|To Slaughter the Assassin
Author: SilentProtagonist000 PM
OLDFIC. "Hans... if I took this gun..." She leveled the barrel evenly with the very center of my mentor's SS picture, a hitman planning the execution of her victim. "... If I took this gun and killed him, would you be proud?" World War II, Holocaust background.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Suspense - Words: 6,221 - Published: 11-15-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3074674
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I wrote this in eighth grade (three years ago) and I'm surprised at how good this is. My writing was a bit wonky back then (you can tell somewhat in this story, although it is a massive accomplishment for as young as I was). I was a bit loquacious-sorry about that-but I think my grammar wasn't reprehensible, so this story is passable in my book.
I think this was on Deviantart at some point in time while I was on the WWII circuit in middle/early high school. Can't remember.
My voice was more hoarse than I knew; rough and grating against my throat, a vocal abrasion. The discordant croak that emitted from my throat nearly forced me into silence again, stitching my mouth closed with the thread my mentor wielded. He was not here, and he was not the one forcing my voice into frightful hibernation. He was off performing selections, serving the Reich.
So why did was I so fearful to speak to Magda alone?
Was it because that even now, I felt his empty black eyes watching me?
Before calling out the name of my beloved, I had been walking. Walking. What an innocuous action, yet even my footsteps felt pervaded by turpitude that was intentionally filling my soul and making the tips of my fingertips drip black like ink. I was simply walking in the empty SS medical block—swallowed by the white, chipping plaster walls and the black linoleum that had been awash in Delphic blood that was present only in theory. A medical chart under my arm, I was heading to my office adjacent from my mentor's, glad to be alone in the medical block while every other brainwashed soul was out seeing the transport in. There was nothing I dreaded more than selections duty. When I skimmed the list posted periodically and did not find my name interspersed among the doctors chosen to carry out the grim task, I would tremble with relief. And today was a day when I was freed even temporarily from the murderous hell that surrounded me.
Today, I would not have to stand at the right hand of God.
I knew I was approaching my mentor's office by the smell—woodland cologne, an aroma I knew my mentor besprinkled his neck with every morning and every evening. It was a comfort reserved not for his private room, but for his office, which he spent enough time in for it to be considered his real private room. But mixed in the vicious perfume, subtly as lemon zest in a drink, was a metallic tint. A sharp smell belonging only to blood.
I never ventured into my mentor's office without his permission. He was incredibly perceptive. If you even so much as nudged something out of place, he could swiftly detect your presence by, say, a straightened stack of papers or a slightly crooked picture frame. And then his rage would unleash—and that was never a good thing. The only time I even breathed by it was passing by to reach my own office at the end of the corridor, not ten steps from the door of his. Like on this particular day.
But as the scent grew stronger, I realized something was wrong. The bloodstained perfume of my mentor's office, blanketing the room like an otherworldly aura, was much more powerful than usual. My steps slowed as I neared his office, the rubber soles of my black boots hitting the cracked tile of the hallway with a muffled thud. It was never this strong. Never. My mentor's door was always shut, especially when he was not occupying the room. His work was so secretive, so violently guarded that he did not dare let anyone peek in.
I stopped directly in front of his office, gripping the hem of my white lab coat nervously with my right, vacant hand. Beads of sweat began to form on my forehead as fearful scenarios entered my mind. Did my mentor desert selections to have a tryst? Perform further experiments? What was he doing?
Turning my quivering head, rivers of perspiration streaking in long rows down my face, I saw that his door was slightly ajar. Nothing more. No moans of pleasure, no cries of terror emanating from the room—merely the wafting odor. Such an occurrence was unprecedented, since my mentor almost always locked his door upon leaving either for the day or momentarily. A chill traveled up and down my spine, kissing my bones and embracing my blood with a frozen sensuality. Had my mentor's fatally human gaffe been recognized? Was someone inside at this moment? And if they were, did they not know the consequences of their invasion?
