Blind.Faith 2.0.50 - Tomasz Tatum - ebook

Blind.Faith 2.0.50 ebook

Tomasz Tatum

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In a not too distant future, mankind seeks and finds a unique way of transforming the globalized world, which has become increasingly complex, frightening and confusing for many, into a clearly structured and smaller place. With the rise of many small city states, each of them home to not more than a few million people, societies rearrange themselves, striving to contain their populations, knowledge and technology within well guarded borders. One of those city states is the Domain State of [email protected] Esperantia, located in the south of what once was the United States of America. Life is said to be fine there, the weather’s good, everyone is well equipped with the finest technology and everything is arranged in accordance with the rules and laws that reflect the spirit of the Almighty. But often, when things appear to become easier and simpler on the surface, they in fact become increasingly complex - and if more and more protagonists and their stories intersect with each other in various places and times, it’s possible that a higher authority may become necessary to close the circle in the end.

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Tomasz Tatum

Blind.Faith 2.0.50

Two Zero Fifty

AUGUST VON GOETHE LITERATURVERLAG

FRANKFURT A.M. • WEIMAR • LONDON • NEW YORK

Die neue Literatur, die – in Erinnerung an die Zusammenarbeit Heinrich Heines und Annette von Droste-Hülshoffs mit der Herausgeberin Elise von Hohenhausen – ein Wagnis ist, steht im Mittelpunkt der Verlagsarbeit. Das Lektorat nimmt daher Manuskripte an, um deren Einsendung das gebildete Publikum gebeten wird.

©2014 FRANKFURTER LITERATURVERLAG FRANKFURT AM MAIN

Ein Unternehmen der Holding

FRANKFURTER VERLAGSGRUPPE

AKTIENGESELLSCHAFT

In der Straße des Goethehauses/Großer Hirschgraben 15

D-60311 Frankfurt a/M

Tel. 069-40-894-0 ▪ Fax 069-40-894-194

E-Mail [email protected]

Medien- und Buchverlage

DR. VON HÄNSEL-HOHENHAUSEN

seit 1987

Bibliografische Information der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek

Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek verzeichnet diese Publikation in der Deutschen Nationalbibliografie; detaillierte bibliografische Daten sind im Internet abrufbar über http://dnb.d-nb.de.

Websites der Verlagshäuser der

Frankfurter Verlagsgruppe:

www.frankfurter-verlagsgruppe.de

www.frankfurter-literaturverlag.de

www.frankfurter-taschenbuchverlag.de

www.publicbookmedia.de

www.august-goethe-literaturverlag.de

www.fouque-literaturverlag.de

www.weimarer-schiller-presse.de

www.deutsche-hochschulschriften.de

www.deutsche-bibliothek-der-wissenschaften.de

www.haensel-hohenhausen.de

www.prinz-von-hohenzollern-emden.de

Dieses Werk und alle seine Teile sind urheberrechtlich geschützt.

Nachdruck, Speicherung, Sendung und Vervielfältigung in jeder Form, insbesondere Kopieren, Digitalisieren, Smoothing, Komprimierung, Konvertierung in andere Formate, Farbverfremdung sowie Bearbeitung und Übertragung des Werkes oder von Teilen desselben in andere Medien und Speicher sind ohne vorgehende schriftliche Zustimmung des Verlags unzulässig und werden auch strafrechtlich verfolgt.

Lektorat: Gerrit Koehler

ISBN 978-3-8372-5190-6

Die Autoren des Verlags unterstützen den Bund Deutscher Schriftsteller e.V., der gemeinnützig neue Autoren bei der Verlagssuche berät. Wenn Sie sich als Leser an dieser Förderung beteiligen möchten, überweisen Sie bitte einen – auch gern geringen – Beitrag an die Volksbank Dreieich, Kto. 7305192, BLZ 505 922 00, mit dem Stichwort „Literatur fördern“. Die Autoren und der Verlag danken Ihnen dafür!

Inhaltsverzeichnis

THE BIRDS

WE BE ONE NOW

THE PROJECT

THE DREAD.COMMACHINE

FISHBO.NELLY

NIKLAS’ WORLDMONDE.PLANET

BARNZ AND THE BULLDOZER

[email protected]

MEETING THE MACHINE

BARNZ AND THE BUENA.VISTA

NEW ARRIVALS

ZABULON KLEISTERMAUL

ZIPPERCARDS

FAITH ON THE BEACH

THE SQUAD CAR

A LESSON LEARNED

STAYING YOUNG

SALVATION.REALITY

DEALING WITH THE MAN

RAIN

ANOPHELES GRACE

MAKING MUSIC

TALISMAN

LUNIXX GOES LIVESTREAM

THE PROPHECY

NAILED

BARNZ GOES SOCIALIZING

COSIMA696

MEAMAXI.CULPA

ALL IN A DAY’S WORK

FISHBO.NELLY DOES HER MATH

INFORMATION AGE REALITIES

ROAD RAGE

NO MORE CAR

MEN AT WORK

THE CRASH

PLAYING TO WIN

A FACE IN THE CROWD

WHOLE LOT OF SHAKING GOIN’ ON

BARNZ BEFORE THE BENCH

LUNIXX LIBERATED

DEAD DOGGIE

A GIFT OF MOBILITY

ORJEMA

FORCED RETIREMENT

THE LONG MARCH

THE ARK

NEARER, MY GOD, TO THEE

KINGDOM.COME

LADIES NIGHT

GETTING AWAY FROM IT ALL

THERE’S A BETTER HOME A-WAITING

THE CUTTY.SHARK

BENEATH THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN

TAKE ME TO THE RIVER

KEEPING HIS HAT ON

DEAD WATER

WATER LOGIC

WRESTLING BULLS

THE BOATHOUSE REVISITED

STREET TALK

LAST SUPPER

WALKING ON THE WATER

THE KEY

OPENING THE CAGE

FULTON’S ENCOUNTER

FINDING FREEDOM

SETTING THE BIRDS FREE

Thanks

PART ONE

THE BIRDS

The velvety dark of night commenced its unhurried morning retreat just outside the bedroom window. The deep inky thick blackness of the night sky, seemingly impenetrable just a short moment prior, seemed to yield silently but visibly to the next turn of some eternal cosmic cycle. It appeared almost as though an immense black bolt of fine silk had begun to unravel, wearing thin and ultimately fraying at its now-opaque eastern fringe. The quiet and seemingly stagnant void of the nocturnal sky at this moment grudgingly acknowledged the first fleeting touches of ash grey and, shortly thereafter, reddish-violet flourishes that heralded the imminent arrival of dawn.

