Die Rückkehr part two- On Schmiedestrasse (2nd edit)
Posted: 08 October 2005
Word Count: 2096
Summary: The story so far: Roger Welland is visting Hannover on business. One night in a bar he meets a woman called Helene. She tells Roger that she is a witch and needs his help. Intrigued by tis, Roger returns with Helene to her home. There she presents Roger with a mysterious hammer and calls him the Smith and that he must face a strange entity called the Fool. Roger snaps, believing that Helene is some deranged person and he flees into the night.
Related Works: Die Rückkehr: part one - The Owl (3rd edit)
A wave of bleak earth crashed over Roger. He was running through a maze of shadow and soot. His chest ached and the burning fatigue rolling in his lungs matched the powerful heat that whipped him forward.
Tiny hands clawed out at him, pulling him onwards toward a trail of distant candles that promised a way to escape from the deep. Voices sang strange melodies, guiding him forward and each step he took was matched by a far off echo of a hammer falling.
A gash of sunlight opened up in the gloom, he jumped toward it but was batted down by a sweeping black mass. It towered above him, like a hungry bear, misshapen and angry. The mass shivered, sparks flew from its head and a hand reached out to break Roger’s will.
The world was remade in the shape of a scream
Roger’s hand lashed out and knocked over a glass of water off the bedside cabinet. “Shit, shit,” he groaned, rolling toward the edge of the bed to pick up the glass. A puddle of water was draining into the carpet. He looked up and realized that the lights of the hotel room were still on. He was partially dressed. Next to him on the bed was a pile of discarded clothes. Socks and a pair of trousers making a nest for a pale blue tie that poked out like a snake.
He needed a piss, so he rolled off the bed and stumbled into the bathroom.
The taste of beer was sour in his throat. A souvenir of the mad few hours he had spent with his workmates at the Waterloo Garden. Each slug of beer pushed him further away from the ranting of Helene. What a fool he had been to think that he was getting somewhere with her. A whisper of her perfume was unlocked from his shirt collar. Thinking about her made his penis twitch once like a hooked trout before rearing up erect. Jesus Christ! There had to be a way to get that woman out of his head. He pulled off his clothes, plunged into the shower cubicle so that he could be soaked in the safety of a new day.
After the shower he sat on the edge of the bed, holding his mobile phone close to his mouth rather like a dummy. He sucked at the phone trying to draw in the threads of reason that at the moment evaded him. A greasy ripple upset his stomach and his throat dried out. He needed to yawn, be outside and breathe in the cold air. That would steady him for the day ahead.
The mobile phone buzzed into life. “Hello,” he said.
“Guten Tag, Roger,” the voice from the phone was cheerful. It was Helmut. “Wie gehts?”.
“Nicht gut, a little tired. Don’t worry I should be in the office soon.”
“Hah, too much good cheer last night. Well I have to tell you that Dr. Grunow’s arrival has been delayed. We are now meeting him this afternoon. I think we have a little more time to refine our presentation.”
Roger groped for his diary that was on the far side of the bed. It was open at today’s page and he could see there were no other appointments written down. A red loop had been scrawled several times around the name of Dr. Grunow. The greasy butterfly in his stomach began to settle down. “That’s fine. Okay, right, I will be in later. I can prepare some work here and then email it over to you.”
“For sure, see you later.” The call ended. Roger put the phone down onto the bed. He had no intention of working. He needed fresh air and strong coffee. A walk through the city was required to strip away the fatigue of the previous night and settle his stomach.
Soon enough he was enjoying the cool breeze that had descended on the city. He drank coffee from a Styrofoam cup as he walked though the Mitte passing close to the U-bahn at Markthalle. Everything was coming to life, the shops were opening, office workers were arriving by tram or bicycle and the street cafes were peppered with friends enjoying the early promise of the day. He stopped at a bench near the U-Bahn and finished his coffee. He could see the first traces of sunlight picking up the red freckles of brick work across the roofs of the old Rathaus and the Marktkirche.
Try as he might, it was difficult to shake the image of Helene from his mind. Her face always before him and her body was swaying as she clutched that wooden box to her chest. Thoughts of her being naked seeped through until he could imagine that she was lowering herself onto him, her hands clawing at his back. A drum roll played out of his heart and his cheeks burned. The coffee cup crumpled in his grasp and tepid brown stains appeared on his clothes. He dropped the cup and began wiping away the spill.
What had gotten into him? It looked as if had pissed his pants. He was never usually distracted like this. Was he so bored that he wanted to jump into a fantasy with this mad woman?
He picked up and threw the ruined coffee cup into a litter bin then stomped off toward the Markthalle The sooner he could finish his work and return to Britain, the better things would be. That was the answer, get stuck into work, get stuck in and ignore the pig ignorance of Malcolm and let everything wash over him. Thinking about this made his heartbeat whisper; at last he was getting back to normal.
As he walked nearer toward the church he became aware that someone was watching him. At first he thought it was because they had seen him burst the coffee cup and spoil his clothes. Only this feeling was not one of embarrassment. It reminded him of a time when he went backpacking across Europe as a teenager. Staying one night in a hostel in Marseille he had joined a couple of English travellers for a game of cards. Also at the table were two young Israeli men, one of whom was like a whippet, all corded muscle and black determination. The whippet man had just finished his term of military service. All night the fellow just stared at Roger, never blinking. He only spoke the once, “If you travel alone, you will die. Could you stop a man with a knife?”
