When I was much younger, probably 5 or 6, I visited Europe with my parents. In a small town in Germany I remember stopping at a shop on the main floor of a three storey building for tea.
My parents and I sat at a table, I had a milk because I didn’t feel like tea. They began chatting with a few people a table over from us about the train schedules or something equally boring. I had to pee, so I tugged on my father’s sleave to let him know. He looked at me, then up, then back at me and pointed to the door of the restroom, a few tables back toward the rear of the cafe. I hurried off to go.
Afterwards as I washed my hands a heard a sound, like a small object had dropped to the floor directly above me. Being young, foolhardy, and curious, I turned left out of the restroom as I watched my parents still happily prattling on and headed up a narrow staircase.
At the top there was a hallway, and I figured after a few moments that the room I had heard the sound from must be on the right to be above me so I walked over and knocked quietly on the door.
A sweet voice said, “Come in”, it was pleasantly upbeat and earnest, and I felt no hesitance in stepping through the doorway. I was at once in a bedroom, cozy but with many containers and boxes, the contents of which I could not make out. By a dressing table stood an elderly woman, she had a kind face, and held something in her hand as she addressed me.
“You are lost, and you must be very careful young one, there is much to fear in the world.” she smiled gently, and held the small object out to me. “Keep this with you always, it will keep you safe from the dark ones.”
I took the object and noticed it was a small piece of ornamental soap. It’s light fragrance was strange but not unpleasant. I put it in my pocket, and without another word, returned to my parents, who hadn’t even noticed my absence. We enjoyed the rest of our vacation immensely.
Just yesterday, on my 28th birthday, I told my parents this particular story for the first time, over a glass of wine and a few trips down memory lane.
They grew immediately pensive and serious, and told me that the people they had been talking to in the cafe had shared a story. They said “the cafe is the first level of an old apartment building. In the upstairs apartment a German woman suffocated her 8 children and kept the bodies by making them into soaps and storing them in the bedroom. Her victims were not discovered until her death, at a very old age.”
I wish I hadn’t kept the soap.