New Book Release. Short Stories! Your chance to grab some fun literature.

With great pleasure I announce the release of my new book: “Short Stories”.  I have bundled all the stories that I have written over the past years in a single volume. Rock-bottom pricing for fun reading.

Get your eBook copy today at Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1014440

Within days, this book will also be available directly in iTunes or in any smartphone bookstore (I will keep you posted here in this blogpost).

Read about the young man who finds a mysterious tunnel beneath his garden; strange goings-on in a French forest; a robot reporting home about its visit to Earth, or the tale of the watermonster of Hockenheim, which kidnaps numerous children: these stories will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Clemens P. Suter, established author of visionary SciFi predicting (in2010) the corona pandemic, lets his imagination run wild with stories full of suspense, humor and… action!

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“Obesia opened her eyes. She looked straight ahead towards the water. Nothing could be heard, yet something had called her out of her sleep. She didn’t move, for ten, twenty, thirty seconds. Then a shape became visibly, on the bank of the river. A large dark hand clawed in the grass. Obesia froze with fear. The hand didn’t move for a long time, but then, slowly, it dug deeper in the ground, and the arm attached to it drew a large body from the water beneath. Finally, a fat, dripping figure climbed on the bank. It was at most twenty steps away, and directly between her and her pram. The figure, naked and black-green, had a tremendous chest carried by long thin legs. Its arms were long too, and muscular. The creature stared at Obesia with large pale eyes, blinking regularly.”

Top Tip. iPhone as an eReader. Read Great Pandemic Adventure eBooks.

All over the globe – get my books on your iPhone or iPad ! Here’s the direct link to my pandemic adventure novels on iTunes.

I have an iPhone myself, and it is a great machine, isn’t it? I like iTunes mostly as a music player. I like its ability to view my music as albums, artists and songs, the searching capabilities are great stuff. The way albums open into color-matched track listings is attractive. And I use the playlist extensively, e.g. I have playlists like “play all music that I love and didn’t skip in the last three years”. These are Smart Playlists, with a breathtaking number of options available for user-created Playlists: it is incredibly powerful – and with thousands of songs, it is a fantastic way to listen to music  that you haven’t listened to for a long time. Things like that make the iPhone a great smartphone. I also like the UI of Now Playing. It is easy to add entire albums or individual tracks, and reorder them. iTunes by itself doesn’t offer the greatest user experience, but well – Ok.

iTunes is undervalued as an eBook store.

I do notice that more & more of my fans are reading my eBooks on their iPhone, and the sales of my books on iTunes are booming, but the functionality of iTunes as a bookstore is meager – when compared to the functionality as a music store. Still the biggest advantage is that if you read eBooks on your iPhone, you need just a single device to enjoy both music and reading – at the same time. I read all my newspapers and books on my iPhone, to tell the truth.

Here’s a great review of TWO JOURNEYS in iTunes.

My books on iTunes.

iTunes Review on Apple Books

Reader comment on iTunes concerning Clemens P. Suter’s TWO JOURNEYS

As eBook or Paperback

Whether you have an iPhone or an iPad; you can get a copy of my books with a few mouse clicks.

Acclaim for TWO JOURNEYS

 “Move over, Cormac McCarthy, another survivor is traveling the Armageddon road. Clemens P. Suter’s apocalyptic thriller grabs you in the first couple of pages and never lets go. The reader feels real empathy for the main character’s plight as he begins a seemingly impossible 9,000-mile trip to learn his family’s fate. The cause of the calamity is mysterious but clues are uncovered along the way causing tension to build until we reach the shattering climax. Two Journeys is not to be missed.” – G. Dedrick Robinson, author of Blood Scourge

More about my books here: www.clemenssuter.com/books

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Clemens P. Suter books on iTunes, iPhone

A snapshot of Fields of Fire can be found here.

Watermonster. A short story set in Hockenheim.

Watermonster

2020

Copyright – Clemens P. Suter

“Grandfather, grandfather!” The two boys burst into the kitchen, throwing their schoolbags into the corner. Old Hans woke up with a start, his smoking pipe in his mouth and all. Guiltily, he glanced in the direction of the woodstove, where his daughter Annie, the mother of Hans Junior and little Fritz, was preparing the afternoon meal. But, as she was stirring the cabbage soup, her back was turned towards him, and she hadn’t noticed that he had been dozing off.

“Yes, my children, welcome home. How was school?”

Fritz was the first to have pulled off his jacket and shoes, and to put his slippers on his feet. “Grandfather tell us the story! The story of the monster, as you promised this morning!”

Hans smiled into his beard. For certain the two boys hadn’t picked up much in school today, too nervous to hear his tale. Now Hans Junior also snuggled up to him. “Please grandfather!”

“Well…,” said the senior, “it is still some time until lunch, so I could start at least. But first, throw some more wood on the flames, the room is getting a bit chilly! And Fritzi could bring me some of the cold coffee, the pot is right next to the stove. And then come over here and sit next to me, each on one side.”

Annie turned her head towards the three: “Are you forgetting about me!” she smiled. The boys got of their seats and ran to their mother and kissed her cheek. Soon the fire in the oven was roaring again, and grandpa also had his cup of coffee in front of him. He puffed on his pipe. “Now let me see, where do I start…”

The boys looked up at him eagerly, their cheeks red from the winter cold and anticipation. The candle on the table flickered. “Ah yes,” started the old man, “It must have been, well, at least 30, 40 years ago…” His face became pensive and a bit sad, as the memories slowly came back to him.

It had been a December, a few weeks before Christmas. The town of Hockenheim rested peacefully on the plain of the Rhine valley. People were going about their business; children were born and went to school, young adults fell in love, couples founded families, and old people died. The virus that had caused so much havoc all over the world was long past, the economy had somewhat recovered, and the extremist government that had followed the pandemic had been overthrown and replaced by some law and order.

Yes, all was well in Hockenheim. Up until one night: a Tuesday, old Hans could remember it well, as Tuesdays he went to play chess in the old church building. He had returned late and his wife had gone to bed. Annie, their little girl, slept peacefully in her cot. In the small hallway of the house, Hans pulled of his wet coat. November and December had been very rainy, and the Kraichbach was almost overflowing with water; almost, since many decennia before, a city council had decided on a water management project, which now proved to be quite beneficial. In reality, the Kraichbach was a small, meandering brook, which carried water from the hills in the east, passed through Hockenheim and poured into the Rhine a few miles to the northwest.

Hans decided to have a small sip of red wine before turning in and had just lighted a candle and filled his glass, when a terrible banging on the house door sounded. “Das der mi veräbble will!” cursed Hans, as he hurried to the door and pulled it open. Outside stood his neighbor Roland and a policeman. Hans looked at the two in astonishment. “What’s up?” he said.

