Match Four: Eindringlich:
Elizabeta began to notice something wrong with Ludwig as more the Gates to the Apocalypse were being opened.
She wasn’t the only one either.
He started to see her more frequently. That girl in the red coat wouldn’t say anything, but her eyes told him everything he needed to know. Ludwig wished that he could help her. She still wanted to go to 6972 Polanów.
Funny thing, that place didn’t exist anymore.
Ludwig did some research on a sleepless night to find out more information on the address. The village had been completely destroyed during the second World War and completely built over. Surely, she must be aware of this. Ludwig even tried to tell her as much. Whether she understood him or not, he began to doubt that.
Tonight, was no different.
Ludwig had just gotten help from another tense meeting when he spotted that timid young woman sitting on his front step. She still looked like she wanted to run away. Only this time, she wasn’t trembling as much. Ludwig decided to try a different approach with her tonight.
“Good evening,” the German said.
“Good… Evening…?” the woman replied. When Ludwig stepped forward, she cowered away, clutching her coat. The German man paused in his tracks.
“Look, I’m not going to hurt you,” he said. “I won’t yell at you. I just want to talk to you. Is that okay?” The woman stared at him with her big eyes. Ludwig sighed and dropped his shoulders.
“Now, why do you want to go to Polanów so badly?” he asked. “The address you showed me doesn’t exist anymore. I checked.”
“It doesn’t exist?” the woman asked.
“No,” he said. “You won’t find whatever it is you are looking for. The place you are trying to get to was destroyed by the war.”
“The war?” she asked. As she spoke, her voice began to crackle. Ludwig could see the tears forming in her eyes.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. Her tears ran down her cheeks. Ludwig noticed her mumbling something.
“What did you say?” he asked. The German man slowly walked up to the crying woman. She kept mumbling something through her tears.
“I can’t hear what you are saying,” Ludwig said. “Could you please speak up?” He reached out and took hold of her fragile wrist. But his fingers touched her skin, her words came through loud enough to make him freeze.
"Why did he betray me?!”
A hollow scream rang in Ludwig’s ears as he began to see fire. The wails of mothers and their crying babies couldn’t compare to the horror of war that he lived through. He sat the woman sitting naked with her knees to her chest in the darkness. She looked like she hadn’t eaten in months. She kept mumbling something with her face buried.
Suddenly, the doors were pushed open. The woman lifted her head as she sobbed. Only, she had cherry red sockets where her eyes were supposed to be. Either gun shots or fire crackers rang through the fire.
There was a scream and then…
When Ludwig woke up, the sun was high in the sky through the trees. The German man lay in the grass on his back. He rubbed his head as he sat up. Ludwig then noticed that he was alone. He wondered what just happened? The German man stared at the empty sky and trembled.
She noticed it on a Monday.
As far as Elizabeta could remember, Ludwig was a pragmatic man. If you gave him a chance, he would pick apart a ghost story and point out all of the plot holes in it. He would be the one to calm down Feliciano during a thunderstorm or a battle. Of the three Axis powers, he seemed to be the one with his head firmly on his shoulders.
This latest instance didn’t make sense.
She stopped by the German brothers’ house to drop off some papers from the office. It was ten in the morning and Feliciano forgot to drop them off at their house last night. Elizabeta couldn’t help but smile as she looked at the stack on her lap.
Feliciano, she thought. Sometimes we all wonder about you. Elizabeta shook her head as the cab pulled up to a stop in the driveway. From the window, she spotted Ludwig standing outside, talking to thin air. At first, Elizabeta thought she was seeing things.
What is he doing?
The Hungarian woman stepped out of the cab and slowly walked over to the German man.
“Ludwig?” she asked. The man with blonde hair slowly turned around. His eyes looked so empty.
“Elizabeta?” he asked. The Hungarian woman took a step back.
“Who were you talking to just now?” she asked. Ludwig blinked at first.
“You can’t see her?” he asked.
“See who?” Elizabeta sked.
“There is a woman with a bright red coat on,” he said. “She’s standing right there. Can’t you see her?” The Hungarian woman looked so confused. Was this some kind of a joke? No, Ludwig had little to no sense of humor that she was aware of.
“No,” Elizabeta said. “Are you feeling okay?” The German sighed and dropped his shoulders.
“I don’t know myself,” he admitted. “I keep seeing this woman everywhere I go. I don’t know what she wants with me.” Elizabeta nervously laughed as she started backing away.
“Um… listen, I just came be here to drop off some papers,” she said. “Here you go!” The Hungarian woman shoved the stack of papers into his arms and ran back into the taxi.
By noon, Elizabeta got on her phone.
