Earth-Two Elseworlds: The Spectre and the Demon: Gamemasters, Chapter 2: Battle on Olympus

by Dan Swanson

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On Earth, the Spectre and the Demon Etrigan vanished. In human terms, the trip from Earth to Mount Olympus was so fast as to seem instantaneous, but human terms meant little to beings such as these. In the short interval between leaving Earth and arriving in Olympus, the two near-godlike ancient enemies had plenty of time to chat. No mortal observer would have recognized them during this short time; it was as if they could let their hair down with each other as they could with no others.

“Well, cousin, you seem astoundingly lucid today.” The Spectre’s voice was, as usual, as cold as the depths of space, but there was a trace of something unidentifiable in his voice. It was certainly not friendship, but perhaps familiarity. “The recent binding with Jason Blood must agree with you.”

“When Blood does deign to summons me,
My soul retains his strictures for awhile.
And during that while it seems that I am sane,
But sane for long I cannot be;
My maker filled me with excessive bile;
Sanity passes, Etrigan I remain.

“For both our sakes I do suggest
A quick conclusion to this little jaunt;
As sanity goes my power grows,
I more than overmatch an ancient haunt!”

Though the Spectre had never in human history displayed any discernable sense of humor, a human observer might almost have thought him amused.

“We’ve the two of us battled since the dawn of the universe, Demon, and your greatest successes have barely been draws. Your threats are meaningless.”

“Listen to me, Ghost of Vengeance;
My warning, not merely a pretense,
My insanity grows,
My power explodes,
Into madness for which you’ve no defense!”

Did the Spectre wince? He closed his eyes, at least, for a second. During that second, Etrigan found himself awash in powerful mystical forces, but he immediately sensed that they were, at least this once, benign.

“I see the truth of your words,” said the Spectre. “Your forced binding with the human Blood is painful. His sanity tears at what passes for your soul. That pain increases your madness, and in your madness you use your powers with less restraint than ever before. Blood knows this and thus only rarely looses you. I would relieve you of that pain and your madness if I could, but the powers of your maker far exceed my own.

“Still must you know this — the binding pains Blood as well,” continued the Spectre, “and ere long he will seek his freedom, regardless of the awful cost. As for your unnatural concern for me, regardless of whence it came, know that in some ways the binding with Corrigan has had a similar effect on me. The restraints of his soul remain with me for some time after I am released, and during that time, my behavior is more human than has been my norm since our ancient birth. Perhaps as a reaction to being restrained, when the restraints fade, I also am more powerful than ever.

“Still, when my powers were at lowest ebb, even then were you unable to best me!” the Spectre quickly added. “Remember the battle in the Nendromanda Proto-Nebula? I had just finished one of my most momentous and draining battles (with foes other than yourself), banishing the World-Eater to a lesser universe. I was at my weakest when you struck most treacherously — and failed — though you destroyed the entire Proto-Nebula and several thousand future races who never had a chance to evolve ‘neath the stars you so casually erased.”

“I would not say it failed, oh boastful ghost;
I’d say, in fact, that you were toast!
I caged you away for eons on that day.
Inside of a sun where you had run,
I still remember all the fun,
You’ve forgotten, eh, your mind does you betray.”

“My point is that you have not the power to destroy me. I continue to live. I did escape, and we still do continue our eternal battle.”

“Fine by me, I must admit,
If you were gone, you piece of spit,
I’d miss our everlasting war.
There has been none
Near half as fun,
For me to use to wipe up the floor!”

This was starting to sound more like the Etrigan he knew. He hoped the Demon would retain his newfound sanity long enough for their upcoming confrontation. This figure calling himself Zeus himself would be little problem for either of them, but Zeus could summon powerful allies. And even though he was but a ghost, and a human ghost at that, the spirit of Bruce Wayne was no mean opponent to be underestimated.

The Spectre was still musing when their brief journey ended, and he and the Demon Etrigan materialized in one of the magnificent game rooms in Zeus’ Mount Olympus palace. And none would ever know what passed between these two ancient enemies during that oh-so-brief and private moment.

The two arrived with a boom, literally. The magical power Etrigan had used to transport them exploded around them, an explosion that would have devastated any mortal abode. But Zeus was no mere mortal — in fact, no mere god, but the king of the gods. The massive blast of energy had no more effect on anything nearby than turning on a lightbulb, except that Zeus was livid.

“How dare you invade the domain of Zeus? Begone instantly, and I will ignore your impertinence. Tarry longer and face my wrath!” Zeus’ words rumbled like thunder, shaking the foundations of that mighty palace. The concussion disintegrated the nearby servants, while the ones farther away fell screaming with the agony of burst eardrums. Annoyed, Zeus discorporated the bunch of them with a snap of his fingers; he could easily make more later.

Totally ignoring the livid king of the gods, Etrigan moved to the sideboard and examined the various bottles. The Spectre addressed Zeus directly.

“Have a care, godling. Remember who you do address. The age is long past when you can with impunity play games with human lives.”

Etrigan broke in loudly and spoke his piece.

“Ouzo, mead, ambrosia, absinthe, Bacchus wine,
No vodka or tequila to be found;
Only horrid circumstance makes me drink this slop,
A battle with a godling makes my thirst profound.”

He reached out and his hand grew larger, and he swept all the bottles, jars, and containers from the sideboard. He tilted his head backward, and his mouth opened grotesquely, stretching wider than several manholes. He dropped everything in, and his mouth returned to normal size. He chewed once, and there was the sound of various containers crunching, and then he swallowed — and belched.

The belch was as loud as Zeus’ voice had been and had much greater effect. The wall he was facing exploded away from him, blasting through the beautifully tended garden outside. What plants that were not destroyed by the blast immediately withered to brown as the gas expelled by Etrigan billowed outward.

“Not too bad, I must admit, though without much bite;
Now that I am fortified, let’s begin the fight!”

He snapped his fingers, and sparks flew from his clashing talons, igniting his waste gasses into a massive fireball. Unlike the explosion that heralded their entrance, this one was effective — the palace of Zeus was blown apart like a house of cards in a wind tunnel. Zeus roared with anger as the beautiful ancient marble rained down around them, bouncing off protective bubbles thrown up by the various combatants. Bruce Wayne had no such power and had to move quickly closer to Zeus in order to remain unscathed.

When the dust cleared, the scene was literally unearthly. Zeus’ palace had been surrounded by miles of carefully tended parkland, throughout which had been scattered a number of smaller buildings. In the direction of the sun near the horizon stood the city of Olympus. The former parkland resembled nothing so much as the ground surrounding an atomic explosion — nothing but piles of rubble, fires burning sporadically where flammable debris had been rammed into piles by some more durable feature of the landscape. For miles around them, nothing lived.

The devastation had not reached the city of Olympus — it was not that Etrigan hadn’t tried, but the Spectre had stepped in with an attempt to keep the rest of the Greek gods out of this battle. Still, it was an impressive display of power, even among the present company. Zeus was avidly cursing in the language of the Titans, which could not even be translated. But the gist was something like the following:

“You barbaric idiot! You’ll pay dearly for this!”

He hurled the lightning that suddenly filled his hands. Etrigan must have been expecting this kind of attack — it was Zeus he was fighting, after all. The bolts exploded before they reached the hell-spawned Etrigan, and even though he was prepared, the power of those explosions staggered him. But this round of lightning had been nothing more than a distraction. When the bolts stopped flying and exploding, Etrigan and the Spectre were both facing hideous monsters well known in Greek mythology.

The Spectre was confronted by two giant monsters with extra heads. A three-headed dog, larger than the largest elephant, snarled and charged. An even larger Hydra with hundreds of heads on long necks breathed magical fire. The hound Cerberus, a creature of the underworld, ignored the magical flames splashing on his back and leaped for the throat of the ghostly guardian.

Before Cerberus reached him, the Spectre was suddenly much larger than the giant dog and still growing. He casually kicked the hurtling, snarling dog aside. Cerberus smashed into a pile of rubble, then rolled and turned, ready to charge again. The Spectre spoke, his voice lashing out in a thunderous command, “Sit!” The mythical dog’s roars changed to whimpers, and he sat — and didn’t move again until well after the battle was over.

The Spectre turned his attention to the Hydra, which by now was no taller than his ankle. He reached down with one hand and plucked the hapless monster from the ground. “The monstrous Hydra of legend — cut off a head and two more will take its place. Yet how will you respond to this?” He squeezed and then shook his hand violently to clear it of the grotesque goop that was all that remained of the horrific monster.

Etrigan smiled as he turned to the Gorgon who was approaching him. At least, we must presume it was a smile. Whatever it was, it altered his face, which quickly became more hideous than anything ever witnessed by earthbound mortals. The Gorgon, whose visage was so terrible it turned those who gazed on it to stone, screamed at the horror in front of her as she met a similar fate, while Etrigan laughed at her own power. Her body turned to sand and was quickly dispersed by the violence of the combat around her.

When Etrigan turned, he was struck again by lightning. The Cyclops were the smiths of Zeus and created his lightnings, and this Cyclops brought with him the best products of his millennia-long labors. A barrage of bolts exploded in the Demon’s face, which momentarily knocked him off-balance and had the added benefit of preventing the Cyclops from viewing Etrigan’s face.

