Carl Rathgeber obediently tapped out a melody on the keys of the battered clavichord. He played all the notes correctly and in the proper order, but his father clutched his ears and moaned, “Nein, nein, Carlchen! This is a waltz! It should flow! Where is the rhythm, where is das Gefühl? Noch einmal! Try again.”
The boy started the piece from the beginning, playing several incorrect notes. His father did not interrupt this time, but a pained expression twisted his face. Carl stopped.
“Vati,” he said, “Tomorrow you give lessons to Herr Von Cratz’s children, nicht vahr? May I come with you?”
Herr Rathgeber took off his eyeglasses and polished them on his already rumpled lace collar. He was a slight man with thinning dark hair down to his shoulders, and a sparse goatee. Carl was nearly five years old, and his pale blonde hair had come from his mother, although it had brightened to a surprising silvery white that always made his aunts exclaim and say he looked just like an angel come down from Heaven.
“It is good that you are interested in playing with children your own age, for once,” said his father, “but I do not know if Herr von Cratz will approve of you spending time with his children. He is ein Snob.” He winked at the boy.
“Oh, it’s not that. Only, if you are going by the cathedral, I would like very much to stop there and look at it.”
“That again? Very well. But this time remember, cathedrals are for prayer, not for running about in corners and poking at the stones.”
Carl smiled and made another awkward attempt at playing the waltz. He stopped. “I’m sorry, Vati, I just have no musical talent.”
His father sighed. “It may be so, or at least you have no interest. Ach, it is an age of great music, and I had hoped to raise a famous composer. Na ja, perhaps you with your poking about cathedrals will become a great architect instead, and be rich, and support me and your Mutti in luxury in our old age, nicht?”
Carl began playing the clavichord again, his face expressionless, and did not answer.
The Von Cratz house was enormous and filled with ornately carved furniture and expensive décor. One of the housemaids gave Carl a cake to eat while he waited. It was sticky with honey, and filled with dried fruit and nuts. The pastry was a bit sweet for his taste, but childrens’ bodies burned lots of energy, and food was sometimes scarce in the Rathgeber home, so he ate it as he listened to the youngest Von Cratz child play his lesson. Carl Von Cratz was about his own age, and took it as a personal insult that they shared the same first name. He never failed to attempt picking a fight, and would no doubt start the moment his lesson ended.
For now, though, Carl Rathgeber merely kicked his short legs and ate his cake. Listening to the boy’s lesson made him worry. Carl Von Cratz was playing quite badly, yet Herr Rathgeber seemed pleased with his progress. Was he, Carl Rathgeber, playing the clavichord too well for his age? It was so hard to be certain. Maybe he should refuse to play any more. It would make his father unhappy, but it was highly dangerous to be thought exceptional.
Carl Von Cratz finished his lesson, and his older sister took her place on the bench before the ornately carved harpsichord. Carl Rathgeber quickly finished the cake as the other Carl made an angry beeline in his direction.
“That was MY cake!” accused the Von Cratz child. “You stole it like you stole my name!”
Carl Rathgeber only watched the little boy silently. This seemed to infuriate the other Carl further. “You smell like poop!” Carl Von Cratz shouted. “You’re a POOPBOY!” The hilarity of this statement convulsed Carl Von Cratz into helpless giggles, and he repeated through gasps of laughter as he rolled on the floor, “Poopboy! You’re a poopboy!”
Helmut Von Crantz, Carl’s much older brother, pulled the giggling child up by the collar. “All, right, now, you’re disturbing Willa’s lesson! Anyway, you’re meant to be in your room now your lesson’s over. Don’t forget, you’re being punished for breaking Mutti’s vase.”
Carl Von Kratz’s face immediately turned bright red as he screamed and wailed, “IT’S NOT FAIR! I DON’T WANT TO! NO! NO! NO!”
Carl Rathgeber watched with interest as the howling child was hoisted up over his brother’s shoulder and carried away. Perhaps I ought to try throwing a tantrum sometime, he thought. He doubted he could make it convincing, though. He had too many years of civilization and maturity to his credit. And he preferred not to deceive his host family more than was absolutely necessary, in any case.
When the lessons were finished, Herr Rathgeber made his farewells and departed. As they walked, he hoisted his small son up to ride on his shoulders. From this high vantage point, Carl could see the people and traffic well, and the air seemed just a little bit cleaner.
