Welcome to the August edition of First Monday Free Fiction. To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on every first Monday of the month. It will remain free to read on this blog for one month, then I’ll take it down and post another story.
This month’s free story Albrecht, the Nightmare is a humorous contemporary fantasy tale about a nightmare demon named Albrecht, his human girlfriend Lina and the unexpected difficulties caused by an ancient warding spell.
This is one of the comparatively few stories I’ve ever written that is not just set in Germany, namely in Altenmarhorst near Twistringen some twenty-five kilometres from where I live, but that also draws on local folklore. Cause the farmhouses with the crossed horsehead gable are real and nigh ubiquitous. Albrecht’s friend Lambert Sprengepiel, hero of the Thirty Years War turned hellhound, was a real person as well, though most likely he did not really turn into a hellhound. The city of Vechta has a statue dedicated to him, in hellhound form. Though Councillor Müller-Wölenkamp is entirely fictional.
So enjoy the misadventures of
Albrecht, the Nightmare
All in all, the great supernatural coming out of 2020 was a much bigger success than anybody could have anticipated.
After the initial announcement in Germany’s biggest tabloid, there were extensive debates everywhere. For maybe two months every single political talk show in the country discussed a variation of the subject “Do supernatural beings have a place in our society?” Though the TV producers had stopped inviting actual supernatural beings to these talk shows after a massive debacle when Günther Jauch was seen interviewing empty air for ten minutes, because vampires couldn’t be caught on camera. Jauch himself later insisted that it was the best interview he’d ever done, but since no one had seen or heard anything, there was unfortunately no way of proving that assertion.
The Federal German Parliament got into the act as well and came to the conclusion that as long as they had a German passport, supernatural beings were indeed German citizens, a decision later confirmed by the Supreme Court. Of course, it wasn’t as if parliament had any choice in the matter, considering that several members of parliament were revealed to be supernatural beings themselves, including a former secretary of finance, who — it turned out — had been a werewolf all along.
Once the official status of supernaturals had been confirmed by the Federal German Parliament, supernaturals began outing themselves in countries all over the world, much to the embarrassment of those pundits and politicians who had insisted that “that sort of thing” was unthinkable in their own countries.
Of course, there also was opposition, as might have been expected. In Dresden, a group calling themselves PEADO — Patriotic Europeans Against the Demonisation of the Occident — held a few marches and candlelight vigils. They eventually stopped, when the patriotic Europeans got bored of standing around in the cold every Monday night. Not to mention that several of the brave and patriotic Europeans became rather nervous when vampires and werewolves started hanging out at the edges of their marches, staring hungrily at the protesters.
A few hate crimes against supernaturals were registered as well. There was a wave of stake attacks against vampires, all unsuccessful, because regular humans are simply to slow to do much harm to a vampire. And in Hoyerswerda — where else? — a skinhead tried to stab a werewolf with a silver fork and was promptly eaten for his trouble. The resulting trial was a media sensation, but eventually the judge came to the conclusion that eating skinheads was indeed self-defence, provided the skinheads attacked first.
But in general, the country quickly adjusted to the presence of its new supernatural citizens. Within weeks of the announcement, humans and supernaturals alike were partying in the secret underground vampire clubs of Berlin and only a handful of people got bitten, all voluntarily. Restaurants began offering fresh blood and raw meat on their menus and added warning labels for garlic. Grocery stores soon followed suit. Someone started a petition to remove roadside crosses, since they were upsetting vampires.
In March 2021, a vampire family moved into the soap opera Lindenstraße, played by human actors alas, because technology still hadn’t found a way around the problem of capturing vampires on any kind of recording media. In 2023, a zombified ex-celebrity accidentally infected all the contestants of I’m a celebrity — Get me out of here!, causing a zombie hunt in the jungle and promptly giving the fading show its highest ratings ever. At the 2024 Olympics, a selkie won an unprecedented number of gold medals in the swimming competitions.
All in all, it was a good time to be a supernatural. Unless you were Albrecht.
Albrecht was a nightmare. No, not a bad dream or a disaster waiting to happen. Albrecht was a literal nightmare, a shapeshifting demon who visited ladies by night and sat on their chest, while they slept. Usually, he also had sex with them. Sometimes, he braided their hair as well, because he just loved long luscious hair, and — when available — he drank their breast milk, because Albrecht was simply mad about breast milk.