The Cyclops was frantically grabbing bolts from a pile and throwing them, but once he had their measure, Etrigan seemed to ignore them. He strode through the barrage like a man through a light rain, and as he approached he also grew. The Cyclops was a giant by human standards, and Etrigan matched his size. Seeing that the lightning was having no effect, the Cyclops drew his mighty sword — the blade of which was a leashed lightning bolt — and slashed at the Demon with a mighty blow. Etrigan’s hand morphed into a sword, and he easily parried the lightning sword, though sparks flew when the two blades crashed together.

“A little sport is all I ask;
Slaying you, a simple task.”

His sword arm flashed forward faster than the eye could follow, and he skewered the Cyclops through the chest. The mystical creature vanished in a puff of greasy smoke. Etrigan turned to his partner and mocked him.

“This growing tall to awe a foe,
A paltry trick to wow the rubes;
I’ve seen it all before.
I think that in six billion years,
You would have learned some better spells;
Sometimes, you’re such a bore!”

Now whose mind has gone?” said the Spectre. “In perhaps our third battle, when we were younger than a million years and I sought vengeance for an entire race whose star you had extinguished, you first used that paltry trick on me. And you used it again and again until I figured it out myself.”

“Ah, but how superior is an original to the copy,
The shiny, new showroom special to the beat-up old jalopy?”

Both had returned to human size, and as they spoke they ignored Zeus. In turn, Zeus was furious with Bruce Wayne. “Ghost of Wayne, in this you are my ally! Why have you not aided me in this battle?”

“I’m… sorry, Lord Zeus.” His voice was so strained, it sounded as if the Cerberus was ripping his words from his throat. “Something restrains me.”

Zeus did a quick check. “There is no magic restraining you,” he thundered. Save mine own, he thought. “It must be base cowardice, something I would never expect from you, who are the most renowned of human heroes. The mighty Batman? Pfaw! More like the cowardly kitten! Know that you have good cause for your fear, ghost — after my allies and I destroy these two intruders, I will have time to deal with you correctly!”

He turned back to the attackers and was joined by several other Olympians who had come to seek the cause of the destruction. Zeus and Hephaestus, god of fire and the forge, advanced on the Spectre, while Ares, god of war, and Hades, ruler of the underworld, advanced on Etrigan.

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Earth-Two Elseworlds: The Spectre and the Demon: Gamemasters, Chapter 1: The Demon and the Ghost

by Christine Nightstar and Dan Swanson

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Continued from DC Universe: The Race, Book 3: Dirty Tricks, Chapter 7: Evil Let Loose

In a place not far separated from the mortal realm, two beings sat across from each other over a board with several hundred pieces on it, with a lot still hidden from view, even from those playing the game.

“That was an interesting move with Lois Lane Kent, my friend. I was going to have her removed from the table,” said the brightly lit figure with the long, flowing beard to the figure in the black hooded robe across from him.

The black-hooded figure made no gesture or sign that he had heard his host and opponent and just looked at the pieces intently, taking in everything.

The bearded figure offered his guest and adversary a refreshment, but the hooded figure just shook his head.

“Well, I must admit your use of the pieces is good for a mortal,” the bearded one said to the hooded figure. “I can see how you won your freedom so handily. But I am not beat yet.”

The host circled the board another time before he sat down again and drank from a goblet that was taller than his hand. “Using the Shade to motivate Garrick was a master stroke as well, but I don’t see what you gained from freeing Vandal Savage. He’s one of my pieces, and you allowed him to escape, my friend.”

The figure in the hooded black robe didn’t say a word, allowing his host to talk as he waited for his host’s next move.

“You do know that since you won your freedom you can be reincarnated or revived anytime you want, but still you stay, my friend.” He waited for a response but got none from his opponent.

“I know, I know. ‘Shut up, Zeus, and make your move.’ First I will make things a little more interesting for Miss Lane.” Zeus moved another security guard toward the piece resembling Lois Lane Kent. “Delay her boys from helping her by intensifying the situation they are currently in a bit.” His hand drifted to the Vandal Savage piece. “Speed Vandal Savage’s recovery along more, despite his killing the doctor.” His hand then moved to the Shade piece and moved it closer to the Jay Garrick piece. “And with that I am done. Let’s see you counter that.”

“Very well,” said the figure in the hooded black robe. “I trip the perimeter alarm at where Lois is, with Mary and Super Robot L.” The hand moved. “I move Commander Steel closer to Vandal Savage, putting pressure on him. I move Dick Grayson into closer proximity to Jay Garrick as well. Plus, I activate one of my hidden pieces in Nebraska. It will take three turns before it can be revealed.”

“What in Hades’ name are you up to now?” said Zeus. “I knew you had something planned when you didn’t reveal your hidden pieces earlier in the game, forcing me to reveal all mine with your incessant common pieces.”

“For an immortal, you sure don’t know much about patience or strategic planning,” the black-hooded figure, said pulling his hood back. He was Bruce Wayne, the Batman.

“The game isn’t over yet, my friend,” said Zeus. “It’s far from over. You put too much faith in your friends.”

“While you put too much faith in your machinations and manipulations, Zeus. I’ll take some wine now.”

***

In the mortal world, Lois Lane Kent was about to be discovered in her investigative reporting when Super Robot L and Lois’ daughter Mary left the Secret Citadel to look for her. Elsewhere, Commander Steel’s search for Vandal Savage started to tighten around the area where Savage was thought to be held, while Dick Grayson and the Shade were placed in closer proximity to Jay Garrick than they had been before, and somewhere in Nebraska, the unseen piece had gained the energy it needed to be reactivated.

***

Unknown to Lois Lane Kent, another investigator had managed to make his way inside the building, and he had seen enough. There was more going on here than simply a tabloid newspaper. A year and a half ago, Vandal Savage had tried to summon the ancient god of evil, Cthulhu, to the mortal realm and had come dangerously close to succeeding. One immortal evil demon was more than enough for any single planet. As a fellow immortal, Jason Blood had long been aware of Savage and his schemes, but it wasn’t until now that those schemes had risen above the level of an annoyance. It was time for Blood to become involved, and when Blood began an investigation, demons were let loose.

In a locked storeroom, an eerie ancient ritual was occurring.

“Yarva Demonicus Etrigan,
Change, change the form of man.
Free the prince forever damned,
Free the might from fleshy mire,
Boil the blood in heart of fire.
Gone, gone the form of man,
Rise the Demon Etrigan!”

Jason Blood, a tall, sturdy man, disappeared as he chanted those ancient words, to be replaced by a veritable demon. It was short and broadly built with orange skin, horns, red eyes, and ears resembling bat wings.

“This place is filled with Savage lies;
The stench of ancient evil fills the air,
Power lust which never dies,
Turning hope to foul despair!

“Eternal evil is my right,
I will not share with any man;
I’ll rend his life this very night,
I, the Demon, Etrigan!”

Suddenly, Etrigan’s body stiffened. He tilted his head as if listening intently. And in a way he was, although he was listening with mystical senses unavailable to mortal men.

“Jason Blood, a fool you are;
Your will has been usurped this day.
A secret power from afar
Has charged you with a part to play!

“Who would dare make me a tool,
And try to bind me to his plan?
Will soonest learn he is a fool!
None may make a slave of Etrigan!”

He paused in thought, once again employing magical senses beyond human comprehension, and the cadence of his rhymes changed.

“It was my double nature that saved me from this power;
The demon inside Blood could not be bound.
There is another dual like me they also have enslaved,
The opposite of all that I expound.
I go to free the one I hate;
A more unlikely pair could not be found.”

He disappeared in a flash, leaving behind the stench of brimstone.

***

On Mount Olympus, Zeus turned to Bruce Wayne and said crossly, “You are not allowed to deploy your agents during my turn.”

Bruce looked puzzled. “Etrigan? Not one of mine. Since it was your turn, I assumed he must be one of your pieces.”

A rare look of worry flashed across the god’s face. “I think we may be in trouble.”

***

Jim Corrigan and his family were having a cookout when Corrigan’s magic senses flared with a warning of incredible danger. An evil force nigh as powerful as the Spectre was approaching. Although Jim’s human form limited his powers of perception, and he wasn’t quite able to identify this approaching evil, there were only two evil beings he knew of who had this level of power and who regularly frequented Earth, and Satan had been dormant for a while.

He instantly summoned the Spectre, and the ghostly guardian quickly shunted Jim’s family into a previously prepared, strongly fortified pocket dimension where they would remain in stasis until he had once again inevitably triumphed over the approaching evil.

Then, like a bolt of lightning, arrived Etrigan. The Spectre was poised, ready to respond to any attack — in fact, to any action by his foe, any action, except what Etrigan actually did — which was nothing. After a second, the ghostly guardian spoke.

“What evil purpose brings you here, Demon?” said the Spectre, refraining from speaking his name, for to speak a demon’s name in his presence was to grant him power. “Have you perhaps grown bored in your immortality and come to me to hasten your return to primal nothingness?”

“Your banal bluster mean nothing to me.
One thing our endless years have taught:
You can’t best me, I can’t beat you;
It’s been this way each time we’ve fought.”

“You shall never best me, Demon, though it is also true that, though we’ve fought through ages past, I’ve also not beaten you.” The Spectre realized what he had just said and looked stunned. The Demon cackled with glee but said nothing.

