Archive for the ‘science fiction’ Category

The Strangling Hand
by Karl Hans Strobl
translated by Joe E. Bandel
Copyright Joe E. Bandel
The Strangling Hand Ch 1 pg 17-20

When she came back to her house, the night was almost over and in the lit basement window of the bakery she saw a young boy swinging his arms as he stood waiting while the stout Master Baker counted out rolls for the morning route. Already animated noises were beginning to arise here and there in the wide and ranging building in which she lived. There was the sleepy maid with her unwillingness to work and her outrage over everything that would not leave her alone and allow her to stay in bed. On the third floor she was frightened by the cobbler’s apprentice, who suddenly appeared from some maid’s chamber of forbidden pleasures.

Then she unlocked the door to her apartment and was greeted with the ostentatious odors of funeral wreaths, frankincense and laced with the terrible odor of beginning decomposition. She opened one of the bedroom windows and allowed some of the fog filled winter morning air inside along with the first soft sounds of street traffic. Sitting in the large easy chair, in which the deceased had rested, she once more relived the experiences of the past night. No longer protected by the closeness of Eleagabal Kuperus, it all seemed miraculous and terrifying. She thought back on little incidents, which had left behind impressions like those of a gruesome dream. The servant with the head of a wolf, whose stealthy step felt like a lurking danger behind her, the head of the negro, whose skin appeared like violet velvet in the red light, and the mummy with the crumbling yellow bandages and the wrinkled and blackened forehead.

And suddenly the bleak, wasted, monotonous melody was there, whose ceaseless and rising tone was like a murderous fear that could not be tolerated. She became determined to rid herself of it, and tried to think back upon where it came from. The words, the words… She couldn’t understand the words, they must be words in a strange language. Yes, they were Latin words, and now she recognized what it was. These were the words of the Psalm, which the stubby cheeked, pious priest had sung at the coffin of her spouse while he sprinkled the corpse with Holy water. These words were echoed in the Cathedral, this melody was the voice of the empty church, an endless litany of the terrors of the dead, which promised eternal life to the living soul. But no one was certain of it, didn’t know when their ears would suddenly hear this loud and threatening melody, when their mortal body would perish. They never knew when these melancholy words would arise, impress themselves upon the walls, permeate the furniture and clothing, and take over the entire room. When they would mix with the perfume of funeral wreathes and decay, as they proclaimed victory over life and diminished it through the incessant memories of the dead.

The tired arms of the Frau hung over the arms of the chair, in exactly the same posture, as those of her spouse had done. When she noticed this, she shuddered, leaned back and moved into a different position. Then she fell asleep. But outside the life in the streets kept growing louder, more penetrating and increased in the power of its demands.

When the servant rang, Emma was sleeping so heavily that she didn’t immediately wake up. Frau Fodermayr soon began to fear that perhaps the widow had done some harm to herself. Her imagination was filled with some fantasy from one of the illustrated magazines which she had read, filled with fearful family drama and a lot of blood. She finally opened the door. Frau Fodermayr, with a pale face and petrified fingers gripping the door, greeted Frau Emma like a loyal hound. The eyes of the widow were still shut from sleep, and her limbs had grown stiff from the uncomfortable position in the easy chair. But something warm entered into her. The genuine concern of her servant did Emma well. She stirred enough to answer questions about her condition. Then Frau Fodermayr offered the consolation of an old woman, that man can never know, when God will take up the heavy burdens of the dead and protect them. Today Emma found these words in strange agreement with those of Eleagabal Kuperus. Since her visit with him and her heavy sleep, her experience with him seemed much more distant, like a fairy tale or legend. It seemed totally unbelievable and at the same time so full of possibilities, and of wonder that she had really found the courage to bring her burden to him and that she had actually been in his house for one hour.

After that she washed herself, did up her hair, and then stepped out onto the wooden gallery, that went from door to door around the entire courtyard in the center of the massive quadrangle building in which she lived. In this quarter of the city rental houses were built like barracks and this was one of the largest and most beloved. A hundred and twenty renters each had their own apartments. There were all kinds of apartments here, from the studio apartments of the poor to the relatively common comfort of Emma’s apartment with its up scale trappings and comfort.

This building, four square and massive, had been built with the permission of the city, and enclosed in its courtyard was a noisy republic of children. In the summer the courtyard was never empty of drying laundry, hung out on long cords that stretched from one of the stunted little trees to the next. The tree trunks with their rough bark were marked with deep scars from the abrasive ropes. Today, the fog became entangled in the moist, untouched roofs high above and sank down to the plaster of the courtyard in layers, where the children played in the corners with the wet remains of the melting snow.

This house had been her home for such a long time and these people were her neighbors. Her husband, the creator of many beautiful words, had not been able to offer her a better world. But it had always been a home. What would it become in the future? She still hadn’t thought about it, about what would happen to it or to her. A heavy and rising fear climbed through the rubble of her happiness as she sought to dispel the superstitious words of Frau Fodermayr. Emma went into the workroom of her spouse and paced restlessly up and down, taking up a book from out of a broad, well used book shelf and then setting it back in its place without even looking at the title. She was surrounded by ruin and there was not a breath of new life anywhere.


I am currently translating this book a few pages at a time. I will be posting them as I translate them. If you enjoy this story and type of literature please support me and become a patron. Translation is hard work and takes a lot of time. Consider donating $1 a month to help out. This book is over 500 pages long! You can donate at my website:
or my Patreon link: https://www.patreon.com/anarchistbanjo
Comments are welcome!