All was quiet now. The muted energy of an insistent low breeze that had tapped the steady rhythm of time’s passage, almost as though it were a metronome punctuating the seconds, minutes and hours that the earth spent enveloped in darkness, was now finally spent. It no longer ruffled the building’s slipshod tar paper roofing. It no longer tugged steadily at the rain gutters, causing them to rattle and sometimes creak ominously at odd intervals throughout the night. The resulting exhausted calm was somehow reminiscent of the fitful sleep of an asthmatic.

In the gloomy obscurity of the bedroom, directly adjacent to the bed, stood a narrow hardwood nightstand. But for the still unfathomable darkness in the room at this moment, one might have noticed or even appreciated its fairly ascetic clean lines as well as the slightly Spartan waxy appearance of its timeless Industrial Age imitation beechwood finish. Perched precariously atop this piece of modern utilitarian furniture, standing next to a near-empty water glass smudged with fingerprints and a plastic vial containing a few generic aspirin-ersatz tablets, was a clock whose alarm began at this very instant to buzz offensively, thereby signaling to Ch.ase that it was once again time to rise and shine. The sound that this device produced to underscore its unhappy message at such an inhumane hour was, probably like that of any given alarm clock anywhere else on the face of this planet or thereabouts, as thoroughly obnoxious as it was stubbornly unrelenting. The clock buzzed its vicious buzz with such a supremely assertive–even repugnant–air that it might easily leave a more gullible observer wrestling with the impression that it derived its sense of urgency not through some fallible, fickle human hand but from someone or something vested with a degree of absolute authority that was nothing short of astronomical.

This clock had a real attitude.

Under any other circumstances, any display of a similarly dogged persistence at this early hour might well have given cause to stop and think. Was it an exaggeration to regard it to be as compelling and dynamic as a surge of lunar gravity, perhaps inexplicably set in gear at the very dawn of Creation? Where did it derive its authority from, commencing its rude exhortations at the emergence of the first traces of daybreak on this particular morning, much in the same fashion as the ancient Nubians eons ago meticulously aligned their temples at Abu Simbel to allow the first rays of the sunrise, on two sacred days of the year, to illuminate the two middle statues–out of a row of four cosmic VIPs–tucked away in its rearmost chambers? It wasn’t entirely implausible to reflect that it might lead a person of more unstable persuasion to assume that perhaps this clock was somehow synchronized by some higher force, taking its cue from some ominous linear constellation of planets so breathtaking that it would leave a modern-day Copernicus with an uneasy frown frozen on his puzzled face. If it were indeed so, then a mere clock might well be sufficient to inspire a small crowd of lunatics of the likes of Nostradamus elsewhere on the planet to conjure up yet another beanie full of dismal prophecies, thereby managing to successfully scare the collective wits out of humanity for countless ages to come.

The possibilities were nearly infinite, but only if one were really foolish enough to simply allow the mind to wander at random to think through them, repose in the gloomy pre-dawn darkness wondering whether it is really necessary to get out of bed. Was it just because something as trivial as a clock suddenly demanded it of one? Or if the person in question happened to possess the inclination to believe in the kind of things best defined as supernatural by the numerous Ethernet tabloids that continued to dominate the many screens strategically positioned in the checkout areas of mega.Marchés, virtual or not: that ubiquitous netherworld where the purported virgin birth of domesticated hammerhead sharks in a saltwater basin in places as inauspicious as Omaha still effortlessly qualified as breaking news.

But in reality, however, things were nowhere near being this extraordinary on this particular morning. This was a rather simple, regular, unremarkable, run-of-the-mill alarm clock owned and armed by Ch.ase before he retired to bed on the evening prior.

The motive behind this therefore rather unremarkable action was actually quite plain and straightforward as well. Ch.ase had manually, and thus quite deliberately, set the alarm because he simply could not afford to be late to work on this particular morning. In actuality, it was just like every morning, more or less. In the vast majority of modern societies which continually and ceaselessly pride themselves for their advanced level of social, economic and technological development, this, from the earliest days of so-called modernity onward, has always been a sufficiently driving force behind the collective effort of devising, manufacturing, selling, purchasing and arming products as seemingly innocuous as these mass-produced alarm clocks, however repugnant they might ultimately be considered in the wee hours of the morning, when they regularly do precisely that which they are intended to do. The particular model standing on the hardwood nightstand in Ch.ase’s bedroom was actually a visibly cheap one. This particular clock, along with dozens of others of similarly questionable design, was stacked haphazardly late one afternoon in a blue plastic corrugated bin on rollers standing to the right of the aisle that led to the scanners at a local mega.Marché. Ch.ase had picked it up on a whim, valiantly warding off a fit of boredom while awaiting his turn in the queue that led to the scanner station. Having repeatedly watched the headlines–LOVE HER TENDER: ELVIS REINCARNATION BAPTIZES 48 LB. BABY IN EUREKA, followed by CLONE YOUR OWN: FOR DETAILS, USE LINK TO PAGE 3–flash by, his gaze soon fell upon an irregular stack of clocks in what appeared to be pseudo-chrome-wire packaging stored in the aforementioned plastic bins that lined the aisle next to him. Within the wire packaging, each clock was wrapped in a cheap, but somehow trendy-looking, transparent plastic bubble foil package similar to those used to sell soft-rubber chewable pet toys that squeaked annoyingly prior to being inadvertently swallowed by flustered canines or bitten to pieces by the more ignorant ones.

