As I developed my characters from the War against Boris series, stories began to emerge. Here’s one of them.
THE CHOICE: MINNA
One of those summer days doused in grey…I ride my bike to the beach to collect shells. As I comb the surf-soaked sands, a man’s voice snaps me out of the zone.
‘Found anyone interesting?’
‘Nup, no bodies,’ I murmur.
‘That’s a shame, a nice looking lady like you.’’
I fix my sight on shards of shell and ignore him. Hate those pickup lines.
‘Oh, what’s your problem? I’m not going to bite.’
I glance at him—had to see what creep I’m dealing with. Pale, pock-marked face, thirties and just a little taller than me at 165cm. In a grubby white t-shirt and brown trousers. “Never trust a man who wears brown trousers,” my school friend Liesel always said.
‘Come on, dear, just a little conversation. Tell me, what do you want more than anything in the world.’
I shrug. ‘To leave me alone.’
‘Tell you what, you tell me and I’ll leave you alone. Deal?’
I push my bike faster trying to escape this man, but he follows me.
‘I promise, I’ll leave you alone—just tell me.’
Hopping on my bike I announce, ‘I don’t talk to strangers.’
‘I’m not going to hurt you. I bet, I bet you’re one of those girls who wants to get married, have a family. That’s what you want more than anything.’
‘If you say so, now leave me alone,’ I say and then speed from the creepy little man with his creepy questions.
‘Your desire will be arranged,’ he says as I splash my wheels through the water. He then shouts, ‘But, I might add, there will be a price.’
‘Sure, sour grapes,’ I mumble. Then pumping the pedals, I sail along the damp-packed sand where the waves meet the shore.
Then, near the ramp and having to cross sand too soft for bike wheels, I glance behind before alighting.
Friedrich was sure it was his fault. He was always getting smacks or the belt from his father—usually for not polishing his boots perfectly. Or for spilling milk on the floor. But when he saw the blue line in the air, the urge to escape, was too great. This was not the first time he’d ventured beyond the thin blue line under the outhouse. He just had to go through the light—for Wilma…
Then bang. Everything went black…
Friedrich put out his hands and shuffled forward. He groped for a wall, a surface, anything to orient himself.
He tripped over some bulk. He fell onto it. It groaned.
Friedrich scrambled to his feet. His mouth went dry. It was like his heart, lungs and guts were in his mouth. Oh, no! I’m on an alien world without light and with groaning monsters.
The thing at his feet moaned. It sounded like a man.
Friedrich gulped. He knelt down. He held out his shaking hand. He touched something soft and greasy. Was that hair under his fingertips?
‘Who are you?’ he asked in his Silesian language. ‘What’s your name?’
The man-thing with hair moaned again and then mumbled what sounded like forbidden words in another language. He’d heard Joseph use such words when angry.
‘My name’s Friedrich,’ the boy said. ‘And you?’
‘Oh, the pain! The pain!’ the man-thing said in that strange language. It did sound like the tongue Joseph and Amie used. They spoke using similar sounds when they were together.
Friedrich presumed the man spoke English. But he knew few English words, so he still hoped the man understood his native language. ‘How are you?’
‘Oh, the pain! My stomach! My head!’
Friedrich traced the head, the shoulders, arms and distended stomach. ‘You’re a man, aren’t you?’ He patted the spongy surface in the middle.
The man groaned and squirmed.
‘You’re a sick man,’ Friedrich said using the word in his language “krank”.
‘Too right, I’m cranky!’ the man straightened up. He grabbed Friedrich’s wrist. ‘And who the heck are you?’
Friedrich shook his hand free from the man. How was he to make sense of this man in the dark? How was he to make this man understand him? Joseph and Amie could speak his native tongue, Silesian, but this man couldn’t, apparently. Friedrich rubbed his hand.
‘Who are you?’ the man asked. ‘Where the frick are we?’
[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia…In this episode (7.2) Letitia and Wilhelm separately face their demons on the Princess of Tasmania bound for Melbourne.]