“Follow us. Quickly!” said the policeman. Hans looked at their faces, which were pale and serious; yes, filled with fear. He realized that something of great importance had happened. Hurriedly he grabbed for his coat, which was still dripping with water, and the cold of the garment on his shoulders made him shiver. Upstairs, Annie started crying, and his wife called.

“It’s OK, darling,” shouted Hans. “It is Roland… and a policeman. I will be back soon.” Without waiting for an answer, he stepped out of the house and pulled the door close behind him. The two men were already moving. They left the Schulstrasse, turned into the Hirschstrasse, over to the Ottostrasse and from there, past the city hall, into the Marcus-Zeitlerstrasse. Several men stood in front of house number 15, torches in their hands and grim looks on their faces. The policeman pushed them out of the way and the three men went to a room at the back of the house. A woman, unknown to Hans, sat in a chair, crying. A man, probably her husband, stood next to her, holding her hand. He too had tears in his eyes. The policeman pointed at a children’s bed. He looked at Hans and said only one word, as if it was enough to explain the entire situation.

“Empty!”

Hans felt a shudder running along his spine. He realized why these men had collected him. The mayor was out of town, and Hans was acting vice-mayor; a role that was honorary at best, without any pay, but, in emergencies such as this, with some limited responsibilities. He looked from one to the other and inspected the bed more closely. Obviously, a child had slept here, a girl by the look of it. Hans stepped to the terrace door that led to the garden, and touched the glass; to his surprise, the door was unlocked and swung open, so that he and the others in the room could look into the dark garden. Hans didn’t say anything or ask any questions, instead he stepped out into the rain, the policeman followed him and switched on his torch. They walked through the grass until they came to a wall at the end of the garden. Instinctively, Hans decided to follow it to the right. Soon they came to a door, which was also not locked, and from there into a small passage, which they followed. After just a few paces, the policeman pulled Hans’ sleeve. “Look,” hissed the man, pointing at the ground in front of them. There, on the red sandstone, was a footprint. They bent down to inspect. It was the size of a man’s foot, but broader, the impressions of individual toes clearly visible, but far apart, and seemingly connected by webs. Hans immediately concluded that this footprint wasn’t of human origin. It looked like the print left by a giant frog, an amphibian. A strange smell hung in this alley, a smell of fouling river water and blood. A sense of dread came over them and they checked their surroundings for any movement, but the owner of the footprint was not to be seen. Hastily the two men scanned the rest of the ground, but no more footprints could be found. The policeman ran back to the house and soon all available men spread out through the dark town.

This makeshift search party did not return before the light of morning started to appear in the east. The men had been unable to find the missing girl. But they had found one more wet footprint and a shred of the girl’s nightgown, close to the bridge where the Kraichbach crossed underneath Karlsruherstrasse.

Annie banged the heavy pot with cabbage soup on the table. “Lunch,” she said, wiping a lock of blonde hair from her eyes. “Get the bread, Fritzi.”

The four of them settled down and as always ate in silence. No story telling during meals! The two youngsters looked at each other and grandfather expectantly. The old man slurped his soup and pretended to ignore the boys. After the meal he brushed the breadcrumbs from his beard and stuffed his pipe. The boys put more wood onto the fire and Annie started to do the dishes and cleaning the cooking corner.

The next day, the town was in uproar. People met on street corners and at the many bakeries and hairdressers that enriched the village, and speculated about the occurrences of the night before. Soon, all agreed that some monster, a watermonster, had been responsible for the girl’s abduction. Nobody seemed to think that the girl was still alive; many Hockenheimers regarded optimism as a distraction. The wet footprints were a telltale sign that something had crawled out of the river, a river now overflowing with water. The city council, together with the mayor who had by now returned, tried to calm the populace, but to no avail. An edict was released with some simple directives, including the advice for people to stay indoors after sunset and to keep all ground floor windows and doors closed and locked. Some immediately started to follow these guidelines, but many decided that they were ineffective and even humbug, yet remained incapable of offering any coherent alternative measures.

And so, the town continued to live in fear for several days. Although the search continued, no trace of the girl was found. People started to become more skeptical about the theory that a watermonster, whose existence was hypothetical at best, had indeed been the culprit, and the anger at the city council grew. “Ha-noi,” they set to one another, “Well no, it is hard to believe that this was a monster. It probably was a man, a pervert, a drifter from out of town. A foreigner perhaps?”

But five days later, deep in the night, the inhabitants of the Goethestrasse were brutally pulled from their sleep as a horrible cry echoed through the streets. Next, pounding footsteps and excited shouting could be heard, as the night watch, which the mayor had stubbornly installed against the wishes of the city council, rushed to the scene. The men came upon traces of blood and wet footprints leading towards the east. The men followed these hurriedly, batons in their hands. They followed the Karlsruherstrasse, and as they came closer to the Kraichbach, they could see a huddled yet massive shape moving about in the distance. The shape climbed the landing of the old bridge, opposite of the age-old statue of Saint Nepomuk, the protector from floods and drowning, and stood straight on the parapet for a few seconds, then lifted its arms and threw what looked like a bundle of white clothes into the water. It jumped forward… and was gone.

The men of the night watch arrived at the scene.  They shone their lights into the muddy water. For a few seconds there appeared to be some movement of a body swimming downstream. Whatever it was, it stayed well underneath the surface and moved very rapidly. It obviously made no sense to follow its route in the dark of the night.
Back on the bridge, the men were met by a horrible sight. They found a bundle consisting of the shreds of a cotton nightgown, covered with blood. As they unpacked the bundle, the bloodied foot of a young child became visible. Some of the men turned away and threw up into the river. Apparently, the creature had decided on a late-night snack before returning home – wherever that may have been. In any case, the Watermonster of Hockenheim, as it was now officially called, had claimed its second victim.

After that, nothing was the same in the town of Hockenheim. Each day, as soon as the sun started to go down, even the most skeptical went into their homes and barred their doors. Many, especially the parents of young families, had boarded up their windows. The town started to look like a ghost town, and not only after hours. This was exacerbated by the many closed-down stores in the Karlsruherstrasse.

But the watermonster did return and managed to claim a third and a fourth victim from houses that had not been protected well enough. The town was under siege from an invisible, formidable enemy. Needless to say, Christmas and the Silversternacht – new year’s eve – passed by almost unnoticeable, and in many homes without the traditional Christmas Weihnachsgans and without Kartoffelsalad und Bockwurst.

Grandfather sucked his pipe. The boys looked at him eagerly. “What happened next?” whispered Fritzi.