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The Strangling Hand
by Karl Hans Strobl
translated by Joe E. Bandel
Copyright Joe E. Bandel
The Strangling Hand Ch 1 pg 13-16

With a long last glance Eleagabal Kuperus parted from his souvenirs of the dead and turned to a table, which stood in the middle of the room covered with strange instruments, beakers and retorts. The wrapped head of the poet lay between sparking knives, lancets and clamps, so sharp and precise that it gave certain evidence of its reality, even though Emma knew that it had been left behind on the marble table in the domed hall. But she didn’t have time to think about it, how it could have gotten here, before the old man picked up the package with soft tenderness and began to unwrap it. As the head of her beloved appeared, a sharp pain began to climb out of the deeps, as she saw that it had begun to decompose. The eyes lay deeper, the mouth gaped open and was covered with a dull foam. Gory blood stuck to the severed surface of the neck. Under the equalizing power of death the head had lost its freshness and now showed a dull humanity, which a richer and finer spirit had once struggled to overcome.

The scrupulous finger of Kuperus lifted the lids from the eyes of the dead. The spouse, who had done the work of washing the corpse herself, watched the moderate hands work with strong emotion which she sensed as almost a rape, as this man held it as a friend cuddles what was dearest to herself.

“You are welcome here poet, far more welcome than any of the others who would despise my work.
Now you are restored,” and after a short thought, Eleagabal Kuperus added a short sentence from out of the Book of the Dead. “Even the greatest is only a cobblestone for the roads of the public to destroy.”

The spouse stood there astonished: “You know his words.”

“I don’t live in the world, yet I live with it. Should I tell you something similar? The eternal point remains unmoving, where equal forces cross each other, which are striving in opposite directions. It also exists in all streams and takes on different aspects as it flows. I live in this point called the present moment, and pour myself into every possibility. Yet the best and finest thing is to rest in peace. Everything comes to me, and I merge more deeply with the world.”

He raised his hand. “Go my dear friend. You brought a stream of beauty and love. My most diligent skill will maintain the memory of your spouse for you. You must never carry any guilt about this, because immortality can only be preserved with hands of love.”

He reached into the marble wall and hastily lifted the network of vines up to allow the Frau to step back into the domed hall, where the servant with the wolf’s face waited, in order to escort her out of the house.

She stood quietly before the door for a short time and looked over at the Cathedral, whose immense weight, seemed to have increased in the night and the heavy, unmoving fog, pushing it down into the hill upon which it stood. Tired and flickering gas lanterns fought the darkness which crawled up to the foot of the Cathedral and pulled itself up the walls, as if the ground was seeking to pull it in. She was seized with the thought that she might be singled out for attack by a drunk in these empty streets, and even more by the notion that she was afraid of the sinking Cathedral. She didn’t dare leave the door of Eleagabal Kuperus.

Through the uncomfortable play of the darkness and the gloomy lights a stone face magically appeared on the front of the Cathedral with a broad talkative, but now closed mouth. There was a broken balcony and above the high arched windows appeared two mismatched silent and stubby towers. They were so misshapen and alien that they grew out of the massive structure like a finger that springs out from a head. After the impression of harmonious peace and wisdom, which Emma had sensed in the domed hall and the museum of Eleagabal Kuperus, this Cathedral across from his house appeared to her like a lurking monster of stone. One with a scornful, contorted smile that leered at the hand over the door, prepared to strike some fearful, murderous blow if it had the chance.

In the same way that the meerschaum mask of a warrior, the terrifying painted shield with the head of Medusa on its polished armor, or the locked visor of a helmet bewitched at the sight, so did this sinking Cathedral in the darkness. The friendly gestures of hospitality, which greeted the oppressed during the daylight, transformed during the night into a procession of unquiet, murmuring voices filled with a malicious joy that spread fear and terror.

And now – ever more clear, came a sad and unrelenting melody from out of the confusion of voices, rising up – a sad and unrelenting melody. A long, drawn out, dreary song, which lingered on a few notes, climbing up and down as if it were sounding a warning. Something wasted and bleak lay within it, like a breath, which comes from over infinite planes, which has uprooted all life from out of a magical world, something poisonous and offensive, like the wind that blows over a field of slaughter. This song, this unbearable, monotonous tune seemed to come from out of the solidly closed mouth of the Cathedral, as if it was searching for some way to escape. The wailing of this monotonous hum rose and died, and when it finally lost itself in the whispers of the fog, it never left the trembling Frau for a moment.

She knew that this was all related to her past life, when she was younger and had suffered under this same song, but she was not capable of finding her way free of it, and could not really say what was reality and what was dream. She just stood at the threshold of Eleagabal Kuperus and held on to the iron ring which protruded out from the carved wooden door. Some superstition and fear had her convinced that she would fall under the power of an enemy if she stepped onto the courtyard in front of the Cathedral.

Slow steps came from out of the darkness, which echoed dully and repeated against the walls of the houses. The night had produced feet and wandered across the courtyard in front of the Cathedral. But it was only a watchman, who came through the fog with heavy legs, tired from long service, and his movements were like those of a drunken sleepwalker. In the thick fog his movement appeared aimless like the movement of a ship that has lost its direction. He came up to the Frau, looked sharply into her face with a penetrating glance, was about to say something about single women walking the streets at night, but then turned and walked back up the street, stopping under a street light. He stayed there, prepared to perform the duty of his office if needed. The tip of his helmet began to glimmer under a ray of light, as if it carried a little blue flame.

His appearance broke through the spell of this place. Then Emma once more gathered her courage. She let go of the ring, whose coldness had frozen her fingers, and walked across the courtyard, between the two ill tempered saints of stone, around whose raised arms the thick fog collected and she climbed back down into the city. The cold, leering eyes of the saints and the echoing footsteps of the watchman followed her.


I am currently translating this book a few pages at a time. I will be posting them as I translate them. If you enjoy this story and type of literature please support me and become a patron. Translation is hard work and takes a lot of time. Consider donating $1 a month to help out. This book is over 500 pages long! You can donate at my website:
or my Patreon link: https://www.patreon.com/anarchistbanjo
Comments are welcome!

