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The Magic Medallion

A phantasy story by Birgit Floßdorf

It was a gloomy November night and I was alone at home. The dog had already barked a few times when he finally gave up around midnight. I tossed and turned for a while, hearing the old house groan and creak, and had just fallen asleep when I felt it had become quite light in the room.

I opened my eyes and saw flashing brass at the foot of my bed. It was steaming and hissing. Two big wheels at the back, two small ones at the front. The vehicle looked like a brightly polished, waist-high steam locomotive. A clack made my head jump to the window. Through the steam, a young man with pink feathers on his head looked at me. He was sitting on the window sill between the begonia and cyclamen, dangling his little legs, now and then the heels of his ivory shoes meeting to make a clack. He was wearing a knee-length, brightly coloured dress, a traditional costume, I guessed. His black curls bounced with his every word.

"We are asking for your help. I ask you to accompany me."

My eyes currently did not give a hoot about my brain's judgement and fell shut. After three months of sailing the high seas, it was possible to lose one's mind, no matter how experienced a sailor one was. "The worlds are threatened. Please, come with me." The scrawny little man did not give up.

Like a puppet pulled by strings, I boarded the brilliant vehicle. It rattled, rattled, gurgled and hissed and took off, we flew through the open window and headed for Dragon Rock. Flying wildly, it introduced itself with a slight bow, "My name is Laval." I could only stare aghast at our flying machine.

The function is essentially based on the fact that air is alternately heated and cooled in a closed system, causing a working piston to move back and forth and drive the flywheel. The coolant is a pipe filled with water," the male explained in a torrent of words. "That alone is not enough to make an object fly.... ". His last words were lost in a deafening waterfall and the fear of crashing into the mossy rock face paralysed me.

"Welcome to Cralich," Laval said and turned off the hissing vehicle. "Cralich," I smirked. "Cralich has gone under and hundreds of years ago. Are you trying to make a fool of me?" "We fantastical beings populate sunken places, don't you know?"

No, I didn't know that. How could I? Many a yarn had been spun at sea, but this one was better. Buildings in railway-keeper's cottage brick red peeked out from behind a wreath of shrubbery, a fence facing the street did not sing the praises of plumb and right angles, in the little gardens in front of the doors wild weeds and perennials were allowed to sprout as they grew flowers and leaves. No doubt, we were out of my sober, straight world. Through knee-high grass - it only reached my ankle - we entered one of the cottages, me bent over. It smelled of almonds, apples and fresh pastries.

"My dear. Liftildis. She is an excellent cook. Would you like to try some of her apple pie?" "Your pie smells tempting, but won't you finally tell me what I'm supposed to be doing here?"

From outside, a sound of different voices approached through the air. It came closer and closer. I could see nothing and no one. The clatter of wagons, voices and so on reached our ears.


copyright Birgit Floßdorf

"Our reconnaissance army," Laval declared proudly. "Let's go outside and receive them." In the knee-high grass, innumerable youths dressed in costume and some vehicles suddenly became visible. "We have a cloaking device that allows us to go unnoticed when we travel to other worlds." Laval introduced me and immediately called a meeting in his garden. Over apple pie and lime syrup, I finally learned the reason for my existence.

"Friends," he began, "as you know, I was on Earth to ask for the help of an experienced sailor. Here he is now. Jan Jansen." A murmur went through the group. Maxentius took the floor: "Jan Jansen, we are delighted with your arrival."I was getting impatient. "Will someone get to the point?" "In a moment, in a moment," Maxentius affirmed and passed the floor to Baudisius. "On one of our voyages of exploration to other worlds, we came to the sea world. We lost one of our medallions there, which make it possible for us to reach other worlds." "So, what's the problem?", I returned. "A water fiend has become powerful of the medallion and invades other worlds at times. It floods and devastates entire landscapes." "Why don't you just get the medallion back?" "If it were that simple," Laval interjected again. "The medallion is guarded by that monster. Although we can fly with our vehicles and also make ourselves invisible, the raging rivers and currents we have to pass force us to turn back every time. We are not experienced sailors."

"And this is where I come in," I sneered. "Do you have a plan?" I demanded. Convinced, Baudisius drew a plan in the air. "We build a ship, board the sea world and sail upstream to where the fiend resides, some distract him and others grab the medallion."

I understood.

Three summers passed before we could launch the ship. In the meantime, the reconnaissance army kept reporting the fiend's depredations in the land of the gnomes, the land of the elves and the land of the giants. At dawn of a sunny autumn day, we finally set out. The Aargaau carried our ship past lush meadows and berry-covered vineyards, and it gladdened my seafaring heart how easily our ship sailed through the valley. Not long and Laval swore us in. "I will now rub the medallion, we leave our world with it. Be on your guard."

