The telephone rang.
Hans Hargarden picked it up. "Yes?"
"Where are you?"
"At the station."
He grinned slightly because he already knew. He had received her signal a second ago.
"You are coming over here?" he asked.
"I don't dare."
"The people there?"
"Are they bothering you?"
"They are threatening. Emotionally."
"Oh dear, he thought. "That's hat happens when you sometimes are equipped with special abilities. But, please mind, there are of course great advantages when you are related to a lovely girl like her. And he needed her now urgently. Very urgently.
"I'll pick you up, he said. "I'll be there very soon. Where are you waiting, Suzy?"
"At the entrance, she answered, "where the cabs are positioned."
"How about you?" she added suddenly.
"Negative, he responded.
"Negative? Why? Oh yes, at once she remembered, "the new influence there? Does it cause trouble again?"
"Yes, he answered shortly, and it brought a lump to his throat.
"Yes, it cracked a mirror."
"By gosh! And mentally?"
"The disturbing noise in your head?"
He felt at this moment the rising noise in his head as if a pneumatic hammer was working there, but it quickly abated as if the influence exercised by Suzy was working for him.
"We will take care of it, she suddenly said, becoming decisive, with a tone in her lovely voice that made even him shudder.
"Okay, he murmured, "I'll be over there very soon."
"Very well, so long."
He loved her so much and he needed her. And she had come almost at once when he phoned her this time. Yes, there was trouble of a double kind. Not only the devastations in the apartment like the cracks in the mirror running from left down far up to the right, but also a warning he had received unknowingly and unwillingly. He was suffering sheer desperation. He looked at the clock in his car. Five to twelve.
It took its time, but finally he arrived at the station. He was in luck, there was a free gap, and he parked his car there, but for an instan he had trouble leaving his vehicle. He shuddered and staggered and - suspicious looks of other people around - almost fell to the ground, and finally, Suzy of all people came to pick him up. He pulled himself together and for a short while he stared at the front of the station where there is an especially big clock far above. He shuddered again, but unmistakably it read to him: FIVE TO TWELVE.
She mopped his face, he was dripping wet. Aliens, the thoughts arising by themselves, why are they intruding? Are they travelling with a ship, landing in front of the station, waving flowers in their hands, proclaiming: here we are! Nice to meet you!
Or is it quite different, so you really don't understand they are there, and maybe they as well did not realize they are there, somewhere at a strange place, because their machine failed or maybe there were problems steering it or - hell - maybe they were sucked in there in an unimportant place, by chance, and this and the first contact would happen in quite different a way than anybody would have considered it. Dangerous, but unspectacular.
"What time is it?" Suzy, with the brunette hair and the lovely green eyes, asked.
Hans' hair was like scattered straw. "Our hair reflects what we are like, he thought. Hers lies smooth, controlled. Mine is scattered, like my thoughts.
"What?" he asked.
He crouched behind the wheel, stunned by the ideas that had overcome him regarding them and the aliens, as he thought: Why us, why here?
"What time is it?" She pointed to the clock.
"Damned clock, " he cursed.
"Yes?" She frowned.
"FIVE TO TWELVE", he read, starting the motor which sputtered and went dead. He needed to kick it again three times before it smoothly ran.
She looked at her wrist watch.
"It's eight o'clock p.m." she told him reproachfully. "You know that, Hans?"
"Of course, he said, now with a steadied voice.
He cleared his throat.
He had told her, by phone, about the crazy clock. First, it was only a clock gone mad for him. All the others recognized the real time, he was the only one for whom this clock and that damned clock on the towers of the dome and each clock read: FIVE TO TWELVE! And now these strange ideas about the aliens, sifting in his brain! Where did these notions come from, and what would he do to solve that problem? Good girl, Suzy. He felt her within, she was his strong point, she would never leave him, and she listened up to the craziest story of her life, that of the last few days.
"There we are, she said when they bent the road up the Wall.
She knew very well this house, but now, something newl There were fire trucks stationed before the property with blue blinking lights, and police, and a milling crowd. And there was fire under the roof, exactly where he lived. Flames were blazing there, and a police officer who sealed the scene and came over to the car and asked:
"You live here?"
"Up there!" Hans pointed directly to the flare.
"Fire broke out, " the officer stated calmly.
The officer gave the time. It was exactly a few minutes after he had left the house.
"You cannot enter there, the police officer said whilst the fire men put up a fire ladder reaching up to the roof.
"There are goods in the cellar, " Hans said. "Can I salvage them? Can we enter there?"
"Chief, the officer phoned over there, "here is a resident. He wants to enter the basement to salvage things."
The Chief, not far away, looked over to the officer and the car, and maybe he judged it right or he followed only an inconsiderable feeling.
