• Ladies and gentlemen!

    My friend JD has confessed his love for rap music to me. In order to introduce him to some German rap, old school stuff as well as new hits, I have created this cool playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7o3J8DIwk9v42042elyFyM

    1. Sido - Mein Block (Beathoavenz Video Rmx)

    2. Fler - NDW 2005

    3. K.I.Z. - Ein Affe und ein Pferd

    4. SSIO - Nuttööö

    5. Tony D - Hundert Metaz

    6. Beginner feat. Gzuz & Gentleman - Ahnma

    7. Max Herre feat. Joy Denalane - 1ste Liebe

    8. Fettes Brot - Emanuela

    9. Bushido feat. Karel Gott - Für immer jung

    10. Eko Fresh feat. Valezka - König von Deutschland

    11. Kool Savas - Da bin, da bleib

    12. Deichkind - Wer sagt denn das?

    13. Peter Fox - Alles neu

    14. Seeed - Ding

    15. MERO - Baller los

    16. Capital Bra - Berlin lebt

    17. Haftbefehl - Chabos wissen wer der Babo ist

    18. Ferris MC - Düstere Legende

    19. Kollegah - Alphagenetik

    20. Sun Diego - Hookah Kartell

    21. Massive Töne - Cruisen

    22. Alligatoah - Willst du

    23. Marteria - Kids (2 Finger an den Kopf)

    24. Marsimoto - Zecken raus

    25. Kay One - Money Stacks

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  • Instead of adding more teams to the playoffs, there should have been less teams to shorten the season under the current circumstances, namely the four best teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences, respectively. Teams like Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks simply don't deserve to be here. And I'm saying this as an Arizona Coyotes fan who are making the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. You have got to be objective here. In general, I find the purpose of playing sports in empty stadiums and arenas questionable. I admit to having watched the DFB Pokal semi finals yesterday and today but sports are first and foremost live entertainment for fans. The fact that the playoffs are taking place doesn't have much to do with sports and fans but with media contracts and marketing strategies. I'm not certain whether hockey playoffs make much sense in the Canadian summer when it's going to be thirty-five degrees outside in mid-July. Still, I obviously like the sport enough to watch a couple of games here and there. I expect these playoffs to be very difficult to predict since the last regular season games will have taken place four months before the playoffs. A lot of things might have changed in four months under the current circumstances. This is why I expect quite a few surprises and have taken some risks with my predictions.

     

    These are my predictions for the first round in the Eastern Conference:

     

    Pittsburg Penguins (5) vs. Montreal Canadiens (12):

    Canadiens in five. It's an incredible gift for the Canadiens to participate in the playoffs. Nobody expected this to be happening. The players feel fresh and relaxed. They don't face any expectations. The incessant usual pressure from local fans and media in Montreal will be gone. They have got nothing to lose. With Carey Price being focused and Shea Weber being in great shape, I could imagine the Canadiens to surprise the Penguins who face much higher expectations and pressure.

     

    Carolina Hurricanes (6) vs. New York Rangers (11):

    Rangers in five. The Carolina Hurricanes have surprised the hockey world last season. This will be difficult to repeat. The chemistry isn't exactly the same as last season. The Rangers are currently rebuilding their team and the future actually looks rather promising. They have many young, hungry and energetic players that could make a difference and cause a surprise.

     

    New York Islanders (7) vs. Florida Panthers (10):

    Islanders in four. The Islanders have the better players, more experience and one of the greatest coaches to be around. The Panthers are fast but overall still lacking consistency.

     

    Toronto Maple Leafs (8) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (9):

    Maple Leafs in four. They have outstanding players that should have performed much better than they actually did this season. The Columbus Blue Jackets managed to shock the hockey world last season. Everyone will be prepared now. The individual skills of the Toronto Maple Leafs should favour them here.

     

    These are my predictions for the first round in the Western Conference:

     

    Edmonton Oilers (5) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (12):

    Oilers in three. No Canadian team has won a Stanley Cup since 1993. The only team that has a chance of changing this in the near future are the Edmonton Oilers. Offensively, they have two of the very best players with Leon Draisaitls and Connor McDavid. Their defense has finally improved over the past few seasons as well. Mike Smith is a goalkeeper who always performs extraordinarily well in the playoffs. Dave Tippett is a calm and experienced coach with a clear strategy. The Oilers shouldn't have too many problems with the old and tired Blackhawks.

     

    Nashville Predators (6) vs. Arizona Coyotes (11):

    Coyotes in five. This duel is very difficult to predict. The Predators could have won the Cup a few seasons ago but their window of opportunity is rapidly closing now. On the other side, the Arizona Coyotes have sucked for many seasons but are now showing much promise for the future with great young players and the exciting addition of Taylor Hall. I suspect this series to go all the way to five games and predict the Arizona Coyotes to surprise the hockey world here.

     

    Vancouver Canucks (7) vs. Minnesota Wild (10):

    Canucks in four. The Canucks have a young and exciting team with many promising rookies. The Wild is experienced but getting old. I expect the more energetic Canucks to come out victorious here.

     

    Calgary Flames (8) vs. Winnipeg Jets (9):

    Jets in five. This one is also very difficult to predict. Both teams have been playing great hockey in the past few seasons but their windows of opportunity seem to slowly be closing again. I believe that the Jets overall still have the better individual players. Despite having lost some important players in the recent past, they have adapted rather well. That's why I believe they could win this duel in five games.

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    I have been working on this short story for almost a year but I have only found the time to complete it accurately today. This is the third tale of the mysterious femme fatale Hamada Hanako. While the first story was quite brutal and the second tale focused on a more elaborate story, this third part is on the more atmospheric side as you will witness how a man gradually transforms into a monster. More tales about Hamada Hanako will follow in the future. However, I'm currently working on other short stories that are unrelated to Hamada Hanako's universe. I certainly hope you will enjoy this short story!

