juvenilia

Juvenilia: Sink den Bismarck! (An Unwilling Time-Traveler becomes the Nazi’s assistant), Part 1)

I wrote this between my freshman and senior year of high school.  I believe I finished it early in 1990, during my junior year; the first part was written probably in 1987.

My favorite TV show at the time was Hogan’s Heroes; not only did it inspire me to take German, but I liked to imagine myself at the POW camp with Hogan’s group.  I wanted to write a story which explained how I would end up in a POW camp in the 1940s.

I wrote the first part while listening to the album Reconstructions by AD, a Christian band from the mid-80s which included two members of Kansas: Kenny Livgren and Dave Hope.  So now my story and this album are forever linked in my mind.

While researching the third part, I sat in front of my open bedroom window on an unseasonably warm night, listening to the local pop station, and looking through beautiful pictures of the Alps in an encyclopedia.  “Hippy Chick” by Soho came on.

Though I didn’t hear the song again until sometime in 1991 or 1992, I remembered it, and connected it with a warm evening and pictures of the Alps.

My BFF (senior year of high school) and my boyfriend (freshman year of college) loved this story.  Though they weren’t too happy with the ending of Part II (I won’t spoil it).  My boyfriend, a ninja who was really into the occult and science fiction, even pondered making an actual time card.

Since this is science fiction written by a teenager in the days before the Internet, when what I could learn about POW camps was mostly limited to television, it probably isn’t in the least plausible.

Also, both in college and now as I review it again, I can see that it desperately needs editing and lengthening: more scenes, more showing, less telling.  But that’s why I stuck this with my “juvenilia.”

I revised the story in college for a writing class.  Since there are three different versions, I’ll give you the best for each passage.

I do make changes here and there, where the original versions are egregiously bad, or an improvement screams at me.  But for the most part, this is as written.

Though after typing it up and reviewing it for this website, I start wanting to finally write that longer version, 28 years since I wrote Part I…..

Sink den Bismarck! 

Written by Madge on January 11, 1990

Who says time travel isn’t possible?  It has to be, or else I dreamed this whole thing, and I know I didn’t do that, since there’s proof it really happened.  My friends’ testimonies, for instance.

There’s also this great memory of mine that tells me there’s no possibility of it being just a dream.  I tell you, this was no dream.

I’ve got to get this all down on paper while it’s still fresh in my mind.  It began just a few months ago, during the last days before fall 1989.  After the nice, hot summer it was a little too cool for my taste.  I was a junior in high school in South Bend, Indiana.

Our cat’s not an outside cat, but she thinks she is.  I let her outside while I took out the trash, then found her on the lawn on the side of our corner house.  As I reached down to pick her up, a man appeared in front of me–in a flash, out of nowhere, just like a genie popping before me.  I straightened up and stared.

He was close to my dad’s height, which is six feet tall.  He had white hair, almost all there, but few wrinkles.  He wore small, round, wire-rimmed glasses and a white smock.

“Who’re you?” I said.

“Wilhelm von Bismarck, German inventor,” he said with a thick German accent.  Since I was in my third year of German, I hoped he would speak some.

“How’d you appear in front of me like that?”

“I traveled in time from the day of my fifty-first birthday–in December of 1941–to today.  This is my first experiment in time travel, but surely we have made great advancements in that technology by now which I can learn about.”

“No, we haven’t.”  I smiled.  “You’re putting me on.  You know as well as I do that no one knows how to time-travel yet.”

“What?”  His face scrunched up in confusion.  “What is today’s date?”

“September 14th, 1989.”

“Good.  That part works, at least.  What country is this?”

I laughed.  “America, of course.  How’d you do that trick, really?”

“Just how I said.  See this card?”

He showed me a metal card in his hand.  On it were many dials and a button about the size of his fingertip.

“I programmed in the date and coordinates I came from with these dials–” he pointed to the ones on the side labeled von— “and today’s date with these dials–” he pointed to the ones on the side labeled zu.

He pointed to a large red button.  “Then I pushed this button and was transported here.  I programmed it to go to Germany, but obviously it has a fault.”

“Prove it.”

“Give me your hand.”

I did this, holding my cat with the other hand, and he pushed the button.  What could be the harm in it?

With a flash of light, our surroundings changed to a street lined with half-timbered houses and German signs.

My cat squirmed.  The people on the street wore forties clothes and hair styles and spoke in German.  I let go of Mr. Bismarck’s hand and went up to a wall to touch it to see if it was real.  I returned to Mr. Bismarck and took his hand.

“All right, I’m convinced,” I said.  “You can take me back to my house now, Herr Bismarck.”

He took me back.  My cat looked confused, and squirmed to be let down.

“Is Hitler still alive, or has he been replaced?” said Mr. Bismarck.

“Huh?”

“Who is your country’s leader?”

“President George Bush.”

“An elected president?”

“Yes.”

“This is allowed?”

I snorted.  “What in the world are you talking about?”

“On what day did the Allies surrender?”

“Never!”

He frowned.  “So who won the war?”

“We did, of course.”

“You mean–Germany lost the war!”

He sounded like a Nazi sympathizer, but it was wrong to judge without knowing the facts.

I said, “Of course.  Hitler’s dead.  He didn’t get rid of all the Jews, and I even know several.  I guess I won’t tell you everything, so you can see for yourself what happens when you go back to your own time.  Enjoy your defeat.”

