Monday, October 31, 2011

The Heckthaler

Jörg von Rauhenstein was a drunkard and a gambler; he lived so long in the lap of luxury until the fortune he had inherited from his father was gone.

Without a coin in his pocket he moved to Vienna together with his wife and their child.

Ruefully he gave up his slovenly life; he found a job as armourer and soon the little family lived in modest prosperity.

But after a couple of years he succumbed to the temptation to drink and to roll the dices again.

Finally he lost his job and when his child got sick he even wasn’t able to pay a doctor.
The kid died; and soon after the child’s death his wife passed away due broken heart. – Both found their too early graves at St.Stephen’s cemetery.

But even their death couldn’t keep him away from his vice.

As beggar Jörg strolled through Vienna and asked for food and some coins.

One day he met the maid servant Burgl. She felt mercy with the poor guy and so she asked,
“Have you ever tried to find a Heckthaler?”

“What is a Heckthaler?” Jörg replied interested.

“It’s a very special coin,” the maid explained, “the one who owns a Heckthaler is never in financial need. This magical coin comes back to you every time you spend it.”

“What do I have to do to find such a coin?” Jörg inquired.

Burgl nodded to make clear she would give him the details,
“In a night to a Sunday at midnight you have to run around St. Stephen’s church three times. You have to start your run exactly with the first strike of the tower clock and the run has to be finished with the last, the twelfth strike. Then you’ll find a brand-new coin in your pocket – a Heckthaler.”

This sounded very inviting to Jörg and so he decided to try his luck.

Saint Stephen's Cathedral and the graveyard, c.1720
Long before midnight Jörg arrived at the cemetery which surrounded St. Stephen’s church.

It was an eerie night. The wind purred around the spire and the pale moon light drew strange shadows on the ground.
But despite the scary situation the fellow remained at the grave yard.

When the clock struck a quarter to midnight he made himself ready for his run; he didn’t even want to miss a second of the time.

At twelve the wheels of the clock creaked and the first stroke of the clock echoed through the night.

At that moment Jörg started into his fateful run.

Frantically he ran between the graves and tried to find the shortest way.

Suddenly - the first round was almost completed - he saw the figure of his dead father with a sorrowful and even alerting expression on his face. But although he was scared he continued his running.

At the end of the second round he noticed his deceased wife beckoning him to stop.
But Jörg ignored her warning and started into the third round.

He still had the two visions on his mind when he stumbled upon a little grave. He fell.

At this moment two little arms reached out of the grave, grabbed him by his clothes and held him so tightly that he couldn’t move anymore.

He tried hard to break away – but all in vain.

As the clock struck the twelfth time the unregenerate lost his life on the grave of his child.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for including the legend in their 'FlashCast 41 - My Arm Wound' !


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Ninth Pin or The Skittle Player of St.Stephen's Tower

In ancient times Vienna had a tower guard. He was located at the highest point of the town. This was that times St. Stephen’s Cathedral. He lived in a small apartment in the Tower of St. Stephen’s and watched over the houses of the town. His duty was to alert the citizens when a fire broke out.

But in quiet times when nothing happened it was quite a boring job.

So it came that the Viennese built a skittle alley for the amusement of the tower guard in a small room beside the guard’s parlour.
It was a small and low-ceilinged room and so the skittle alley was short; therefore the players stood with their back to the alley, bowed their head and had to roll the bowling ball between their legs.

But this didn’t matter; the young fellows from the neighbourhood loved to play with the tower guard on this extraordinary bowling alley.

Once there was a tower guard called Franz; he was a dissolute fellow, he loved to drink and his passion was the nine pin bowling. He was a master of this game; no matter where or when he was playing, he always hit all nine pins with one single throw. He won every time. But soon no one wanted to play with Franz anymore.

One evening in fall Franz played the skittles again alone till midnight.

Suddenly he heard a hollow voice out of the dark, “Still playing at such a time?”

A tall thin man with a grey cloak, the hood lowly pulled over his face, occurred in the light of the candles.

Cold shivers ran over Franz’s back, but soon he was the fearless guy again and answered boldly,
“Do you dare to play with me? I win every time!”

The Grey replied with a cheerful voice, “Me too. I never lose a game.”

Franz took the skittle ball and with a full swing he hurled it between his legs.

The skittles were blasted out and cheerfully he shouted, "All Nine! Match that if you can!"

But when he realigned the pins he hid one under his jacket and seemingly unnoticed he threw the pin out of the tower window.

“Not that way, my friend!” the Grey roared in a sinister voice.

Then the hooded man straightened up, he grew and grew, and spread his cloak.

Shuddering Franz saw the bare bones.

"I am the Death," it echoed through the little room, "and I always win - even when there are only eight pins, I make all nine. I just have to hit eight – plus one!"

The skeletal hand reached for the ball and threw it into the pins, so that they fell with heavy clatter. And instead of the ninth pin – Franz fell to the ground.

The next morning, the tower guard was found dead between the pins.

Since then, the tower guard Franz appears as a ghost at the bowling alley every night; he whimpers and whines, and still tries to find the ninth pin, because otherwise he can’t find salvation.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for including the legend in their 'FlashCast 40 - The Strange Love of Dr. Monstrous' !