The cabin shuddered and roared. A flame-haired woman towered over and menaced her. Tails, lean and slimy, leered at her, laughing. His teeth turned black and jagged, and the face became that of the minx’s mum. Smoke filled the cabin. And bang!
Letitia bolted upright. Wide awake. Blinking in the darkness. Her world bucking and rolling. Side to side. Back and forth. Up and down. She clung to the sides of the bunk as it rolled one way then the other. She remained sitting, expecting to be assaulted with relentless seasickness. However, apart from a head that felt as though it was wadded thick with cotton wool and a nose stuffed with glue, she did not feel ill. She swung her feet over the bedside and landing them on the floor, she pushed herself to standing. She waded through the blackness to the door. Aiming for that thin sliver of light marking its direction. Letitia was hungry.
The mean mother and her menacing charges reared up in her memory. Perhaps, I’m not that hungry, she reasoned. Although her stomach growled protesting otherwise, she returned to her bunk and hibernated under the thin cotton covers.
Upon viewing the Hippie family in their Kombi, Will grew cold. Sweat, with a life of its own, dripped from his temples and underarms. The gentle sea breeze mingled with the dampness sending a chill through to his core.
Will studied the woman driving the van. ‘It’s him,’ the little lady’s voice echoed behind his ear.
‘Is it?’ he muttered. ‘Are you sure? Okay, I’ll just take a closer look.’
‘What?’ Letitia glanced at Will. ‘What are you saying?’
‘I, er, um am just taking a visit to the men’s room.’ He patted her arm. ‘You’ll be alright?’
Will made his way down to the car docking bay. There, he watched the Kombi and its inhabitants. And waited.
Close up, they were obvious. Not the kids though, like he expected. They were just kids. Proper little Munchkins. But the man and woman. The “man” in the kaftan with his long curly brown hair and John Lennon specs, currently carrying the dog, walked like a woman.
Will nodded. ‘Interesting.’
All those years merged with a woman gives a man a certain insight about such matters like how they walk and talk. The Boris attack and being thrown some 400-years into the past, that’s how that situation happened. And now that woman, her spirit or whatever it was, had been stuck in his head, even after the separation. Courtesy of Boris. With his slimy strings attached, of course.
As the van moved closer, Will focussed on the driver. ‘It’s him,’ the little voice at the back of his ear repeated.
‘Just the sort of thing Boris would do,’ Will said.
At a distance, Will followed the odd family to their cabin.
Once inside, he slid up to the door and listened.
‘Ah, that’s better,’ a woman said, ‘I swear this wig is giving me hives.’
‘Calm down, Maggie, dear,’ a man said, ‘it’ll all be worth it. Not long to go now, my precious.’
‘Did you see her?’
‘Yes, my precious. I have my agents onto her. She should be grateful I saved her life.’
‘Don’t know why you bothered. She’s just an old frump, now really. No use to breed with.’
‘Ah, but, my precious, that is where you are wrong. Her mind. Her skills. And the Admiral, just think what I can get the Admiral to do if I have his daughter in my grasp? Look at what lengths he’s going for his son?’
‘I don’t agree,’ the lady snapped. ‘You’re wasting your time. I’m going out for some fresh air.’
The cabin door swung open.
Will slipped around the nearest corner while a lady, red curls bouncing down the curves of her back, marched past him.
As she disappeared down the corridor, Will peeked around the corner to glimpse a round man in a brown tweed suit, close the door to the cabin.
[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia…
In this episode (4.1) Letitia enjoys wild Weber char-grilled salmon and must explain her inexplicable reappearance having been MiA for several years …]
The late evening light spread endlessly over the listless blue water. A warm breeze wafted periodically, ever so gently rustling the jasmine creeping up the balustrade. Salmon sizzled in the large black bowl stranded on three legs. After little Johnny with golden curls had peddled his energy out with red tricycle around the lawn area, Frieda, bathed him and put him to bed. Then she decorated the outdoor table, with left-over festive mats and coasters. Letitia now recognised the table as made of Huon pine. A spotlight beamed on their pending dinner and a lonely Tupperware bowl full of chips. Frieda then retreated to the open kitchen window that presided over the deck, where she tossed green salad that would eventually accompany the salmon and chips.