“You didn’t break into my life in order to taunt me, Demon, or to socialize. State your purpose or leave. Regardless of past history, I would not advise you to risk my wrath.”

“It astounds me
That you fail to see.”

The Demon then halted his speech and waited.

The Spectre started to respond with even more anger, then halted. His posture was eerily similar to that adopted earlier by Etrigan as he sampled the world with senses far beyond those of mere mortals. “I sense that Jim Corrigan, and many other mortals, have been living under a spell,” said the ghostly guardian, “a spell that replaced their free will with the will of others, forcing them to act as pawns in an unholy game!”

The Demon winced at the word unholy but then rallied and responded, as usual, in verse.

“You and I are much alike, though it pains us both.
Our dual natures set us free of this vile spell.
I propose we find the fool who bound us,
Dismember him and send him straight to hell!”

“Though the humans around us are still bound by this spell, deep inside them, their inner selves cry for vengeance,” agreed the Spectre. “Those are cries I cannot ignore. I agree to join you for this purpose, Demon. Our ancient battle can be rejoined at our leisure, as we have all the time in the universe.”

***

Far away, in a game room in a grand palace on Mount Olympus, Bruce Wayne turned to Zeus and said, “I take it the Spectre is not one of your pieces, either?” When Zeus didn’t answer, Bruce shook his head and said, “You’re right. We are in trouble.”

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Metropolis

Metropolis: The Five Earths Multiverse

Metropolis

by Thea von Harbou

In the great future city of Metropolis, the ruling class and the working class are sharply divided. The privileged live in towering skyscrapers and fill their lives with play, while the workers toil in the machines below for ten-hour shifts each day. Freder, the privileged son of the Master of Metropolis, lives a carefree but meaningless existence until Maria appears, and he learns the meaning of injustice and vows to do something about it by becoming a mediator between the rulers and the workers. But his father, Joh Fredersen, sees Maria’s dangerous ideas as a threat and enlists his old rival, the brilliant and eccentric scientist Rotwang, to devise a solution. He will build a female robot and give it Maria’s appearance and voice, then use it to influence the workmen to riot, allowing the Master of Metropolis to destroy Maria’s reputation and establish even more control over the working class. But even the Master of Metropolis has not reckoned with the power of love. Can Freder save Maria and stop these plots in time, or is Metropolis doomed?

Author’s note: This book is not of today or of the future. It tells of no place. It serves no cause, party or class. It has a moral which grows on the pillar of understanding: “The mediator between brain and muscle must be the Heart.”

Editor’s note: This novel has been edited with modern punctuation in mind, and italics have been added throughout for emphasis. A few small edits for clarity have also been made. The chapters have all been given new titles that were not originally present. Otherwise, the text is complete and based upon the English translation of the original novel, which can be found at Archive.org. We hope you enjoy this classic novel’s vision of the future.

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Metropolis, Chapter 25: Even Unto the End of the World

by Thea von Harbou

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Joh Fredersen came to his mother’s house.

Death had passed over Metropolis. Destruction of the world and the Day of Judgment had shouted from out the roars of explosion, the clanging of the bells of the cathedral. But Joh Fredersen found his mother as he always found her: in the wide, soft chair, by the open window, the dark rug over the paralyzed knees, the great Bible on the sloping table before her, in the beautiful old hands, the figured lace at which she was sewing.

She turned her eyes towards the door and perceived her son.

The expression of stern severity on her face became sterner and more severe.

She said nothing. But about her closed mouth was something which said: “You are in a bad way, Joh Fredersen…”

And as a judge did she regard him.

Joh Fredersen took his hat from his head. Then she saw the white hair above his brow.

Child!” she said quietly, stretching her hands out towards him.

Joh Fredersen fell on his knees by his mother’s side. He threw his arms about her, pressing his head into the lap, which had borne him. He felt her hands on his hair — felt how she touched it, as though fearful of hurting him, as though this white hair was the mark of an unhealed wound, very near the heart, and heard her dear voice saying:

“Child… My child… My poor child.”

The rustling of the walnut tree before the window filled a long silence with longing and affection. Then Joh Fredersen began to speak. He spoke with the eagerness of one bathing himself in holy water, with the fervor of a conquered one, confessing, with the redemption of one ready to do any penance, and who was pardoned. His voice was soft and sounded as though coming from far away, from the farther bank of a wide river.

He spoke of Freder; then his voice failed him entirely. He raised himself from his knees and walked through the room. When he turned around, there stood in his eyes a smiling loneliness and the realization of a necessary giving-up — of the tree’s giving up of the ripe fruit.

“It seemed to me,” he said, gazing into space, “as though I saw his face for the first time… when he spoke to me this morning. It is a strange face, Mother. It is quite my face — and yet quite his own. It is the face of his beautiful, dead mother, and yet it is, at the same time, fashioned after Maria’s features, as though he were born for the second time of that young, virginal creature. But it is, at the same time, the face of the masses — confident in her, related to her, as near to her as brothers.”

“How do you come to know the face of the masses, Joh?” asked his mother gently.

For a long time Joh Fredersen gave no answer.

“You are quite right to ask, Mother,” he said then. “From the heights of the New Tower of Babel I could not distinguish it. And in the night of lunacy, in which I perceived it for the first time, it was so distorted in its own horror that it no more resembled itself.

“When I came out of the cathedral door in the morning, the masses were standing as one man, looking towards me. Then the face of the masses was turned towards me. Then I saw, it was not old, was not young, was sorrowless and joyless.

“‘What do you want?’ I asked. And one answered:

“‘We are waiting, Mr. Fredersen…’

“‘For what?’ I asked him.

“‘We are waiting,’ continued the spokesman, ‘for someone to come who will tell us what way we should go…'”

“And you want to be this one, Joh?”

“Yes, Mother.”

“And will they trust in you?”

“I do not know, Mother. If we had been living a thousand years earlier, I should, perhaps, set out on the high road, with pilgrim’s staff and cockle hat, and seek the way to the Holy Land of my belief, not returning home until I had cooled my feet, hot from wandering in the Jordan, and, in the places of redemption, had prayed to the Redeemer. And, if I were not the man I am, it might come to pass that I should set out on a journey along the roads of those who walk in the shadow. I should, perhaps, sit with them in the corners of misery and learn to comprehend their groans and their curses into which a life of hell has transformed their prayers. For, from comprehension comes love, and I am longing to love mankind, Mother. But I believe that acting is better than making pilgrimages, and that a good deed is worth more than the best of words. I believe, too, that I shall find the way to do so, for there are two standing by me, who wish to help me.”

Three, Joh.”

The eyes of the son sought the gaze of the mother.

“Who is the third?

Hel.”

“Hel…?”

“Yes, child.”

Joh Fredersen remained silent.

She turned over the pages of her Bible until she found what she sought. It was a letter. She took it and said, still holding it lovingly, “I received this letter from Hel before she died. She asked me to give it you when, as she said, you had found your way home to me and to yourself.”

Soundlessly moving his lips, Joh Fredersen stretched out his hand for the letter.

The yellowish envelope contained but a thin sheet of paper. Upon it stood, in the handwriting of a girlish woman:

I am going to God, and do not know when you will read these lines, Joh. But I know you will read them one day, and, until you come, I shall exhaust the eternal blissfulness in praying God to forgive me for making use of two sayings from His Holy Book, in order to give you my heart, Joh.

One is, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” The other:

“Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world!”

“Hel.” It took Joh Fredersen a long time before he succeeded in replacing the thin sheet of notepaper in the envelope. His eyes gazed through the open window by which his mother sat. He saw, drawing across the soft, blue sky, great, white clouds, which were like ships laden with treasures from a far-off world.

“Of what are you thinking, child?” asked his mother’s voice, with care. But Joh Fredersen gave her no answer. His heart, utterly redeemed, spoke stilly within him, “Unto the end of the world… Unto the end of the world.”

The End

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Metropolis, Chapter 24: The Mediator of Metropolis

by Thea von Harbou

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“Freder…?” said the soft Madonna-voice.

“Yes, you beloved! Speak to me! Speak to me!”

“Where are we?”

“In the cathedral.”

“Is it day or night?”

“It is day.”

“Wasn’t your father here with us just now?”

“Yes, you beloved.”

“His hand was on my hair?”

“You felt it?”

“Oh, Freder, while your father was standing here it seemed to me as though I heard a spring rushing within a rock. A spring, weighted with salt, and red with blood. But I knew, too, when the spring is strong enough to break out through the rock, then it will be sweeter than the dew and whiter than the light.”

“Bless you for your belief, Maria.”

She smiled. She fell silent.

“Why don’t you open your eyes, you beloved?” asked Freder’s longing mouth.

“I see,” she answered. “I see, Freder… I see a city, standing in the light.”

“Shall I build it?”

“No, Freder. Not you. Your father.”

“My father?

“Yes…”

“Maria, when you spoke of my father before, this tone of love was not in your voice…”

“Since then much has taken place, Freder. Since then, within a rock, a spring has come to life, heavy with salt and red with blood. Since then Joh Fredersen’s hair has turned snow-white with deadly fear for his son. Since then have those whom I called my brothers sinned from excessive suffering. Since then has Joh Fredersen suffered from excessive sin. Will you not allow them both, Freder — your father as well as my brothers — to pay for their sin, to atone, to become reconciled?”

