»Müller! How about you stop fumbling around with your toy there and instead come over here. Could use some help with this mess, you know?«
Müller hesitated for a short moment before he followed the request of his superior, police superintendent Schulz, and finally let the black Walther PPK sink back into its holster. However, the stiff alertness didn´t completely vanish out of his bones. Müller may was young, but he was already quite experienced. So he was sure he heard something out there…. in this thick, all encompassing and never ending fog, which scratched with ghastly fingers over blind windows and mirrors and with high certainty hid something within it, which was beyond mere human comprehension.
But when he heard nothing more than brooding silence for a while, he finally shook his head, moved carefully through the neatly cleaned one-room apartment to his impatiently waiting colleague, and together they finally started to analyze the scene of the murder.
The victim, a young student with short black hair, who was still in his night-pajamas, lay face down like a collapsed bumbling drunkard, on the one-room apartments tight crammed kitchenette. The hole of an entry wound, apparently caused by a small caliber weapon, was located right in the center of the back of the head. In the cheap filter coffee machine to the left of the victim the coffee was still getting cold, but the amount in the glass carafe was way too much for a single person. Combined with the fact that there weren’t any apparent signs of violent burglary, Müller quickly came to the conclusion that the victim actually had prepared a little coffee session with his murderer.
Muller´s older colleague sighed as he stroked over his thinning main hair. He came to the same conclusion as Müller:
“Poor boy. The fiend suddenly surprised him from behind. Left him no chance. And the victim considered the perpetrator to be a good friend. That´s clear. At least they were very familiar with each other… And who even thinks nowadays that someone could still be out there to get you. Now that the PROCEDURE is almost complete… The boy had almost made it… Like all of us. Such a shame…”
Chief Inspector Schulz stood up, shaking his head almost violently. His grey blue eyes fixated Müller. Apparently, he was hoping for some kind of answer or confirmation. However, Müller could not give it to him and instead shrugged his shoulders without saying anything. So silence lurked for a while between the two unequal police men like a roaring lion. A very uncomfortable silence which was more a threat than anything else. But then the old man continued with now a somewhat sour expression on his wrinkly face:
“Hm… anyway, We obviously have to account now for the fact that there are still… societal elements out there, which oppose the PROCEDURE, even if I don´t understand how anyone could deny the final utopia. Yes, it is indeed a sad thought, but also not entirely unexpected, I guess. Those days of ours are truly dark days… Can’t wait until all of this is finally over.«
Müller stared to the side. He was honestly a bit embarrassed for more than one reason, but, the main thing was, that he never really used to get along very well with his older colleague, and he certainly didn’t want to talk to his superior about the PROCEDURE of all things. THE PROCEDURE! The cog of society which turned around slowly, menacingly like a wheel with inevitable finality.
Then, suddenly, before the young commissioner could finally open his mouth, to voice his own opinions, they both heard this terrible howl from the outside… again. Indeed, it was definitely the same scream of pain and agony as before; so full of drowning hopelessness and the devouring greed of despair… Müller shivered. Instinctively, his right hand wandered, once again, down to his trusty Walther. He released the holster´s safety.
“Müller… Müller…”, said old Schulz seemingly unfazed from all the commotion, while patting on his younger colleague´s shoulder. His voice, with which he reprimanded the inferior, sounded as contemptuous and condescending as ever. “Stop this! And why are you still taking this… obsolete thing with you, anyway? Don’t you know THE PROCEDURE? Nobody is allowed to hurt, let alone shoot the Neperrentas! The negotiations are still ongoing. You know that as well as I do. So, let them cry and complain. There’s nothing we can do about it… and soon everything will be over, anyway.«
Muller jerked his shoulder away from his superior´s icy touch. He really quite disliked the tone of the older policeman, considering the young commissioner knew THE PROCEDURE as well as Schulz, for THE PROCEDURE was indeed the only thing one still got taught at the police academy, after all. Every other subject which falls normally under the police metier including target practice, investigating, the correct use of law and de-escalating conflicts, had meanwhile been abolished in favor of THE PROCEDURE. Müller didn’t like that at all. But Schulz, once again, cut with his nasal voice right into the frustrated thoughts of his young colleague.
»Come on, Müller! We’re done here, for now at least. Let’s get back to the station. In three days everything will be over, anyway. Then we can finally finish our work. And who knows? Maybe we will even find the murderer within this time… Although I would not bet on it. The perpetrator seems to have been extremely skillful and cautious. Not your typical amateur work, I can tell.” Müller only nodded stiffly at the rather strange boasting, and together they finally left the claustrophobic apartment, which was slowly being engulfed in the warm odor of death and even worse, the abscence of life.
