Monday, February 23, 2009

Guests on Frederick's Street

Despite the fact that the first floor of the building was entirely devoted to antiques and old baubles (for this was Klaus' business) very few people came with antiques on their mind. It seemed to Alexandr that most callers were more interested in Klaus' condition than in his wares. Indeed, Klaus lived with his perversion as easily as any man might, and when he gave in to it he was not only happier for it, but also an endless delight to his guests. All those people forever coming and going, so pleased by his stories and his animated demeanor and bolts of wisdom. In either guise – and Alexandr had known his landlord long enough to accept that both his male and female incarnations were but faces – Klaus or Katja was witty, thoughtful, and fair-minded. Neither face was ever one bit contemptuous, though there was from time-to-time a nurse-like quality, a shade of motherly haughtiness, on Katja's part. It had occurred to Alexandr that others did not see her like this, and that her friends often welcomed her into their lives as alter-mother - nevermind that Katya was younger than Alexandr, a mere forty-two years old.

Katja's life had been woven from strange paths: in Bavaria; in the alleys of Friedrichstadt; in the dressing rooms at Silhouette; in the chambers at that most controversial hospital, the Institut fur Sexualwissenschaft. The people she had met along the way were often lacking something in their hearts, desiring some emotional gift that they could no longer find in more respectable segments of society. Katja made herself available to help them find these things. Alexandr and Klaus and Katja had been friends for a long time now.

There had not been a long-term renter in the upstairs flat for months, but it was never empty. Klaus or Katja had many friends and relatives, and there was always someone who was broke, visiting, or just passing through. Klaus and Katja, together, had decorated the third floor with pieces from the shop and with cast-off objects of glamour from Katja's years in the cabaret. Compared to the carefully constructed fa├žade of extravagance that characterized both Klaus' downstairs living quarters and the upstairs flat, Alexandr's living space was a dry bone. Late at night, it was always dark and silent, in stark contrast to the whir of automobiles, flappers, carousers, and all manner of humanity just outside on the street. Alexandr's flat was like a womb, one might have said; this was far from an accurate description of the place, however, for it was wooden and stiff, and there was not much nourishing there. Occasionally, the sound of a motor would somehow climb through the front windows and pierce the curtain of noiselessness presented by the shop and the front room, and reach Alexandr in his bedroom as he was trying to sleep. Less often, he might hear the strains of the phonograph that Katja had borrowed from the antiques store, or that Klaus had borrowed from the flat. The notes would be ghostly, and (depending on which persona happened to be playing the phonograph that night) the music would either fall upon Alexandr's bed like a blanket from the ceiling, or rise up like a ghost from the floorboards.

There was no music playing the night of the eleventh. Instead, there was a scream. A woman's scream, thrown up from somewhere low in her throat, like the growl of a tomcat cornered by malicious boys. It could not have been Katja, thank goodness, for her voice was forever slightly baritone. It was the young Oriental woman who had arrived that morning, accompanying one of Klaus' friends from abroad. They were an uncommon pair, to say the least: the Englishman and the Persian girl. No – not Persian, Klaus had explained once the duo had settled into the upstairs flat and locked the door. "That is my friend Peter Cox. With him is Bhakti, his nurse. They have just arrived from India, after some kind of misadventure. Peter hasn't yet told me the whole story yet. Until only a few days ago, he was working as an archaeologist at Mohenjo-Daro. Men of science are calling it the companion to Harappa, perhaps the greatest find of this century after King Tut. Which, I will add," Katja came out just a little bit, in Klaus' wrist, "Peter was also partly responsible for uncovering."

Yes, Alexandr had heard of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. He had heard the laudations from the press, that these ancient cities were the great evidence for a Central Asian origin for all of mankind, the earliest achievements of the mysterious people known as Aryans. Naturally, Alexandr had heard of King Tut as well; he had also heard of the pharaoh's curse, and in the moment of Bhakti's scream, Alexandr could not help but to wonder, The curse? Here, on Friedrichstra├če?

The suggestion was banished almost immediately from Alexandr's mind. Already he could hear Klaus running up the stairs from below. Bhakti yelled again, in German, "Help!"


  1. The screams broke Alexandr from his reverie. Delicately balancing the urgency of the screaming with his current state of undress, he hesitated long enough to don a pair of pants and a bathrobe before running upstairs to investigate.

    (text by Jay)

  2. Klaus fumbled with the lock to the upstairs flat. "You heard that too?" he asked Alexandr as the former national hero - still strong and surly in his age - pounded his way up the stairs. "It was the nurse!" The door came open.

    The Englishman, Peter, was sitting in a chair. Between his feet was a dish of water, and on his lap was something shaped like a closed flower bud or a tapered cigar. Yet this was no cigar, held upright between his clasped hands. It was metallic and roughly shaped, and it glowed faintly. Peter's eyes were shut and his jaw was slack.

    Despite the strangeness of the Englishman's comportment, he was not the first thing that drew the gazes of Klaus and Alexandr in the candlelight. No, something far more violent was occurring in the far corner of the flat's sitting room, where the nursemaid Bhakti was standing barefoot in her white kurta, weeping as she wielded one of Klaus' antique floor lamps. "Help!" she cried - clearly she knew some German, though whether or not she might be able to articulate anything beyond "Help!" remained to be seen.