Albrecht had been visiting ladies — as well as the occasional man or horse, when there were no ladies available — for over three centuries, when the great coming out happened. And like all other supernaturals, Albrecht promptly promised to reform. Henceforth, he would only visit willing ladies and all of his nocturnal escapades would be one hundred percent consensual.
There was never any lack of willing takers either. Because once supernaturals had revealed themselves to the country at large, young ladies were pretty much queuing up to spend a night with one of them. Of course, vampires were the most popular supernatural lovers, the bastards. Though those who liked it a bit wild and furry tended to go for the werewolves instead. Centaurs proved unexpectedly popular, because not only did they have two sets of genitalia, but they were also literally hung like a horse. Only zombies still couldn’t get any — the smell was simply too revolting.
Initially, Albrecht’s success with the ladies was somewhat hampered by the fact that in his natural form he looked like a short grey demonic imp. But luckily, he was a shapeshifter and could shift into any form he pleased. So he took to modelling himself after popular film stars. He alternately turned himself George Clooney and Brad Pitt and all those blokes named Chris who played superheroes, but his most successful glamour was the chicken-chested dude who played the lead in all those bad German comedies, which just went to show that humans were weird.
Case in point: Even breast milk became more abundant after the supernaturals had come out of the closet. Turned out that humans had some very strange fetishes and that even new moms were not immune. And with so many single moms around, it wasn’t even as if he were cheating on some poor cuckolded husband.
All in all, those were the best days in Albrecht’s three century long life. He was living in Berlin, which was supernatural central in those days, partied in the secret underground clubs all night long and went home to sit on the chest of a different lady every day. Plus, he got all the breast milk he could ever want. Yes, it was truly a wonderful time.
Until the inevitable happened. Albrecht fell in love, head over cloven hoofs.
Her name was Lina and she was a student at Humboldt University. She was smart and funny and actually liked Albrecht in his true impish form. She had rosy cheeks and a pleasantly curvy body and a healthy appetite for sex. Her hair was like spun gold and she did not mind at all, when Albrecht braided it by night. And since she was the mom of Finn, a five-month-old bundle of joy, she even had breast milk.
Life was good. No, it was better than good. It was absolutely perfect.
But then one night, while Albrecht was braiding her long golden hair after a bout of vigorous sex, Lina told him out of the blue that at the end of the semester she’d be transferring to a small rural university and that she’d move back in with her parents. She needed help with Finn, she said, and her mother would be only too happy to take care of him, while Lina was at uni.
Albrecht couldn’t even argue with that. Because the truth was that he was useless as a babysitter. Not that he hadn’t tried, cause he had, for Lina’s sake. He’d even taken to changing Finn’s diapers and messed up only once in a while. But apart from that, Albrecht just didn’t know what to do with babies. To him, they were merely a slightly annoying by-product of breast milk and he had problems seeing them as anything else.
“But what about us?” Albrecht asked, once Lina had dropped the bombshell on him, “I love you and I don’t want to lose you.”
“Then come with me,” Lina said, “My parents have a big farmhouse with more than enough room for the three of us.”
“And they won’t mind?” Albrecht asked carefully, because in his experience meeting the parents of one of the subject of his nocturnal visits usually ended with torches and pitchforks. “They won’t mind that I’m supernatural and a nightmare at that?”
“Well…” Lina began in a way that made Albrecht lose all hope, “…maybe we should keep the fact that you’re not exactly human under wraps at first. I mean, my folks are open-minded — for farmers from rural North Germany, that is. But not that open-minded.”
In other words, it would be torches and pitchforks again.
“But maybe you could wear your glamour at first,” Lina suggested, “And then, once my parents have gotten to know you, I’m sure they won’t mind that you’re a nightmare.”
Albrecht had his sincere doubts about that.
Nonetheless, Albrecht followed Lina, when she and baby Finn moved back home, back to rural North Germany. And so he left behind the lights and the glitter and the parties of Berlin for the Wildeshauser Geest and a tiny village named Altenmarhorst.
Now Albrecht hadn’t actually been in rural North Germany since the Thirty Years War. And once he’d been back for barely half an hour, he remembered why.
The trouble started when Albrecht, Lina and Finn pulled into the yard of her parents’ farm in Lina’s old Volkswagen. Lina took Finn out of his car seat and carried him into the house while Albrecht — wearing his chicken-chested filmstar glamour — busied himself with the luggage and watched from a wary distance as Lina hugged and kissed her parents.