Outside, however, the two policemen were immediately greeted by a thick gush of fog, which left them with less than 10 meters of sight. Anything beyond that consisted but of nothing than ghastly grey figures, which only in the twisted mind of a manic fantasist could be described as the withered remains of once yellow blooming trees. An unpleasant biting cold accompanied the impenetrable gray wall and pestered the whole body with thousands of icy needles. Müller, pulling his hood over his face, scanned the environment, however only calm loneliness seemed to lurk in the peculiar shaped shadows. The terrifying howling of the abyss servants had stopped.
Müller was quite pleased about this. For these gurgling and scornful tempting calls from the deepest depths out of the foggy abyss could give even the bravest man nightmares for the rest of his life, and if you were so unlucky to actually stumble upon the Neperrentas in flesh, nightmares were the absolute least of your worries.
At that moment, however, nothing more was to be heard except the occasional distant sound of tires on wet asphalt. The young commissioner’s neck hair rose nevertheless, because, even if there were no sounds, the imagination still started to go crazy every time you had to walk into this thick icy mist caused by THE PROCEDURE. You just couldn’t avoid it. Its influence was too powerful and too overbearing, the hypnotic pull too strong. So black figures without any definable shape penetrated mercilessly with their ghostly arms into the human mind, and after a short time, it occupied all thoughts like sticky, unremovable goo. It also let after a while see you certain things, which happened to the men, women and children alike in those unfathomable depths beyond human comprehension.
Yes, in fact, Müller knew very well about the evilness of the abyss residents, but even the most harmless steps against the old hunters of the fog were strictly discouraged, no, even prohibited by THE PROCEDURE:
“The PROCEDURE must be adhered to, so that order can be maintained,” Mr. Schulz always said in his pompous voice at every morning briefing, and what could a young man early in his career as Müller possibly say against such an upright and sensible attitude? The old said: “THE PROCEDURE is good!” And the young could only rebel against it by following it all the more fanatic. That was the curse of those times…
There! A sudden high-pitched shriek broke the unnerving silence between the policemen. Sound waves located in bizarre frequency ranges, from which could not be clearly discerned whether the person was a man or a woman, split the fog and tortured the two police officers’ ears. It was a scream, so desperate and gleefully impotent that Müller couldn’t help it anymore. Contrary to all the rules by THE PROCEDURE he took his gun out of its holster and with trembling hands pointed it into the fog. His colleague next to him said something, but the scream seemed to have taken their ability of hearing. Müller no longer understood anything.
Then suddenly there were strange frantic and choppy movements in front of the two policemen. Twisted hands and legs without a body danced as if behind muddied, frosted glass so that nothing of actual substance could be seen. Clumsy footsteps scratched slowly over the asphalt and a groaning sigh arose like a hundred tormented and damned souls stood up together from their wet graves.
“Müller, what the hell are you doing?” Finally he could understand his colleague, “you look rather pale… Come on, I’ll take you to the station. This case really seems to have been a little bit too much for you… «
Schulz pulled at his sleeve and Müller let himself be led away, like a sheep on a leesh, from this gruesome place, without resistance. He had had enough for today. This constant howling, the abysses which opened in the ground, the murder, the apathy, the fear, the emptiness and finally: the impending, omnipresent end; Müller closed his eyes with a feeling of heavy tiredness and thought to himself: Three more days before it´s finally over. Finally! In three days he would sit comfortably with his family at the dining table and await patiently the inevitable end. Three short but alas never ending days left…
Müller opened his eyes. Surprised he saw that they were already driving along the orphaned main road to the police station. Apparently he completely had passed out after the close call with the abyss dwellers.
“Had a good night´s sleep, boy?”, the voice came sarcastically from the driver’s side. “You really should take care of yourself, man. You completely broke down out there. I could just manage to drag you to the car. The Nepperentas even wanted to take you with them, but, as you see, I was barely able to prevent that. You realize, you owe me a lot now, Müller! A lot!”
Müller yawned without saying anything and stared outside. Yes, he was indeed annoyed, that he now was indebted to Schulz. When he thought about the fact that without the watchful eyes of his superior, he would now in this moment be down there in the never ending abyss with it´s sadistic dwellers and mothers of green stars, he almost felt something like gratitude! After all, he could now spend the last days with his wife and two children. He definitely had to give credit to the old Schulz, if he wanted to or not.