    When the men came in the door, she ran towards them dragging the lamp behind her, and, dropping it, fell into Klaus' arms. "Stop it, stop it, kill it" she sobbed. "It came in through the wall . . ." Her German was unpracticed and her accent was heavy, but her fear was clear enough.

    Alexandr heard a click in the direction of the corner. Behind Peter, behind the sofa, he heard it again. Calm for the moment, Alexandr picked up the floor lamp and found its plug, which he engaged with the nearby outlet in the wall. Suddenly the lamp came on like a giant electric torch and Alexandr aimed its great beam in the direction of the sounds. Bhakti wailed and shivered.

    A bloated figure, as large as an Alsatian, stood, or wobbled on four spindly legs. It was not solid and beautiful like a shepherd - all of its weight was in its swollen, pale abdomen, and its spider-like legs seemed to barely hold the mass of its body. Its head, just another bloated lump affixed to the larger, bore two huge, shining black eyes, each the size of a man's fist. Protruding from the head was another limb, a tendril-like structure not dissimilar from the thing's legs. The nose-limb waved about like a blind man's cane, like the antennae of a hungry cricket sitting on a mass of crumbs. With this tendril, it tapped the couch before it. Though the tendril and the thing's legs appeared insect-like, its shining eyes were vaguely mammalian, as was the mouth and the rodentine teeth within.

    Klaus issued a whimper and crumpled to the floor. Bhakti fell on top of him, but quickly recovered and started to work to drag her new landlord to the still open door. "Peter-ji!"

    It advanced - with a click - around the couch and towards the chair were Peter sat insensibly. The nose-tendril whipped past Peter's face and rested upon his shoulder. As if excited by the taste of the Englishman, it once again clicked and shuffled more speedily towards him. It's multiple incisors gnashed.

    (Alexandr passed a SAN check, -3 sanity!. This is combat and initiative is on Alexandr!)

  3. For better or worse, Peter's eyes snapped open just in time to behold the dreaded, bloated spider-mammal thing darting toward him.

    Peter's hand grasped at the antenna-tentacle on his shoulder and his chair was knocked backward as he leapt at the unnamed horror. All intellect and reason abandoned him; possessed by the instincts to survive and destroy, his own mad screams chorused with the creature's atrocious squealing and the blood from his knuckles mixed with alien ichor as he relentlessly pummeled his fists at the thing's orbs and drove his feet into its rubbery corpus.

    (Peter failed a SAN check, -6 sanity!)

  4. In the beam of the floor lamp, held steadily by Alexandr, Peter fell upon the searcher. The meaty side of Peter's fist plunged into the black jelly of the thing's eye, and under the sudden blow, the membrane around the orb collapsed. Semi-solid black ichor rolled from the cavity and splattered on the carpet, onto Peter's shoes. He barely felt the tendril grasp him as it slid off his shoulder, cutting downward.

    The thing clicked continuously, excitedly. An alarm. It was frightened.

    Alexandr thrust the bright end of the lamp into the melee, but so close had Peter drawn to the monster that the wrestler could not find the necessary purchase to land a blow. He maneuvered to the side of the couch, seeking an opening, keeping the beam on Peter.

    The creature struggled to maintain strength in its legs under Peter's ceaseless, un-calculated blows. Its tiny mouth, lined all around with neat pairs of rat-like incisors, opened, and the tendril upon its face lashed out once again. The sharp point shot across Peter's face and flew at Alexandr, who caught it in his belly. For a second, the tendril stopped there, deep and straight in the hero's gut. Alexandr's eyes and mouth rounded in shock, but he did not release the lamp.

    Peter threw himself bodily upon the beast, and the force of being knocked to the ground by the weight of Peter's knee was enough to withdraw the tendril from the cavity of Alexandr's body with the clean sound of a knife being unsheathed.

    It was pinned. Peter felt hard objects sliding within the sac beneath him, and he bore down upon the monster with no mercy. Its four segmented legs flailed around Peter's face, scratching him weakly.

    "HALT!" cried Alexandr, and the room fell away as he lifted the lamp above his head, drawing the brightest light towards the ceiling - it was as though he were bringing the sun itself down on the wretched thing - with a smash and a spark all was black.

    The candles had gone out.

    Peter was there, gasping. Awake. It was beneath him, a cold, unmoving bladder.

    The clicking wound down.

    (-2 hit points to Peter.)

  5. It took Peter a moment to piece it all together. He had used the mirror, and it had taken him back to the library... suddenly, he was under attack by some loathsome thing, the same thing now supporting his weight... yes, he was back in his room in Berlin. How much time had passed? What had happened to the light? Had the alien horror come through by the same means he had used to access the library? Yes, it must have, for John Daniel's facial injuries had demonstrated that the portal worked both ways...

    Psychically and physically exhausted from travel and combat, Peter felt himself begin once more to slide out of consciousness.

    "Entschuldigung Sie," he said, and passed out.