     

    Attention: This is a horror short story. Some elements might be brutal, disturbing and frightening. These are the purposes of a horror story. It's a fictitious story inspired by Japanese horror animes, mangas and movies. It's not based upon real events, locations or people. Except for the fact that I wrote this short story, it doesn't have anything to do with my convictions, personality or preferences. Again, if you're not eighteen years old, you shouldn't read this. Please note that there might be mistakes in the text. I don't have an editor. I'm my own editor. You have been warned.

     

    Hanako and the suicide forest

    It had been a dreadful summer for Kenichi. He had failed his admission to Shizuoka University. His parents had gone through a nasty divorce. Kenichi’s best friend Daizo had gone to prison for an illegal drug possession charge. Without a place to study, his parents’ support and his best friend’s presence, Kenichi’s usually swaggering self-confidence had suffered quite a blow and he had accepted a job as a clerk in a small convenience store in the small locality of Fujigane. Kenichi liked the fact that it was a remote convenience store but he didn’t appreciate the rude manager who had high expectations but not a lot of money to give. His superficial colleague was a self-centered college student who flirted with every female customer that came to the old convenience store. He was late today and should show up any minute.

    Sometimes Kenichi wished somebody would show up in this boring convenience store and turn his desperate life around. Kenichi looked at the bus stop across the street that occasionally brought tourists who wanted to climb Mount Fuji. An old white bus had just stopped there and Kenichi looked at the different people who got off the rusty vehicle. He saw a group of elderly women who were dressed for a gymnastics session. Kenichi could see a group of young businessmen who had probably come to this place as part of an annual works outing. There was also a white couple with sophisticated cameras who were clearly tourists.

    And then, Kenichi saw a young woman who didn’t seem to blend in at all with the other people. She was on her own, dressed casually and looked around as if she didn’t know where to go. Even though she was still on the other side of the street, Kenichi could see that she was particularly beautiful. She had long silky hair that moved gently in the wind. Her immaculate skin looked healthy and soft. Her body looked feminine, gentle and sporty. Kenichi estimated that she was about as old as he was. He suddenly wished she would turn around, walk across the street and buy something in his convenience store.

    It was as if the unknown beauty had read his thoughts as she turned around, looked at the convenience store and cautiously walked across the street.

    ‘’I would like to have a pack of Marlboro Ice Blast and a bottle of Mountain Dew.’’

    Kenichi hadn’t seen the customer and his booming voice made him cringe. He knew the customer all too well. He was a local farmer who was infamous for beating up his wife and daughter. He was overweight, had long grey hair and smelled very badly. Kenichi identified the disgusting smell as a mixture of alcohol and sweat.

    ‘’Police authorities are still looking for seventeen-year old high school student Hamada Hanako who was last seen in Yokohama two weeks ago when she physically assaulted the principal of an orphanage and his secretary. Hamada Hanako is also wanted for other crimes including murders in various locations. She is considered armed and dangerous. Police authorities advise anyone who sees her to alert them immediately and not to try to approach her. Hamada Hanako is five feet and four inches tall, weighs about one hundred and ten pounds and has a small peach-coloured half circular scar below her right eye.’’

    Kenichi went to the refrigerator to grab a cold bottle of Mountain Dew and proceeded to look for the pack of cigarettes. His customer was watching the small television screen behind the counter and seemed to be quite interested in the news report Kenichi had already heard three times today.

    ‘’If you ask me, that little brat deserves a nice little beating. That would teach her a lesson. Though I would pardon her if she were really nice to me afterwards, if you know what I mean.’’

    Kenichi’s customer laughed with a husky voice and Kenichi felt so disgusted that he almost felt like throwing up. He found the pack of cigarettes, put it on the counter with the drink and calculated the price. Kenichi was trying to stay as far away from the smelly pervert as possible and avoided eye-contact as if he were afraid to catch a disease that would force him to become a despicable human being like that rude customer.

    The clerk carefully rose his head to talk to the customer but stopped when he saw the young woman standing right behind him. His customer angrily rose his eyebrows before turning around himself. They both looked at the woman that had come from the bus stop. Kenichi realized that she was even more beautiful than he would have expected. She had a radiant smile with perfect white teeth and soft lips, a perfectly symmetrical nose, beautifully shaped ears and vivid eyes despite the little scar below her right eye.

    Kenichi’s heart missed a beat. He looked at the woman again and shook his head in disbelief. She was probably five feet and four inches tall. Her weight could certainly be around one hundred ten pounds. And the most remarkable thing was the small peach-coloured half circular scar below her right eye.

    The clerk wasn’t the only one who had come to the right conclusion. The eyes of his smelly customer popped out, he pointed his short fleshy index at the woman and breathed quite heavily.

    ‘’You’re Hamada Hanako! You’re the girl from the news report! You’re the one the authorities are looking for!’’

    ‘’That’s quite right. Are you going to give me a nice little beating, teach me a lesson and pardon me then?’’

    Kenichi couldn’t believe what he heard and saw and felt as if here were in a weird horror movie. The ugly customer rose his hand as if to grab the young woman but his reaction was much too slow, predictable and dumb. Hanako stepped aside, pulled a large knife out of her purse, made a step towards the farmer, twisted her body to the side and pushed the knife sideward into the customer’s large chest.

    All of this had happened so quickly that the farmer couldn’t even scream as his life ended. Fresh blood spattered on the wall, the ground and the counter. Some of it landed on Kenichi’s perplexed face, some of it ran along the shaft of the knife and some of it had landed on Hanako’s elegant porcelain face. The young woman laughed hysterically as she pushed the knife further into the farmer’s chest. The smelly customer started to shake, slowly sank onto his knees and looked at his assailant in shocked disbelief.

    ‘’Who is teaching who a lesson, now?’’

    Hanako kicked the farmer’s head as she pulled the knife out of his body. A gush of blood landed on the window right next to the entrance. The farmer rolled his eyes, slowly fell backwards and collapsed in slow-motion like a heavy bag of potatoes.

