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Metropolis: Adapted from the Novel by Thea Von Harbou

Acts 1 and 2

By Tom BakerPublished 4 months ago 45 min read

Note: We have elected, for various reasons, not to include images from the film within the text of this story. They are easily accessible online, and we have included an embedded video of our favorite version of the film, the one produced and scored by Giorgio Moroder.

Act 1: Moloch

Freder played the organ as the images of waves and wonder came crashing down around him, and beautiful, poetic birdsong cheeped from the cascade of dreams induced by Soma, while his fingers pushed the keys of love to exultant strains. Above the stars, in their splendor of the Zodiacal signs, arrayed in vast wonder--the belly of the cosmos. He could reach out with his mind and touch them with mental fingertips. Around him, the world of the Mozartium disappeared, replaced by the cracked and damned earth upon which the waves crashed, from which the fire came bellowing out, the Vulcan's forge, the deep Hellish furnace from which life was born, molten metal life to be shaped toward man's infernal ends.

The waters, the blue skies with burning sunset streaks, the rock shores bathed in crashing salt; these were his visions while he spent his wakeful, impotent hours whiling away his time at the Club of Sons.

Down, beneath him, far, far below, walking five abreast, two downbeat and dirty lines of Workers, the lifeblood that kept the beast Metropolis moving, went, at the whistle of the steam, to the lift. Dressed in the blue linen and tight cap, they proceeded to pass, without looking up, the next five rows of workers, trudging lie unto the living dead, separated only by a small fence in between them. One row advanced like clockwork in one direction, after their ten-hour shift; the other went the opposite direction, going to their private hell, their Dante's Inferno of pumping gears, levers, steam, heat, pistons churning, diodes and crystals and metal gears and cogs turning the wheels of the great futuristic city, which was like unto a growling beast, sitting atop the pinnacle of the world.

They became, in the eyes of anyone who might view them from above, or from a little distance under the harsh electric light, a slightly swaying creature unto itself, a creature born of many parts, a great serpent of labor, sent below, to hiss alongside the hissing, to groan alongside the machine-groans, to hear their bones pop like pistons in the darkness. All was.

And they stepped, as one mighty entity born of many, into the mouth of the lift. And they descended as if they were falling into darkness and the pit of the grave.

But, high above them, Freder, and the aristocratic "Sons of the Chosen" were at the Club of the Sons, and they were racing. Freder, whose father was Joh Fredersen, Master of Metropolis, was a contestant. On your mark, get ready, get set...go!

And the race was on! And who do you think the winner was?


As far below as the machine rooms and the Workers' City were, just as far above, the "Garden of Earthly Delights" beckoned for the sons of the privileged class, the Sons of the Chosen, to make sport with painted courtesans and bare-chested hostesses in exotic costumes, with plumed crowns of hair and ostrich feathers, colors spreading around them like a peacock's plumes.

Freder raced with one in a long line of eager mistresses, having fun, desporting around the multicolored fountain, the shining rays of which threw off the accents of pink, blue, purple, beige--and every other color in a breathtaking rainbow cascade.

Amidst this garden of magnificent blooms, the two young lovers wasted their hours at child-like play. Finally, exhausted, and panting, Freder caught up with his girl. Holding her aloft in his arms, he bent her backward, the natural, arching catlike movement of her long, sleek form malleable and soft in his arms, as the white linen young rakehell bent low, to plant the kiss upon those bee-stung lips.

And all was a supernal, perfect moment of beauty when--

The huge iron doors, so delicately disguised with beautiful, cryptic scrollwork, parted. Those doors seemed forty feet tall to Freder, but it was not their height that impressed upon his mind at the moment, it was what was coming through them.

A mass of dirty little raggamuffins, children that looked like the urchins one used to see in the streets in olden times, before the building of the great city forced such people underground, to be Workers. Well, these must, knew Freder, these poor, half-hungry looking little scamps, be the children of the workers. They amassed on either side of a vision. Freder blinked. He was not quite certain that what he was seeing was real.

A young woman was in the center of the mob of kids, her hands stretched out to their scampy, buggy little scalps. But, holding them gently, tenderly. She had a shawl wrapped across her shoulders, a plain, simple dress, blonde hair, and the most electrifying blue eyes that Freder had ever set his own eyes upon.

There was something about that face, those eyes--they recalled the Madonna, Our Lady, a Holy Virgin; they were the electric-blue eyes of a saint.

Freder paused before kissing the girl, who was now looking back over her shoulder at the crowd that had just entered the garden. The young woman who had entered at the head of the procession of children said to them, bending slightly so they could hear: "Look children, these are your brothers!"

Attendants rushed forward, trying gently to usher the whole untidy lot out the door, and finally managing to do so rather a little too forcefully, when Freder suddenly stepped a few paces forward, toward the steps leading up, and asked the attendant, "Who was that woman, sir?"

And the embarrassed attendant, who was nervous he may be harshly reprimanded by the son of Joh Fredersen for even allowing such a display, said, "Just the daughter of some worker."

But Freder knew it was not as simple as that. He bounded up the steps and flew out the double doors, letting them swish shut behind him. At his heels, beautiful swans with long, terrific, arching necks, looked strangely at his eager going.


Freder descended down, for the first time in his life. Suddenly, he was curious to find this "daughter of a worker."

