The Hellseher

6 Mar

Karl Blei was a man with an odd quest in 1928 Berlin.

From childhood he had been hearing the superstitious saying that for every individual there exists an exact double, someone who resembled one both physically and mentally. Karl had accepted the concept from his first exposure to it. The ideas seemed logical and natural, and he had never had any reason to question or doubt it.

But now, in his thirtieth year of life, there surfaced within him the need to find that duplicate of himself. He was certain that this reflection of himself had to be someone residing in the great capital and metropolis where he had been born. Where else but here in Berlin could his alter self exist? he reasoned.

Karl was a fiction editor at Gruyter Verlag, a publisher of cheap, popular novels, mostly of the romantic genre. The tall, thin Blei had piercing baby blue eyes that lurked behind thick bifocal glasses. It was during the torrid heat of the Berlin summer that he had the opportunity to asked his employer, Herr Gruyter, about the current fad for the psychic and supernatural in the intellectual circles of the German metropolis. This occurred in the tea room behind the offices on Koch Strasse.

Blei asked the older man whether he was acquainted with any practitioner of the arcane knowledge of the clairvoyant adepts.

“Indeed, I do,” replied the superior. “I have attended séances conducted by a strange, dark man named Max Gumtau. He devotes all of his time to telepathic communication, specifically remote-viewing of distant scenes and people.
The man is a talented Hellseher whose psychic vision transcends both space and time. He was able to tell me many things about my early life about which I was unaware and ignorant.

“Would you like to meet and consult with him, Karl?”

“Yes, I indeed would,” excitedly answered Blei.

“I’ll give you his address, then. He has an apartment over in the Prenzlauer Berg district. I assure you that he was amaze you with his adeptness and masterfulness of his psychic skills.”

With a radiant smile of satisfaction, Karl wrote down the address that the publisher found and read out for him. The literary editor was not asked what he wanted to see a Hellseher for, nor did the volunteer that information to his boss. Best to keep something that personal and unusual to myself, he believed.

Blei telephoned the man named Max Gumtau and made an appointment to meet him on a Saturday morning when he was off work. Wearing his best summer suit of bluish linen and a Panama straw hat, he rode a street tramway to the Prenzlauer Berg district in northeastern Berlin. The area was mostly constructed in the 1889-1905 period and consisted of tenement apartments.

Karl gazed out at the famous breweries on Milasstrasse, then the restaurants and cafes at Kollwitzplatze and Helmholzplatze. He noted the Jewish cemetery on Schoenhauser Allee and the leading synagogue on Rykestrasse. Finally, the vehicle arrived at Kastanien Allee, when the excited visitor got off near the popular Prater Beergarten.

It was easy for him to locate the six-story apartment complex and enter the main door. He climbed up to the top floor and located the number that his employer had given.

As soon as the buzzer was pressed, a gigantic hairy bruin opened the door and peered at the stranger with dark South German eyes. “Mr. Blei, I presume? Come right in so that we can talk and get to know each other.”

The front parlor of the Hellseher had the furniture and furnishings of the pre-World War era. There was nothing of the 1920s anywhere to be seen here, noticed Karl as he sat down in an overstuffed black satin chair. Gumtau, tieless and in shirtsleeves, took a chair opposite him.

“I wonder, sir, whether you have a clear picture of what I can accomplish and what may be impossible for a Hellseher such as me to do for my clients. Could you provide me a general ideas of what it is that you are after?”

Feeling the gravity of the moment, Karl Blei plunged forward with the hope of convincing this psychic adept to cooperate in fulfilling the ambition buried deep within his heart and mind till now. His strange dream would now be a personal secret no longer.

“It is a common popular belief in our folk culture that every human being is born having a perfect double somewhere in the wide world. The idea is one shared with many other traditional cultures, for I have discovered it mentioned and described in numerous ethnological studies that I have read over recent years.

“I was a common infantry noncommissioned officer on the Eastern Front in the Great War, and I found the concept of the unknown, unseen double almost universal among our German troops and the Russian prisoners whom we captured and held as prisoners of war.” He paused and looked directly into the ebony eyes of the bearlike Max Gumtau. “This subject has grown into an obsession with me. I must confirm that my own double is living somewhere in the world, and if possible meet and know that exact reflection of myself.

“Can you locate that individual for me through your remote viewing gift, Herr Gumtau?” plaintively asked the literary editor. “Will it be possible for me to find and have contact with that individual, whoever he is and wherever he may be living at present?”

The telepath looked down, as if studying the lines and patterns in the old Persian rug covering the parlor floor.

Only when he looked up again and concentrated his large, imposing eyes on the visitor did he give a complicated answer to the younger man.

“What you propose that I do for you is extremely unique and intriguing, something that I have never done or even tried. Yes, I have succeeded in the past when I had to find a missing person that a client wished to locate, but this was usually a friend, an acquaintance, a lover, or some personal enemy of some sort.

“You do not know the name or location of the individual you wish me to hunt down for you. All I would have to go by is the replication in this person of your own body’s appearance. The same general height and weight, the same face and eyes.

“I have never attempted anything so weird and odd, and I have never heard or read of anyone else having carried out such a task as that. What makes you think that I have the ability to fulfill such a mission for you, Mr. Blei?”

Somewhat at a loss as to how to reply, Karl boldly decided to flatter the clairvoyant whose help he was seeking to win.

“I have been informed of your reputation as a Hellscher, sir. You rank among the handful of most capable practitioners of the arts of telepathy in all of Berlin, in all Germany and Europe, I have learned.” He stared at Gumtau to see whether his flattery was having any effect on the talented medium. For a short while, though, the large, hairy bruin remained silent. When he began to speak, his voice seemed distant and lowered.