Ch.ase wasn’t absolutely certain why he felt spontaneously obligated to purchase this ugly clock, but he did nonetheless on this one fine day do exactly that. Perhaps he did so because the clear soft recyclable polyurethane packaging proclaimed it in bold lettering to be a genuine freedom.Day limited edition super-saver real!Deal, at least this was the way Ch.ase seemed to recall it. It was hopelessly tacky, liberally adorned with a flag motif on giddy futuristic stellar black plastic and a welter of tasteless ornate neo-gothic, pseudo-chrome trimming. Perhaps it was some subconscious impulse that had driven him to purchase the clock, underscoring his personal patriotism in the face of a never-ending onslaught of various ongoing national emergencies–in fact, the alert level had actually escalated to magenta for a few hours on that particular day. More likely, however, was that he may have felt some inward swell of anxiety as he pondered the existence, activities and motives of an anonymous store detective whom he couldn’t see, but who he instinctively guessed would no doubt be eyeing him, and all others in the store, on a barrage of softly luminescent screens or on a next.Gen MindjSet as he sat tucked away in the stuffy confines of an otherwise darkened back-office cubicle, leaning far back on his chair and likely scratching his crotch as he watched the queue inch forward soundlessly all day long. Indeed, it was conceivable that it might even be considered outright unpatriotic to pass over such a great bargain.

Ch.ase rolled over, yawning and scratching his stomach absently before continuing onward to attend to a sudden persistent itch on his right buttock. Groaning somewhat as he laboriously heaved himself onto his left side with his eyes still squeezed tightly shut, his right hand swung drunkenly overhead the nightstand like some derelict shipyard crane. It groped about clumsily in the still contourless spacey void surrounding his bed as it searched, unsuccessfully at first, for the source of this unwelcome early morning disturbance. Annoyed at this initial setback, Ch.ase finally succeeded after managing to pry open his eyes just a tiny crack to assist in orientation. Upon doing so, he ventured his first cautious glance at the faintly luminescent numbers visible on the slightly smudged face of the clock. Taking in a deep breath, he drew his legs up somewhat under the warmth of the blanket, doubling slightly as he lay there in a near-fetal position with his hand resting flat on his abdomen just below his navel. Remaining semi-petrified in this position for an indeterminate length of time, visions of immense silver-skinned meteorological weather balloons began spontaneously bouncing about in the still-sluggish grey matter between his ears. It was as though he were sitting leisurely in front of the telly.tube, watching the balloons float aimlessly and effortlessly about, first here, then there, growing ever larger as they ascended smartly in the ionosphere that was his lower gut. Completely stationary and still enveloped in his blanket, he vaguely began to comprehend the significance of these visions as he registered the first urgent call of his long-neglected bladder, now clearly communicating one of its most immediate requirements to the still-stationary cerebral cortex regions entrusted with the mundane task of regulating it and a number of his more immediate basic biological functions.

And though the transition from sleep to waking was for Ch.ase a process best described as gradual, his synapses were indisputably beginning to come online now. One brief burst of concentrated activity was all that he required in order to formulate an accurate assessment his present situation. Although he admittedly wasn’t yet very far into the day, he had somehow already instantaneously determined, whether on the basis of past experience or simply by intuition, that it would be a safe assumption to state that this day was going to feel like crap.scheiss as it progressed.

This unhappy sensation of his may have been reinforced to some small degree by the fact that 5:00 am was, when viewed objectively, far too early to reasonably expect a chronically-harried person in his elevated position to regularly commence working day’s activities in anything other than a state of fatigue, confusion or, alternatively, the foulest of moods. His days were just too long to begin this early with a smile.

All that rubbish about whistling while you work certainly didn’t apply to this kind of situation and Ch.ase, for one, staunchly refused to feel apologetic in the least about this.

Getting up this early sucked.

But unfortunately, in the course of humanity’s daily trials and tribulations, it is a fact of everyday life that intentions can at times become subject to perversion through the simplest necessities. And thus it was now, as the time was rapidly nearing for Ch.ase to get into gear, to clamber out of bed and begin with at least the most rudimentary preparations for going to work.

Philosophy was for the idle.

So by now, with the passing of no more than just a few fleetingly short minutes, duty had begun summoning him in a voice that was as clear and keen as that of a siren back in the days of mythical lore, albeit considerably less seductively. Ch.ase no longer led the unhurried life of some mere mortal rehabilitation officer in an elementary position at dep.Corr, as the state corrections system was officially referred to. Instead, he had fairly bolted his way up the career ladder within this institution, ascending it in an impressive, almost breathtaking, series of leaps and bounds. His success had culminated in his having recently been awarded promotion to the much-coveted position of facility warden at a trendy chic showpiece maximum security facility commonly referred to in [email protected] as da.Maze.

Although this term was in reality technically false because it represented only a sloppy translation of its official teutonically-inspired name, irr.Garten Penal and Corrections, Inc., it was nonetheless so commonly referred to as da.Maze that the name eventually stuck, no doubt in part due to some convoluted admiration of the namesake, a similar Irish institution of yore. Indeed, it had in the meanwhile become accepted, if not fashionable, to refer to it as such since only a relatively diminutive handful of people in [email protected] were suitably endowed with the ability to convincingly pronounce the kind of stern diction embodied in the facility’s true name. It was often half-joked that a two to four generation ancestry harking back to some obscure distant Franconian hillbilly hole-in-the-wall town was arguably the minimum pedigree required to produce the double “R” sound contained within the name irr.Garten with any semblance of authenticity, allowing it to rattle sharply over the top of one’s tongue with the suitably arrogant intonation before suddenly snapping into the following “G” consonant. From a pronunciation point of view, it was probably no great overstatement to describe it as the phonetic equivalent of a barrel roll combined with an Immelmann. In the local vernacular, the name often enough mutated to something vaguely resembling “eargarden”.

But da.Maze, by contrast, was infinitely easier to pronounce and everyone knew exactly what was meant by it anyhow. And it could well be argued that the image of the facility in the public’s perception probably over time even gained a bit more mystique through this makeshift translation that had gained such widespread acceptance.

