Discover more from The Holy Loneliness Collective (english)
Nov 10, 2022
This morning Till was not well. Headache and a sore throat. I also felt a little exhausted and worn out. Possibly the ever colder nights are taking their toll. More likely, though, we were just looking for an excuse to cancel our appointment with old Ursel. Too bad we caught each other at it. So, in the end, we had no choice but to take a deep breath and get on our way.
It really wasn't far - maybe fifteen minutes by bike. There is no real address. The house is in a small allotment garden area near the railroad tracks. Between all the neatly cultivated gardens with meticulously laid out flower beds and grinning garden gnomes lies a completely overgrown patch of land. The neighbors have put up high privacy walls to banish this visual nuisance from view as much as possible. We struggled through the undergrowth, encountering at least seven different cats. I tried to pay attention to whether they came from the right or from the left, but most of them didn't move at all but just glared at us curiously.
In a small clearing we discovered an old construction trailer. The front wheels had collapsed so that the whole construction tilted dangerously to one side. On the moss-covered roof sat a little owl and slept. No human was to be seen.
'Hello?', Till called in a hollow voice and rather too quiet for anyone to hear.
No response. But it made us jump when the owl flapped its wings ear-splittingly and disappeared into an old oak tree.
The end of a rope ladder plopped out of this very tree and after a minute a gaunt figure descended from the treetop. Somehow I had imagined old Ursel differently. Had probably expected the typical fairy tale witch. In front of us stood a tall and bony woman with dozens of small pink braids on her head. Probably a wig. Almost the entire left half of her face was covered by a jagged black tattoo, presumably meant to depict snakes crawling out from under her hair. The dirty and well-worn clothes looked like they came from a theater stock - fishnet tights, a brightly colored skirt, woolen sweater and a feather boa that looked like it was made of real raven feathers. Around her neck dangled quite a few amulets and talismans. It was impossible to estimate her age, but since she is called 'old Ursel', she is probably not the youngest anymore. But the ice-blue eyes flashed awake and alert in the deep, black hollows.
'Don't work, the stones and the knife,' she said, her voice sounding like a mixture of sandpaper and dry leaves. It was not a question, but rather a statement.
Till rose to a lengthy explanation of why Leo was not there, but me, and how he had been doing with the measures so far. But she silenced him with an impatient wave of her hand and beckoned us to come with her into the construction trailer. 'Ain't a bad one, your friend,' she murmured without looking at us. It took me a while to figure out that she meant me.
It was gloomy inside the wagon and there was an intense smell of a blend of onions, burnt spices and rabbit litter. The entire room was crammed with shelves of bits and bobs. Small vials and pots, stones, statues, dream catchers, pots and dishes, tools I had never seen before and whose purpose I didn't want to imagine. The open space in the middle was far too small for three people, so we had to stand uncomfortably close to each other. In the back of the wagon, where it was so dark that nothing could be made out, something was thumping and kicking. Hopefully an animal...
Old Ursel rummaged around in a drawer for a while. Till and I stepped uneasily from one leg to the other. When I already feared that she had forgotten us, she turned around. She took my hand, looked at it for a while and then put something cold in it. A tiny bottle, sealed with a cork. I looked at her questioningly. 'Last chance,' she said, turning to Till. 'We have to expose her, the drude. Otherwise she'll smother you.'
'But how...' Till began, but she put her finger to her mouth. 'Can't move, can you? When she comes.'
Till nodded silently.
She pointed to me. 'Stays in the room with you, your friend. But well hidden. Mustn't see him, the drude. You sleep and he stays awake until she comes, the drude. Then he opens it.' She pointed to the little bottle in my hand.
'What's in it?" asked Till.
She waved it off. 'Don't wanna know.' She gestured for me to open it. I loosened the cork and immediately an acrid stench spread through the room, like a mixture of wild garlic, spiritus and cat pee. I quickly pressed the cork back onto the hole. 'Can move then,' she continued. 'Send her away, the drude. Tell her to come back in the morning.'
'And then?' asked Till.
'Next morning she comes, the drude,' old Ursel replied. 'Is exposed then. Doesn't have to come at night then.'
Till looked at her incredulously. 'That works?
She shrugged. 'Sometimes.' Then she held out her hand to Till. He stared at her confused for a while, then he understood. From his jacket pocket he took out something pale, and put it in her hand. It looked like a pile of tiny bones.
'That's all I found,' he said.
She grunted, but nodded in satisfaction. Till took a breath to say more, and in his gaze I could see the thousand questions still on his lips. But again she silenced him with a wave of her hand. 'You're going now,' she only said. And we did.
I must confess that I still don't know what to make of it. There is no denying that there was an impressive aura surrounding the woman. But the more this impression fades, the more ridiculous the plan she gave us seems to me. What is your opinion? Is it worth trying? After all, it would mean a sleepless and rather uncomfortable night in Till's room. Should we give it a shot?