‘Help yourself to chips. They are warm. I was keeping them warm in the oven.’ Frieda offered from the open window. ‘Sorry about the fish we bought earlier. While you were in the shower, the dog got to the rest of them. Lucky, we had some salmon in the freezer. Will caught it on one of his boating exploits down the south-west coast, Macquarie Harbour. Wild salmon, it’s the best.’
‘Where’s the dog?’ Letitia asked.
Frieda rolled her eyes and snorted, ‘In the Dog House; locked up behind the shed; no chances taken. Don’t want him getting the salmon too.’
Letitia stared doubtfully at the pink plastic bowl laden with crisp wedges of fried fat and potato. She visualised Sister Salome, Gunter’s sister, egging her on. She may have been starving, but oil dipped fried chips spelt dangerous levels of cholesterol, thickening of the arteries and the waistline.
‘Come on, Lets! Have a few! You look like you need a bit of fattening up. Remember when we were kids. You would eat almost anything and everything and you never put on weight,’ Frieda urged.
‘At least you are honest. I remember my mother would just shove the bowl under my nose, strategically, and then be offended if I did not lick the bowl clean.’ The crisp golden slices of potato were enticing, and her empty stomach grumbled in yearning for them. Meanwhile Wilhelm, lean and fit, resisted temptation by casually reading The Canberra Times. He had a conference to attend in Australia’s national capital and was keen to be in the know about what was going on there.
‘Your mother! I remember her!’ Frieda snorted, ‘Why did I bother getting chips?’ She shovelled a few sticks of fried potato into her mouth. ‘Gawd! Am I going to be the only one who eats them?’ Her words muffled by the mouthful of mash.
Letitia selected a strip of carrot from the salad bowl that Frieda had brought out with her and chomped on it. The headlines on the front page of the newspaper, concerned her. “Late News Over Hanging” was plastered over the front page. The issue relating to capital punishment sent chills down her spine and she trembled.
Wilhelm peeked over the paper. ‘What’s the matter, Letitia? You’ve gone all pale.’
‘Huh? It’s that thing about capital punishment.’ Letitia shivered. ‘It’s like someone’s walked over my grave. I don’t know, I can’t explain.’
‘Hmm, there’s a push against it.’ Wilhelm flipped the paper closed and looked directly at her. ‘In my opinion, there are some people who deserve it.’
‘But what if they get the conviction wrong? And sentence an innocent person…?’
‘I think the salmon is ready.’ Frieda chirped. ‘I can smell that it is cooked.’
Wilhelm rose, laid down the paper on the table, and retreated to the Weber. With a moment’s reprieve, Letitia adjusted her position on the sassafras timber bench and leaned over to gain a view of the material that Wilhelm had been reading. However, Frieda barged in claiming the newspaper for herself. ‘Look at this! Pilots escape a plane crash! Landed on its fuselage.’
Letitia sank back into the dimness of twilight, knowing her minutes of being simply lost-now-found Letitia were numbered. Unsure of how the situation and her place in it, stood in this out-of-date world, she cleared her throat ready to recite her hastily constructed story for the ensuing discussion and IGSF debriefing while eating salmon.
‘That name sounds familiar,’ Frieda pointed at the paper.
Letitia’s heart sank with the acid of nervousness. She opened her mouth ready to defend her presence in this time which was her survival. However, Wilhelm, bearing the oven tray of Weber-grilled salmon, interjected. ‘That reminds me. Did we have a queer case today!’ He snatched the paper from Frieda and served the fish.
Without complaining or further comment for the moment, Frieda proceeded to serve the meal of fish and chips with salad. Wilhelm briskly and with finesse poured the white wine into crystal flutes. With Wilhelm’s pronouncement of “enjoy”, they silently dug into their late-evening meal.
Letitia savoured a mouthful of succulent salmon hoping in vain that her mysterious re-entry into this world at this particular time would slide into acceptance and then into obscurity. Unfortunately, that dream was not to be.
