‘RAPUNZEL’ by Anna Cates

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I

Her hair wasn’t really golden, but more of a strawberry blond.  Yet that wasn’t the point.  What mattered was its length.  She’d grown her hair unusually long, so long that the ends became antennae, attracting cosmic energies, or so Himmler supposed, the former chicken farmer who’d gone from feathers to Nazi frills.  If he could harness the ancient Aryan occult powers, like Wodin and Thor, purge himself of Lemurian animalism, that would be a good start toward racial restoration.  Then he’d wield the thunderbolt, mighty as a god, sealing his fate to be Germany’s next fuhrer.

[“Take her into ‘protective custody,’” he told his SS officers.  And so, they locked her in a Wewelsburg Castle tower.

II

“Your racial science teacher says you draw pictures of your oracular visions,” Himmler drilled her the following day, seated behind his desk, strewn with papers.

She shrugged.  “Mutter says I’m a habitual doodler.”  She laughed weakly, seated in the chair on the other side of his desk.

Himmler leaned forward.  “Do you play tarot?  What spells or charms do you know?  Do you need special herbs, mandrake, a sparrow to cut up?  Do you know where to find the Spear of Destiny?”

“I’m Lutheran.  I must just have the gift of prophecy.  That’s all.  A gift from God.  I can’t force it.  I’ve never dabbled in the darker side.”

Himmler smirked, glad the Christian veneer would soon be washed away from Germany forever.  At least she wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness.  He peered again at the picture she’d scrawled just prior to her graduation, a picture portraying, or so she claimed, a scene from the future:  A big white rocket with a red “USA,” the details uncanny, though different from the V-2, alongside a sketch of a middle-aged man that most women would consider tolerable to look at.  A paternalistic grin on the eerily familiar face.  Himmler’s heart sped with excitement when he realized who it was, albeit seasoned by a few more years:  Von Braun, that moon-crazed dreamer!

“Ever been to Peenumunde, Rapunzel?” he punned.

“Never.  Why do you ask?”

He raised his brows.  “We’re presently at war with the U.S., my dear.  You suggest one of our top physicists would collaborate with our enemies in such a grand, cosmic scheme?”

She huffed, rolling her eyes.  “I’ve only drawn what I saw, Herr Himmler, just as you bid.  I didn’t know who the man was, but his image flickered into my mind with the sky rocket.  When can I go home?” she finished in a mouse-like squeak.

“Draw more scenes from the future.  I’ll get you all the art supplies you need.  For now, you’re dismissed.”

Once they’d ushered her back down the hall, Himmler called one SS officer back.  “No scissors, no knife, no razor, nothing sharp is to be brought to her room.”  The cadet, unable to conceal his grin, clicked his heels together.  “Heil Hitler!”

III

Days later, she slipped the next illustration onto Himmler’s desk.  He scanned the page, stoic.

“Hoodlums, tearing down a wall.”

She nodded.

“What does it mean?”

“The fall of bolshevism.”

“When?”

She closed her eyes.  “I’m thinking 1989 or thereabouts.”

His head jut forward.  “That’s a long time away!”

“The final fall.”

He nodded with a grin.  “Your prophetic powers fascinate me, fraulein.  Yet they could be better directed, expanded.”

“Just what do you mean to say, Herr Himmler?”

“Appreciating their origin would be a start.  Then you might learn to draw up horoscopes, engage in a few rituals, seances, and so forth.  We’ll make a good pagan out of you yet.”

“And if I’m not interested?”

His smile wavered.  “It’s all for the glory of the Reich.  How can you consider refusing?”  He shook his head with a sigh.  That she would be so cheeky!  “You know I like you, fraulein.  You shouldn’t think to test me.  I wouldn’t want to have to do something drastic.  Consider your family.”

She shuddered, the oldest of eight.  “But if I anger God, he’ll take my gift away.  Or worse!  Surely, you understand my reluctance to offend him.”