He ambled through the huge hall of the machine shop floors, looking on in quiet amazement at the workers in the gallery to either side of him. They danced, rhythmically, to the pulsations of the machines, seeming as if some instructor had choreographed them to a point of robot-like perfection. But, no, he could see they were just pulling the same lever, making the same tiresome, soul-deadening movement over and over, which they would repeat for ten hours.

He rounded a corner, putting his hand on the cold bulkhead. Before him, a vision out a nightmare: the grinding gears of a giant mouth, a pagan god of steel and iron, and, on either side, flanking the face, nine cubicles. Workers, their backs to him, continued their strange, stiff, dance, pulling the same levers, pushing the same buttons, twisting the same knobs.

Jets of smoke, like the sulfurous exhaust of some hellish beast, shot from pipes going up the side of the monster's face. As if it were a giant tongue, a concrete staircase went upward to the two levels of cubicles, separated only by an iron railing. The cubbies themselves were one atop another.

In the engine room, a Worker began to expire from exhaustion, his heart attack dropping him to his knees, as the great thermometer gauging the heat of the boiling machine room began to rise, the blood-red mercury reaching a level he knew was dangerous, catastrophic. Soon, he was reaching up toward the round valve to unleash the pressure, before it was too late.

Freder stood across the machine-room floor, when suddenly--


An explosion! And men fell and jumped from their cubbies. Boiling clouds of smoke and steam, shooting jets of fire belched forth as if from a dragon's mouth. Freder saw men emerge, their skin hanging from them, seared by the white-hot jets of steam; their clothes hanging from their shoulders as they tore them off in agony.

Suddenly, his vision began to cloud. Red waves of steam began to glow before his eyes, and the face of the mighty machine began to alter.


He cried, his hand extending outward, toward the dead and the dying. The mouth of the huge gears became teeth, the metal face of the machine itself transformed into the hideous face of the demon--


Now it was not blue-clad, uniformed Workers being led up, up the concrete stairs to their death--it was a bound-together mob of men, condemned to be fed into the Mouth of Moloch, the fires of his ungodly wrath, to be given over as HUMAN SACRIFICES.

On either side of this tremendous mouth, the Priests of Moloch, wearing their Babylonian robes and tall hats, stood, flanking the hungry lips of fire, their arms stretched skyward. The bound, bald human sacrifices were forced into the fire struggling together, seared to ashes on behalf of the unforgiving, iron god.

And then the visions, (which Freder had more and more of these days since he had begun drinking the "Soma", the drugged, intoxicating liquor at Yoshiwara's infamous den of iniquity, a liquor that brought on strange if brief hallucinations and troubled dreams), began to fade, and Freder saw simply blue-uniformed workers with stretchers, some letting the badly-injured rest upon their shoulders as they passed him, seemingly unaware that he was even there.


Freder reached out his hand, wanting to help, wanting to offer aid and assistance, and to tell the Workers that he felt for the tragedy of their lives. But what could he do in his fancy white linen and tie? He was, in fact, the wealthy, privileged son of Joh Fredersen, the "Master of Metropolis", and he knew he and the Workers were worlds apart, separated by the beautiful, glistening, city of wonder above, and the dark, dingy, cave-like dwelling wherein slaved to the machine-god, far below. Slaved through dint of their birth, the station they were born into, their "class." Yet, all men bleed, and all men, even the lowliest, deserve to be rewarded for the sum of their ceaseless toils.

Freder raced out of the machine rooms and took the lift, the hidden lift, up, up. To an exit, flying down a staircase.

He jumped into his car, and barked at the driver, "Take me to my father, now!"


Joh Fredersen paced up and down the floor of his office, his "throne room", overlooking the grandeur and majesty of the city he had designed, and now watched over relentlessly as the Supreme Leader. Behind him, Josaphat, his secretary took notes on what he was saying--

"The Workers are becoming restless, Josaphat. I can feel their grumbling like the vibration of this city beneath my feet, under my touch. We must keep them in a state wherein they do not begin to think they can organize, revolt, or even demand better than what they have. We feed them, we clothe them--we give them heat and light. It is enough. They were not born to share in the life we enjoy above. They were born for the machine shops below, to toil and be cared for as efficiently and faithfully as any metal machine. I tell you, this is the way it is, and it must so remain. Otherwise, if we allow them to become equal to ourselves, to stand on an equal platform, we are courting disaster. Nay, all would, in fact, be lost."

Josaphat listened intently if feeling somewhat sickened when Joh Fredersen went on like this, comparing the Workers to machines, or even animals, as he had done in the past. At a table nearby, seven accountants scratched out an endless succession of figures, numbers of varying sizes that fell from the viewscreen above the window. These numbers represented the ins and outs of capital: financial speculation, the annual budget, and the return Joh Fredersen could be expected to reap from his multifarious investments and financial enterprises, from the Great God Metropolis, which blessed him so graciously, and to which he offered service and obeisance. But, he reflected with almost a smile, some confused HIM with that god.

Suddenly, unannounced by the secretary outside, his son, Freder came charging into the room. Joh Fredersen was suddenly disturbed. He could tell by the wild-eyed appearance of his son, his mussed hair, and his general appearance of disarray, that something was deeply troubling him.

Freder rushed up to him, grabbed him by the shoulders, and said, "Father, I have seen a terrible thing today. I have seen men toiling like beasts at unforgiving monstrous machines. I have seen a horrible accident with many men killed, and I have seen the injustice of it all! With my own eyes, I have seen how we treat the Workers below! Father, why do we treat the Workers so badly?"