Mr. Bismarck stood speechless for a moment.  Then he glanced at my clothes and said, “This is what women wear in 1989?”

“Well, what teen-age girls wear,” I said.

“At least I see a girl’s hair is still worn the same.”

My long brown hair was in two braids wound around the top of my head.  “Oh, no, this is just how I wear it sometimes.”

“And what is that on your pocket, a radio transmitter?”

“No, it’s a Walkman: a radio and tape player.  It plays music just for me.”

“I don’t know what all this means, but I am anxious to learn.  What’s your name?”

“Madge Rush.”

“Would you like to be my assistant, Madge?  I’d like to stay in this time period for a while, find out what it’s like to live here, find materials I wouldn’t be able to get in my time.  I need an assistant for my time travel experiments.  I will pay you.”

My face lit up.  I’d always wanted to travel in time, and I had no proof that he sided with Germany.  “Sure.  But the card already works, doesn’t it?”

“Not all the time.  As I said before, I set it for Germany, not America.  I need to improve it.”

For several months I assisted Mr. Bismarck.  He spoke little about Nazi Germany, only hinting here and there about escaping Hitler’s hypnotic mind-games.

He traded in some coins and rented a house with the money.  The coins were part of a collection he started after 1910 for just such a situation.

Whenever I had nothing better to do–and even when I did–and he didn’t need my help in an experiment, I had domestic chores:

I mowed the lawn or cleaned house with all my parents’ “modern contrivances,” such as the power lawn mower.  I could have taught him how to use them, but he believed women should do all the housework.  I grumbled.

He often kept me up into the wee hours of school mornings helping him with experiments.

My lack of sleep, loss of concentration, and hours of work cleaning his house caused my grades to suffer.

My teachers talked with me or sent letters home.  My parents, of course, were not happy.

I tried to get Mr. Bismarck to lighten up his demands on my time, but I figured that even refusing to work would do no good.

But then one day as I put away Mr. Bismarck’s vacuum cleaner, working up the nerve to quit, he said to me, “Do you know any Jews?”

“Yeah, several,” I said, a little wary.

“I’d like to have them over for tea or dinner.  I want to make up to them for what Hitler did to their people–promote healing for the past.”

Relieved, I extended Mr. Bismarck’s invitation, for 5:00 a few days later.  Most could come.

As I dusted the coffee table just before the guests were to arrive, I found my guest list lying on it and, only thinking of neatness, put it in my pocket.

Mr. Bismarck hadn’t told me to make food or even tea for the visit, yet I saw him do nothing for it.  In the back of my mind burned a suspicion.

I finished my dusting and found Mr. Bismarck sitting at the desk in the research room.  I said, “Herr, am I supposed to make any tea or anything for the visit?”

“Don’t fret yourself.  I’ll take care of the refreshments.”

“Then shouldn’t you get them ready now?  It’s almost five.”

“It is ready.”

“It is?”  Wait a minute–it?  My eyes wandered to the desktop as I turned to leave.

There lay a box of bullets.

“Um, Herr, what is that?”

“What is what?”

“Have you decided to take up hunting or protect the house from burglars?”

He stared at me without blinking.  “Are you loyal enough to me to do anything I say?”

“Well, yeah, I guess so,” I said.  I had no courage to defy him, no matter how much I grumbled.

“Good.  I have something for you to do.  I will show our guests into the basement.  Then you will close the door and blindfold them as I bind their wrists.  Line them up, then we will all play a little game.  A nice, simple, fun game.”

Fun for whom?  My voice quivering with terror, I said,

“You’re going to shoot them, aren’t you?  You’ve just been putting up a front, haven’t you?  You said you hated Hitler, but you’re really a Nazi after all, and you want to carry Hitler’s reign of terror into this time frame since he lost.  I should’ve known, since you’re a taskmaster like the Germans in the prison camps!”

Mr. Bismarck, unruffled, just gazed silently at me.

“I won’t be your assistant anymore, and especially not in this.  I’ll take your time card away and report you to the police and–”

He sprang up and snatched my arm.  With his free hand he opened a desk drawer and pulled out a revolver.

“You little Ally,” he hissed, twisting my arm.  “This gun is loaded, so don’t think I’m bluffing.  You are going in the basement.  Now move.”  He pointed the gun at me and I moved.

Soon after he locked me in the basement, I heard him let in the guests.  I began to form a plan.

I crept down the stairs and hid in the darkest shadows in the basement, under the staircase.  I prayed and prayed that God would help me carry out my plan.

The door opened.  The guests trudged down the stairs, followed by Mr. Bismarck.  He called for me.  I didn’t answer, so he furrowed his brow.

He made the guests tie each other’s wrists, except for the last one.  He cradled the gun in his arm and swiftly tied her up.  He made them all line up along the wall opposite me, and stood facing them.

“Now, which side should I start on?” he said, slowly moving his arm until the gun pointed at the freshman girl at the right end of the line.  She gasped.  “This side?”

I shifted into a crawling position.  Mr. Bismarck moved his arm just as slowly until the gun pointed at the junior boy at the left end of the line.  “Or this side?”

I crept up behind him and stood up.