    Kenichi had his hand on the alarm button under the counter but he couldn’t convince himself to push it. He looked at the beautiful yet murderous woman in disbelief. Kenichi was equally fascinated and scared. He wondered whether she would kill him if he pushed the button. Kenichi also wondered if she would abduct him if he cooperated. The young clerk certainly thought that the latter was the much better option.

    Hanako grabbed a paper towel on a shelf, calmly cleaned the knife and put it back into her elegant purse. She didn’t even look at the lifeless body of the farmer she had just murdered. Hanako looked at Kenichi instead and spotted the camera on the ceiling behind the counter.

    ‘’Do you have a car?’’

    ‘’Excuse me?’’

    Kenichi had a jolt when Hanako suddenly spoke to him. He took his hand off the alarm button and raised it in the air as if a police officer were about to arrest him. Hanako laughed but this time it was a belly laughter and not the hysterical screeching she had uttered a few moments earlier. The mysterious femme fatale slowly moved around the counter, gently patted the clerk’s back and smoothly opened the cash register. She counted all the bills, took a cute pink wallet out of her red purse and put all the money inside. Kenichi just let it happen and observed how Hanako closed the cash register, carelessly walked around the counter and stood in the pool of blood she had caused herself. Her remarkable physical presence and cool charisma sent shivers down his spine.

    ‘’I need a ride!’’

    Hanako moved forward very gently, smiled at Kenichi and looked at him in an almost hypnotizing way. Kenichi’s brain told him to scream, run away and alert authorities as quickly as possible. His heart told him to cooperate with the poor lonely teenager who was wanted in the entire country. His lower body regions told him to run away with the woman of his dreams. Kenichi was confused by his own thoughts and emotions. Another shiver ran down his spine and he finally snapped out of it. He breathed in deeply, stretched his muscles and made sure to not fix Hanako’s hypnotizing eyes as he responded to her.

    ‘’Sure, I have a ride.’’

    Hanako nodded happily and Kenichi slowly walked around the corner. Warm phlegm gathered in his mouth as he stepped over the collapsed body of the farmer. Hanako gently took his hand to help him avoid the obstacle. Kenichi immediately forgot about the deceased farmer and only had eyes for the young woman. They went down the aisle hand in hand. Kenichi was smiling stupidly as Hanako pushed her head smoothly against his shoulder. Kenichi’s heart was beating so fast that he thought Hanako might hear it. She smiled at him and that reaction helped Kenichi to calm down as the couple reached the end of the aisle.

    The entrance door to the convenience suddenly opened just before they could reach it. Kenichi immediately realized that his superficial colleague Enji had finally arrived twenty minutes late. He wore brand-new shoes with red and white stripes, large dark blue baggy pants and a white muscle shirt with black tribal patterns on it. His wrists were covered by two sweat bands with red and white stripes, there were two expensively looking but actually cheap silver chains around his neck, he wore a pair of cheap sunglasses with blue shades and a bandana with red and white stripes covered his forehead. Kenichi thought that his colleague looked like a ridiculous mixture of a gangster rapper and a Japanese patriot. However, his colleague moved with self-confident swagger. Kenichi had to admit that Enji was quite popular with women. Kenichi’s younger colleague had had more girlfriends during the past three months than Kenichi in his entire life.

                Enji’s arrogant demeanor came to a sudden end when he spotted Kenichi and Hanako hand in hand and covered in blood. Enji moved up his sunglasses and stared at the couple in disbelief. He slowly turned his head and spotted the chubby customer laying in a pool of blood.

                ‘’What the hell is going…?’’

                Enji didn’t even have time to finish his question. Hanako had opened her purse, grabbed the knife and pushed it swiftly in Enji’s heart. She pushed it so violently that it got stuck in the young man’s organ. Enji stared at the knife that moved backwards and forwards in the rhythm of his racing heart. He then stared at Hanako as if he had spotted a ghost. His face grew pale and sweaty as he looked at his colleague in speechless terror. Enji looked at the knife and slowly tried to pull it out with his right hand. However, he wasn’t quite strong enough and needed to use his left hand as well. He pulled three times before a wet sound indicated that he had finally moved the knife out of his beating heart. A gush of blood sprayed out of the open wound and covered the windows, shelves as well as Hanako’s already bloodied clothes. Kenichi stood behind the femme fatale and couldn’t believe what he saw.

                His colleague very slowly sank to his knees, tried to cover the open wound with his hands in vain and looked at his murderer in bleak disbelief. Then, his body very slowly bent forward, lost its balance and hit the dirty ground of the convenience store.

                Hanako grabbed Kenichi’s arm and pulled him towards the door. The confused clerk followed her like a robot. There were so many thoughts racing through his mind that he couldn’t focus on any of them. He felt dumb, numb and speechless.

    Kenichi didn’t even realize what he was doing as he automatically approached his car in the parking lot. There were only three cars. There was a blue sports car that Enji’s father had offered his son for his eighteenth birthday. Right next to it was a dusty and rusty van that probably belonged to the despicable customer. Finally, there was Kenichi’s car that he had purchased from a used car dealership two years ago.

    He slowly opened the passenger seat door for his partner who put her knife back in her purse as she sat down. Kenichi heard the terrified screams of two elderly women in yoga clothes from the other side of the street who had probably seen the weapon and the blood spatter on the convenience store’s windows. Kenichi numbly ignored the two ladies, walked mechanically around the vehicle, carefully opened the door, slowly sat down on the driver’s seat, smoothly closed the door and instinctively started the engine.

    His look slowly swayed towards Hanako. Her hair looked immaculate as if she had just taken a shower. Hanako’s face made him think of a porcelain doll. Her smile was radiant and touching. The only element that didn’t fit in were the blood droplets on her skin and the larger stains on her clothes.

    ‘’Let’s go to Aokigahara!’’

