On Top of a Little Boy’s Bed, Bamberg, July, 1636
Joseph Drahuta knew how old he was—nine, but he also knew how old he felt—older.
First, there had been the entire Ring of Fire thing, when his entire life changed down to his underwear. Who would have thought elastic waistbands were such a big thing?
And socks! Who would have thought that even socks would change?
From toilet paper to a change in diet, he had grown used to the lack of television and no cell phones and riding horses instead of cars.
Then there had been his adopted brother and sister, which led to the whole sharing a bed thing.
Ulrich snored lightly beside him.
Joseph Drahuta was used to sharing a bed by now. It certainly was warmer on cold nights when there was no heating like he was used to, only creeping cold that seemed to be everywhere. In the summer, though, things were different. Joey turned toward the edge of his bed where it was cooler.
“Hey,” Joseph whispered, “do you still hear ‘em?”
The silence from under his bed was disturbing. The initial sounds, when they came, startled him even though Joseph knew well this ‘monster’ under his bed.
This ‘monster’ was, after all, the shortstop on his little league team. At least baseball had survived the Ring of Fire.
“Yes,” the monster answered, finally, “but not so loud and not so much. I think the tea was stronger this time. The tea tastes horrible.”
Joseph listened to Ulrich’s soft snoring. Ulrich was used to crowded beds and bedrooms and could sleep through almost anything.
“Momma says you’re . . . schiz . . . schizophrenic . . .” Joseph struggled but he had been practicing for some time. The word was even harder to spell but he could, at least, say it.
“I thought the voices were God . . .” the monster whispered with a certain determined reverence. “. . . if the voices were from God . . . the tea would not stop Him.”
“What do the voices say now?”
“The same. They are just softer now. I can pretend they aren’t real now. Playing baseball helps. You have to keep thinking in baseball. Thank you for letting me hide under your bed.”
“Sure,” Joseph stated, “any time. There’s a big game tomorrow.”
The silence from the monster under his bed was unnerving.
“I know,” the monster said, finally. “The voices don’t like me playing baseball. The voices say it is a sin against Hashem to play when I could be reading the Torah. I tell them it is a sin to pretend to hear the voice of God. Amen.”
Joseph took a deep breath. It was always dangerous to talk religion with Shabby, the monster under his bed, when he was like this—in the middle, between listening to the voices and ignoring them.
“It scares the other team when you shout verses from the Torah.” Joseph laughed slightly.
A Somewhat Larger Bedroom, Bamberg, July, 1636
Meanwhile, in another bedroom, larger with a larger bed that refused to move despite what was happening upon its surface . . .
“Thank you for not trying to wear the spurs this time,” Julie stated breathlessly. “The arguing just wastes time, Norman, and they ruin the blankets . . .”
“I could still get them . . .”
The answering slap was quite loud.
“How do you still find this all funny, Norman? Talk about mental health issues . . . You are a walking, talking DSM full of psychiatric problems, Norman. Worse, you got your daughter thinking it’s funny, too. Karla has enough problems with simply heating water on a stove let alone wearing armor like her dad.”
“Funny? Sex? With you? That’s never funny . . .”
This time the slap was intercepted. Norman Drahuta giggled and even avoided the other hand.
“Norman . . . let go of my hand . . .”
There were, in the dark room, the sounds of a largely friendly struggle then silence.
“At least the bed doesn’t squeak,” Julie finally stated, somewhat breathlessly.
“This bed would stop a tank. They don’t even bother to dress the trees in this century. They chop it down and force it into furniture here. It’s like . . . trying to sleep in a bunker. I think I could get the horse on this bed and it wouldn’t squeak. You know . . . didn’t Catherine the Great . . .”
This time, the slap connected. There were, in the dark room, the sounds of a largely friendly struggle then silence.
The knock at the door was largely anticlimactic but accepted with a certain reluctance.
“You think it’s the neighbors?” Norman giggled.
“No,” Julie growled, “it’s probably Karla. I bet her face hurts. Who is it?”
“Ma . . .” came the muffled reply. The doors, even the interior ones in a place like this, were not hollow core garbage found up-time. You could, conceivably, bar this door and guarantee all but the most determined attempt at entry would be dissuaded. “. . . Ma . . .”
“Pull the blanket over yourself, for Christ’s sake . . . come in!”
The door opened slowly but not for dramatic effect. It was heavy, and Karla was barely seven. There weren’t even the sounds of scampering, childish feet. The floor wouldn’t notice a herd of Karlas stampeding across it. You required a solid, thick floor to support a bed like this one.
The bed barely noticed her pouncing upon it and clambering across its rumpled expanse.
“What is it this time, Karla?” Julie demanded of her daughter.