Roger had tried very hard not show any fear. He left the table and hoped to find safety in a nearby bar. The Israeli never moved but continued to stare at him. Even when the Israeli’s friend spoke, Roger’s tormentor never acknowledged him. The Israeli never ceased staring, in the deepening night the white eyes of the soldier glowed wildly.
He remembered crying that night. Protected by flimsy paper sheets of the dormitory bed, Roger held his passport and money close, expecting the Israeli to come and rob him. Although it did not happen, the terror was something that lived with him for days.
That terror had now returned.
A chilly thread was being jerked out of him. He wobbled like a puppet whilst everyday life flowed around him. Breath was being squeezed out of body; the taste of iron was rich inside his throat. The flavour of metal was filling his lungs and stomach. A hoarse rasp fled his mouth and he toppled forward clutching his chest.
A loud crack echoed as he dropped onto the floor. A steady warmth soothed his head and he felt a trickle of blood tickle the back of his neck. Alone on the pavement he saw the world fade as it does through a telescope being twisted. No one came to help him.
Roger reached out and clawed his way up against a shop window. A great thumping rushed into his head; his teeth throbbed with a needle sharp temper. The taste of metal was thickening inside him. A man was walking by and Roger lunged out to grab him.
“Help me,” Roger croaked.
The man shoved Roger’s arm away whilst shouting, “Gehen Sie von mir weg!” Roger pounded back against the shop window. A hundred voices of pain dug deep into his back. The world was the blackest place he had ever known. As the day was sucked into a rampaging night, he caught sight of a street sign close by.
The name on the sign was Schmiedestrasse.
The last thing he saw was the face of Helene.
The room was darker than he remembered. Where were the lights? Where were his clothes? How had he got here? Dark shapes moved about the room, shapes that did not belong to the hotel.
The taste of metal had died to be reborn as icy breath. “What’s this?” Roger said.
“Hey now Roger mate,” said Malcolm. He was sitting in the chair next the dressing table. Malcolm flicked a lamp stand on. The mushroom of light above Malcolm’s head made him an unlikely angel.
“Gave us all a shock you did now,” Malcolm was saying. “You have been out like a light since oh,” he flicked his left wrist,” about 1 o’clock. I said I would keep an eye on you.”
“Did it really happen?” Roger rolled over and suddenly realised he was naked. Tugging the sheets back to cover himself he continued asking, “Come on, and tell me.”
“You dropped like stone in the street.” Malcolm threw a packet of painkillers over to him, “You might need these now.”
“Thanks, I’ll take them later. Go on.”
“From the sounds of things you were rolling about like a zombie. Don’t you remember some passer-by calling an ambo to get you sorted out.”
“How did I get back here? I can remember the hospital, sort of. But how did you get there?”
“The hospital found your key card and work ID. They called us and I being the brilliant mate that I am volunteered to pick you up and keep an eye on you.” Malcolm smiled, “Sorry pal, but I had to get you out of your togs.”
“Thanks. I can only remember bits and pieces. I woke up in the ambulance, I’m sure of that. Oh it was some Turkish doctor that saw me. ”
Malcolm grinned, “Yeah, bet you thought you were on holiday. They did a scan of course and your bonce is Ok. You just have to rest for a couple of days.” He stood up, “I can stay a bit longer if you want.”
Roger shoved a couple of painkillers into his mouth, “No it’s fine, you get back to Helmut and the lads. I am sure they will want to get the news and you get a couple of pints.”
“If you are sure,” Malcolm cocked an eyebrow better than Mr. Spock.
“Yes, go, and thanks.” Roger just wanted to submit to darkness again.
As Malcolm was leaving he said, “We rescheduled the meeting with Grunow until tomorrow. You don’t have to come in. Oh and Barkmann is coming too. We must be honoured.”
“That’s all we need,” groaned Roger. “Hey Malcolm did they say who found me? Was it a woman?”
“Ah that’s it, hey you got beat up by some tart’s boyfriend I bet… ha ha.”
“Yeah that must be it.”
After Malcolm had gone, Roger pulled himself out of bed and went to the bathroom. His head was pinging like a microwave stopping. Looking in the mirror, he saw the bandage across his head. He reached out and touched it; ridges of drying glue were underneath his fingertips.
Helene had been in the street today. Of that much he was sure. She had done this to him. Looking back in the mirror he gasped. His face was grimy and pasted with streaks of soot and ash. Yellow skin rippled under the layers of waste. Lank hair dropped around his shoulders. The eyes staring back at him were fired with purpose.
Roger stepped back. The face in the mirror was gone and the shocked man he had always been faced him once more.
The sweat on his back cooled.
Silence was banished as the phone in the room trilled. Roger dashed through the room and picked it up.
“Være levebrød,” A voice whispered somewhere outside his head. Then the phone clicked dead. More than ever now, Roger wished he was not alone.
|Favourite this work||Favourite This Author|