As he lay on the bed, now prone on his back but with his somewhat knobby whitish knees angled skyward, Ch.ase–having nearly lost the first tentative skirmish of the day against the dictates of his circadian rhythm–began to involuntarily drift, slowly but surely, back again into the arms of another round of uneasy and unauthorized slumber, his leaden eyelids falling firmly shut once more as he succumbed to the weight of his head sinking back tiredly into the pillow, slightly yellowed as it was, a tad musty and obviously quite old. Its genuine hypoallergenic Na.Choo!No.Sneeze Styrofoam pellet filling had been mercilessly flattened through many long years of use.

As his head settled back onto the pillow and sleep threatened to lure him back into its comfortable void, the synapses of his brain suddenly rattled back to life again, driven now by a veritable firestorm of bioelectrical activity prodded on by something that immediately manifested itself in the form of a two-headed demon consisting of fear of consequences as well as a potential bout of simple bad conscience.

And so, in a concentrated flash of cold, hard rational thinking, he forced himself into admitting that there was no point in further procrastination now. He was going to have to have a serious go at this.

He was going to have to get his butt out of bed, he thought. It was now or never.

As he did on almost every morning at some point in the laborious process of waking up and just prior to rolling out of bed, he drew a single, sharp deep breath. Although Ch.ase himself was unlikely to have registered it at such an unholy hour, the sound he actually produced in that instant as he mobilized his resolve would have proved to be quite revealing if there had only been someone around to hear it. It was the same kind of quick breath that one might take immediately prior to being forcibly tossed overboard from an ocean-going vessel and submerged into the cool waters off the shore of a somewhat less than delightful archipelago such as those bordering the Bering Sea during one of the more frigid seasons. In winter, the time of year that was once generally referred to as January, February or March, for instance. That was way back in that diffuse era before the Gregorian calendar was unceremoniously canned, having been rendered obsolete by the almost complete demise of any truly linear notion of time.

Thus, following only the briefest of respites, Ch.ase soldiered on through his private purgatories that unfolded in rapid succession within his head in these wee hours, drawing back the sheet and blanket in a concerted display of sheer determination, focused on now rising with a passable attitude of resolve and vigor to greet the new day head on.

And then, despite his having finally gotten this far, he stopped abruptly short.

The birds were back.

He couldn’t believe his ears. It was inexplicable!

Ch.ase exhaled loudly, his determination to rise from his bed dissipating as rapidly as the flatulent air that escapes from a children’s balloon once the knot at its base is untied. He simply fell back into his pillow while hastily yanking up the blanket to cover his naked shoulders again.

This had nothing to do with slumber anymore. He was wide awake now, but suddenly plagued by the deep fear that he was in danger of losing his mind. Ch.ase started quivering at this thought despite the fact that he was straining hard to simply lie quiet and motionless on the mattress now, doing his utmost to stay calm and commanding every single voluntary muscle in his body to relax without further ado.

All without success, as it seemed.

Stifling a dark panic that he could feel bubbling forth within him, Ch.ase hastily covered his eyes with the crook of his arm, as if he could hide in this fashion, as he lay there stationary in the near total darkness that still prevailed. As incomprehensible as it seemed to him, the room was now rapidly filling to what felt like the bursting point with some strange gargantuan swell of avian noise. An immense chorus of chirping birds seemed to flood the world outside his window. Their twittering quickly filled his room and even his head with song. He wasn’t sure where they were, but these birds were presumably gathered somewhere just beyond the barely discernible boundaries of his still-gloomy bedroom, singing loudly and boldly to proclaim the onset of this brand-new day about to break.

After a short but oddly indeterminate period of time had elapsed, Ch.ase slowly lifted his arm, uncovering his eyes again. Still flat on his back and nearly unmoving, he cautiously opened them while struggling to lie as still and silent as he possibly could. From his vantage point, his still-sleepy vision was directed vertically upward, interrupted only by what might just as well have been a stubborn stratus layer of uniformly diffuse gray cloud. He continued looking upward as he allowed himself the luxury of a few additional seconds during which his head began to clear and his senses subsequently finished rebooting somewhat. As everything gradually came into focus, he found himself staring at the off-white plaster of a bedroom ceiling which was still shrouded in a state of semi-darkness.

He was completely motionless now but listening attentively. Despite his most concentrated attempts at achieving a state of total relaxation as he lay here, he knew deep within that he was too nervous to relax now. His entire body was still rigid with the same tension that had quickly seized possession of him when the birds had launched into song. Since that moment, and in just one single instant, he could sense how every solitary nerve in his body drew as taut as the horsehair on some vintage concert violinist’s bow. His arms and legs seemed to him to be locked so rigidly that he could neither command them to move nor could he actually get them to hold still. With his arms shivering ever so lightly then, Ch.ase felt as helpless as he reckoned a quadriplegic might in such a situation. A pronounced ache began making itself noticeable, arching upward through his shoulders and neck, spreading speedily into and across the back of his head. As he concentrated on taking another series of deep breaths, exhaling long and hard each time as though he were in labor giving birth to a nightmare, Ch.ase shut his eyes tightly again and continued to do his best at yet another attempt at relaxation. In between breaths, he reached for the tablets and opened the vial. He tapped two pills onto the palm of his left hand and swallowed them without water.

And, of course, all the while he could not stop listening.

By this time, however, he wasn’t really sure of what he was hearing anymore, as the rising tidal rush and roar of blood in his ears was actually just as deafening to him as the perceived chatter of the birds. It sounded to him like a fast-running stream gushing forth, circulating erratically and splashing wild foamy corpuscles through the countless tiny canyon-like channels that this river had eroded within the cavities of his skull.

Was this maybe the heavy metal version of tinnitus? Or was he only slowly but surely losing his mind? Maybe this was what the Big Eddy of nervous breakdowns felt like when it came on?

