Alien Virus #scifi #flashfiction

Alien Virus by Golubaja

     Leche stretched his legs and climbed out of the reclining wagon. He adjusted his black kerchief and pulled a lump of white fur from under his black leather collar. Damn shedding fur. He scratched the lump from his paw, stomped it into the sandy ground and tethered his horse Cocoa to the wooden post. Cocoa stomped her black hoof in the sand and tossed her black mane. Leche nodded to the young, grey greeter-bitch wearing a blue smock by the entrance way. He stood upright on his hind legs and entangled a caged cart from the unkempt pile. The rusted wheels stuttered and squealed as he pulled it behind him.

     “Why do I always get the bum carts?” he growled.

     He pushed the wooden doors open. Sunlight streamed through the store from the open-roof construction. Row after row of shelves filled with squawking birds, grunting piglets and sacks of dried meats teeming with chirping insects almost drowned the din of the other wolves out shopping on a Saturday morning. He walked towards the pen dragging the protesting cart. 

     He dropped back onto all-fours and motioned to the golden-brown blue-smocked attendant to get him a puller out of the pen. “I need some hands today, darling,” he said.

     The golden-brown attendant bitch barked two gruff orders at a young male huddled with two females at the side of the pen. She swiped at him with one strong paw and the young male stood, cowered out of the pen, pulled the harness from Leche’s cart and strapped it onto his bare, brown-smeared back. 

     “He’s not very strong, Mr. Leche,” she barked. “He’s even stupider than the others. You should see the scars on his backside. After all these generations, the virus still comes through. In my opinion, we should get rid of these inferior ones.”

     “If any of the files we read today are correct, then what these creatures were capable of was nothing short of barbarian. Better that they stay this way.”

     “You want a whip, Mr. Leche?” She smiled at him the way most bitches did. Until he lost his winter fur. Then he had to go into hiding for a few weeks until it grew back out.

     “No need, Amber,” he growled. “I only need a few things for the weekend. I’m having company tonight and I’ll need some hands to make a feast. Why don’t you come by later and bring these pullers?”

     She winked in affirmation.

     Leche smoothed his kerchief and snapped the harness. The puller yanked the cart forward. 

     “I need a few piglets, man,” he thought, barking twice aloud. 

     The puller hung his head and directed the caged cart towards the livestock. His toenails dragged along the sawdust-strewn floor. They were so long he almost tripped over them. His hair was thin, grey, and the virus had scarred his bald scalp with stripes like a shiny layer of melted wax. 

     In pack-school, the young wolf pups learned about the last Great War and what those humans had done. Having no cares or needs unmet, they turned to carelessly exterminating each other over doctrines, beliefs and mystical bla-blas. For thousands of years, they had played out this behavior. But it got out of control. That last blast brought a wind from the heavens. Even the men-in-charge got a surprise at that. They unleashed something they couldn’t understand. 

     The rains had come and saturated the earth, bringing a visible, electrically-charged molecule. Some called it the virus. The humans had tried to isolate it, but any exposure to the molecule softened their human minds, dissolved their intelligence, hardened their hearts. They suffered and became vulnerable. Many died. 

     Wolves, then, could feast. Undisturbed. The virus had no effect on their organism. On the contrary, it opened their minds. They multiplied. The eco-system slowly pulled itself together in just one generation. And those human minds that had survived were reduced to pitiful puddles of plasma.

     Leche pointed to the shelf of dried meat. The puller maneuvered the cart underneath the shelf, pulled a sack down and dumped it with a thud down into the caged cart. Leche barked and the puller moved towards the piglets. Leche barked three times and the puller retrieved three piglets, dropped them into the cart and closed the top of the cage. Leche snapped the harness and the puller slumped forward, jerking the overloaded cart forward to the check-out.

     A silky-black, blue-smocked beauty tallied up his goods and a caged human chalked up his purchase on a grey slate board hanging by the exit stall.

     “When should I come by, Mr. Leche?” she purred.

     “As soon as you’ve finished for the day,” he barked back.

     The puller maneuvered Leche’s cart back towards a very impatient Cocoa, who pawed the sand with one very bored hoof. Another set of hands came and helped the puller load Leche’s reclining cart.

     “You’d really let those hands prepare your meat?” the grey greeter-bitch said.

     “They don’t eat meat. Look at how their eyes have wandered to the sides of their faces. They have no teeth to rip flesh. I’d read that it started generations ago. Humans felt they didn’t need to eat meat anymore. They degenerated.”