“I think the right side will do,” he said.  “I wish I had a machine gun.  It would be so much better: I could just sweep the bullets along the line and this world would be rid of your pollution in a second.”

The junior boy caught my eye and gave me a hard look.  I mouthed the words, “Distract him.”  He said in a pleading voice,

“Mr. Bismarck, whatever you do, please don’t start with me.  I don’t want to die first.  I wouldn’t have any chance to escape–Whoops, I shouldn’t have said that.”

Mr. Bismarck pointed the gun at him.  “Is that so?  You’re first, then.”

I grabbed Bismarck’s wrist.  With a strength I didn’t know I had, I squeezed until he dropped the gun.

I let go of him and snatched up the gun before he could.  I pointed it at him and stood up.  He reluctantly put up his hands.

“Do you have your time card with you?” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

“Then get back to your own time or I’ll shoot you.”

“Will you really?”

“Yes.  If I could get up enough courage to take your gun away, I can get up enough to shoot you.  Now get back to where you belong.”

Wait–If he had the card he’d be free to travel anywhere in time.

“I’ve got a better idea: Give me the card.”

“I’ll get back at you for this,” he said, taking the card out of his pocket.  “Don’t worry, you little Ally, I’ll find a way.  It’ll give me more pleasure than killing Jews, so I might give that up and just concentrate on you.”

“You can’t if I’ve got the card.”

As I put out my hand to take it, Mr. Bismarck punched the button and popped out to safety.

I sadly turned to the guests, rubbing my sore arm.

“I guess you guys are safe now,” I said, “but I’m not.  Anyone have a lighter or a knife?”

I cut the ropes from the guests’ wrists with a knife I found upstairs.  I took the list of names from my pocket, and burned it.

Part II

Part III

Part IV

My Pictures of Martians: Middle School

Martian Characteristics
Shilva, a Martian. Ancient Era, I think, though it’s hard to remember exactly–My Martian drawings and histories were lost in the Great Accident of 1991 (described here).  😛  :

Shilva

Shilva Akika: a doodle on Astronomy notes, college, 1993:

ShilvaAkikaAs a child, I made up various planets and civilizations for my stories.  Back around middle school, I developed my own alphabet for the characters and drawings I was always making for Martian stories.

These gentle creatures had their own eras, fashions, customs….They used orange to match their planet.  The women even painted their faces like Mars, with orange and white patches for the poles.

They believed in God, and did not sin, never had a Fall, as hypothesized by Jonathan Swift centuries earlier.  The alphabet was based on the International Phonetic Alphabet.

One day, I made a document based on the Rosetta Stone: English (for the planet Spimpy, colonized by Earthlings) on the top, Martian (Shah-Lee) in the middle, and some other language (Uranus, maybe?) on the bottom.

I’m glad I made this, because several years later, my mother inadvertently tossed a whole bunch of my Martian pictures and stories, including the alphabets.  Here it is:
MartianRosetta#1 

MartianRosetta#2

 

My Martian Alphabet and Rosetta Stone

As a child, I made up various planets and civilizations for my stories.  Back around middle school, I developed my own alphabet for the characters and drawings I was always making for Martian stories.

These gentle creatures had their own eras, fashions, customs….They used orange to match their planet.  The women even painted their faces like Mars, with orange and white patches for the poles.

They believed in God, and did not sin, never had a Fall, as hypothesized centuries earlier:

Ernest Tuveson, in his “Swift: The Dean as Satirist,” which I read in 1990 or 1991 for an English research paper, suggested that Jonathan Swift was influenced by concepts in Henry More’s Divine Dialogues.  These dialogues have different speakers with different points of view; one was the

theory of the plurality of worlds.  What about the salvation of rational beings who may well exist in distant planets–as well as in remote places of our own earth?

It is suggested that they may be creatures, endowed with reason, who have never experienced the fall.  Such beings would have no need of “that Religion that the sons of Adam are saved by.”

They would live a perfectly orderly but monotonous existence, and “no Properties but those either of the Animal or middle life would be needed.”

They would have all sorts of virtues, skills, knowledge–but this is just a “middle” life, with no heights or depths.  The Houyhnhnms would be like this.  This, also, became my concept of Martian theology.

The alphabet was based on the International Phonetic Alphabet.  One day, I made a document based on the Rosetta Stone: English (for the planet Spimpy, colonized by Earthlings) on the top, Martian (Shah-Lee) in the middle, and some other language (Uranus, maybe?) on the bottom.

I’m glad I made this, because several years later, my mother inadvertently tossed a whole bunch of my Martian pictures and stories, including the alphabets.  Here it is:

MartianRosetta#1
MartianRosetta#2
Martian Characteristics

 

Shilva, a Martian. Ancient Era, I think, though it’s hard to remember exactly–My Martian drawings and histories were lost in the Great Accident of 1991. 😛  :

Shilva

Shilva Akika: a doodle on Astronomy notes, college, 1993:

ShilvaAkika
Story: The Last Night: Romance on a Rome-like Planet

Story: The Last Night: Romance on a Rome-like Planet

[Update 9/13/14:] This story (the top version, from 1992) received rave reviews and stirred imaginations at Writer’s Club in the summer of 2013.  🙂  I may revise it one of these days….

I wrote the first version of this story as a senior in high school, while listening to Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence.”  It was July 27, 1990.  The story was based on a dream I had just had that morning.

