I was a lost piece of corporate dreck. My current assignment was to clean up an inventory disaster in Germany, and I had just been told that my company was about to set me adrift. That’s right, some overweight schlub at headquarters in Chicago was going to cut the ropes while my balloon was floating over a foreign country an ocean away!
My work had been a resounding success, with improvements across the board, and I was already pondering a job offer from a firm which supplied mercenaries to support various adventures in countries where small, private armies were hired to protect corporate, scientific, and philanthropic expeditions.
I had my passport, a lovely little two story rental house, my car, and a natty little German man who’s only fault was a lifelong affinity for peppermint schnapps that was going to kill him soon.
I was told that the schlub had been taking credit for the improvements that I’d worked so hard to implement, while whining that I was so difficult that he had to work overtime to put out the brush fires that I was setting. The problem with that? I didn’t report to him. He didn’t work anywhere near my department.
This is the insanity of corporations. My home office detractor was the individual who had caused the inventory disaster in the first place! I had been sent to clean it up after he was recalled to the home offices. I suspected that he must be the illegitimate grandchild of the company founder, because during the three months that I had spent breaking my back and brain to correct things, he had been restored to an even higher position than he’d been in before. His new position allowed him access to the very people who would determine my fate within the company, and apparently they were listening to him.
My source of information was my very own mole in the home offices. I had saved my mole’s bacon when she had engineered a completely unrelated disaster of her own. I cleaned that mess up before even the rumor mill got wind of it, and she was ever grateful. As a result, she was instrumental in getting me this golden opportunity to fix a major problem, live in glamorous Europe, and return home a hero.
No way was I going to trust any of those lizards at home base to send me overseas without a plan and a bailout. Before I left, I made the corporation pay me a bonus of three months salary, plus expense money for my move back to the US of A. I paid off my debts, and put the extra money into a savings account that I could access anywhere. I also put a thousand dollars into advance California lottery tickets, because I never missed my lottos.
My transit to Germany was routine. I was quickly set up with a house, and my car shipped over without incident. Soon, I was a regular little lady, living in a house and stepping out with a dapper little fellow. When he was still able to step out, that is.
So the news was not as devastating for me as people at home were assuming. I had some good backup plans, enough money to make it home and survive, and the lucrative job offer with the mercenary mart. If I took the mercenary mart job, I would be able to stay in Germany.
But all of this came before my friend, Adelhard, set me up with a unique and unbelievable solution to my, and everyone else’s problems.
German land is insanely well managed. In the region where I lived, there are large areas of forest, punctuated with farmland and dotted with villages and larger towns. My neighborhood consisted of a village with about 3,000 residents, an adjoining forest, and a riverbed. As a consequence, some windows of my house overlooked the village, and others looked into a huge, dense forest. I could merely walk down the street and be in a completely different world within 5 minutes. Walking for 10 minutes more could result in becoming hopelessly lost, if it weren’t for the well preserved roads and signage which easily directed a wanderer home.
The German forests do double duty as sources of timber and as places for exercise and recreation. They are not places for just walking into and setting up casual camping. There are campgrounds for that. The forests are for regular fresh air walking exercise. From large, organized events, to simple family and friends strolling, Volksmarching is a big deal in Germany.
So, almost three months into my fascination with everything German, I went for a volksmarch with some co-workers. I had arrived in mid-March, when the weather was frightful. Now, it was a clear, slightly warm Saturday in early in June. The day was so beautiful that no one could resist a chance to walk indefinitely in the fresh air.
Ten of us headed down a paved road into the vast forest, yakking our outrage at the terrible politics that the company had saddled us with. No one knew about my situation yet, or the outrage would be even worse, and the walk would be ruined.
We turned and proceeded down a logging road which ran past the ruins of an ancient castle. Soon we were marvelling at the beautiful world that had completely replaced our normal and familiar settings. There was no shortage of commentary about Hansel and Gretel and just about everything we could dredge up about forest based nonsense.
One clown, a recent arrival named Randy, who hailed from some red state started babbling about Robin Hood.
Tarrant told him to “Shut up! Robin Hood was English, for crikey’s sakes.”
Tarrant was an Australian fellow who had been present for the entire inventory debacle and recovery. He had zero patience with idiots.
One of our German co-workers, Adalhard, was a village boy. He was full of information about fairies and demons and gnomes. He cracked us up with long-legged stride, his enthusiam, and his dramatic descriptions of his adventures in the very forest that we were enjoying.
But something told me that Adalhard’s stories had more meaning than he was letting on with his humorous retellings of ancient myths and childhood pranks.
Adalhard is only in his twenties, and has that incredible, clear skinned beauty that young German men and women have, but which fade so quickly. No way would he have personal memories of the bad times that his parents may have lived on the edges of. Even his parents would have been children when the Nazis ruled. We avoided going there.
No, his stories were full of meanings which we were supposed to figure out. And we were supposed to figure them out quickly, judging from his frequent glances at us to see if we were getting some kind of point.
Suddenly, I heard a faint scrabbling noise coming from a dense patch of ferns. No one else heard the noise, and only I turned to look for the source. I looked closely and stepped back in shock.
From beneath a huge mass of ferns, a pair of eyes was staring back at me.
They were baleful, malignant eyes.
To be continued…