Once the parents had gone back inside, to make coffee or some such thing, Albrecht finally cautious stepped forward… only to come to an abrupt, crashing halt barely a step before the threshold of the farmhouse.
“Albrecht?” Lina asked, Finn peeping sleepily over her shoulder, “What’s wrong? — Oh, I forgot. I herewith formally and officially invite you into our house.”
She crooked her head. “Odd. I always thought that was just vampires.”
“It is,” Albrecht said through gritted teeth. He was still transfixed, unable to move even a single centimetre forward.
“Then what is it?” Lina wanted to know, “Why won’t you come in?”
“I can’t,” Albrecht replied, every word an effort.
“Why not? You don’t have to be afraid of my parents. They might bark, but they don’t bite.”
“I can’t,” Albrecht repeated.
“But why not?” Lina demanded, while Finn stuck his tongue out at Albrecht, “Look, if you didn’t want to come here, you just should’ve said something, cause I…”
“I am physically unable to enter the house.” Albrecht forced the words out of his mouth or rather that of the chicken-chested filmstar, while beads of sweat formed on his forehead or rather on that of the chicken-chested filmstar.
“But why? What’s the problem?”
Albrecht pointed upwards, unable to even look at the horrible thing that lurked up there.
“The roof?” Lina said. Finn popped his thumb into his mouth and started to suck. “You have a phobia of thatched roofs?”
“No.” Albrecht squeezed his eyes shut and pointed at the horrible thing on the roof, the thing that was taunting him. “I mean that… that thing.”
“You have issues with timbered houses?” Lina exclaimed, “Oh, if it’s about the lintel motto, ‘Dear Lord, beware us of demons and devils’ is not meant literally.”
Oh sure, anti-demon rhetoric was never meant literally for some reason. Just as all those “Foreigners, go home” graffiti were never meant literally either.
“No, it’s that.” Now Albrecht did open his eyes just long enough to point at the horrible, horrible thing on the roof.
“You have a problem with gables? But almost all houses have gables.”
“The horses,” Albrecht cried, forcing the hateful word over his forked tongue.
“You have a phobia of horses?” Lina exclaimed, “But when we took Finn to the petting zoo, you had zero problems with the ponies.”
“Horse heads,” Albrecht corrected, “The horse heads on your gable are an ancient magic spell to ward off nightmares like me. So I can’t enter your house. Not while those horse heads are there.”
“Oh,” Lina said. She looked up at the gable of her parents’ house and the two wooden boards carved into stylised horse heads, as if seeing them for the first time. “This is going to be a problem.”
And a problem it was. Because those damned crossed horse heads and the old warding spell they represented were everywhere. Not just on Lina’s house, but on those of her neighbours as well. Every damned farmhouse in the village bore the horse heads on its gable, as did the village shop, the school, the post office and the only inn. Even the bus shelters were adorned with those bloody horse heads.
But it got worse. Because not only did the old traditional houses bear the crossed horse heads — no, new houses that were barely ten years old did so as well. And even if there were no gables and no places to actually put the horse heads, the horse heads were still there, as logos on banks, gas stations and grain silos and in the coats of arms of villages and towns everywhere.
Albrecht was miserable. He couldn’t go anywhere, couldn’t sleep anywhere, because everywhere he went, there were those crossed horse heads, mocking him and telling him, “Thou shalt not pass, demon.”
He was reduced to sleeping in an old caravan that belonged to Lina’s parents, because it was the only accommodation in the whole bloody village that was not adorned with crossed horse heads. Lina occasionally snuck out at night to visit Albrecht, but all in all, he got a lot less nookie and breast milk than he had back in Berlin.
“And you’re sure that the old spells still work?” Lina wanted to know during their daily meetings at the McDonald’s in the nearest town. McDonald’s was the only place apart from the caravan where Albrecht could spend a bit of time, since even here in the heart of the North German lowlands, McDonald’s did not adopt crossed horse heads, since they clashed with the desired corporate identity.
“Cause nobody I talked to ever heard anything about the horse heads being intended to ward off nightmares and other demons,” she continued, “It’s just the way we build houses here, the way we’ve always built them.”
“And why do you think you build houses that way?” Albrecht countered, taking a hearty bite out of a Big Mac that was only a little stale, “Why do you think you carve horses into your gables rather than dragons or birds or crucifixes or any of the other things you could carve?”