First I’ll include the much better-written version I wrote in 1992 or 1993, in college.  Then I’ll show the original version, which does have its own strengths.

Alkin’s character in the dream was Avon from the British sci-fi show “Blake’s 7“; his appearance was the same that he assumed in an episode of Dr. Who (Timelash), in which the same actor played Tekker: Romanish clothes and medieval hair.  The planet Roke was loosely based on Rome.

Revised version, copyright 1992:

The Last Night

The young woman of twenty threw on her cloak and hid her face with the hood.  No one must recognize her.  She opened the door and slipped out, as quickly and quietly as possible.  Then she opened the gate, and hurried away with light steps.

The villa was all dark.  Even the servants were asleep.  No one would notice her.

Her parents agreed with her political views, but would not approve of her zeal for them.  They would accuse her of the rashness of youth.  Her father was a senator and had to have a respectable family.

Well, the rashness of youth was getting the emperor stirred up, and, besides, one of their group was an old man, the adviser.

She found her way through the dark streets, her eyes constantly watching for danger of any kind–a soldier, a mugger, or a mere witness.  After what seemed only a few hours short of forever, she arrived at Morcub’s house.  She gave three raps on the door, and the peephole slid open.

“Reach for the dream,” she whispered, and the door opened just enough for her to slip through.  She did, and a man of thirty closed the door behind her.

“You’re late, Ocsabia,” he said, reproach in his tone.  “Morcub was worried.”

“I was delayed.”

“Don’t let yourself be delayed.  We have little time each night we meet; do you want the morning light to reveal us?”

“Why do you always treat me this way, Alkin?  I said I was delayed.  I didn’t cause it.  It’s not as if I was hours late.”

“Let’s just get going.  Give me your cloak.”

“I get a much warmer reception than yours when I go to meet with the saints.”

“Don’t compare me to those eccentrics.  Just give me your cloak.”

Ocsabia tugged at the string that held on her cloak, whipped off the cloak, and tossed it into Alkin’s arms.  Loosening the veil over her hair, ears and neck, she strode into the meeting-room.

Sitting on cushions in a close circle were the others: Morcub Padrit, the leader, a dark-haired man in his late thirties; the old man Alukremub, whose age no one knew for certain; [name], a couple of years younger than Ocsabia, of the plebeian class; and Hifary, about Ocsabia’s age, and one of the saints.

He was a dear friend, and she knew he loved her with more than just saintly love.  She and Alkin joined them, forced to sit next to each other because of the arrangement of the cushions.

“Welcome, Ocsabia,” Morcub said, then he addressed the group.  “The emperor is now aware of our presence.  We don’t kill as some groups would do, due to Alukremub’s counsel, but his voice in the Senate and our passive resistance to tyranny have made us visible.  We have to be careful now–we are probably being closely watched.”

“I tried to warn Ocsabia of that when she came so late to our meeting,” Alkin said.

Ocsabia glared at him.  “Alkin thinks the fate of our cause depends on me alone.”

“Please, let’s have peace at this meeting,” Morcub cried.  “I want to speak with you two later.”

“I don’t see why we don’t just kill the emperor,” [name] said.

“We are resisters, not assassins.”

“Then let’s kill some of the emperor’s guards.”

“No, let’s resist without bringing death on ourselves,” Alukremub said.

“Talikula will never change the laws except as they suit him.  He’s mad, and Roke is in chaos with him as emperor.  He deserves to die.”

“If our sins were measured, we’d see we all deserve to die,” Hifary said.

Morcub said, “I’m sure we all know of the new tax, on the hours each person is awake.  Next thing you know, he’ll be taxing us for the air we breathe.  We refused to pay the tax on people with eyebrows, and the whole city followed our lead.  Talikula had to let us go, and he stopped the tax.  Maybe the same thing will happen this time, so let’s all stand together.”

He ended the meeting, and took Ocsabia and Alkin aside and into a side room, after calling a trusted servant to get some food for everyone.

“I don’t know why you two don’t get along,” he said, “but please, at least try.  Ocsabia, do as your religion’s leaders say, and live in peace with everyone, even Alkin.”

“I try, but he’s so antagonizing,” Ocsabia said.

“She has too quick of a temper,” Alkin said.  “She’ll argue at the slightest intimidation.”

“There it is, then,” Morcub said.  “Don’t intimidate her, Alkin.”

“But she’s such an annoying child, with her pampered looks and silly, womanish concerns.  Her ideals show she knows nothing of the world, thinking man can possibly live in peace and harmony.”

“Let her have her ideals.  For us to survive, we must act as a group, and support each other.  I want to see an improvement in the relationship you two have with each other.  For a start, cooperate with each other and serve the fruit.”

He grabbed the fruit platter from the surprised servant’s hands, and left with him.

“Grab a bowl and put some of the fruit in it,” Alkin said.

“There you go, ordering me around,” Ocsabia said.

“You just don’t like being considered less than you want to be, a beautiful daughter of a senator.  You think you have special status.”

“I just don’t like being ordered around.  I am not a silly child, either.  How can we ever get along if you keep putting me down?”

“I put you down because you need to be humbled.  You may act like you love all people, giving your money to the poor and helping your servants, but inside you’re still as snobbish as you always were before you became one of these ‘believers.’  I’ve known you since you were a child, a proud child, and people just don’t change like that.”