At the same moment, the river turned into a raging torrent. I had my hands full manoeuvring the ship through the valley, through which the Aargaau now meandered in strong meanders. A wall of fog opened up. I could only make out the outlines of my men on the foredeck. To the left and right, precipitous cliffs made the valley more and more narrow and threatening. The waves crashed over the ship. The bare rocks turned into a dense mountain forest. It seemed impenetrable, mystical. A jolt went through the ship. It came to a standstill. It did not move any more and lay as firmly as if it were hanging on the ground with fifty anchors. Ahead of us was a cold, dark cave, full of horrible loneliness. A thunderstorm was approaching from the west. The black clouds hung low over the forest. Thunder rolled over the mountains and bright lightning flashed through the dark clouds, just as if all hell was breaking loose.

"Companions, be ready," Laval whispered.

I heard a tickling and crawling as if a thousand mice were running across the deck. Laval and his companions had left the ship. On a ledge these brave little fellows loaded firecrackers with nails and other bits of iron and fired into the cave. A yowling chant wafted over to me in the storm and abruptly a huge, fleshy head, a cross between a dragon and a toad, poked through the cave entrance. It spat fire again and again, which caught in the foremast, but was immediately swept into the current by a wave as high as a house. For the first time in my seafaring life I was scared and gave up all hope of ever getting out of this devilry in one piece. I was tossed to and fro, sent a shove prayer to heaven and was about to sound the retreat when I felt tingling and crawling on deck again.

"To the oars men" I ordered, as we had to sacrifice some sails to fire and water.

A snap of the fingers later, we were paddling through shallow, peaceful waters, the brave companions exuberant and cheerful. Each one tried to tell me the story in his version. It was Baudisius alone who, foolhardy under his cloak of invisibility, had sneaked past the ogre into the cave and taken the medallion.

The fiend could no longer leave his world and I could return to mine.

The magic slingshot

a Christmas story by Birgit Floßdorf

She was wearing a pale blue linen dress that seemed too big for her. Olivia was leaning in the doorway between the kitchen and the hallway, drying her hands on a tea towel. Her daughter skipped down the spiral staircase, taking two steps at a time. Any halfway normal person would take two stairs up, but not down. Olivia shook her head with a grin. Phoebe stormed past her mother with a hand clap and then rummaged a pink mohair scarf and grass-green mittens out of the wardrobe basket, fished her colourful Peruvian poncho off the hook and slipped into her beige fur boots. Olivia had not commented on her daughter's daring pattern and colour combinations for a long time. However, the dress did cause her some concern.

"Why are you wearing your sister's dress and isn't a summer dress a bit daring in December?" She chorused with her daughter, "Mum, I'm 13 years old and I have a brain of my own to think." While smacking a kiss on her mother's cheek, Phoebe added, "besides, Charlotte let me." Phoebe threw her backpack over her shoulder and skipped out of the house. In winter, all her classmates took the bus to school, Phoebe preferred to be independent and pedalled on her cross bike through the freezing morning air.

In the classroom, she piled all the extra clothes on her table. She was sweating and she was glad she had chosen a summer dress.

"Well, Snow White, did we get the season wrong?", Benjamin tugged at Phoebe's ponytail and lounged in his seat behind her.

Mrs Adams handed over the essay on mystical creatures and showered Phoebe with praise. "Nerd," it ricocheted against the back of her neck. Catty-corner from her, Sheila stuck her index finger down her throat. "Just don't pay any attention to her," Lucy whispered . "That's a great essay, I wish I had your imagination." Phoebe replied with a shrug. "Tomorrow is the last day of school before the Christmas holidays," Mrs Adams tried to drown out the recess bell. "Bring your favourite stories and whoever likes, home-baked biscuits. We can also talk about your wishes. So, bring your wish list tomorrow."

Phoebe cycled home, just in time to help her mother bake biscuits. "Sweetheart, sweetheart, sweetheart ...", Olivia held her cupped hand in front of the opening of the caraway spice bag, the entire contents of which threatened to disappear into the vanilla biscuit dough. "No one can eat that anymore. Besides, caraway seeds don't belong in vanilla crescents." "It's an experiment!" protested Phoebe. Olivia sighed. "Whatever, but take some of the dough into another bowl."

