– Fitting Retribution –
The calendar on the wall above my cot this morning reads April 30th, 1976. Today is the anniversary of my death; my supposed death those long years ago. It is the anniversary of the day when the world heaved a sigh of relief, so glad to be rid of me at last. When I lived, the world trembled. Oh, yes! I was once a power to reckon with, a man who changed the course of destiny! They called me a monster, a terrible demon. The fools! I had a fabulous dream for mankind, such a wonderful dream. Had that dream been realised, I would have been so honoured on this day.
Yes, known to but a few, I survived the last bitter blows of defeat, when my dream was trampled into fine dust and scattered amongst the ruins of my beloved city. I wonder: would the human race cringe in fear today if it knew of my survival, if it knew that the monster lived on? I think not. I know not. If only they knew, what great rejoicing there would be throughout the length and breadth of the world.
‘Look!’ they would say. ‘The thing lives! But see how it suffers! See how it has suffered all this time! What news! What joyful news!’
Yes, I am alive. The monster lives. But would to God that I were dead! For this room is my coffin, this empty house my mausoleum, this lonely island, far from my native home, my graveyard. I am of the living dead, a breathing vegetable. Every day, all day, I sit in this wheelchair as stiff as a corpse itself. Save for my ever-flickering eyelids, no jerking muscle or twitching nerve betrays movement in my decaying body. For I am paralysed, from head to toe, and have been these thirty-odd years. I am also stone-deaf, and no speech has passed through my lips since the day of my alleged death. All that remains to me is my eyesight, and that, too, is failing fast. Soon, I will no longer be able to view my paintings: the treasured paintings of my beautiful Bavaria. My last and only pleasure will be snatched from me. Soon, there will be only darkness, the same creeping darkness that surrounds me every night, when, in my cot, the faces come and the voices sound within me. All through the night, the faces come. There are hundreds upon thousands of them, each one as stark and vivid as the one before. There are ghastly old men with broken teeth, eyeless and hairless. There are tiny children with angelic faces and fear-shot eyes. There are beautiful young women, plain old women, fat-faced middle-aged men, lean-jowled youths: a thousand variations of the faces of that accursed race.
‘Suffer,’ they say. ‘Know pain as we knew it.’
All through those long night hours, the faces appear, one after the other, on and on, on and on. Each night, I want to scream out in horror, but I have no voice. Only, deep within my tormented brain, I seem to shriek:
‘Leave me alone! Can’t you see how much I am suffering? Please, God! Leave me sleep!’
Sleep! I know not the meaning of the word. I have not slept for more than thirty years.
Even when the faces have gone, when grey daylight filters through the blackness of the night, I cannot sleep, cannot rest. For every second of every hour, for every hour of every day, for every day of every year, the pain is there, the tormenting pain that racks through my brain.
When I first came here, they would give me morphine. Oh, that blessed drug! Large doses at first, then smaller doses, but each time the pain vanished and I could think of my lovely Eva. My angel! My beautiful Eva! My mind would travel back to those days when we first met. How young she was then: only nineteen, and as pure and chaste as virgin snow. I would remember those idyllic hours we spent together in the peace and tranquillity of our country retreat; strolling in the sunshine, laughing at every turn, so happy in our love. E–vaa! Ee – va – a! How deliciously my tongue would roll around her name then. But the morphine dream would vanish so quickly. Back would come the pain and with it the vision of my Eva’s bloodied face and spilled brains on the cold concrete floor of that terrible cellar.
No morphine do they give me now, no relief from the eternal agony. Soon they will come: my silent, serenely-smiling guardians. Soon, the tubes will be stuck into me again: tubes to keep me living in this awful hell, tubes to take away the urine and excretion. Can’t they see that they do me wrong? Can’t they see that I am nothing but putrescent flesh and decaying bone? Can’t they see the sagging bag of poison that is my body?
Soon they will come: my gentle guardians. After the tubes, they will wheel me out onto the veranda, and there I will sit until the sun dies away. Every day, I sit out there, gazing across the placid sea, where no strangers ever stray. Every day, it is hot in this land of exile. Soon, the sun will scorch my face and sear into my eyeballs, and the torture of it will be renewed, far stronger than the day before. Soon, those horrendous insects will crawl across my immobile face again. How excruciating it is! All day they crawl, and I am powerless to brush them away. They are large, the insects in this land; giant flies with multicoloured wings and wide black saucers for eyes. And in the dark depths of those saucers, there lurk evil beings, sinister ghouls, which sing out all day.
‘Now you must suffer,’ they sing. ‘Now you must suffer ... nowyoumustsuffer ... nowyoumustsuffer ...’
Please, God! Don’t let them come today!
And then, when the sun goes down and the insects flee with its departure, my white-coated gaolers will come. They will undress me and place me in my cot. Once again, I will be made ready for the long ordeal of night. But before darkness finally envelops my cell, Franz will come; his nightly visit. Poor, fat, bumbling, gentle, stinking bastard Franz! It was he who rescued me from the edge of death, when my abortive attempt at sweet suicide left me bent and paralysed. It was he who brought me here and nursed me back to life. It was he who brought to me this unbearable torture that is life. How I hate him! How I hate his smug, fat face. He will come to me. Perched on the edge of my cot, he will take up my lifeless hand in his own, and his lips will move.
‘How have you been today, my Fuhrer?’ he will be saying. ‘Have courage, my Fuhrer. The time of the Fourth Reich is nearing, and you must be there to lead us once again, as in the old days.’
And I will look up at him, and my eyes will try to convey what my voice cannot.
‘Can’t you see, you wicked bastard?’ my brain will scream out to him. ‘Can’t you see what horrible hell I am going through? Can’t you see that I have no wish to live? How much longer will the suffering go on? Have I not paid a thousandfold for my terrible deeds? Kill me, Franz! Franz! Franz! My dear and wonderful friend. My loving comrade. Kill me, you bastard! Kill me!’
But, as ever, it will be in vain. He will regard me with dull, vacant eyes, and he will smile his sickly smile.
‘Goodnight, Fuhrer,’ he will mouth.
And then he will be gone, and the night will be upon me again. Again the voices. Again the faces. Once more the anguish and torment of darkness will be endured.
‘Please , Lord. Not tonight,’ I will intone. ‘Let me sleep tonight, Lord. PLEASE, GOD! LET ME DIE!’
– o –