“Yes, Maria.”

“Will you help them, you mediator?

“Yes, Maria.”

She opened her eyes and turned the gentle wonder of their blue towards him. Bending low above her, he saw, in pious astonishment, how the gay-colored heavenly kingdom of saintly legends, which looked down upon her from out the lofty, narrow church windows, was reflected in her Madonna-eyes.

Involuntarily he raised his eyes to become aware, for the first time, of whither he had borne the girl whom he loved.

“God is looking at us!” he whispered, gathering her up to his heart, with longing arms. “God is smiling to us, Maria.”

“Amen,” said the girl at his heart.

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Metropolis, Chapter 23: The Morning

by Thea von Harbou

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“Beloved!” said Freder, Joh Fredersen’s son.

It was the softest, the most cautious call of which a human voice is capable. But Maria answered it just as little as she had answered the shouts of despair with which the man who loved her had wished to reawaken her to consciousness of herself.

She lay couched upon the steps of the high altar, stretched out in her slenderness, her head in Freder’s arm, her hands in Freder’s hand, and the gentle fire of the lofty church-windows burnt upon her quite-white face and upon her quite-white hands. Her heart beat slowly, barely, perceptibly. She did not breathe. She lay sunken in the depths of an exhaustion from which no shout, no entreaty, no cry of despair could have dragged her. She was as though dead.

A hand was laid upon Freder’s shoulder.

He turned his head. He looked into the face of his father.

Was that his father? Was that Joh Fredersen, the Master over the great Metropolis? Had his father such white hair? And so tormented a brow? And such tortured eyes?

Was there, in this world, after this night of madness, nothing but horror and death and destruction and agony — without end?

“What do you want here?” asked Freder, Joh Fredersen’s son. “Do you want to take her away from me? Have you made plans to part her and me? Is there some mighty undertaking in danger to which she and I are to be sacrificed?

“To whom are you speaking, Freder?” his father asked, very gently.

Freder did not answer. His eyes opened inquiringly, for he had heard a voice never heard before. He was silent.

“If you are speaking of Joh Fredersen,” continued the very gentle voice, “then be informed that, this night, Joh Fredersen died a sevenfold death.”

Freder’s eyes, burnt with suffering, were raised to the eyes which were above him. A piteously sobbing sound came from out his lips. “Oh, my God — Father! Father… you!

Joh Fredersen stooped down above him and above the girl who lay in Freder’s lap.

“She is dying, Father… Can’t you see she is dying?

Joh Fredersen shook his head.

“No, no!” said his gentle voice. “No, Freder. There was an hour in my life in which I knelt, as you, holding in my arms the woman I loved. But she died, indeed. I have studied the face of the dying to the full. I know it perfectly and shall never again forget it. The girl is but sleeping. Do not awaken her by force.”

And, with a gesture of inexpressible tenderness, his hand slipped from Freder’s shoulder to the hair of the sleeping girl. “Dearest child!” he said. “Dearest child…”

And from out of the depth of her dream, the sweetness of a smile responded to him, before which Joh Fredersen bowed himself, as before a revelation, not of this world.

Then he left his son and the girl and passed through the cathedral, made glorious and pleasant by the gay-colored ribbons of sunshine.

Freder watched him go until his gaze grew misty. And all at once, with a sudden, violent, groaning fervor, he raised the girl’s mouth to his mouth and kissed her, as though he wished to die of it. For from out the marvel of light spun into ribbons, the knowledge had come upon him that it was day, that the invulnerable transformation of darkness into light was becoming consummate in its greatness, in its kindliness, over the world.

Come to yourself, Maria, beloved!” he said, entreating her with his caresses, with his love. “Come to me, beloved! Come to me!”

The soft response of her heartbeat, of her breathing, caused a laugh to well up from his throat, and the fervor of his whispered words died on her lips.

Joh Fredersen caught the sound of his son’s laugh. He was already near the door of the cathedral. He stopped and looked at the stack of pillars, in the delicate, canopied niches of which stood the saintly men and women, smiling gently.

You have suffered, thought his dream-filled brain. You have been redeemed by suffering. You have attained to bliss. Is it worthwhile to suffer? Yes.

And he walked out of the cathedral on feet which were still as though dead; tentatively, he stepped through the mighty doorway, stood dazzled in the light, and swayed as though drunken.

For the wine of suffering which he had drunk, was very heavy, and intoxicating, and white-hot.

His soul spoke within him as he reeled along, I will go home and look for my mother.

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Metropolis, Chapter 22: Where Is My Son?

by Thea von Harbou

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Joh Fredersen stood in the dome-room of the New Tower of Babel, waiting for Slim. He was to bring him news of his son.

A ghostly darkness lay upon the New Tower of Babel. The light had gone completely out, gone out as though it had been killed — at the moment when the gigantic wheel of the Heart-machine of Metropolis came free from its structure with a roar as from the throats of a thousand wounded beasts, and, still whirling around, was hurled straight up at the ceiling, to strike it with a shattering crash, to bound back, booming the while like a gong as large as the heavens and to crash down upon the splintered ruins of the erstwhile masterpiece of steel, to remain lying there.

Joh Fredersen stood long on the same spot, not daring to move. It seemed to him that an eternity had passed since he sent Slim out for news of his son. And Slim wouldn’t and wouldn’t come back.

Joh Fredersen felt that his whole body was frozen to an icy coldness. His hands, hanging helplessly downwards, were clasped around the pocket-torch.

He waited… waited…

Joh Fredersen threw a glance at the clock. But the hands of the giantess stood at an impossible time. The New Tower of Babel had indeed lost itself. Whereas, every day, the throbbing of the streets which tunnelled their course below it, the roar of the traffic of fifty million, the magic madness of speed, had raged its way up to him, there now crouched a calm of penetrating terror.

Stumbling steps were hastening towards the door of the outer room.

Joh Fredersen turned the beam of his pocket-torch upon this door. It flew wide open. Slim stood upon the threshold. He staggered. He closed his eyes, dazzled. In the excessively glaring light of the powerful torch his face, right down to his neck, shone a greenish white.

Joh Fredersen wanted to ask a question. But not the least sound passed his lips. A terrible dryness burnt his throat. The lamp in his hand began to tremble and to dance. Up to the ceiling, down to the floor, along the walls, reeled the beam of light.

Slim ran up to Joh Fredersen. Slim’s wide, staring eyes bore an inextinguishable horror. “Y-your son,” he stammered, almost babbling, “your son, Mr. Fredersen–”

Joh Fredersen remained silent. He made no movement, but that he stooped a little — just a very little, forward.

“I have not found your son,” said Slim. He did not wait for Joh Fredersen to answer him. His tall body, with the impression it gave of asceticism and cruelty, the movements of which had, in Joh Fredersen’s service, gradually gained the disinterested accuracy of a machine, seemed quite out of joint, shaken out of control. His voice inquired shrilly, in the grip of a deep innermost frenzy: “Do you know, Mr. Fredersen, what is going on around you, in Metropolis?”

“What I will,” answered Joh Fredersen. The words sounded mechanical, and as though they had been read before they were spoken. “What does that mean, you have not found my son?”

“It means what it means,” answered Slim in his shrill voice. His eyes bore an awful hatred. He stood, leaning far forward, as if ready to pounce upon Joh Fredersen, and his hands became claws. “It means that Freder, your son, is not to be found — it means that he, perhaps, wanted to look on with his own eyes at what becomes of Metropolis by his father’s will and the hands of a few lunatics — it means, as the now half-witted servants told me, that your son left the safety of his home, setting out in company with a man who was wearing the uniform of a workman of Metropolis, and that it might well be difficult to seek your son in this city, in which, by your will, madness has broken out — the madness to destroy, Mr. Fredersen, the madness to ruin! — and which has not even light to lighten its madness!” Slim wanted to continue, but he did not do so.

Joh Fredersen’s right hand made a senseless, fumbling gesture through the air. The torch fell from his hand, continuing to burn on the floor. The mightiest man of Metropolis swung half around, as though he had been shot, and collapsed empty-eyed, back into the chair by the writing table.

Slim stooped forward to look Joh Fredersen in the face. Before these eyes he was struck silent.

Ten, twenty, thirty seconds long he did not dare to draw a breath. His horrified gaze followed the aimless movements of Joh Fredersen’s fingers, which were fumbling about as though seeking for some lever of rescue, which they could not find. Then, suddenly, the hand rose a little from the tabletop. The forefinger straightened as though admonishing to attention. Joh Fredersen murmured something. Then he laughed. It was a tired, sad little laugh, at the sound of which Slim thought he felt the hair of his head begin to bristle.

Joh Fredersen was talking to himself. What was he saying? Slim bent over him. He saw the forefinger of Joh Fredersen’s right hand gliding slowly across the shiny tabletop, as though he were following and spelling out the lines of a book.

Joh Fredersen’s soft voice said, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap…”

Then Joh Fredersen’s forehead fell onto the smooth wood, and unceasingly, in a tone which, except for a dead woman, no one had ever heard from Joh Fredersen, his soft voice cried the name of his son.

But the cries remained unanswered.