“Well,” said Hans senior, “Here is where Frederick Quicksilber enters the story. Frederick lived with his mother on the east side of the town, close to the cemetery. An unlucky fellow, as Frederick was just a small guy, a dwarf.”

“Father!” called Annie from the sink, “You shouldn’t use that word anymore.”

“Yes, right,” said grandfather. “Uhum. Let me put it this way: Frederick was a person of alternative bodily dimensions… in a minimalist sort of way. Smart and humble, he was, dear Frederick. But his efforts to rescue the town from the monster, which indeed he did, wouldn’t have been possible without help from that tremendously fat woman over from…”

“Father!” shouted Annie again.

Grandfather’s face got quite red. “Arschkrott,” he said under his breath, and puffed smoke from his pipe agitatedly. “Hum. Hum. How do I put this… this woman was also of alternative bodily dimensions… but optimized towards… hum… but towards a maximized body mass index.”

“Why do you want to mention all of this, father? Can’t you just skip describing the way they looked?” asked Annie.

Herrgottnochmal! It just happens to be relevant to the story,” grunted grandfather, struggling to quiet down. “Well, anyway, this woman with, ah, a maximized body mass index, of extraordinary proportions, went by the name of Obesia Guirlande. Obesia lived alone and was perhaps a bit older than Frederick. Up to that moment, they had known each other only in passing.”

One day, Frederick had a coffee in an old café at the end of the Karlsruherstrasse, which went under the name Etcetera – a name that meant “and other similar things.” What these items were, or to what they were similar, no Hockenheimer knew. Obesia entered the café and selected the empty table next to Frederick. Soon they entered in a conversation. Obesia was impressed by Frederick’s wit and intelligence. Naturally, their tête-à-tête also turned to the watermonster. Like all Hockenheimers, they also discussed the official measures that had been taken and, typically, didn’t agree with most of them.

Frederick and Obesia met again the next day and the day after, and by that time a seed of a plan had started to develop in their minds, a plan so daring that they could only talk about it in hushed voices. The other patrons in the café nudged each other, winked and said something to the effect of: “Just look at those two. Two people of alternative bodily proportions, falling in love. Aren’t they cute?” But love wasn’t on the mind of the two conspirators. By now, they were convinced that their plan would put a stop to the terrible chain of events.

A few days later, on a Wednesday in the middle of January, close to nightfall, a strange scene would have met any passerby brave enough to stroll out of the town in the direction of the river Rhine.

Here, the flat lands, created by the river in times when it still meandered majestically between the Odenwald and the Pfalz, stretched far and uninterrupted. Today, the Rhine follows a bed created by the engineer Tulla, who, in order to improve navigation and reduce flooding, had straightened the river. The Kraichbach splits into two rivulets at this location: the Alter Kraichbach and the Kraichbach itself, and both make their way towards the Rhine, close by, yet hidden in the plain. The bridge over the Rhine and the cathedral of Speyer, dating back a thousand years, were only visible to those that stood on the tips of their toes.

Late birds crossed the sky, hurriedly, to reach their sleeping spots in time for night. Bats were still absent; they would only reappear in spring, to fill their eager bellies on the abundance of river mosquitoes. As in all seasons in the Rhine valley, there was very little wind.

A woman of considerable stature, dressed in a white dress, which was in turn covered by a black cape, on sturdy shoes, strolled next to the water. She was pushing an old-fashioned pram with high wheels. The cover of the pram was up, so any passerby would have been unable to look at the child inside.

Yet, nobody was about. The people of Hockenheim had already closed and bolted their doors, windows and shutters, and were now in their Stube, their low-ceilinged living rooms; sparsely lit by a few candles. It had been four nights since the last abduction, and at regular intervals the muted conversations turned to the watermonster; mostly followed by forceful attempts to change the topic.

The woman was not heading in any particular direction. Instead, she followed the river in the direction of the Rhine for a few minutes, and then would turn around and follow the Kraichbach all the way to the Altwingertweg, and back again. The pram was obviously heavy, as her cheeks had turned rosy and she was puffing as she walked along.

This went on for considerable time. A faraway church bell sounded nine in the evening.

“How long do we have to keep this up?” whispered the woman. Surprisingly, a voice answered from the pram, the voice of a man.

“The monster always attacked in the hours around midnight.”

“Aren’t we too early then?” whispered the woman, slowing down.

“No! Remember our theory. If we are correct, the watermonster swims upstream from the Rhine, its home. It will then need some time to swim to Hockenheim. And then it would still need to find a house that it can enter, a house where either windows or doors are unlocked. No, my calculations tell me that it should pass through the river soon… if it intends to strike tonight.”

Ha-joh, Frederick, you are so smart.”

“Thank you, Obesia. But without you I could never carry this out! Perhaps it is better if we now go to phase two, what do you think?”

Obesia looked around and moved the pram as close to the brook as possible. She put the brakes on the large wheels, and after some fumbling managed to put the cover down. There was Frederick, a children’s gown of the brightest white cotton over his normal clothing. Frederick winked at Obesia and put his finger to his lips: “ssssh!”

Obesia winked back at him and arranged his gown so that it hung over the sides of the pram. Obesia stood back and looked approvingly at both the brook and pram. She made some adjustments, and then, after a soft “good luck,” she walked to a park bench about forty paces away.

She sat down and waited.

After the rain of the past weeks, the sky was now exceptionally clear. The cold crept in from the fields, and the humidity of the air condensed on her clothing. The moon had risen, it appeared more gigantic and stolid than she could remember. It looked down at the scene with cold white light. The only sound was the water in the brook, as it passed slowly beneath them.

After a while, Obesia noticed that her eyes started to fall shut. She was an early riser, and consequently this was far beyond her usual bedtime. In all fairness, she also did not expect the monster to appear tonight, on the first night that they tried Frederick’s scheme. It would have been too much of a coincidence. As they had discussed, they would probably have to repeat this exercise several times; and at different locations too. Still, the location was well chosen, if the monster came from the Rhine, and used the water as its route, it would have to pass this exact point. Further out in the plain, the Kraichbach split into many subsidiaries, that either re-united, or ran independently into the Rhine.

Obesia fingered under her cape. Two hammers were stuck in the wide pockets, one for each hand. Would Frederick have his knife at hand? Stupid question! Frederick had shown her the large blade, and how swift he was in handling it. No, even though he was in a most dangerous position, she did not fear for the little man.

A lone heron passed by overhead; its head fixed straight towards its unknown destination. Something must have disturbed the bird, as normally they do not travel after nightfall. Had it been a fox or some other creature? Slowly, Obesia nodded off and slumped sideways on the park bench. Time passed.

