Blood Libel

passover seder

Passover seder at the home of Rabbi Mayer Hirsch, San Francisco, circa 1920. (Courtesy of the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life)

Klaus Buchner was running for his life. One minute, he was a guest at his friend Josef Steinbauer’s home expecting to experience his first Passover seder since he was a child. Now these insane fools were chasing him, screaming terrible insults in archaic German. Where did this damned desert come from? Why couldn’t he get a cell signal?

Martin Frederick had been hosting his family and close friends in his home for Good Friday, mourning the loss of their Lord Jesus Christ, his being betrayed by the damnable Jews some fifteen hundred and thirty-seven years prior, and now they were chasing one of them. He and his kind were no doubt responsible for the disappearances of six-year-old Hans Kruger and his sister Elsa, two years his junior. But this was nowhere near Magdeburg. There was no such terrain anywhere in Germany. How had they gotten here?

Both Klaus and Martin, men worlds and centuries apart, felt as if reality had abruptly changed from light to dark, from liquid to solid. How could they be here and who were the men Martin was following and who were pursuing Klaus?

Everyone was screaming at the fleeing Jewish man. They were carrying clubs, ropes, hammers. They would beat a confession from him, and if he would not talk, they would hang him.

“Jesus said the Jews are of their father the Devil.”

“They are stupid fools, blind and senseless.”

“They try to mislead us, mislead our tender youth.  Jew! What have you done to my Hans and Elsa?”

“Their Passover bread is made from the blood of innocent Christian children.”

“Set fire to their synagogues and schools. Bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn.”

“Burn their prayer books and Talmud, too. Use their scrolls of the Law as kindling in your fireplaces.”

Klaus tripped, fell, and quickly scrambled to his feet. They were gaining and he was exhausted. He must be running East because the sun was coming up just ahead. But how? It wasn’t even eight in the evening yet. He tried to check his cell again but dropped it.

Hate gave strength to Martin enabling him to keep up with the other men. They were gaining on the bastard. His kind murdered the Lord Jesus Christ. He feeds on little Christian babies. The Jews should have been exterminated long ago.

The sun continued to rise in front of Klaus, but then a brilliant explosion of light burst directly behind him, the sound and concussion knocking him to the stone and sand.

Martin and the rest stopped suddenly as an astonishing apparition detonated before them, blinding all the men with white light, and nearly deafening them with a sound like thunder.

“Halt!”

Klaus looked up from the ground and saw what could have been a man, but he was shining by his own light, dressed in ancient armor complete with helmet, and raising a sword in his right hand.

Martin’s eyes cleared and he saw the source of their confusion and the barrier between them and their prey. A man, but unlike any man he had ever seen before. How could he be glowing, as if with heavenly light? He was armored like a soldier or knight, and was holding an imposing blade, posed as if to attack.

“I am the commander of the Host of Hashem; now I have come. You will not harm this man, for he is one of Hashem’s people Israel.”

Martin quaked with fear. An angel of the Lord defending a filthy Jew? No, it must be a demon from Hell. He soiled himself in terror and prayed with fervor to the one true God for salvation.

Whether angel or demon, the being standing between the 21st century Jew and the 16th century mob of Christians again ignited in a blast of stark illumination, becoming a dome or hemisphere shining brighter than the sun. Then it reduced itself to what looked like electricity or a ball of lightning, spurting and crackling.

“Alright, you assholes! Stop! Put down your weapons.”

Men and women appeared, seven figures. Two with what looked like weapons of some sort, and dressed even more strangely than the creature who had appeared before them. Klaus recognized the assault rifles being carried by a black man and a white man. They were dressed like soldiers.

“Leon, they can’t understand English, especially modern English.”

She was wrong. Klaus could understand the American soldier, but now that he had a better chance to look at the men who had been chasing them, he saw they were dressed for a time centuries past. Their German was archaic and barely comprehensible.

The dome of light or whatever it was, had somehow moved to one side so it wasn’t directly in-between him and his would-be lynch mob.

“Then you talk to them, Aiyana. You’re the linguist.”

“You men are not where you are supposed to be. We will guide you back to your homes, but you must put down your weapons. We will not hurt you unless we have to.”

“Who…who are you?” Martin was still trembling with fear, but no matter how oddly these people appeared, they were human beings, not supernatural creatures.

Aiyana switched back to English, “I don’t think I’m getting through to them.”

“We’ll take care of it. Vasnev?”

“Right with you, my friend.”

The two soldiers briefly laid down automatic weapons fire several yards in front of the terrified men. They screamed, jumped, and two at the rear turned to run.

“Wait!” They heard the woman again speaking in strangely accented German. “We won’t hurt you unless we have to, but do not run. Do exactly as I say. You will walk into this light. It will take you back home. If you do not, you will be lost forever, and never see your families again.”

“Can you understand me?” While everyone’s attention was on the tall, dark-haired woman, a man in his sixties approached Klaus, who was now up on his knees.