Outside, meanwhile the abandoned houses of the old town moved past them unceremoniously like long gone dancing stars. Blind and boarded up windows staring at empty streets and rarely you could also see how gloomy faces hidden under deep hoods, darted hastily through the thick fog where shadowy figures crawled around with too many legs and arms. To distract himself from this melancholic scenery, Müller switched the car radio on and turned the volume up to an almost deafening height. A traffic message just came through:
»…SEVERAL VICTIMS DIED IN A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT ON THE A8 DIRECTION MUNICH. EYEWITNESS OF THE INCIDENT ARE RECALLING AN ABYSS from THE SO CALLED »NEPERRENT-NETWORK«, WHICH SUDDENLY OPENED WITHOUT WARNING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HIGHWAY. THE GOVERNMENT STILL HAS YET TO MADE A STATEMENT CONCERNING THE ACCIDENT; BUT THE MOVE OF THE GOVERNMENT BUILDING TO WEIBYLON IS STILL UNDERWAY. AND NOW BACK TO YOU, Petra…” Old Schulz turned the increasingly bored voice of the radio host back down until he suddenly fell silent. Müller felt as if the speaker was almost offended to be stalled so rudely.
“Nothing but nonsense on the news nowadays. They really should set up a new program…” Schulz drummed visibly annoyed on the steering wheel. «Oh, and by the way, Müller, contact the HQ. We should inform them of our current status.. and maybe it wouldn’t be too bad to see if the boys are still there. After all, many colleagues seem to think that they could just do a shift in the shaft before the official end…«
And what´s our status, anyway?, the young commissioner thought sourly, but he did as he was told and choose the encrypted channel to the police station on the walkie talkie.
»Here Müller, Nr. 23223, we are coming back from the crime scene in the university district, and are currently on our way to the station. Are you still there? Over.”
Müller waited. For a few moments there was just this deep unnerving silence followed by white noise and violent crunching sounds, so the young commissioner almost reckoned the station to be overwhelmed and fallen – and considering that just yesterday a gigantic Neperrentas abyss opened up right next to station, this wasn´t an unlikely scenario at all – but to his relief, after a while of tensed up waiting the extremely weak but still understandable apathetic voice of a seemingly dozy woman came through the walkie-talkie:
“Here police station headquarters. We hear you loud and clear. And also we´re still there. Oh! And before I forget, Müller, Schulz: The boss has a new order for you, right away. The last one for today. Your job is to safely accompany an expert from the station to the town hall. Understand?”
Müller looked surprised at the intercom, but it was silent again. Escort an expert? That wasn’t commissioner work. And an expert for what, anyway? His colleague next to him cleared his throat and took the walkie-talkie from Müller.
“Here Schulz. We are on our way. But please, tell the expert to wait in front of the gate, and to stay the fuck away from the big ol´hole. Don´t want to have another Friedrich-incident, right? We’ll pick him up in about twenty minutes, over.«
Then silence fell between the two policemen again, and after a while, the car turned finally into the city center, but still, the drive to the police station was slow and they had to make stop after stop due to the thick mist and abandoned make-shift barricades everywhere. Müller meant to notice, as his eyes wandered outside, that this oppressive gray mass all around them had become even more firm and impenetrable than before. You couldn’t see anything anymore. Even with the glaring cones coming from the car´s lights, this wall seemed to just absorb it… devour it.
Like a shroud the eternal mist of THE PROCEDURE slowly covered the entire world, hiding the agonizing death throws of the human race. And yet, Müller thought the all encompassing cover to be a good thing, his colleague Schulz also thought it was good, the government thought it was good, the people thought it was good and so did all of humanity. Maybe it´s because you didn’t have to see everything. For the various noises everywhere in the fog were already enough to give you a hint of what was going on, anyway: those half-choked echoing cries for help in the distance, which occasionally fell on deaf ears, as well as this malicious scratching from hastily marching feet over cracked asphalt, or the tearing sound of flesh behind the fence they both were driving past just now in this very moment:
This beguiling symphony of doom was formed by all these different tones and songs and to be honest, that was more than enough; Thankfully, you didn´t have to see the pictures as well.
“We’re here,” Schulz barked suddenly, tearing the young policeman out of his ever-circulating thoughts, “but I don’t see the expert, anywhere. Müller, go out there and see where he could have wandered to. But don’t take too long. If you don´t come back in ten minutes, I’ll be off. Do you understand?”
Müller nodded to his colleague and got out of the car. His heart pounded heavily as immediately the thick fog enveloped him once again with its strangely viscous mass and ghastly eager searching fingers. Moving forward through the fog was indeed like wading through thin mucus. And then there was also this uncanny cold, which made him freeze inside while the surface of his skin burned almost like fever stricken;.
Where this poisonous fog came from and what purpose it served could only be speculated. The government at least firmly and deviantly claimed that it was not connected to the Nepperentas in any way, but that it stemmed from a very different origin. The young police commissioner could not determine, anymore, whether this was actually the truth, because recently he seemed to have lost his typical crystal clear judging ability, which had allowed him to climb the steps up to police-commissioner, while still being so young in the first place. Yes, indeed, the fog somehow clogged up all inner and outer senses, blinded everything, made you dull and weak. It was the ideal hunting ground….