Suddenly Obesia opened her eyes. She looked straight ahead towards the water. Nothing could be heard, yet something had called her out of her sleep. She closed her eyes to small slits and stayed as still as possible for ten, twenty, thirty seconds. Then a shape became visibly, on the bank of the river. A large dark hand clawed in the grass. Obesia froze with fear. The hand didn’t move for a long time, but then, slowly, it dug deeper in the ground, and the arm attached to it drew a large body from the water beneath. Finally, a strong, dripping figure climbed on the bank. It was at most twenty steps away, and directly between her and her pram. The figure, naked and black-green, had a tremendous chest carried by long thin legs. Its arms were long too, and muscular. The creature stared at Obesia with large pale eyes, which blinked irregularly. Large gill-like structures flapped softly on either side of its face.

The monster stood very still, slightly hunched over, and observed her in silence, only the dripping of the water from its skin could be heard. Obesia’s heart started beating even faster. What if the monster would come pounding at her? She would never have sufficient time to pull the two hammers from her gown. Thoughts raced through her mind.

Just then, a baby cried out. The child’s voice, very nearby, surprised Obesia, until she realized that it came from the pram. Frederick! He had imitated a small child’s voice to lure the monster away. Brave man! Immediately, Obesia strengthened the impression that she was asleep by smacking her lips and imitating a big snore, which made her breast visibly rise.

Slowly, the monster turned its head towards the origin of the cry, then back at Obesia… it seemed to be considering its options. Then it began to walk towards the pram, but backwards, its eyes and attention still focused on Obesia.

The trick had worked, the watermonster had decided that the child would be an easier prey than this gigantic woman.

“Father!” said Annie, who was still diligently at work in the kitchen. “That is not PC!” She had taken some beans from the cupboard and poured them into a big iron pot with water, so that they could soak overnight. Tomorrow she would cook a bean soup for lunch, with a large piece of lard, and extra onion, leek and spices. Grandfather, immersed in his narrative, a heated glance in his eyes as he tried to recollect the dramatic happenings, ignored her remark. The boys, with two pairs of red ears, had moved closer to him, and little Fritzi had his hand on grandfather’s bicep as if to seek protection.

Yes, the water creature was now certain about its tactic. It would grab the child from the pram, jump back into the Kraichbach, and make its way to its lair, which was located on the Rhine island near Ketsch, the neighboring town. Here it planned to lay one of its eggs over the next few weeks. “Nothing good ever came from Ketch,” many Hockenheimers were fond of saying, and in this case, they were certainly right. Although, come to think of it, Hockenheimers liked to make that statement about practically all towns in the vicinity. They were that kind of people.

“But aren’t you from Hockenheim yourself, grandfather?” asked Fritzi innocently. Hans Junior turned his eyes upwards, afraid that this question would create a lengthy interruption.

“From Hockenne, me?” choked grandfather, his face getting red. “No, I happen to be from Altlussheim. Hockenheim – for god’s sake, just the thought!”

“Well, dad, it is just a few miles between the two towns…” interjected Annie. Quickly Hans Junior intervened: “So, the creature was planning to lay an egg in Ketsch, but what happened before that, Grandfather?” His strategy worked, as after some hesitation, grandfather continued his account.

The monster, still dripping water, its hot and eager breath visible in the cold air, had reached the pram, and turned its attention to the child within. This was the moment Obesia had been waiting for. She opened her eyes fully, and in one smooth movement pulled the two hammers from her cape and dashed forward, as fast and silently as she could. Frederick too decided to act. The monster towered above him, slowly bending forward and blocking out the moonlight. Frederick could smell its evil pong, a mixture of fouling river water, rotting human flesh and whatnot; enough to make any grown man throw up. The monster turned its head towards the little man and Frederick could look straight into its pale-yellow eyes, filled with hate and bloodlust.

Frederick pushed the button on his flip knife, and the powerful spring pushed the long thin blade outward, accelerated by the powerful movement of Frederick’s arm. He had bought the knife many years ago on a country fair in Heidelberg, and had practiced with it almost daily since, eager to use it one day in a real-life threatening situation. Needless to say, that moment had now arrived.

Just at that moment, the monster turned its head in the direction of Obesia’s approaching footsteps. Frederick’s blade went straight into the side of its neck. “Urghughr!” the monster cried out. Green blood squirted from its body. Fast as lightening, Frederick pulled back the knife and struck out again, and again, raising himself in the pram. Obesia was upon the monster too and had extended her long arms to the left and right. She now brought them together in a smooth swing, and the hammers met with a terrible crash in front of her – alas, for the monster, its head happened to be precisely between them. The beast staggered and swayed, giving Frederick the opportunity to sting it again and again, now in its breast and belly. The monster toppled over, Frederick jumped out of the pram on top of it, and Obesia gave the creature a good hiding with the hammers. Several of her blows were deadly enough, but in truth the creature succumbed by a stroke of the knife in one of its bigger arteries.

Quiet returned over the scene. Frederick and Obesia stood painting over the lifeless carcass. Obesia gave it one final kick. “You look awful, Frederick,” she said, “You’ve got green slime all over you.”

Frederick laughed, “You aren’t a picture yourself. Let’s go back to town and tell everybody.” Frederick tried to pull his knife from the carcass, but it was stuck so deeply in the bones that he couldn’t withdraw it. “Whatever,” he said, out of breath and overcome by tiredness, “I can retrieve it tomorrow.”

They arrived in town deep in the night. Nobody was about, so they decided to go to Obesia’s place to get clean. Obesia lighted a few candles in the kitchen and opened a bottle of red wine. They toasted and Frederick washed the slime off his body. Obesia also cleaned herself. Then they sat at the kitchen table. Finally, the exhaustion departed, and a great feeling of victory came over them. Much later, after recapturing their victory multiple times, they extended the celebration by opening a second bottle of wine.

At some point, Obesia excused herself and went to the bathroom. “Ooooh, I am not feeling too well,” she moaned. “All this wine on my empty stomach. I have cramps. I am dizzy. Ooooh.” She had to hold her belly.

In her absence, Frederick stumbled into the dark living room, climbed on the couch and found a position amongst the many pillows. “I am so drunk, I can’t sshee sshtraight anymore,” he said to himself, “Perhaps I better go home and s-sshleep it off in my own bed.”

Much later, Obesia entered the kitchen and noticed Frederick’s absence. She went into the living room, but he wasn’t there either. She dropped onto the sofa. “Oh, my lord, my belly is playing up again,” she moaned. She closed her eyes and slowly caught her breath. Her belly quieted down and she fell asleep.