Cumin, aniseed, cardamom, curry, rose pepper, coriander, vanilla and rum crammmed into the mixing bowl one by one. Phoebe whisked them wildly through the batter, forming bizarre Christmas biscuits ranging from a misshapen angel with oversized wings to a small mound that looked like a dog turd with ears. The experiment was a success and Phoebe put the baking tray in the oven.

„Hi, you two, that smells great," Charlotte had interrupted her homework, whisked her index finger through Phoebe's bowl of dough, licked it with pleasure, and at the same moment bent over the sink, which had to do with the awful taste. "What's that? That's disgusting." Charlotte's face morphed into a grimace that inevitably ignited a fit of laughter in Phoebe that would not soon be brought under control. Olivia banished her daughters from the kitchen.

Phoebe snuggled into the living room armchair by the fireplace. On the coffee table was a notepad with the logo of her father's company. She scribbled on it: a slingshot, red and black checked trousers with a pink jumper, a toad in a terrarium, a magic box, snow at Christmas and fantasy. Yes, more fantasy, that would be good. "Another slingshot, you already had that on your list for last Christmas." Santa Claus ran his right hand slowly through his long white beard. Phoebe looked critically at her wishes. "But you didn't bring them to me." "And what's the use of more imagination? You have enough of it. You could give some to others." Santa rolled his ice-blue eyes and then gave in, "Very well, you scratch the slingshot, I'll think about the fantasy." With a heavy heart and a deep sigh, Phoebe erased the slingshot and replaced it with a compass. Phoebe crumpled her wish list into one of her boots in the hallway and opened the door for her father, who was just putting the key in the front door.

It was snowing when Phoebe woke up the next morning. The dancing flakes encouraged her to get up and the banister invited her to a morning slide past her mother, who handed her the biscuit tin as it flew by.

Mrs Adams read the story "The big carp Ferdinand" by Alfred Weidenmann which Phoebe had suggested. Both the story and the biscuits were a resounding success. The class bent over with laughter at Dr Mannhaus' many unsuccessful attempts to stab, shoot, drown or kill the Christmas carp in the bathtub in any way possible. Roaring, spitting biscuit crumbs, they were tossed back and forth between fits of laughter and disgust. In those moments Phoebe was the heroine, except with the dollies and cheerleaders, as Phoebe called the Sheilas of the world. But she didn't care, until the coming winter ...

„This is David, Mrs Adams introduced him to the class two weeks before the Christmas holidays. A murmur went through the girls' benches.

"David, you can sit next to me," Sheila whispered. "David will sit next to Harry," Mrs Adams determined. "Deiiwid," Lucy mimicked Sheila in a whisper. David was very popular and besieged by the school cheerleaders. That winter, Phoebe wished to be one of those cheerleaders for the first time....

"You're not serious...", Santa Claus gathered his white-blond beard into a ponytail and let it fall again immediately.

"Less imagination." As if he couldn't believe what he said, he repeated a few times, "Less imagination... less imagination..." Shaking his head, he paced back and forth. "Yes, exactly. Less imagination," Phoebe echoed defiantly. "You humans never know what you want either. One day giddy up, the next day giddy down. But good. I hope you realise that you can't just get fantasy back once it's gone. It was hard enough last time." "It has to be," Phoebe whined. "And since when did you start wearing low-necked jumpers and wishing for lipstick?" Santa seemed disgusted, but being well and open-minded, he respected Phoebe's wishes.

During the school year, Phoebe developed into a cheerleader. She constantly wanted new clothes, Roxy jeans, jumpers from Emily and shoes from Vans. From then on, Phoebe strutted down the stairs like a model on a catwalk. "Her performance is consistently good and she is suddenly no longer the troublemaker and clown of the class," Mrs Adams explained to Olivia on the occasion of the parent-teacher conference. "However, her essays are no longer as imaginative and powerful in expression". "Our daughter is growing up," Olivia remarked. She would miss her little Phoebe.

It was summer. She wore a dress of cobalt blue linen that seemed too tight for her. Phoebe strolled in the playground with a Shakira hip swing towards David, who was leaning against the trunk of a huge maple tree. Just as Phoebe is about to purse her mouth and murmur a seductive hello to him, Lucy flies past her and falls around David's neck. "Well," it hissed against her right ear. "I guess he's more into the easy types," Sheila laughed hysterically. Phoebe couldn't believe it. Her best friend... Formerly best friend, Phoebe had to correct herself. Because after her transformation into a cheerleader, she had more or less given Lucy a cold-shoulder. She was simply out of her league. She looked after David and Lucy, who disappeared hand in hand through the school gate. I just have to change again. I simply have to change again...