     The grey greeter-bitch adjusted her blue smock and panted a broad smile.

     The puller stroked Cocoa’s nostrils and smoothed his hand over her mane. The horse nudged him quietly and they seemed to exchange a few niceties. Leche watched them and shook his head in disapproval. 

     “The horse has more brains than you do, man,” he thought and barked an insulting laugh. He stuck a carrot in the horse’s mouth. The puller sat back on his behind and whimpered.

     “One for you, too, man,” Leche thought, stuffed a carrot in his mouth and climbed back into the reclining wagon.

     Cocoa looked back to the man as Leche leaned back and snapped her reigns. She needed no meat. The man either. She needed no wolves. The man either. Together they shared a brief moment of understanding.  

 

April Gray-A Short Story #mondayblogs

 

April Gray
     “Please take your children and go to that room over there,” the passport controller said. “Officer!” he shouted to a uniformed guard standing by a sign reading “Immigrations Detention Office.” The guard waved me towards the door as he opened it.
     “This must be some mistake; I’m an American!” I said. “My father’s waiting out there for me.” I tried to swing the overstuffed diaper bag over my shoulder. It slid down my arm, almost hitting my boy. I grabbed both children by the hand and dragged them and the diaper bag behind me.
     The guard stood aside and allowed us to enter. Low slung fluorescent lights and stifling warmth made me grit my teeth and exhale. Not a single window, no means of escape, not a chair or a table; only a judge’s bench atop a platform rose to an authoritative height at the front of the hall. Four judges hovered on the domineering panel. Hundreds of foreign-speaking families stood in four lines in front of the bench and awaited their verdicts. Mounds more huddled about the outer walls on blue airport carpet embedded with dirt from all over the world. 
     The droning ventilation made it hard to hear. My ears were still plugged from the descent.  In spite of the fans, the air stood still. The flight had been eight hours long, and now the six hour time difference. My legs were wobbly. I knew I had to act now, lest I be kept here indefinitely. 
     “Please, Officer, can’t you help me? This is a mistake,” I said to the guard, trying to gain an ally. 
I had a passport. What annoyed the passport controller was the children’s ID. Not only did the children have a different last name, they also had foreign passports and weren’t registered as aliens travelling to America. They would not be allowed to enter the country with me. I could not prove that I was the legal guardian. The children were to be detained and I was told I could choose to stay with them, or leave, however I wished.   
     Such formalities had never crossed my mind when I impulsively booked the flight last week to visit my father. I had been so homesick and desperate to hear my own language.
     “Just get in line and wait your turn, Ma’am,” the guard said. He turned and left the detention office.
I needed to get to the front of the line, needed to talk to one of the judges. The glaring lights made me giddy and I saw stars. My mouth was dry. I was extremely thirsty. I sank involuntarily onto the carpet like a sack of flour and the moldy smell made me nauseous. My boy started to cry and I saw his pants were wet.
     “Oh no, why didn’t you tell me you had to go?” I said.
     He cried louder.
     “Baby, I’m sorry. Look, I have dry pants in my bag for you,” I said and tried to smile. I rummaged through the diaper bag for a clean pair of pants. I found my boy’s teddy and he grabbed it out of my hand. I untangled the pants from a sweater and then stood abruptly, looking around the hall for a bathroom.
     I rubbed my eyes, trying to focus. I was going to be sick. I knelt back down and pulled diapers and kids’ clothes out of the bag, throwing them on the floor, looking for my medicine. Oh, please don’t let it happen here, I thought. There’s our favorite book, “There’s a Cow in the Road.” I threw that on the floor, too. Where were those damn pills? My boy held tightly to my arm, whining through the pacifier in his sucking lips and I reprimanded him, immediately regretting my impatience. In the bag, I found two new pacifiers, in case one gets lost, but no sign of my pills. I sat back, put my head in my hands and willed myself to stay calm. Breathe. My girl sat down next to me, twisted her blonde braid, hummed to herself and rocked her doll.
     The need to vomit heaved me forward onto all fours. I spewed and it hurt. Then the frame froze. It was like someone had pushed the pause button on a video. The world had stopped. I heard shouts around me, but saw no motion. Then time sped up and the last five years of my life passed at a dizzying speed; yes, before my eyes. I thought this time I really was going to die. Then darkness.  
     I opened my eyes and winced at the brutal lights. Were these the lights at the end of the tunnel? The faces of the paramedics came into view. They were bringing me away on a stretcher. An official-looking woman held my two screaming children back. I tried to get off the stretcher, but was tightly belted in.