Slowly, though, he regained the upper hand and sensed himself capturing control of his body again. Ultimately, he succeeded in returning to a state of lying completely motionless on the bed. The shaking was done and over, things were going to be alright after all. He was doing his utmost to retain control over himself, determined to face down the last of the still recurring waves of tension that braced his body, albeit in diminishing cycles.

He lay there, just listening. Just closing his eyes.

Breathing in deeply.

Exhaling slowly, as though he were trying to blow out a candle that was a mile away.

In situations like this, he was often tempted to finally try some form of stronger meditation or perhaps astral traveling. He longed in such moments to possess the ability to simply sever all the bonds to his own body and self at will, straining hard to imagine what it would be like to allow his mind the luxury and the freedom to simply wander off–examining, for example, the prodigious assembly of colorful songbirds which he thought could be found gathered in the apex of a lush canopy of green foliage directly outside the open window of his bedroom.

He seldom got very far however. In fact, he usually tended to spend most of the time pondering whether it was even at all possible to succeed at astral traveling if one had to work as diligently at it as he was doing.

So, as a kind of diversion, he would in such moments regularly resort to considering how it happened that the birds always managed to get to their roosting place without his ever once having noticed their movements.

And, in a further exercise in distraction, he often tried imagining where they might have come from in the first place.

In his mind’s eye, he sometimes actually briefly succeeded in becoming a detached observer to this avian spectacle. He would find himself watching intently as they stealthily amassed in the last fleeting light of the evening, diminutive shadows that hustled silently and quickly to and fro, through the soft, blue-black velvet blackening sky hanging on the peripheral fringes of twilight.

This would be in those final few fluid minutes before the nocturnal sky assumed its deep impenetrable luster and all life, almost conspiratively, seemed to grind to an uneasy halt. An almost deafening whisper would make itself noticeable in the first minutes of darkness before it too subsided, nearly unnoticeably at first, just like the mist that follows on the heels of an afternoon tropical downpour so often does.

The birds would of course be resting during the night, perched high up in the uppermost branches of the trees, just as he, too, would be sleeping. But in truth, he suspected, these birds probably never really slept. They would instead be simply resting while collectively bearing mute witness to the constellations of the night, watching as the stars dotting the darkness of the heavens gradually revealed themselves and rotated patiently, bit by bit, to face the first soft hints of light spilling over the eastern horizon each morning. This grand assembly of birds formed a stoical congregation that united nightly in body and spirit, anticipating with a firm and quiet certainty the first tentative scattering of dawn that would soon yield to another day.

A new day.

Of course, Ch.ase couldn’t be absolutely certain, but he did actually suspect that birds were probably pretty stupid creatures. Back when he was a kid, he recalled having seen various depictions of their skulls and skeletons being directly correlated to those of a number of long-extinct dinosaurs, the implication being that this was irrefutable evidence that they were direct descendants of the great lizards. And obviously the knowledge that dinosaurs had the neurological equivalent of peanuts for brains certainly wasn’t restricted only to some elite handful of paleontologists. So Ch.ase reasoned that, to these birds, any new day would most likely be a day pretty much like yesterday. They might find themselves pecking for worms in the pouring rain again, pooping off high tension wires all day long or simply fretting about how to judiciously avoid being eaten by cats while going about their daily business.

Eating, crapping and minding the food chain.

Day in and day out.

But to Ch.ase and all the other civilized beings on this worldmonde.Planet, matters were somewhat more complicated than this. Admittedly, there was also the eating, crapping and minding the food chain bit as well. But Ch.ase was dead certain that the birds didn’t give have a clue about yesterday anymore. And if they did, they certainly didn’t give a damn. For them, it was all about now and maybe a little bit about later. But Ch.ase felt that he was, like probably everyone else on the worldmonde.Planet, condemned to spending his days building bridges to traverse time. So, for all he knew, the new day today might well be one just like tomorrow could well also be. Or perhaps more like the day thereafter.

Yes, it could actually turn out to be a prelude to the future.time. But, at the same time, it might equally well be another day exactly like yesterday was. Or, it wouldn’t surprise him, like the day prior to that. Today or tomorrow might present everyone with yet another unexpected opportunity to relive the irredeemable promises of the past.time over and over again.

Or it might provide them with a convenient means to flee from it, providing them with a myriad of excuses to redefine their failings–or even better yet: those of others–if necessary.

This likely happened more often than most people were willing to admit or perhaps more often than some people even realized. In fact, it was something that was always going on around him.

His thoughts returned back to the birds.

Beneath the shelter provided by the dense canopies of these trees, Ch.ase was dead certain the mornings exuded such intensity that already the sheer premonition of a new day’s arrival can be felt here with all the senses. Here, in this place and in this instant, the air actually takes on an ethereal quality, caressing and brushing the skin with its still cool moisture, enveloping the body in osmotic folds of silken breathiness. A fragrance of lusty, flowery freshness rolls through everything in these few minutes during which day and night teeter precipitously in each other’s arms, pushing forward like a bow wave which momentarily revitalizes everything and everyone with its distinct scent, familiar yet indescribable, not unlike that of an imminent summer rain relieving the senses of their feel of deprivation, of the same yearning that might characterize a drought.

A drought that may have lasted anywhere from hours to years to an entire lifetime, all spent waiting for something like a warm, soft rain to fall.

But the unfolding of morning is as unhurried as it is inevitable. In fact, before one realizes what is happening, it will already have progressed beyond that fleeting instant where one eagerly sees, hears, tastes, and feels its coming. In this transitory moment, the crescendo of the birds will suddenly lend it a voice with which the essence of the following hours can be briefly distilled into song.

It is like a song that resonates as clearly as the vibration of a crystal, irrespective of what joy or sadness, pleasure or pain the day actually heralds.

With each new morning, this cycle repeats itself and thereby simultaneously also reasserts its innocence. Morning for morning in the transient radiance of the early hours of dawn, it seems that the measure of things governing nature, and in fact the earth itself, is reset while one’s own clock continues to resolutely tick away some jumbled semblance of hours and minutes, beats and counter-beats. And once we have understood and accepted this, it becomes impossible, inconceivable even, to attribute any of the responsibility for whatever subsequently happens to anything other than the mere existence of some deep underlying tangle of failings, and sometimes even outright evil, that lies concealed deep within the twists and turns of the human soul.

