And the Protector of Mexico

Willard knocked at the door of a boarding house at 624 Commercial Street and readied his clipboard. In his mind, he went over his prepared opening lines, “Good evening sir, in an effort to better serve and represent the people of the Republic of the United States of America and all of its settled territories ...”

He could hear the sound of dogs barking and a man yelling: “Bummer! Lazarus!” A moment later, the door cracked open and two snouts poked out and sniffed at Willard’s knees.

Willard wasn’t prepared to be greeted by canines and suddenly forgot his much-rehearsed speech when a bearded man in a feathered hat stepped onto the porch. Hanging from his hip was an ornate sword.

“Yes? I don’t have all day, young man, what is it?”

“Uh... census.”

“Ah! Get on with it then, I have affairs to attend to.”

Willard shrugged his shoulders and dove straight into his questions. He just wanted to go home.


“Norton, Joshua Abraham. The first.”

“Married? Children?”

“Never, sir. I have no heirs.”

Willard hesitated for a second before checking NO on his form. He then sped through the remaining questions and was just about to take leave when he realized he had missed the “Occupation” box on his questionnaire.

“And lastly, what do you do for a living?” he asked.

Joshua Norton cleared his throat and raised his chin as he replied.

“Pardon?” Willard said.

“... and the Protector of Mexico.”

Willard stared at the ground, his eyes glazed over.

“Okay, sir... thank you for, uh... “ he mumbled and turned and walked away mid-sentence.

On August 1st, 1870, the census-taker listed the occupation of Joshua Abraham Norton, the eccentric, beloved, folk-hero of San Francisco, as “Emperor;” of these United States; and the Protector of Mexico.



“It’s my turn tonight,” Abigail whispered, “it’s my turn.”

Four young girls and a servant sat huddled together around a warm stove in the kitchen of Reverend Parris. Dinner was over and a stack of pans and dishes sat on the cupboard waiting to be washed. A hungry dog scratched at the door, begging for his scraps.

“We have to hurry,” Betty said and rushed to the window. “Father’s walks haven’t been as long in this weather.”

The servant retrieved a small mirror from a drawer and placed it on a shelf by two dripping candles. She then produced an egg from her apron. Carefully, she cracked it and let the white seep slowly into a water-filled glass. The glass was placed before the mirror.

“What do you want to know tonight, Miss Abigail? The profession of your future husband, maybe,” the servant suggested.

“No,” Abigail replied, “I want to know my own future.”

The little circle of ladies stared intently into the mirror at a spot directly behind the glass. The atmosphere became tense as the cold wind howled through the cracks in the log walls and the candles flickered, almost going out. They all suddenly turned their heads to the door. The dog had become frantic in his efforts to get in and caused the bolt-latch to rattle violently.

Shivering, Abigail turned her attention back to the mirror. The eleven-year-old girl grew pale at what she saw.

“It’s a coffin!” she screamed. “I see my own death!”

Abigail collapsed to the floor, convulsing in seizures.

On February 29th, 1692, an arrest warrant was issued for Tituba, the Arawak slave of Samuel Parris. Her confession to dealings with the devil began a mass hysteria in Salem Village that resulted in the imprisonment of 150 and the execution of twenty.


A Procrustean Bed

The sunrise of January 30th, 1914, brought no warmth to the little town of Jujinetz. The temperatures had hovered around freezing for a week and smoke billowed continuously from the chimneys of the cottages at the edge of the Carpathian Mountains as everyone struggled to keep warm. All of the chimneys that is, except for one.

Inside that home, there was no fire. The front door was open to the elements and a freezing wind blew in, depositing a hard slippery frost across the first several feet of the foyer. Staring at an icicle-draped hearth sat Leon, dressed only in his long underwear.

His pupils were dilated. Deep ridges punctuated his orbitals, starting at both corners of his eyes and running almost straight down his cheeks to the edges of his whiskered mouth. The tracks allowed perfectly for the rivers of tears he had shed to be channeled effortlessly from his face to the floor.