"But only the cellar, he said with a muffled voice. "And tell them to act quickly. Okay?"
"Only the cellar, and quickly you must act, the officer said. "Did you read that?"
"Unmistakeably, loud and clear."
There was the corridor, over there, where tenants had put out cheap carpets to make the sterile stairways more cosy, there was the door leading to the cellar. Hans Hargarden shuddered when he saw that door. He had passed it by in the last time with resistance, reflecting to open it and look what's behind. But he couldn't do it. He could not, because there was a creepy feeling and a block that hindered him to enter there. But now, Suzy at his side, it should be possible.
He touched the door handle, the key had problems to be turned in the lock - was it the fire, the heat from inside, but still far above? No. Hans' fingers trembled, but finally he opened up the door.
Fingers still on the handle, Suzy grabbed his shoulder.
"What's that out there?" she asked.
"Oh yes, it was forbidden to deposit anything besides flowers on the stairs, but he had placed that broken mirror there, shards now lying on the floor.
"This one mirror, it broke," he choked.
"I know," she coolly said. "Why did it break?"
"It cracked by itself, so it seems."
No, it didn't crack by itself, both of them thought. Impossible. Without touching it? Have you ever seen a mirror splintering like that, cracks running from left down to the right angle of the glass?
"You wanted to deposit it down there?" she softly asked.
"Yes, but I couldn't open that door."
"Now, I won't look good in it, Suzy tried to jest, although even she was seized by a strange feeling coming from behind the door.
"Broken glass means luck," he said with difficulty.
"So we hope."
He hadn't done it. Who was the perpetrator of the broken glass? Something behind the door? Now they almost had spoken out what both of them thought and it frightened them. For sure, there was something of influence behind the door, residing in the cellar for a few days, incidentally exactly for the time all his clocks and all the clocks he watched showed FIVE TO TWELVE instead of the right time.
And there was more, fingers yet still on the handle, without opening the door leading down there.
"There was stress," he said.
Suzy looked worried. "That noise?"
"Yes, sort of vibrations in my head." He licked his lips. "Always when I thought of it."
"Noise from that source?" she asked and she knew it was no noise from outside, maybe from the neighborhood or the street.
"No source of noise from outside," he confirmed. "It was tingling just in my head."
He never had witnessed such kind of noise before, she knew.
"This noise began with your feeling about strange things happening in this house?" she made certain for herself.
"Yes," he stammered.
Suzy, good girl, she understood very well.
"What about you?" he suddenly asked. "Your head okay?"
"Some slight tingling there," she confessed.
"Oh yes, you're attacked as well."
"Will we strike back?" she asked.
He nodded decidedly and he grabbed his head.
"It worries you very much?" she asked.
"It's louder than before."
"My God! Let's have an end of it!"
They still stood before the door in a burning house wherein - oh yes - some cases were stored. Allegedly they had come to put them out. Strange things, they talked so long, as if they hadn't really wanted to enter there, as if there was an influence to hinder them to open up the door.
Why did they talk so long? They looked at each other as if this question had sprung up at the same time in both of them. There was something behind that door which prevented them from opening it. But, still, two are stronger than one alone.Why had she phoned him except to help?
"Okay," he shook off the confusion and the strange ideas seemingly coming from nowhere and thrust open the door.
In the cellar before them it was dark but mixed with a soft greenish shine. He switched on the light. Yes, there were the stairs, and the light, just switched on, went pale, and flickered as if a reducing power were down there. Hans, clutching the banisters first, slowly stepped down, swaying like a drunkard, sometimes the tingling growing louder in his head, and he tripped once or twice. "Bad influence in my head," he almost whined.
"But, good luck." Suzy was behind him, now stronger than ever before, her hand gripped his shoulder: Be a man!
He was a man. The bulbs shone brightly almost as before, but he remembered suddenly, two or three bulbs in his apartment had exploded in the last few days. And the screen of the television set, the picture there faded out. Problems with electricity all over the house, sometimes it even tickled in his hands.
"Do you feel it?" she asked, following her feminine instinct, and grabbed him hard.
"Yes," he replied. "I'll vomit next moment."
"Don't do that," she commanded.
He didn't do that. But he gathered a feeling of repulsion, there was a stench down there, and again arose problems with electricity, the lights went out and on again, flickering as if gone mad. That made it more difficult to discern what was in the cellar down there, immediately below their feet, behind the greenish shine.
"Shall we step back?" he asked, growing noise in his head.
"No, she commanded again and almost with a manlike baritone. "We must have a look there, and prevent."
And then, at the back of the cellar, they recognized the fluorescent greenish shine, and where it did come from? There was a case wherein apples and other fruit had been stored, but now in this case there was that green brilliance which made the hearts of both intruders bump.