Not unlike the transgressions which will inevitably unfold somewhere today, with or without our own direct involvement, on this worldmonde.Planet.

This instant of the dawning, then, could be viewed as the equivalent of an immaculate white virgin sheet of paper upon which the day’s protocol will be indelibly etched, very often in sweat and sometimes in blood.

What irony, then, that this incorruptible record of the march of time then almost invariably disappears from our consciousness as new pages are being written, consigned into the rubbish bin of some collective amnesia. That little which ultimately survives in our scant understanding of humanity and human history is arguably nothing more than the dog-eared fragments of a grand narrative, sometimes treasured but almost always starved of its inner logic and substance by a simple non-malicious form of near-universal neglect.

So it is that the break of day often represents to us only an instant before our awareness and our perceptions wander to other things that seem to matter more than that very instant we actually begin directing our attention to them. But it is this one briefest of moments, more than any other, which fleetingly bridges the future.time and the past.time. For many people, this day may offer a chance to find fault or give blame. For others, the advent of a new day will present them with some excuse to relive the past.time.

And so, after lying inert on his bed in this fashion and pondering these things as well as his own place in the universal order of things for several more minutes, Ch.ase finally succeeded in brushing the covers aside. He crawled out of his bed with a sigh. Shuddering briefly as he stood up, his bare feet absorbed the unholy chill of a cool faux-wooden laminate floor that felt as though its boards were made not of varnished paperboard but of ice or even frozen slabs of meat instead. Without bothering to turn on the light as he went, Ch.ase began making his way toward the bedroom window. As he drew up a sun-bleached paper shade with his left hand, he cast a first cautious glance through the dull pane at the street immediately below his window. It was completely empty, as it usually was at this early hour.

And, of course, there was no canopy of green leaves to be seen outside.

In fact, there were no trees at all to be seen outside his window.

Instead, a closed row of modest brick buildings presented themselves to him on this morning, as monotonous as ever in their stubborn uniformity. Although this street was probably rather unremarkable by anyone’s standards in [email protected], some of the houses of the neighborhood seemed to hover somewhere in a discernible stage of disrepair bordering on decay. As a whole, though, the ensemble he was viewing in the receding gloom at this moment formed a somber hem that was sewn to the torn and faded fabric of a street as gray and listless as an early northern sky in winter. The windows of the houses opposite to his appeared vacant to him as the city slept.

They were not unlike the cavities of unseeing eyes, matte and dusty black.

The drawn shades of his neighbors, almost all of whom continued to be outright strangers to Ch.ase, tellingly underscored the kind of all-encompassing fluid apathy that often permeated the atmosphere of many so-called middle class neighborhoods, here and elsewhere. If one looked closely, everything here seemed to be covered with a fine layer of sand and dust.

But, what was most disturbing for him personally at this particular moment, was that there was not a single bird to be seen anywhere out there.

Nothing. Not even a lowly pigeon was visible sitting anywhere in the semi-darkness. Nothing even remotely avian was perched anywhere upon one of the fences, rain gutters or rooftops in Ch.ase’s field of view as he peered through the glass.

Yet the birds were indisputably back.

He had just heard them.

As a matter of fact, lately he could hear them nearly every morning. Sometimes their sound was a melodious singing, as it was this morning.

At other times, though, it could be a disquieting cacophony.

In the quiet solitude of such mornings, Ch.ase often fretted about the fact that he thought that he could actually consciously feel himself aging physically. He had been living in this place since he was somewhere around twenty-five, maybe even thirty years of age. He wasn’t exactly sure, though, when exactly this was anymore. This was one of the things that unsettled him most whenever he would pause to think about it. The linear notion of time in reference to biological age in humans had been largely erased by an unprecedented spurt of scientific progress. And, like it or not, he found himself caught up in the swirl of it just like everyone else around him.

And, of course, the fact that he was living alone didn’t make things any easier for him. If nothing else, it meant that something as relatively simple as counting the time spent together with someone in a bond of companionship was also useless as a datum of reference in his life.

He knew of course, just as everyone else did, that years came and went regularly. And he was fairly certain that others, too, quite often found themselves at odds with a perception of time that bore little or no relationship to the realities of their existence. He thought that he could sometimes sense this very acutely. But he had never seriously considered how one might perhaps win back control over the flow of time as it related to one’s self. He had simply closed his eyes to this thought, convinced that the correlation of biological and chronological time was something to be borne out on a personal level and not really all that relevant to one’s being. After all, it lay in the power of anyone to steer this process to no small degree. What was worrying to him lately, though, was that, as far as he could tell and though nothing appeared to have changed for the worse in his life, time had somehow become so erratic and unpredictable in its passage to him personally that he dreaded an endless quarter century might suddenly elapse in a single week with no warning.

Other times, a single day sometimes felt to him like the equivalent of a leap year.

In earlier times, not even so long ago, it had still been possible to rely upon age as a kind of measure of one’s social identity–even if it wasn’t always one hundred percent accurate. But, given today’s level of scientific progress, chrono.Engineers had succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams in rendering even this crudest of yardsticks invalid.

As these thoughts flew through his head, Ch.ase stood rubbing his forearms in a futile attempt to make his goose-pimples, brought on by the chill of the cold floor beneath his feet, recede. Accepting that he was unlikely to be successful at this as long as he stood shivering half-naked before the bedroom window, he turned away again and, while edging his way around the foot end of the bed, stubbed the small toe of his left foot for the second time in as many days as he turned the corner with perhaps just a bit too much abandon. Biting his lip and limping slightly as he hoped and waited for the flash of pain to abate, he passed through a small hallway which was the entrance area to the flat before entering the front room of what he called home without any great fondness.