***

Up the steps of the New Tower of Babel there crept a man. It seldom happened in the great Metropolis, Joh Fredersen’s time-saving city, that anyone used the stairs. They were reserved in case of all the lifts and the Pater-noster being overcrowded, of the cessation of all means of transit, of the outbreak of fire and similar accidents — improbable occurrences in this perfect settlement of human beings. But the improbable had happened. Piled up, one above the other, the lifts, which came hurtling down, blocked up their shafts, and the cells of the Pater-noster seemed to have been bent and charred by a hellish heat smouldering up from the depths.

Up the stairs of the New Tower of Babel did Josaphat drag himself. He had learned to swear in that quarter of an hour, even as Grot used to swear, and he made full use of his newly acquired art. He roared at the pain which racked his limbs. He spat out an excess of hatred and contempt at the agony in his knees. Wild and ingenious were the execrations which he hurled at every landing, every new bend in the staircase. But he conquered them all — one-hundred and six flights of stairs, each consisting of thirty steps. He reached the semicircle where the lifts had their opening. In the corners before the door to Joh Fredersen’s rooms there crouched knots of human beings, pressed together by the common pressure of a terrible fear.

They turned their heads to stare at the man who was crawling up the stairs, dragging himself up by aid of the walls.

His wild eyes swept over them. “What is it?” he asked breathlessly. “What are you all doing here?”

Agitated voices whispered. Nobody knew who was speaking. Words tumbled over each other.

“He drove us out into the town, where death is running as though amok. He sent us out to look for his son, Freder. We couldn’t find him… none of us. We daren’t go in to Joh Fredersen. Nobody dares take him the news that we haven’t been able to find his son.”

A voice swung out, high and sharp from out the knot, “Who can find one single damned soul in this hell?”

“Hush… hush…”

Listen!

“He is talking to Slim.”

And in the tension of listening, which smothered every sound, the heads bent towards the door.

Behind the door a voice spoke, as were the wood rattling, “Where is my son?

Josaphat made for the door, staggering. The panting cry of many men tried to stop him. Hands were stretched out towards him.

“Don’t — don’t!

But he had already pushed open the door. He looked about him. Through the enormous windows the first glow of the youthful day was flowing, lying on the shining floor like pools of blood. By the wall near the door stood Slim. And just before him stood Joh Fredersen. His fists were pressed against the wall, right and left of the man, holding him fast as though they had been drilled through him, crucifying him.

“Where is my son?” said Joh Fredersen. He asked — and his voice cracked as if in suffocation, “Where is my child?

Slim’s head flung back against the wall. From his ashen lips came the toneless words, “Tomorrow there will be many in Metropolis who will ask, ‘Joh Fredersen, where is my child?'”

Joh Fredersen’s fists relaxed. His whole body twisted around. Then the man who had been the Master over Metropolis saw that another man was standing in the room. He stared at him. The sweat trickled down his face in cold, slow, burdensome drops. The face twitched in a terrible impotence.

“Where is my son?” asked Joh Fredersen, babblingly. He stretched out his hand. The hand shot through the air, groping aimlessly. “Do you know where my son is?”

Josaphat did not answer. Yes, the answer shouted in his throat. But he could not form the words. There was a fist at his throat, strangling him. God — Almighty God in highest heaven — was it Joh Fredersen who was standing before him?

Joh Fredersen made an uncertain step towards him. He bent his head low to look at him the more closely. He nodded again.

“I know you,” he said tonelessly. “You are Josaphat, and you were my first secretary. I sent you away. I treated you cruelly. I did you wrong, and I ruined you. I beg your forgiveness. I am sorry that I was ever cruel to you or to anyone else. Forgive me. Forgive me, Josaphat, for ten hours I have not known where my son is. For ten hours, Josaphat, I have been sending all the men I could get hold of down into that damned city to look for my son, and I know it is senseless, and I know it is quite pointless; the day is breaking, and I am talking and talking, and I know that I am a fool, but perhaps, perhaps you know where my son is.”

“Captured,” said Josaphat, and it was as though he ripped the word from his gullet, and feared to bleed to death therefrom. “Captured…”

A stupid smile hovered over Joh Fredersen’s face. “What does that mean — captured?

“The mob has captured him, Joh Fredersen!”

Captured?

“Yes.”

“My son?

“Yes! Freder, your son!

A senseless, pitiable, animal sound broke from Joh Fredersen’s mouth. His mouth stood open, distorted — his hands rose as in childish defence, to ward off a blow which had already fallen. His voice said, quite high and piteously, “My son?

“They took him prisoner,” Josaphat tore the words out, “because they sought a victim for their despair and for the fury of their immeasurable, inconceivable agony. When they saw the black water running towards them from the shafts of the underground railway, and when they realized that, as the result of the stopping of the pumps, the whole workmen’s town had been flooded out, then they went mad with despair. They say that some mothers, blind and deaf to all remonstrance, tried, as if possessed, to dive down through the flooded shafts, and just the terrible absoluteness of the futility of any attempt at rescue has turned them into beasts, and they lust for revenge.”

“Revenge… on whom?

“On the girl who seduced them.”

“On the girl…”

“Yes.”

“Go on…”

“They have taken captive the girl on whom they put the blame of all this horror. Freder wanted to save her, for he loves the girl. They have taken him captive and are forcing him to look on and see how his beloved dies. They have built the bonfire before the cathedral. They are dancing round the bonfire. They are yelling, ‘We have captured the son of Joh Fredersen and his beloved,’ and I know — I know — he’ll never get away from them alive!

For the space of some seconds, there was so deep and perfect a silence that the golden glow of the morning, breaking forth, strong and radiant, had the effect of a powerful roar. Then Joh Fredersen turned around, breaking into a run. He flung himself at the door. So forceful and irresistible was this movement that it seemed as if the closed door itself were not able to withstand it.

Past the knots of human being ran Joh Fredersen — across to the staircase and down the steps. His course was as a pauseless series of leaps. He did not notice the height. With hands stretched forward he ran, in bounds, his hair rearing up like a flame above his brow. His mouth was wide open, and between his parted lips there hovered — a soundless scream — the unscreamed name, “Freder!”

An infinity of stairs… clefts… rents in walls… smashed stone blocks… twisted iron… destruction… ruin…

The street.

The day was streaming down, red, upon the street.

Howls in the air. And the gleam of flame. And smoke…

Voices… shouts — and no exultant shouting… shouts of fear, of horror, of terribly strained tension…

At last the cathedral square…

The bonfire. The mob… men, woman, immeasurable masses… but they were not gazing at the bonfire, on the smoking fieriness of which smouldered a creature of metal and glass, with the head and body of a woman.

All eyes were turned upwards, towards the heights of the cathedral, the roof of which sparkled in the morning sunshine.

Joh Fredersen stopped, as though a blow had been struck at his knees.

“W-what…?” he stammered. He raised his eyes; he raised his hands quite slowly to the level of his head… his hands rested upon his hair.

Soundlessly, as though mown down, he fell upon his knees.

Upon the heights of the cathedral roof, entwined about each other, clawed to each other, wrestled Freder and Rotwang, gleaming in the sunlight.

They fought, breast pressed to breast, knee to knee. One did not need very sharp eyes to see that Rotwang was by far the stronger. The slender form of the boy, in white silken tatters, bent under the throttling grip of the great inventor, farther and farther backwards. In a fearfully wonderful arch the slender, white form was extended, head back, knees bent forward. And the blackness which was Rotwang stood out, massy, mountain-like, above the silken whiteness, forcing it downwards. In the narrow gallery of the spire Freder crumpled up like a sack and lay in the corner, stirring no more. Above him, straightened up, yet bent forward — Rotwang, staring at him, then turning.

Along the narrow roof ridge towards him — no, towards the dullish bundle of white silk — staggered Maria. In the light of the morning, risen glorious and imperious, her voice fluttered out like the mourning of a poor bird: “Freder — Freder!”

Whispers broke out in the cathedral square. Heads turned and hands pointed.

“Look — Joh Fredersen! Look over there — Joh Fredersen!

A woman’s voice yelled out, “Now you see for yourself, don’t you, Joh Fredersen, what it’s like when someone’s only child is murdered?

Josaphat leaped before the man who was on his knees, hearing nothing of what was going on around him. “What’s the matter?” he shouted. “What’s the matter with you all? Your children have been saved! In the House of the Sons! Maria and Joh Fredersen’s son — they saved your children!”

Joh Fredersen heard nothing. He did not hear the scream, which, like a bellowed prayer to God, suddenly leaped from the one mouth of the multitude.

He did not hear the shuffling with which the multitude near him, far around him, threw itself on its knees. He did not hear the weeping of the women, the panting of the men, nor prayer, nor thanks, nor groans, nor praises.

Only his eyes remained alive. His eyes which seemed to be lidless, clung to the roof of the cathedral.

***

Maria had reached the white bundle, which lay, crumpled up in the corner, between the spire and the roof. She slid along to it on her knees, stretching her hands out towards it, blinded with misery: “Freder… Freder…”

With a savage snarl, like the snarl of a beast of prey, Rotwang clutched at her. She struggled amid screams. He held her lips closed. With an expression of despairing incomprehension he stared into the girl’s tear-wet face.

“Hel… my Hel… why do you struggle against me?” He held her in his ironlike arms as prey which now nothing and no one could tear away from him. Close to the spire a ladder led upwards to the cathedral coping. With the bestial snarl of one unjustly pursued, he climbed up the ladder, dragging the girl with him in his arms.