“I can’t believe you said that.”  She wiped away a tear.  “There has been a change in me since I was a child.  I can see it.  I’m ashamed of how proud I used to be.”

“There’s been a definite physical change, not a change of heart.  But the physical one–” He looked her over, from her face to her calves.  She felt like a prized horse.  “Yes, I was wrong on one point–You’re no longer a child.”

He grabbed her, and she struggled, thinking he was going to hit her.  Instead, he kissed her, and set her free.

Ocsabia stepped back, gaping.  “How could you do that?” she cried.  “I didn’t want you to.”

“You can’t tell me that,” Alkin said.  “You kissed back.”

“I didn’t mean to.”

“A woman doesn’t kiss back when she doesn’t mean to.”

Ocsabia flushed, and bowed her head.  Alkin stepped up to her, took her in his arms again, raised her chin, and kissed her more gently this time.

“Where’s that food?” [name] called from the other room.  Alkin and Ocsabia let go of each other, and silently began to put some of the fruit into a bowl.  [Name] came into the room, and leaned on the doorframe.

“A little quicker, please, before you kill each other,” he said with a grin.  “Morcub is a fool.  His age has made him mellow.”

“He gets results,” Alkin said, irritated.

“His policies are the best,” Ocsabia said, “when compared to insurrectionists.  He respects the importance of each person, bad or good as they are.”

“Well, one bad person is dead.  I sneaked up to one of the palace guards earlier tonight, and killed him.  Talkula will know we’re not to be trifled with.”

“You’re a fool!” Alkin growled.

“I take action.”  [Name] pursed his lips and stalked away.

Alkin carried the bowl into the other room.  As Ocsabia rearranged the fruit left on the platter, Hifary came into the room.

“Are you all right, Ocsabia?” he said, saying her name as if it were the most beautiful word he knew.

“Yes.”  Ocsabia smiled.

“Did Alkin say anything to upset you?”

“He loves me.  And I love him.  That’s what caused the tension between us: We loved each other and didn’t know it.”

“Then I’m happy for you.”

Ocsabia studied his face–It showed his sincerity.  Even though her news had to be painful, all Hifary wanted was her happiness.  What love he had for her.

A commotion in the other room caused them to hurry there.  The sight of soldiers stopped them cold.

They’d somehow been betrayed, and one soldier said [name] had been seen by the body of a murdered guard–This group was in deep trouble now.

A soldier herded Hifary and Ocsabia over with the others with the tip of his sword.  One of the other soldiers tried to grope Ocsabia, but Alkin jerked his arm away.

The soldier ran him through with his dagger, and he fell at Ocsabia’s feet.  She screamed.  Hifary held her to his breast as she sobbed.

“Let the Holy Spirit calm you, Ocsabia,” he whispered.  “God is with us all the time, whether we live or die.  Just keep trusting Him.”

Even in her sobs, Ocsabia knew the value of such a friendship.  Just before the soldiers led them away, he squeezed her hand.

————————————

High school version, copyright 1990:

Untitled

Their leader was a tyrant.  He imposed taxes to pay for his own pleasure, killed anyone who disagreed with his decisions, restricted anything under the sun, and he and his soldiers persecuted those who believed in only one God.

A resistance group arose on this little planet named Roke.  The leader was named Morcub Padrit, and an elderly man named Alukremub counseled him.

Close in age to Morcub was thirty-year-old Alkin, an unprincipled man whose loyalty to the group was sometimes doubtful.  His views and those of a young woman in the group often clashed, and they argued as loudly as they could without being discovered.

This young woman, Ocsabia, was a lovely eighteen-year-old with an hourglass figure and of medium height.  She, along with a young man of the same age named Hifary, was one of the group and a believer in the one true God.

This was not the same as a Christian in every way, but in many ways.  The souls of believers and non-believers both went to the same place, however, since this was not humankind.

Ocsabia lived alone, a not uncommon thing for women to do.  She was fashionable, and always knew just what clothes and hairdo to wear.

Fashions on Roke lasted for hundreds of years, and included pants, capes, and long, flowing robes, along with long hair either braided–possibly coiled–or loose.

One cloth headdress covered both the head and neck and left only the face showing, and had a slit in the back through which the hair could be pushed.  Ocsabia, as all women did, wore this headdress most often.

She had chestnut, waist-length hair.  She was still a virgin, as she’d been born into the Church and kept its statutes all her life.  She was no spendthrift, but prudent in all matters.  Therefore she never found herself in debt.

Her pagan friends jokingly called her the vestal, or, as they would say it in their language, bessaf (bes’ sif).  “Surely you are a priestess of Bessa,” they’d say, “or do you even know who she is?  She’s the goddess of the hearth and hearth fire, little believer in only one God.”

She was desired as a wife by many men.

Alkin, on the other hand, was good-looking, tall, and strong, but not a believer.  He worshipped the pagan Rokan gods and goddesses, and this was another point of disagreement between him and Ocsabia.  He lived with a friend just a few doors down from Ocsabia.

He also was fashionable, and wore his dark hair chin-length, covering his ears, and in bangs reaching to just above his eyebrows.  Men’s fashion also included pants and robes, but also had a Roman-like tunic and toga.