And then Freder, at his father's shoulder, pointed a finger out the giant window of his father's office (which was in a fantastically-designed building called the "New Tower of Babel") and said, "It was their hands who BUILT Metropolis! It is their blood, sweat, and tears that keep it running. Father, where do their hands belong in the scheme of things? In your scheme?"

John Fredersen turned around, his hands in his pockets, and considered things. He said, "I have always known this day would come, and dreaded it."

"What day, Father?" asked Freder, knowing the answer already, and fearing it.

"The day when you would begin to question the order of things, why things are the way they are. It is probable that, as of right now, you do not understand why it is the Workers are treated in the manner in which they are. But I tell you: it can be no other way. There are two classes of men in this world my son: the brains that think, and the hands that toil on behalf of those brains. To confuse one with the other is to court disaster. I--"

Just then, the sound of the buzzer and Joh Fredersen stepped forward. "Excuse me," he told his son, unnecessarily.

Freder turned his back in dismay and disgust from his father, and the voice on the other end of the intercom said, "Grot to see you, Mr. Fredersen."

Fredersen paused for a moment, and said "Send him in."

After a few moments, a huge, burly man in a Worker's uniform and cap, with a thick, fuzzy beard and burning eyes stumbled in. In his hand, he held what appeared to be a scrap of paper.

"Master Fredersen," he began, "some more of those strange plans found on the body of a worker."

Joh Fredersen sighed. It apparently was going to continue to be a trying day.

He sat down at his desk, took a scrap of paper, and could make nothing of it. He said, "Josaphat...why did you not know of these strange plans?"

Josaphat, still standing over by the sideboard, where lunch was commonly laid out and served, suddenly seemed to freeze in terror. His face drew a blank look, and his throat seemed to close on the words that would not escape from between his teeth.

He could say nothing. One fancied they could hear his heart hammering, like the thump of a piston, in his chest.

Joh Fredersen stood, his face a pitiless mask.

"Josaphat," he said, "you are dismissed."

Josaphat looked as if he had just been pierced through the breast by a sword. His head dropped to his chest, and he slowly and calmly exited the room, throwing wide the heavy double doors. Grot followed him out, huffing and puffing under his great burden of weight, and thinking, "I don't understand these surface-dwellers at all. But I am just the Foreman of Workers, and so it is not my business to understand why they do what they do, or to question them."

Freder was aghast. He looked at his father for the first time with a terrible, burning sense of contempt. He said, "Father! Do you know what it means to be dismissed by you?"

But Joh Fredersen said nothing, and in a moment, Freder had followed the other two men out the door.

Joh Fredersen waited a few moments, then pushed the button on his desk that operated the intercom. He said, "Send in Slim."

In a moment, a tall, cadaverous man in a long tuxedo coat and tie appeared at the door. Joh Fredersen stood, put out a finger, and said, "I want my son watched constantly! Understand?"

Slim said nothing. He was a man of few words, but many strange, secret deeds. He understood well enough.


Josaphat made his way through the corridor, and, going slowly down the steps, weaving, as if drunk, he produced a pistol, and, making as if to put it to his temple and fire, began to silently weep his sorry fate, his "dismissal" by the Master of Metropolis.

"Here no, none of that!" said a voice behind him, suddenly grabbing the arm holding the gun, and pulling it away. Josaphat blinked. It was Freder, Master Joh Fredersen's son."

"We'll have none of that, Josaphat. You're much to valuable a man to throw your life away in such a fashion." Then, bending forward, as if whispering conspiratorily, Freder said, "Look, I'm going to change things around here, and I'm going to need your help to do it."

Josaphat looked at him incredulously. He said, "I-I don't understand."

But Freder merely smiled. He felt he had really begun to live for a purpose now, and it was filling him full of exultation and joy.

End of Act 1: Moloch

Act 2: Babel

Freder found an egress, a stairwell, leading down, far below, into the machine rooms. The doorway into their world, the world of the Workers, was labeled with the Roman numeral V, and he opened it slowly, feeling the perceptible heat of steam, the smell of exhaust, hearing the roaring and the hammering and the grinding and the moving, always moving, of the machines, and the Workers, who were an extension, by and by, of those very machines. He walked in slowly, no one even recognizing his presence; or, if they did, daring to acknowledge it.

he was Joh Fredersen's son. What was he doing down here? they must have asked themselves (those who even recognized his presence). Through the smoke and the steam he saw the Workers shuffle forward, heads bowed in mute resignation to their lot in life, which was to toil and suffer. Some drove motorized carts full of metal scrap and detritus, still, others simply went, hour after hour, turning their levers, twisting their knobs. And all for what? So that they could maintain a glistening city above them, one whose joys and pleasures they could never hope to partake in.

It was stiflingly hot down here, and Freder failed to see how a man could even breathe. Under such conditions, he thought, only the strong, those made of iron could hope to survive. Who was the philosopher who said, "That which does not kill me only strengthens me"? Freder could not now remember. But wasn't it a basic tenet of biological evolution, if one believed in such things? That the strong survived, the weak perished so that the strong might propagate more of their kind. And this was the natural way of man.

Ahead of him, Freder saw what he took to be a giant glowing clockface, ringed by light bulbs, and a poor, exhausted young man standing before it. As soon as one of the lightbulbs flickered into life, the man would take one of the arms of the clock face and move it to that bulb. What possible purpose this could serve Freder could only guess, but the man had to be awfully quick to keep up, and he looked as if he was on the verge of collapse.