“Hello?” Gilbert asked on the other line.
“What’s going on with Germany?” Elizabeta asked.
“What are you talking about?”
“He claimed to be talking to some woman in a red coat, but nobody was there. Is something wrong?”
“What’s going on?”
“How long has this been going on?”
“About a month now.”
Elizabeta about dropped her phone. “A month?! And you haven’t done anything to fix it?!”
“How would you fix the problem?” Gilbert asked. “I’ve tried to stop him from investigating this family who lived before World War II began, but he won’t listen. I even tried the folder he got from the Genealogy place, but he already made copies.” The Hungarian woman rubbed her forehead.
“You don’t think it could be related to her somehow, do you?” she asked.
“Well…” the Prussian man said.
“I know, I know!” He sighed over the other line. “But, it doesn’t make sense. It shouldn’t be happening so soon.”
“Oh god. Don’t tell me…”
“Now, now. We don’t know if that’s the case yet. It’s all too early to tell.”
“Damn it, Gilbert, this isn’t the time to be uncertain! Do you understand the gravity of the situation?! If the dead have indeed come back, we are in deeper shit than we believed! Don’t tell me it’s too early to tell!” Elizabeta panted as she leaned against the wall.
“Okay, I understand,” the Prussian man said in a low voice. “I will try to look into it.” The Hungarian woman put her hand to her forehead.
“Thank you,” she said. Suddenly, Elizabeta paused. “I have to go there. I think there’s someone at the door.”
“Elizabeta?” Gilbert asked on the other line. The Hungarian hung up the phone and wandered over to the door.
He picked up on the problem on a Monday.
Roderich came home from the concert hall in the early hours of the morning and found Elizabeta lying on the living room in a daze. He raced over to her and scooped her into his arms.
“Elizabeta?!” the Austrian man shouted. “Elizabeta?! Elizabeta?!” Roderich about jumped when he found her cold to the touch. He could see himself in her empty eyes. The Austrian man put his fingers on her neck. His girlfriend shook as she came to.
“Mr. Roderich?” Elizabeta asked. The man put his hand to his chest.
“Elizabeta,” he said with relief. “What are you doing on the floor? Are you alright? What happened to you?” The Hungarian woman looked around.
“I… I don’t know,” she muttered. “I must have fallen asleep or something.” Elizabeta paused as she slowly remembered what led up to this point.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” she whispered.
“Here, let’s get you up,” Roderich said. He helped his girlfriend to her feet and walked her into the kitchen. Elizabeta ended up stumbling over a bit as they walked.
“Here, drink this,” Roderich said, handing Elizabeta a warm cup of tea. She nodded and took a drink. Her boyfriend sat down in front of her.
“Better?” he asked. Elizabeta nodded again.
“Now, tell me what happened,” he said. “Take your time if you need to.” His girlfriend looked down into her cup.
“Ludwig is seeing a ghost,” she whispered. All of the color drained from the Austrian’s man face.
“That can’t be,” he muttered.
“I wish I was.” Her hands began to tremble. Roderich put his hand on her shoulder. Elizabeta looked up at him with wide eyes.
“I’m starting to see them too,” she said.
“What did you say?” he asked. Elizabeta grabbed onto his arms and rested her head against his chest.
“I was on the phone with Gilbert when I heard someone at the door,” she said. “But when I opened it, there was nobody there.” Her mind replayed those five minutes before she was attacked. Her whole body broke down, trembling.
“Stay away,” she murmured. “Stay away! Stay away!” Roderich held her as tightly as he could. How bad could what his girlfriend has seen to scare her like this? He lifted her head. Tears were forming in her eyes.
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to right now,” the Austrian man said in a hushed voice. Elizabeta shook her head.
“No?” her boyfriend asked. “You don’t have to…” The Hungarian woman grabbed onto his jacket as tightly as she could.
“No!” she shouted. “Listen!” Roderich shifted uneasily. He didn’t want to her hurt her by making her relive whatever put her on the floor in a cold daze. But, she was determined to say it. Besides knowing her, she was probably strong enough to speak to stop the coming End of Days. It had to be that important for her to risk her sanity.
Roderich dropped his shoulders.
“Alright, what did you say?” he asked. Elizabeta had to force herself to tell the story of the guest that came to their door hours earlier. The more she spoke, the more sharp pain ripped through her body. She grasped her head, but she wouldn’t let herself stop talking. By the time, the Hungarian woman was finished, blood ran from her nose, but she felt better.
Roderich backed away, horrified. The color drained from his face.
“I think I should clean my face,” his girlfriend said. The Austrian man nodded as Elizabeta turned and walked to the hall bathroom. Roderich’s heart pounded in his chest.