This was the sight which met Freder’s eyes when he opened them and tore himself free from the half-unconscious state he was in. He pushed himself up and flung himself across to the ladder. He climbed up the ladder almost at a run, with the blindly certain speed born of fear for his beloved. He reached Rotwang, who let Maria fall.

She fell.

She fell, but in falling she saved herself, pulling herself up and reaching the golden sickle of the moon on which rested the star-crowned Virgin. She stretched out her hand to clutch at Freder. But at the same moment, Rotwang threw himself down upon the man who was standing below him, and clasped tightly together, they rolled along down the roof of the cathedral, rebounding violently against the narrow railing of the gallery.

The yell of fear from the multitude came shrieking up from the depths. Neither Rotwang nor Freder heard it. With a terrible oath Rotwang gathered himself up. He saw above him, sharp against the blue of the sky, the gargoyle of a waterspout. It grinned in his face. The long tongue leered mockingly at him. He drew himself up and struck, with clenched fist, at the grinning gargoyle.

The gargoyle broke.

In the weight of the blow he lost his balance — and fell — and saved himself, hanging with one hand to the Gothic ornamentation of the cathedral.

And, looking upwards, into the infinite blue of the morning sky, he saw Hel’s countenance, which he had loved, and it was like the countenance of the beautiful Angel of Death, smiling at him, its lips inclining towards his brow.

Great black wings spread themselves out, strong enough to carry a lost world up to heaven.

“Hel…” said the man. “My Hel… at last…”

And his fingers lost their hold, voluntarily…

Joh Fredersen did not see the fall, neither did he hear the cry of the multitude as it stared back. He saw but one thing: the white-gleaming figure of the man, who, upright and uninjured, was walking along the roof of the cathedral with the even step of one fearing nothing, carrying the girl in his arms.

Then Joh Fredersen bent down, so low that his forehead touched the stones of the cathedral square. And those near enough to him heard the weeping which welled up from his heart, as water from a rock.

As his hands loosened from his head, all who stood around him saw that Joh Fredersen’s hair had turned snow-white.

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Metropolis, Chapter 21: Saint Michael’s Bell

by Thea von Harbou

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Rotwang awoke, but he knew quite well he was dead. And this consciousness filled him with the deepest satisfaction. His aching body no longer had anything to do with him. That was perhaps the last remains of life. But something worried him deeply, as he raised himself up and looked around in all directions: Hel was not there.

Hel must be found.

Ah, existence without Hel was over at last. A second one? No! Better then to stay dead.

He got up on his feet. That was very difficult. He must have been lying as a corpse for a good long time. It was night, too. A fire was raging out there, and it was all very noisy… shrieking of human beings…

Hmm…

He had hoped to have been rid of them. But apparently the Almighty Creator could not get along without them. Now, but one purpose. He just wanted his Hel. When he had found Hel, he would — he promised himself this! — never again quarrel with the father of all things about anything at all.

So now he went. The door leading to the street was open and hanging crookedly on its hinges. Strange. He stepped in front of the house and looked deliberatingly around. What he saw seemed to be a kind of Metropolis, but a rather insane kind of Metropolis. The houses seemed as though struck still in St. Vitus’ dance. And an uncommonly rough and impolite sort of people was ramping around a flaming bonfire, upon which a creature of rare beauty was standing, seeming to Rotwang to be wondrously at ease.

Ah — it was that, ah, yes — that, in the existence which, thank the Lord, lay far behind him, he had tried to create, to replace his lost Hel — just to make the handiwork of the Creator of the world look rather silly. Not bad for a beginning… hmm… but, good God, compared with Hel, what an object, what a bungle.

The shrieking individuals down there were quite right to burn the thing. Though it appeared to him to be rather a show of idiocy to destroy his test-work. But perhaps that was the custom of the people in this existence, and he certainly did not want to argue with them. He wanted to find Hel — his Hel — and nothing else.

He knew exactly where to look for her. She loved the cathedral so dearly, did his pious Hel. And, if the flickering light of the bonfire did not deceive him — for the greenish sky gave no glimmer — Hel was standing, like a frightened child in the blackness of the cathedral door, her slender hands clasped firmly upon her breast, looking more saint-like than ever.

Past those who were raving around the bonfire — always politely avoiding getting in their way — Rotwang quietly groped his way to the cathedral.

Yes, it was his Hel. She receded into the cathedral. He groped his way up the steps. How high the door looked. Coolness and hovering incense received him. All the saints in the pillar niches had pious and lovely faces, smiling gently as though they rejoiced with him that he was now, at last, to find Hel, his Hel, again.

She was standing at the foot of the belfry steps. She seemed to him to be very pale and indescribably pathetic. Through a narrow window the first pale light of the morning fell upon her hair and brow.

“Hel,” said Rotwang, his heart streaming over; he stretched out his hands. “Come to me, my Hel. How long, how long I had to live without you!”

But she did not come. She started back from him. Her face full of horror, she started back from him.

Hel,” begged the man, “why are you afraid of me? I am no ghost, although I am dead. I had to die, to come to you. I have always, always longed for you. You have no right to leave me alone now! I want your hands! Give them to me!”

But his groping fingers snatched into space. Footsteps were hurrying up the steps of the stone-staircase which led to the belfry.

Something like anger came over Rotwang’s heart. Deep in his dulled and tortured soul reposed the memory of a day upon which Hel had likewise fled from him — to another. No, don’t think, don’t think of it. That was a part of his first existence, and it would be quite senseless to go through the same again — in the other, and, as humanity in general hoped, better world.

Why was Hel fleeing from him? He groped along after her. Climbed up stairs upon stairs. The hastening, frightened footsteps remained constantly before him. And the higher the woman before him fled, the more wildly did his heart beat in this mighty ascent, the redder did Rotwang’s eyes become filled with blood, the more furiously did his anger boil up within him. She should not run away from him — she should not! If only he could catch her by the hand, he would never, never let her go again! He would forge a ring about her wrist with his metal hand — and then she should never try to escape him again… to another!

They had both reached the belfry. They raced along under the bells. He blocked the way to the stairs. He laughed, sadly and evilly.

“Hel, my Hel, you can no longer escape me!”

She made a swift, despairing leap, and hung on the rope of the bell which was called Saint Michael. Saint Michael raised his ore voice, but it sounded as though broken, complaining wildly. Rotwang’s laughter mingled with the sound of the bell. His metal arm, the marvelous achievement of a genius, stretched like the phantom arm of a skeleton far out on the sleeve of his coat and snatched at the bell-rope.

“Hel, my Hel, you can no longer escape me!”

The girl staggered back against the breastwork. She looked around. She was trembling like a bird. She could not go down the stairs. Neither could she go any higher. She was trapped. She saw Rotwang’s eyes and saw his hands. And, without hesitation, without reflection, with a ferocity which swept a blaze of scarlet across the pallor of her face, she swung herself out of the belfry window, to hang upon the steel cord of the lightning conductor.

Freder!” she screamed. “Help me!

Below — far below, near the flaming pyre, lay a trampled creature, his forehead in the dust. But the scream from above smote him so unexpectedly that he shot up, as if under the lash, he sought and he saw.

And all those who had been dancing in wild rings around the bonfire of the witch saw, as he — stiffened — petrified: The girl who hung, swallow-like, clinging to the tower of the cathedral, with Rotwang’s hands stretching out towards her.

And they all heard how, in the shouted answer, “I am coming, Maria, I am coming!” there cried out all the relief and all the despair which can fill the heart of a man to whom Heaven and Hell are equally near.

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Metropolis, Chapter 20: The Bonfire

by Thea von Harbou

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Freder! Grot! Freder!

Josaphat shouted so that his voice cracked, and raced with the bounds of a harried wolf, through passages, across steps of the great pumpworks. His shouts were not heard. In the machine rooms were wounded machines in agony, wanting to obey and not being able. The door was closed. Josaphat hammered against it with his fists, with his feet. It was Grot who opened it to him, revolver in hand.

“What in the name of seething hell…?”

“Get out of the way! Where’s Freder?

Here! What’s the matter?

“Freder, they’ve taken Maria captive–”

“What?”

“They’ve taken Maria captive, and they’re killing her!”

Freder reeled. Josaphat dragged him towards the door. Like a log, Grot stood in his way, his lips mumbling, his eyes glaring. “The woman who killed my machine!

Shut up, you fool — get out of the way!”

“Grot!” A sound born half of madness.

“Yes, Mr. Freder!”

“You stop with the machines!

“Yes, Mr. Freder!”

“Come on, Josaphat!”

The sound of running, running, retreating, ghostlike.

Grot turned round. He saw the paralyzed machines. He lifted his arm and struck the machine with the full of his fist, as one strikes a stubborn horse between the eyes.

“The woman,” he shouted with a howl, “who saved my little children!”

And he flung himself upon the machine with grinding teeth.

Tell me!” said Freder, almost softly. It was as if he did not want to waste an atom of strength. His face was a white stone in which his two eyes flamed like jewels. He jumped to the wheel of the little car in which Josaphat had come. For the pumpworks lay at the extreme end of the great Metropolis.

It was still night.

The car started.