Wilhelm calmly and deliberately placed his fork and knife on his half-eaten plate of fish and continued sharing his day. ‘We had this illegal immigrant escape. Pity, the case sounded interesting. Apparently, they found her in Antarctica.’ He took a sip of chardonnay and chuckled to himself. ‘That matron, Sister Cross, you know, the one I’ve told you about, Frieda? Well, the immigrant apparently disappeared on her watch. Imagine that! Hawk-eye, herself! Tell you what, the boss wasn’t too pleased. If it wasn’t for the fact that the patient was meant to be in a coma, I guess Cross would have been suspended.’
Frieda sang some eerie “Doo-doo-do-do” tune and remarked, ‘Sounds like something from Deadly Earnest.’
Although vaguely unfamiliar with the supernatural implications, Letitia kept her head down and steadily shovelled in the salmon and salad and tried her best to remain inconspicuous. She was fortunate that her fingers were not frost-bitten and that apart from the initial lime green cleaner’s uniform, she had appeared sane and incontrovertibly Australian to Frieda.
‘Say, how has your day been, Letitia? What brings you to the clement climes of Tasmania?’ Wilhelm piped up attempting to make pleasant conversation.
As Letitia’s mind had become more unfrozen and nimbler, she knew that she had to factor in an aborted journey to Antarctica, as well as head off their suspicions as to her presence in this Apple Isle. She took a deep breath and made the tale fly by the seat of its breeches. ‘Well may you ask.’ She took a sip of Barossa wine and savoured its dry wooded vintage. ‘I had travelled to Tasmania to visit my relatives…’ She paused knowing that she had fudged the finer details of flight or sea, but sure that Jemima might be somewhere on the Island, ‘and – and was planning to fly over Antarctica – lifelong dream, and all of that.’
‘I didn’t know you had relatives here,’ Frieda interjected. ‘Last time I checked, your dad and mum were in Adelaide. The rest of them, cousins, I mean, are in Germany, aren’t they?’
Almost immediately Wilhelm flicked a hand in front of her wine glass, ‘Well what am I, dear?’ He royally waved a hand and with a knowing smirk, bid, ‘Continue.’
Letitia looked up and at Frieda’s husband. Him? Related? How? But said, ‘I meant, I mean, my mother’s family were Australian. Been in Australia for a hundred years.’ Then softly, ‘Don’t you remember how my father met my mother, Gertrude?’
‘Gertrude?’ Wilhelm laughed. ‘How many times have we heard that story?’
Letitia recalled the recent conversation with Jemima on the fated plane and decided to incorporate that piece of information. ‘Um, well, actually, yes, of course. But you see I was meeting my mum here in Tassie to go on the flight to Antarctica. It was her life-long ambition too.’ She paused, remembering that both Frieda and Wilhelm had expressed surprise at her reappearance after several years of being MiA (missing in action). She dismissed the calm demeanour they displayed when finding her as one of shock or not wanting to seem foolish for not keeping up with IGSF news. So, she added, ‘And a celebration, of course, for escaping Boris’ clutches on Mirror World and returning to Earth.’
The couple glanced at each other and then Letitia.
‘Fair enough,’ Wilhelm said. ‘But I don’t understand. There’s no tourist flights to Antarctica.’
Letitia lowered her voice. ‘Well, not officially, Mr. Thumm.’ She locked eyes with Frieda. ‘No parties at the LaGrange Point, either. Officially.’
Wilhelm crossed his legs. Frieda looked away.
‘You know nothing will stop my mother from doing what she wants to do, don’t we?’
‘No, I mean yes,’ Wilhelm muttered. ‘Strong-willed that woman.’
Frieda pursed her trembling lips. ‘So, typical! Treks all the way down to Tasmania. Hobart to boot. And doesn’t even give us the time of day.’
Letitia smiled. ‘That’s my mum.’
Wilhelm tapped pouting Frieda on her arm. ‘Say, I heard there was a plane crash in Antarctica. Unofficially.’
Frieda pounced on the newspaper and after a brief tug of war with Wilhelm, scrutinized it. Letitia braced herself. Frieda’s index finger paused, and her eyes raised up to her full of pity. ‘Oh, my God, I am so sorry!’
