war story

Asymmetric Fiction: Crystal Ball

Here is a short story nearly seven years old now. I wrote it for a occult World War II anthology I was putting together for self-publishing. Some of the stories were rubbish. But a few were worth revisiting. I quite like this idea and debate reviving it. Yes it is rough and has some flashes of my current style. I believe in the new trend of seeing the rough ideas, the wart covered early works of fellow writers to know that ideas are not born perfect or polished. The idea came to me while watching 1978’s Force 10 from Navarone, a nice little World War II movie starring Harrison Ford and the great Robert Shaw. The setting for Kristallkugel is Yugoslavia in the months before D-Day and came together as a weird war story by combining ‘Navarone’ and some research I had done on the revival of occult pastimes of the early 20th century. Please enjoy.

Yugoslavia…early May 1944…   A snack consisting of a tin cup of milk and bread would hush Zulfo Pasic’s gurgling stomach. Emerging from the chow hall, the Waffen SS Corporal made sure his green felted fez aligned just right on his head.

A voice startled the Bosnian volunteer, “How are you my friend?”

“Well, I am doing well Mirko Bukvic,” Zulfo hoisted the food and drink sheepishly to his friend’s salutation. He wasn’t supposed to leave his post during an ‘interception’ operation of the mysterious Kristallkugel device.

“Ah, took you out of the field and into code breaking duty.”

Meekly Zuflo smiled,” So it seems. I hope to be reassigned soon, but they say the work we are doing is very important, not just in Yugoslavia but for the whole effort. I don’t do much code breaking. I sit in a room, write down notes and retransmit.”

The two former school mates stopped mid-conversation, realizing they were speaking too freely in public, just outside the Posavina Hotel, command post of the volunteer Bosnian SS division.

“Time for me to return to my cave.” Zulfo stuffed the butter slathered bread into his mouth. Zulfo watched the clock tick above his bank of military radios. A few more hours and his uneventful watch would wrap up. Unlike many days recently the staff inside Kristallkugel remained quiet. No urgent dispatches or encryption breaks that should be communicated to command by Zulfo.   Rumors swirled through Brcko-based division concerning the mysterious machine that pulled signals from the air and broke codes effortlessly. The amount of information derived from the intercepts seemed overly detailed for a simple radio transmission, Zulfo opined. Direction of aircraft and the altitude which they flew, travel plans of Tito’s officers and the vehicles in which drove were passed from the Kristallkugel room to him for retransmission.

One popular theory among the unit was Kristallkugel technology was given, or possibly stolen from former countryman and scientific patriot Nicola Tesla. His inventions were wildly advanced and spectacularly powerful- death rays, building disintegrators and his remote control of vessels and aircraft. All these technologies seem to argue for Tesla’s influence on or possible creation of the Kristallkugel.

A man, in his late 20s, of calm demeanor and close cropped chestnut hair came out of the darkened nerve center adjacent to Zulfo’s radio bank.

Wearing the uniform of the Handjar Divison and its distinctive scimitar wielding fist collar tab the man passed a hand written note. Zulfo peered over the note, layers of information hastily scribbled on the ruled sheet of paper.   The man said nothing, there was a procedure established for months now. He would emerge only to pass along intelligence gained from the Kristallkugel device. No other contact or communication. Zulfo wasn’t even sure he had ever heard the young soldier’s voice.

Inquisitiveness forced Zulfo to break protocol, “Is there anything I can get you or your comrades inside there?”

Not looking back, hand on the doorknob, the soldier paused, “We are fine. We enjoy the peace of our work.” Kulfo was focused on writing notes and transmitting communiqués when the door to the Kristallkugel room opened again. The soldier exited, swapping fresh intelligence for a MP-40 submachine gun

“Arm yourself, two Allied commandos assaulting the building and will be at our door in one minute.”

“What? How,” Kulfo shot to his feet, nothing but silence blanketing the sleeping headquarters building of the 13th Handjar Division.

Rushing the door, the Kristallkugel operator shouted an order. “Do not question! They are in the building. Prepare to die!”

“How do you know that? You’ve been locked in a room without windows! How do you know that!?” Kulfo distressed and panicked by the uncanny prophetic ability of the Kristallkugel operators.

“They have to get past a building full of security.”

The mysterious soldier racked the bolt spur on the submachine gun’s left side.

“Anyone the intruders confront will be killed before they reach us.”

Kulfo picked up his Mauser rifle when the door exploded inwards, knocking him beneath the radio console.

Entering the radio room Lt. Bradley Kennedy put a single .45 ACP round into the head of the anonymous Kristallkugel operator. The American commando, member of the elite OSS was followed in by his British counterpart, SOE Lt. Jeffrey Drew followed his American teammate, shuffling past the fresh set of corpses to the second door in the room.

Past the single door, loosely closed and with no robust defense, lay the nerve center of German anti-partisan operations. For weeks, as Allied trained Yugoslav guerillas were being snuffed out by dozens of astonishingly effective and accurate the German assaults. Spies were suspected, but none were routed out leaving only one possibility, technical intelligence capabilities buried within the Posavina Hotel that suggested impossibly prescient abilities.