“We must go terribly out of our way,” said Josaphat, fixing the flashlight. “Many bridges between the houseblocks are blown up.”

“Tell me,” said Freder. His teeth met, chattering, as if he were cold.

“I don’t know who found it out. Probably the women, who were thinking of their children and wanted to get home. You can’t get anything out of the raving multitude. But anyway, when they saw the black water running towards them from the shafts of the underground railway, and when they realized that the pumpworks, the safeguard of their city, had been destroyed by the stopping of the machines, then they went mad with despair. They say that some mothers, blind and deaf to all remonstrance, tried, as if possessed, to dive down through the flooded shafts, and just the terrible absoluteness of the futility of any attempt at rescue has turned them into beasts, and they lust for revenge.”

“Revenge… on whom?

“On the girl who seduced them.”

“On the girl…? Go on…”

“Freder, the engine can’t keep up that speed.”

“Go on…”

“I do not know how it happened that the girl ran into their hands. I was on my way to you when I saw a woman running across the cathedral square, with her hair flying, the roaring rabble behind her. There has been the very hell of a night, anyway. The Gothics are parading through the town scourging themselves, and they have put the monk Desertus on the cross. They are preaching Doomsday had come, and it seems that they have converted a good many already, for September is crouching before the smoking ruins of Yoshiwara. A troop of torch-dancers joined itself to the flagellants and, with frothing curses upon the Mother of Abominations, the great whore of Babylon, they burned Yoshiwara down to the ground.”

“The girl, Josaphat–”

“She did not reach the cathedral, Freder, where she wanted to take refuge. They overtook her on the steps because she fell on the steps — her gown hung down in ribbons from her body. A woman, whose white eyes were glowing with insanity shrieked out, as one inspired with the gift of prophecy:

“‘Look! Look! The saints have climbed down from their pedestals and will not let the witch into the cathedral.'”

“And–?”

“Before the cathedral they are erecting a bonfire on which to burn the witch.”

Freder said nothing. He bent down lower. The car groaned and leapt.

Josaphat buried his hand in Freder’s arm.

“Stop — for God’s sake!

The car stopped.

“We must go to the left — don’t you see? The bridge has gone!”

“The next bridge–”

“Is impassable!

“Listen…”

“What is there to hear?

“Don’t you hear anything?”

“No…”

“You must hear it!”

“But what, Freder?”

“Shrieks… distant shrieks…”

“I can’t hear anything…”

“But you must be able to hear it!”

“Won’t you drive on, Freder?”

“And don’t you see that the air over there is getting bright red?

“From the torches, Freder.”

“They don’t burn so brightly.”

“Freder, we’re losing time here!”

Freder did not answer. He was staring at the tatters of the iron bridge which were dangling down into the ravine of the street. He must cross over, yes, he must cross over, to get to the cathedral by a shortcut.

The frame-support of a ripped-open tower had fallen over from this side of the street to the other, gleaming metallically in the uncertain light of the fading night.

“Get out,” said Freder.

“Why?”

Get out, I tell you!”

“I want to know why!

“Because I’m going across there.”

“Across where?

“Across the frame-support.”

“Going to drive across?”

“Yes.”

“It’s suicide, Freder!”

“I didn’t ask you to accompany me. Get out!

“I won’t permit it — it’s blazing lunacy!

“The fire over there is blazing, man!” The words seemed not to come from Freder’s mouth. Every wound of the dying city seemed to be roaring out of him.

“Drive on!” said Josaphat through clenched teeth. The car gave a jump. It climbed. The narrow irons received the sucking, skidding wheels, with an evil, maliciously hypocritical sound.

Blood was trickling from Freder’s lips.

“Don’t — don’t put the brake on — for God’s sake, don’t put the brake on!” shouted the man beside him making a clutch of madness at Freder’s hand. The car, already half-slipping, shot forward again. A split in the framework — over, onwards. Behind them the dead framework crashed into space amid shrieks!

They reached the other side with an impetus which was no longer to be checked. The wheels rushed into blackness and nothing. The car overturned; Freder fell and got up again. The other remained lying.

“Josaphat!”

“Run! It’s nothing! I swear to God it’s nothing,” a distorted smile upon the white face. “Think of Maria — and run!

And Freder raced off.

Josaphat turned his head. He saw the blackness of the street flashing bright red. He heard the screams of the thousands. He thought dully, with a thrust of his fist in the air, Shouldn’t I like to be Grot, now, to be able to swear properly.

Then his head fell back into the filth of the street, and every consciousness faded but that of pain.

But Freder ran as he had never run. It was not his feet which carried him. It was his wild heart — it was his thoughts.

Streets and stairs and streets and at last the cathedral square. Black in the background, the cathedral, ungodded, unlighted, the place before the broad steps swarming with human beings — and amid them, surrounded by gasps of madly despairing laughter, the howling of songs of fury, the smouldering of torches and brands, high up on the pyre.

“Maria!”

Freder fell on his knees as though his sinews were sawn through.

“Maria!”

The girl whom he took to be Maria raised her head. She sought him. Her glance found him. She smiled — laughed.

Dance with me, my dearest!” flew her voice, sharp as a flashing knife, through uproar.

Freder got up. The mob recognized him. The mob lurched towards him, shrieking and yelling.

Jooooo-oh! Joh Fredersen’s son! Joh Fredersen’s son–”

They made to seize him. He dodged them wildly. He threw himself with his back against the parapet of the street.

“Why do you want to kill her, you devils? She has saved your children!

Roars of laughter answered him. Women sobbed with laughter, biting into their own hands.

“Yes — yes — she has saved our children! She saved our children with the song of the dead machines! She saved our children with the ice-cold water! High let her live — high and three-time high!”

“Go to the House of the Sons! Your children are there!

“Our children are not in the House of the Sons! There lives the brood, hatched out by money. Sons of your kind, you dog in white-silken skin!”

Listen, for God’s sake — do listen to me!”

“We don’t want to hear anything!”

“Maria — beloved! Beloved!”

Don’t bawl so, son of Joh Fredersen! Or we’ll stop your mouth!

Kill me, if you must kill — but let her live!

“Each in his turn, son of Joh Fredersen! First you shall see how your beloved dies a beautiful, hot, magnificent death!

A woman — Grot’s woman — tore a strip off her skirt and bound Freder’s hands. He was bound fast to the parapet with cords. He struggled like a wild beast, shouting so that the veins of this throat were in danger of bursting. Bound, impotent, he threw back his head and saw the sky over Metropolis, pure, tender, greenish-blue, for morning would soon follow after this night.

God!” he shouted, trying to throw himself on his knees, in his bonds. “God! Where art thou?”

A wild, red gleam caught his eyes. The pyre flamed up in long flames. The men, the women, seized hands and tore around the bonfire, faster, faster, and faster, in rings growing ever wider and wider, laughing, screaming with stamping feet, “Witch! Witch!”

Freder’s bonds broke. He fell over on his face among the feet of the dancers.

And the last he saw of the girl, while her gown and hair stood blazing around her as a mantle of fire, was the loving smile and the wonder of her eyes — and her mouth of deadly sin, which lured among the flames: “Dance with me, my dearest! Dance with me!”

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Metropolis, Chapter 19: Doomsday Breaking

by Thea von Harbou

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They had taken the children into the house, and Freder’s eyes sought Maria, who was kneeling in the street among the last remaining children, consoling them and bestowing her loving smile upon weeping and bewildered eyes.

Freder ran across to them and carried Maria into the house.

“Don’t forget,” he said, letting her down upon a couch before the blazing fire in the entrance hall, and holding captive in his longing arms her half-lying, half-sitting, gently resisting form, “that death and madness and something very like destruction of the world have passed very close by us — and that, after all that has happened, I do not even know the color of your eyes — and that you have not yet kissed me once by your own free will.”

“Dearest,” said Maria, leaning towards him so that her pure eyes, bathed in painless tears, were quite near to him, while at the same time a great, concentrated gravity kept her lips away from his, “are you sure that death and madness have already passed by?”

“By us, beloved — yes!

“And all the others?

“Are you sending me away, Maria?” he asked, lovingly. She did not answer, at least not in words. But, with a gesture which was at once frank and touching, she put her arms about his neck and kissed him on the mouth.

“Go along,” she said, stroking his bewildered face with her virginal, motherly hands. “Go to your father. That is the most hallowed way. I shall go to the children as soon as my clothes are a little dryer. For I’m afraid,” she added with a smile which made Freder blush to his eyes, “numerous as the women are who live in the House of the Sons, and willing and eager as they may be, not one of them has a dress she could lend me!”

Freder stood bending over her with lowered eyes. The flames of the huge fire glowed upon his handsome, open face, which wore an expression of shame and sadness. But when he raised his glance to meet Maria’s eyes, which were silently fixed upon him, without saying a word he took her hands and pressed them against his eyelids, remaining thus for a long time.

And all this while they both forgot that, on the other side of the wall which was protecting them, a city was throbbing in grisly conflict, and that among the ruins thousands of beings, themselves but ruins, hurled hither and thither, were losing their reason, and perishing, tortured by deadly fear.

The voice of the Archangel Michael, coming from the cathedral, recalled them to consciousness of the hour, and they parted hurriedly, as if caught neglecting their duty.

Maria listened to the man’s retreating step. Then she turned and looked about her.