He pressed a handkerchief to his mouth and nose, but the stench didn't go away and the rotten green light shone like stemming from a ghost. They moved nearer hesitantly. There was a backbone like that of a crocodile heaving up in the case and a rasping noise as if someone had problems inhaling breath. The air from the Earth.
"What's up?" she asked the staggering man in front of her, and once more grabbed him fast.
The room around him swirled silently. He lifted up and saw the stars, strange constellations, unknown to him, and a ship like a disc, but eerily they moved in the ship like fish swimming in an interstellar aquarium.
"Everything turns around, we bump down," he panted and he groped about and struck the case, and the green light went on, and the green light went out, and there was that noise not only in his head, but Suzy felt it now as well.
The case slithered before them, there was a rasping outside noise when the alligator or lobster or the scaled thing tried to escape the threat and move out of the case. And suddenly it heaved up to the ceiling, from which now the green light shone, as if it could move totally without energy, or maybe just with the energy of it's brain. Then, accompanied by flickering green alarm lights, it plummeted down next to the case. But no, it didn't really escape uninjured, some sort of green blood trickled down. It rose again and, weakend, bounced back with a heavy thud into the case, and the thrilling squeal in both of their heads went out.
Then the light from the meagre bulbs went completely dark and there was only the ebbing greenish shine, and in it there was a purple, even pleading grim eye fixed on them.
Debris fell down on them. Old bicycles, old pottery, no one knew who had stored it there. There was a pack of newspapers twenty or thirty years old as to judge by the cover, and even something like a baseball club slithered down. And then he, Hans, stood there, just this club in his hand, leaning over the case and the throbbing light, ready to strike, but there was a female hand on his shoulder to stop him short.
"No, you can't do that!" Suzy exclaimed.
"No? Why not? Miserable thing, it's not only in our cellar, it's in our heads. And have you seen how it moves? To the ceiling up und down, and who knows where next time it will end!"
Then he stopped, that club still in his hand, bent over the case and the waning green light. Seeing that beast or whatever it was, coming from the stars, he had completely forgotten their house and the fire in it. But now, even from the ceiling (where seconds ago the monster hovered) there came some crackling heat and they heard a crushing sound as buttresses or something fell down.
"We must get out!" Suzy urged and gripped his non-clubbed arm.
And he, as if having gone mad from some other influence and recovering, came to.
"Yes," he croaked, "let's get out of here!"
There were the stairs they quickly climbed, then smoke began to fill the well, and finally outside, with a sigh of relief they closed the door behind themselves. Panting they leaned on the wall, whilst a firefighter came over to them.
"Everything okay?" he asked.
He looked strangely at them as if to behold a ghost.
"All is well," Hargarden reported, and slowly they moved out on the street where a multitude of curious people had gathered round.
"You are the arsenist who laid that fire here?" one insolently asked Hans.
He didn't answer. Both of them, under shock, moved away from the now in bright flame-blazing house, but an officer of the fire department recognizing Hans bade them to hold.
"Well?" Hans asked.
"You know how the fire broke out?" the officer interrogated.
"No, we don't," replied Hans, Suzy fast on his side.
"One of our men up there detected, it was the fuse gone bad," the officer explained.
"The fuse? Gone bad?" Hans knit his brow. The fuse was installed in the corridor, as Hans Hargarden knew. It popped out very seldomly in that old house, and only then, when he was running too much electric devices.
"Yes, the fuse, there was no sign of it, confirmed the officer, arms folded over his breast.
"I haven't touched the fuse for years, Hans panted truthfully.
"So, where is it now?" the officer insisted angrily.
"The fuse?" Hargarden shook his head. "Before I left the house, it was in there. Lights and everything were okay."
But then the suspicion if the officer concerning the lost fuse abated and the strange house when he looked in the true eyes of the fire stricken man. That man didn't lie, so the fuse sprang out by itself. But how? Under a heavy impulse?
"It's an old house," he murmurred to himself.
"Yes, Sir, it is. One of the old Bremen houses it is. Didn't you find any trace of the fuse up there?" Hans asked pointing up to the house.
"No, we had only short time to look for it. Maybe it is in the rubble there. Beg your pardon," the officer finally said, "but, please mind, tomorrow," frowningly he looked at his watch, "No, I mean about nine o'clock, you must report to the police."
"Very well," Hans said.
When they were alone, several steps ahead in the greenery of the park, Hans pressed Suzy to himself, all quite near, he pressed Suzy to his breast, and he sniffed her body and her hair. There was the perfume he loved so much.
"The fuse," he slowly said, "that wasn't me."
"That thing in there catapulted it out."
"I guess. As it has destroyed the mirror, affecting the bulbs and on the lights."