For a few furtive moments Wilhelm’s brow remained furrowed as he searched the paper. ‘Where is it? Where is it? I don’t see it. You’re joking.’ As he did this, Letitia steeled her muscles for the next instalment for her survival. She sensed an oddness about Wilhelm Thumm that made her uncomfortable and yet curious about him.
Once the mission to find this fake news had been accomplished, and not found, Wilhelm sternly and accusingly pointed a finger at her. ‘Well, Letitia, what are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be dead? From the plane crash?’
‘You see, that’s the interesting thing.’ She nodded. ‘I was in Coles Bay.’ She didn’t know why she chose Coles Bay. She recalled that there was a beach there. ‘I was in Coles Bay, on the beach having a swim.’ She checked Frieda’s and Wilhelm’s responses, so far so good, so continued her “slight” diversion from the truth. They didn’t look like the sort of people that could handle time travel or parallel universes at this stage. After all, she figured that Frieda may have imagined Mirror World to be a planet, like the Pilgrim Planet. Will perhaps, he had hinted at it. But not Frieda. Definitely, not Frieda. Then again, with her limited knowledge about physics, Letitia didn’t know if she understood inexplicable intricacies of time-travel. ‘Anyway, I had a nice cool, actually, the water was freezing cold, swim, and I came out of the surf to find everything – my bag, my towel, my clothes, money, tickets, everything gone.’
[The final episode in an extract from another of my little projects in the War Against Boris the Bytrode Series…]
She pulled the old jacket around her arms and grimaced as she drew in the damp mouldy aroma that accompanied it. At least it was warmer. A large lopsided figure lumbered through, parting the sea of the dozen or so bowling competitors. Black balls skittered in all directions onto the concrete floor and the white ball snuck irretrievable under the bar fridge. Imagine, a fridge in the coldest continent on Earth! In chorus the crowd cried in protest, ‘Oh, Fritz!’
‘Oh, sorry, sorry!’ the hairy awkward form mumbled as he thrashed his way through the maddening mob. As some of the group sank to their hands and knees in search of kitty and bowling balls, the klutz continued to apologise oblivious to the search.
Maybe I can pretend to be part of the crew, Letitia thought as she slithered to a table in the corner. She perched on the edge of the seat and observed this peculiar group of people undetected.
‘I’ll sus them out, and when I have worked out what’s going on, I’ll make the right impression before hitting them with the fusion bomb of bad news,’ she whispered.
The clumsy man had his back to her and was standing on the green carpet. The group of bowlers were furious, ‘Get off, Fritz! We are playing, Fritz! Get off, will ya? You’re in the way!’
As if only half aware of his surroundings, the man of all feet and no grace, turned and stumbled towards the table. Behind his crooked glasses, his eyes grew wide.
Letitia gasped. I know him. He’s the Chief Physicist from the IGSF (intergalactic Space Fleet).
Fritz his face pale as if he’d seen a ghost, pointed at her.
‘Fritz!’ she stammered. ‘I mean, Professor Grossman.’
‘Letitia? W-what are you d-doing here?’ Fritz collided into a nearby metal chair causing it to clatter onto the floor.
She shrugged. ‘Er—I don’t know—just sorta thought I’d drop in.’
‘After all these years…’
‘Yes, um, Boris ya know.’
Fritz adjusted his spectacles and then rubbed his eye. ‘We never gave up. Nathan never gave up. He’s been looking for you. He sent me here, to look. He kept me working—worm holes, parallel universes, you name it, he kept on searching for you. Everyone thought he was crazy.’
‘Nathan?’ she asked, the words choking in her throat. The 1960’s—he’d been so right for her—they’d been so right for each other—except at that time, the world-view their relationship as so wrong. The 1960’s, on Earth, in Australia, when tall, dark Nathan had been classed as “fauna”. No rights to vote. No rights to own a house. Yet, in the ISGF, Nathan and Letitia as an item, had been accepted.
Letitia wiped a tear from her eye. ‘After Boris attacked our ship, I thought I’d lost him forever.’