To her surprise, he shook his head.  “No, fraulein, I cannot.”  He leaned forward.  “I cannot imagine the silly female fancies swirling through your head.”  His fist fell onto the ledger, rattling writing instruments and causing her to flinch.  “There is no god in the sky as you imagine!  The only gods are earthly spirits.  We can commune with them, the pagan gods of our ancestors, Wodin and Thor.”

But that’s blasphemy, idolatry, she wanted to say then thought better of it.  Obviously, he didn’t care.  Children, kitchen, and church—the ideal lifestyle for the German woman—but not too churchy it would seem.

“May I go now?”

“See what else you can envision.”  He twirled his fingers through the air dismissively, turning away to reach for his phone.

She rose from her seat.  “Sieg heil,” she whispered, lifting a limp limb.

IV

That night, a summer solstice celebration ensued.  In mystical reverie, cadets lit bon fires and jumped over the flames, taking care not to burn themselves.  Liquor bottles clinked under the starlight, cigarette smoke swirling through the air.  Officers loitered with red-lipped ostarbeiters, slave girls harvested from the east, with round heads and empty eyes, Poles perhaps, or Russians.  Herr Himmler, rider’s crop in hand, laughed uproariously at her and the other two clairvoyants as they—naked and on their hands and knees—pushed marbles across the floor with their noses, racing toward the middle of the swastika, long braids snaking along the dusty floor beside them.

V

Two days passed.  Another sketch in hand, she stepped inside Himmler’s office, averting her gaze.  She sat in the empty seat then reluctantly handed him the paper.  His eyes riveted onto the artwork.  Then he peered up.  “Two smoking skyscrapers, fraulein?”

She squirmed on her sore ass.  “Future terrorism in the west.”

Himmler stiffened.  “I was expecting something else.  I know you can’t force these things, fraulein, but you could at least try to get this god, or devil, or whatever opens your mind, to show you the Reich’s glorious destiny.”  He leaned forward.  “How about wonder weapons?   Astonishing inventions like Die Glocke I told you about?  What more can Germany do to hasten our world domination?  Dazzle me with your psychic powers!”

She groaned, shoulders slumped.  “I’ll try to discern what you want me to foretell, but I can’t make any promises.”

VI

That afternoon, alone in her room, she drifted into a deep sleep then awoke with a jerk, covered in sweat.  A new image flickered through her mind.  She grabbed her pad of paper and began to pencil it out:  Smoke from forest fires engulfing alien skyscrapers, endless miles of dry cracked earth, fuming with heat.  Germany in the clutches of global warming.  She crumpled up the paper.  That’s not what Herr Himmler wants to see.  That’s not what I want to see!  She threw her pad and pencil across the room.  A train whistled in the distance, heralding some mysterious doom.  She cupped the sides of her head.  Advancing armies.   Exploding bombs.  Starving slaves in rags.  She fell to her knees, hands balled together.  “Oh, merciful God in Heaven, let not this terrible end come to be!”

VII

A week passed.  Blond fuzz grew at the bottoms of her legs.  Locked in the tower, she waited, waited for a price, a Samson with his eyes gouged out, a witch, a Rumplestiltskin, anyone who’d miraculously appear beneath her window and hasten that sordid episode of her life to an end.  But only SS officers came and went, marching in their dark uniforms, silver skulls glinting.

“My hair.  It’s got to go,” she sighed.  And so, that night, with the full moon glimmering, she started pulling, wincing and pulling, till her scalp bled, and her hands ached, and her neck muscles burned, and her body shook, strawberry blond pooling in a pile beside her.  She gritted her teeth and pulled, destroying her “antennae,” till she was bald as a concentration camp inmate, ready for the ovens.


Anna Cates is a graduate of Indiana State University (M.A. English and Ph.D. Curriculum & Instruction/English) and National University (M.F.A. Creative Writing).  Her first collections of poetry and fiction, The Meaning of Life and The Frog King, were published by Cyberwit Press, and her second poetry collection, The Darkroom, by Prolific Press.  She lives in Ohio with her two beautiful kitties and teaches education and English online, including graduate courses in creative writing.

Her writing can be accessed here: https://www.amazon.com/A.-Cates/e/B006TGBCT2