And then he did collapse, still clinging to the arms of the clock face, and Freder flew forward.

"Brother," he said, "Let me take your place here. Come, we will exchange clothing, and I will man the machine and its infernal arms. But first, I must have a name. What do they call you?"

On the man's hat were simply the numbers eleven-eight-eleven. The man, who looked as if he thought he might be dreaming, stuttered, "Y-you. You're Joh Fredersen's son, are you not? You're..."

"Yes!" replied Freder. "I am Freder Fredersen! And I am here to help you!"

The lightbulbs ringing the giant clockface began to flicker and a buzzing sound could be heard. The man began to limply reach for the arms of the machine, but Freder stopped him, asking again, "What did your mother call you, brother?"

The man paused for a moment, and then said: "Georgy."

"Ah Georgy, very well. When does the shift end?"

But then, just as Freder said this, the steam whistle blew its alarm, and Freder knew that Georgy's hellish ten hours were, for the time being, at an end.


The two men quickly exchanged clothing. freder gave him the slip of paper with Josaphat's address on it.

"Go to Josaphat," he said. "Tell him I am down here among the Workers. Tell him this is where I intend to stay until my father relents in his merciless treatment of them. Go. And be advised that my father's agent Slim is probably on my tail! Be warned!"

Georgy thanked him, shaking his hand, and said, "She...she speaks of one who is coming. A sort-of messiah, whom she calls "The Mediator." I think you may be just that man, my friend."

And before Freder could say another word, Georgy disappeared in the clouds of steam and smoke, and Freder began to manipulate, as quickly as he could, the arms of the giant clock face. Soon, sweat was pouring down his face, into his armpits, all over his body, soaking the front of the blue uniform he wore. He barely had time to doff his cap and wipe the sweat from his eyes before another lightbulb flickered to life.

Georgy found his way outside of the machine rooms, taking the lifts up, dressed as Freder in fine white short pants, a fine silk shirt, and a tie. Not a single citizen of Metropolis accosted him on his way or even turned their head at his passing. He did not look like a Worker now. Now he looked like a son of the privileged, a small-time aristocrat.

He went quickly down a concrete flight of stairs to Freder's waiting car, his eyes opening wide to see the vast city that he and his kind kept moving, moving, moving, eternally bustling, like a giant glistening colony, in the bright rays of the sun the Worker far below, toiling in darkness and drudgery and filth, rarely got to see.

The city was a vast and sprawling wonder, huge towers rising into the air, elevated trams and aero cars zipping through the heights, and, below, endless lines of cars, like heavy metal insects when seen from above,, ever moving, ever moving, towards some place of idol amusement or consumerism, if not some gigantic office with a panoramic view of the majesty that was...Metropolis. And, at night, with all of the vast searchlights and the neon and the bright glow of so much electrical juice being consumed--what must it look like then? Lavishly clothed in the finest attire, it would become an ocean of beautiful bodies, headed to so many restaurants and cinemas, gambling parlors and whorehouses, taverns, and even the opera. The cathedral at the center of the city, which Joh Fredersen had long since considered tearing down against the eternal protestations of Destrus and his cult of monk-like minions, was only ever frequented by a few, very few, pious souls. The rest of the endless city seemed like one parade or party that never ceased. Especially at the house of ill-repute"; especially at YOSHIWARA'S.

He told the driver where to go, but, as they stopped at a traffic liht, he looked over into the next car. There, before him, was a vision of loveliness as perfect, as angelic as anything he had ever seen, sitting in the back seat of her chauffeured limo. She was putting on her lipstick and rouge, her painted face. The wives of the Workers did not use such accouterments. Only Maria he found half as beautiful as this wanton creatureand Maria was a woman he thought of as sacred, incorruptible, Like unto a saint.

But not this woman. Suddenly he told the driver, "Driver, stop this car at once!"

The driver did so. Georgy flew from the backseat, and, opening the back door of the limo in which the woman was riding, seated himself beside her, scooting close, thrusting out his hand, telling her, "Hello! My name is Georgy! I-I am sorry if this seems a bit forward, but I couldn't help but notice how beautiful you are, and I decided that I just had to come over here and introduce myself!"

The woman looked for a moment as if she didn't know how to respond and then burst out laughing. "Well my," she said, a "Well my," she said, a trifle embarrassed, "We are forward, aren't we?" and she stretched out her hand and introduced herself.

"I'm Georgy, " he replied, a little awkwardly, a little embarrassedly now, for having barged into her car so abruptly and without invitation. Behind them, fellow motorists began to honk their horns for the car to speed forward, as the light had changed. The chauffeur eyed his mistress nervously, wondering what it is he should do.

"I tell you, we must be off. But I'll be seeing you later I take it. At Yoshiwara's?"

He mouthed the word slowly. The term seemed pregnant with possibility. He then, coming back to the role he was playing (as a rich young privileged son of Metropolis, instead of a Worker), "Oh, oh yes. At Yoshiwara's. I'll be there this afternoon. I-I hope I shall see you there as well."

"And so we shall!" she laughed, and then hurried him out of the car. He climbed back into the backseat of his own, as the lane of traffic next to them sped off, and her card disappeared in the metallic swarm of others.

Suddenly, as if by a miracle, it seemed to be snowing large paper sheets outside the backseat windows. He rolled the window down, the wind blowing in a sheaf of handbills into the backseat. Someone, he thought, someone is standing on top of the bridge above us, throwing these down by the sackful.