However, despite the confusing situation and his ominous fears, Müller narrowed his eyes and dared to gaze through the gray wall of fog in front of him. In the distance he could recognize the police station´s three high spires sticking out of the mist, ghostly like black, bony fingers of a sinewy hand. Only a few of the once thousand of lights were still burning weakly in the inhabited part of the old building, and the number of lights had gone down even further since his last visit. The orphaned rest of the building, on the other hand, had been darkened out and laid barren and dead for a long time. Some obscure people of uncertain business even occasionally claimed that death had already reached out to the station, long before the Neperrentas had crawled out of their caves.
Müller, who tried to shake off these oppressive thoughts, set finally his body in motion. The rigid police uniform´s uncomfortable rubbing on his skin and the dull stomping of his boots on the broken asphalt were the only sounds that could be heard in the void around him. Müller quickened his step. If he found the expert fast enough, he could at least get back into the nice warm safety of the police car, otherwise he would freeze to death out here, or even worse…
For in the far distance, he already meant to see moaning figures crawling through the fog with those peculiar, unnatural choppy movements, which mocked any actual anatomy of any existent being. The weakly but icy cold wind, brought to Müller´s nose the sweet stench of decay and metallic blood. So there was no doubt: There were Neperrentas, somewhere out there, and they were most likely on the search for something or someone.
In the unsuccessful attempt to encourage himself, Müller grabbed the holster and unlocked his gun with frozen fingers. He knew quite clear that the PROCEDURE absolutely and under any circumstances forbade an armed attack on the abyss dwellers, even if it was in self-defense. Nepperentas were declared under the new system as sacred and inviolable, absolutely no one was allowed to interfere in their unholy work. That’s how THE PROCEDURE demanded it. Nevertheless, the nervous commissioner had to continue to penetrate the eerily, silent fog. The high towers of the station, meanwhile, came closer and closer until he could recognize the huge marble stones from which the pitch-black building had originally been cut out off. Each of those gigantic cuboids weighed more than a few tons. To contrast the ominous darkness emanating from the towering building, further up at the station numerous gold-colored and very elegantly shaped window-frames covered the sprawling facade. It was obviously a very old and ornate building; built by forgotten ancestors and now left to decay. That’s how THE PROCEDURE wanted it.
There! Müller suddenly saw a bright red glow in the fog somewhere right in front of him, but he was initially unable to determine its nature and origin. As he got closer, however, he was surprised to see a rather gaunt man with black, uncombed hair, who, crouching on his knees, starred down into the unending abyss in front of the station, completely oblivious to the rest of the world. The red safety vest shone far into the fog and could lure God knows what to their position. Müller hastily cleared his throat. His voice echoed through the oppressive silence.
»Hey you! Are you the expert? Have you gone crazy? Stay away from that hole!« The expert at first didn’t seem to realize Müllers whispered shouts, but then, after a short while, he did exactly the opposite of Müller’s instruction; he leaned even deeper into the hole as his hands jerked violently with something that looked like an oversized brush over a large sheet of paper which was located right next to him. He was completely immersed in his peculiar work and apparently it was also completely impossible to pull him out of this strange trance, at least not by voice alone. Müller therefore saw no other way: the commissioner angrily trudged over to the expert and jerked him rudely at the shoulder, but even that didn´t wake him up. Instead, the man with the tangled hair continued to mumble unintelligible words, while violently his head shook back and forth.
But all of a sudden, the strange man turned around, pulled Müller down by his sleeve, and with a hint of aroused fanaticism he acknowledged for the very first time directly the intimidated police commissioner´s existence:
»There, look! Just look! Whoever in our dying world has ever seen something so beautiful? So fascinating! It makes my eyes cry out of joy!” The gaunt stranger’s grip was indeed surprisingly strong. The young policeman was forcibly pulled to the ground. With some effort, however, he was finally able to get out of the seemingly mad man´s grip. Under heavy breathing Muller retreated and straightened up his uniform, wondering what he should be doing next, for the mad man had fallen immediately back into his hypnotizing work, not recognizing Müller´s existence, anymore, like nothing had happened. But then, when he decided to once again try to pull up the red clothed expert, the young police commissioner finally saw with his own eyes, what it was, which had so strangely entranced the man under him, what had driven him into absolute insanity, where only idle work could still uphold a sense of fragile existence. Yes, indeed, there was a church in the abyss down there!