The next morning, Obesia was awakened by loud voices. She listened to them for a while, still half asleep. Finally, she extended her arms and legs, managed to get off the sofa and to the nearest window. She opened the panes and shutters and stood blinking into the bright sunlight, terribly hungover. A crowd stood in front of her little house, talking excitedly. A man dislodged himself from the group, it was her neighbor Mr. Gelb, who approached her with a large glass of Weissweinschorle in his hand; white wine mixed with mineral water, the traditional drink of the area. He obviously had enjoyed a few glasses already.

“The watermonster is dead, Obesia, have you heard?”

“Yes.”

“Yes, it was killed last night! They are just bringing in the body! Can you imagine that?”

“Yes.” Due to a splitting headache, Obesia couldn’t utter anything else than single words.

“And you know what? The mayor thinks it was Frederick Quicksilber who killed the monster. It still had his knife in its chest!”

“Oh.”

“Say… aren’t you and Frederick an item? Do you know where he is?”

“I have no idea,” said Obesia, as she pulled the window close and terminated the conversation.

But that last statement wasn’t true, as she discovered as she turned around. There on the sofa was Frederick Quicksilber, hero and monsterslayer. His eyes were open and stared at her blankly. He was dead, having died from asphyxiation a few hours before.


 

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Can’t decide? Here is another free story for you to enjoy: FOREST.

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Goldfish (30x40cm) An original painting by Clemens P. Suter. Oil, Acryl, Sand and Gold on Canvas. 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Naked Truth and the Lie Dressed up as the Truth – a Parable

Here’s a story that I picked up a while ago. It fits well to some of the world news that we are continuously confronted with.

Many, many years ago, the Truth and the Lie went for a walk in the forest. The Truth was slightly nervous, after all, could the Lie be trusted? But the Lie seemed quite happy and exchanged pleasantries as they strolled along. Presently the two came upon a beautiful, silent pond, surrounded by wild trees, and they decided to go for a swim. The Truth undressed and dived into the silent lake, and swam away from the shore. But soon, the Truth noticed that the Lie hadn’t followed; instead, the Lie made off with the Truth’s clothing.

The Truth climbed out of the water and chased the Lie, shouting “Help! Help, hold the thief!” But as always, the Lie was faster, and the Truth couldn’t catch up. The Truth came upon a human and asked: “Have you seen the Lie, that stole my clothing?” The human turned away in disgust and said: “Bah! You are completely naked! Disgusting! Go away, go back to the pond and hide in the water! I don’t want to have anything to do with the Naked Truth.”

And so the Naked Truth had to withdraw into the forest and spent its time submersed in the pond. The Lie on the other hand, roamed the world dressed up as the Truth, receiving considerable respect and love from the human.

Learn about my (philosophical) adventure books here: www.clemenssuter.com/books. Or why not get a copy on iTunes right now, right HERE?

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You may also like the painting “The Truth coming out of the well” by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1896) LINK.

The Corona Pandemic and How it Affects All of Us.

Back in 2011, I published my pandemic adventure novel TWO JOURNEYS (soon followed by its sequel FIELDS OF FIRE). Both books deal with the dramatic effects of a Corona virus pandemic. The inspiration for these books came from the SARS epidemic that occurred a few years earlier, in 2003.

Both novels continue to gain a lot of attention. This pleases me; first of all as an author and artist, but also as a scientist that has been active in biomedical research and healthcare for many years, also in virology. My books are pure fantasy and adventure, yet they have a scientific basis and contain a few warnings that are worth highlighting in this post.

Without doubt, the 2020 Corona pandemic has a big impact on society. I blogged some words of advice already. Part of that impact we cannot even start to fathom today. The great Flu epidemic of 1918-1920 provides some insights, although corona now, and h1n1 then, as well as the healthcare, economic and social situation, are not completely comparable. This pandemic will cost all of us a lot of money, that’s for certain. It may lead to political instability and a shift in the global powerplay; early examples include the apparent Russian disinformation campaign or Chinese attempts to lay the blame elsewhere. However, most of all, the Corona virus has the potential to create a lot of sorrow and pain.

Surprisingly, crises like these also highlight the strength and good in us humans (listen to these Italians singing; perhaps not completely on tune :-)).

Alan, the hero of TWO JOURNEYS, soon notices that in pandemic times, several forces start to kick in:

  • Facts and truth start to suffer. Today, it seems that a majority of people have difficulty to understand exponential growth-curves, or aren’t interested to build up that knowledge, or even to listen to experts that can interpret exponential growth. Yet, suddenly everybody is an amateur virologist, and every bit if information is (mis-)used for own purposes. This forces some of these individuals to make a 180 degree turn in opinion within mere days – damage done.
  • People start blaming experts, either for not warning early enough, or for being too pessimistic: “they were wrong about the SARS epidemic, weren’t they?” This reveals a deep misunderstanding of how science works; which is an education issue. If you have no clue how science works, get involved and read up on it… but NOT in the National Enquirer, the Sun or on Facebook or other social media. Don’t develop opinions about things that you do not understand; certainly don’t start spreading those opinions. Read this interview with the prominent virologist David Ho to understand the Corona pandemic mechanisms and the right measures. The pertinent information is out there: for instance at the CDC, at your local government website, but also from multiple doctors reporting directly from Italy‘s Bergamo.
  • Downplaying the crisis or (even worse) creating panic about it. Putting on your blinders for the issue as it develops never helps, especially since you as a layperson do not have all the relevant data at your disposal. Read my other post The Corona Pandemic. A View from the Edge. At the same time, IF all the advice from the authorities is followed by ALL of us, any emergency can ultimately be contained. And once that tipping point is achieved, not only will the exponential growth curve of a viral infection be broken, but also the growth-curve of all the associated concerns – health, financial, societal. Stay realistic, don’t panic, and always realize that a pandemic is a moving target, where even the best experts and politicians will need to constantly adjust their policies and advice (if you think you can do a better job, I urge you to apply for a job at your local health authority – don’t waste time writing about it on social media ;-).
  • People start to use the pandemic for their own populist agendas. In TWO JOURNEYS this is embodied in the character of the wannabee dictator Somerset, who believes that with a decimated population world-power is within his grasp. Populists play with their citizens’ lives, as they only have their own objectives in mind: to get re-elected, for financial gain, to strengthen their power, or whatever sick idea they follow. Populists, in contrast to sincere politicians, experts or the members of the healthcare staff in the ICU of your local hospital, do not regard helping you as primary objective. They simply can’t, it simply isn’t in their DNA. Populists have a goal, and will filter and (mis)use data that seems to substantiate that goal. Science and common sense do the opposite: collect data first, then define a theory and finally a goal. Needless to say, populists will impact their own citizens’ lives dramatically – and your life too. A pandemic (the word implies the ‘global’ impact of an epidemic) will not stop at a national border… or your doorstep for that matter.