In fancy typescript across the handbill was typed a single, enigmatic name:


Below that, there was a map and directions. An address. But, he thought, I'll be able to see it by night. The front of the building, at least as far as the picture on the opposite side of the handbill portrayed, was as ornate as an oriental temple, and framed by two huge spotlights. And, the night was falling.

"Driver!" he ordered. "Take ne to Yoshiwara's at once."

All thoughts of any other destination or duty had temporarily vanished from his mind.


In the center of the city stood a house, an old-fashioned, barn-like structure, that had stood from ancient times. It was dwarfed on all sides by the tall high-rise apartments and office buildings, and it was a house of almost monumental ugliness. Dark, black walls that seemed to draw in the darkness around them, and a roof that came sloping down on either side, rotting shingles sometimes being blown off in the passing breeze. Most headed in the general direction, if they knew of it, would go out of their way to give it a wide berth. It was, after all, fabled to have once been the home of a hexe, an evil sorcerer, or, as he was known in the legend, the "Warlock of the Red Shoes." Once, when digging in the cellar, workmen had found the remains of just such a man, wearing red shoes. Ever since then, the appellation of the "Red-Shoed Hexe" had stuck. people wondered if these were the actual remains of the fabled spellcaster of yore.

It was to here Joh Fredersen, the Master of Metropolis had directed his driver, and it was upon the old oaken door, decorated with the pentagram, turned round so that the two top points faced upward evilly, as if they were the horns of the Baphomet, that he slammed the heavy brass knocker. It was several moments before the door was slowly, creakily cracked open, and a tiny eye, far below him, peered out.

It was Rotwang's dwarf servant. And this, this feared old haunted place, this was Rotwang's house. It was here he carried on his experiments.

"I am here," said Joh Fredersen slowly, "to see your master."

The dwarf said nothing but closed the door slowly. After what seemed an interminable time, but must have only been a few minutes, he came back, opened the door, and said, "Yes, the Master says he will see you now."

Joe Fredersen entered the dark, damp, foul-smelling abode. He was acutely aware of the strange contrast the place presented--as for the fact that, while it crumbled around its strange, mad dweller, a virtual ruin, it was filled with the weird, highly-advanced scientific apparatus, the weird glowing, twisted tubes and strange, sparking coils of his experiments. His, reflected Joh Fredersen's, was a brilliant mind. However, it was a mad one, he reminded himself with the next thought. The dwarf led him to a room half of which hid an alcoved curtain in the darkness. He was left there momentarily as the dwarf went to fetch Rotwang. With one hand, Joh Fredersen pulled back the heavy red velvet curtain and looked at what he found there.

it was a vast marble monument, like what one might find in an old graveyard; however, much bigger than any gravestone he had ever laid eyes on. On top of it, roughly carved from the marble, was the image of a woman's head. She might have been a Greek goddess, but Joh Fredersen recognized her instantly. It was Freder's mother, Hel, who had died.

Below, the inscription on the monument read:







"Ah," said a familiar voice behind him, cutting through the darkness. "So you have found my little monument, eh Joh Fredersen? And what do you think of it, Joh Fredersen? Have I not recreated her in marble, as exquisite and beautifully ravishing a work of loveliness as ever graced this cursed planet...Joh Fredersen? But, come, I will show you something, something remarkable, Joh Fredersen. I have recreated her in another way so that she is not only a block of marble, but she can become a real living, breathing, moving, and animate woman again...Joh Fredersen! I have defeated DEATH!"

Joh Frederssen had forgotten Rotwang's annoying habit of repeating his full name every time he spoke. But he said nothing of it. The man was as crazy as a loon, but he was brilliant, and often his intellect was invaluable.

He followed Rotwang up a spiral staircase to the upper floor of his chambers, to this laboratory. There, amid the beakers and bottles, the inscrutable apparatuses of metal and glass, and the huge walls of dials and levers and switches, there was what Joh Fredersen took to be a sort-of stage. And another red velvet curtain.

A t one wave of the mad old scientific wizard's hand the curtain parted and there, seated on a heavy metal throne, beneath a huge pentagram, sat a woman. But, Joh Fredersen realized, she was a woman made entirely of metal parts; a machine. A--

"PARODY! I call her 'Parody Artifice Futura.' She is a robot, Joh Fredersen, as you can see!"

Indeed, Joh Fredersen could see that quite plainly. But, had Rotwang actually managed to bring her to a semblance of life?

"Joh Fredersen, I tell you she can walk, talk, and think her own dark, troubling, metal-machine WOMAN thoughts, Joh Fredersen. But, Joh Fredersen, she lacks one thing, and one thing only! Do you know what that might be, Joh Fredersen?"

He looked with amazement at the blazing eyes staring into his own with accursed madness. they were ringed with dark circles, standing out in harsh contrast to the maniacal pale face, the whispy white mane of hair, and the dark, gauntleted hand that Joh Fredersen knew to be an artificial limb. Rotwang's hair had turned white overnight, for grief at losing Hel, and some swore that he had cut off his own hand in despair. (But Joh Fredersen believed he had probably lost it in a laboratory accident.)

"You're wrong about that, my brilliant friend. She is...better off without one."

Joh Fredersen, was taken aback when Parody rose from her metal throne and came walking, slowly, like clockwork, toward them. But there was nothing,m he observed, about their movements that were not smooth. She could be made to seem human-like, he noted, even though her face was a strange metal mask.

"I tell you, you are the most brilliant inventor known to me. The thing is fantastic, a work of rare genius. But this is not why I have come."

