A Weng s’Kalender, Tür 20 und 21
Auf besonderen Wunsch für beide Türen einen weiteren Pratchett, Twenty Pence, with Envelope and Seasonal Greeting (das hätte ich gern mit passenden Weihnachtskartenmotiven untermalt – aber die sind dann nicht von mir, dann bekomme ich Probleme beim ziteren, seufz):
This was written for the magazine Time Out for Christmas 1987. I wanted to write a kind of Victorian horror story in which the covers of a row of Christmas cards come to life. And what better starting point than the jolly mail coach which is so, so traditionally on the really cheap cards … and what would the passengers think of Christmas cards to come? We don’t see Snoopy cards much now. But there are plenty that are worse.
CALNE – Singular mystery surrounds the disapperance of the London Mail Coach on Tues. last in a snowstorm of considerable magnitude, the like of which has not been seen in the memory of the oldest now living. It is thought that the coachman, missing his way in the driving Blizzard at Silbury, took the horses off the road, perhaps to seek the shelter of a hedge or rick, and became overwhelmed in the drifting. Search parties have been sent out and the coachman, who was found wandering in a state of severe anxiety in the snow, has been brought to Bath…
The world is but a tissue spread over the depths of Chaos. That which we call sanity is but a circle of firelight, and when I spoke to that poor mazed man downstairs he was several logs off a full blaze.
Even now, with my own more natural fire drawn up and the sturdy curtains shut against the Christmas chill, I shudder at the visions he imparted. Were it not for the solid evidence, which I have before me as I write, and which catches the firelight and sparkles so prettily, I could dismiss it as the mere ravings of a deranged mind. We have made him as comfortable as the ropes allow in my front room, but his cries punctuate this Christmas Eve like skulls in a flowerbed.
„Is Father Christmas coming/Or is he just breathing heavily? Lots of stuffing this Christmas!!! Snugglebottom Ex Ex Ex!“
Let my readers make of them what they may.
His eyes were the eyes of a man who had looked into Hell and had left behind something of himself. At times he was perfectly lucid, and complained about the ropes the searcher had put him in for fear that in his ravings he would hurt himself. At other times he tried to beat his head on the wall and ranted the slogans that had sent him mad.
„Twenty Pence! Plus Envelope and Seasonal Greeting!“
In between he told me…
It had been a wild day, with the snow blowing off the plain and turning the hills west of Silbury into one great white waste. At such times it is possible to miss the road, and he had got down off the box to lead the horses. Yet, despite what one might read in the papers, the snow was not impossibly deep on the hills, and had abated so that the sunset could be seen. Spirits were generally high, for the lights of Calne were visible, and one and all looked forward to being off the freezing roads by darkness.
And then, as he tells it, there was a creaking noise and a flicker of shadow and the world changed or, he believes, they stepped from this world into another. And, ahead of them, there was a great square hole in the landscape.
He avers now that it was the gateway to Hell, and while it was not the hell that Dante visited there is to my mind some internal evidence to suggest that his ignorant guess might be the truth.
The coachman and several of the male passengers considered the situation. The sun was sinking fast into a western sky that was now a mess of livid red and purple tones, and to the east more snow threatened. Besides, it appeared to those who ventured a little way back along the coach tracks, which were already being erased by the blowing snow, that the road had been well lost and a white wilderness streched all around.
At length, there appearing to be no alternative, several of the party resolved to venture closer to the rectangle that obliterated the sky a score of yards away. It was then that they saw for the first time the monster that appeared to be the guardian of the gateway, perched on a snow-covered log.
One of the party was a scholar from Oxford who, having in the coachmans oppinion refreshed himself mightily during the journey, suggested that some of the party climb through the opening, beyond which lay, at a deapth of perhaps three feet, a wide expanse of brown plain, because, uncertain though this course may be, it offered a more certain chance of survival than a night in the hills which seemed increasingly alien.
„Seasons greetings! From all at the office!“
Several bold spirits in the party, with whom the scolar had been sharing his brandy, resolved to do this. The coachman was not among them, he told me, yet eventually decided to accompany them out of a sense of duty. They were still his passengers, he said, and he felt it incumbent upon him to bring them safely to Bath.
It was the view of the scholar that ath might be found across the plain, for, he held, if this was a window out of the world then it followed that there might be a window back into it…
Imagine their joy to see that it opened onto a friendly street lined with yellow-lit windows.
It was then that they noticed a party of anxious people clustered near the rectangle, and the coachman saw with a falling heart that it too was rim’d with the glittering plates. This party was composed both of men and women, bearing lanterns, and, after some hesitation, one member approached the coachman.