‘He never gave up,’ Fritz said.
‘How did he know? I was involved in a plane crash—Boris—he said he was sending me to another world. I think I’ve just arrived.’
‘Oh, there was a plane crash about a week ago—somewhere—over there.’ He waved his hands about. ‘Some other station…far away from here…’ His voice trailed off into uncertainty.
‘When did you arrive, Professor?’
‘About a week ago.’
‘He never gave up, Nathan…’ Letitia frowned. ‘But, why would Boris do that? Why would he be so kind?’
She bit her lip and avoided the obvious conclusion that someday, some time, Boris would demand her to return the favour.
The calendar of 1967 with the not-so faded photo of the Central Australian rock troubled her too. ‘What’s with the calendar? Has no one pride in the place to change it? Update it in—I know it’s Uluru—memories of a warmer clime.’
Fritz glanced at the glossy time device. ‘Oh, that. Tacky, yeah, I know.’ He saluted the calendar half-heartedly. ‘At least they have the year right. Pff!’ He looked again. ‘Oh, yeah, and the month’s right too. It’s January, isn’t it? We’ve just had New Year’s a couple of days ago. Some of the crew are still recovering if you know what I mean.’
Letitia shook her head. ‘Hmm, Boris, he did send me to another world.’
‘Yeah, well, it’ll be alright,’ Fritz said.
He stood and offered his hand.
‘Will I see Nathan?’ she asked taking his hand.
‘Hopefully—soon. Listen, you need rest. I’ll organise the transport.’
Fritz pulled Letitia to standing and then guided her out the common room and to the dormitory.
As she snuggled into a thermo-sleeping bag, she drew the hood over her head and asked, ‘Do you think you can keep the others from noticing I’m here?’
‘What do you mean? I thought that’s what you were doing—I mean using your invisibility skills.’
‘As I said, Nathan detected your presence.’ Fritz fiddled with his spectacles. ‘These glasses use sonar to detect things that are cloaked. Like you. It may just be this world.’
Fritz patted the hood of her sleeping bag. ‘Get some sleep. We transport back to Earth in the morning. Nathan is looking forward to seeing you.
‘Fritz? One more thing.’
‘I have a daughter—Jemima. She’s Nathan’s…’
‘Huh? Jemima? You have a…?’
‘Oh, Her! Yes, she’s been helping us.’
Letitia nodded and closed her eyes. Her head spun. Nathan…Jemima helping…And the thought that crept up behind her and caught her off-guard. What arrangement had Jemima made with Boris?
Fritz returned with chicken noodle soup in a flask. He set it on the small tin cupboard beside her bunk.
Letitia sat up and sipped the soup. She tried not to think about the deal Jemima made to save her mother from certain death on Mirror World. And maybe, the driving force behind the gesture—the need for a daughter to find her father.
Snug in her cocoon, stomach filled with soup, her heart content with anticipation to see her first love again, Letitia thanked God, and then drifted off to sleep.
King of the Springs
In an exclusive club on the edge of this desert town, Tails positioned himself on the stool at the bar and prepared to down an ice-cold beer. Nothing like a chilled beer in the middle of a hot summer in the Centre of Australia. He raised the schooner of amber liquid and savoured the moment…
A commanding figure strode into the bar. Walking in his direction…
Tails’ eyes narrowed. He spat out an expletive. Then muttered, ‘They’re after me!’
Appetite for his beer lost, he abandoned the full and frothing glass. Alighted from his barstool. Scuttled from the bar, through the Pokies Parlour. Into the melting heat of midday.
Packing up the boys and escaping south, to Adelaide foremost on his mind.
The seven sat around the dining table in silence. The roast steamed in the centre. Candles either side guarded the meal. Thunder rumbled over the hills and mountains. Lightning flashed.
Boris nursed his ray-gun hand and then he placed it beside his knife; a reminder in case any member of the group chose not to cooperate, Joseph assumed.