These observations could be the ingredients of a highly depressive story line. But every cloud has its silver lining. TWO JOURNEYS is very much a story of hope. It highlights the goodness of people, and their ability to persevere in the hardest of times, together. We can see the same happening in today’s situation: our strength is our willingness to help one another; to be sensible, to focus on facts, (blogpost) in a disturbing, shifting situation. And not to panic. Forget about hoarding toilet paper.

Stay healthy and let’s come out of this stronger, together.

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Our dog Buddy enjoys the outdoors and spots a stork during our self-isolation.

Www.Clemenssuter.Com/books

Famous castaways, jettisoned and marooned – stories from people that were left alone

The adventure novel TWO JOURNEYS tells the story of a man who is the sole survivor of a post-apocalyptic event.

How is it possible to survive as the last man on earth? In adventure literature, Robinson Crusoe is probably the most famous imaginary character in such a situation. But real-life people have been separated from humanity for extended periods of time – if not the remainder of their life. These include the likes of Thorgisl, Grettir Ásmundarson, Fernão Lopez, Juan de Cartagena and Pedro Sánchez Reina, Gonzalo de Vigo, Marguerite de La Rocque, Jan Pelgrom and Wouter Loos (the first westerners to set foot in Australia), Miskito Will, Alexander Selkirk, Philip Ashton, Pedro Serrano, Ada Blackjack, Jesus Vidana, Salvador Ordoñez, Lucio Rendo, Leendert Hasenbosch, Chunosuke Matsuyama and Charles Barnard – and there are many more names of people that were forced to live in isolation over extended time periods. Some lived isolated for a few months, others for years… What unites these involuntarily castaways is their tremendous drive to return to humanity.

Some also select to be alone for extended periods of time, such as Gerald Kingsland and Lucy Irvine or Tom Neale (the latter spent 16 lonely years in solitude on the Cook Islands – by his own choice).

Survival is possible, and depending on the character of the castaway, might even be seen as enjoyable … one of the reasons why I selected this theme for my novel Two Journeys: how does an individual thrown from modern society, deal with the prospect of being alone…perhaps for the rest of his or her life?

In my novels Two Journeys and Fields of Fire, this shocking situation is caused by a global epidemic. Humanity has gone a long time without a major pandemic. But recent outbreaks of viruses such as SARS, corona or influenza (e.g. H2N2 or the Asian Flu H3N2; or bird flu) have occurred again and again in the past years. Is humanity prepared? In my books, I show a different path than what some so-called “preppers” or the “prepper movement” appears to advocate. If catastrophe strikes, keeping to the higher ground morally shows that we are human.

Learn more about the adventure books by Clemens P. Suter here.

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FOREST – a Short Story for you to enjoy.

Forest

Copyright 2020, Clemens P. Suter

„Bonjour Max,“ said the man behind the bar. “Salut Pierre,” he answered. It had been raining since daybreak, and Max was happy to be inside and to enjoy a small, hot café. On his way in, he had picked up a newspaper from one of the tables. Pierre brought him his coffee and a croissant. Pierre’s wasn’t very busy this morning, only a few workmen and pensioners at the tables. The high school teacher was correcting exams at her usual place; although Max didn’t know her name, he knew that her husband would join her for lunch, he always did when she was here. He started reading a more detailed political analysis on page three.

“Been out for a walk?” asked Pierre, wiping the top of the bar with a dirty cloth. Max looked up from his newspaper. Time had progressed and the place was almost empty now.

“Yes, the usual. I walked over through the forêt. It was rainy and quite slippery.”

“Better be careful, some of those paths are steep, and the rain erodes them away. Seen any deer?” Max knew that Pierre was a keen hunter. “No, none. I hardly ever see any deer in the forest, or foxes or boars. Only birds. A lot of birds. I hardly ever meet people.”

“Not many hikers or people visit the forest. An additional reason to be prudent, especially if you are on your own. You never know what may happen; in that forest.” Pierre’s face had darkened, and he looked Max deep in the eyes.

Max hesitated. Ever since he had moved into the area and started his walks in the forest, something had been puzzling him. “Perhaps you can help me, as you are a hunter and probably know the forest better than most…”

Pierre looked at him quizzically. The last patron exited the bar, leaving it empty until lunchtime.

“I have noticed that someone is digging in the woods. I’ve come across dozens of pits, some deep, others only superficial. Then, a few weeks back, I came across this woman, skinny, long hair. She came towards me with a shovel over her shoulder, a shovel with a broad blade and a long handle, almost like a coal shovel. I greeted her in passing, but she didn’t greet back. I stared after her until she disappeared in a turn of the track.”

Pierre’s cloth went over the top of bar in slow circles. His face had a serious expression. “Ah. You met her then. Marie.”

“Who is she? Is Marie the person who digs these holes?”

Pierre glanced first at the window to the kitchen, behind which Pierre’s wife could be heard preparing lunch, then at the clock. Pierre put down his cloth. He moved closer to Max, rested his elbows on the top of the bar, and lowered his voice. “Let me tell you. This is a fascinating story.”

It was a Saturday, the day on which Marie always slept in. She got up around nine, took a shower, then dried her hair as she looked out of the kitchen window. A beautiful summer day lay ahead. She fed her two dogs, dressed, and soon the three of them left the house, followed the field and entered the forest.

Marie was secretary in the hôtel de ville and single. She had been born in the area. Her parents had died in an accident, leaving her an inheritance that had allowed her to buy her small house.

The track that she followed went up steeply beneath pine trees. There were many paths in the forest and she still hadn’t explored all of them. She wasn’t afraid to get lost; the two dogs always helped her find the shortest route home. Today, the ethereal smell of the trees pulled her deeper and deeper into the woods. The dogs moved about swiftly, sniffing traces left by wild animals.

Suddenly, the path ended at a clearing. Not really a clearing: weeds covered it hip-high. It had been a long time since anyone had been here; young trees had started to sprout up. She walked across the open circle, butterflies escaping her approach. On the other side, the ground rose steeply and in this natural wall was an opening that let down into the ground. A red boulder rested next to it. The opening was breast-high and allowed a single person to enter the tunnel beyond. She called back the dogs as they started to walk in, sniffing left and right. Who had created this tunnel? Its walls were made of sand, no special construction was visible. Should she enter to explore? No way! The roof might collapse onto her, or she might get stuck. Exploring a tunnel on your own, a single person, would be very foolhardy. No, she decided to turn back.

She turned around and started walking. However, soon she recalled that this path continued for about twenty minutes until the next intersection. Forty minutes lost in total… without seeing anything new. She looked at the sun and her watch, and after only the slightest hesitation she returned to the clearing and the entrance.