The cartilage in his stiff joints crackled as Leon rose to his feet and walked absentmindedly out the front door. The far-off focus of his eyes never changed as he crossed the pasture, passed a bull that was mounting a cow, and waded into a livestock pond until it reached his sternum. His body shook involuntarily but he didn’t resist the painful sting of the frigid water. He stayed there for several hours before returning to his house.

Leon didn’t die from the pneumonia but he did eventually die from the tuberculosis that resulted.

When young Wilhelm heard of his father’s death, his transformation was at hand.

The discovery of his mother’s affair had confused him. Her suicide devastated him. His father’s ensuing depression had devoured him.

Sadly, Wilhelm Reich would take all of the ugliness he knew and try to make sense of it.


Archivum Arcis Armarium D 218

Along the banks of the Vienne River in the diocese of Tours, the Chinon Castle held a special group of prisoners. Heretics. Leaders of an immoral group of scoundrels and embezzlers. Enemies of all of Christendom.

Or so at least was the claim of Philip, the “fair” King of France. The Pope, however, was not so convinced. He knew that Philip’s concern for Christendom was heavily outweighed by the crushing debts that he owed, specifically to these men.

Three Papal-Legates made the long journey from Rome to find out the truth. On this morning of August 20th, 1308, they entered a small dimly-lit cell. Awaiting them there, in chains, was an old man with a long gray beard and blackened eyes. The candlelight reflected off his balding head.

“Rise, Grand Master,” said Cardinal Landolf, waving his hand. “By now you’re aware that the Holy Father does not wish to condemn, but to forgive. Not to dissolve, but to reform. Thus far, we’ve been satisfied with the contriteness of your brothers. We hope that you show no fear in offering to us only truthful and sincere replies to our questions.”

“Fear, your eminence?” Jacques de Molay replied with strength in his voice that belied his pitiful appearance. “I am a Templar, secure on every side, for my soul is protected by the armor of faith just as my body was protected by the armor of steel. I fear neither demons nor men.”

When the Cardinals returned to Rome, Pope Clement V granted absolution to the Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Poor Knights of the Temple of King Solomon.

Unfortunately for Jacques de Molay and his brethren, the Chinon Parchment, only recently discovered in the Secret Vatican Archives, was not made public. Hundreds of Templars were tortured and burned at the stake.


The Great Escape

In the darkness, Matilda slipped a pair of fur-lined boots onto her feet. She threw a bed sheet over her head and followed her guide by oil lamp through a series of halls and stairways to a massive oaken door. Two shrouded figures waited there and threw open the portal when they saw her approaching. A rush of ice-laden wind forced its way in from the outside and slapped rudely at Matilda’s exposed cheeks before catching under the sheet and sending it flapping and snapping into the air. Her guide snagged it and placed it back over Matilda’s shoulders, securing it with a white scarf.

She stepped into the doorway and shuffled and sidled her way onto a stone ledge. A soldier was standing there, gripping a large wicker basket. The whipping snow was blinding and Matilda was forced to keep her gaze focused downward. Her stomach turned as she looked down the one hundred feet to the dark grounds. With help, Matilda carefully stepped inside of the basket and the soldier let go. The wind carried her horizontally and she nearly tipped over before she shifted her weight to the other side. The pulley squeaked menacingly as she was slowly lowered to the ground.

A few minutes later, Matilda was creeping carefully through the sleeping army, camouflaged by the fierce winter storm and her white sheets, making for safety and friends twelve miles away at Wallingford Castle.

It was December 19th, 1142 and England was submerged in anarchy. For seven years, the Empress Matilda had been contesting her cousin, King Stephen, for the throne. The last three months from within the besieged Oxford castle.

Although Matilda would never be crowned, her son eventually would, establishing a line of Plantagenet kings that would reign for three and a half centuries.


The Accidental Tourist

Albert burped. An earthy taste filled his mouth and his stomach rolled. The little meal he had eaten wasn’t sitting well and he told his colleagues that it might be for the best if he went home.

It was a cold and drab afternoon when he laid down on his bed and closed his eyes. The two men who saw him home safely continued to watch him closely as he drifted into a half-sleep.

Thirty minutes later, Albert sat up. A trickle of sweat rolled down from his temple.