Both rooms were rectangular-shaped and of more or less equal size, each not quite twenty square meters or so, with bare floors and sober, symmetrical arrangements of windows located on the opposing outer walls. The bedroom, with its two windows facing northward, contained little more than his very austere toe-killer metal frame bed that had the appearance of some surplus military-issue, no-frills hospital fixture sold at auction. Other than the bed, the room’s remaining furnishings consisted of only the nightstand–atop of which throned the formidable but tacky plastic clock with its supreme aura of invincibility–and a fairly large matching hardwood closet to hang his modest wardrobe in.

Lining the wall to the left of the door stood, among various bags and boxes, an ancient plastic navy blue oyster-shell type suitcase and a stack of square, hard-plastic interlocking boxes that Ch.ase had never bothered to unpack after moving into this place.

He’d just never taken the time. And, quite honestly, he’d never seen any reason to make the effort.

As a result, the stack of boxes was simply ignored over the years.

He was alone, anyhow. So there was certainly no one around who might care or object.

Ch.ase certainly didn’t care anymore.

The second room, the one with its windows on the southern side, contained little more than a sort of minimalistic cook-in kitchenette along with the obligatory portable telly.tube, a ragged and visibly old desktop flat screen MindφSet monitor, the non-portable kind of yore, perched atop a wooden table and an ancient leather two-seat sofa, weathered by now but still sporting a surprisingly cheerful yellow color beneath its patina. Ch.ase would occasionally fall asleep on this while slouched before the telly.tube late at night, his legs dangling loosely over one of the arms of the sofa until his feet went numb, signaling to him that it was time to go to bed. He seldom cooked in here since he usually ate at the office or grabbed a MucMucilage at one of the many cheerful high-end take-away places that lined the route from his office back to home. On those rather rare occasions when he did eat his meals at home, these were usually limited to something like Mr. Ed’s All-StarµSurrogateSirloin hyperwavable dinners, packed and sold in shiny tinfoil, which he would chow down on while sitting at one end of the old wooden table. The temperature of the accompanying [email protected] was usually the deciding element in judging the quality of the overall dining experience.

The far end of the table, directly behind the monitor, was piled high with odd bits of clippings, torn out magazine pages, envelopes or hardcopy mail addressed to “occupant” praising and purveying people, products and organizations which he didn’t like, want or need as well as what looked like endless reams of yellowing paper, most of which had eventually become inconsequential in nature because he seldom, if ever, bothered to read it anymore. Maybe he’d get around to it sooner or later, he would sometimes think to himself whenever it became necessary to shove the pile back or forth across the table.

But he never seemed to get around to it. In this day and age, he reasoned, why bother? All the important stuff was being dispatched electronically anyhow.

But despite this undisputable truth, [email protected] was nonetheless still light-years away from being a paperless society in this modern era. In fact, Ch.ase found the sheer amount of paper used for printing flyers and advertising brochures which he, and probably everyone else, considered to be superfluous was quite remarkable in light of the fact that he suspected that there was probably not a single tree around to even begin to manufacture quality paper from. Or, as he was rightfully convinced, because it was very unlikely that the Domain.State of [email protected] could or would afford itself the luxury of spending its scarce resources importing anything as inconsequential as paper for the purpose of random advertising, irrespective of whether any trees for pulp production were readily available or not.

Perhaps recycling had been perfected to the degree of being a fine art, he occasionally pondered as he again pushed the pile this way or that. There was no other compellingly logical explanation that he could think of.

And even though such essentially eco-friendly thoughts did cross his mind on more than just one occasion, this insight in no way ever increased his desire to either read his junk mail or at least ensure that it was recycled. Frankly, he wasn’t really convinced that reading this unsolicited material would in any way serve to minimize the waste of resources inherent in its production and distribution.

To the immediate right of one of the windows in this second room was the tiny kitchenette area, consisting essentially of a small basin, a half-size solar powered chill.Box, a hyperwave oven and a fairly decrepit thermo.stove with four gas burners of varying sizes, probably dating back as far, he reckoned, as the dawning of modern industrial history. By virtue of its age, and thus through no real failing that could be attributed to the stove, this apparatus did actually look to be in a bit worse state than it perhaps truly was. Ch.ase, for his part, had declined offers by the building management to replace it and, later on, also resolved that there was no responsibility whatsoever on his part to clean it as he had never once put it to any use. The visible crust of grime with which the stovetop was caked–very likely petrified chili con carne or something disturbingly similar–was pretty much Neolithic in nature anyhow.

Wedged in on one side of the tiny hallway between these two rooms and thus directly opposite the main entrance door to the flat, was a small cubicle containing the shower and a toilet, lit by an ungainly-looking pseudo-chandelier with a laser and LED light show function, installed by Ch.ase when he moved in, to assist in establishing the necessary mood and atmosphere requisite for a happy home. Aside from the hexagonal designer seat with its trendy fluorescent rim, the toilet was equipped with an electronic optical sensor flushing mechanism that unfortunately didn’t always function in exactly the way it was intended. If things were going well, it required only a few waves of the hand, for example, or a burst of lights on, lights off. On other occasions, though, it sometimes required vigorous voodoo chants, coaxing or physical abuse. Frustrated by either the sheer nonsense of the technology or his own ineptitude, Ch.ase tried religiously to avoid using this contraption, if this was at all possible, since the master bathroom–as the lease agreement referred to the cube in a slightly exaggerated description–possessed neither a window that could be opened nor any other adequate source of ventilation.

As a consequence, the only time, generally speaking, it was used was when Ch.ase would grudgingly make his appearance in it after awakening in the morning and again before retiring to bed at night. Since Ch.ase understandably harbored a deep disdain toward this room and the facilities contained within it anyhow, and because he reasoned that it was therefore rarely ever put to real use, the level of care he voluntarily devoted to it during his sojourn in this homestead corresponded roughly to that which he accorded to the Neolithic crud encrusted on the gas stove in the adjoining room.