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The Strangling Hand
by Karl Hans Strobl
translated by Joe E. Bandel
Copyright Joe E. Bandel
The Strangling Hand Ch 1 pg 9-12

“His memory permits him to be like a saint, but it will not belittle him, if I tell you that he didn’t have any more to give, that he was not producing any more great creations. The people have already glorified and immortalized his claim to fame. The world would have become very impatient if they had to wait for his final great work. They would have become very impatient with him and because of that his glory would have become less than it now is.”

“But you have only spoken to me about him, now tell me a little about yourself.”

“There is not anything to say about myself, other than that I loved him.”

“There is only one love, but it’s appearance is multifold and varied like the colorful images of this world and nature will never tire of creating ever changing shapes and blossoms. Each day is a celebration.”

The glass dome arched higher, and an exquisite silence sank down upon her that rang against the smooth marble walls like silver. Then the Frau began to talk, and the finger tips of her hands slid over the cool surface of the table.

“He lifted me up, when I was close to falling. I s pent my youth among strange people, in whose houses I had to educate spoiled children. They tolerated me at the table, because they were so disturbed by the bad habits and sassy questions of the little girls. But they never forgot to let me know that my good work was in service to them.

The grown sons and Masters of the houses often pretended to be sweet when they were alone with me. They brought little gifts and flowers, which they asked me to hide from their mothers and spouses. I pretended not to understand their hints and wishes, so I could never find a permanent home.

Going from place to place made me tired, and in the house where I finally ended up the not so subtle pressure of the gentleman wore down my resistance. He had a strange power over his entire environment and was a terrible Master. He had the cruelty and lewdness of an Assyrian conqueror.

It was one evening in a quiet park, after a difficult storm, when I felt that my power was broken and that I would soon succumb to his will. I saw swans like blue birds with large wings fly up a narrow stream, and from far away came the sounds of their music.

That was where I spoke to a young man, and his first words told me that a poet was standing in front of me. He felt my despair and the distress deep within my soul. Every one of his words was so good and kind that they seemed to caress me like soft hands and I could not resist him. When he asked me to share his happiness and his meager life, I took it as a gift from an old friend.

He led me back to the house of my oppressor, beat his empty threats into the wind, and didn’t allow himself to be intimidated by the teeth grinding and angry gestures.. Then we lived in a dream for six years and … were … happy.”

The long beard of Eleagabal Kuperus trembled on his breast. His finger followed a red marble thread on the table, at which the young blond Frau was sitting. Her eyes seemed to be blinded by a radiant glory. The dark cloth that had covered her head and shoulders had slid down onto her lap, and all the light in the room, which flowed in invisible waves, seemed to appear and collect on her transfigured pale face and radiate back at him.

“Have you told me everything?” Asked Eleagabal Kuperus.

“I have been given very much. What I mean is that we were happy.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that you were unfaithful to him?”

“It was his right as a poet to leave, and yet, he always returned to me. His love only made my conquest greater”

At that Eleagabal Kuperus bowed down and kissed the young Frau on the forehead, and she looked him quietly in the eyes as he took her by the hand.

“Now I will gladly fulfill your wish.”

“He spoke of you with reverence and conceived many plans of how he could be closer to you. Your life had a great influence over him. He often said that you were the one that had the power and courage to shake off all the things that he couldn’t. He created his island, which the entire world had to go around. He built high barriers around his life, and only narrow paths led to him. Now he himself comes on a narrow path. It was his last wish to have his head preserved. Will you deny him your skill?”

“I waited for him, and he didn’t come. I will not deny him my skill now . Follow me.”

Eleagabal took the hand of the Frau and walked with her toward the marble wall. No door was visible, and the Frau shrank back when her forehead almost touched the stone. Then she saw that delicate copper leaf vines stretched over the opening and they looked like the green and red veins in the marble. The hand of the man reached in, lifted the vines and she stepped through.

Another room lay in front of her, a type of laboratory with marble walls and like the domed hall it had a row of columns. These columns were permeated with a mild tranquil light that spread through the room in invisible waves. Marble pedestals were placed around the room near the walls, upon which, beneath glass covers, lay human limbs; arms, legs, and hands with the full appearance of life, whose cut surfaces appeared to be still fresh and bloodied. Eleagabal Kuperus lifted up one of the glass covers and invited the Frau to touch the arm, a beautiful woman’s arm. Emma obeyed without horror or disgust and felt how the skin was soft and supple, so that the flesh gave way beneath the pressure of her fingers.

“This arm is 30 years old: it belonged to my daughter Constance,” said Eleagabal. “I studied and researched for a long time until I discovered this method to bring back life from the dead. The old Egyptians preserved the bodies of their dead for life in the underworld. But those dried out, shriveled up bodies, whose cavities were filled with spices and wrapped with countless bandages, are more frightening in their decomposition because they no longer maintain the beautiful shape that life once gave them.”

He pointed to one corner where a wrinkled and ridiculous head could be seen with a narrow gold band around its forehead which appeared to be glowing. It lay within a weathered black coffin. Emma was frightened and turned quickly away, in order to follow Eleagabal, who walked in front of her explaining as he guided her from pedestal to pedestal, from one memorial of his life to the next, and at each she marveled at the perfection of his art, the perfection of its victory over the dead relatives and friends who had donated parts of their bodies to this remarkable museum. So many of them had been dead for decades and their limbs here still retained an unending freshness. They stopped in front of one where the head of a negro lay on a shiny mirrored plate beneath a bell jar.

“This head was not the best part of my Hassan,” said Eleagabal Kuperus, “but it was a strong skull and took more than one chop, which shattered the cutting board, for me to cut it off.”

The way that Eleagabal grabbed the thick curly hair with loving tenderness and softly held it showed how loyal this servant had been and Emma sensed how much he had been loved. A little breeze of eternity, uninterrupted by death, lay in this room, a continued sympathetic existence, on these pedestals placed at measured intervals. And they insured beyond any doubt that oblivion was not known here. The deep peace of a temple and quietness of a true home gave the room a deep sense of happiness. Here time was stopped and could no longer unfold. It was dammed up, and only flowed in a measure that was pleasing to the master of this house, slowly and without beating waves. The water in this chamber did not carry the smell of sewer, of decay and rot that often was given off by a cadaver, but remained refined and clear as if it was purified through a machine.