Lina was taken aback. “I don’t know,” she said, “It’s just the way things are. Our tradition, so to say. I never really thought about it.”
“No,” Albrecht said miserably. To cheer himself up, he took a heart sip from his monster-sized cola. “No one ever thinks about it. But your ancestors, trust me, they knew exactly what they were doing.”
He popped a French fry into his mouth.
“Initially, they used real horse heads and put them on stakes outside their houses…”
“The smell was quite appalling, so they eventually switched to wooden horse heads carved into the gables of their houses,” Albrecht explained, “The effect is still the same, though. No nightmare can enter any house that is protected by a horse head ornament.”
“That’s awful,” Lina said. She reached out across the table to take his hand. “I had no idea.”
“No,” Albrecht said, still miserable, “Most people don’t.”
“Hmm, I wonder if this is behind that weird scene in The Godfather with the horse head in the bed of that guy. Cause I never really got that bit. But if he was a nightmare, then it would make sense.”
Albrecht nodded, if only because he didn’t want Lina to know that in all his more than three hundred years of life, he had never managed to watch The Godfather all the way through, because the movie just bored him silly. Albrecht preferred comedies.
“Still…” Lina said, sounding a lot more cheery than she had any right to be, “…I think I’ve got a solution. You see, I talked to my parents. And they said that if the gable horses are such a problem, they’ll take them down.”
Albrecht’s face and mood brightened, for the first time since coming here.
“Really? They would do that?”
“They’re my parents,” Lina said, “Of course they would. There’s just one problem…”
Of course. Albrecht should have known that it wouldn’t be that easy.
“…our house is a listed and registered landmark, so we’ll have to go to town and ask the council for permission.”
She smiled, her usual cheery self again. “But I doubt that’s going to be a problem. After all, the council will surely see that gable horses are unacceptable these days, once we explain the issue to them.”
But of course, the town council or rather the councillor in charge of buildings, landmarks, city development and the environment, one Mr. Müller-Wölkenkamp, did not understand the issue at all or recognised that there even was one. Even though Albrecht was only able to enter the townhall through the side entrance, because the main entrance was emblazoned with the town’s coat-of-arms featuring — wouldn’t you know it? — a horse head.
“I don’t see…” Müller-Wölkenkamp said, looking down his nose at Albrecht, as if he were a particularly persistent bit of dogshit stuck to the councillor’s shoe, “…why we should change our established way of life just to accommodate a few supernaturals who have been living among us for less than five years?”
Albrecht was about to point out that he alone had been living amongst humans for over three hundred years and that he knew plenty of supernaturals who were even older. But he held his peace, because he didn’t want to alienate Mr. Müller-Wölkenkamp. After all, they still needed him or rather his signature.
“It is not our intention to change anybody’s way of life,” Lina said, sitting straight-backed in the uncomfortable visitors’ chair, “My boyfriend and I simply want to live together in my parents’ house. But in order to be able to do that, we need to take down the gable horses.”
“Your house is a registered landmark and part of the historical heritage of our town,” Müller-Wölkenkamp countered, “You cannot alter a historical landmark just to satisfy your own selfish desires.”
“My grandparents installed an indoor bathroom instead of the old outhouse. They also installed central heating instead of the old coal oven. And somehow such ‘selfish desires’ as being warm and having a place to pee did not harm the historical value of our house at all.”
“Irrelevant,” Müller-Wölkenkamp said with a dismissive wave of his hand, “Those alterations were likely made before the house achieved landmark status.”
“What about our neighbours then?” Lina wanted to know, “Their house is also a registered landmark and yet they got permission to build a garage right next to said landmark. Or what about the Huskamps down the road? Their house is another registered landmark and they still got permission to install solar panels on their roof. So why are solar panels and garages acceptable, but removing those bloody horse heads is not?”
“Because garages and solar panels improve the lives of the inhabitants of the houses in questions, so certain trade-offs must be made,” Müller-Wölkenkamp said, “However, removing the traditional horse head gable, just because your ‘boyfriend’ here…”
Müller-Wölkenkamp uttered the word with so much disgust, as if he couldn’t imagine how any self-respecting person could sleep with a nightmare. Albrecht seriously considered introducing the man to some succubi who might make him reconsider that opinion. And if he was very lucky, they’d eat Müller-Wölkenkamp afterwards.
“..has an irrational aversion against horses does not improve anybody’s quality of life.”