And with that, Joh Fredersen retrieved the plans from his coat pocket. He said, "We have found these same cryptic plans on the bodies of several workers. We do not know as to what they refer, what they mean. I tell you: I fear the Workers are plotting something, planning something. Revolt perhaps."

Rotwang did not seem overly saddened by this prospect, but instead said, "Ah! The whip hand is afraid the whipping boy will grab the whip, right Joh Fredersen? That the poor mule who has been overburdened, whose back is breaking, is one day simply going to refuse to toil and strain for you, is that it Joh Fredersen? That slave shall rise up to become master when realizing how many of the joys of life have been denied them, though they are the ones whose ceaseless labor produces those joys. Is that the way things stand, Joh Fredersen? Well," and Rotwang took the plans, and began to examine them carefully.

These are plans to the ancient catacombs, Joh Fredersen. And a secret rendevous or meeting. But, it must surely involve many of the Workers. Come, I will take you down, down, far below, into the ancient catacombs, into the ancient burial spaces, the charnel house of rock and bones, Joh Fredersen. And we shall see what this meeting is, what it entails. There is an entrance to the catacombs right beneath my house, Joh Fredersen. Come!"

Joh Fredersen started forward, but then asked, "Is it safe?"

Rotwang turned to him with a sneer of contempt. "Safe?" he exclaimed. "Joh Fredersen asks me if it is safe. I take you to a place of burial and death, to dark, dripping caverns of loose rock, where men have met death, trapped in the darkness, crushed by cave-ins, or dying like rats when they became lost in the darkness, Joh Fredersen. Oh, it is so dark, Joh Fredersen, without an electric torch you cannot see your hand in front of your face, Joh Fredersen. But, come, these plans show that the place of the meeting is not very far into the ancient depths. We will not become lost, Joh Fredersen, not will any harm befall you while we are down below." And with that, Rotwand lifted his gauntleted, artificial hand imperiously, and motioned Joh Fredersen forward, to a side door, into which they both descended down an uneven flight of steps, carved into the stone.


For many hours Freder had toiled at the giant glowing clock face until he was covered in sweat and the front of his uniform was soaked in it. His arms felt heavy with exhaustion, and sweat poured down his face, fell into his eyes, and rolled down his chin to drip onto the concrete floor.

There was hardly time to stop and wipe the sweat from his brow before the next light blinked into life, and he had to move the clock arms around to it, or else the machine would stop functioning, and then...who knows? "Oh, he asked himself, "when will this cursed shift be over?"

And then, as if in answer to his prayers, the steam whistle sounded, and the men began to slowly wake from their stupor of drudgery, and leave their machines. As Freder stood there, trying to catch his breath, a fellow Worker came up to him and thrust a paper into his hands, saying, in a conspiratorial whisper, "Maria has called another of her meetings." Freder looked down at the page he had been handed. It seemed to be a map of some sort, with two crosses as a sort of "x marks the spot."

Around him, men began to slowly leave their machines. Some, he knew, were returning to their homes; still, others seem to be shambling, as if in a group, toward some dark, hidden area in the back of the machine room. By instinct, Freder followed them, folding the paper and putting it in his pocket. He followed, and the way lead down corridors and through broken archways and into old crypts and cellars and down long, cavernous tunnels of gloom. Where were they going?

It was to a secret underground grotto, a chapel, bedecked with holy crosses, that they finally came, and Freder sat amongst what was now his brother Workers. Looking up in his exhaustion then, he saw her: the virginal beauty, the Instrument of Divine Grace, dismissed by an attendant at the Garden of Earthly Delights as "just the daughter of some worker." But, no, it was Maria, the woman who had brought the children into the garden, who had told them, "See, these are your brothers and sisters!" And, by doing so, had changed Freder's life forever.

In her presence one felt the angelic touch of peace. From her cobalt eyes of striking blue, the divine fire burned white hot; mystical, ghostly. She raised her arms, her pretty dress of blue billowing out around her dainty feet, her shawl wrapped around her shoulder and arms. On her face she wore the look of an anchorite, a mendicant, a vestal virgin, a saint. her very gaze was a beatitude.

Men sat patiently on the cold stone floor, waiting. Finally, her soft, lilting tones penetrated the darkness, lit only by candles, and she said, "Brothers, I come to you today to tell you a great and new dawn is fast approaching, one in which our great toil will be finally rewarded, and we will be able to share with our brothers and sisters above, a portion of the good things of life, for which we have so sweated and slaved."

"And how can this be, Maria? Please tell us!" cried one man in the crowd below the wooden podium. "yes, tell, us!" cried the others.

Maria seemed then as if she were lost in a trance, as if she were looking into another world, one that was invisible to the naked eye, but which only she, in her capacity as a prophetess, could look into. Slowly she said, "between the hands that toil and the mind that plans, there must be a mediator. The Mediator. And that must be the heart. I tell you, The Mediator is coming! He is among us, even now!"

At this, men joined their hands together, doffed their caps in an act of pious respect, and implored Maria to "Teach us! Please, Maria, teach us your wisdom and speak your truth!"

And Maria said, her face a nearly immobile mask, "I will tell you the story of Babel." And with that, she began.