     “You’re no good to them like this,” the paramedic said. “You had a seizure.”
     “I know,” I said and all went dark.
***
     It was nighttime when I opened my eyes again. I had a view of the parking lot and the cars coming and going under the cold, orange glow of the street lamps. My face was swollen, my mouth parched and I tasted blood. I must have bitten my lip. A woman snored in the bed next to me and a machine peeped to the beat of my heart.
     The door opened and I wanted to scream to the nurse but I couldn’t raise my head. I tried to whisper to her. The door closed but I could still make out her face, lit by the street lights, as she bent over me.
     “Oh, you’re awake. I need to ask you a few questions,” the nurse said.
      “Where are my children?” I managed to say.
     “Children? I don’t know anything about any children. Maybe you could tell me your name. We need to find out who you are.”
     I tried to sit up. The machine peeped in protest.
     “Or you could get some rest, Jane. You had a rough day. I’ll be right back. I’ll get you something to help you sleep.” the nurse said.
     Sleep? I had to get out of here. I pulled the patches off my chest and the machine gave off one continuous drone that reminded me of the dreaded flat line. I looked up at the IV dripping from the bottle to my arm. I remembered doing this as a kid when I was in the hospital: I undid the tape and pulled the needle out of my arm, balled a tissue and secured it in the crook of my arm. I stood up, got dizzy and forced myself forward to the two locker-like closets to look for my clothes. Both were unlocked. I opened the first, but inside hung what must be my roommate’s clothes. In the other closet, my tee-shirt and sweater were crumpled in a ball and my pants were wet and soiled from being sick. I tore off the hospital gown and dressed in my roommate’s clothes. These clothes would have to do.
     The nurse opened the door. Light from the hall streamed into the room and I stood and stared like a deer caught in headlights.
     “What are you doing? You need to get back in bed. You’re not going anywhere,” she said. She walked towards me and the door slowly swung shut.
     “I’m not sick. Where are my children? Where am I?”
     “This is the University Hospital. The EMTs didn’t say anything about children. They couldn’t even find your ID. What’s your name?”
     “My name is April Gray and I have to find my kids, damn it!”
     “You have to calm down. Your EEG is a mess and we need to get you under control.”
     A man in the hallway called to the nurse, she turned and reached the door in two steps. She stuck her head out of the door and I could hear them talking. “The female epileptic. The EMTs brought her from the airport. She’s hysterical. Something about kids. They said she was alone when they brought her.”
     I had no purse, no money, no ID. I didn’t even know where the hospital was situated. I moved towards the nurse and seemed to have startled her. I pulled open the door and saw the two doctors she was talking to.
     “Call the Immigrations Center at the airport.” I said. “They have my kids. They have my things, my passport.” 
     “Please get back in bed and I’ll make some calls,” the one doctor said. “Please take your medication and stay calm. This isn’t your fault. We’ll straighten this out.”
     The nurse brought me a clean gown, gathered up my soiled clothes and took my shoes out of the closet. She watched me undress and took my roommate’s clothes as well. I felt I was making a tremendous mistake, surrendering my only disguise. I got back in bed, took the pills she handed me and swallowed, relieved to be off my feet. My head pounded. How could I just sit here? I had to act. Guilt kept me awake. How could I have left them there at the airport?  
     I’d thrown our favorite book on the floor. What if nobody thought to pick it up? What if his pacifier got lost? My girl couldn’t brush her hair by herself. At night I always made one braid down her back and in the morning I braided two. Would anyone make them their tea tonight? They loved fennel tea with honey. Where were they sleeping?
     I so wanted to give into sleep’s seduction. I wanted to believe the doctors. I wanted to trust the authorities. I wanted to lay my head on the pillow and that was the last thing I remembered.
***
     I woke and the sun shined in my room bright and crisp. In the night, they must have hung an IV on me again and I was wired to the heart monitor through those damned patches. My heart peeped. Doors slammed in the hallway. Nurses paraded in and out of my room. Another of the staff brought in two breakfast trays, clanked dishes and exchanged niceties with someone cleaning the bathroom. The decorating disguised the fact that this was a hospital at all. No white, sterile furniture. Oak imitation, I guessed. Only that biting smell gave it away. The walls were painted in a pale apricot and the floor-length window was trimmed in a darker, antique orange. Even the cleaning woman, now emerging from the bathroom, was dressed in a peachy uniform. I asked her for the nurse from last night, whose name I, of course, didn’t know.
     “Shift changed at six a.m.”
     “Did she say anything about me?”
     “Only that nobody knows who you are.”