Hifary was pleasing to look at, lively, and a bit fashionable.  He wore tunics mostly, and kept his red hair short and ears uncovered.  He wore his bangs about the same length as Alkin’s.

He was sweet, chaste, gentlemanlike, devoted to God, and a likely match for Ocsabia.  He and Ocsabia often went out on dates together.

Morcub held the meetings in his house, and the members entered through a trap door (in the floor).  Each member had a smaller trap door in his house which led to a tunnel, which led to Morcub’s house.

During one meeting, Ocsabia and Alkin let their voices get too loud while arguing, and Morcub said,

“Please keep your voices down!  Do you want us to be discovered?  Really, I don’t see why you two can’t settle your differences peaceably.”

Once, Ocsabia came down with a bad cold-like illness and had to miss a meeting.  As soon as he saw her work outside in her garden again a few days later, Alkin went over to find out if she was recovered.

She was, so he asked to talk with her inside.  She took him into a little room with no windows and closed the door.  She lit a lamp and said in almost a whisper,

“What’s this you want to talk to me about?  Does it have to do with the rebellion?”

“Yes,” Alkin said.  “We want to rescue a political prisoner from his cell tomorrow morning.  We need you to distract the guards while we unlock the door.  He’s in solitary confinement.”

“So how am I supposed to distract them?”

“Just walking by them in pants should be sufficient.  Get them to leave their post.”

“Like this?”  She walked forward a few steps, her hands on her hips and shaking her hips.  She had pants on so she could work in her garden, and that combined with the way she now walked caused Alkin to notice her figure for the first time.

“Yes, yes, that’s quite all right,” he said.  “That’ll certainly get their attention.”  Then, under his breath, “It certainly got mine.”

“What did you say?”

“Oh, nothing.”  Ocsabia took her place in front of Alkin again, and it was all he could do to keep from examining her figure with his eyes.

He tried to content himself with just looking at her lovely face, the innocent eyes of which now gazed up at him in anticipation of his next word.  The rosy cheeks; the shapely, red lips just waiting to form words in reply….

Before he knew what he did, he kissed her.  When he released her, the eyes on that face, wide with shock, stared at him, and the lips outlined a mouth gaping in amazement.

He could utter no words in explanation to those eyes, even though he had an explanation.  All he could do was turn and walk out.

*******

Ocsabia extinguished the lamp and left the room, looked around and didn’t see Alkin anywhere, then slumped into a chair.  Her thoughts, her emotions, her beliefs all scrambled together into one huge mass of confusion; and no matter how hard she tried, she could not sort them out.

One moment she felt disgusted, another moment she remembered the kiss with a smile, another moment it repulsed her.  One moment she thought she loved Alkin, another moment she fought to keep from hating him.

Believers weren’t supposed to hate.  What was the prudent thing to do?  What did God will in this case?  What would He have her do?

All she could do was pray for wisdom and guidance, and that her feelings for this man would become clear to her.

Alkin came to Ocsabia’s door the next morning to escort her to the place for political prisoners.  He only said why he was there, nothing more.  She wore pants for this job, and this made it all the more difficult for him to keep from possibly offending her by looking at her figure.

He led her to a place just behind the building, which had only one cell inside and was more the size of a shed.  Rokan solitary confinement was this way.

The other buildings stood hidden behind a wall to the right.  This building had only one door and no windows, and could stand unwalled near the street.  Solitary confinement buildings stood near streets so everyone could see what happened to political dissenters.

Alkin and Ocsabia sneaked around to the side of the building, then Alkin sent Ocsabia around to the front.  She collected herself, then assumed her “walk.”  She passed by the guards in their armor, short skirts, gladiator sandals and helmets.  She didn’t see what happened, but she knew the plan, and that Alkin took the keys from one guard as soon as their heads turned.

She turned around and beckoned to the guards, who walked up to her and left the building unguarded, obviously assuming it was perfectly safe, if they even thought about guarding their post at all.

She entertained them with flirtatious banter as Alkin unlocked the door, went inside, unlocked the prisoner’s shackles, and led him outside, behind the building, and into the street.  As soon as she saw they were safely away, Ocsabia said,

“Aren’t you forgetting your post?”

The guards spun around and found the door open and the keys on the ground.  As soon as they turned around, Ocsabia sprinted down the street.

Morcub hid the man in his house until they could depose the emperor.  Ocsabia began to wonder if someone would have to hide her as well.  She went to Alkin’s house afterwards while his friend was out.

“I hope they won’t kill those guards because he escaped,” she said.

“You and your compassionate heart,” Alkin said.  “They’re the enemy, girl.”

“Am I in danger?  Will the guards tell who I am?”

“I doubt they’ll even say they left their post to flirt with a woman.  All their commanding officer will care about is that they left their post.  If they mention why they left, it should only be worse for them.”

“You know, at first I didn’t like the idea of having to distract the guards and do all those things; I was glad when it was over; but it was also fun while I was doing it.”

“Ah, maybe you’re beginning to become more like the kind of woman I like.”

“Oh, I hope not.”  She thought for a moment, then said, “Why did you kiss me yesterday?”

“Because you’re irresistible even to me.”

“I am?  I didn’t know I was irresistible to anyone.”

“Are you blind to your own beauty, girl?  Or just overly modest?”