He sat still for a moment, staring straight ahead. He was no longer in his home.

“How did I get... here?” he said out loud.

The walls around him now were made of hewn stone and covered with drawings. Turtles, crocodiles, eagles, jaguars, ocelots. All leaping from the walls and morphing to life in vibrating hues of blue and green and red.

A heavy smell of smoke and corn permeated his sinuses and it was pleasant to him. The air was warm and wet.

He noticed a small opening in the wall to his left and approached it. It was a window and it looked out upon a fantastic scene: thousands of brown-skinned people marched in procession below, singing and chanting, carrying torches along a path of snowy-white rocks.

“Aztecs!” he shouted, “I’m in Mexico!”

“Albert,” a voice spoke from behind him.

Albert turned.

Coming towards him was a priest. He wore a jade headdress and around his neck hung a long cord, the end of which held a fierce-looking obsidian knife.

Albert knew he was to be sacrificed, his heart cut out.

He laughed.

The effects of the mushrooms that LSD-pioneer Albert Hoffman consumed in furtherance of Robert Wasson’s experimental “trip” of June 29th, 1955 lasted for six more hours.


The Apothecary

“What is this foolishness?” Michael asked.

Startled, the doctor turned from the open door to find a very tall, thin man standing uncomfortably close behind him. He had a thick beard, graying around the mouth. Tucked under his left arm was a small wooden box that smelled strongly of roses and in his hand was a long knotty walking stick.

“Please, sir,” the doctor said, catching his breath beneath a handkerchief, “unless you’re a physician... are you a physician?”

With a single deft flip of his wrist, Michael flipped his staff across his chest and landed it squarely atop the doctors’ head. The blow wasn’t hard but it scared the man so that a long feminine squeak broke from his vocal chords. He spun his feet in the dirt as he maneuvered to run.

“Be gone, you imbecile!” Michael thundered in a gravelly voice and assisted the doctor in his escape by giving him a sharp kick on the bottom.

Michael watched him scamper down the deserted street and then turned back to the open door of the house. Hanging from the knob was a little scrap of wood, “La Charbon” written on it. Along the far wall, behind a thin draping curtain, he could see the silhouette of a woman lying on the edge of a bed. She appeared to be sewing.

“Madame,” Michael said softly into the doorway, “may I enter? I might be of assistance to you.”

The figure behind the sheet stopped her sewing and raised her head.

“You can call for the albares...” she said in a pained whispered voice. “...and let me finish my shroud.”

It was August 4th, 1546 and Michel de Nostradamus had just arrived in Salon-de-Provence with his box full of herbs, prepared to cleanse the town of the Black Death.


Orphans Preferred

The train was late again.

At the corner of 12th and Pennsylvania streets, seven men impatiently walked their horses through a gathering crowd. It had started out as just a few dozen curious well-wishers, but by the second hour of the delay there were several hundred people. All of them wanted to get as close as possible to the young daredevils. Mayor Thompson was there, making speeches and shaking hands. Women and children were even pilfering mementos for themselves. The decorations on the thoroughbreds were being reduced to tatters.

“I hope they gets here soon, else all that’s gonna’ be left of my pony is her bones,” said one of the riders.

At just past 7 p.m. on April 3rd, 1860, a single locomotive pulled into the station at Saint Joseph, Missouri. Before it even came to a stop, a man carrying a leather pouch hopped off and ran as fast as he could towards the crowd. As he reached the edge of the throng, the pouch was ripped from his grip and passed overhead, hand to hand, until it finally, somehow, reached the mayor.

He tucked it under his arm and shoved his way to Billy Richardson, the first mounted rider he came to.

A canon sounded.

“Go son, go!” he yelled as he tucked the pouch into a satchel and slapped the horse’s rear.

Nine blocks later, the riders stopped at the river and Billy Richardson took the pouch from under his saddle and gave it to another rider.

“Here you go, Johnny, I think you’re supposed to have this.”

Johnny Fry nodded, took the pouch, and boarded the ferry that would carry him and his bay mare “Sylph” across the Missouri River. The “Pony Express” was beginning the first eighty mile leg of its first cross-country service.