     “My name is April Gray. She wanted to call the airport about my kids. They’re missing.”
     “Your chart says ‘Jane Doe.’ Sorry, I don’t know nothing ‘bout no kids,” she said. She turned and steered her wheeled bucket with the mop out the door.
     I hated hospitals. I spent enough time in them as a kid. Time ticked an artificial tempo, an unreal slow-motion. I had to fight the helplessness that swallowed me into this disinfected cage. Was anyone looking for me? Would someone get me out of here? Another nurse came back in the room with some more pills. She watched me put them in my mouth and when she turned to leave, I spat them back out. I was good at pulling the drip’s needle out of my arm. I tore the patches off my chest, too, and looked at the sleeping woman in bed next to me. I had an idea.
     Her closet was unlocked and I looked inside and, yes, there her clothes hung, light blue polyester pants, a floral polyester blouse and a light blue sweater. She was a good 20 years older than me, but we were, stretching the imagination, somewhat the same size. I was not going to be choosy. This was my only way out. Her shoes would have to do, too.
     I could hear so much bustling in the hallway; I could duck out if I didn’t run. They weren’t interested in me. I dressed and opened the door, looking for the universal sign for the stairway. What day was it? The time? I was completely disoriented.
     My head was still pounding as I ran down the steps. I felt the few dollar bills in my pocket and guilt burned through me. Yes, her purse was in the closet and I nicked some money. I wanted to get back to the airport. Maybe get a bus or a cab. I desperately needed some bread or something dry to eat. I should have taken some from my breakfast tray.
     Out on the street, I felt like an escaped convict, like everyone was looking at me. I should have brushed my teeth, I thought, making for the bus stop on Orange Street, right outside the hospital’s main entrance. I would get on the first bus I saw.
     “Are you going to the airport?” I said.
     The driver nodded and I paid, took a seat and pressed my forehead on the cool glass. The slant of the sun showed it was still early in the morning but the day seemed to be warming. I was grateful for the woman’s sweater. Another twinge of guilt made me consider mailing the clothes back to the hospital when this was all over.
     Then I sat bolt upright as a nagging thought burst into realization. My father! I would jump off the bus and look for a pay phone. Was there still such a thing as a pay phone? Why didn’t I think of calling him from the hospital? Would he be at home? I had his cell number in my purse, not in my head. I looked more distinctly out the window of the bus and thought better of getting off. The neighborhood was neither residential nor inviting, rather industrial and cold.
     As we approached Terminal A, I rehearsed umpteen conversations, arguments and scenarios. My face was burning, a manic out-of-control signal that I should slow down. I had spat those pills out this morning; I didn’t have my medicine. I needed a drink. First thing in the morning?  With the time difference, I figured it was really like three in the afternoon for me, wasn’t it?
     I got off the bus and ran into the terminal. Tears formed in my eyes, but I couldn’t cry. I tried to compose myself, think logically and find the best solution. Who could help me here? I wouldn’t get far in the airport without ID.
     I saw a lounge on the other side of the terminal, looked closer at the bills in my pocket and found a twenty. I meandered through the early-morning travelers, around a group of students staring at the departures board, into the lounge and sat at the bar. The bartender, a dark man about my age, smelling of Egyptian Musk, asked me what I’d like and I dissolved into tears and gave him the run-down of the last twenty-four hours.
     “I think I heard about this. What’s your name?”
     “April Gray.”
     “Here, drink this. Let me call someone, OK?” he said.
     I sipped whatever it was–I think cherry brandy. Sweet and thick. He reappeared behind the bar.
“Someone’s coming for you. Look, there she is. Seems they’ve been looking for you all morning.” he said.
     “So here you are, Ms. Gray,” the security woman said. “Sitting in the bar. We’ve been looking for you.”
     I put my glass down and stood to leave. I reached in my pocket for some money but the bartender held his hand up and smiled–the universal sign for “on the house.”
     My thoughts lightened and I smiled. Thank you so much, I continued saying to the woman. I wanted to shake her hand, hug her. Her expression gave me the impression that she didn’t want to be touched or otherwise sentimentally molested.
     She drove the airport buggy to “Immigrations,” as she referred to it. I could finally relax, I thought. I’d call my dad. Maybe he was already here. Maybe he straightened out this whole mess. I couldn’t wait to get to our house, have a nice meal with Mom, a bath and then a nap with the kids in our room that Mom had definitely made all warm and cozy for us. Maybe she’d baked.