    Kenichi nodded slowly, drove backwards, turned to the left and then shifted to roll forwards and out of the small parking lot. He barely noticed the bleak faces of the two yoga ladies. One of them pointed at their car with one hand and hectically waved with the other. Her friend was hectically talking on her cell phone in her left hand and nervously gesticulated with her right hand. Hanako observed the two ladies with a frozen smile.

    The young clerk had spent a night with two friends in the infamous suicide forest two years ago. It had been a terrifying experience as the trio had discovered the grisly disfigured bodies of a couple that had used a shotgun to blow their heads off. The three teenagers had been picked up by a security guard who had brought them to a hospital where they had spoken to a psychologist for three hours. Kenichi had been having nightmares of the creepy bodies for many months. He had never spoken to his two friends again. Kenichi had tried to forget everything that had happened that night but he hadn’t been successful.

    Normally, he wouldn’t have wanted to return there but he didn’t even question Hanako’s orders. Kenichi felt safest next to her since he knew that she would be able to defend him from any danger. In addition to this, he didn’t want to show the beautiful young lady that he was scared and even traumatized. Finally, getting away from the scene of the two crimes was currently the best option and Aokigahara was only a few minutes away.

    ‘’I have a hiding spot in the forest. We will be safe there. Let’s wait until the situation has cooled down.’’

                Hanako explained her plan as if it were something completely casual. Kenichi shivered as he realized that Hanako had probably caused such violent events followed by daring escapes on multiple occasions in the past. On the other side, Kenichi thought that she hadn’t really had any other choice but to kill the perverted customer and the narcissistic clerk. They would have called the police and if Hanako were to get arrested she would probably spend the rest of her life in a maximum-security prison. Kenichi didn’t want to let that happen.

                ‘’I trust you.’’

                Kenichi said these words very quietly and was surprised to hear them coming out of his mouth. His brain told him that he was talking nonsense. His heart however told him that the bond between Hanako and him was growing stronger with every minute they spent together. His lower regions made him feel dizzy, exhausted and sweaty. The prospect of spending a night in the forest with the most beautiful woman he had ever met madly excited the clerk.

                He looked at Hanako who happily smiled at him. He smiled back at her and almost felt as if the two teenagers were on a romantic Sunday afternoon ride through the country. The sun was shining brightly through the dense forest.

                The wailing sound of an approaching police car interrupted the peaceful harmony. Kenichi snapped out of his numbness and looked in the rear-view mirror. The police car was approaching quickly with flashing lights and blaring sirens.

                Kenichi accelerated and took the next turn with lots of confidence. Hanako didn’t even need to instruct him what to do. Kenichi felt that she trusted him and that made him feel incredibly proud.

                The police car followed quickly behind. There were two police officers in the car. The younger colleague drove with much concentration while the older colleague was about to use a loudspeaker.

                ‘’Stop your car immediately! Stop your car on the side of the road. Exit the vehicle with your hands in the air. Turn your bodies towards your vehicle and put your hands on the roof. I repeat! Stop the vehicle immediately or we will have to shoot!’’

                Kenichi took the next corner with lots of swagger. He drove so quickly that the car loudly drifted to the right side. Kenichi spotted the massive logging truck ahead of him. The driver firmly hit the brakes and honked his horn. Kenichi had trouble controlling his car and almost headed into the crash barrier that separated the stony steep slope on the right side from the small windy road. The young clerk was unable to drive back into his lane. The truck driver steered his vehicle to the right side with screeching tires to avoid an imminent collision.

                Kenichi’s car only missed the truck by a few inches. He looked in the rear-view mirror and saw how the truck collided with the crash barrier on the other side of the road. Sparks flew in the sky as the sound of metal scratching metal reached a nerve-firing intensity.

                Suddenly, the police car drove around the corner. Kenichi saw the expression of bleak terror in the driver’s face as he veered the vehicle to the right side. His reaction came too late as the police car brutally collided with the logging truck. The truck was shifted further to the side, broke through the crash barrier and was pushed into the wooded valley. The police car exploded with a horrifying bang, swayed inwards and collided with the crash barrier and parts of the steep slope. Trunks flew through the air, hit the two vehicles and rolled across the small road.

                Kenichi breathed heavily as his palms started to sweat. He felt like waking up from a coma as he realized that his reckless driving had just caused the deaths of three innocent people. He looked at himself in the rear-view mirror and his heart skipped a beat when he saw his wet, twitching and colourless face.

                Hanako reacted with a belly laughter, looked at Kenichi with bright eyes and kissed his cheek with enthusiasm. The young clerk had trouble staying focused and only slowed down his car as he entered the next turn. Kenichi could see a sign that indicated a parking lot leading to the suicide forest.

                ‘’Let’s go to that parking lot.’’

                Hanako sounded so focused as if nothing had happened at all. Kenichi still felt nervous but his partner’s calmness had an easing impact on him. The sight of the two destroyed vehicles had vanished from the rear-view mirror as Kenichi turned left to drive down a slope towards the isolated parking lot.

                The nervous clerk gradually calmed down and stopped the car. There was only one other car in the parking lot. It was an old white family van. Kenichi was glad that there were no police or security vehicles around. Hanako smiled at him and gave him another soft kiss on the cheek as if to thank him for arriving safely.

    Kenichi felt new warmth, strength and enthusiasm as he slowly stepped out of the vehicle, walked around it and opened the door for his partner. Everything was nearly peacefully quiet on the parking lot. Kenichi could hear the smooth wind in the leaves, a few birds singing and some crickets chirping.

    Hanako stepped out of the car, took Kenichi’s hand and pointed towards a small path that led deeper into the forest. The couple moved forward onto the path. Kenichi thought that he could hear the sirens of a fire truck from afar but the dense trees soon muffled the sounds. Everything became quiet again. Kenichi felt how the sweat on his forehead cooled down, how his frantically racing heart beat slowed down and how he gradually got his nervously twitching body back under control. Kenichi looked at Hanako who looked perfectly at ease. This was the first time Kenichi actually had the time to admire her beautiful hair, delicate face and gracious body. Hanako smiled at him and leaned her head against his shoulder.

