Donation from the guardian to the Surnateum; investigation of an
urban legend by Gaétan Bloom
Origin: Eben Ezer in Eben Emael, various objects
Indian marriage box containing two packs of
'immortal' cards, un
hourglass containing black sand and a mid-19th century Yamantaka rosary, in which the 108 beads
are carved in the shapes
of the skulls of saints.
Account by Mr Alain G., as reported to the Concierge.
Why did his car have to break down that icy November evening in the
small town of Eben-Emael, near the Belgian-Dutch-German border?
It was a brand new
Audi 100 that he had just picked up from the dealer. Why did
this have to happen to him?
Until then, life had smiled fondly on Alain G. He was a
marketing manager at a large Swiss company and enjoyed
his fair share of success with the
But despite all that, he was not a
happy man. He was haunted by
question that came to him over and over again,
spoiling his life:
He was obsessed about finding out
the date of his death.
He climbed out of his car and walked down the road to a small
pub. After knocking back a few beers
(and we all know what kind of effect a few Belgian beers can have), he
shared his problems with the bartender.
"A strange man lives in the woods nearby," the bartender told him, "a kind of hermit, who lives in a tower he built with his
own hands. The people around here are a bit afraid of him, but they all
have the utmost respect for him. You should try to find him; perhaps he
could sort your problem out for you. I can't tell you exactly where his
tower is located, but just head north and you'll find it - if that is
Alain left the pub, found a flashlight in his car and headed into the
The clock in the church tower sounded midnight. It was pitch black.
Rain started to fall. His flashlight dimmed and finally went out. The
shadows closed in, surrounding and
Distraught and exhausted,
Alain sat down on an old tree stump to rest . "What on earth am I
doing here?" he wondered.
It was at that very moment that he noticed a light off in the
distance. Now that he finally had an objective, he got up and
headed towards the
Gradually, the vegetation changed.
Stepping over a fallen oak tree,
he saw the tower standing at the top of a small
hill, behind a circle of standing stones.
It stood 33 metres high and had
a square base with turrets
at all four corners; it was
made of roughly hewn stones covered in ivy. The tower's
seven levels were crowned by
the four figures
of the Apocalypse: the angel, the lion, the bull and the eagle.
Light flooded out of a window on the third floor.
Alain immediately climbed the enormous stairway up to the huge wooden
door. On it was pinned a note that read: "Enter. I await you".
He nervously pushed open the creaky
entered the sanctuary.
A phantasmagorical spectacle awaited him. In the centre of the room,
an apocalyptical angel started at him with its four faces; in the
shadows a monumental dragon pointed the way.
He mounted the spiral staircase to the third floor and entered the
room from where the light was emanating. There, in front of a raging
fire, surrounded by three huge candles, stood the Master of the Arcane.
He was an old man of indeterminate age: he could have been one hundred
years old - or one thousand. And yet an eternal youth sparkled in his
"Please have a seat, my friend", he said by way of welcome.
Alain sat down opposite the old man, at an antique beechwood table. An old box was on the table.
"In this box," the old magus said, "are the question and the
answer. Aren't you afraid to open a door that can never be closed again?
If you are, leave now and forget you ever came here."
Despite his dread, Alain replied that he wanted to know.
The old man's eyes burned fiercely; he was looking more and more like
a druid of old.
"Very well. For you, I will stop time."
He opened the box and removed two old packs of cards with backs of
"In the first pack we will find the question," he added,
mixing up the cards. "Cut the pack with your left hand and complete
Once that was done, he started dealing out the cards and asked Alain
to stop him wherever he wanted. After around 20 cards had been dealt, Alain
stopped him on the 9 of spades.
The old man didn't seem surprised in the least.
"This is the card of death. The place
at which you find the
matching card in the other pack, along with the three other 9s, will
indicate the number of hours, days, months and years you have left to
live. But remember this: the count will stop as soon as we come to the 9
of spades. So, if the 9 of spades turns out to be the first card,
He picked up the second pack and began counting out the cards face up
onto the table: "One, two, three..."
On the count of 17, he turned over the 9 of hearts. "A life well
lived and another 17 hours".
He continued counting: "18,19, 20...", and on the 33rd card, the 9 of
clubs appeared. "Excellent, another 33 days.
34, 35, 36..." The 40th card was the 9 of diamonds.
"Your luck is holding out: another 40 months, plus 33 days, plus 17
41, 42, 43 ...and 51". The counted ended there, one card was
missing: the 9 of spades.
The old man stood stock still for a moment, his eyes shining. Then he
said: "Well, well - perhaps you're immortal after all!"