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  • Writer's pictureAlma Nilsson

Excerpt from "The Alien I Fell in Love wtih on Walpurgis Night"

Updated: Mar 29






Playlist



 

Full Moonlight Dance

Libana


Walpurgisnacht

Faun

 

The Earth, The Air, The Fire, The Water, Return

Libana

 

Before you Leave Me

Alex Warren

 

Dark of the Moon

Libana


There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back-Acoustic

Shane Mendes


Fee Ra Huri

OMNIA



Excerpt


Axl

I’m getting an urgent message on the imperial channel. I open it and immediately recognize my cousin’s face. Her green eyes are red from crying.


“Goddesses, what has happened Empress?”


“Axl, I need you to do something or our House will fall.”


“Anything for you and House Zu, Empress.”


“You must track the middling class trader…” I double-check that our channel is secure while I listen, the Empress can be careless with communications, “the middling class trader,” she repeats herself, “His name is Ros. He’s set to rendezvous with the alpha ship Fer.”


“And then?”


“Kill him before he makes that rendezvous. Make it look like an accident if you can. No one can know it was done by an imperial hand.”


I hold eye contact with her. “Why me?” This sounds like a job for someone outside the Empire.


“This affects you too. You are in House Zu. You do not need details. You need to do your duty Axl.”


Killing another Alliance man without personal cause carries a death sentence. “But without evidence…”


“Is my word as Empress not good enough for you?”


I hesitate. If I deny her she can have me dismissed or at the worst killed in the same way she wants Ros slain.


 “Do what you need to do and I swear on the goddess of home, I will protect you, Axl.”


“How can you protect me if this is all a secret?”


“Do you question me, your Empress? Where is your loyalty to House Zu? I tell you to act, you do it, and trust me to care for you. Now goddesses’ speed to complete your mission.” The Empress signs off. I’m left looking at the imperial emblem for a while and then my screen fades to black.


I stare at my empty screen for a second and then I begin my research on the middling class trader named Ros. As a secret operative for the Empire, I have covert technology and security clearance at the highest imperial level. It doesn’t take me long to find Ros, he has a record of some questionable trading but nothing that looks too suspicious. However, a request from the Empress is a demand. I set in a course of jumps to intercept Ros before he reaches his rendezvous. As long as he doesn’t see me coming, which he won’t, this will be over in a few days.


But before I begin, I make an RVM to my sister, Lia. I wait impatiently for her face to appear. “Goddesses be thanked.”


“You’re not coming are you?”


“How did you know?”


“You never RVM unless it’s a regret.”


“I am regretful but I’ve been…” she interrupts me.


“Have been called away by duty. Axl, you’re always called away. You’re never here when we need you to be. It’s no wonder no one wants to marry you.”


“It’s the goddesses’ will,” I reply, ignoring her slight.


“It’s my first day representing our House in the High Council. I wanted you to be here to celebrate our family’s success.”


“And I wish I could be. I’m sorry.”  Then as an afterthought I ask, “How are things with Tir?” I don’t like this man courting my younger sister. He’s too impulsive and is rumored to have a sexual dysfunction.


“That’s none of your business.”


“But my marital status is yours?”


“You’re my brother. You can’t be trusted to make such a major decision as marriage without female guidance,” she tells me. “And if I’m really thinking about it, I’m sure that’s the selfish reason you’re not coming home now.”


“What are you talking about?”


“Mother has Aru lined up for you. So that you can begin courting a woman before you’re too old to marry.”


A shudder passes through me. Aru is just as ruthless as she is emotionless.


“You of all people shouldn’t be picky.”


“Yet, I don’t want to be married to a woman who only wants me for my status in House Zu.”

Lia dismisses me by looking away for a second. “You should be grateful to have such a doting mother. Aru will be good for you. She will keep you in check and remind you of your duty to the Empire and House Zu.”


I remain silent for a few seconds letting this conversation drop. “I will see you in a few weeks. Congratulations on your first day at the High Council and may the goddesses light your path.”


As soon as I finish the RVM, I strap myself in and hit the first jump to catch up with Ros. I don’t know what he’s done, but I won’t question the Empress. If she commands me, it must be completed. I just pray that I get back to the Empire without being prosecuted for his death.