The great hole on which´s edge the two men were kneeling had a circumference of almost 50 meters, but not only was the abyss itself gigantic, there were also hundreds and hundreds of other small tunnel entrances worming themselves into the steep outer walls of the cave, suggesting a complete network of abyss dwelling constructions under the city. Müller shivered. His eyes widened. Where was hope?
Nobody knew exactly how big the Nepperentas´s realm actually was, although Müller wasn’t really interested in that peculiar fact at this moment, anyway, for he now stared down unto the bizarre composition of unlikely constructions with the same fascination in his eyes as the red-clothed expert. How dared he to see?
The church in the abyss was, so much Müller recognized with his meager knowledge about architecture, build in a style which could be interpreted as a modern imitation of an old Gothic style. It possessed at least the typical characteristics like the high spire and half-arched stained glass windows. But indeed, despite all the obvious relations to actual human churches, something was… different about her. Something was wrong, and when Müller finally realized what infused him with this nagging feeling of almost fear like uneasiness a cold horror crept slowly down his spine.
»Look, mister police officer. They want to be like us. They imitate us!«
The expert’s hoarse laughter echoed across the forecourt of the forlorn station. However, Müller only shook his head and replied solemnly:
“No, they mock us.”
He finally got up and frantically he dragged the still reluctant expert with him. “Come! We have to go back to the car, or my colleague will leave without us. And you certainly don’t want to hike around here all alone. Especially so soon before nightfall…«
The expert grumbled, but at least he stopped his resistance for the rest of the way. So after about a minute, Müller finally saw relieved the headlights of their police car. The short trip into the fog´s undecipherable mysteries had maybe taken only 5 minutes, but for Müller it had felt like a small part of eternity.
Colleague Schulz got out of the car greeting Müller with a short nod, but on the other hand he did´nt even seem to register the existence of the expert at all. Yes, impatiently his boots were stomping on the ground and his gray eyes consumed the ticks of his cheap watch. He obviously just wanted to get back in the car. The young commissioner had absolute no desire to deal any longer with the quips of his eccentric superior, anyway. He was just happy, having managed to escape once more the gloomy darkness of the fog, again. So their new protege was shoved rather rudely back into the car by the policemen and then they drove off; further into the shroud that now covered the whole world.
Deserted streets and collapsed houses, which´s gloomy window-eyes starred down unto people molested by their own soullessness, passed them for a while. As he consumed this depressive scenery into his already tainted soul, Müller wondered suddenly how many people there still were on this planet. The newspapers did not report anything about this, of course, but based on his own observations, he assumed that the Neperrentas-network had now devoured almost half of the population. Just yesterday his wife told him that their once flourishing suburban neighborhood had recently become completely emptied out except for an old and almost blind woman named Elsa, who lived in the house across the street. Müller’s wife had also stopped sending their two children to school. It was way too dangerous now, at least so she thought. Müller may had, at first, protested against his wives antics, but now he wasn’t quite so sure anymore whether he shouldn’t agree with her. THE PROCEDURE may still demand compulsory schooling until the end, on the other hand, you could already hear abyss dwellers howl at regular intervals right next to their doorstep. With this in mind, Müller decided on a whim to call home as soon as possible to make sure that his wife and the children were still well. Because not only was he worried about the abyss dwellers, his wife also had gotten more and more psychologically fragile lately and in some moments she even seemed hysterical. But above all, she was one of those few, who still found it difficult to come to terms with the omnipresent end.
Müller picked up his cell phone. He typed in the number of his home, but then, for some reason he himself was unsure of, he rejected the thought again and shook his head. Instead he suddenly asked the expert:
»Hey you! If I may ask: What expert are you exactly? You don´t seem to be the typical egghead, that much I can tell. And as far as I know, the Neperrentas research institute was closed a long time ago, because all the experts died in the Brüssel-incident. So I´m interested: In what direction does your research go?”
The expert, who had been until now only starring absent-mindedly and bored out of the car window, suddenly became very lively at Müller’s interest and nodded enthusiastically. His eyes glared up.
»Yes, yes, yes! I belong somewhere else! Somewhere… quite else. For I belong to the team, which will ultimately save the world. You’ve all heard that the world will end in 3 days, right? Well, me and the organization I work for have found a way to stop that! The world will not die!«
Müller gasped in surprise and even the impenetrable stoic fortress Schulz almost tore the steering wheel to the side, which almost caused an abrupt and deadly accident.
“Y… you kidding me, right?”
“No, no, no!”, interrupted the expert, eyes flashing wildly, and before Müller could ask, the red man poured out a surge of hasty explanations:
‘You know, right? The language of the Neperrentas is incredibly complex. There are hundreds of grammatical rules, all different for the written, spoken and even read language. There are also a hundred thousand exceptions. But the sounds, the sounds! They are also enormous in number. For example, the German language has five different vowels. By contrast, the Neperrentas know 500. The German language has about 20 different consonants; We now know about 30,000 individual Neperrentic consonants. And that´s just only from one dialect!