Don’t tell me that we’re running out time…
He doesn’t know how to stop his younger brother.
Why did it have to be Germany who witnessed the first sign? Gilbert expected it to be Alfred who felt the effects first. But he wasn’t prepared for if Ludwig ended up being the one. That phone call with Elizabeta confirmed his fears.
He tried to stop it again on a Tuesday.
Gilbert knocked on Ludwig’s office door.
“Come in,” the German man said. The Prussian man slowly opened the door and poked his head inside. His younger brother sat at his desk once again with his back to him.
“Yes, what is it?” he asked. Gilbert took slow, small steps towards Ludwig.
“Listen, some mysteries are better left staying unsolved,” he said.
“Why do you say that?” his brother asked.
“I mean… what if you didn’t really want to know the answer you were looking for. You could be disappointed or disturbed by what you find out.”
“This is true.”
“Like, what if you find out something about this Harel family that will end up haunting you forever.”
“I don’t think that is possible.”
“You don’t know that.”
Ludwig turned around from his desk. His eyes looked hollowed and dead. His brother didn’t even think that he had any sleep at all. Gilbert found himself slowly backing away. It was bad enough when the German man was talking to thin air, but this could lead down a path that he didn’t want to imagine.
“Listen,” the Prussian man said. “You’re just tired. Go to bed and I will clean up everything on your desk.” Ludwig shook his head.
“I have to find out why she wants to go to 6972 Polanów so badly even though it doesn’t exist anymore,” he said.
“It could be just one big prank being pulled on you by America or the other Allies,” Gilbert said with a shaking voice.
“She still wants to go there even though there’s nothing there anymore,” his brother said. “And what does the Harel family have to do with her? It doesn’t make any sense.” Ludwig turned back to his desk and buried himself back into those files that kept piling up. Trembling, Gilbert turned and ran out of the room.
This is worse than I thought.
He pulled out his cell phone and dialed up a desperate number. “Antonio, we might have to turn to that measure after all! Get Yao and Heracles right now! I’ll explain everything when I get to your place!” Gilbert hung up and grabbed his summer cloak.
He can’t understand the dire gravity of what’s coming for the world, but he knows that something is wrong with his dear friend. His fears were justified on a Wednesday.
“Germany, why do you keep talking to invisible people?” he asked Ludwig while out at lunch at a Southern Italian restaurant. The German looked up at him.
“What are you talking about?” he asked. Feliciano’s hand shook as he held his fork.
“Everyone keeps saying that you keep talking to yourself around your house,” he said in a quiet voice. Ludwig blinked before something clicked in his head.
“I’m not talking to myself,” he said. “There is this strange woman in a red coat who keeps following me around. I don’t know what she wants, but she keeps going to this address.” Ludwig reached into his coat pocket and pulled out the crumbled-up piece of paper. Feliciano leaned down and tried to read it.
“I don’t know what that says,” he said.
“It’s an address,” the German man said.
“Nowhere. I’ve checked it out myself.”
“But why does she want to go there?”
“She won’t tell me.” The more Ludwig spoke, the more Feliciano’s skin crawled.
“How does this bella know you?” he asked.
“I don’t,” his friend said. “She just showed up last month and she won’t leave me alone.”
“That’s really scary.”
“I looked up the address she gave me before the war and a family called the Harels used to live in that place. They disappeared appeared in the early years of World War II. The youngest daughter kind of looks like that woman that keeps following me around.”
Feliciano looked like he was going to faint. “You don’t think she’s…”
Ludwig shook his head. “Don’t be silly. It’s probably just her granddaughter or something looking for her family like I am.” His younger Italian stared at him with eyes wide open and looking like he wanted to run away.
Maybe the older countries were right, Ludwig sounded like he was going crazy.
Who was Lydia Harel?
She was the youngest girl in her family. Lydia H. lived with her parents and younger brother. Her older sisters had already moved out years earlier. The oldest was set to marry a nice boy from the neighborhood and lived next door to him. The middle sister was a widowed schoolteacher who lived with her in-laws. Lydia H.’s parents owned a bakery. Her father handled the books and cash register while her mother made her famous breads and cakes. Sometimes, Lydia H. and her little brother would help out after school.
Things were going great for the Harel family until Adolf Hitler rose to power in 1939.
There is no record of what happened to the Harel family. There wasn’t even any rumors or whispers of them anymore.
Or, are people not looking hard enough?
The next time Ludwig saw the woman in the red coat again, he called her by the one name that kept reoccurring in his files and his mind.
The woman turned to him with her wide, frightened eyes.