The Story of Babel

"Once," began Maria, "in the long ago, King Nimrod and his advisors besought themselves a way to reach God in his heavenly abode. And so they thought, and cast about for a way, until, one day, King Nimrod said unto them, "Come, let us make a tower that will reach to the heavens, and let it be thrust skyward so that a man may ascend to the top of it, day after day, until, finally, he can reach God in His heavenly abode. And we will inscribe on the base of this tower, so that all may see, the phrase 'Great is the world and its creator, and great is man.'"

Maria continued, her arms still lifted to her sides, as if she might be put upon one of the wooden crosses behind her, just float up to it on a beam of holy light.

"So from all over the world, workmen were called, and they came in great numbers, droves of them traveling from all points to build the great tower. And they began work, and the amazing structure grew and grew upward until it reached beyond the clouds. The workers, many of whom gave their lives to help build the project, were most pleased.

"But then, there were grumblings in the ranks. The workers began to complain that their masters, the architects, and overseers of the titanic project, were not planning on "Sharing the heavens," with them, or allowing them access to the wondrous, golden splendor of the tower which they, themselves, had built. They became restless, angry, and discontented, knowing that they might never share in the great project that they had broken their backs to see become a reality.

"Their tongues were many and confused. There was no communication. Perhaps the Divine Spirit confused their tongues, but it all amounted to the same thing...BABEL, a word dripping blood with all the horror it entails. There was confusion, fighting; a revolt! This is the story of the Tower of Babel, which was never completed. Oh, but men will still say, 'Great is the world and its creator, and great is man.'" And they may be right about the former, but, as to the latter, well...Man may be great, but is he moral? Does he not need the heart to mediate between the hands that build and the head that plans?

"Between the hands and the mind, there must be a mediator and that mediator must be the heart. I tell you: Our mediator is soon to come."

Men began to openly weep, folding their hands across their chests, and one cried out, "But when, Maria? When will our mediator arrive? We grow weary of waiting, and the burden we bear is so great. On behalf of my wife and children: when will this messiah you speak of arrive?"

And Maria, as if suddenly broken from her trance, said:

"He is already here, among you. Just waiting until the time is right. I tell you. I can feel it."

And then she added:

"You must be patient. Do not destroy yourselves out of frustration. You must wait."

One man in the audience below, a big, gruff man with a bad temper, then piped up, "We will wait. But not much longer."

Soon, the Workers began to file out. All but Freder, who skulked in the shadows, waiting to be alone, so he could speak with Maria in private. Though he reflected, he hadn't the foggiest notion of what words to say.


Above, staring through a hole in the heavy stone, Joh Fredersen and Rotwang looked and listened intently on the scene that had just transpired below. Joh Fredersen was disturbed. Here the seeds of discontent were being planted by this strange girl, and they could, he knew, easily blossom into the ripe fruit of outright rebellion. Of course, for now, she was placating them with talk of a "messiah," a...what did she call him? The "Mediator."

But how long can that last, he asked himself? He turned to Rotwang, "Rotwang, what do you, in your infinite brilliance, say we should do about this, eh, this little problem we have developing here? That girl, that girl could be very dangerous, very dangerous to Metropolis, to me. Even to you, as, though you are not a common citizen in the same sense as everyone else, you are not forced below ground like a Worker, but can commence your experiments and research in the midst of the city."

Rotwang was silent for a moment, and then, his eager face lit up with the mad genius that marked his soul.

"Ah, Joh Fredersen," he began, "I do think I have a solution for you, Joh Fredersen! I can give my beautiful robot, Parody Artifice Futuram the image of the girl. The girl, we can keep hidden away in a locked chamber of my house. The robot Maria, for that, is her name, did you not hear?--she will be as putty in your hands, yours to control. She will so shock the Workers in her glum pronouncements of failure and hopelessness, they will never rebel, but will go on, Joh Fredersen, toiling away here in the darkness and dust, as they always have, amid the god-like machines that preserve the shining city above, a city in which they cannot live and virtually never see."

Joh Fredersen thrust his hand into his pocket and was suddenly smiling. He said, "Ah yes! Yes! my friend. Why you are brilliant! Yes, yes...I tell you: kidnap the girl. Give your robot her likeness, and lock her away. I'll have her dealt with later, and there will be no blood on your hands. Then, command your robot to stifle any dissension in the ranks of the Workers. let them, through her, know that rebellion is a useless gesture, that their lot in life is exactly that...their lot, their station. Their class. They are sheep and are easily led. Well, we may stamp this rebellion down like a brush fire before it yet has time to grow!"

And Rotwang smiled, a look that, upon his face, was horrible.

"Yes," he said, "Joh Fredersen, it will be done exactly as you have instructed. All will be in readiness soon, and all will go according to your plan." Secretly he thought, And Joh Fredersen, I have my own plans as well."

"Excellent! You must let me know when you are ready to commence operations! Now, I must be getting back..."

Rotwang stalled for a moment. He could see again, a strange light, play over the cavern walls, like a miniature glowing orb, and he wondered if Joh Fredersen could see it too. He had seen it down here before, and he wondered at it. Piezoelectric phenomena? Or, as he secretly felt, spirits of the dead? There were many old bones, he knew, lying about down here, where once the unfortunate were buried and died.

He led Joh Fredersen out of the catacombs, back to the lab and to his waiting chauffeur.


Freder was alone with Maria. he approached her, his Workers' cap clutched in his hands, and felt the beautiful words he had rehearsed stick in his throat.

He looked into her eyes. They were like twin pools of deep, fathomless, mystic beauty. Her face was the face of an angel. In an instant, he knew he was in love.