Cologne was like most of the large cities he had seen on Earth. The streets were filled with the dung of horses, pigs, feral dogs and humans. There was no proper system of sanitation, apart from the rain, which carried the waste into the ancient Roman sewers, which carried the waste to the Rhine river, which then seeped into the water table and city wells. Rats and insects scavenged from the heaps of dung, which were renewed daily as people emptied their chamberpots into the street and horses left their droppings for the following traffic to trample and spread. It was appalling, but Carl had accepted it as the norm for this time in Earth civilization, and resisted the thought of making some revolutionary suggestions to the city authorities.
The buildings changed, the fashions changed, and the items in the shops they passed showed increasing sophistication with each lifetime he lived, but the filth did not change, and beggars still huddled on street corners. People walked down the street, nearly oblivious to both. Over all rose the grand and glorious height of the great cathedral, and the melodic tones of a practicing choir singing hymns of praise to the being they credited with creating all of this.
“Gunther! Mein Gott, der ist Gunther!” Carl’s hair stood on end as he turned toward the hysterical scream. A woman was staring at him. Her face was hideously scarred and pocked, whether the result of some accident or disease, Carl could not tell.
“Gunther!” she cried again, reaching toward him, tears running down her face. Carl clenched his hands, resisting the urge to reach back.
“Meine Dame, I think you must be mistaken,” Herr Rathgeber stuttered, as a fat man ran up and seized the old woman’s arm. “This is my son, Carl.”
“Mother, calm down,” the man scolded. “Of course it is not Gunther. He would be in his twenties by now.” He turned to Herr Rathgeber. “Please forgive my mother. Her mind has not been the same since her accident. My brother, Gunther, disappeared when he was five years old, and I must say that your child does bear a striking resemblance.”
“It is nothing. I understand,” said Herr Rathgeber with a slight inclination of the head. “I am so sorry for your troubles.” He walked on down the street, but his hands clutched Carl’s legs a bit more tightly.
Carl couldn’t wrench his eyes away from the woman, who stood in the street, sobbing into her hands as the fat man tried to comfort her. What could have happened to her, to scar her so horribly? He did not dare speak to them to ask. As for what had happened to the man, it was more obvious. His brother Rudi had always been extremely fond of his sausages. Carl turned away at last and did not look back.
“You are shaking, mein Carlchen,” said Herr Rathgeber some time later. “Are you upset about that woman in the street? Don’t worry yourself, just feel sorry for her. She is sad and confused, and she has lost her little boy. There is nothing in the world more terrible than losing a child.”
Carl did not answer, and was grateful when his father did not prolong the subject.
The cathedral, at least, was clean. Carl was glad to be put down on the stone steps, and walked with his father into the building, his father stopping to bless himself at the font.
They entered into the Kölner Dom. Above them, impossibly high, was the great arched ceiling. Parts of this building had stood for over 800 years. It had stood before he and his team had come to this planet and it would, hopefully, stand long after they had completed their mission.
No service was taking place, but he and his father entered and sat in a pew. A few others were seated or kneeling here, involved in their prayers.
“Now this time, no sneaking off to poke around,” his father whispered. “This is a place to pray. Maybe you could say a prayer for that poor woman in the street.”
Taking part in the local rituals had always been a part of their disguise. And what could it hurt after all?
God of Earth, if you exist and are listening, please take better care of your people. And may we find Tina this time. As soon as we do, I promise, we will get out of your hair.
Carl waited until his father was deeply engrossed in his own prayers, then slipped quietly out of the pew and moved to a concealed back corner of the room. Yes, it was that spot, under that window. Carl moved his hand over the wall, and a small opening appeared. He reached in, and pulled out a handful of notes.
The increase of literacy in Europe made it easier to find paper and ink now than it had ever been in the past. They had chosen it as the safest and most convenient way to currently communicate. Even if the notes fell into the wrong hands, the Greecian writing would defy interpretation by the natives. Carl quickly flipped through the paper scraps.
The first one, of course, was in Hesma’s tight, controlled handwriting. Hesma always left the first message. It sometimes seemed that he was born knowing who he was, as he always claimed. That must make toilet training very embarrassing, Carl thought. The paper contained the name Joachim Kirch, and an address in Ingolstadt.