After some refreshment from the oxford scholar the newcomer explained that he had, with a party of friends, gone out carol singing. All had been well until, an hour before, there had been an eerie creaking and shifting of shadows, and now they were somehow in a world that was not of the world.
‚But – there is a street, and lighted windows‘, said the London man. ‚Is that not the Old Curiosity Shop, so ably run by Mrs. Nungent?‘
‚But there are other streets, my home, not a hundred yards away…‘
Ther carol singers face was pale. ‚At the end of the street‘, he said, ‚is nothing but white cardboard.‘
Their companion gave a terrified scream, climbed into the frame, and was soon lost to view. After a few seconds they heard his shout, which the coachman screamed to me, also:
„May This Day Bring You, Every Year,/Joy And Warmth And All Good Cheer!“
At this point the coachmans tale becomes quite incoherent. It would seem that they set out to seek yet another entrance to the real world, and found for the first time that the strange windows had an obverse side. If I can understand his ravings, they seemed to be vast white squares in the sky on which some agency had written lengthy slogans of incredible yet menacing banality, whose discovery had so unhinged the London gentleman.
Then he would drum his heels on the floor.
„Merry XMas to All at No. 27!“ he would scream, „From Tony, Pat and the Kids! Remember Majorca?“
And Get lots of crackling this Christmas!“ This last one seemed particularily to affect his brain, and I cannot but wonder what the poor man must have seen. „Merry XMas from Your Little Willie!!!“ and it was at this point that I had to get the gardener to come in and help me restrain him, in the apprehension that he would otherwise manage to do himself an injury.
How long were they on that fateful plain? For it appears that they were in a world outside Time as we know it, and sought for days an entrance into a world that was more than a flatness.
And they were not alone.
I fear that his mind is quite gone. No sane man could have seen such things. There was a window, if such I may call it, into a world of desert sands under a night sky, wherein three men of african or asian appearance had made their camp.
They made common cause with the coachman’s party, much to the chagrin of the ladies present, but it would seem that they were well educated by heathen standards and indeed kept up the spirits of the company with their tales and outlandish songs. They were also men of considerable wealth, a fact of some importance when the swollen caravan of benighted travellers met a party of shepherds, orphans of their world, and were able to purchase several sheep, which the coachman, who had been raised on a farm, was able to slaughter and dress.
„Happy Christmas! / It’s Your First One! / Wishing You Joy / And a Lifetime of Fun! Sweet Jesus! The dreadful beagle!
What more daare I write? He babbled of four giant kittens with blue bows around their necks; and a rectangle within which was a vast Pie of mincemeat, which they carried for their continued provisions. There were also several glasses, taller than a house, which – after considerable effort with ropes and the utilisation of a giant sprig of holly – were found to contain a sweet sherry, in which the Oxford scholar unfortunately drowned.
No sooner had he reached it, and was crawling in extremis across the strange glittering snow, than behind him he heard once again the eldritch creaking and, upon looking around, saw the dreadful oblong slot disappear. Cold winds and snow immediately forced themselves upon it, but he felt it to be a benediction after that dreadful warm world of the brown plain. And thus, staggering into the fresh blizzard, he was found… It is now fully dark. The carol singers have gone, and I trust it is to their homes.
And now my housekeeper departs, having brought me the strange news of the day. A blackamoor on a camel has been arrested near Avebury. In Swindon a man has been savagely pecked to death in his own garden, and all there are to be seen in the snow are the footprints of an enormous bird. Here in Chippenham itself a traveller has reported seeing, before it leapt a tall hedge and ran across the fields, a cat larger than an elephant. It had a blue bow around its neck. What monsters have been let into the world?
And on my desk I see my reflection in the shining, tinselly shard that the coachman had clutched in his hands.
I open the curtains, and look out upon the busy street. The local coach has come up from Bath and it is outside the inn, and all is bustle and Christmas cheer, a world away from the sad ravings of the man downstairs. It is a picture of hope, a reminder of reality, and perhaps he is, after all, no more than a man mazed by exposure, and the tales of giant beagles and flying sledges are no more than strange jests. Except for the shard of tinsel…
„The Tinsel on the Straw! Amen! Wishing You All the Best, Mom and Dad!“
And I see the falling snow, how it glitters … And I hear the creaking. God help us, every one.
[edit: der besseren Lesbarkeit wegen nicht als Zitat, der Text. Ist aber natürlich eins.]