    Despite her presence, Kenichi couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened to him in this forest two years ago. His friends and he had tried to go camping in the suicide forest. Kenichi had always despised that idea but had joined nevertheless to not look weak. Right from entering the forest, he had felt a sinister, uneasy and menacing atmosphere. Abandoned items such as broken dolls, lost shoes and old tents had only increased the creepy vibes. When they had found a clearing in the middle of the forest, they had been thinking that it might be a good spot to stay. They had built the tent and had been looking for some firewood when they had stumbled across the two decaying, disfigured and rotten bodies. The next thing Kenichi remembered is that he had been screaming and running for his life until running into an alerted and surprised security guard.

    Hanako seemed to sense that Kenichi’s thoughts were shifting away. She tightened her grip on his hand and pushed her gentle face against his breast. Kenichi stopped and looked at his partner. She smiled at him and kissed his cheek for a third time. Kenichi felt new energy and optimism. He almost forgot about the sinister location.

                The couple walked for about ten minutes before Hanako pointed towards a small hill. They left the path, went around some old, gigantic and dense trees and reached the back side of the hill. There was a little cave that was almost invisible to the eye from far away. The entrance to it was so small that the couple needed to kneel to get inside but there was enough space inside for both of them.

                Kenichi realized that Hanako had been living here for quite some time. There were some empty soup cans and water bottles. The young clerk understood that Hanako had come to his convenience store earlier to grab some new food and drinks. There was a small pink sleeping bag on a baby blue mattress. Kenichi secretly wondered how Hanako had managed to keep her body so clean and smooth when she had been sleeping in a cave for a prolonged period of time. The clerk also spotted a shotgun and two packets of shells in the furthest corner of the cave. Kenichi shivered as he remembered that five people had already died since he had met Hanako just about an hour ago.

                The young clerk wanted to ask the beautiful teenage girl what she had planned next when he heard a sorrowful wailing sound. Kenichi initially thought that it might be the siren of a security vehicle, police car or fire truck but quickly realized that it actually was a human voice. The clerk froze, didn’t move a muscle and listened to a male that was crying, hurling and screaming in agony. Kenichi looked at Hanako whose face had grown more sinister. She grabbed the shotgun, quickly loaded the weapon with two shells and fearlessly robbed out of the cave. Kenichi followed her without asking any questions.

                The wailing sound was much louder outside the cave. Kenichi looked around to identify the man who was making these sounds. Hanako however had turned around and started to climb the small hill. Her movements were elegant and quick as Kenichi had some trouble to follow her without getting out of breath.

                The clerk nearly bumped into his female companion who had reached the top of the hill. There was a man sitting a few meters in front of them who was staring down the hill. He hadn’t even realized that Hanako and Kenichi had climbed the hill.

                Hanako moved noiselessly and smoothly touched the shoulder of the wailing man. He screamed in surprise and turned around in terror. He quickly calmed down when he saw the beautiful young woman who put her index in front of her mouth to indicate to the man to remain quiet.

                Kenichi approached them slowly. He could see that the man was sitting on the edge of the hill. There was a sharp ascent of about twenty meters in front of him Kenichi felt a little bit dizzy as he was suffering from light vertigo. He also understood that the wailing man had been thinking about jumping down the hill to commit suicide. Kenichi instinctively resented the wailing man. First of all, he had interrupted the couple’s intimacy. Secondly, Kenichi considered him a coward who was about to throw his life away. Thirdly, he still remembered the two disfigured corpses that his friends and he had found nearby two years ago. He wondered whether Hanako shared his thoughts on that matter. Kenichi felt anticipation and excitement as he pictured Hanako pushing the despicable man down the hill to accelerate his suicidal plans that he hadn’t had the guts to see through.

                Hanako’s actual reaction took Kenichi by surprise. She put her shotgun on the ground, sat next to the man and put her arm around his shoulder. The man cried like a baby and hugged the teenager helplessly. Kenichi couldn’t believe what he saw and felt upset that the suicidal loser was now hugging his partner.

                The clerk slowly calmed down, fought his vertigo and sat next to Hanako. He took a closer look at the wailing man. He had half-long brown hair and a beard that was slowly getting grey. His eyes were reddish and his face looked tired. His skin was so pale that it almost seemed as if his bones were shining through. He was skinny and sweaty but dressed in suit and tie of a remarkable quality.

                The wailing man only briefly noticed Kenichi and looked at Hanako instead. He stopped hugging her and almost looked embarrassed now. The suicidal man then looked down the hill, breathed in heavily and closed his tired eyes.

                ‘’I was nearly about to jump. You know, I never wanted to harm other people by jumping in front of a vehicle. On the other side, I’m too much of a coward to use a weapon on myself. I thought that I could jump and everything would be over after a few seconds. I have been sitting here for half an hour. I just can’t push myself to do it.’’

                Hanako patted on the man’s back and looked him in the eyes with much empathy. Kenichi felt disgusted and looked away.

                ‘’That means that your time hasn’t come yet. Life is a gift, no matter how difficult its circumstances might be. You will feel your fire dying from the inside when the time is right to leave.’’

                The wailing man looked at Hanako in surprise. Kenichi’s reaction wasn’t much different. He didn’t expect Hanako to be so caring, optimistic and sensitive.

                ‘’You know, you remind me of my daughter. Her name is Haruka. She is only sixteen years old. I haven’t seen her in almost a year. Her mother and I went through a nasty divorce. I can’t blame her however. I had only ever focused on my job as an accountant. Our company has been going through financial difficulties for a while. Last week, I was let go. I have lost my family and my job. I’m forty-five years old now and don’t know what to do.’’