“Why do you always cut me down?  Why are you always so abusive to me with words?”

“Because you have such ridiculous ideas–compassion, brotherly love, not expecting payment from someone who’s borrowed money from you.”

“They aren’t such ridiculous ideas.  Just think about them sometime.”

“I don’t want to be nauseated.”

Ocsabia bent over in her chair, covered her face with her hands, and sobbed.

“Oh, don’t cry,” Alkin said.  “I was just beginning to admire your spirit.”  She continued to sob, so he got up out of his chair and knelt beside her.  “I can’t stand to see a woman cry.  Fight it.  Then we can have more spirited conversation.”

“Don’t mock me.  Go away.”

“You realize you won’t be so desirable with puffy, red eyes?”

“Then I must continue to cry.”

“I don’t understand you, Ocsabia.  You don’t want men to lust after you and you only want to do good and pure things.  I don’t understand myself, either.  I desire you even though you’re like that.”

“Maybe you just want what you can’t have.  Or maybe you actually want to be like me, you see in me what you’re not.”

“Why?  Why can’t I have you?”

Ocsabia stopped crying and looked up at him.

“Because you’re not the kind of man I want to marry.  Such a man is kind, gentle, a believer, and my own age, like–like Hifary.”

“Hifary?  Do you really like Hifary?”

“Yes.”

“But I’m a man and he’s just a boy.”

“Do you think being a man means cutting down other people just because they believe differently than you do?”

“I was right, you do have spirit.”  He stood up and turned away.  He tried to keep his voice steady.  “Leave me.”

Ocsabia had no wish to stay, so she wiped her eyes and left.  Alkin’s fondness for her helped her influence his opinions, so he contemplated her words for hours afterwards, and began to wonder if she was right.  Or had this girl so bewitched him with her beauty that he was willing to believe the way she did?

******

Alkin, a prominent member of society, would rouse suspicion if he declined invitations to travel with his friends so he could help the resistance at home.  When a group of friends asked him along on a month-long trip to the tropics, he had to accept.

He visited Ocsabia to tell her this.  At first she didn’t want to let him in, but he said he had to talk to her.  She led him into the atrium, and he said, “I thought about the things you said the other day.”

“And you agree with me now?” Ocsabia said.

“I didn’t say that, I just said I thought about what you said.”  He smiled.  “And that’s a start, isn’t it?”

He was sincere, but the reason he admitted this was so Ocsabia would consider opening a space in her heart for him.  It worked, though he didn’t know it.  “I’m leaving for a month with a group of friends,” he said.  “I want you to come with me.”

“Come with you?  How could I come with you?  Are there any girls in the group?”

“No.”

“Then I can’t come.  It wouldn’t look right.”

“Then marry me.”

“No.  I don’t love you.”

This so frustrated him that he couldn’t control his voice very well.  “Then stay here,” he said, turning away.  He pondered for a moment, nearly despairing of convincing her.

An idea came to him, and with it a glimmer of hope.  He turned to her.  “Maybe this will change your mind,” he said, and kissed her as persuasively as he could.  When he released her, she said,

“I’ve never known of anyone who truly fell in love just because of a kiss.”

Alkin realized that if he managed to seduce her she would have to marry him, since her moral code demanded it.  They’d argued abut that part of the code before.

He kissed her again, lustfully this time, and simultaneously unbuttoned the back of her headdress and pushed aside part of the neck to expose her skin.  He then kissed her neck.  She immediately pushed him away.

“Whatever you were thinking of doing, it won’t work, either, so please leave.”

He could find his own way out.  He turned in a huff and left.  Ocsabia stared in the direction in which he’d gone, and said, “Good riddance–and good-bye.”

She didn’t really know why she said “good-bye.”  If only she could ask her heart.  It had to know more than she did about the whole situation.  Why did she long for more of Alkin’s kisses and feel repulsed by them at the same time?

During the next month, she dated Hifary, as usual, and she grew quite fond of him.  Near the end of the month he asked her to marry him.  She told him she couldn’t, her feelings were too mixed up.

“This may be hard for you to believe,” she said, “but I’m sure I’m in love with either you or Alkin.”

“Alkin?  How could you love Alkin?” Hifary said.  “You two are always fighting.  You’ve always been enemies.  He’s also an unbeliever.”

“I know.  It’s hard even for me to believe.  Maybe it’s not even true.  Maybe I love you.  I’ve got to be alone for a while so I can sort this out.”

Also during that month, Alkin tried to console himself with wine, food, women and luxury, but all of these things left him unsatisfied.  He was sure he loved Ocsabia, and she was all he wanted.  In desperation he cried out to her God.

“If you’re real, show me,” he said.  “If you make Ocsabia fall in love with me, I’ll serve you for the rest of my life.”

*****

At a meeting the night before Alkin was to come home, Morcub said, “I think the authorities have become suspicious.  I saw two soldiers watching my house today.  Perhaps the neighbors have heard us.  We’ll have to be extremely careful.”

*****

The next day, Ocsabia expected Alkin to come home, since it was the end of the month.  It seemed that she longed for him to come home.  She watched from her windows until she saw him.

As soon as she saw his roommate greet him and him go in his house, she opened her door on an impulse and ran over to his house.  She knocked on the door; the roommate opened it, and, having been told many times before by Alkin of his disagreements with her, looked at her with wide eyes and raised eyebrows.

