my mind remained decidedly male. And then an image climbed out from the red veil . . . I saw my other self before me, in the lavish splendor of an extensively decorated room. I lay burrowed into the soft carpets . . . naked. In front of me, bending over me was a man with the hard coarse features of a man from the lowest levels of society, with the work hardened fists and the weather burned skin of a sailor. He was kneeling in front of me and poking strange designs into my soft flesh with the tip of a needle. The pain and stimulation aroused a strange sort of lust . . . I knew that the man was my lover.

Then a short, sharp pain from the needle caused my body to twitch and convulse together. I wrapped my white arms around the man’s neck and pulled him down to me . . . kissed him and lay his hardened, callused hands upon my breasts, my shoulders and then kissed him again in a tumbling frenzy; embraced him and held him so tightly against me that he moaned breathlessly.

Then I seized his brown throat with my teeth, the throat, which I loved so much and which had so often aroused me, caused my tongue to stroke it with moist caresses . . . and then — and then I had to press my teeth into the firm brown flesh — I could not help it — I had to bite . . . and I bit . . . I bit . . . and I felt his moan become a gasp — I felt how the man in my arms was writhing and twitching spasmodically . . . but I didn’t let go. His body became heavy — heavy . . . a warm stream flowed down over my body. His head sank down on top of it— I let him slide out of my arms — he fell back onto the soft white carpet with a dull thud . . . a thick stream of blood poured out of his bitten through throat. — Blood, blood was everywhere, on the soft, white polar bear fur — on me . . . everywhere.

I began to scream . . . the hoarse and raw sound forced itself out of my throat. The chamber maid rushed in, she must not have been very far away, perhaps in front of the door in the next room . . . had she been listening? . . . She remained rigid for a moment, without comprehension,  and then threw herself over the body of the dead man without a word . . . without words and without tears . . . she buried her face in his blood covered chest — I could only see her clenching her fists.

Then I knew everything . . .

And then I saw another image . . .

Again, I saw my other self and it was the time when I was in the wooden cart, the same one that was going to the guillotine. Then I was standing above on the platform and raised my eyes to look at the sun for the last time.  I slowly turned, then my gaze fell on a young woman who was standing very close to the front, who had pressed up into the first row . . . it was her . . . the lover of the man, the beloved of the one that was the victim of my lust . . . with a pale, twitching face, a red skirt, a revealing shirt and fluttering hair . . . her eyes glowed wildly, like those of a predator, moist as if from restrained grief and loss, as if about to experience a great joy. Then she raised her balled up fists in front of her face, and her mouth began to move . . . She wanted to speak, to reproach me, scold me, yet she could only cry — broken and incomprehensible . . . then I lay my head under the blade.

Then I knew everything.

I knew whose head it was that served as a sacrifice the night before in the glow of the bonfire, the terrible revenge from beyond the grave — I also knew who the young woman was, who in the same night in the dark palace courtyard had unleashed the raging beasts so that they raged, mangled and trampled . . . in my head was the pain of hundreds of needle sharp nail tips . . . I was bound to this body . . . to this body full of horrible memories and terrible pain, to this sinful, beautiful body, that has wandered through all the gates of hell.

This terrible split of my two beings is tearing me apart . . .  oh, not for much longer . . . I feel a gentle leaving behind of all my limbs, a letting go of the fleshly parts . . . all the inner organs are becoming spongy and turning to liquid . . . the decomposition begins.

Soon my disgusting two fold self will embrace the night — the night of decomposition . . . my body will fall apart — my spirit will become free . . . the hand stopped writing and disappeared.

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