Chapter 9. The American
Life on Mars is dull. I have the sensation of being captive to an illusion. Yet the digits and the maths add up to it.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
The silence deafens me. Lounging on the grass, I stare at the sky. Love the clarity of the Milky Way at night.
Forty hours later, a dry snap sound, like that of a Mauser rifle, captures my attention. Before I can realize, Die Glocke is completely materialized, pushing new weight against the grass, ionizing the air. Smelling the ozone, I stand up. It looks like Die Glocke but it’s not. Swoosh, a sliding surface. It’s opening. I must hide. Now!
Doing the best I could—hiding behind my repulsin—I wait. And peep, furtively. There’s a man, a military man, an American, judging by his uniform. He walks towards me. No, he stops, turns around, wants to walk away.
“Hey! Bist Du ein Amerikaner?” I surprise him, ending my hide and seek game.
He freezes. Turns around. Again. To face me.
“Colonel Karl Karpenter, United States Air Force.”
“Hauptmann Rolf Radetzky, Deutsches Reich Luftwaffe.” Say I.
The American pilot of Die Glocke (or whatever they would call this version of it) is tall, handsome and wearing an impeccable uniform. I was never good at being tidy. My uniform looks great by the art of Hugo Boss even when I forget a button. This is what I call effortless good looking.
“Captain Rolf Radetzky, your uniform indicates that you belong to the Military Police, not the Luftwaffe.”
“Uh, Colonel, ziss is a misunderstanding. I was implicated in an undercover operation. Espionage! Sabotage! Ziss uniform has been handled to me by one of your OSS operatives. Zat because she took my real uniform.”
“Uh-huh, I see. I love espionage stories. Sabotage too. Tell me more.”
“I will. But first I need you to tell me if zeh war is over.”
“Zeh war between my country and your country.”
“You mean World War Two? Yes. It was over. Long time ago.”
“And Hitler is dead, yes?”
“Dead, burned and buried. Yes!”
“Thank Heavens!” I breathe a long sigh. “Are we now allies against zeh Bolsheviks?”
“Well,” he seems to sigh longer than me, “let me ask you another question. When was it that you’ve left base in this repulsin?”
“Sunday, September 24th, 1944. Viktor packed me in ziss experimental machine to save me from being shot for high treason.”
“By Viktor, you refer to Viktor Schauberger, or?”
“Indeed. Is he doing well? Did he manage to escape the camp?”
“He did. We brought him to the States. He worked for us then he returned to Austria, where he passed away. Based on his research and discoveries, we developed the sprites. In one of these sprites,” he points his finger to Die Glocke, where I gazed at times, “I just arrived here.”
“Looks quite futuristic. When have you left your base in ziss shprite?”
“Sunday, October 31st, 2021.” Says the Colonel.
“Oh Gott, zey must be all dead. My friends, my parents, my loved ones, Rivkah…” I bury my face in my palms. I cry.
A moment later, he breaks the silence. “How much time have you spent in this building?”
I compose myself, stand up and speak, to the point. “Forty-one hours and twenty minutes inside ziss luminous cube. One hundred and twelve hours in zeh darkness. In total, 153 hours and twenty minutes since I left zeh surroundings of Salzburg.”
“One week off-planet for you against seventy-seven years on-planet for us. Interesting.” He’s now patting me on the shoulder. “Follow me, you’ve gotta be hungry.” Heading for Die Glocke, or the sprite –as they call this in their time, he digs in for a few packaged goods.
“Here. Help yourself.” The Colonel handles me food.
“Water! Do you have some water?”
“Sure. Mineral rich water in the silvery bag. Here.” He picks the bag, unseals it and gives it to me.
I sip a mouthful. Allowing a little while for the water to flood my senses before slurping it. Then I repeat the drill with a new sip. Slowly. Like they have trained me to do.
“Is Germany an American protectorate now?”
“Germany is a Federal Republic. A sovereign state. But we have military bases in there. I’ve just departed from Ramstein.”
“Has Bavaria regained independence?”
“The topic has surfaced as of late. But Bavaria is still part of Germany. At least so it was when I last checked. Oh my… Oh my!”
“Is zere a problem, sir?” I wonder.
“Rolf, one week for you underground meant seventy-seven years for us at the surface. Right?”
“If you say so. Ziss should be right. Sir.”
He stares at his watch, seemingly a more performant version of my old B-Uhr.
“I must leave, Rolf. If you’ve got a message, a bottle in the ocean, now is the moment. Anyway, help will come shortly. Trust me! Hope that you can understand that I cannot take you with me right away.”
“I do, sir. No problem. I have one message. To Rivkah Rabinovics, the love of my heart. Oh, wait… Maybe to her children, her grandchildren. If you could…”
“I’ll be back!”
These were his last words to me.