"How long was it there?" she suddenly wanted to know.
"In that house?" he counterquestioned, thinking of all Earth.
She nodded. "In that house."
"For about a fortnight I had problems there," he said.
"Problems of what kind?" she lovingly but strictly asked although he already had told her a lot of it.
"Problems moving there, and growing problems with electricity," he remarked. "That door down there, it was difficult to pass it by."
"Like me," she devoutly mused. "Last time I was here, something touched me within when I moved along that door."
Thoughtfully both of them paused.
"Where did it come from?" she then asked softly, grabbing his arm again.
"I don't know. In my dreams it came from the stars. I even saw a disc."
"And how did it come into the cellar of this house?" She pointed to the still flaming house again.
"How came it to , Earth?" he suppressedly asked. "By accident, I suppose. A mishap happened out there, far away, it lost control of the disc or of itself and landed here, in an inconspicuous spot of which it never dreamt of."
"Where is the disc?"
"Don't know. But maybe it cracked in orbit. There is so much debris floating around the Earth, it will take time to check it out."
"But why the cellar and the crate, Hans? Don't you think that's a crazy spot for the first alien contact?"
"You don't know, Suzy", he mused, "what their spaceship looked like. Maybe they would laugh seeing our rockets from inside."
Both considered these facts.
"How do you jump out of a disc to end in this cellar over there?" she wondered then.
"How could it move to the ceiling all on its own?" he counterasked. "How do you crack a mirror distantly, and jump out a fuse?"
"Don't know, " she said. "It's dangerous because of its special abilities?"
"I think so. Why that feeling Five to Twelve?"
"Should we tell the police?"
"They would regard us as a couple gone mad?"
"For sure they would."
"Unknown powers. Imminent danger from space?" she mused.
"Powers for sure, imminent not absolute. They crashed."
Then again, from Hans: "This is mind reading danger from outer space?" He spoke with a touch of jest, but serious.
"Mind influencing as well?"
"Like on Earth?"
Good sign, both of them laughed at this remark, then abruptly stopped. It was not funny at all.
"How did it work? And how come that it reached us? Are we related some way or the other?"
He sighed with relief, repeating: "It was only one. And he cracked."
"Or a she", she added finally.
"Or a she," he consented remorsefully.
"Hopefully the others don't know of Earth."
"Let's pray you're right."
"You feeling well?" she finally asked.
"Yes, as if a nightmare were gone."
They looked at the still blazing house.
"What about the clock?" she inquired still unsatisfied.
They moved a few steps around the next bush, and there was the dome and up on the tower, there also was a giant clock, even to be read from this distance.
"One in the morning," she loudly read. "And what's about you?"
"One in the morning", he grinningly said.
Right time, she thought and sighed, Thank God!
"What do you think this clockwise message meant?"
"Five to Twelve?"
"Don't know. Urgent message. That thing down there anyway has been desperate. So instead of popping out the fuse maybe it intended to do other things."
There was a break. They sniffed the fresh air. They walked some time. Suddenly, a plane moved far, far above, over their heads.
"I must know what happened to the Thing", he said, thinking about the fact that he was relieved (the humming noise in his head had ceased).
They moved back to the house sizzling in red flames. At the beginning they even didn't need the street lights because of its shine, but now the house dimmed out.
The officer, still there and rather content, recognized them again.
"Still here?" he asked and looked at his watch.
Two in the morning, he read, but didn't speak. Well, it's no fun when you live here and see all your belongings burnt.
"Anything found in the house?" Hans Hargarden cautiously asked.
"You didn't save a case from the house?" the officer asked.
"No, there was nothing of value to risk our lives, " returned Hans.
"No, " the officer said, "nothing in there. Stuff of all kind burnt, but, thank God, all people evacuated and safe."
"And in the cellar?" persisted Hans. "Something down there?"
"No, only junk there, and everything down there has been burnt."
"Expressly in the cellar so far away from the roof?" Hargarden asked unbelievingly.
"Somebody had hidden there kerosene or stuff like that, so in the cellar the fire burst suddenly out and destroyed almost everything. You are lucky to have left out in time."
"Thank you," said Hans when they parted to a girl-friend of Suzy's.
And when they moved down the Wall, there was something like a gleaming streak of light in the sky. But of course this was another plane, even when his engines were cut down. But was it really so far away that they couldn't hear some noise, but see its shine? Or was it a rescue team in search of their comrade who had disappeared? Both of them, Suzy and Hans, who loved tenderly this night, never knew. And maybe, we too, will never know, because, if it was an invasion, it evidently has been postponed, because of the strange happenings around the house.
Five to Twelve?
Better watch out!
Gerd's two books translated to English, available at Amazon: