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' !