So detached from all other things, yet at the same time suspended in and through itself, a world in space, so filled with peace lay within this chamber. These things were so strange to the young Frau, so content and inoffensive as they gave themselves to this man. While she was lost in thought and kept coming back to these images of the infinite, the mild light within the room transformed to became stronger and more radiant. It seemed as if red bundles of light radiated out from the columns, until the walls lay bathed in a glowing red like the light through a stained glass window, and all of the limbs twitched upon their pedestals in these strong life giving rays.


I am currently translating this book a few pages at a time. I will be posting them as I translate them. If you enjoy this story and type of literature please support me and become a patron. Translation is hard work and takes a lot of time. Consider donating $1 a month to help out. This book is over 500 pages long! You can donate at my website:
or my Patreon link: https://www.patreon.com/anarchistbanjo
Comments are welcome!

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The Strangling Hand
by Karl Hans Strobl
translated by Joe E. Bandel
Copyright Joe E. Bandel
The Strangling Hand Ch 1 pg 5-8

The Frau who wanted to visit Eleagabal Kuperus had to wait a while before the heavy door opened. The faint light from a nearby lantern engaged in battle with the fog and brought the carvings on the door into sharp relief, then slid across the hand with the key as it radiated out to the edge of the darkness that lay heavy over the end of the street. The portal slowly opened and a long passage led the Frau into the interior of the house as she walked silently over soft carpet. To her left and right were glowing letters that arranged themselves into words which were not recognizable, as well as hieroglyphics, cuneiform and glimmering symbols. They gave off so much light that in the dim twilight dark paintings and statues could be seen high above all along the entrance corridor. A fountain pattered a wistful melody in a red-lit room, in which a collection of paintings were hung on the walls. A servant waited there, whose hairy head, whose pointed little ears and whose evil glimmering eyes made him look like a wolf. He raised his hand in a silencing movement.

The Frau followed him down a narrow path between two walls of books, until he took a ball from out of a bowl and dropped it back in producing a silvery sound. From out of the folds of a curtain, a cool breeze blew against her hot face as she stepped beneath a glass dome that arched above a room of marble. It was like a temple with two rows of supporting columns, but the broad capitals of these columns were decorated with scrolls and animal heads that looked down on her and did not in any way support the dome. They apparently served no purpose except to divide the bottom portion of the chamber, while the dome itself remained unsupported and free above like a symbol of the infinity of heaven. There were all types of colorful marble collected in this chamber, from white fragments of Tyrolean marble to flaming , starry and miraculous colors of the rarest kind. Water trickled down a wall, as if a little stream of blood poured from out of some hidden opening above and silently slid down the flat surface. Nearby were tiles like those that maps were painted upon, but these showcased delicate ferns, moss or bush like veins encased within the stone, as well as blossoming corals that spread their branches out wide, as if they contained the power of unchained expansion. The impeccable surfaces of white, yellow and ivory colored marble glowed in ever changing displays of color.

This chamber presented lifeless stone, while at the same time radiating an intense sense of life and peace, which was driven by an infinite source. It was possibly like a head in which confused thoughts stormed, in which confused thoughts dwelled, and of which no one would dare speak or act upon in real life. Up above, the dome itself remained completely detached from the confusion, containing it so that none of it could escape; arched and glassy like the cornea of an eye, upon whose retina these most precious and wonderful colors played.

Eleagabal Kuperus sat at a marble table in the center, guarded by columns on the left and the right. His hand lay on the table, his finger traced some vein in the marble and his lips moved. Then he looked up and his gaze wrapped the Frau in a veil of questions. His questioning eyes lay deep inside a head that was just as much that of a patriarch as it was that of an old predator. A high forehead rose above them, furrowed with so many wrinkles that people would find it laughable in anyone else. Down below grew a wild beard that bushed out on all sides, yet remained forced down onto his chest. Beneath his mustache gaped the dark cavern of his mouth from which two canines protruded. The incisors were long lost, the canines of the upper skull had transformed into fangs through a rare power, and when Eleagabal Kuperus laughed, they crept out like daggers from their sheaths. Around his bald head lay a thin wreath of white hair, which stood out straight like bristles as if from an electric shock.

The Frau hesitated and then stepped up to him and laid a round package on the table in front of him which she had carried beneath her coat.

“You are welcome here,” said Eleagabal Kuperus and he waved away the servant with the face of a wolf, who had been crouching like a predator behind the Frau. “You are welcome here,” said Eleagabal Kuperus once more, and the Frau felt how his gaze penetrated through her. Then he added, and his hand pointed to the round package:
“You have brought me the head of your husband.”

A trembling came over the Frau, and the table, at which Eleagabal Kuperus sat, began to spin quickly around its axis, so quickly, that it seemed as if the man in front of her multiplied. Fainting, she grabbed at one of the columns for support, but she quickly pulled her fingers back, because the stone was so hot, that it almost burned her skin.

“Take it, just as it is. Death is a powerful master, almost as powerful as life itself, and often it seems as if it overcomes life. I honor your pain, and I want to fulfill your desire.”

“You know, what I want to do with it?”

I know. Your love is great, and I bow down before that love.”

Then the Frau broke out into tears and looked despairingly around her, because she felt so weak, ashamed that she had allowed herself to show weakness. Eleagabal Kuperus stood up and stepped over to her; he laid one arm around her shoulders. And then a strange thing happened, Frau Emma Rössler, despite her horror and fear of this notorious old man, this weird man she had come to, sobbed as she hid her head in the thick brush of his beard. They both stood completely still, and the silence crackled like a small blue flame. Then he led her to his chair at the marble table and asked her to sit down.

“Tell me about your husband, who was a poet and the things that shaped – his life.”

