It’s another Lazarus Gray Wednesday here on the site and we’re counting down the days to the release of Die Glocke, the sequel to The Adventures of Lazarus Gray. To celebrate, I am presenting the prologue below. Be aware that this is the draft I sent to the editors so if you find a typo, I apologize — this isn’t the final draft. The main storyline in Die Glocke was born from various Nazi conspiracy books that I’ve read, in particular some that dealt with a secret project dubbed “The Bell.” I fiddled with the dates, moving back the alleged experiments to fit in with Lazarus Gray’s time frame. Hope this whets your appetite for more!
German Research Facility Designate: Der Riese (The Giant)
Igor Witkowski walked through the dimly lit corridors and wondered not for the first time how he had ended up here. A Catholic priest in Nazi Germany was not a good thing to be since the new regime was almost as harsh towards though of the true faith as it was to the Jews. Igor had seen his flock dwindle away to almost nothing, as Nazi pressures were continually ramped up. He had no idea how much worse it could get but he had inklings that it might be time for him to get out of the country.
But that might no longer be an option.
At just eleven o’clock, a persistent banging on his front door had woken Igor up. When he had gone to investigate, he’d come face to face with an S.S. Officer who had identified himself as Jakob Sporrenberg. The officer had “requested” that Igor get dressed and accompany him to the Czech border. Knowing that it would not do to refuse, Igor had hurriedly gotten himself ready for the trip. He had hesitated before applying his clerical collar but he had finally done so, preferring to go forth into the unknown with God on his side.
The journey had been mostly in silence and Igor had found himself wedged into the backseat of a military vehicle with Sporrenberg at his side. Two men, a driver and an armed guard, sat in the front.
Not knowing what else to do, Igor bided his time by mentally reciting several of his favorite passages from the Bible.
When they had finally reached their destination, Sporrenberg had exited the car first, holding open the door for Igor. He had gestured towards the squat, ugly little building that sat against a large mountain and said, “Welcome to Der Riese, Father.”
Igor had unconsciously crossed himself as he had stared at the grim façade. “Why am I here?” he had asked but Sporrenberg had merely gestured for him to approach the unmarked metal door that led into the facility.
Now they were moving deep into the bowels of the place. Igor had quickly realized that the exterior was mostly just for show: the real base was carved into the side of the mountain and was accessible only by a large circular doorway guarded by two members of the S.S.
Their journey came to an end when they passed through two large swinging doors, with the words Die Glocke stenciled on their fronts. Inside the room were a number of scientists, dressed in dark suits, white lab coats and goggles. One of them glanced up as Sporrenberg stepped in and hurried over to hand both the S.S. officer and Igor identical sets of goggles.
Igor stared at them for a moment before pulling them into place over his eyes. There was energy in the room that made the fillings in his teeth ache and the hair on his arms stand on end. He cast a wary glance at the men around him and noticed that some of them did not look well at all. Their faces bore open sores and there was lethargy to them that Igor recognized: they were in their final days. He had performed last rites on too many men and women to not recognize the approach of death.
His gaze finally fell upon an object that rested in the center of the room. It was the obvious source of the energy that Igor sensed and everyone in the room kept looking towards it with anxious expressions.
Igor now knew why the room had been labeled the way it was. Die Glocke meant “The Bell” in his tongue and this thing did closely resemble one of those, though of extreme size and mass. It appeared to be comprised of some hard, heavy metal and Igor guessed that it was approximately 9 feet wide and 12 to 15 feet high.
Sporrenberg cleared his throat. He stood very stiffly and Igor wondered if this handsome young man was capable of relaxing. “Father, I would like to introduce you to Walther Lunt. He is a special advisor on the project.”
The man who stepped up was so ugly that Igor had to physically restrain himself from flinching. The right side of Lunt’s face was a ruined mess of scarred tissue and his eyes were narrow slits that seemed to radiate anger. “Ah, the Man of God. I’m pleased you were able to make it.” The sarcasm in Lunt’s voice froze the blood in Igor’s veins.
“Why am I here?” he asked again. This time he received an answer.