“Albrecht doesn’t just have an aversion to horses, he’s literally unable to enter the house,” Lina said, “And there’s absolutely nothing irrational about that.”
“We’ve got all sorts of groups demanding special treatment of late,” Müller-Wölkenkamp said, “First, the Muslims said that they didn’t want to eat our sausages because they believe pork is unclean or some such thing. Next we get people complaining about our bread, because it supposedly contains gluten, a substance no one had even heard of twenty years ago. Yet all of a sudden lots of people decide they are allergic to it…”
Müller-Wölkenkamp took a deep breath, obviously overwhelmed by his own outrage.
“And next you know, all those supernaturals show up and suddenly we need warning labels on foods containing garlic and vampires start complaining about roadside crucifixes.”
“Because those crucifixes are a traffic hazard and may cause accidents, when vampires crash their cars,” Albrecht pointed out, as calmly as possible.
“So we have to abandon our traditions and change our whole way of life just because some vampires can’t drive? We have to deface our historical buildings just because some goblins…”
“Ahem, actually I’m a nightmare,” Albrecht pointed out, “Goblins are completely different beings.”
“…have an irrational aversion against horse heads.”
“It’s not an irrational aversion, it’s a reaction to an ancient warding spell,” Lina said.
“That’s irrelevant,” Müller-Wölkenkamp snapped, “The point is that we shouldn’t have to adapt our customs to immigrants and other new arrivals. They will have to adapt to us, if they want to live here.”
Oh, fuck all that!
“Actually…” Albrecht began with a grin that was purely demonic, “…I have been living in this country for more than three hundred years, which makes you the new arrival.”
His grin grew even broader and more devilish.
“Oh yes, and I’ve probably been sleeping with your great-great-grandmother, while I was at it.”
In response, Müller-Wölkenkamp turned a very interesting shade of crimson.
“Out! Out!” he yelled and even made an impromptu sign of the cross fashioned from two ball pens. Albrecht didn’t have the heart to tell him that crosses only worked on vampires. Besides, Müller-Wölkenkamp looked delightfully ridiculous while waving two ball pens about.
“Out or I’ll call security.”
“What a fucking bigot!” Lina exclaimed while she and Albrecht walked back to her car, “He didn’t even want to help us.”
“Humans are often bigots,” Albrecht said wryly, “Particularly the men. They’re all terrified that one of us will show their wives a better time than they do.” And often with good reason, too.
“We cannot let him get away with that,” Lina said, still stewing, “If he’d said something like that about Muslims or Jews or gays or disabled people, he’d get fired on the spot.”
“He did say something nasty about Muslims,” Albrecht pointed out, “And about people with gluten allergy.”
“So it’s okay, just because he’s an equal opportunity bigot?”
“Most bigots are equal opportunity,” Albrecht said, “They hate everybody equally.”
Lina unlocked the car doors and got into the driver’s seat. “We should still do something about this guy,” she said.
Albrecht buckled himself into the passenger seat. “And what?”
Lina gunned the engine. “I don’t suppose you have a friend who’d be willing to eat him and make it look like an accident.”
“Tempting but no,” Albrecht said, “Besides, I’m pretty sure a bigot like that would give even the hardiest werewolf indigestion.”
Lina pulled out of the parking lot. “Maybe we should write to the mayor and inform him that one of his councillors is a bigot who harbours prejudices against supernaturals, Muslims and people with gluten allergy,” she suggested.
“Your mayor probably agrees with him,” Albrecht pointed out, “About us supernaturals at least. He probably doesn’t hate Muslims and people with gluten allergy.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about the Muslims,” Lina said darkly, “In case you hadn’t noticed, people around here are very Catholic.”
“I had noticed,” Albrecht said dryly.
“Plus, we’re a farming region, so people are very peculiar about wheat and bread.”
“I had noticed as well,” Albrecht said.
Lina was still stewing. “There still has to be something we can do,” she said, “Maybe we could start a petition for the removal of horse head gables.”
“Yeah, cause that will work,” Albrecht said.
“Oh, trust me, it will,” Lina said and the gleam in her eye was positively devilish.
Over the next few days and weeks, Albrecht saw even less of Lina, because she was always busy with her campaign against the bigotted councillor Müller-Wölkenkamp. She really did start a petition and went from house to house to get her neighbours to sign it, while Albrecht sat in his caravan, babysitting Finn and sharing a bottle of breast milk with him.