“It seems, that you knew him.”

– Eleagabal Kuperus smiled, and both fangs crept out of the hole of his mouth, while his hand motioned for her to continue –

“His name was in the mouths of all the people, and his future stood before him, brilliant and wonderful. But despite all of his promise and ability, his advancement remained bleak and gloomy. He didn’t understand how to market himself and his works with ostentatious boasting and self advertising.

People always gave him support along the way and recognized his talent., He didn’t have the proud consolation of being unrecognized. But they only bought enough of his books so that we could live in common comfort. Yet he thirsted after more, and his artistic moods continued to bring forth even more beautiful, unheard of things. But we were not rich enough to rise above the common folk, and not poor enough to give up poetic speech entirely.

He continued on indifferently, along a path that was neither difficult enough nor successful enough until in the end he became tired, and that was his life. He could not be called a fighter, but he was also no fortunate child, to whom the stars dropped fortune into his lap.

With calm, disciplined work he achieved enough to lead a life that was similar to that of a thousand others, until he sank without too much pain, without a trace of tragedy, except that a voice was silenced, which the fates should have established, and allowed his final wishes to be expressed.”

Eleagabal Kuperus stood in front of the Frau and listened to her, while he stroked his long beard with his hand like a gardener strokes his bushes. The furrows of his high forehead moved. It seemed as if his thoughts ran across them.

“His life and his death was not so bleak, as might appear to your love. His life was not allowed its full brilliance, and I know, that his power dissolved into a soft twilight. But it could have been richer and deeper, if he could have had your love. And that is why I tell you, that he did not understand how to achieve it. From out of the depths comes all happiness. Yet his death was not in vain, because of that which he was able to give to the world in the end.”


I am currently translating this book a few pages at a time. I will be posting them as I translate them. If you enjoy this story and type of literature please support me and become a patron. Translation is hard work and takes a lot of time. Consider donating $1 a month to help out. This book is over 500 pages long! You can donate at my website:
or my Patreon link: https://www.patreon.com/anarchistbanjo
Comments are welcome!

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The Strangling Hand
by Karl Hans Strobl
translated by Joe E. Bandel
Copyright Joe E. Bandel

The Strangling Hand

Behind the Cathedral, where the roofs of little houses pressed around a narrow courtyard, the little alleyways lost their direction and disappeared, crowding up against the fronts of old gray buildings, or suddenly turning to the side around protruding corners, going up and down stairways, until they ended in some corner at one of the surrounding houses. The modern times with its expanding circle of industrial development had still not changed this innermost core of the city. And under the dark arches, in dusty niches, and in front of the blackened statues of saints lit with trembling little lamps cowered the past.

The stairs which climbed up and down around the houses had many steps which had become worn smooth and slippery, so that in the winter time the old women could only timidly and with choking prayers dare go to the Cathedral. Such joys and sorrows were carried over these stairs. There were holes worn into the granite steps, in which little pools of water stood after the summer rains and in the winter everything was covered with crackling ice. Thoughtful and sometimes sullen faces looked out the little windows of the old houses at the few people who carefully made their way over the rough concrete, and urgently and uncomfortably rushed past the mountainous Cathedral as if it held no power over them.

You could see many old people. Life appeared on these quiet and crooked little streets that stretched out in all directions. On Sunday you could see all these old men and women walking to the Cathedral, as if it were a treasured memory, haunted by the shadows of what it had once been. Yet the youth lived in the midst of these old people, rude, irrepressible and noisy in the present moment as they clambered over the stairs among the gray houses to play in the sunshine and enjoy the energy of youth.

The old people looked at them and smiled, because here the past and the present was not yet in conflict. These old people loved their green plants and white gardens, and many green window boxes protruded from the many paned windows. In the summer blood red fuchsia blossoms nodded above the wooden window boxes and sturdy wide leafed geraniums stood in the background. There were also entire windows full of blooming hyacinth, boasting all colors and in one arched window frame that was topped with the figures of animals and birds, you could see the foliage of exotic plants and wondrous orchids, which captivated all the children. They were compelled to stand in front of the window and push against the glass with their fingers. During the greatest summer holidays that was where the passion flowers were placed, the beautiful and sad blossoms which carried all the marks of the martyred Christ, the nails and the hammer and even the terrible thorn of crowns.

Here the people still celebrated the holidays. They put decorations on the doors and even the houses transformed their faces for Easter, Pentecost and Corpus Christi day. That was when a procession came through the narrow streets, when the bells rang out and the white clouds of incense swam above the heads of the priests. That was when rows of candles flickered in the windows and the statues of the saints looked out of sleepy eyes at the many lights. During Pentecost boughs of green birch were placed on all the doors, so that it seemed as if springtime had placed an ostrich plume on the face of every house. That was when things seemed so bright and cheerful in the world, so cheerful that people almost didn’t believe, how many other stories hid behind the old brown doors and slept inside the little windows. Familiar stories and strange stories, which awoke on sad days and during the long winter nights.

Near the main entrance to the Cathedral, guarded by the cold empty eyes of the stone saints, stood a house, around which many such stories were told. That was where Eleagabal Kuperus lived, of whom the people in the houses around the Cathedral told the most remarkable things. Of whom the youth told fantastic and mysterious stories and whom the old women were so careful to avoid, if he crossed their path on the way to the Cathedral.

His house was certainly the oldest anywhere around and had a slate gable roof on its wrinkled brown face that sat there like an old hat. In dry weather it’s front appeared dusty and furrowed , but when the rain beat against its walls, ancient images appeared on its surfaces: the sacrifice of Isaac, the judgment of Solomon, the passage of the Jews through the Red Sea and many others, of which the people up here on the hill knew nothing about. Like a secret ink that is activated by the sun or the water, these images appeared from out of the moisture, stretching themselves along all the walls, between the windows and showing themselves, down below intertwined with vines of plants and animals bound together with words written in an unreadable language.