The dogs entered the tunnel unconcerned and without delay, and now Marie followed. The ground was flat and without obstructions. After a minute it became very dark, and she was forced to slow down. The dogs apparently were fearless, and by following their sound, she could still move relatively quickly, holding her hands in front and above her face, to make sure that she didn’t hit her head against any obstruction.

After a while, Marie stopped and looked back. She couldn’t see the entrance anymore, and doubt came over her. She felt the walls. Rock had replaced sand. This seemed to be a natural tunnel, perhaps a river in prehistoric times? What to do next, press on, or return?

What if this cave had bifurcations or even junctions? Unexpectedly, a sense of panic came over her; if this was an underground maze of connected caverns, she could get lost quickly. Even turning back might cause her to take a wrong route, a side tunnel that she had missed on her way in. The tunnel suddenly felt damp and claustrophobic, she could practically feel the weight of the heavy, impenetrable earth pressing down on its roof. She had to breathe deeply to regain composure. Slowly her heavy heartbeat quieted down again. She realized that the dogs could help her. She bent forward, and felt their cold wet noses pushing against her arm.

She removed a line from her waist and clipped it on a neckband. “Search, search,” she said. After some hesitation, the dog pulled on the line and started to hurry forward. For an instance she was alarmed, as the dog started to move deeper into the tunnel, but then she decided to trust its instincts, especially as the other dog was already ahead and barking.

After a few minutes, light appeared. The tunnel made a slight turn to the left and the light grew brighter. She could see the outside world.  After a minute, the three of them reached the end of the tunnel and hurried out into daylight.

The sudden brightness overwhelmed her, and she had to shade her eyes with her hand. Drops of moisture and insects lighted up in the bright and yellowish light. The world looked different; strong mosaics of black shade and patches of color; yet tranquil and welcoming. The air was filled with honey sweet scents. She sat down on the ground, and for a while simply enjoined her surroundings. The songs of the birds and the buzz of the insects were surprisingly loud. Did she just imagine that the light and sounds were much more intensive this side of the tunnel? The petted the dogs, who lay close by, panting in the warm sunlight.

Again, she used her watch and the position of the sun to find the approximate direction of her house. She followed the path downhill, which after ten minutes hit upon a broader track. The dogs turned left, and she followed.

A big man with short black hair sat in the middle of the track, his legs spread wide and his back towards her. A hiker’s backpack and a bottle of water rested next to him. She stopped and inspected the figure; it wasn’t clear what he was doing. The man didn’t move. She looked back and to the left and right: only forest.

Picking up her courage, she moved forward. The man heard her coming, turned and looked at her over his shoulder. The pain that the movement caused was visible in his face. “Thank God, a human,” he grumbled.

“Can I help you?” she stood in front of him. He had untied his left boot, and she could see a red sock. His foot was swollen badly.

“I’m grateful that you are here. I slipped on the bank and sprained my ankle. I am reduced to a blasted limp! I don’t think it is broken but I need to get off this bloody mountain.”

They considered the options. Marie looked at her watch; the afternoon was progressing. After a while they agreed it would be best if he would lean on Marie, so that they could try reach a road in the valley. She helped him up, and he put his arm around her shoulder. He was heavy and strong, and for a moment she was worried. But he was friendly and kept on talking; about his love for hiking and the forest, his job, his family. He introduced himself as Yves.

They stumbled down the path. Sooner than Marie had expected, they came to a road. They waited for ten minutes for a car to come; they waived it down. The driver was an elderly man, who looked skeptical at first, but after their explanation he agreed to take Yves to the next village and a doctor. It didn’t cross Marie’s mind to join them, and she stared after the car that took Yves away.

As the sound of the engine dwindled, she again became aware of the loudness of the singing birds. She had no idea where she was, so she had to rely on her dogs to guide her home. The animals didn’t take the route through the tunnel.

Patrons came in, and Pierre excused himself to take the couples order. Pierre assembled glasses of water, plates with croissants and coffee cups on a tablet and served them. After ten minutes or so, he came over to the bar again.

“Curious story! What happened next?” asked Max, rather impatiently.

Marie returned home after dark. The day had been exhausting and she went to bed early. The next day, a great unrest came over her. She recalled the heaviness of Yves’ body, the scent of his aftershave, his black hair. She tried to shake off the feeling, but to her own surprise, she continued to feel a need to find out what had happened at the doctor, yes to meet him again. She found an excuse: she would inquire about him in the village and see whether he was ok. A civilized thing to do.

She packed the dogs into her car and drove around the mountain. She came to the road that the elderly man and Yves had taken. Soon afterwards, she arrived at a small medical practice, directly at the entrance of the first village. It was a Sunday, and the clinic was closed, but just as Marie parked her car, a woman came out of the building and started to lock the door from the outside. She was a nurse and had been there the whole of Saturday, but no one with an injured foot had turned up, no one with Yves description. The nurse mentioned a few medical practices and hospitals in the area where Yves could have gone for treatment – there weren’t many, only four.

Over the next days, Marie visited all four, but Yves hadn’t turned up in any of them. Marie was puzzled. She couldn’t imagine that the driver would have taken Yves to the next larger town, which after all was quite far away. Or had Yves asked the driver to take him home instead? Perhaps Yves had concluded that a strained ankle could be cured with an icepack and a few days on a sofa…

She realized there was little that she could do. Over the following weeks, she explored some other ideas, such as asking her colleagues at the city halls of the neighboring villages. She also discussed with a few friends. Nobody could help her. She also talked to the police, but the conversation was discouraging; the woman pointed out that Yves wasn’t her relative, he might have taken a bus to another town, or have been picked up by a friend of family member… She promised to make a note of it, but here really was no reason for the police to become involved, the woman stated.

Weeks turned into months and Marie forced herself to forget about Yves. She had to stop chasing this dream.

And she would have given up, but a few unexpected observations threw her back. Marie continued to spend most of her free time outdoors, and during her walks with the dogs, she continued to roam the forest. Unsurprisingly, she was still intrigued by the open enclosure with its red boulder and the entrance to the tunnel. But to her initial amusement, and later wonder and then frustration, she did manage to find the start of the route to the enclosure, but she remained unable to find tunnel itself. It turned into a frustration: she spent weeks trying to locate the tunnel, but she never succeeded to find its entrance, or for that matter the exit.

In addition, she also observed that the feeling of elation, which by now she associated with her passing through the tunnel, was beginning to fade. She didn’t read too much in both observations at first, but when, in addition, nobody could confirm to her that a tunnel existed in the forest, she felt anger growing within her.