They stared at each other for a moment. behind them, the crosses surrounding the podium reared their chaste, stark ugliness upward. As if watching them greedily from their wellspring of darkness, the circles of light provided only by the many candles set about.

Maria began slowly, the sweetness of her lips accentuating the beautiful softness of her face.

"Yes?" she said.

Freder approached slowly with his hate in his hand, hypnotized by the holy wonder of those depp blue pools that shone out so vividly int he darkness. the golden hair, the supernal face--she was a living embodiment of all that was most high and holy and pure.

He faltered. At first, the words caught in his throat. And then, with an effort he thought he did not possess, he said, simply, "Forgive me, fraulein, but I am a humble worker, and I didn't mean to do anything but speak with you."

But he knew what he said was not right.

He began again:

"Dear Maria, I have heard your message, and it has marked me in the deepest part of my soul. Allow me to introduce myself: I am Freder Fredersen. I am the son of Joh Fredersen."

MAria's face went slack with amazement. Then she said,

"Ah yes, NOW I recognize you from the telescreen news programs! And, I have seen you ...somewhere else before, I think.

Freder suddenly popped up, "In the Garden of Earthly delights. At the Club of the Sons."

Well, my, what are you doing here dressed as a Worker, Freder Fredersen?"

freder twisted his blue cap in his hand, looking at his feet, suddenly embarrassed and ashamed. At a loss for words. Then the impetuous courage of the brash young man within gripped his heart, and he said, "I-I want to help the Workers. To overcome their oppression. I believe what you say, Maria, about the Mediator that is coming. The one who will be the heart. the onle that will bring understanding--"

"Between the hands and the mind," she finished for him. Suddenly, their eyes met in an eternity of love, and they felt as if they had known each other for all time.

MAria bent forward, into the kiss. THey were suddenly holding each other in a deep and passionate embrace, before she tore herself loose.

Suddenly, she seemed frightened. She said, "Go Freder. I tell you, it is three o'clock now. The shift will begin in a few hours again. Meet me in an hour at the cathedral. I have some things to do first, but they shall not take long to accomplish."

Freder was confused.

"At the cathedral? Why?"

She started to answer in a voice that was almost as if she were scolding a disrespectful child, but said, "Just...meet me there. In an hour. I have my...reasons."

He nodded slowly, began to back away, into the darkness. Then he worried slightly: How would he ever find his way back to Worker's City?

"You must go," she said, "and join the others. Before they have all gone and you are lost down here, with me needing to show you the way."

"Oh," he answered, "I think you have done that already. But yes, I go. I'll be at the Cathedral in an hour. I promise you. Then, perhaps, we can really talk."

He bent, kissed her once more on the cheek then turned. But before he left, he said, "I see that it is wrong the way we treat the Workers. The way my father rules them with a merciless, iron fist. And I am committed to changing that, whatever it takes. I--"

But he couldn't finish, and turning, he disappeared into the darkness.

Maria said to herself, "Then He has come."


Maria snuffed out candles in the gloom, as she proceeded out of the catacombs to the outer entryway, back to the Worker's City gates, and then to the Cathedral, to meet Freder. Maria knew the ancient, holy place was the one building in Metropolis that Joh Fredersen wanted to level, but he averted any war with the Church or its true believers out of pure pragmatism. Hm. Joh Fredersen did not think that man, tiny, finite, and doomed to death, NEEDED God; after all, he had his machines, in the shape of his New Gods. But, she considered, these were all deities of the Heathen soul: Baal, Ashtaroth, Astarte, the twisted metal filaments their arms and legs, the piping going to their whirring, grinding teeth, their Moloch faces sending out the pestilence of death-like toil, making their supplicants their slaves. And to these gods, she knew men--her brothers and their sons--were often sacrificed.

Such thoughts pervaded her mind as she heard the peculiar tread of footsteps behind her in the darkness. Was it Freder again? No. She didn't think so. She could hear someone creeping behind her, hidden behind an outcropping of rock in the darkness. Suddenly, a light--

A gauntleted hand reached out from the blackness behind, putting out the single flame of the tall candle she carried. A searchlight beam covered her form, moving up her body like a disk of power. Behind that light, she could see a maniacal face with wispy white hair and mad, burning eyes, ringed by black.

She ran, stumbling and tripping over the rock in the darkness, the light following her, like a bullseye, making her a target. A dead end! She threw her hands above her head in terror. Still, that pursuing face, those footsteps quickened, and that light was trained upon her form.

Hands reached for her in the darkness. Suddenly--

End of Act 2: Babel

Metropolis (Giorgio Moroder's Edition)

artificial intelligencevintagescience fictionfuture

About the Creator

Tom Baker

Author of Haunted Indianapolis, Indiana Ghost Folklore, Midwest Maniacs, Midwest UFOs and Beyond, Scary Urban Legends, 50 Famous Fables and Folk Tales, and Notorious Crimes of the Upper Midwest.: http://tombakerbooks.weebly.com

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (2)

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  • Mike Singleton - Mikeydred4 months ago

    I will read this over the holiday period, but this is worth of a hardcopy release. Excellent work from what I have read so far

  • A powerfully told & remarkably biblical story you appear to be telling. But is it Machiavelli's "The Prince" or Mark Twain's "The Prince & the Pauper" toward which you lean? And only a few instances of errata I've noticed ("John" in one instance & "Joe" in another instead of "Joh"; "to" in place of "too"; "int he" rather than "in the"; minor things like that). Eagerly awaiting your next installment.

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