     The security woman led me through a side entrance to the arrivals hall, slowly filling with the colorful contents of the last flight. Weary-looking tourists, a few hectic business-types, and families with kids lined up at the passport control booths. This is where this whole predicament started. We entered a small office next to the Immigrations Detention Office, a miniature room with an overhead fluorescent light, no windows, a large mirror on the left wall, a table and three chairs. A man stood tapping a pencil on the tabletop. The security woman took her leave and a policewoman closed the door, sealing us off from the sounds of the arrivals hall.
     “Ms. Gray, is this your passport and your bag?” The man said and pointed to my things on the table. He wore jeans and a light-blue button-down shirt. A badge hung from his belt. Maybe he was some sort of detective.
     “Where are my children?” I looked around the room–a rather silly move. The room was so small there was nowhere they could hide. The policewoman stood at ease by the door.
      “Would you like to tell us what is going on?” he said.
      “I’m visiting my family,” I said.
     “Are you being honest with us?”
     “Where’s my father? Isn’t he here? He’ll tell you.”
     “Ms. Gray, they’re not your children, are they?” he said.
     “Where are my children?” I could feel a cold sweat building on my forehead.
      “Ma’am, we received a complaint from the German authorities,” the policewoman said.
     “No, stop, this is a mistake! Call my father, please.”
     “Don’t worry, ma’am, we checked all our sources and your father told us you worked as an au pair in Germany,” the detective said. His voice was gentle, almost pitying. “These children belong to a family called Ritscher from Munich. What can you tell us about them?”  
     “No! These are my children! Call my husband and ask him!” I was going to be sick.
     The detective moved closer to me and said, “That isn’t your husband. He was your employer. Both he and his wife are very worried.”
      “But he loves me, not her!” I said.
      “Ma’am, you are under arrest for the kidnapping of the two Ritscher children, reported missing on the fifteenth of March,” the policewoman said and began to read me my rights.
     “I wanted to bring my kids for a visit. They wanted to come to America,” I said.
     “The Ritscher’s lawyers contacted US Immigrations to see if you were trying to enter the country with their children.” he said.
     “No! They’re mine! I’m the only one who cares for them.”
     “…can and will be used against you…” the policewoman continued.
     “How did you manage to get them out of Europe?” he said.
     “You don’t understand! I’m the only one who loves those kids! She’s not their mother. That so-called mother is never home, and when she is…” I said.
     “…If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed to you…”
     “The kids have to stay in their rooms. Can’t make a sound when Frau Ritscher’s there. She keeps them like caged animals! I had to get them out of there.”
     “Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?” the policewoman said.
     I dove on top of the diaper bag and tore it open. I pulled out my girl’s doll. “Where are they? She would never go anywhere without this doll.”
     “The children will board the next plane for Munich, leaving this afternoon. You will stay here in our custody,” the policewoman said.
     The detective opened the door and left the room, spitting into his radio.
     I pulled out a pacifier and my boy’s teddy. “He can’t sleep without this. I knew I couldn’t leave them for a night! He must have screamed all night long.”
     “Ma’am, you need to calm down.”
     “Calm down? I want to see them. Are they here? They must be if they’re flying out today. Ask them yourself. Ask them who their mother is!”
      The detective cracked the door open and through the narrow slit I could see my two kids sitting on the buggy driven by another guard. I wanted to yell out, but the detective came in and quickly closed the door.
     “Please remove any of your belongings from the bag, Ms. Gray. We’ll see to it that the children get their things.”
     “They’re out there. Ask them! Ask them who their mother is!”
      The policewoman silently consulted the detective.
     “At least let me give them each a hug,” I said.
     The policewoman nodded and the door seemed to burst open and both children came running in to the little office and hugged me around my legs. I squatted down and got both kids’ attention.
     “Listen you two. Tell the nice woman I’m your mother. She doesn’t believe me,” I said.
     My boy grabbed the teddy from the table and held my arm tight.
     My girl spoke: “April, I miss you.” Her English was spiked with a thick German accent. It sounded so cute. I taught her to speak English.
     “Go on. Tell her who your mother is,” I said.
     “April…” she said and started to laugh. She hugged me around my neck. “April, you’re not my mother. My mother is horrible old witch, you say. You’re not horrible old witch!”
     The door flew open and another detective rushed in. A very-official-looking woman click-clicking in high heels squeezed into the tiny room right behind him. I had watched enough TV in my life to realize they observed the whole scene from behind the mirror.
     “Ms. Gray, I think we’ve heard enough. Take her away.”