“The project that you propose to me sounds most interesting. There can be no prior guarantee of success for what you want me to do. But the daring adventure you have in mind is a fascinating experiment that I would like to try.

“Yes, I shall agree to assist you as best I can. My hope is that we can successfully find the unknown person you are after. The odds of doing so would be highest if your double is living here in Berlin. In any case, I think that this hunt for your copy will be interesting. I dare call it an exciting novelty for me, unlike what I have done since arriving in the city after the war.”

“You came to Berlin from elsewhere, Herr Gumtau?”

The latter smiled and gave a single laugh. “I guess that my Vienna accent has disappeared with life here in this metropolis. Today, I have melted into modern Berlin of 1928.”

“When can the psychic searching begin?” suddenly inquired Karl in a businesslike vein.

“Tonight, after you leave, I must prepare my mental powers for long jumps about. I think that by this time tomorrow afternoon, you and I can begin our journey together.”

“Together?” asked an instantly puzzled Blei.

“I will need the cooperation of both your mind and body in order to know what I am looking for, my good man.

“Yes, the two of us will have to work together on this.”

With that surprising idea in mind, the publication editor rose and took leave of the clairvoyant Hellseher.

Meeting together late each afternoon, Blei and Gumtau explored each other’s personal history and character.

“I have felt since childhood that there is something important that is missing in the life I have so far led,” confessed Karl to the psychic adept. “Increasingly, my thoughts and emotions have focused on this idea that there is a duplicate of me out there somewhere. A silent instinct drives me to find that man, as if an important part of me is missing until that happens.”

Max Gumtau, as the beginning, was reluctant to talk about his own life experiences. His parents and two brothers had been cold and indifferent toward him. He had never had many friends, because he had difficulty in relating to people he did not know well. His clairvoyant talent had become his one, dominant interest. Little beyond its use and development attracted his interest.

“You must not pay me anything until we have reached your goal of locating your double,” he told his new acquaintance with a sly grin. “That is the only way that is fair to both of us.”

Max fell into the habit of cooking a small dinner for the two of them after their daily meetings in the apartment. He introduced Karl to an Austrian parsnip soup that the editor had never tried before.

The pair had exploratory experiments in which Gumtau would stare at the other’s profile from one side, then the other, for long periods spent in silence. The Hellseher seemed, at times, to have entered some kind of trance state. The impression this made on Karl was a deep one.

It was in the third week of their work together that Max made an announcement during their meal together in the apartment’s kitchen.

“I believe that I received a signal reflection today,” he quietly informed his partner. “Your double is here in Berlin, not too far from where we now are.”

Karl, his mouth gaping, looked astounded.

“I believe that the exact location of this person can soon be established,” triumphantly said the telepathic master.

In the next two days, the area of investigation was narrowed to the Friedrichshain distict of the Kreuzberg borough of Berlin. This was a densely-populated working-class area that appeared to be turning into a slum in recent years. “I am getting there,” proudly boasted Max. “I believe that tomorrow afternoon I will be able to give you the precise street address, my friend.”

The prediction came true, for the next day he announced to Karl that his double was residing in an apartment on Simon Dache Strasse, above one of the many taverns and bars on that street.

“You must go there quickly,” advised the Hellseher. “There is no time to lose after all this effort. Do not be afraid, I am eager to go along with you and have a look at this copy of yourself.”

The two left without their usual meal and hurried to catch a street tram.

Simon Dache Strasse had tall, narrow linden trees along the inner edges of the sidewalks on both sides. Sounds of song and musical instruments came from taverns on along the series of several-storied apartment houses dating from the late 19th century.

Max Gumtau daringly pushed several of the signal buttons and some unknown resident released the locked front door so that he and Karl Blei could enter through the defenses of the building. The intruders climbed the stairs up to the fifth floor.

Max stopped on the landing and turned to his companion.

“He’s in the apartment down at the end of this corridor, and it would be best if we did not face your double together.

“You stay here at the stairs while I walk down and knock at the door. That way, I can confirm that the person is your exact duplicate in appearance. He will not see you and be dumbfounded by who you are. We can then leave and decide what to do next once I know for sure that he has been located and identified for what he is, Karl.”

The latter gave a nod in the dim light of the hallway.

Blei watched mesmerized as the Hellseher slowly moved down to the last door and rang the buzzer to that apartment. He would be unable to clearly see the person expected to answer the signal being sent him.

Karl heard the door squeak open. Someone thought to be his double was about to face the clairvoyant who had found him.

Things occurred rapidly, in only seconds.

There was a strange, unidentified noise, then the sound of running steps. Max was fleeing down the corridor, a look of horror on his large, dark face.

He said not a word to Karl, passing by him without even a look, and descending down the stairs with reckless steps of fear and terror.

What has happened? What has frightened the Austrian giant? The younger man asked himself.

He heard the sound of walking shoes in the hallway and looked down toward the door that had opened.

A huge figure was coming toward him. He made out a face that was the duplicate of the Hellseher himself. How could that be? They had found the double not of himself, but rather the copy of Max Gumtau.

This was a development impossible to have foreseen.

The psychic had located the double of himself, not of his subject who had become his friend.

Karl swiftly turned about and barreled down the stairs before the gigantic hulk with dark hair and eyes was able to reach him.

Get away! Get away! That was the sole thought that consumed his entire mind.

A Hellseher is more apt to find his own double than that of another person, Karl told himself as he fled from Simon Dache Strasse.

He vowed never again to return here and to avoid any future contact with the psychic adept who had caused him such terrible disappointment.

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