Amazingly, most of the neighbours really did sign the petition. Turned out that no one knew that the horse head gables were not just a traditional decoration — well, no one except for old Mrs. Holthusen who was ninety-seven — and most people were quite shocked to hear that they’d had a bit of ancient magic on their houses all those years. After all, they were good church going Catholics and didn’t hold much with superstition and magic. And they certainly didn’t want any of that in or on their houses.
It also turned out that absolutely no one liked Councillor Müller-Wölkenkamp. Not because he was a bigot, though that played a role as well. No, the true reason no one liked the man was because the good people of Altenmarhorst held him responsible for endless road construction work, ill-advised housing developments and a newly built kindergarten that had grossly exceeded its budget.
Nonetheless, everybody was only too eager to get rid of the man and if accusing him of bigotry against supernaturals (and Muslims and celiacs) was what it took, then so be it. And so there was soon a second petition circulating, one demanding the removal of Councillor Müller-Wölkenkamp.
“And I had next to nothing to do with that,” Lina told Albrecht during their daily meetings at the local McDonald’s, while Finn was amusing himself with a Happy Meal toy, “The people, the real people, are on our side.”
“Or maybe they are just really keen to be rid of Müller-Wölkenkamp,” Albrecht pointed out.
The local paper, always on the look-out for a good story with a local link and a human angle, got into the act next and printed a full page article about Albrecht’s dilemma. The headline of the article was “Lack of bureaucratic flexibility tears little family apart” and it was illustrated with a full colour photo of Lina and Albrecht (in his chicken-chested filmstar glamour) sitting on the bed in Albrecht’s caravan with Baby Finn on Albrecht’s lap.
The newspaper photographer actually asked Albrecht if there were any problems getting him to show up on film.
“Nope, that’s just vampires,” Albrecht replied, though he was still relieved when he saw himself in the newspaper with his glamour intact, for he didn’t want to know how the good and supportive people of Altenmarhorst would react to his true appearance just yet.
Next, a local supernatural named Lambert Sprengepiel contacted Albrecht and Lina. He’d read about their dilemma in the paper he said and he wanted to help. Turned out that when he was still human, Sprengepiel had been a cavalry captain during the Thirty Years War, fighting the “godless Swedes”. Somewhere along the way, he’d made a deal with the Devil — “You know how it is,” he told Albrecht and Lina — and was now doomed to wander the moors by night in the form of a demonic hellhound.
Sprengepiel was understandably upset at the lack of appreciation for supernaturals, considering he’d bargained away his immortal soul to defend the area against the godless Swedes. He also offered to eat Müller-Wölkenkamp or at least tear him limb from limb for his offences against Albrecht and Lina. Besides, so he said, the man was probably a Protestant anyway.
Albrecht and Lina politely declined Sprengepiel’s offer, because Müller-Wölkenkamp getting eaten or ripped limb from limb would only undo all their hard work in dismantling prejudices against supernaturals. Sprengepiel eventually agreed, though he still gave an interview to the local paper, which eventually turned into a five part series about Sprengepiel’s long and varied life.
The public was quite fascinated by Sprengepiel and devoured the series about his life. And so Sprengepiel, who’d once been a local nobleman and lord of all he surveyed after all, eventually decided to run for office against the current mayor. One of his core demands was the removal of both Müller-Wölkenkamp as well as any crosses or horse heads that significantly impacted the lives of supernaturals in the region. All right, so he also planned to defend the town against those godless Swedes and Protestants, until it was pointed out to him that the Thirty Years War had been over for almost four hundred years. Sprengepiel was even gaining some approval, though that might be more due to the fact that the current mayor was so unpopular that even a demonic hellhound seemed like an improvement.
Through it all, Albrecht and Lambert Sprengepiel became fast friends and were often seen reminiscing together about the Thirty Years War. Though Albrecht neglected to mention that back in the day, he’d been fighting on both the Swedish and Imperial side, because he knew his new friend wouldn’t understand.
Baby Finn was also a big fan of Lambert Sprengepiel, but only because he liked riding on Sprengepiel’s back, when he was in his demonic hellhound form.
“Once I’m elected…” Sprengepiel told Albrecht and Lina during a meeting at the local McDonald’s which had by now become the unofficial Lambert Sprengepiel campaign headquarters, “…all this chicanery will cease.”
Lina and Albrecht both nodded and tried to forget the fact that the election was still a year away. But in the end, they didn’t have to wait that long.