When Was Your Last #FirstAid Training?

Head Tilt-Chin Lift

 

First Aid ABC

A. Airway, Breathing, Circulation
B. Blood Pressure is too high when it hits 140 / 90
C. Chin Lift
D. Defibrillation
E. Elevate extremities with bleeding wounds, apply direct pressure and then a pressure bandage.
F. Fire can engulf a room in 45 seconds, so get out of a burning building!
G. Gloves may not be a bad idea.
H. Head Tilt
I. Intubation
J. Jaws of Life
K. Kids exhibiting symptoms of poisoning will probably not tell you what they ate or drank. Do not induce vomiting or give them milk to drink. Poison Control in Munich: Tel. 089-19240
L. Loss of limb
N. Nose bleeds are best treated by tilting the head forward and laying a cool, damp cloth on the back of the neck.
O. Opioids
P. Protruding objects are never to be removed from a wound. Stabilize the object and bring the patient to the hospital.
Q. Quiet children are a bad sign.
R. Remove the injured motorcyclist’s helmet if you live anywhere besides Pennsylvania.
S. Stop, Drop and Roll!
T. Telephone Numbers in Germany are 110 for Police and 112 for Fire and Ambulance.
U. Underwear should be changed every day in case you end up in the Emergency Room.
V. Varicose veins can rupture and are treated by applying direct pressure.
W. Why are the lights on German Emergency Vehicles blue? ‘Blaulicht,’ literally blue light, was introduced for emergency vehicles in 1933 because it was harder to see from the air, a plus during air raids.
X. Xyphoid process is the point on the sternum that you no longer have to look for before starting CPR. Just put your hands on the middle of the chest and keep a rhythm of 100 bpm. Start with 2 breaths and then 30 chest compressions.
Y. You, the first-aider, must always think of your own safety.
Z. Zero is the amount of times we hope you need this sort of training.
So, when was your last First-Aid training?

The Medieval Dungeon

On July 7, 1584, Franz Schmidt, the official executioner in Nürnberg, beheaded Annela Moser. The married woman had been known to have realtions with 21 different men. Schmidt, known  as “Meister Franz”, wrote this and other executions in his journal.

A popular destination for a pleasant day trip is the medieval dungeon in Nürnberg. The cells, for housing those held during pre-trial custody, and the torture chamber stand practically unchanged over the years.

The conditions in the dungeon, called Das Lochgefängnis in German, were less than comfortable. The completely dark cells were two meters by two meters and the walls were covered in wooden planks. A wooden bed and a bench stood in the cell, along with a bucket, for necessary business, covered with a wooden board that doubled as a table. Those being held had to pay for their accommodations. The well-to-do could afford more than bread and water and the destitute were at the mercy of charity or the city itself.

The dungeon dates back to 1322 with a well-documented history. The crimes, those that warranted such interrogations, were recorded in the city’s archives and ranged from slander and fornication to theft and murder. Once in custody, the accused would be encouraged to speak. The executioner showed the accused the torture instruments and perhaps demonstrated them. If the accused still refused, he or she would be further coaxed to talk by the executioner, who used the instruments to inflict pain: thumb screws, reverse hanging, fire (burning candles held under the armpits), or a combination of the above.

Once the accused confessed, many crimes carried a death sentence. Beheading was quick and dirty (if the executioner struck true between the cervical vertebrae—if not, well, it was messy and painful.) Other methods included the breaking wheel (the body being bound to a wagon wheel and then beaten), hanging, burning at the stake and drowning. Some were buried alive.

 

For more information, see Das Lochgefängnis—Tortur und Richtung in Alt-Nürnberg, a reprint of the original book by Hermann Knapp from 1907, kindly released from the Geschichte Für Alle e.V., the historical society in Nürnberg.

The Master and the Maid by @LauraLibricz #FridayReads #BookReview #ASMSG

POTL: All Things Books, Reading and Publishing

the-master-and-the-maid

Title: The Master and the Maid

Author: Laura Libricz

Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance

Book Blurb:

She’s lost her work, her home and her freedom. Now, harboring a mysterious newborn, she could lose her life.