But over the richly carved door that was bound with iron bands, a figure became visible, which stood there in the garments of a distant time, in one hand a sword and holding a key in the other. From out of its mouth came a ribbon on which was written in ancient letters: “Believe in miracles”. The strangest thing about this figure and about this house was, that the hand which held the key extended from out of the wall in a real and graspable form. This hand, with its curled fingers, sinews and perfectly formed veins appeared so much like the living hand of a human that you had to marvel at the artistic skill of its creator. After the rain coursed through the furrows and turned into a trickle the sun once more dried the walls and then the figure and letters disappeared, and only the hand remained holding the key above the door, as if it grew from out of the wall and wanted to show that the passage was locked and could only be opened by it alone.

And even the door – was a terrifying puzzle which the children could never solve. It was a carving of Saul and his visit to the witch of Endor. Misshapen bodies with hideous grimaces surrounded the hero. Up above, a wingless dragon spewed fire from out of its mouth, and down below Leviathan swam in an ocean of enormous pointed waves and blasted mighty streams of water from out of its nostrils.
Of all the people that told stories about Eleagabal Kuperus, it was old Frau Swoboda who told the strangest ones. She was the one who lit slender candles in the Cathedral for all the souls in purgatory. She was the one who had seen on one moonlit night, how a finger of the hand over the door had released the key and straightened out, exactly like the finger of a human hand that wants to relieve a cramp. And she was the one, who at the crack of dawn on one foggy winter day had seen clearly how the dragons and the monsters on the carved door had swarmed together, and how Saul had raised his arm to banish her. Ever since then she swore that Eleagabal Kuperus was a sorcerer, and a legion of old women stood behind her maintaining the same thing.

But even the men, who just laughed at this gossip, shunned the old man in the mysterious house, and when they encountered him in the twilight of a dimly lit street, gladly crossed over to the other side. Only rarely did anyone ring the bell under the hand with the key, and it was always a stranger, someone from the bustling city down below, who visited Eleagabal Kuperus in his castle.

The Frau, who surrounded by a heavy mist filled with mysterious voices, climbed up the large stairs one winter evening and slowly crossed the little space in front of the Cathedral, hesitated a moment in front of the door to the house in which Kuperus lived. Here on the top of the hill only a few little lights glowed, and one of them stood unmoving like a staring eye in the forehead of this house. Frau Swoboda, who had just came from out of the sanctuary of the Cathedral, saw, how a dark figure in front of the door of Kuperus reached to ring the bell, and with a shudder sent a short prayer for the salvation of this poor soul that was in the clutches of evil, and entrusted its soul to heaven. As she rounded the corner of the alley, she heard the shriek of the bell, and freezing, yet happy in the kindness of God’s grace, wrapped herself more tightly in her large shawl.


I am currently translating this book a few pages at a time. I will be posting them as I translate them. If you enjoy this story and type of literature please support me and become a patron. Translation is hard work and takes a lot of time. Consider donating $1 a month to help out. This book is over 500 pages long! You can donate at my website:


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Chapter 27

He had left her in the darkness to meditate. Now he was coming back with her torch and her black clothing. Gruffly he told her to put the 2nd degree clothing on. She turned her back and stripped. He was watching her naked body. The bruises were healing and he wanted her. Slowly she turned around and faced him. Her long red hair framed her breasts. She looked beautiful to him. He reached toward her and they clung together kissing as her body pressed against his. His lips seeking hers desperately as hers were seeking his. His hands were feeling her body and her scent was wonderful. They stopped and looked at each other.

“This isn’t in the script!” Tobal quipped.

She smiled and began putting on her 2nd degree clothing. Then they went together toward the main circle for the initiation. Things went well until Becca found herself surrounded by the six menacing darkly hooded figures she was told she needed to fight. Tobal thought he went crazy at times during battle but Becca was scary. With a scream of rage that shook him to his core he watched as she mowed the six figures down like so much grass. She was obviously an advanced martial artist with an axe to grind and she wasn’t holding anything back.

The first two got broken ribs before they knew what hit them. The first fell from a savage front kick that broke through his guard. In a smooth fluid motion a spinning side kick disabled the second. The third was reaching for her and got a dislocated shoulder as he was thrown into a fourth that wisely stayed on the ground. A spinning backfist was already on it’s way to number five and number six had his jaw broken with a deadly kick square to the face. It was all over in less than two minutes and the only sounds in the cavern were the moans of the injured.

Slowly sanity came back and Becca dropped on her knees to the floor sobbing hysterically. Tobal dropped down beside her and put his arms around her trying to comfort her. Then he gently helped her up and led her out of the circle and into a quiet corner where they just sat together in silence. He squeezed her hand as the medics took five of the six out of the cave to get medical attention. She started crying again and he didn’t know what else to do except hold her tightly against his chest. Gradually she relaxed and fell asleep in his arms.

The circle had been disrupted and several members milled around arguing with each other. Several red cloaked figured appeared and one approached them in the darkened corner. As the figure drew closer Tobal saw that it was Rafe. He put his finger to his lips for silence and indicated that Becca was sleeping. Rafe looked at her thoughtfully, nodded and turned back to the clustered group of medics. There was some kind of heated discussion in which Rafe was obviously taking part. Then several black hooded Journeymen were called into the group and preparations were made to recast the circle and begin Melanie’s initiation.

Becca slept through most of Melanie’s initiation but roused herself as six black hooded figures surrounded Melanie in the center of the circle. Tobal felt her stiffen and he gripped her in support. Glancing at him she relaxed a bit but was still focused intently on what was happening to Melanie. She watched as each figure stood impassively until Melanie tried attacking them. Melanie was fast and dodged several attacks and landed a few of her own but did no real damage. She was also taking a slow beating as one of the hooded figures landed a blow that knocked her to the ground.

Gradually Melanie realized that no one attacked her unless she attacked first. She also realized that only one figure would fight at a time. When she realized this she stopped fighting and just stood silently in the ring with her arms folded and her eyes glaring defiance.