“Baferiub, I’d like to see Alkin,” she said.

“Certainly, Ocsabia,” he said, causing Alkin to spin around and stare at the door.  Baferiub stepped aside to let Ocsabia enter.  She hurried in to Alkin, and threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.  In a few moments, Alkin haltingly put his arms around her.  When she ended the kiss, he said,

“Ocsabia, what a pleasant surprise.  Your God is real, I know that now.  He answered my prayer.”

“He did?” she said.  “How?”

“I’ll tell you later.–Baferiub, would you please leave us alone for a moment?–Look, I’m sorry about all those disagreements with you.  You may be right about some things.  I’m also sorry I tried to seduce you a month ago.  I was trying to force you into marrying me by making you do something that would demand it, according to your moral code.  Now will you marry me?”

“Yes, I will.”

They set the date for a year from then, and Ocsabia told Hifary as gently as she could.  He told her that a year might be long enough for him to get over her.  He wished them happiness as soon as Alkin became a believer.  That issue had bothered him, as he knew of situations when a believer married an unbeliever and it didn’t work out very well.

The next time they had a meeting, which was a week later, Rokan soldiers listened at the door for incriminating conversation, then burst into the house and arrested everyone.

The little group wasn’t even tried, just put into a concentration camp.  Fashion was forgotten as their clothes were taken away and replaced with prison suits, which were pants, a shirt, and sandals, plus a cloth for Ocsabia to wrap around her body as a sort of primitive corset.

This was the only part of the prison suit that looked fashionable, but the group soon forgot about such things, and thought of fashion as trivial.  What really mattered was survival–a difficult thing.

They had little food, and almost starved.  Their taskmasters put them to work around the camp, every day of the week, all day long.  Their one relief: enough sleep.

However, the beds were hard, and barracks hot or cold, depending on the weather.  All they had to heat the barracks was one brazier each.

During the evening meal, Ocsabia could finally join Alkin and the rest of the group.  Afterwards, she and Alkin would walk around the non-restricted areas of the camp.

“Will we ever get out of here?” she said one evening about two and a half years after they arrived.

“Perhaps when that tyrant Kaebar dies or is deposed,” Alkin said.

“I wonder what they did with my birds?  Did they give them to someone, or are they dying in their cages in my house?  I know it’s a bit morbid….”

Alkin lowered his voice.  “I may soon find out for you, and if they’re dead, I can bury them.”

“Why, what do you mean?”

“I mean, I’m going to try to escape.  If God wills it, I will.  I want to start another resistance group.  I’d take you with me, but it’s too dangerous.”

The next evening, about the same time, he said good-bye to Ocsabia.  That night, when everyone was supposed to stay in the barracks, Ocsabia woke to the sound of Rokan canines woofing and guards yelling.

Alkin, she thought, it must be Alkin.  Soon after she heard a man scream.  She drew her blanket over her nose and mouth and sobbed into it.

During role call the next morning, the commandant said, “There was an escape attempt last night.  A prisoner tried to go over the wire.  But our guards got him with the sword.  You may bury him yourself as a lesson to you: attempting to escape is useless.”

Hifary provided Ocsabia with a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen to her voice her emotions, but didn’t give her advice or say it would get better.  He knew better than to say that to her; what she needed was a listener, not an adviser.

And he didn’t do this to get her to fall in love with him, nor did he rejoice over Alkin’s death.  He still loved Ocsabia, and did this out of the tenderness of his heart for her.  He had no ulterior motive.  Also, he grieved over the loss of one who’d become a good, respected friend since his conversion.

About two years later, as they went on one of their now-customary walks and discussed Hifary’s plans to go to many cities and countries as an apostle, if God willed him to, he halted.  Ocsabia, whose arm was intertwined with his, immediately stopped also.

“What is it?” she said.

“I must tell you something, but it’s terribly difficult, especially considering the life I’m called to lead.”

“What do you want to say?”

He hesitated.

“If you go ahead and say it, it’ll be much easier for you to do.”

“All right, Ocsabia.  I love you. I’ve never stopped.  I prayed I would while you were engaged, and then I tried to suppress it after Alkin died so you wouldn’t feel uncomfortable around me and I wouldn’t try to force you to love me back.  But it’s only grown stronger.  You also might not want to be an apostle’s wife.  It’s a hard life, whether you come along or stay home alone.”

“It sounds challenging.  And I’d be serving God–and probably loving it.”

“You would?  Then will you marry me?  Oh, I should first ask you if you love me–”

“Yes to both questions.  Not that I’ve forgotten Alkin.  I’m sure he wouldn’t want me to be alone for the rest of my life, especially if I marry such a dear friend of his as you.”

She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him.  As she began to straighten her back again and her head moved away from his neck, in that split-second Hifary kissed her.

After five years in the concentration camp, a new resistance group deposed Kaebar, and put one of their own in his place.

During the fourteen-day celebration, Hifary and Ocsabia decided to celebrate in an additional way by marrying immediately, on the fifth day so they’d have time to prepare.

Ocsabia accompanied Hifary on his travels, and he wrote letters to the Rokans, Corinzians, Cafasians, Egebians, Gifidians, Cofothians, Zebafonians, and others.

 

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