It was no exaggeration to note that Ch.ase actually loathed everything about the master bathroom. And this was true despite the fact that he was actually light-years away from being of anything that even remotely approached aesthetic inclination. Nonetheless, what little appreciation for practical things he did possess led him to accept that his objective evaluation of the building’s architectural failings could not leave him entirely indifferent on this particular count. Ever since the waning of the 20th century, there existed in far too many corners of the developed worldmonde.Planet some tacitly acknowledged widespread stubborn persistence in designing and building flats and houses, if one could even call them such, with flat leaky roofs, squeaky floors, small garages and essentially airtight bathrooms and toilets.

Architects were a complete mystery to him. Perhaps they either lived entirely different biological lives than he did or maybe they were chronically constipated, Ch.ase surmised. For him, there was no other feasible explanation. How could anyone deliberately build master bathrooms like his? He was always, without exception, disgusted by the pervasive stench that would linger in his flat whenever he was foolhardy or desperate enough to have to take a dump at home.

In fact, it was because of this dire shortcoming, resulting from a conflict of interest in the biological-architectural realm, that he would more than just occasionally find himself spending more of his already scarce time at the office voluntarily–just to avoid this dilemma.

As already mentioned, between the two rooms, opposite the entrance to the master bathroom, was the main entrance door that opened into the building’s stairwell. Ch.ase’s flat was located on the upper floor of this rather unobtrusive building, directly below the attic. Although the place beneath his was also rented out, he only very rarely ever met his neighbor, a baldish fellow who looked a bit like a potato or a turtle. He knew next to nothing about him other than the fact that he was employed in the construction business and that he apparently indulged very heavily in garlic and even more often in classical music–particularly Bach’s Brandenburg Concerts and Händel’s Water Musick, for which he apparently hedged an especially deep affinity, judging by the liberal amount of play he accorded it.

Ch.ase shuddered for a moment at the thought of water. He absolutely hated the stuff if it was anywhere other than in a glass for drinking purposes. Ever since Fulton’s death, he hated and, deep within, even feared it.

And Ch.ase sometimes wondered about another thing peculiar to his neighbor downstairs: the crashing of items such as glass or dishes could be heard coming fairly regularly from the apartment below. Although it did, of course, seem a bit odd to him, he had grown accustomed to this small idiosyncrasy with the passage of time. Perhaps the fellow had no dishwasher, Ch.ase reasoned, or, if that wasn’t the explanation, then maybe he was just plain clumsy.

In any case, the extent of their few contacts seldom went beyond the largely unchivalrous gesture of placing each other’s heaps of junk mail at their respective door stoop in the event that the otherwise disused letter boxes were once again overflowing due to the incessant stream of advertising flyers, most of which simply urged him to buy cheap and buy now.

Thus, the otherwise largely redundant mailboxes of [email protected] were not really any different than those of their counterparts in other so-called developed societies around the globe–or, for that matter, Ch.ase’s tabletop. Despite the nearly universal disdain for it, unsolicited junk advertising literally flooded every household in [email protected]–and probably every other one on the worldmonde.Planet, hidden away in lots of the other places of whose existence he knew little or nothing.

Located in the stairwell on the landing one floor higher, positioned directly above Ch.ase’ flat, was the entrance door to the attic. The rental agreement he had signed what might well have been a gazillion years ago expressly stipulated that both parties were entitled equally to its utilization. To his recollection, though, neither of them had ever made any real pretense of doing so. It was therefore a logical consequence that the door affording access to the attic had remained securely padlocked with a very substantial lock for as long as Ch.ase had been living here and, judging by its industrial age appearance, very likely even long before this. The lock was an old but formidable model, looking as though it was primarily suitable for use on steamships, fossil-fuel powered oversized harvesting machinery or for securely locking cages–containing frenzied hordes of angry gorillas, rabid pit bull terriers or other similarly dispositioned beasts–with one quick twist of a key.

As for a key, Ch.ase was clueless as to whether one still existed and if so, who might be in possession of it. But since he had never had any real interest in using the attic anyway, it never occurred to him to invest the effort to find out.

And, besides, it was entirely possible that, deep within, he had now, in the meantime, perhaps grown apprehensive of being questioned by someone, by anyone, over why he would suddenly want to open the door after so many long years of disuse.

Or disinterest.

In any event, Ch.ase considered it extremely unlikely that anyone was going to take him terribly seriously if he were ever to voice his suspicion that the attic over his apartment was full of birds.

Ch.ase was sure that he knew the system.status pretty well.

“I’m no fool,” he muttered to himself as he headed for the toilet, fumbling with his fly and thinking fleetingly about the birds again.

Eating, crapping and minding the food chain. Maybe the birds weren’t quite as stupid as he initially thought.

WE BE ONE NOW

Almost overnight, it seemed the entire worldmonde.Planet had virtually reorganized itself and, as one might expect in the aftermath of any such helter-skelter situation, it had resulted in an incredibly enormous amount of confusion and, at least from the perspective of those hapless souls less than enthralled by this new development, yet another sorry state of affairs to be lamented as loudly as possible.

What had actually happened was, on the face of it, quite simple. Major portions of the civilized worldmonde.Planet as everyone had known it had, for any one of any number of reasons, elected to transform their respective societies by fast-forwarding at something approaching breakneck pace for fear of finding themselves shut out of the many blessings of modernity if they continued to drag their feet while so many others welcomed the liberating spirit of progress without reservation. The cumulative result of such an endeavor was bound to initially be what resembled a huge incomprehensible mess to a significant number of the worldmonde.Planet’s somewhat less enlightened–or privileged–citizens. Seen after the fact, this whirlwind culmination of the globalization.bliss process had asserted itself in the manifestation of a relatively sudden cultural and economic revolution that was not entirely unlike the big bang theory regularly purveyed by legions of ostensibly educated heretics to describe the origins of the universe. The and phase of history appeared to have finally sputtered to a halt and had in the meantime given way to largely rhetorical skirmishes staged to obscure an uncomfortable truth: that not many people were willing to admit or even consider the logical tendency of economies of scale to quickly run out of steam when they elect to tailor them to fit the needs of rapidly shrinking entities.

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