So you can imagine, it took us an incredible amount of years to get this far, but now we are finally almost there. We have now, roughly estimated, 5% of the language deciphered. And when we decrypt the rest, we will finally be able to communicate with them. Communicate! Unbelievable!”
Müller looked rather confused into the expert´s hysterical face. The man trembled on his seat like an impatient child, while the wide torn eyes in the deep caves betrayed a peculiar form of an already quite advanced madness. But still, the policeman continued to ask questions:
»But what advantage does that bring us? After all, we already know for quite some time what the abyss-dwellers truely want, we don’t need to know their language for that, we just have to analyze their actions.«
The expert shook his head back and forth. To Müller he definitely looked with his bright red head now more like an insulted child rather than a heroic savior of humanity.
»No! No! No! You absolutely don’t understand. But how can you? – After all, you are a just police officer and not an expert. See, once we understand the language of the Nepperentas, we will finally be able to negotiate with them and make peace. For as we all know, the Neperrentas were originally angels who had been sent to us to redeem us from our sins and establish the ultimate utopia, but… apparently some bad people among us must have annoyed them with something. But when we finally understand their language, we can easily solve this dilemma. You see, the world won’t die! And certainly not in three days…« The man laughed.
Müller became silent when he saw that the experts wide opened eyes, which glared, fueled by the fanaticism of the knowledegable, were indeed blind. So he concentrated on the street in front of them, again. His colleague Schulz also cleared his throat, suppressing his second hand embarassment. And so they drove on through the dying city, driving through the chaos of the approaching end, while Müller stared out the window and wondered quietly to himself, what sort of angels had ever crawled out of dark caves and muddy street holes.
Because they didn’t know exactly the place where they should bring him, the two policemen finally dropped the expert out directly in front of the abandoned town hall, with it´s barricaded windows and countless skeletal watchtowers. As they drove of again, Müller was unsure of it, but it was to him, as if he had seen for only the fraction of a second a ghostly, fleshless hand coming out from one of the windows, jerking the red coated man from behind and dragging him away into the endless void.
»You´re just tired. There is absolutely nothing at all in the building… At least not since the may requsisitions…,« said Schulz with calm reassurance, so he dropped the topic again. And maybe his superior was right. It had been, after all, a very busy day and it was already becoming late evening. Many demons may show themselves in such a time, some existed, others did not.
So, while Müller was floating in a sea of unrelated scraps of thought, Schulz took him home to his family, and after a short farewell, the old commissioner himself headed back to the police station, where, as far as Müller knew, he also lived. The young policeman stood outside and watched the melancholic blinking lights of the car as they were slowly extinguished by foggy arms in the distance.
He at first hesitated to go inside, although he didn´t know exactly why. Müller´s wife was probably mad at him, she always was, but he didn´t think that this was the reason he refused to enter his home, out of which cozy lights sill shone outside into this estranged world engulfed by a deadly slumber.
But after a few minutes he finally could shake off this strange stiffness. He stepped through the small door into the dimly lit antechamber. Immediately he smelled food and only now he did realize how incredible hungry he was. His belly felt almost starved. So quietly, like a hungry tiger stalking his prey, he opened the door to the hallway.
But before he could get even his big toe into the doorway she already had fallen around his neck and kissed him deeply. Her lips ran with hot eagerness over his mouth and neck as she whispered softly weak words:
»Please stay. Don’t go away! Don´t leave us alone, anymore! The Neperrentas! They were here today… early in the morning in front of the house. I wanted to send the kids back to school, like you told me, but then these… things all of a sudden they were out there. Our children! I… I was just able to pull Leila back in the door. But they almost caught Max. I’m so scared, honey. They even got the neighbor, old Elsa, from right over the street, they got her! I saw it with my own eyes. They were inside their house. And… And… then those screams! And tomorrow! Tomorrow they will come to ours. I know it! I know it! They will come to us the next time! Please…”
“Shhhh,” Müller tried to calm down his hysterical wife, while pushing her gently away to get some air. “It’s all good,” he put as much assurance and conviction into his voice as he could muster up, “you… we just need to be silent. That´s all. The Neperrentas only come to the loud ones. You have seen the advice programs on the TV, right? So you know that, honey. Everything will be alright. Trust me!” Müller knew, of course, that this was absolute hogwash, but he had to say something. Anything.
