Pseudopod 481: Unheil

by Kathryn Allen.

Unheil” was first published in Pantheon Magazine. It also appears in Typhon: A Monster Anthology which is currently available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Createspace.

Kathryn Allen lives in Yorkshire and sometimes writes fiction about facts which make her angry.

Your narrator – Elie Hirschman: Following his whirlwind world tour for athelete’s foot awareness, Elie has returned to his native Zimbabwe to unwind, make his mind one with the cosmos and seek a cure for his lifelong struggle as a pathological liar. He’s currently still active in all EA podcasts (including Cast of Wonders) and also appearing semi-regularly in the Nosleep Podcast.


South-West Africa. 1909.

I came south because I was hungry and the same-old-same-old of drought and famine, which generation after generation encourages young men to seek a different future, made hiring myself out to the Germans seem like a good thing. Everyone was doing it. If Father had been ten years younger… Or so he said to Mother when she complained about how far away I would be. As if I would not return home as soon as the rains came. As if I would not write. She shed a few tears the morning I left, but not as many as she would have if she’d believed I was never coming back.

To their great surprise, as they looked before and found nothing, the Germans had discovered diamonds in the deserts of the Skeleton Coast. Or rather a man from Cape Town, who’d dug for many years in the Kimberley mines, picked up a raw stone whilst working on the railway line to Lüderitz. I suspect he did not get to keep it, though, as he was black.

You see, I was not innocent of the ways of Europeans. I did not go south expecting to make myself a fortune but because the Germans were hiring labourers to make theirs. I knew I would have to work hard for only a modest reward. Even so, the men who came to the Owambo Kingdoms, promising bed-and-board, money to send home, and a few coins to spend, said nothing of chains or beatings. There was no mention of day upon day spent on hands and knees, crawling across every inch of every desert hill and valley, fingers cracked and bloody from combing through the burning sands, the overseers never content with either pace or productivity. I was not innocent, but I was too trusting.

Hunger drew me south and hunger killed me.