Lunt gestured towards The Bell. “We want your professional opinion, of course. You are qualified to speak on the subjects of Heaven and Hell?”
“I… Well, yes. I believe so.”
“Good. Then pay attention. You’ll know when your participation is required.” Lunt turned away then and Igor thought he caught an expression of distaste pass quickly over Sporrenberg’s face. The S.S. officer didn’t care for Lunt, that much was obvious.
A scientist approached The Bell, a tall thin thermos flask held tightly in one outstretched hand. The flask itself seemed to have an exterior casing of lead and the words “Xerum 525” could be seen on its surface. The flask was opened quite carefully and a violet mercury-like substance was poured into a small opening on the side of The Bell.
Lunt began speaking, using a voice that Igor recognized well: it was the tones of a teacher, carefully explaining some difficult concept to someone of lesser intelligence. “Inside The Bell are two counter-rotating cylinders. The Xerum 525 is mixed together with thorium and beryllium peroxides, as well as Leichtmetall.”
“What is Light Metal?” Igor asked, wincing as The Bell began to hum. It felt like his fillings were about to be yanked from his teeth and he covered his mouth with a hand, lest he cry out in pain.”
“An invention of German genius, as is Xerum 525. The specifics are beyond your ability to comprehend. Simply know this: What you are witnessing is quite unique… and quite astonishing.”
Igor didn’t need to be told that. His eyes widened as The Bell began to visibly shake and a strange ringing sound filled the air. One of the sickly-looking scientists began to cry and Igor turned to see that one of the man’s sores had burst open, spilling out greenish-yellow pus that dripped thickly down his face.
“Look at the top,” Lunt whispered and Igor found his gaze dragged to a small concave mirror mounted atop The Bell. In the dim lighting, Igor hadn’t noticed it before. As The Bell vibrated, images began to appear in the mirror. Strangely, they were not reflections of the room around it… it seemed to show men and women from some other place, watching them through the conduit of the mirror.
“They are about to appear,” Lunt said to himself and Igor felt Sporrenberg’s grip on his arm, pulling him close.
“Do not address them,” the S.S. officer stated.
Before Igor could ask what they were talking about, a group of four appeared in the air before them. They shimmered like they were reflections cast in water but they seemed substantial enough. The man in the front was dressed like a ringmaster and had a long drooping moustache. He held a top hat in one hand. Standing to his left was a woman who wore the briefest of swimsuits. A python was curled about her torso, its head resting against her shoulder. The serpent’s forked tongue danced to and for, tasting the air. To the ringmaster’s right was a man dressed in only a loincloth. His entire body had been shaved and covered with intricate tattoos. A series of painful-looking piercings on his back were clear signs that he spent at part of his time suspended from them. The fourth member of the group was hidden beneath voluminous robes and their gender was indeterminate.
The ringmaster bowed and put on his hat. In flawless German, he said, “Again you call us forth. But still you haven’t flung this doorway open enough for us to come out. The Circus is waiting, gentlemen. All the pleasures and magicks you can stand, all for such a very small price.”
The ringing from The Bell had reached a painful pitch by now and Igor put a hand over each ear.
Lunt looked at the priest. “Tell us, Man of God… What do you make of them?”
Igor stared at the peculiar foursome, his eyes lingering over the exquisite curves of the snake woman. He swallowed hard, knowing without a doubt that he was beholding something not of this world. “They’re from the Devil. I’m sure of it. They reek of sin.”
Sporrenberg drew a pistol and Igor froze, wondering what was about to happen. “Herr Lunt?” the officer asked.
Igor whirled about, looking to Lunt. The scarred man was facing the ringmaster and smiling. “You said the last step was a blood offering from a saved soul, correct?”
The ringmaster nodded slowly and the woman’s serpent companion seemed to embrace her all the tighter, eliciting a moan of lust from her full lips. Her tongue appeared, sliding wantonly across her mouth.
Lunt gave the briefest of motions with his head and Igor felt the barrel of Sporrenberg’s gun press against his temple.
“Father, protect me,” Igor whispered.
And then Igor Witkowski was on his way to meet God.