In 17th Century Germany on the brink of the Thirty Years War, 24-year-old Katarina is traded to the patrician Sebald Tucher by her fiancé Willi Prutt in order to pay his debts. En route to her forced relocation to the Tucher country estate, Katarina is met by a crazed archer, Hans-Wolfgang, carrying a baby under his cloak. He tells her an incredible story of how his beloved was executed by a Jesuit priest for witchcraft right after the birth and makes Katarina—at sword point—swear on her life to protect the child. But protecting the child puts Katarina at risk. She could fall in disfavor with her master. She could be hunted by the zealots who…

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Human #FlashFiction -2 minute read

“We’re all human, even when we’re not.”
Humans are the second most dangerous beings on the planet surpassed only by mosquitos, which now spurs me on to renounce my life as it is amongst the fiends and settle in a world inhabited only by less-menacing denizens.
     Professor Ott paid the cab driver, turned towards the red-brick entrance to the train station and snorted at the mongrels filing in and out like the brainless livestock they claimed to be superior to. He had lived in the city all his life but would never synchronize with the existence of these people. Their petty lives and mundane concerns left him empty and unfulfilled.
     “Excuse me,” a young woman said and smiled as she disengaged the hem of her jacket caught on his rucksack.
     He snorted and looked at the woman through his rimless bifocals like she was an insect under a microscope. “Satisfied with the dullest of nonimaginitive spittle, these creatures will never truly understand.”
     He found his platform and a seat on the express train to the airport. The train pulled away and the dingy brick houses sped past; housing resembling rat cages that held anonymous, unsuspecting, dull-witted troops of overpopulation.
     The train screeched to a stop and the herd disembarked, moving as one numb mass towards the departures court and into one holding pen, then another. He trudged through yet another holding pen and boarded his airplane. He settled in his seat and looked out the window. The only accomplishment this modern society made that somewhat excited him was flying. Speedy travel. No inch of the earth left undiscovered. The thought thrilled him and saddened him simultaneously.
     He woke from an uneasy doze as the landing gear dropped onto the tarmac. The foreign characters on the signs atop the cargo hangars reassured him; he smiled as he surveyed his surroundings. He pulled the small rucksack from the overhead compartment, snorted at the frail humans sagging under the weight of their belongings, ignored the niceties from the crew and left the plane. He wove his way through the hurrying travelers towards the exit of the building.
     Humidity and heat hit him and he breathed the sweet, wet, lush air. A bus waited at the designated spot. A classical piano piece played from what sounded like a cheap plastic transistor radio. He snorted and shook his head. One modern invention he insisted upon: superior sound equipment. Rather no sound than bad sound. But that had long ceased to fulfill him as well.
     Now all he wanted from these people and their electrified, motorized world was the means to reach his final destination and end his journey. Then he would renounce their bustling, unimportant lives and their world forever. He needed no one. His ultimate goal? To reach a plateau of unadulterated knowledge, a pure and simple clichéd nirvana.  
     The bus ride was jerky, quirky, hot and muddy. The driver cursed evey time mud flew onto the windshield. A child pouted and a woman sneezed. He tried to ignore them and stared out the bus window. Green, lush vegetation darkened the road and he felt enveloped in his new world. A few rays of sunshine penetrated the forest and created impressive images. He smiled wider. The world as he knew it and its cares and fears faded away.
     “Dear God!” someone in front cried.
     A wrenching jerk was followed by a slamming impact. A woman screamed. Silence.
     Professor Ott opened his eyes. His glasses were askew on his face.The bus was on its side. He smelled smoke and diesel fuel. He adjusted his glasses and saw bodies strewn throughout the bus. A young man kicked out a window that looked upward and climbed out. Professor Ott secured his rucksack on his back and followed him out, appreciating what years of diligent physical fitness enabled him to do.
     He turned and glanced at the bus. Tiny, white, floating parachutes surrounded the bus and sailed on the breeze towards the sun. It looked like the breeze had blown through a field of overripe dandelions setting the seeds alight.
     He walked away. As he walked, he unpacked a pouch filled with hydration gel of his own creation which would bridge him at least a few days before he needed to find water. The glen he had spent the summer before would be a four-hour trek from here, he reckoned. No matter, he had endured worse and this last stage could be mastered. He tried to clear his mind of thought and concentrate on his march.
     Tiny, white parachutes crossed his path and floated up towards the sun. There must be a plant going to seed to create such a thing. He thought about his mother. She’d been dead for twenty years. He could smell her lilac perfume and a tinge of vanilla, butter and melting chocolate. He could see her face. Suddenly he missed her terribly. The more he tried to banish the thoughts and her memory, the more insistent the sensations became.
     A path opened onto the road on his right. He peered through a gateway in the trees and climbed a small incline towards what seemed to be a sunny patch amidst the forest. The same seed play filled this path. Memories of a girl he had once loved, years ago, flooded his mind. He was never able to express just how deeply he loved her. He felt at the time that such love was indulgent and weak; an uneducated lack of discipline. He struggled for breath.
     A bird of prey squawked behind his shoulder and he fell to his knees. A festival of songbirds answered and reminded him of sitting on his grandmother’s balcony, back in Germany. The blackbirds would congregate on the rooftops in the evening. A consuming lonliness like he’d never felt threatened to crush him. He bowed his head and allowed it to come.
     Professor Ott got to his feet and started walking back to the bus to see if he could be of any service.