***

When I catch up with Ros it doesn’t take me long to recognize that we are almost equally matched. And I am chasing him on the outskirts of the galaxy. If I can just get one more good shot in, he’ll be gone, but he’s an excellent pilot and his maneuvering skills are equal, if not better, than mine own. My sensors tell me there are two people in his craft, but I think this must be a mistake. As I move in closer to try and get an identification readout of who is in his ship, I realize he’s preparing to make a risky jump directly into Earth’s atmosphere. It’s an odd and a dangerous move and one I’m not likely to follow. But then I think about the Empress's words and I can’t let Ros get away. I have imperial orders. I must follow Ros or risk the Empress’s wrath. I have to take the chance of going up in flames too. I follow his jump right into Earth’s atmosphere. Upon arrival I see his ship burst into flames. Then my own engine begins overheating. I immediately abort in my ejection pod hoping none of the primitive human satellites registered this, or Alliance Force. In the pod, I continue searching for Alliance life signs. I see very few, probably Alliance Force officers, and no life signs where Ros might be if still alive. He's gone and whoever might have been with him. Both of our ships have been consumed by Earth’s atmosphere. My secret imperial mission is complete. The only question now is how do I get back to the Empire without having to explain how I ended up on this side of the galaxy?

 


Georgiana

April 30, 2024


I order a sizable German beer from a street vendor and join the crowd walking toward the scattered bonfires, medieval kiosks, and various street performers. I’m surrounded by jovial Germans dressed in costumes. I hear folk music everywhere and it seems everyone knows the words to these songs but me.


That’s probably because I only speak a few words of German. I’m only here because my roommate urged me to buy a plane ticket somewhere now that I’ve finished my accounting degree.  It was a playful dare. She challenged me to put in a couple weeks’ vacation on a travel website and let it take me to the cheapest destination. I agreed and the destination that came up was Hanover, Germany. So I got a passport and went with money I had saved. Unfortunately, she could not join me, so I had to go alone.


At the beginning of my trip, I spent a few nights in Hanover and at my hotel over breakfast, I met a couple who were going to Brocken in the Harz Mountains for Walpurgisnacht. With nothing else to do I decided to take the train and go there as well. I have always loved Halloween and this seemed like something similar, but German style. I managed to read a little about the festival on the train.  It’s a holiday that dates back to the eighth century, but is confusing because it’s about a few different events. An abbess who became Saint      Walpurga and the myth of Wotan marrying his beloved Freya on this day at the end of April. Then it was further popularized by Goethe in his play Faust, the guy who made a deal with the Devil. After Faust, I fell asleep because I am still jet-lagged. By the time I switched to the smaller antique train up to Brocken, I was completely taken in with the scenery and my anticipation about what this tradition of Walpurgisnacht might be like.


Although being here now, I wish I would have been able to read more about what’s going on. There are a lot of symbols and traditions that look a frightening, like straw dolls with creepy plastic doll faces that are probably going to be sacrificed in one of the many bonfires. I guess this would be no different than someone coming to the US for Halloween and not realizing we put fake plastic skeletons on our lawns. Although, what I didn’t expect was for everyone to be dressed like witches or devils in almost too realistic and scary costumes and everyone seems to have either a broomstick or pitchfork. I have not seen one ‘sexy witch’ or ‘sexy devil’ costume. In fact, the realism of the costumes makes me feel like I’ve traveled to an alternate universe.


And it doesn’t take me long to realize that I stand out with my plain blue sweater and jeans and being a lone foreign woman makes me an easy target. So when I pass a small stand selling all assorted colors of cloaks, I stop and buy one with one hand, still holding my lager beer with the other. I always tell myself never to shop when I drink, but today is an exception. I let the woman running the shop know that I’ll wear it right away. I put on the dark green cloak and look at myself in the mirror. This is more like it. 


“It suits you,” says the woman in accented English. “Maybe you would like a hat too?” She points to her wide selection of witch hats.


“No, it’s okay. Just the cloak is fine.”


“You should braid your hair then.”


“I can’t braid,” I admit with a smile.


“Can’t braid?” she asks shocked. “Come here. It’s such a waste, a young woman like you, almost looking the part perfectly and then falling short for this one thing.”


I hesitate. “It’s fine. Thank you.”