Soreto’s note was next. She was living relatively nearby, in Dusseldorf, under the name Magdelana Brett.
He frowned at the next note. Mel was in Berlin, born as Anna Reinhold. Wasn’t Berlin in Brandenburg? While most of the current wars were taking place overseas, where Europe’s powers squabbled over the plunder of another continent, recently the Swedish had invaded Brandenburg, apparently at the urging of the French king. He would simply have to hope that Mel managed to look after herself, and do his best to check into the situation as soon as possible.
Carl went to the next note. It was from Hasmodai. As usual, besides his name (Johann Kittel) and his address in Wiesbaden, Hasmodai included a small note. This time he had written, I am fine, my father here is a butcher, so at least we eat well. Please call me before they start teaching me to slaughter chickens!
Carl had to smile at that. And wince.
There were no more notes, apart from the one he had placed there himself on his last visit. Tarlant, perhaps, had not yet fully regained his memories, or had not been able to make it to the cathedral. As for Palza, he always seemed to be the last to report in, so that was no surprise.
Carl tucked the notes back into their hole and sealed it once more. He worried for a while about Mel, wondering whether he should call the team together early. But could he, when there was no word from Palza or Tarlant yet? If only he had more freedom in his current life. Being a well-looked-after child was proving to be extremely awkward.
He jumped suddenly at a touch on his arm, and stared up into the stern face of Herr Rathgeber.
His father stood and clasped his hands, lowered his eyes, and prayed out loud. “Lieber Herr Gott, please do not strike down this child who is misbehaving in your own house. He is not really a creature of the devil, he is only a very small, very strange, and occasionally naughty little boy. Amen.”
Hi father took his hand and led him from the cathedral. Once they were back on the street his father sternly said, “After supper tonight you will go to your room and think about what you have done.”
“It is important to be obedient, and to behave properly in the church. Do you understand?”
Herr Rathgeber snorted, and lifted the child to his shoulders again. Carl had no objection to spending a quiet evening in his room—he was grateful to have a room to himself, something that most of his previous lifetimes had not provided.
At any rate, in the Rathgeber house, punishments were as often forgotten as not, and no mention of his going to his room was made until Frau Rathgeber scooped him up to be put to bed with a story and a song. As usual, she paid no attention to Carl’s statement that he could dress himself now, and removed his clothes and put him into a nightshirt. Then she tucked him in and began a story with “Es war einmal…” Once upon a time.
This was his third lifetime in Germany—fourth, if you counted the time when they had entered the country to search, and had been forced to flee back to Holland due to the witch hunts-- and Carl had heard the stories before. His mother usually softened the endings for him and made the stories gentler, but Carl remembered that, in almost every tale, someone died a horrific and torturous death at the end. Tonight she told him the story about the naughty little girl who went into a stranger’s house and was eaten by bears. She gave the story all its grim original detail, probably due to Carl’s disobedience in the cathedral.
If the religion can’t scare them into good behavior, the cautionary bedtime stories might, Carl thought with amusement.
His mother followed the story with a lullaby, singing in her sweet voice and stroking his head until he pretended to sleep, then she tiptoed out of the room, closing the door behind her.
Carl rolled over and tried to sleep. He felt a tickle at the back of his neck, and knew he had picked up fleas again. People without servants to carry and heat the water did without frequent baths, and Carl sometimes thought that he missed being clean more than anything else he had left behind on Greecia.
A sharp rap made him sit up suddenly. The Rathgebers’ rooms were on the third floor, above a chandler’s shop and another tenant, but a pale face stared in at him, hands pressed against the window.
Carl was across the room in one leap, throwing the window open and pulling a young girl inside.
“What were you thinking?” he hissed. “Have you forgotten Bamberg already? And Würzburg?” In the five years between their 1627 death and their 1631 rebirth, over a thousand people had been brutally tortured and burned as witches. Carl still was uncertain whether their own actions and appearance had somehow triggered the senseless slaughter of innocent people, or if it was simply the unpredictable violence of the half-civilized humans of Earth, coincidentally timed.
“Nobody saw me,” Soreto said. ”I made sure of that, Agi.”
Carl released her and sat down on his bed. It had been some time since he had last seen his colleague. It had also been several years since he had been called by his true name.