One night the anger and frustration exploded, and she grabbed a shovel and started to dig for the tunnel.

Pierre fell silent. The door opened and some regulars entered. “Ca va?” called Pierre and raised his hand in greeting.

“What happened then?” asked Max.

Pierre’s face lost all expression. “Nothing. She is still digging.”

Pierre walked over to the newcomers and started to take care of their order.

After a while, Max ordered another coffee. He sipped it, deep in thought. Not much later, he left the bar, and, taking the shortest route through the forest, returned home.

Max got up early the next day. He packed a small backpack with some essentials; a bottle of water, a few sandwiches, a torch. He put on his hiking boots and selected a robust jacket. Entering the forest, he selected his route with determination. It was leisurely walking at first, but soon it became steep climbing. Max started sweating.

Not many people had traveled this route. Ignoring all crossing paths and bifurcations, Max progressed rapidly. He arrived at a clearing in the forest and walked across it. He set down his backpack on top of the red boulder and inspected his surroundings and the entrance of the tunnel. A raven flapped through the sky, landed on a branch of a large pine and shouted gleefully. It was cloudy and the air was frech. Max was pleased that he had brought a jacket.

He knew this place but had never entered the tunnel. He rummaged through his backpack and grabbed for the torch. Turning it on, he entered the dark hole.

The air was damp and cold. A slight breeze continued to touch his face and hands. With the help if the artificial he managed to progress rapidly. He couldn’t see any traces of anyone having passed through here; neither footsteps nor paws, but he realized that didn’t mean much.

The walls did indeed turn from sand into rock. He could see traces of water erosion in the stone. He hurried along and after fifteen minutes or so, he the exit became visible in the distance.

Shortly thereafter, Max exited the tunnel. The brightness of the sun hit him hard and instinctively he moved his hand above his squinting eyes. He had to wait a few seconds to allow them to adjust to the light.

The air was filled with sounds of insects, that buzzed by at determined speeds. A sparrow swept down and snapped a butterfly, right in front to Max’s face. The suddenness of the movement surprised him, and he took a shocked step back. The sky was blue and most of the clouds had been blown away. Max took off his coat, rolled it up and stored it, together with the torch, in his backpack. He wept the sweat off his face.

Max inspected his surroundings. The forest was quiet and looked slightly different this side of the tunnel. Fewer pines, but more sycamore and eucalyptus trees. It looked more friendly, something to do with the light… he couldn’t put his finger on it. He took a deep breath; the air was invigorating, fresh.

Max started down the path. After a while, he hit upon a broader track.

He came upon a man, sitting in the middle of the track, his legs spread wide and his back towards him. The man had short black hair. A backpack rested on the ground next to the man and he held a bottle of water in his hand.

Max stopped abruptly and stared at the figure. The man, obviously unaware of Max’ presence, didn’t move. Max looked back, and then left and right: the two of them were surrounded by vast, empty forest. The insects lighted up as they passed through beams of sunlight, some fast and hurried, others leisurely, each at its own pace.

Frowning, Max moved forward. The man heard him coming, turned and looked at him over his shoulder. He grimaced with pain. “Thank God, a human,” he grumbled.

Max stopped in front of him. He noticed that the man’s left boot was untied, and he could see a red sock.

“I’m grateful you are here,” said the man. “I slipped on the bank and sprained my ankle. I am reduced to a blasted limp! I don’t think it is broken… nevertheless I need to get off this bloody mountain.”

Max didn’t answer, thoughts racing through his head. He continued to stare at the man. “What’s up?” asked the man, staring up at Max. “Think you can help me?”

Max cleared his throat. “Well… yes, I think so.” He tried to shake off his confusion.

“Great!” said the man, enthusiastically. “By the way, my name is Yves.” He stuck out a big hand. Max stuck out his hand too, and they shook. “I’m Max.”

The man continued chatting. Max hesitated in his answers at first, but after a while the apparent honesty of the man somehow managed to reduce Max’s feeling of apprehension. Max looked at his watch; the day was progressing. After a while they agreed it would be best if Yves would lean on Max, so that they could try reach a road in the valley. Max helped him up, and Yves put his arm around Max’s shoulder. Yves wasn’t very heavy, so walking down the hill wasn’t too much of a challenge. Yves kept on talking; about his love for hiking and the forest, his job, his family. They came to a road, sooner than Max had expected.

They waited for a car to turn up. Yves sat down on the shoulder of the road. Max decided that whatever happened next, he would get in the car with the man and find out where he was going. Max felt that he needed to interview the man more, to better understand what was going on. But either the right questions didn’t enter his head, or Yves’ answers were blatantly simple.

A small truck came into view, and Max waved it down. The driver, and elderly man, was skeptical at first, but after some discussion willing to take Yves to the next town and a doctor. The driver waved at his truck and it contents; he apologized to Max that, with Yves in the passenger seat, there obviously was no room for him. Max nodded in understanding.

The doors slammed shut, and the driver started the engine.

Max stared after the truck as it disappeared. He shook his head. Then, he took a sandwich from his backpack and munched it slowly, trying to decide what to do next.

After some more time, he crossed the road and found a path that lead downhill. After half an hour he could see the first houses of a village.

He hit the high street, took a turn to the right. He entered the bar. The high school teacher was correcting exams at her usual table. Max looked at his watch and concluded that her husband had most likely already left.

„Bonjour Max, ca va?“ said Pierre from behind the bar. Max hesitated for a second, but then answered: “Salut Pierre.” On his way in, he had automatically picked up a newspaper from one of the tables. The place wasn’t very busy, only a few workmen and pensioners. After a while, Pierre brought him a coffee and a croissant.

“Been out for a walk?” asked Pierre, wiping the top of the bar with a dirty cloth. Max inspected Pierre’s face, not exactly sure what to say. “Well… yes, the usual. I walked over through the forêt. Beautiful weather… better than yesterday?” Max turned his last statement into a question.

A serious expression came over Pierre’s face. “Better be careful in the forest, some of the paths are steep and the rain erodes them away. Seen any deer?”

Max shook his head slowly. “No, none. Only birds. A lot of birds, and insects. No humans either.”

A cloud moved in front of the sun, and the interior of the bar turned dark. Somehow, Max felt that he could guess what Pierre would say next. He felt his skin starting to crawl.

Pierre continued to wipe the top of the bar, in exaggeratedly slow, circular movements. He stopped, moved his head towards Max and looked him deep in the eyes. His face darkened and he spoke slowly. “Not many enter the forest. An additional reason to be prudent, especially if you are on your own. In that forest, you never know what may happen.”

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The Forest

Interested in more? Click here for the short story THE TUNNEL.