“Liar,” sobbed his wife, her tears slowly seeping into his jacket, but what could the young policeman do? It hadn’t been his plan, after all, to grow up in a time when the end of the world was already determined. As a young and once hopeful police commissioner he used to had his own dreams: pursue a career, watch his children grow, retire in the far future, and then finally lay back to see the sun set in the shadows of some blue-green hills in the distance; None of this was now possible, anymore. THE PROCEDURE demanded it.
“I can’t hear from this miserable PROCEDURE, anymore. They said everything would be fine. They said we shouldn’t be afraid of anything. And now? Now they just tell us to stand still and wait for the end? I don´t care about THE PROCEDURE, anymore. It can go to hell! It never did anything. It was a scam from the beginning. Can´t you tell! Just look around you! They have left us all! They have left us to die!” Her words drummed as hard as her fists into his broad chest. Müller’s body stiffened under her harsh accusations. It felt like drowning in her despair. Doubts were suddenly surging up again, plaguing his already tired mind: Maybe he should have resisted, after all, before it had been to late, and with every angry beat of his wife´s relentless fists these doubts were hammered deeper and deeper into his heart, like a cruel stake, made of sadness and regret. He couldn’t argue with her anymore, for his feelings of deep guilt have swallowed up all but entirely his otherwise so powerful commanding voice.
But before he could muster up any remaining resistance he had still left, suddenly and without any warning, a loud, shrill noise echoed through the window. The Nepperentas!, Müller thought as icy cold horror crept like flash down his spine. The Nepperentas! They´re knocking on our door now! But to his surprise, as he turned around it wasn`t the feared voice out of the abyss which scratched at his ears like fingernails over a chalkboard. Instead a slender female figure looked with eyes wide opened through the kitchen window, her hands clutching at the glass like beastly claws.
»This is abominable! I heard it very clearly. THE PROCEDURE is going to find out about this whole affair! I will see to it myself. Yes, indeed, I have two rebels here. I have two rioters in one go! Ha!« The voice of the old women broke. A solemn melancholy crept now under the fanatical twists of her tongue. »I just don’t understand you. How can you be so ungrateful, you young people? What has the PROCEDURE ever not done for you?! And how long have I watched your ungrateful rebellion, always hoping for your redemption. But now my thread of patience is finally broken. I’ve been watching you long enough. Even for years! But now I have enough material. I’m going to the commission right now, and they gonna come and pick you up! You now have it done. But rabble like you can’t be helped anyway. You just want to destroy our peace and our beautiful free society. You just disgust me!«
Depressed and with icy hearts, the lovers held each other in their arms, listening to the drooling accusations without any contradiction. It was their old neighbor Elsa standing out there with torn apart ears and broken teeth. The whole face seemed to have been brutally disfigured by large claws, but her eyes still functioned and with those, she had been able to read their lips.
Müller, without noticing, pressed his wife tighter into his strong arms, took in her sweet flowery smell. Perhaps it was the last time he could hold her so close, considering how fast the commission tended to work. They could even barge into their unlocked house already within the next seconds. Who knew?
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered anxiously into his wife’s ear, as her whole fragile body trembled in his embrace. Her nails dug deeply into his back, leaving bloody furrows. Had the end already come? Three days early?
But suddenly the old hag outside the window started screaming and begging again. Müller turned around, afraid she was welcoming the commission. He gasped. No, it wasn´t the commission. The Neperrent instead had come back to catch his escaped prey! Old Elsa was gripped forcefully by thirty hands at the same time and dragged mercilessly across the floor, away from the window. For a few more minutes the both of them could hear the old woman’s gruesome screams and howls and the grinding of her body like a wet sack over cement, but the warning siren moved farther and farther away until she finally fell silent somewhere on the north side of their house. After another ten minutes had passed, the two finally dared to make a sigh of relief. Müller and his wife had just gotten away once more. “Stay here!”, she breathed her meaningless request into his hear.
The next morning, right before dawn, his colleague Schulz was standing in front of his door and asked him solemnly: “You know it, Müller? About the murder, I mean.”
“Sure,” answered Müller dryly, rubbing his unshaven and tired face.
“Then you have to arrest and convict me now. After all, a murderer cannot run around freely. Not even at the end of the world. The order must be maintained!« Müller looked with a lifeless expression at his colleague, who was in stark contrast to his own shabby appearance, dressed up in a neatly cleaned ceremonial uniform, staring back like a demanding child. But the young police men just asked:
“Why did you kill the poor boy in the first place? Aren’t you a cop? And then three days before the end of the world… You know, I really wanted to take the last two days off to spend the time with my family.” As he ended the young commissioner was just about to slam the door right into the face of his superior, but the old man managed to put a foot into the edge of the door and kept on begging:
»Why do you ask questions and close the door at the same time? Don’t you want to know the resolution at all? Come on, Müller! You still owe me something! And also I promise you that we need only one day. Not more. One day! And tomorrow you will be happily reunited with your family, awaiting the end like THE PROCEDURE demands. But first, the order has to be restored! You owe me Müller!«
Müller sighed in annoyance, while he looked back into the hallway of the still sleepy house, but sadly there was no wife to stop him, and finally he reluctantly got dressed. The murderous colleague still had to drag him to the car, afterwards, and when they finally sat inside, the old man really could not wait to confess everything to him there and then:
“Do you know, Müller, why I killed the poor boy in the kitchen? After all, it was a young friend. Nobody could have guessed this, right?”