“Joey’s got Shabby under his bed, Ma,” Karla said breathlessly. The bed was not something to be crossed lightly. Such things took time.
“Shabbethai does that, sometimes, after he takes his medicine, Karla. We’ve had this discussion before. Now why are you up?”
“I heard them giggling in there,” Karla stated suspiciously. “He’s scary when he giggles like that. He’s like a monster under the bed.”
“They are probably talking baseball. Now, why are you up? How’s your face? Is it bothering you?”
“It stings little. I miss my bed . . . back home in Grantville. And Sibylla snores. Sometimes she talks in her sleep, too. She talks in German. You got Joey a little brother why did you have to get me an older sister? She’s mean. We could still adopt a younger sister. Can’t we?”
“Sibylla put out the fire, didn’t she?” Norman was trying very hard not to laugh.
“That wasn’t my fault! If Sibby wasn’t always yelling at me I would’ve been able to concentrate more . . . and it wasn’t really a fire . . . really. It was just real . . . Stop laughing, Daddy! My whole face almost burned off!”
“At least you have one eyebrow left,” Julie muttered. “Snuggle up and don’t get the goop on the blankets.”
There were, in the dark room, the sounds of a largely friendly snuggle then silence.
“What are we going to do about that monster under the bed?” Julie whispered.
“Get him his own bed?” Karla asked, nestled between her two parents.
“People in town are watching you and him like cats watching twitching string. They want to see if this ‘medicine’ thing works or not. It seems a lot of people ‘hear voices’ in seventeenth-century Germany. That ‘tea’ is gonna be popular, I bet. I can’t believe my little wifey is introducing pysch-meds to the world.”
“Call me wifey again, and I will introduce the world to level four trauma centers,” Julie growled.
“Mom didn’t mean that, Daddy,” Karla stated from her position of authority. “That was her funny voice.”
“If you are going to be here, Karla, then less talking and more listening. Better yet . . . go to sleep. Sleep helps healing time. If you think real hard maybe you’ll grow a new eyebrow before your brother makes a comedy routine out of it.”
“Is the lithium working?” Norman asked.
“He says the voices aren’t as loud. That goes along with what I know, which isn’t that much, about schizophrenia and lithium treatment. I just don’t know how much lithium I am giving him. I am driving on ice, on a mountain road, blind here. I have to talk to Stoner about extracting lithium. I heard you can get it from sea salt or something . . . seaweed . . . I remember hearing some holistic guy talk about natural supplements and treatment of schizophrenia. That’s how I heard about the seaweed thing. I am going to have to be the whole damn FDA, too.”
“You shouldn’t use bad words . . . hey!” Karla whined.
“Next time it will be your face I slap. Now be quiet and go to sleep.”
“That’s child abuse . . .” Karla muttered.
“She has a point, dear,” Norman nodded ‘loudly’ enough to almost be seen in the darkness of the room. The bed, far too sturdy, didn’t move at all despite his nodding.
“In this day and age I would use a stick and be considered affectionate,” Julie grumbled. “The definitions of child abuse and even the term ‘child’ are very different now.”
“And human experimentation,” Norman told his wife, “don’t forget that. I doubt you would get anyone to support you testing drugs on a kid up-time. Now? Even the pack of Rabbis are listening and watching carefully. Hell, some of the Germans think you should use Jews to experiment on. Makes for some interesting conversation, let me tell you. The CoC gets involved, and things get tense from there.”
“They are not a pack of Rabbis,” Julie grumbled.
“Shabby calls them . . .” Karla began.
“Do not repeat what he calls them. It isn’t nice . . . even in Yiddish. There are some who think I should dose him with something stronger . . . like Drano or something. Solve the whole ‘Son of God’ thing once and for all.”
“Do you think Shabby was really hearing the voice of God?” Karla asked in stark, though largely unseen, defiance of her mother’s previous and horrific edict concerning silence and the punishments for violating it.
“According to the histories . . . a lot of people thought so,” Julie said softly. “He was a worldwide sensation.”
“Wow, you shut up God, Mama,” Karla whispered.
“Yeah, but I can’t seem to shut you up or stop you from trying to go all Joan of Arc in my own damn kitchen!”
There were, in the dark room, the sounds of careful consideration, then silence.
“Go to sleep, Karla. Tomorrow is a new day full of opportunities to incinerate more meals,” Julie Drahuta grumbled. “And, Norman, you say one more damn thing and I will slap you someplace as painful as Karla’s face! Now let’s get some sleep!”
“You say that now but a little while ago you . . .”
“Norman?” Julie whispered. “Do you want your daughter to see her mother kill her daddy?”
“That’s her serious voice, Daddy. I’d listen to her.”