Metropolis, Chapter 13: Stolen Soul

by Thea von Harbou

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It was midnight and no light was burning. Only through the window there fell the radiance of the city, lying like a pale gleam upon the face of the girl who sat, leaning back against the wall, without moving, with closed eyelids, her hands in her lap.

“Will you never answer me?” asked the great inventor.

Stillness. Silence. Immobility.

“You are colder than stone, harder than any stone. The tip of your finger must cut through the diamond as though it were water. I do not implore your love. What does a girl know of love? Her unstormed fortresses — her unopened Paradises — her sealed-up books, whom no one knows but the god who wrote them — what do you know of love? Women know nothing of love, either. What does light know of light? Flame of burning? What do the stars know of the laws, by which they wander? You must ask chaos — coldness, darkness, the eternal unredeemed which wrestles for the redemption of itself. You must ask the man what love is. The hymn of Heaven is only composed in Hell. I do not implore your love, Maria. But your pity, you motherly one, with the virgin face.”

Stillness. Silence. Immobility.

“I hold you captive. Is that my fault? I do not hold you captive for myself, Maria. Above you and me there is a Will which forces me into being evil. Have pity on him who must be evil, Maria! All the springs of good within me are choked up. I thought them to be dead, but they are only buried alive. My being is a rock of darkness. But deep within the sad stone I hear the springs rushing. If I defy the Will which is above you and me — if I destroy the work I created after your image — it would only be what Joh Fredersen deserves, and it would be better for me!

“He has ruined me, Maria — he has ruined me! He stole the woman from me, who was mine, and whom I loved. I do not know if her soul was ever with me. But her pity was with me and made me good. Joh Fredersen took the woman from me. He made me evil. He, who grudged the stone the imprint of her shoe, made me evil to take her pity from me. Hel is dead. But she loved him. What a fearful law it is by which the beings of Light turn themselves to those of Darkness, but pass by those in the shade. Be more merciful than Hel was, Maria! I will defy the Will which is above you and me. I will open the doors for you. You will be able to go where you list, and nobody shall stop you. But would you remain with me of your own free will, Maria? I long to be good… will you help me?”

Stillness. Silence. Immobility.

“Neither do I implore your pity, Maria. There is nothing on earth more incompassionate than a woman who only loves one single being. You cool murderesses in the name of Love. You goddesses of Death, with your smile! The hands of your Beloved are cold. You ask, ‘Shall I warm your hands for you, Beloved?’ You do not wait for his ‘Yes.’ You set fire to a city. You burn down a kingdom, so that you can warm the hands of your Beloved at its blaze. You rise up and pluck from the heaven of the world its most radiant stars, without caring that you destroy the Universe and put the dance of the Eternal out of balance. ‘Do you want the stars, Beloved?’ And if he says ‘No’ then you let the stars fall. Oh, you blessed harm-doers! You may step, fearfully inviolable, before the throne of God and say, ‘Get up, Creator of the World! I need the throne of the World for my beloved!’ You do not see who dies by your side if only the one is living. A drop of blood on the finger of your Beloved frightens you more than the destruction of a continent. All this I know, and have never possessed it. I — I… No, I do not call upon your pity, Maria. But I call upon your fidelity.”

Stillness. Silence. Immobility.

“Do you know the subterranean City of the Dead? There I used a girl called Maria nightly to call her brothers together. Her brothers wear the blue linen uniform, the black caps, the hard shoes. Maria spoke to her brothers of a mediator who would come to deliver them. ‘The Mediator between Brain and Hands must be the Heart.’ Wasn’t it so? The brothers of the girl believed in the girl. They waited. They waited long. But the mediator did not come. And the girl did not come. She sent no message. She was not to be found. But the brothers believed in the girl, for they had found her as true as gold. ‘She will come!’ they said. ‘She will come again! She is faithful. She will not leave us alone! She said the mediator will come! Now he must come. Let us be patient and let us wait!’ But the mediator did not come. And the girl did not come. The misery of the brothers has grown from day to day. Where once a thousand murmured — now murmur ten thousand. They will no more be fed with hope. They languish for fight, for destruction, for ruin, for downfall. And even the believers, even the patient ones ask, ‘Where is Maria? Can it be that gold is faithless?’ Will you leave them without an answer, Maria?”

Stillness. Silence. Immobility.

“You are silent. You are very obstinate. But now I shall tell you something which will surely break your obstinacy. Do you think I am holding you captive here for fun? Do you think Joh Fredersen knew no other way of getting you out of his son’s sight than shutting you up behind the Solomon’s seal on my doors? Oh, no, Maria — oh, no, my beautiful Maria! We have not been idle all these days. We have stolen your beautiful soul from you — your sweet soul, that tender smile of God.

“I have listened to you as the air has listened to you. I have seen you angry and in the depths of despair. I have seen you burning and dull as the earth. I have listened to you praying to God, and have cursed God because he did not hear you. I have intoxicated myself with your helplessness. Your pitiful weeping has made me drunken. When you sobbed the name of your Beloved, I thought I must die, and reeled. And thus, as one intoxicated, as one drunken, as one reeling, I became a thief of you, Maria, I created you anew — I became your second God! I have stolen you absolutely! In the name of Joh Fredersen, the Master over the great Metropolis, have I stolen your ego from you, Maria.

“And this stolen ego — your other self — sent a message to your brothers, calling them by night into the City of the Dead — and they all came. When you spoke to them before, you spoke for peace… but Joh Fredersen does not want peace anymore — do you see? He wants the decision! The hour has come! Your stolen ego may not speak for peace anymore. The mouth of Joh Fredersen speaks from out it. And among your brothers there will be one who loves you and who will not realize — who will not doubt you, Maria.

“Only just give me your hands, Maria — only your hands, no more. I do not ask for more… your hands must be wondrous. Pardon is the name of the right, Redemption of the left. If you give me your hands, I will go with you into the City of the Dead, so that you can warn your brothers, so that you can unmask your stolen ego — so that the one who loves you finds you again and does not have to doubt you. Did you say anything, Maria?”

He heard the soft, soft weeping of the girl. He fell, where he stood, upon his knees. He wanted to drag himself along on his knees to the girl. And suddenly stopped still. He listened. He stared. He said in a voice which was almost like a shriek, in its wide-awake attention, “Maria…? Maria — don’t you hear…? There’s a strange man in the room…”

“Yes,” said the quiet voice of Joh Fredersen.

And then the hands of Joh Fredersen seized the throat of Rotwang, the great inventor.

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