‘Oh, I’m going to enjoy this,’ Boris purred. ‘Thank you, Herr and Frau Biar, for inviting me. I do apologise for not being at the service this morning. I had a little business to take care of.’ With an evil twinkle in his eye, he glanced at Amie. ‘How was the service?’
‘Boring,’ Friedrich said in a sing-song voice.
Frau and Herr Biar tightened their mouths. They frowned at Friedrich and shook their heads.
Wilma piped up. ‘Joseph and Amie are in love.’
‘I know,’ Boris looked at Herr Biar. ‘Well, aren’t you going to do the honours? Cut up the chicken. I’m sure you’re all dying for the roast.’
A black bug crawled out of the chook’s orifice. Everyone watched as it meandered across the tablecloth.
Boris drummed the table. ‘Come on! I’m hungry!’
Herr Biar sighed. He sharpened his knife and sliced off some chicken breast.
‘No! No! A proper cut! Cut the chicken open!’ Boris rose and stood over Herr Biar.
Herr Biar jabbed the knife in the centre and flayed the roast.
Cockroaches teamed from the cavity and over the plates, cutlery and vegetables.
Joseph flicked them as they sauntered over his plate. Amie shook them off her dress.
‘Come on! Cut the meat up Biar!’ Boris raised his voice. ‘We want to eat.’
Herr Biar served portions onto the plates. Boris helped. He scooped up the black stuffing and slopped a spoonful on every plate. The stuffing reeked of a rancid stench that filled the room.
‘Now, the vegetables,’ Boris said. ‘Frau serve the vegetables. We must have our vegetables.’
Frau Biar lifted with fork and knife, the roast potatoes garnished with cockroach entrails and plopped them on the plates. Then she added the steamed peas and carrots mixed with bugs.
Six stunned people studied their portions of festering food, not daring to touch it. Boris presided over the group. He grinned from ear to ear, imitating the Cheshire cat from “Alice in Wonderland”, as he poured lumpy gravy over the chicken on each plate.
‘Go on, eat up,’ he urged. ‘Oh, and by the way, Amie and Joseph, I have your families—just where I want them.’
Joseph tracked a couple of roaches tumbling in the gravy.
By the light of the “hand of God” cloud, that hadn’t moved, Amie galloped to the chook yard.
Herr Biar and his son Friedrich paced the pen. Herr Biar carried an axe.
‘It’s over there,’ Friedrich said. With hands outstretched, he ran to the corner of the hen house.
The chooks whooped and bocked in protest. Something feathery skittered out into the yard with Friedrich in hot pursuit. Herr Biar joined the chase. Round and round the pen they ran. Tracking their frantic laps made Amie dizzy.
Amie mused. What were they doing chasing some small feathery animal, probably the rooster? Did his crowing tick them off that much, they get up in the middle of the night to kill the poor bird?
Rays of a torch lit up the scene. ‘Wicked! A headless chook!’ a voice said behind her.
Amie glanced over her shoulder. Joseph stood there grinning like the Cheshire cat. ‘What do you mean, headless?’ she asked.
Leading the father and son on a merry chase, a rooster’s body. Blood spurted out of the open neck. Hens pecked at the detached head. They looked like they were enjoying a feast.
Meanwhile, Biar and his son cornered the headless creature. Father made a grab for it, but it ducked out of his reach. Friedrich hurled himself on the rooster’s body, but with a life of its own, it slipped from his tackle.
Friedrich rose to standing and dusted poultry poop off his shirt and trousers. ‘That beast is not normal. It has eyes on its body, I swear.’
‘Why do you think we kill it?’ his Papa said.
Biar darted left, his son right, again trying to trap the unruly body. But the ball of feathers and muscle darted in between them.
‘It’s got a life of its own,’ Joseph said.
‘It’s one very angry body,’ Amie said. ‘It didn’t like them chopping its head off. Why did they do it?’
Joseph leaned close to Amie and whispered, ‘I heard Herr Biar talking to his Frau last night at dinner. Apparently, the cock has been fathering defective stock.’
‘Stock? What do you mean? Mutant chickens?’
‘Yes, not surprisingly, knowing this place. Look around. Look up at the sky. How could the chickens come out normal?’