Soreto looked pale and thin, and a dark purple bruise marked one cheek, fading to blotches around the eye. She was already wearing her black bodysuit and the energy pack, which she must have used to levitate to the window.
“I had to leave my family early,” she said, in answer to his unspoken question. “It’s a bad situation. Otto Brett drinks far too much, and I think he is frightened of me. It makes a dangerous combination.”
Carl nodded. Humans became violent when frightened. There was no point in Soreto staying where she might escalate the situation and endanger herself. He was glad that she had got herself out of there as quickly as possible. “Will the rest of your family be all right?” he asked.
“I think so, now that I’m not there,” said Soreto. Carl could see that she was not entirely certain about this, and did not want to press her on the subject. As Hesma kept repeating, they could not save the people of Earth from themselves. Sometimes, though, it was very hard not to try.
“Did you manage to get away without any trouble?”
“It’s a bad part of town. Children disappear sometimes,” she said. “Otto did call me a child of the Devil, but I don’t think that he meant it seriously. Not literally, I mean.”
“Good,” said Carl. “We don’t need to spark an-…a new witch hunt.” He had almost said ‘another,’ but the Bamberg and Würzburg trials were not, after all, their fault. Not for certain. He hoped not.
“Are you…will you be all right?” Carl asked. “I can get you some food—“
“I’ll be fine,” said Soreto. “Now that I have my gear, I can manage well enough. And it doesn’t look as if your people have a lot to spare.”
They didn’t. But the Rathgebers always found pfennige to give to beggars, and to offer to the church. Carl felt a painful surge of affection for his current family. He suddenly recalled the meeting in the street with his former mother and brother.
“Agi?” Soreto looked concerned. “Is something wrong?”
“No,” Carl said. “But I think we have spent too long in Germany. It’s time to widen our search. And…it might be a good idea to reincarnate at wider time intervals.”
“There certainly has been no sign of Tina yet,” Soreto said. “And if our calculations as to her likely area of appearance are off, or if she isn’t born for another thousand years, there’s really no point in scouring the same area over and over constantly.”
Carl nodded. “If only we had some clue.” They could only hope that their princess would appear near the place they had calculated, and that she would retain some memories of Greecia…and, if they were lucky, that her Earth form could be identified by the same white hair and blue eyes that the search team always developed.
Still, there was no point in dwelling on the difficulties. “Soreto, I think your early emergence might actually work in our favor. The German postal service has been improving, but I don’t think we can rely on it at this point. If you can act as a messenger and prepare our equipment, I think we will be able to gather much more efficiently. My parents are very…attentive. And my father is an insomniac, and looks in on me several times through the night. It makes it very difficult to get things done.”
Soreto nodded. “I’ll take care of it.” She looked pleased to have work to do.
“The notes are in the usual place. Mel is in Brandenburg. Could you see if she is safe? And I’ve had no word from Tarlant or Palza yet. If you can find them…”
“I think I’ve seen Tarlant,” Soreto said. “There’s a boy in Dusseldorf, a clockmaker’s son, who looked familiar. Heinrich Neumark. His hair is just starting to go streaky white.”
“Good, he’s just a late bloomer this time, then.” Carl nodded. “A clockmaker’s son?”
“With a yappy little terrier.”
Carl smiled. “He must be enjoying that.” And he would be leaving it soon, with very little time to get used to the idea. Carl’s smile vanished.
“Anything else?” Soreto asked.
“That should be it,” said Carl. “Thanks, Soreto, you’ve taken a load off my mind. I can always count on you. Be careful.”
Soreto nodded, and turned to check the window. “It looks all clear,” she said.
As she prepared to step out into the night, Carl suddenly spoke. “Soreto?” She looked back at him. “I ran into the Hochmanns on the street today. They recognized me. They talked themselves out of it, but…”
“Seeing old family is always painful,” said Soreto. “I used to secretly go looking for mine, to see how they were getting on, until I decided that ignorance hurt less. Don’t tell Hesma.” And then she was gone.
Carl’s fifth birthday was quite an event. The grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins wouldn’t have fit in the Rathgebers’ small apartment, so they gathered at the tavern of his uncle, the brewer. It was good to see everyone, the entirety of his host family, at once. It would be the last time he ever saw some of them, he knew.