Over the coming weeks and months, Phoebe did everything she could to start some kind of transformation back. She wore her sister's clothes that flapped around her knees, she put on an old sailor's cap from her grandfather and wore knee socks in winter, but it didn't help. No one seemed to want to notice that she was different or wanted to be different from the others.

Phoebe was lying on her bed and brooding. Suddenly she jumped up and shouted: "Fantasy". That's what I'm missing. Phoebe reached for her diary and tore out a blank page. She wrote "Wish List" above it and below it in big letters F A N T A S Y. On Christmas Eve she put her wish list in her boots. She knew it would be difficult and the Christ Child had not shown up either.

It was Christmas Eve. Under the Christmas tree were leather gloves, a computer game, a manicure case and an eyelash curler. Phoebe looked disappointedly at the lights of the Christmas tree. "Here's another package for you," Olivia handed her daughter a small jute sack bundle. Phoebe unwrapped it impassively. Her face lit up at the sight of a slingshot. At the same moment, however, disappointment was back in her face. "How am I supposed to use it without a rubber band?" she hissed at her mother. "Think of something, sweetheart, because imagination is not something you get for free, you have to train it...

Maus Freepick

A mouse under the bed - by Birgit Floßdorf

It's spring at last. Purple and yellow crocuses are blooming in grandma's garden behind the house. The first daffodils are sticking their heads up in the sun. Grandma and I sit on the garden bench and watch a pair of finches, who frolic through the air. "How's it going?", grandma waves to Mrs Battleford over the garden fence. "Tha mi gu math. Ciamar a tha thu?" Mrs Battleford is from Scotland and answers, as usual, in her secret language. Just as Grandma is about to step up to the garden fence to hold a lengthy secret conference, as Grandpa always calls it, with Mrs Battleford, the doorbell rings at Grandma's front door.

I run ahead and tear the door open. Uncle Joseph is standing on the landing with a large jute sack over his shoulder. "What have we here?" grins Grandma, laughing at me with her big green eyes. Uncle Joseph puts the sack down in front of Grandma in the hallway and immediately the sack starts to move. "Meow, meow," it sounds. "A kitten," I exclaim, beside myself with excitement.

"Is it for me?" I shout. "It's for all of you. For you and your sisters. Well, let's let it out of the sack." With these words, Grandma loosens the cord holding the sack together and a tiger kitten jumps out. It hides under Grandpa's shoe stool in fright. "Grandma, it looks like one of Mrs Beasley's kittens!" I babble, trying to coax the kitten out of its hiding place with a "kitty, kitty, kitty". "Who is Mrs Beasley?" asks Uncle Joseph curiously. "That's our big cat. You know that. We got the name from a TV series. The girl Buffy has a doll. Her name is Mrs Beasley." "Then why don't you call the little girl Buffy," my uncle suggests. Grandma and I, however, think that my siblings should have a say too. "Will you stay for a cup of coffee, Joseph?" "Well, sure, there must be that much time." And Uncle Joseph traipses through Grandma's polished hallway into the kitchen in his field boots. Grandma serves homemade apple pie and coffee. I sip a cocoa. It makes me giggle. "Do you know what Mrs Beasley used to do?" I ask Uncle Josef and deliver the answer straight away: "When she was very young, she caught lots of mice and sometimes birds." I feel sad at the thought of the birds. Grandma notices immediately and strokes my hair, "That's the way nature is, sparrow." "Anyway," I continue to explain to Uncle Joseph, "Mrs Beasley usually caught mice. Quite often she put the mice on the doormat in front of the front door. Sometimes she even carried some into the house. Dad always says that Mrs Beasley is proud of the loot and wants to give us a treat. Once Mum thought my sister Lisa's room smelled strange. We were supposed to tidy up our rooms so that she could clean them. That's what we did. When Mum held the trunk of the hoover under Lisa's bed, it sucked up something grey. It looked like a piece of mouldy bread. Everyone screamed in disgust. Dad then threw the decayed mouse on the compost heap." "You know," Grandma said, "after an animal dies or a plant dies, decomposition sets in. Decomposition happens through bacteria and fungi. Corpses can only decompose when there is oxygen and then it stinks. If you had buried the mouse in the garden as soon as it died, it would not have decomposed so quickly because there is only little oxygen under the soil. Even on grandpa's compost heap, the dead plants decompose. The remains are then eaten by worms and insects or it turns into good soil after a while." I don't really understand Grandma's story and I believe Uncle Joseph didn’t either. He looks so funny. Grandma wants to explain it to me again later when I'm older. I don't feel like sitting at the table any more and prefer to go and see what the kitten is doing in the hallway.

Copyright Birgit Floßdorf