As one the circle began to move and the drums sounded within the cavern and Melanie’s initiation was completed to the sound of cheers and welcome. Then the High Priest raised his hands for silence.

“There is unfinished business in this circle tonight.” He said. “There are two initiates and the second initiation must also be completed and the new initiate welcomed into our group.”

He motioned for Tobal and Becca to come forward.

Becca was hesitant and resisted but continued at Tobal’s reassurance. He took her hand and gently led her into the circle and stopped in front of the High Priest.

The High Priest continued. “ Becca, you were charged with the duty of defeating in combat six other Journeymen before you would be able to advance to the Master degree. The six that you fought tonight were supposed to be symbolic in nature but your victories have been real. You have completed the Journeyman degree but you can not advance into the Master degree until one year has passed. This is the minimum time requirement. All that remains is to give you the blessings of the God and Goddess and of this degree.”

Then raising his hands he turned to the circle and asked loudly. “Does anyone here dispute the claim that Becca has won her six victories and completed the work of this degree?”

There was stunned silence around the circle and then some members started moving widdershins dragging others with them and soon the entire circle was spinning. The drums were beating and people were leaping and laughing, yelling and clapping in approval as the initiation concluded and the wildest party in Tobal’s memory began.

Later he moved over to where Becca and Melanie were talking together. Becca was smiling and he hoped she felt like she was among friends. He gave her a hug and a smile and she hugged him back and kissed him lightly on the lips.

“Thanks for helping me through the initiation.” She said.

His eyes twinkled. “Any time, it’s my duty.”

When Tobal woke the next morning both Melanie and Becca were gone. He had no idea where they had run off to and was slightly disappointed. If they wanted to go off by themselves it was completely up to them. Mumbling a bit to himself he left to go find Jake for some sparring practice. After watching Becca take out those six guys last night he felt he really had a few things to learn.

The End Of Volume I

This concludes the first of a three part series. I hope you enjoyed it! Merry Christmas!

Anarchist Knight: Apprentice is the first story I ever tried to write. Unfortunately I was never able to successfully market it. Since writing it I have successfully translated nine books which have been modestly successful and all together I have sold around 2,000 copies of my translations but almost none of my fiction or non-fiction. If you would like me to finish this trilogy please let me know in as many ways as you can!

I’m hoping to get back to this project this coming year (2018) nearly 10 years after setting it aside. It depends upon the interest of readers like you! I have the notes for part 2, but nothing else. It remains a dream that is waiting for its time of fulfillment.

bright blessings,

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There was a hollow sick feeling in the pit of his stomach and he felt like he was going to throw up. He was shaken to his very core by the news and his face turned a pasty gray. He looked for one of the medics to ask for more information and made a beeline in the dark to the nearest red cloaked figure he saw. The medic was busy putting some things in his pack. His back was to Tobal as he walked up.

“Excuse me.” He began. “I need some information.”

“ Rafe!” He shouted.

“Rafe, what about Becca?” He asked urgently. “Is she all right?”

Rafe turned a troubled gaze on him.

“Becca’s pretty bad. Near as we can figure four rogues jumped the two of them with clubs while they were climbing half way up the cliff on a ledge by the waterfall. Becca got taken by surprise at the top. They grabbed her and were holding her down and tearing her clothes off. She was fighting back when she was knocked unconscious. Melanie managed to slice one of them pretty bad with a blade before being pushed over the ledge. Becca was already unconscious when Melanie fell over the ledge. She wasn’t able to help Becca and prevent the beating. She really blames herself for that. She’s lucky she wasn’t hurt in the fall.”

Rafe continued. “ As soon as Becca was unconscious alarms went off on our air sleds and we responded immediately. The rogues left Becca with a couple cracked ribs and took off running when three medics came flying in on air sleds. Tobal, she was raped. ” He looked at Tobal before continuing.

“We felt she might have internal injuries and took her to the city for specialized medical attention. Melanie went along as a witness and to fill out the reports.”

That was all Rafe knew except they were both at sanctuary now and Becca was in stable condition.

“I don’t know who the rogues were. They don’t seem to be anyone that is a part of our camp. But they know about us, that’s for sure. They didn’t wear med-bracelets, so they didn’t show up on our screens.”

“They don’t wear med-bracelets?” Tobal said grimly. “That means they are General Grants’ men.”

“The air sleds showed up suddenly.” Tobal asked violently. “How did the rogues get away?”

“We don’t know yet. That’s our new camp remember.” Rafe continued. “As soon as Becca was knocked unconscious alarms went off on our air sleds. What I can’t believe is that rogues would be so close to our camp.”

“I know where they were climbing.” Tobal said suddenly. “If they were on the ledge they would have been trapped. The only way down was hand and foot holes and the only way up was through a rock chimney. They didn’t run away. The medics let them get away!”

He turned to Rafe in a rage. “The first medics there let them get away. They didn’t have time to climb the rock chimney or go down the cliff to the lake. How could they just vanish like that?”

Rafe turned white as understanding dawned. “It wasn’t our Medics. The rogues were teleported there and out again. They must have a teleporting station set up right there on that ledge. We’ve got to find it and destroy it.”

“What did these rogues look like? What kind of tunics did they wear?” Tobal asked savagely already knowing the answer. “They knew the girls were going to climb the cliff and waited for them on the ledge. The girls were deliberately ambushed!”

“’They were dressed as Journeymen in black tunics.” Rafe told him. “That’s all we know at this time. Ellen’s looking into it further and making a complaint to the City Council.”

There was a lump in his throat and a heavy feeling in his heart. He had left the girls at the lake alone and unprotected. Part of what happened to them was his fault. He had even suggested they go there in the first place. Tobal took up his pack and asked Rafe to give him a ride to sanctuary. The trip was a little over an hour with the air sled. The full moon made night travel fairly easy anyway. It was his first air sled ride but he was too emotional to enjoy it.