The Chaos Kitchen #ambaking

The Most Awesome Raisin Bread

     Bread baking is easy. All you need is flour, yeast, salt and water. And a baking apparatus. Bread dough can be wound around a stick and held over a fire. Bread dough can be placed in a clay form with a lid and buried in a fire pit. Or bread dough can be laid out nicely on a parchment-covered  baking tray and placed in a preheated electric oven for an hour.
     Compared to other periods in history, the flour we buy today is of a high quality. For that matter, the bread we buy today is cheap and also of a very good quality. (Both points can be disputed and I invite you to dispute here in the comments.)
     So why bother baking your own?
     I like to bake bread because I can control the amount of salt going into it. I can decide what type of grain I want to use. The sweetish, yeasty, not-too-fermented smell of rising bread dough fills the room with a nostalgic, warm nuance.  The smell of baking bread is the heart-racing epitome of all baking experiences put together.
     Have we forgotten chocolate chip cookies so quickly?
     For the moment, yes. Another reason I bake: because in Germany I can’t buy some of the products I would like to have, like decent cookies. So I make them myself. Now in Germany, the bread is excellent. No doubt about that. But I can’t get a decent raisin bread.
     And as easy as writing down the four ingredients for baking bread, I slammed together a raisin bread last night that knocked my socks off. And I actually wrote down the ingredients and their approximate measurements because I would like to do this again.

          Raisin Bread

Soak in just enough hot water to cover and set aside:
1 c Raisins (more or less to taste)
2 T Crushed Linseed (optional–Omega-3 oils)
Mix together in a bowl:
4 c Flour of choice (Keep another cup or two in reserve)
Yeast (one packet dry yeast, ½ cake fresh yeast–mine are 42 g)
4 T Olive Oil
250 ml Buttermilk
½ c Dark Brown Sugar
2 T Cinnamon (more or less to taste–add nutmeg, allspice, ginger, anything you’d like)
     Mix with a fork or get in there with your hands. Now, if you’re using fresh yeast, you might want to activate it. I mixed it with warmish water and a bit of sugar, put the flour on the top, then the oil and the buttermilk.
     Add the raisins.
     Now you have to get in there with your hands. Knead for about 10minutes. The structure of the dough changes. If it’s too wet, add more flour. If it’s too dry, add warm water, oil or buttermilk, depending on how many calories you want to add to the bread.
     Where’s the fun in this, you say?
     Bread dough takes on the feel of flesh. The manner in which one kneads is entirely up to the kneader. Punching is a great way to release tension. Think of it as a physical workout! Takes some of the guilt away when we add more butter. And I quit smoking last year, so it gives my hands something to do.
     Knead, knead knead, punch, Punch, PUNCH!  When the dough has that silky, smooth feel, place in a bowl, cover with a dish towel and put in a warm dry place to rise, about an hour. (I’ve read that the dough can turn too ‘beery’ and smell too fermented when left too long. Check this out: The Fresh Loaf)
     Speaking of more butter: I melted one good tablespoon of butter and added some brown sugar and cinnamon. After the dough had risen, I wanted to roll it out, dribble the butter and sugar over it, then roll it up like a sort of swirl. Ha. That didn’t work. I ended up kneading the butter and the sugar into the dough. Which seemed to be ok. So I divided the dough into 3 loaves, put them on a parchment-lined baking tray and allowed them to rise again, like 20 minutes. Which didn’t happen in a cool room, so I put them in the oven at 150° C–no fan.  300° F, that is.
      I have an electric oven with a fan. I have arrived.
     After maybe 20 minutes or so, I turned the fan on. I may even have turned the temperature up to 350°. After only having a wood-powered oven for so long, I am so used to keeping my eye the goods, that I don’t pay a lot of attention to the temperature or the time. At some point I took the loaves out when the tops were lightly browned.
     I allowed them to cool as long as I could contain myself. The loaves felt soft and I was worried I hadn’t left them in long enough. But after they had cooled, the knife slid through the cakey texture and the aroma of cinnamon and brown sugar almost moved me to tears.