He enjoyed the lively adult conversation and the happy company. His cousins seemed to sense his strangeness by some instinct the adults did not have, and kept a certain wary distance from him. The children made no trouble, though—there was, after all, an enormous Geburtstagskuchen, and Carl was more than happy to let them play with the toys he had received as gifts.
The knowledge that he would soon be leaving these people made the celebration a bittersweet one. By the time they returned home, he was exhausted, and did not protest as his mother undressed him and put him to bed, coming to sit beside him and stroke his forehead and begin the night’s story.
With a kiss, she began. “Es war einmal a farmer who owned his own land, and had a beautiful wife, but they had no children. This made them very sad. One day, the man prayed to Gott im Himmel for a child, any child, even if it was only a hedgehog.
“The next day his wife gave birth to a strange little creature. His bottom half was a normal little baby boy, but his top half was a hedgehog. And the woman shouted at her husband, ‘Now look what you have brought on us with your foolish prayers!’
“But the couple took him to be baptized, and named him Hans-My-Hedgehog. And he lived with them for many years. They loved him very much, even if he was such a strange little creature.
“One day the father went to the great city. He asked everyone in the house what they would like him to bring back as a gift. The mother asked him to bring home some fine food, and a new dress for her. The servant girl asked for new shoes and fancy stockings. And Hans-My-Hedgehog asked for a set of bagpipes, for he loved music.
“After the father returned, Hans-My-Hedgehog would climb up into the trees and play the bagpipes as he tended the pigs, until he learned to play beautifully.
“One day Hans-My-Hedgehog said to his father, ‘Please take my cock rooster to the blacksmith and have him shod. Then I will ride away to seek my fortune…’”
Carl had not heard the story before, but he was tired, and dropped off to sleep while still wondering who would meet a horrible and gory end in this one.
“Agi….Agi…” Someone was prodding at his shoulder. Carl woke.
“Nice story,” said Soreto. “But I think I prefer the one about the two kids abandoned in the woods, who roast a cannibal witch alive in the oven. What awful stories they tell on this planet!”
“Don’t tell me who died horribly in this one,” Carl yawned. “I fell asleep before she got to that part, and prefer it to stay in my subliminal unconscious. Were you here all the time?”
“Under the bed,” said Soreto. “I came up on foot this time, while you were all away. It wasn’t hard to get in.”
“So, what do you have to tell me?”
“Mel is fine. The war hasn’t come near them, and Brandenburg seems to be fighting off the invasion.”
“Thank goodness,” Carl sighed. “It’s no wonder this planet is so primitive. How can they advance with this constant fighting?”
Soreto shrugged. “Tarlant said, once, that if Greecia was less civilized, Titas’s palace might have been defended by more than a handful of swordsmen.”
“Anyway, I have managed to track down Palza. He’s in Leipzig, going under the name Friederich Schroeder. And I’ve spoken to Tarlant. He’s still a little disoriented, but both are ready to go anytime.”
“There’s no point in delaying any longer, then,” said Carl. “How soon can we organize, do you think?”
“I’d say two weeks, for giving everyone the notice to prepare, and time to generate their gear.”
“All right, then,” said Carl.
“I thought you would say so, so I brought you this,” said Soreto.
She rolled a small metallic canister onto Carl’s bed. It was his energy pack. Once the correct program was activated, and raw materials provided, it would generate his bodysuit and cloak, a highly technological outfit that would armor, protect and shelter him, and grow with his body for the six or seven years he needed it. It would be programmed to oxidize and dissolve at the time of his death. The humans of Earth had no way to replicate or make use of the Greecian technology, but there was no point in taking chances and leaving bits behind. The uses the Earth people found for their own new technology were rarely benevolent.
Carl took the canister and nodded. “Do you have an idea where we should assemble?”
“Hesma’s home is beside a forest. It would be a good place to stay inconspicuous.”
“All right. We’ll meet in the forest near Hesma’s place.”
“I’ll take care of everything,” said Soreto. “See you in two weeks, Agi.”
She went out the window, but Carl did not go back to sleep. He remained staring up at the ceiling for the rest of the night.
“Ach, was für ein Gesicht!” his mother said as she spooned soup into his bowl. It smelled spicy, and was thick with vegetables and dumplings. There was even meat in it—Herr Rathgeber must have received his monthly pay from the Von Cratz family. “Why do you look so serious, Carlchen?”