“Yes, I understand English. What the hell is going on? Who are the people chasing me? Who are you, and what is that…thing?”

“My name is Carson Everett.”

“Yes, I’ve heard of you. A British physicist. But you disappeared three years ago.”

“That’s not important right now. An experiment went wrong and it has displaced people and objects across time and space.”

“You must be mad.”

“The phenomenon behind me is a temporal anomaly. We have to take you and them back through it, returning everyone to where you all belong.”

Klaus looked past Dr. Everett and saw a dozen or so men being herded through Everett’s phenomenon at gunpoint and then vanishing.

“Stand up. what’s your name?”

“Klaus. Klaus Buchner.” He let the older gentleman help him to his feet.

“They were chasing you because you are Jewish. Many people from their time believed that Jews used the blood of Christian children to make their Passover matzah. It’s called blood libel.”

“Thank you, I’ve heard of it. After every Passion Play, there’s a pogrom.”

“This way, Klaus.”

“It’s something my great-grandfather used to say before he died. He survived Hitler’s holocaust. I thought all this was a relic from the past.”

“Klaus, they are from the past, your past at any rate.”

“We’ve got to get this one back, Carson.”

“Thank you, Marcus. We were just coming.”

“Who are these people?”

“It’s best you don’t know. Walk beside me. We’re going through.”

“What will happen to your anomaly?”

“Our mission is to trace them down and close them, returning anyone who gets lost back to their own time. You’re going home, Klaus. If you feel compelled to tell people about your experience, we can’t stop you, but I seriously doubt anyone will believe you.”

Klaus opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again. At twenty-three, he had created one of the top-ten most popular scientific blogs in the world. He had followed Carson Everett’s work for nearly a decade. When he got back home, he would tell no one about what had happened to him, but he would search every accessible record for evidence of events similar to his, no matter where in history they were found.

He was determined now to discover the secret of the phenomenon. Then he would have the greatest story of the twenty-first century and solve the mystery of time travel.

I wrote this for the Saturday Mix – Opposing Forces, 31 March 2018 challenge hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. Today, the idea is to use antithetical words in a poem, short story, or other creative work. The word pairs are:

  • guest and host
  • liquid and solid

Today is the first day of Passover. Yesterday was the Christian Good Friday and tomorrow will be Easter.

Although ostensibly a Christian, I prefer Jewish religious teachings as they seem to “resonate” better with me. My wife and children are Jewish, and so for many years now (with one tragic exception), I have observed Passover rather than Easter (the one time I chose to attend Easter services, I inadvertently hurt my wife, so I chose never to do so again).

I’ve heard it said that “after every Passion Play, there is a pogrom.” This is less true now than in years and centuries past, but in some parts of the world, it has not been extinguished completely. I leveraged characters and situations from this story spawned partly from this magazine’s open submissions call (which I was unable to respond to by the deadline), to craft today’s tale.

I also mined quotes from something the Christian reformer Martin Luther penned shortly before he died called The Jews and their Lies. It represented his beliefs about the Jewish people, some of which were quite violent, although it’s important to consider that the Lutheran Church formally denounced and dissociated themselves from this work in the 1980s.

I follow some Christian writers/bloggers online, many but not all of whom are Catholic, and have recently read a number of commentaries on this Holy Season for the Church. I just thought I should create my own counterbalance based on my differing viewpoint.

The sequence involving the angel was taken from Joshua 5:14 which is part of the traditional readings for the first day of Passover.

Whoever you are and whatever you may believe, use your faith or your conscience to correct the tragedies of the past, and do not seek to sweep history under a convenient rug.

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10 thoughts on “Blood Libel

  1. Well, I’ve been asking for more Forerunner temporal technology stories. Am I understanding correctly that in this one you chose to weave in also a hint of heavenly hijacking, that places that tech and its operating team at the disposal of angelic forces? I would be somewhat surprised if Ms.Norton ever imagined *that* little twist.

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    • I’m leaving the nature of the angel’s appearance a mystery, PL. It somehow could be they encountered an angel, since the 21st century German Jew and the 16th century Christian mob were both transported by the anomaly to ancient Canaan shortly before Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan. On the other hand, it would have been a shared hallucination due to the temporal field discharge of the phenomenon affecting their brains.

      I’m planning on submitting a story to an Australian scifi magazine which has open admissions for military horror stories, loosely based on some elements of my “Time Traders” stories (the portions and characters I own, omitting any of Norton’s contributions). I got the idea from an open submission from a completely different scifi magazine who are going to run a dinosaur-themed issue. I missed that deadline, but there’s no use wasting a good story. I’m experimenting with the characters and circumstances involving that story line just for giggles.

      Oh, ‘Hag Pesa’h samea’h v’kasher to you and yours as well, PL.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like this mixture of ages, histories, religious themes, scientific facts and so on, but the most important thing I would be interested to see is the development of the main characters.
    Interesting panoply of time and human stories.

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