As they traveled he wondered about the rogues. Were they really acting under orders from General Grant and did they have the ability to teleport in and out at will? What was so important about the cave under the waterfall? They needed to really check it out before the enemy got to it and took everything. He told Rafe that they needed to check the cave out thoroughly and see what they could find. Rafe agreed and said he and Ellen would look into it immediately on his return. He dropped Tobal off at sanctuary and sped back toward the lake.

Tobal went inside and stopped at the door to let his eyes adjust to the dim light. Melanie saw him and came running with a glad cry.

“Tobal!” She threw her arms around him in a big hug. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

She led him over to the cot where Becca lay and he sank down on his knees by her bed. He reached out for her hands. She smiled weakly at him. Her face was horribly bruised and there was a look in her eyes he didn’t recognize. He didn’t’ know for sure if she really knew who he was. It was like she was looking through him. As he reached to move a strand of hair away from her eyes she flinched away from him.

“Becca, it’s me Tobal!” He implored but her uncomprehending eyes remained the same. She was in shock. Part of her soul was gone somewhere else and he didn’t know how to get it back. He stayed with her and Melanie stayed with her but she remained unreachable. In anguish he grabbed her hand and placed it over the scars on his face.

“Becca, it’s me, remember me! My face. Feel the scars, it’s me, remember!”

She slowly looked at him and tears began to form in her eyes.


She softly traced the scars with her fingers. “I’m sorry.” She whispered and her arm dropped back on the cot.

He pulled her hand toward him gripping it hard and trying to bring her nearer. Something broke inside his heart and he cried, violent spasms shaking his body.

“Becca, I love you, I love you. Come back to me.”

Her fingers tightened in his. “I love you too.” She whispered.

Two days passed and Becca seemed to improve but something was still wrong. The rape and beating was still fresh and her experience made her both fearful and angry. She wanted to withdraw at times into her own space and be alone and at times she pushed both Melanie and Tobal away. Other times she needed them close to her.

It was the afternoon on the third day that Llana showed up at sanctuary concerned about what had happened. When Tobal hadn’t showed up for their meeting she had gotten worried and gone looking for him. She checked at the new medic’s base and was told that he was here.

“You’ve got to get Crow.” Tobal told her. “Crow told me that he would be needing to do another soul retrieval. He is the one that is meant to help her.”

“Both Crow and I will help her together.” She told him softly.

A few hours later both Crow and Llana had finished the soul retrieval and done spiritual healing work on Becca. She was sleeping peacefully. Crow, Llana, Melanie and he could not talk openly about things at sanctuary because newbies were there and clansmen were also showing up to get the newbies. Crow and Llana left and said they would talk with him later. Before they left Tobal warned them that the General’s men were teleporting into areas without warning and attacking clansmen.

They stayed at Sanctuary as Becca gradually improved. Both Becca and Melanie were looking forward to their Journeyman initiation and joked about it. The bad food at sanctuary was finally too much and they decided to make a leisurely journey to the caverns.

It had been two weeks and was just before the new moon. Physically Becca was pretty much healed but there were still deep emotional scars that were raw. He could feel the scars keeping them apart. Becca and Melanie were to be initiated into the Journeyman degree. They both felt it would help them to turn their minds away from what had happened. They traveled together and reached the caverns late in the afternoon. As the girls were being prepared for the initiations he joined the tail end of the tournaments.

Since he was late he hadn’t been challenged and was given the opportunity to challenge someone. He didn’t care whether he won or lost, he just needed an outlet for the rage and energy that had been trapped inside him since Becca’s accident. It was making him crazy and he knew he had to get rid of it.

In a burst of anger he challenged the Ox. The Ox had been having it entirely too easy because of his natural strength and size. Nobody ever challenged him and he only challenged weaker and easier victims. He never really had to fight. Tobal needed to fight.

The Ox was surprised and incredulous but also had a wide grin on his face as he contemplated the beating he was going to give Tobal. Lumbering to his feet he swaggered into the circle and nodded at the referee. Tobal was on fire and there was no strategy. He was just going to pound the Ox until the fight was over. It was going to be brutal but he was in much better shape and had learned of few tricks the past months. He had also been practicing daily. He had never seen the Ox bother with any type of training or exercise. The brute seemed to rely exclusively on his own natural ability and strength.

The Ox lunged and Tobal narrowly missed getting caught by those massive arms. As the Ox passed Tobal swung a viscous blow with an elbow that caught the Ox on the side of the head and dazed him. Tobal was not quick enough to take advantage and the Ox turned with a bellow of anger. It turned into a slug fest in which neither one tried to get away but simply stood braced and pounded on each other, trading blows without regard for the punishment they were taking.

Tobal had learned how to brace himself for blows and took several blows to the midsection without buckling. Llana’s training had given him vast endurance and it was the Ox who began to weaken under sustained blows to the head and midsection. He was used to fights that ended quickly and was getting tired. A wicked knee to the groin finally dropped the Ox to his knees and the fight was over. Tobal was battered and bloody but victorious and happy. He had won his second fight.

There was something especially sweet about this fight he thought as he limped out of the circle. He watched as Jake fought his match. There was no doubt about Jake getting better too. But it was not enough for him to win.

As he left the ring and sat down at the edge of the circle his mind again returned to the conversation with Becca that had left his head spinning. He had asked Becca for a better description of her attackers. They had been bearded and hard to describe but she had torn the leader’s tunic off in the struggle. She had seen clearly a tattoo on his chest above his heart. It was a round circle with a male and female holding hands inside the circle. It was the same tattoo he had seen on his uncle as a child.

After the tournaments he washed up and got prepared for Becca’s and Melanie’s initiations. Having two initiations made things go much longer since they each had to be done separately. Becca’s initiation was first and it was almost the last. Tobal was Becca’s guide. He had requested to be her guide and Ellen had approved. He wanted to be close by in case something happened.

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