Because one day, an elderly neighbour stopped Lina, when she and Finn came out of the local bakery. Albrecht, as usual, couldn’t go because the bakery roof just happened to be adorned with the ubiquitous crossed horse heads, wouldn’t you know it?
“I saw you in the newspaper,” the elderly neighbour, one Mr. Lohmann, said, “You and your young man.”
Lina smiled and nodded and urgently wished she were somewhere else, because Mr. Lohmann tended to go on a bit.
“That’s a very nice young man,” Mr. Lohmann continued, “My wife says he looks a bit like that actor — what’s his name? — you know, the one who was in that movie where the ferret ate his balls.”
Lina nodded politely. “Albrecht gets that a lot.” She smiled. “Though his balls are exactly where they should be.”
Finn made a squealing noise, so Lina stuffed a soft, crumbly cookie into his mouth.
“Anyway, I also read about your problem and I think I may have a solution,” Mr. Lohmann said.
Now Lina’s ears pricked up. “Probably nothing,” she thought, “He’s probably going to tell me to dump the demon and date his son instead. His son who’s completely, utterly and totally gay, by the way.”
“You know the little house on the edge of our property, don’t you?”
Lina nodded. She knew the little old house. It had apparently started life as a hen house and had eventually been turned into a proper human house, albeit a small one. Last she heard, the Lohmanns’ totally not gay son lived there.
Lina sighed. She knew it. He was going to try to fix her up with his son, wasn’t he?
“The house has been empty since Udo moved in with his boyfriend,” Mr. Lohmann said, “We put it on the market and we’ve been looking for renters, but so far no luck.” He shook his head. “The young people are all moving to the big city these days. No respect for tradition and no connection to their home…”
Lina nodded absentmindedly, still boggled by the fact that the Lohmanns knew about Udo being gay.
“But then, I guess you know all about running away to the big city, Lina,” Mr. Lohmann said. He shrugged. “Still, you came back and with a baby and a young man, too.”
He ruffled Finn’s blonde curls. Finn squealed happily and continued crumbling his cookie onto his sweater, his jeans and the pavement.
“And since your young man can’t stay at your parents’, I was wondering if you wanted the little house,” Mr. Lohmann said, “Don’t worry, it doesn’t have a horse head gable.” He shook his head. “Ancient witchcraft adorning our houses, who’d have thought?”
Lina was so overjoyed that she spontaneously hugged old Mr. Lohmann. “Yes, we want the house. Okay, we’ll first have to take a look at it, but… Thank you, Mr. Lohmann! Thank you for everything.”
And so Lina and Albrecht found a place to stay after all. All right, so the house was small with only three rooms plus one tiny kitchen and bathroom, but it was still bigger than the old caravan, not to mention more comfortable. Lina and Albrecht even had a bedroom of their own without constantly having to worry about Finn.
Lambert Sprengepiel really did get himself elected mayor the following year, because it turned out that the current mayor was so unpopular that the people would have voted for almost anyone. He did quite well, too, but then he did have almost four hundred years of experience in politics. Lina even managed to persuade him to tone down the anti-Protestant and anti-Swedish rhetoric by pointing out that those battles had been fought and won long ago.
Eventually, Lambert Sprengepiel and his new councillor in charge of buildings, landmarks, city development and the environment (not Mr. Müller-Wölkenkamp) even managed to find a solution for the dilemma of the crossed horse head gables that satisfied the needs of both supernaturals and the preservation of registered landmarks. And so the crossed horse heads on most of the gables around the village were gradually replaced by crossed unicorn heads, which looked almost the same, but did not trouble Albrecht and other supernaturals in the slightest. Initially, there was some concern that the unicorn gables would attract unicorns, but those concerns turned out to be unfounded, since the unicorns preferred to stay away due to a general shortage of virgins.
Lina and Albrecht eventually got married, once marriages between supernaturals and plain old humans were legalised. And then, a little over two years after Finn was born, Lina had a little girl by artificial insemination (because nightmares happened to be infertile, which was probably for the better), which secured a steady supply of breast milk for Albrecht. They also finally bought a house of their own, because Mr. Lohmann’s little house had gotten too small for a family of four.
And everybody lived happily ever after, secure in the knowledge that supernaturals were not that different from humans after all.
That’s it for this month’s edition of First Monday Free Fiction. Check back next month, when a new story will be posted.