                While Kenichi still felt depreciation for the wailing family father and career man, Hanako seemed to sympathize with him.

                ‘’I’m sure that Haruka wouldn’t want you to disappear from her life. You can still make it up to her. Her mother might not want her to get in touch with you. However, Haruka will soon be an adult and allowed to do whatever she likes. You still have plenty of wonderful moments to spend together.       ‘’

                The family father nodded hesitantly but then wiped the tears from his reddened face and smiled for the very first time.

                ‘’You’re right. I can’t do what I was planning on doing to Haruka. She wants to see me and I will meet her again.’’

                The family father got up, stepped away from the edge of the hill and looked back at Hanako and Kenichi. It was only now that he saw the shotgun laying between the two teenagers. Hanako smiled sadly and grabbed Kenichi’s hand.

                ‘’We are also facing quite some challenges. We are meant for each other but nobody wants to see us together. We have run away and don’t really know where to go.’’

                The family father sighed and scratched his head. It was obvious that he was trying to find a solution for Hanako and Kenichi. Her reasoning might have saved his life and he wanted to pay her back.

                ‘’You shouldn’t be staying in this sinister forest. I’m aware that you can’t go anywhere since your families are probably already looking for you. However, since I’m an adult, I could buy you a motel room for the night. I have spotted a nice motel twenty minutes from here and could even drive you there. You could discuss things in peace. Tomorrow, you should contact your families and talk to them. I’m sure they are missing you terribly and will be open to respect your feelings in order to improve the situation.’’

                Hanako nodded happily, let go of Kenichi’s hand and swiftly hugged the family father. Kenichi was confused. He felt happiness and anger at the same time. Kenichi felt relieved that Hanako wanted to stay with him and considered him more than just an acquaintance. On the other side, he didn’t like at all how fond she had grown of the lonesome family father.

                Kenichi grabbed the shotgun and its shells and followed Hanako and the family father. The two walked together as if they were father and daughter. Kenichi was left behind as a gloomy, oppressing and sinister feeling crept inside his heart. Kenichi wanted to be alone with Hanako. He didn’t want anyone else to come close to her. Kenichi didn’t like that Hanako seemed to feel much more uplifted in the family father’s presence than in his own. After all, Kenichi had helped Hanako escape, had stopped two police officers and had brought her safely back to her hiding place. Kenichi felt that Hanako should be thankful for what he had done. Driving the couple to a cheap motel wasn’t even a comparable gesture.

                The clerk felt how the negative atmosphere of the suicide forest infiltrated every pore of his body. The wind had stopped blowing. The birds had stopped singing. The crickets had stopped chirping. Kenichi felt like walking through an abandoned graveyard. Those creepy vibes only increased his hatred for the suicidal family father. Kenichi felt as if the suicide forest’s aura were slowly poisoning his senses.

    The trio walked back towards the parking lot. As Kenichi had suspected, the white van actually belonged to the family father. The suicidal man had already opened the doors. Hanako had decided to sit in front of the vehicle right next to the family father. She had only eyes for him. Kenichi walked by with a sinister expression, opened the right door to the back of the van, sat down and positioned the shotgun between his legs.

                It was as if Kenichi awoke from a terrible nightmare when the family father started the roaring engine. The clerk saw how Hanako briefly touched the family father’s hand as she was cheerfully chatting with him. She laughed and her beautiful hair waved through the air like a black satin curtain.

                ‘’I really wish I had a person like you in my life. You really seem to care for your daughter. You love her even though she is influenced by her mother and has given you nothing but hatred over the past few months.’’

                Hanako’s positive words made Kenichi feel sick to the stomach. He tried to ignore his partner and the family father as they drove back towards the main road. Kenichi had an evil smile on his face as he could see the fire truck further down the main road. The family father turned in the other direction towards the next village.

                The motel was only about fifteen minutes away. The family father stopped the van in the parking lot. There was an old bus in the parking lot. A few elderly women in yoga clothes were entering their rooms on the backside of the motel. The suicidal man grabbed Hanako’s hand, smiled gayly and left the vehicle to buy a room for the night.

                As soon as the door had closed, Kenichi decided to talk to Hanako.

                ‘’What is it between you and that family father?’’

                Hanako turned around and her bright eyes suddenly turned as cold as ice.

                ‘’He genuinely seems to be a great father. I’ve never had the chance to have someone like him in my life. You probably can’t understand that because you have grown up in a happy little family.’’

                Kenichi felt a stirring anger rise in his heart. He knew that Hanako was right. Kenichi also felt that Hanako and he were further drifting apart.

                The family father came back to the vehicle and triumphantly rose a key in his right hand. He opened the door on the passenger side and helped Hanako step out of the van. Kenichi got out of the vehicle on his own.

                ‘’I have registered the motel room under my own name. You can simply leave the key inside tomorrow morning before you leave.’’

                Hanako hugged the family father who gently touched her smooth hair. She took his hands and smiled happily. They completed ignored Kenichi who began to feel more and more desperate.

                ‘’Why don’t you spend the evening with us? We could order some food and eat together in the motel room.’’

                The family father laughed and nodded happily. He went around the building to the motel room, slowly opened the door and made an exaggerated gesture to bid Hanako welcome. The teenage girl enthusiastically kissed him on the cheek.

                ‘’I gladly accept to stay with you. You have saved my life after all. Buying you some dinner is the least I could do.’’

                Hanako stepped inside the motel room and danced around happily. She jumped on one of two small beds, spread her arms and closed her eyes with a relieved sigh. The family father observed her reaction with pride.

                ‘’This room is really beautiful.’’

                Kenichi stepped inside the motel room and closed the door loudly. Hanako opened her eyes and the family father turned around. Kenichi could still see the stupid smile on his face and the bright light in Hanako’s eyes.

                The young clerk knew that the shotgun was still charged. He rose the weapon, stepped forward and fed upon the facial expression of the family father that shifted from joy to fear in a heartbeat. His opponent rose his hands in disbelief and Hanako got quickly up from the bed. She wasn’t fast enough.