“He has been like that since his birthday party,” said his father. “It is because he has reached the venerable age of five, and now has too much dignity to behave in the giddy and feckless way of a child, nicht wahr, mein Sohn?”
Carl could tell he was being teased, but did not feel capable of responding in kind. He looked away from his father’s twinkling eyes and forced himself to take another spoonful of the soup. Every bite felt like a theft.
“I don’t know what to do about school for you, mein Carlchen,” his father said. “You already read, you already write. I have not put any sums to you, but I can’t help suspecting that you would be better at mathematics than I am! It seems to me you must be some kind of great genius…”
Carl looked up in alarm. He had tried so hard not to be more than a four-year-old boy this time, and he had blown it. Again.
“It is possible that you could learn a great deal at the monastery. Or perhaps, if we spoke to someone at the Universität…”
“I want to stay at home,” Carl said vehemently. “I want to stay here, at home.” It was the honest truth, a truth he couldn’t speak to Soreto or to Hesma. But it didn’t matter. Tonight he must leave.
“Na ja,” his father said. “I do not think we can afford a tutor for you. Perhaps if I speak to Herr Von Cratz –“
Carl pushed his bowl away. “I’m not hungry. I think I want to go to bed. May I be excused?”
His mother felt his forehead, worrying about whether he felt ill. Carl insisted that he was just tired, and she sent him off to his room, promising to be there soon to put him to bed.
He undressed and put on his own nightshirt, and when his mother came in, he pretended to already be asleep. She stroked his hair and left without a story or a song. He was sorry to deprive her of one final night of fussing over her child, but he did not think he could bear it.
He had lived many times, with many names, and with many families. Most of them were kind, or at least tolerable. Many of them, even the kind ones, had believed that children needed to be physically beaten for their own good. Some had tried to beat the strangeness out of him. Others had grown to fear that strangeness, and he was certain they had been relieved when their odd child vanished, never to return.
The Rathgebers were kind, gentle and loving people. It hurt to even think of leaving, not because he had learned to love them and would miss them—which was true—but because, of all the families he had left so far, he was sure that his departure would hurt them the most.
When the apartment had become dark and silent, Carl rose from his bed. With a wave of his hand, the portal he had created in the plaster wall opened, and he pulled out his energy pack, a black cloak, and a fully formed bodysuit. Scraps of rags and trash remained in the hole, objects that would not be missed, and which had been absorbed and broken down into materials for the utility clothing. He closed the hole and quickly donned his uniform.
He slipped out of his room.
The apartment, even in its darkened state, was familiar and comforting. It was home. Had been home. He crossed the cluttered room with care, in silence, and put his hand on the doorknob.
The clavichord stood beside the door. In the past two weeks, Herr Rathgeber had not offered him a music lesson, and Carl had not asked for one. It had become too difficult to pretend inability. Now he reached out and stroked his hand over the familiar wood of the instrument, and touched one finger to a key.
Then, seized by an irresistible compulsion, he sat on the bench, put his hands on the keyboard and began to play softly. The song he played was neither a waltz, nor one of the popular pieces of modern Baroque music, nor a German folksong. And he did not play with the skill of an awkward five-year-old, nor of a child prodigy musical genius.
He played a song of love from a planet achingly far away, with all the skill of a young man who had been forced to take music lessons as a child, because “Science isn’t everything!”
Eerily beautiful, the notes of the clavichord tingled and rang in the night. They brought memories with them, visions of endless, pristine seascapes, soaring, majestic buildings, and the first home he had ever left behind.
Carl jumped, jerking his hands from the keyboard with a last, discordant ringing, and spun.
Herr Rathgeber stared at him, astonishment in his face. “Carl?” he said disbelievingly. “Carlchen?”
The boy stood, wiping all emotion from his face. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I must leave you now.”
“But…I do not understand. Carl?”
He reached out a hand, and Carl reached out as well, and took the hand offered.
There was a small flash of energy, and Herr Rathgeber sank to the floor. With the assistance of his gear, Carl lifted his father onto the couch and looked down at the man who had sheltered, protected, taught and loved him for the past five years. He touched the unconscious man’s face affectionately.
“Goodbye,” Carl said. “You were a wonderful father. I hope you have many more children…and that the next one isn’t a hedgehog.”
The boy turned the handle of the door, and opened it.
Agi stepped through the door, and Carl Rathgeber ceased to exist.