“Good evening, Bradley and Jeffrey,” a voice came from within the darkened anteroom.   Bradley stepped in next to Drew, pressing a light switch mounted near the door.

Expecting a room full of massive equipment and strange electronic devices, wires lacing the walls like veins and banks of dials to calibrate the prescient machine, the commandos found a room decorated for a boy.

“Who are you? How do you know who we are,” Bradley demanded.

“Where is the machine? Where is the Kristallkugel device,” Drew followed up.

The reader, barely 13 years old, closed a collection of poems by Haci Bektash.

“There is no device gentlemen, no machine,” the boy pushed aside a greasy black swath of hair obscuring his eyes.

“Communications were being intercepted here boy, tell us,” Bradley pointed his DeLisle carbine at the child.

A strange tingling swept over Drew, just like that feeling he experienced as a child and a few minutes before. Déjà vu or premonition he feared made him insane had disappeared when he reached this boy’s age. But in the young man’s presence, the feeling came back.

The boy smiled, “Welcome to my home.”

“I am sad you killed my Baba, but I knew the time was coming to an end. I was expecting you. I am not scared,” the boy reached out and clasped Drew’s hand.

“Boy, where is the machine that captures and decodes the partisan communication,” Bradley demanded.

“Where is the radio interception equipment? The direction finding!?”

The boy smiled, tapping his brow with a smile, “It inside me.”   Bradley felt sickened and confused, while Drew quietly battled a ghostly and intimidated sensation.

“What do you mean it’s inside you?”

“I see things, I have always seen things. I see them before they happen. Sometimes, I see them in great detail, other times like flashes of lightning. If the Germans ask me to ‘listen’ to the air, I will hear the partisans talking.”

“You aren’t hearing the radio, you hear the partisans talking?”

He smiled again,” I do not need a radio to amplify them. I hear them. I see them too.”

“This is crazy,” Bradley barked.

“Drew once shared a gift similar to mine, isn’t that right,” the skinny young man returned to his chair.

“It was nothing,” Drew anxiously turned to Bradley, “I used to get déjà vu, but it was nothing.”

Drew lied and the boy knew it.

“Some of us keep the gift. Others lose it,” the boy giggled. “Drew, Bradley thinks you are crazy. He doubts you.”

“Let get out of here,” Drew said.

“I want answers to what the fuck is going on,” Bradley pulled away from Drew’s grip.

The boy handed Bradley a small pamphlet, in German, “I was just shown this. I was to be examined and brought to Berlin to meet the Fuhrer. As you can see, I am not playing to crowds at the Palast des Okkulten in séances.”

Bradley’s German was impeccable and his surprise was undisguised, “Seer? You are a clairvoyant?”

“That is the manual to create future Baba’s in the Sufi tradition. Ways to train men to nurture future psychics like me. I am going to train them. Isn’t it exciting?”

“You are crazy kid.”

“I am no parlor magician on the Lietzenburgstrasse like that dreadful Hanussen.” The boy walked to the bricked over window. “You are safe here now. No one knows that I have been exposed.”

Bradley pulled Drew aside, “What is this kid going on about? I am fucking confused.”

“I think he is telling the truth Bradley, I think he is psychic.”

“A psychic? Reading tea leave and shit? Bullshit. He needs to prove it.”

From the opposite corner of the windowless room, the boy spoke, “Bradley Kennedy, born 25 years ago in Los Angeles, California. Father grows oranges.”

The boy smiled again, in that sickening way of intelligence beyond his years, “The smell of oranges makes you sick now, Bradley.”

“Shut up!” Bradley aimed the .45 caliber weapon at the boy.

“Jeffrey Drew, raised in Liverpool, a bastard child with no family to speak of. Abused by your custodian until you nearly beat him to death when you were 15.”

“Where are you from? What is your name,” Bradley demanded.

“I am Abdullah Dudakovic. I am from Sarajevo. I was born to a mother who is said to have been a clairvoyant. She did not know how to control the visions and voices, she went mad and slit her own throat,” the boy said detached.

“My father discovered my gifts when I was just a baby. We were raised Sufi, so we appreciate the mysterious elements of the universe better than any other Muslim. I am no prophet. When the war started, he felt my talents could be used to help the Germans. I am asked questions, I listen to the air or concentrate, and I can see or hear things from hundreds of miles away.”

Abdullah touched Drew again, this second time, their reactions different than the first.   “Bradley, Drew wants to kill you. He feels you are lazy and moronic.”

The book of poetry was much more interesting to the young Bosnian than the two soldiers seething with mutual distrust and doubt. “I will continue my reading and let you two decide how to deal with the information I blessed you with.”

The two allied commandos, once arrogant and cock sure of their killer instincts, silently sized each other up.

Wetting his fingers, Abdullah slowly flipped a page, “Decision has been made.”



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