                Kenichi fired the first bullet in the family father’s stomach. A bloody mixture of skin, bones and blood spattered the white wall. It covered an old mirror, the modest television and some dusty furniture. The wound in the family father’s stomach was so big that Kenichi could almost see through it.

                There were screams of terror coming from the neighbouring room. Kenichi suspected some of the elderly women to be in shock. He wondered whether they belonged to the two ladies who had initially called the police when they had seen Hanako and him leaving the convenience store one hour and a half ago. Those memories strangely felt very far away. Kenichi’s life had changed drastically over the course of the past ninety minutes. It was now about to brutally change again.

    Hanako grabbed his arm to stop him but Kenichi hit her in the jaw and then pushed her aside as Hanako fell back onto the bed. The clerk moved forward with heavy breath. Sweat dropped from his face upon the hot weapon. He opened his eyes so widely that it hurt. Kenichi laughed madly as he saw how the family father sank on his knees. The suicidal man helplessly touched his open wound. He didn’t utter a sound as his mind couldn’t process yet what had been happening to his body.

    Kenichi grabbed the family father by the chin. His eyes were sad and shifted towards Hanako but the clerk couldn’t see any pain or terror. That unexpected reaction drove Kenichi crazy. He shoved the shotgun into his victim’s mouth and looked him straight in the eyes.

    ‘’Didn’t you want to die half an hour ago? You should be thankful now. I’m your saviour!’’

    The clerk fired the weapon as Hanako screamed in disbelief. Kenichi’s mad face got covered in raw little bone fragments, bittersweet blood droplets and fleshy skin residue. The family father’s body fell towards the clerk and covered his pants and shoes in blood. Kenichi breathed out in relief, closed his eyes and smiled for the first time since he had met the family father.

    Kenichi felt so stimulated by his power that he didn’t hear the sirens of the police cars that arrived on the motel’s parking lot. They had probably been close to investigate the double-murder at the convenience store and the three fatalities in the crash involving a logging truck and a police car. Little did they know that there was a sixth body to examine now.

    The young clerk shook his head to snap out of his triumphant thoughts. He ignored Hanako who was immovably sitting on the bed and speechlessly staring at the family father’s disfigured body. Kenichi moved the curtains of the window aside and saw how four police officers kneeled behind two police cars. Three of them had raised their weapons and aimed at the motel room. The fourth officer was about to use a loudspeaker to communicate with Kenichi who chuckled crazily.

    ‘’The police has surrounded the motel. Drop your weapon immediately. Then, open the door very slowly. Leave the hotel room with your hands in the air.’’

    Kenichi laughed madly, rose his shotgun and hammered its barrel through the window. Pieces of broken glass fell on the ground as the young clerk aimed at the police officers and attempted to fire.

    The cold clicking sound of the shotgun indicated that there were no bullets left. Before Kenichi understood what was going on, the police officers fired and burst the window into a thousand pieces of shattered glass. Hanako had quickly rolled over the side of the first bed and was hiding on the ground between the two beds.

    The young clerk ducked and started to think nervously. Where could he find some ammunition? Did he leave the shells in the van? Did Hanako have them in her pockets? Kenichi suddenly remembered that Hanako had only loaded the shotgun with two shells and had left everything else behind in the cave. The clerk now understood that he wouldn’t make it out of this motel room alive. He closed his eyes in despair but then managed to smile. At least, he would die with the most beautiful woman in the world by his side. They would die together and nothing and nobody could separate them now.

    Kenichi turned around to look at his partner and froze when he saw Hanako’s motionless face right in front of him. He hadn’t heard her approaching him on the old carpet of the motel room. Hanako violently pushed a piece of glass into his neck. Kenichi felt a sharp and piercing feeling. He opened his eyes in disbelief and saw that blood was running down the shard and onto Hanako’s right hand. Kenichi’s muscles twitched as he let the shotgun fall. He could hear one of the police officers using the loudspeaker again but didn’t understand what he was saying. The police officers couldn’t see the drama that was happening behind the motel room’s closed door.

    Hanako pushed the shard further into Kenichi’s neck and didn’t seem to mind that she was injuring her own hand. She pressed the piece of glass so hard that she was bleeding herself. She looked Kenichi in the eyes as if she wanted to suck his soul out as he was slowly dying. Kenichi was so hypnotized by Hanako’s enigmatic aura that he momentarily forgot about the pain and weakness inside his body.

    He blinked his eyes and managed to snap out of his numbness. Suddenly, Kenichi looked at the shotgun laying right beside him. He could hear the blaring sirens of the police car. Kenichi recognized the bleak emptiness in Hanako’s pitiless eyes. The young clerk suddenly realized what he had done as if we had just awoken from a surreal dream. Kenichi had helped a mass murderer escape. The young man had caused an accident that had killed three people. The clerk had brutally assassinated an innocent family father who had only wanted to help them. Hanako had transformed him from a man into a monster. Kenichi felt shocked, powerless and ashamed.

    Hanako pushed the shard even further into Kenichi’s neck before letting it go. Before Kenichi could collapse, she grabbed him by the chin and looked him deep into the eyes. Kenichi almost felt like getting lost into the vast nothingness of her look.

    ‘’I really wanted to make sure that I could kill you before the police officers would get that chance!’’

    Hanako’s eyes seemed to transform into two black holes that sucked the rest of Kenichi’s life out. The teenage girl let Kenichi go and his body heavily dropped on the floor. The young clerk was dead before his head hit the ground.

    Hanako turned around, crawled towards the body of the family father and grabbed the car keys from his pocket. The young woman slowly moved towards the back door of the motel room. She slowly opened the door and looked down the aisle. She could already see the door that led towards the parking lot and the family van that was still positioned there.