“No come on, I have two daughters of my own and if they were in a foreign country I’d also want them to blend in better. There’s not a lot of crime here, but it helps if you don’t look foreign. Especially being alone on Walpurgisnacht.”


I agree with her logic. It is why I bought the cloak in the first place. I go over to the woman and allow her to brush and braid my hair in a neat style around my head.


“There. Now you won’t stand out as much. Go enjoy. Spring is here.”


I see myself in the reflection of the mirror, and I’m surprised at how a different hair style and cloak can completely change my look. I thank the woman with some of the few German words I know, “Danke schön.”


She smiles and replies in kind, “Bitte.”


I leave her shop with a small skip to my step and let the carnival atmosphere guide me. I feel much better knowing that at least from my appearance, I fit in. But of course, once I open my mouth and everyone will guess I only have a few words of German. But it doesn’t matter, I’m totally in the spirit of the German countryside now and want to enjoy this.

I walk through the various stalls of arts, crafts, and food. I buy a sausage and a pretzel for dinner. Afterward, I stop to watch some magicians and jugglers. I really do feel like I’ve time traveled back to medieval times.


As the night wears on, I begin to feel cold, despite my new cloak. I walk closer to one of the bonfires. There’s a group of women singing an ancient German folksong nearby. Although I can’t understand the lyrics, the music is very moving. I gaze at the firelight and then my eyes peruse the faces, or rather some of the masks, worn by the others around the fire.

I feel eyes on me. Then my eyes catch another’s.  A cloaked man seems to be staring at me. I can’t see his face, but it feels like he’s only looking at me. After a few minutes of concentrated staring, he begins moving closer and I tense.


What do I do? I look around, gauging the other people around this small bonfire. There are people of all ages here including a family from England. I decide I don’t need to run from this hooded man. He might not be coming to talk to me at all. It may be the dancing light from the fire playing tricks on me and my anxiety about being alone making me overly cautious. This is a crowded place. I’m surrounded by what looks to be regular tourists and local people. I’m safe.


I wasn’t mistaken. The man walks over to me, frightening with his devil’s mask and tall form. “Entschuldigung? Können Sie mir bitte helfen?”


I know he’s asking me for help, but I just shake my head. “Sorry,” I say in English and then in German, “Tut mir leid.”


Then he says something else completely incomprehensible to me.


I shake my head again. But I have to admit to myself while looking him up and down, he has a fantastic body in his incredibly tight black clothing that I can see peeking out from the opening in his cloak. But it freaks me out his hood is up, a mask on, and I can only see the reflection of the firelight in his eyes.


The father from the English family nearby has been watching this whole exchange, probably because he heard my heavily accented German, and he says to the man loudly, “You’re freaking her out. Take down your hood and then she might talk to you. If not, leave her alone.”


A lot of people stop their conversation and now stare at me and the hooded man. Then some of the Germans around me say something similar to what the English man had said, but in German.


The man in front of me slowly and theatrically takes down his hood to reveal a red devil’s mask and long black hair. Everyone around us laughs except me. I find this terrifying, but I don’t want him to know I’m afraid, so I smile playing along.  Perhaps his intention was to frighten me as part of the tradition on Walpurgisnacht.


The man holds up his black gloved hands to the audience, as if this were all a performance, and they clap and holler appreciation. A few words of German are exchanged that I don’t understand and everyone goes back to their own conversation. As his cape opens with his hands up in the air, two silver necklaces reflect in the firelight, they look like they have a foreign language on them, but nothing I recognize as real. It looks like writing from the Voynich Manuscript which has never been translated.


The man is staring at me and I can see his eyes more clearly now. They’re green. He says something in a deep voice, but it’s incomprehensible to me.


I don’t want to admit I only have a few words of German. I don’t want to be any more of a target than I already am. I look around. Most people don’t think this man is a threat, maybe I shouldn’t either, maybe he is a local. But I’m frozen in his gaze by the moving firelight.

He repeats himself again; his voice deep and melodic. Then before I can stop him, he touches my arm and next all I see is blackness. And I feel like I’m going to be sick. I’m spinning. How can a drug work this fast? Am I dead? Have I died on Walpurgisnacht by the hand of the Devil? Or was he Death?


End of excerpt.


Available in ebook and KU April 20, 2024. Audiobook narrated by Jill Smith and Jack Calihan to follow.





 

 



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