What a strange sound the Michael bell had. The bell was calling so furiously — so agitatedly, as though to tumble over at every peal.

Maria’s heart became an echo of the bell. It fluttered in its piteous fear, which had no source other than the general vibration of terror above the town. Even the warming flames of the fire frightened her, as if they had some knowledge of secrets of horror.

She sat up and put her feet to the ground. She felt the hem of her dress. It was still rather wet, but she would go now. She took a few steps through the dimly lighted room. How brown the air was outside the windows. She hesitatingly opened the nearest door and listened.

She was standing in the room in which she had stood on the day when she saw Freder for the first time, when she had led the train of little, gray child-spectres to those who were carefree and joyous — when she had called to Freder’s heart with her gentle:

“Look, these are your brothers!”

But of all the dearly beloved sons of boundlessly wealthy fathers, to whom this house belonged, not one was to be seen. They must have left the tottering town long ago.

Sparsely distributed candles were burning, giving the room an inward coziness and a warm air of comfort. The room was filled with the tender twittering of sleepy child-voices, chattering like swallows before they fly to their nests. Answering them in tones which were but little darker, came the voices of the beautiful, brocaded, painted women, who had once been the playthings of the sons. Equally frightened at the thought of flight as of remaining where they were, they eventually stayed in the House of the Sons, being still undecided; and Maria had brought the children to them, because they could have found no better refuge; for by the beautiful and dreadful chance of all that had taken place, the troupe of loving little harlots became a troupe of loving little mothers, burning with a new fire in the execution of their new duties.

Not far from Maria the little drink-mixer was kneeling, washing the skinny slender-limbed body of Grot’s daughter, who was standing in front of her. But the child had taken the sponge from her hand, and, without saying a word, proceeding with intense gravity, was thoughtfully and untiringly washing the beautiful, painted face of the drink-mixer.

The girl knelt quite still, her eyes closed; neither did she move when the child’s hands began to dry her face with the rough towel. But Grot’s daughter was not quite successful in this undertaking; for whenever she dried the girl’s cheeks, again and again did the swift, bright drops run over them. Until Grot’s daughter dropped the towel to look at the girl who was kneeling before her inquiringly, and not without reproach. Upon which the girl caught the child in her arms, pressing her forehead to the heart of the silent creature, uttering to this heart words of love which she had never found before.

Maria passed by with soundless step.

But when the door to the hall, into which no noise from the noisy Metropolis could penetrate, closed behind her, the ore-voice of the angel of the cathedral struck at her breast like a fist of steel, that she stood still, stunned, raising her hands to her head.

Why was Saint Michael crying out so angrily and wildly? Why was the roar of Azrael, the angel of Death joining in so alarmingly?

She stepped into the street. Darkness, like a thick layer of soot, lay over the town, and only the cathedral shimmered ghost-like, a wonder of light, but not of grace.

The air was filled with a spectral battle of discordant voices. Howling, laughing, whistling, were to be heard. It was as though a gang of murderers and robbers were passing by in the unrecognizable depths of the street. Mingled with them, shrieks of women, wild with excitement.

Maria’s eyes sought the New Tower of Babel. She had only one way in her mind: to Joh Fredersen. She would go there. But she never went.

For suddenly the air was a blood-red stream, which poured itself forth, flickering, formed by a thousand torches. And the torches were dancing in the hands of beings who were crowding out of Yoshiwara. The faces of the beings shone with insanity, every mouth parted in a gasp, yet the eyes which blazed above them were the bursting eyes of men choking. Each was dancing the dance of death with his own torch, whirling madly about, and the whirl of the dancers formed a train, revolving in itself.

Maohee!” flew the shrill cries above it. “Dance — dance — dance — Maohee!

But the flaming procession was led by a girl. The girl was Maria. And the girl was screaming with Maria’s voice, “Dance — dance — dance — Maohee!

She crossed the torches like swords above her head. She swung them right and left, brandishing them so that showers of sparks fell about the way. Sometimes it seemed as if she were riding on the torches. She raised her knees to her breast, with laughter which brought a moan from the dancers of the procession.

But one of the dancers ran along at the girl’s feet, like a dog, crying incessantly, “I am Jan! I am Jan! I am the faithful Jan! Hear me at last, Maria!”

But the girl struck him in the face with her sparkling torch.

His clothes caught fire. He ran for some time, a living torch, along by the girl. His voice sounded as if from the blaze, “Maria! Maria!

Then he swung himself up on to the parapet of the street and hurled, a streak of fire, into the blackness of the depths.

“Maohee! Maohee!” called the girl, shaking her torch.

The procession was endless. The procession was endless. The street was already covered, as far as the eye could see, with circling torches. The shrieks of the dancers mixed themselves sharply and shrilly with the angry voices of the archangels of the cathedral. And behind the train, as though tugged along by invisible, unbreakable cords, there reeled a girl, the damp hem of the hose dress lashed about her ankles, whose hair was falling loose under the clawing fingers which she pressed to her head, whose lips babbled a name in ineffectual entreaty, “Freder… Freder…”

The smoke-swaths from the torches hovered like the gray wings of phantom birds above the dancing train.

Then the door of the cathedral was opened wide. From the depths of the cathedral came the rushing of the organ. There mixed itself in the fourfold tone of the archangel bells, in the rushing of the organ, in the shrieks of the dancers, an iron-tramping, mighty choir.

The hour of the monk Desertus had come.

The monk Desertus was leading on his own.

Two by two walked those who were his disciples. They walked on bare feet, in black cowls. They had thrown their cowls back from their shoulders. They carried the heavy scourges in both hands. They swung the heavy scourges in both hands, right and left, right and left, upon the bare shoulders. Blood trickled down from the scourged backs. The Gothics sang. They sang to the time of their feet. To the time of their scourge strokes did they sing.

The monk Desertus was leading the Gothics on.

The Gothics bore a black cross before them. It was so heavy that twelve men had to carry it, pantingly. It swayed, held up by dark cords.

And on the cross hung the monk Desertus.

The black flames of the eyes in the flame-white face were fixed upon the procession of dancers. The head was raised. The pale mouth was opened.

See!” shouted the monk Desertus in a voice which all-powerfully rang out, the fourfold tone of the archangel bells, the rushing of the organ, the choir of scourge-swingers, and the shrieks of the dancers. “See! Babylon, the great! The Mother of Abominations! Doomsday is breaking! The destruction of the world!”

Doomsday is breaking! The destruction of the world!” chanted the choir of his followers after him.

“Dance — dance — dance — Maohee!” shrieked the voice of the girl leading the dancers. And she swung her torches over her shoulders, and hurled them far from her. She tore her gown from shoulders and breasts, standing, a white torch, stretching up her arms and laughing, shaking her hair, “Dance with me, Desertus — dance with me!

Then the girl, dragging herself along at the end of the train, felt that the cord, the invisible cord upon which she was hanging, snapped. She turned around and began, not knowing whither to run — only to get away — only to get away — no matter where to — only to get away!

The streets flashed by in a whirl. She ran and ran, down and down, and at last she saw, running along the bottom of the street and towards her, a wild mob of people, saw, too, that the men wore the blue linen uniform and sobbed in relief, “Brothers — brothers!

And stretched out her hands.

But a furious roar answered her. Like a collapsing wall, the mass hurled itself forward, shook itself loose, and began to tear along, roaring loudly.

There she is! There she is! The bitch, who is to blame for it all! Take her! Take her!

The women’s voices shrieked, “The witch! Kill the witch! Burn her before we all drown!

And the trampling of running feet filled the dead street, through which the girl fled, with the din of hell broken loose.

The houses flashed by in a whirl. She did not know the way in the dark. She sped on, running aimlessly in a blind horror, which was the deeper for her not knowing its origin.

Stones, cudgels, fragments of steel, flew at her from behind. The mob roared in a voice which was no longer human, “After her! After her! She’ll escape us! Quicker! Quicker!

Maria could no longer feel her feet. She did not know if she was running on stones or water. Her panting breath came through lips which stood apart as those of one drowning. Up streets, down streets… A twirling dance of lights was staggering across the way, far ahead of her. Far away, at the end of the enormous square, in which Rotwang’s house also lay, the mass of the cathedral rested upon the earth, weighty and dark, yet showing a tender, reassuring shimmer, which fell through cheerful stained-glass windows and through open portal, out into the darkness.

Suddenly breaking out into sobs, Maria threw herself forward with her last, entirely despairing strength. She stumbled up the cathedral steps, stumbled through the portal, perceived the odor of incense, saw little, pious candles of intercession before the image of a gentle saint who was suffering smilingly, and collapsed onto the flags.

She no longer saw how, at the double opening of the street which led to the cathedral, the stream of dancers from Yoshiwara coincided with the roaring stream of workmen and women, did not hear the bestial shriek of the women at the sight of the girl who was riding along on the shoulders of a dancer — who was torn down, overtaken, captured, and stamped to earth — did not see the short, ghastly hopeless conflict of the men in evening dress with the men in blue linen — nor the ridiculous fight of the half-naked women before the claws and fists of the workmen’s wives.

She lay in deep oblivion, in the great, mild solemnity of death, and from the depths of her unconsciousness she was not awakened even by the roaring voice of the mob which was erecting a bonfire for the witch before the cathedral.

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