    The young femme fatale turned around one last time. The sirens of the police cars were still blaring and one of the officers was still talking on the loudspeaker. Kenichi had a terrified expression on his face as he was lifelessly laying in a large puddle of blood. The family father’s body had been shot into so many pieces that Hanako barely recognized him. For a brief moment, she felt regret that the family father would never see his daughter again. However, Hanako told herself that it wasn’t her fault. She had lost two potential partners today. She had lost the first one to a violent crime and the second one to obsessive madness. Like so many times before, Hanako had to move forward on her own. She didn’t know where she would go next. Hanako only knew that she had to flee and go into hiding. But she also knew that she would come back one day.

                When the police officers finally entered the motel room, Hanako had already gotten into the family van, was slowly leaving the parking lot and left behind seven disfigured bodies.

                There were also two veteran detectives who examined the last grisly crime scene later that day. Okimoto quietly stared at the two disfigured victims, shook his head in disbelief and clenched his fists in frustration. He felt like getting out of this horrible place and lighting a cigarette.

    Ichiro was standing by the door and drinking a coffee from a plastic cup. He had gotten used to it while working as a police officer in the United States of America early in his career.

                ‘’Seven victims in two hours. That’s a new record. I have never ever seen anything like this in my career.’’

                Ichiro’s voice was booming with emotion as he summarized the two worst hours of his career. Okimoto snapped out of his numbing frustration. He got out of the motel room, lit a cigarette and blew the blue smoke into the humid air of the early late summer evening.

                ‘’To be fair, Hanako didn’t commit all these crimes. Three victims died in a fatal crash. The middle-aged male in the motel room seems to have been shot by the young man who bled to death.’’

                Ichiro took another sip from his coffee. It had already gotten cold and stale. He didn’t like Japanese coffee in general but now it tasted absolutely terrible.

                ‘’I’m wondering how Hanako manages to recruit her partners. That clerk witnessed how she murdered a customer and his colleague. Still, he helped her escape, wanted to stay in a motel room with her and was about to attack four armed police officers to protect her. The other guy is apparently a random family father who gave them a ride and bought a motel room for them. I don’t understand those people.’’

                Okimoto flicked the cigarette off his fingertips and carefully stomped on it with his left foot. He observed the five crime scene investigators who were busy in the motel room. Okimoto sighed as he thought about the lengthy report that Ichiro and he had to write and deliver to their superiors. If they had apprehended Hamada Hanako, then the report would at least be written with more enthusiasm.

                ‘’I’m beginning to think that Hamada Hanako is like a soul catcher. She has much charisma and a certain aura that seem to attract lost souls like a desperate student or a lonesome family father in an identity crisis.’’

                Ichiro threw the half-emptied plastic cup in a nearby trash bin, stretched his arms and yawned quietly. It had been a terrible day and all he needed now was a comfortable bed. Perhaps he would still watch a baseball game on television to help him change his mind.

                ‘’Perhaps this is Hamada Hanako’s only weakness. One day, she might attract someone who is stronger than she thinks. It might be our best chance to get at her if we could only infiltrate someone like that into her life.’’

                Okimoto looked vividly at his colleague. He nodded slowly and patted his colleague’s back as the detectives walked back towards their car. Okimoto even cracked a little smile for the first time on that depressing day.

                ‘’This is certainly an interesting perspective we should explore further!’’

       

    The End

     

    Hanako will return.

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  • In Extremo - Kompass zur Sonne (2020)

    The newest studio record by German medieval rock septet In Extremo had been scheduled to be released in March and was supposed to be followed by a tour in spring. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the release date got pushed back to May and the tour had to be rescheduled for next winter. While the initial disappointment to wait even longer for the new album after what had already been the longest gap between two studio records in the band's history, the band managed to make the very best out of the frustrating situation. In Extremo released four singles to keep fans craving for more, published two creative music videos and constantly communicated with personal messages and videos via social media. The band and its fans grew even stronger together throughout the past two months. It's no surprise that Kompass zur Sonne immediately conquered the German album charts upon release.

    If you liked the quirky, diversified and creative predecessor Quid pro quo, you are certainly going to appreciate Kompass zur Sonne as well. The record includes energetic band anthems and party songs such as the tongue-in-cheek ''Reiht euch ein ihr Lumpen'' and the convincing bonus track ''Sieben Brüder''. The band shows its calm, emotional and intellectual side in the tearjerking masterpiece and album highlight ''Schenk nochmal ein'' and the courageous eerie album closer ''Wintermärchen'' with its lyrical depth. The folk instrumentation works best in the enthusiastic title song ''Kompass zur Sonne'' that should work perfectly in concert as well as in the fast, joyful and relentless ''Gogiya'' featuring Austrian ska punk band Russkaja.

    Not every song is an instant hit however as some tracks take some time to grow. ''Salva Nos'' intrigues with exotic lyrics but feels like a filler due to its unspectacular musicianship. ''Biersegen'' has similar issues as it also features historical lyrics but fails to leave a deeper impression. ''Wer kann segeln ohne Wind'' is the record's most unusual track that has been controversially received when it has been released as a single. It's a reinterpretation of a Swedish folk song featuring hoarse guest vocals by Amon Amarth's Johan Hegg. The combination of calm folk instrumentation and guttural growls seems incoherent at first contact but ends up growing and developing a unique atmosphere. If anything, this song proves that In Extremo is still open for collaborations and experiments twenty-five years into its career.

    Kompass zur Sonne might not compete with the band's strongest outputs such as Mein rasend Herz and Sterneneisen but it's on the same level as strong predecessor Quid pro quo four years ago. Anyone who likes medieval folk instruments, energetic punk rock and joyful hard rock anthems should give Germany's best band a chance by listening to Kompass zur Sonne. I will cross my fingers and hope to attend the band's upcoming concert in Cologne next winter. Until then, I will listen to the group's twelfth full length studio effort over and over again. This joyful, entertaining and creative album is an excellent way to escape from sinister news these days.

    Final rating: 85%

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