Müller didn’t answer and preferred to concentrate on the foggy street in front of them.
“And besides, I was always a good and reliable colleague,” continued the old man almost as enthusiastically as a young boy, who talked to his tired homecoming father about the exciting adventures of his day, “I´m extremely punctual and prudent in my work. So it stands in my certificate of good conduct, Müller! Damnit! I should be your role model!” Müller was just trying to dodge with sweaty hands debris, which had been spread by a Nepperentas-abyss on the street, so he had no time to answer him.
“I actually didn’t really want to kill him.”
Müller turned surprised to his colleague´s face, which was now only hardly holding back tears. “It’s just that, you know, Müller, you have your family and you can spend time with them. With your wife and children. But me? I haven’t had anything left since the beginning of the great apathy. Can you imagine that? No one commits crimes anymore. At the beginning of the downfall everyone was hysterical, aggressive, there was looting and murder everywhere; it was a good time for a cop, but now? Now everyone sit´s there, pacified… petrified and waits to be finally picked up, either by the commission or the Neperrentas. And for us police officers? There is nothing left for us to do! Do you think that’s fair? I don´t!«
“Aha, and that’s why the boy had to die? Because you wanted to distract yourself with police work?”
Colleague Schulz became strangely silent when asked this simple question. Maybe he just found that his thoughts suddenly sounded stupid when someone else said them. After all, who could tolerate to see his innermost essence unprotected in the vile, dirty hands of a stranger? So he became silent and Müller was silent as well. The two of them now had nothing to say to each other, anymore.
First, the police men made their way to the police station; When they got to the big square in front of it, the station´s gigantic spires were already ablaze in a sea of sand and sky high fire. Without having accomplished anything, the two had to turn back.
Then they went to the venerable Palace of Justice in the middle of the city and exulted when they saw that it still existed. But once they had walked through the high arch portal, they finally realized, after they had roamed through thousands and thousands of rooms, that nobody was here anymore. They only found a single cleaning lady on the 212th floor, who humbly balanced a lonely song on her lips. Respectful as the cops were, they didn’t bother her and got back into the car.
Their third goal was now the Reichstag in Berlin. But there was only one big hole left with entrances to hundreds and thousands of other holes. So they couldn´t get any further here, either. “Where to now?”, asked the two policemen desperately. Müller finally came up with only one last resort, an idea how his colleague could still get his punishment.
They had already been out a day and a half when they at long last got back to the filthy kitchen, where the poor boy’s body still lay there completely untouched. The undertaker had probably never come. And here at this place police superintendent Johann Schulz should be finally judged by his colleague Ernst Müller. So they agreed.
Everything went surprisingly quickly and smoothly: Schulz knelt down and looked at the black hole directly in front of his knees. Down there, however, he could already hear the greedy taping and gleeful laughter of certain beings. After his death, his body would sink into those deepest depths and would finally be swallowed up by impenetrable blackness for all eternity – united with the rest of humanity.
Schulz suddenly had to laugh out loud at this thought and he continued to laugh as the bullet hit the back of this head, and he laughed as his body sank over, and fell down in to unending darkness, and indeed, he still laughed, when his body was already far away, drowned in the deep, deep earth. Even after a few hours, still a hoarse giggle came up from down below to his colleague.
Müller needed to go sure: With clumsy and nervous movements his fingers darted over the slurred screen of his phone:
“No connection under this number… beep,” then he tried the Palace of Justice:
“No connection under this number… beeep,” he proceeded to all his colleagues in the police station:
“No connection under this number… bieeeep”, followed by his parents:
“No connection… Beep… Good morning, I wonder, where all your friends did leave to?” Müller didn’t answer the strange voice and instead typed the next number, the last number, the final number, his family´s number:
»No connection under this number… beeeeeeepppp. No connection under this number… «
With a broken scream, Müller finally threw the cell phone down into the abyss to his laughing colleague and looked up at the cloudy sky. A single ray of sunshine timidly broke there through the gray twilight. And only now in this moment did Müller realize that he was the last person in this world.