Even though my intuition screamed to simply go on, wait until he comes back to inform him, I found myself creeping, my body moving and my stationary mind left behind in midair. My mentor's office was unlocked, and he was currently very far away from the medical block. I wanted to know what lied in the solitary room off-limits to everybody under his rank. I wanted to know so badly that I could taste it on my tongue and in my heart.
And yet when I placed my hand on the red oak door and pushed it opened with a barely noticeably creak, I was not expecting to see her.
The first vision that met my eyes was a blinding curtain of flaxen hair, falling down in an undisturbed flow. Her long and remarkably straight tendrils veiled a body that I knew was ensconced with white and blue stripes, the garb of the condemned race. But what lied beneath the navy beige and the pasty white skin that showcased every bone in her body was something greater. Something much more intellectual. Something that was far from akin to the flaccid minds of every other Jew, Gypsy, and criminal in this place of eternal damnation.
This woman, although a prisoner, had been certified before her capture as a doctor. She was a radiologist, and an incredibly skilled one at that. Abraham Rousseau, a French Jew, was my mentor's top radiologist, but this woman played everything but second fiddle. Her medical talent was extraordinary. And my mentor knew it—and that was why the pristine starkness of her lab coat flashing underneath the glare of her hair made my frozen heart ever so slightly warm.
Her back was to me, but she didn't have to turn around for me to know her appearance verbatim. Green eyes, sparkling as if made of pure emerald, painstakingly shaped like horizontal teardrops. Eyelashes so long that their appearance nearly rivaled the length of her hair, all fleshing out to a button-like nose and a beautiful black mole perched just so beside the end of one eye. Her lips were full and plump, and her hips projected from beneath her prisoner's uniform, the only aspect of her hourglass shape that had not diminished from malnourishment. I knew of a soft patch of skin right underneath her left breast, a plain that was comforting to roll your thumb over. I knew that she was free of blotching blemishes—everywhere. I knew what the esoteric emotion behind her wan smiles meant, I knew the pleased mewls she made when I touched her perfectly, and most of all, I knew how she felt, both inside and out. And she was no stranger to my modus operandi or my body. She knew me. I knew her, and she detracted from my horrible wife back in Berlin.
I was in love with this prisoner infiltrating my mentor's office. I was in love with Magda Glover. I was in love with this Jew. And I did not regret a thing.
These thoughts flooded me as I noticed her sleek, leonine figure standing with her hands lying limply at her sides. She was staring unflinchingly at something on the enormous desk, constructed out of the same materials as my mentor's thick door. The surface of his desk was a planet entirely on its own—smothered with documents, pens, used tissues, lunch wrappers, and his frayed brown leather briefcase. The lattermost was sitting on his desk, the top popped open and leaving its contents naked and exposed to the world. This seemed to be the object of Magda's beholding, for following her shielded gaze, I noticed it came to settle on the very insides of that thing.
I wanted to clear my throat, which had been stopped up by my anxiety, but I did not for fear of startling Magda. Instead, I spoke her name, the only word I could muster at the moment that surmised my fright and our silent love. "Magda." I could scarcely speak—it felt that my throat being ripped from my neck, leaving behind a bloody trail of my trepidation behind it.
At the sound of her name, Magda gave a small gasp, perhaps worried that the speaker was my mentor, catching her snooping red-handed. She spun around, the blond hair that my mentor barely allowed her to keep whipping like a fair whirlwind. Her pupils overcame her mesmerizing eyes for nary a second, dilating with fear, but her tense anxiety seemed to drain as she registered that it was me. "Oh, Hans," she whispered. "I-I'm sorry. I wanted to speak with herr doktor and I noticed his door was ajar, so I entered. But he is not here. Do you know where I might find him?"
"He is performing selections right now," I murmured in reply, worried that an SS guard might walk by unintentionally and overhear. "So he won't be back for at least an hour or two. What did you need? Perhaps I can help you."
A wide yet barely nebulous smile spread across Magda's face, disporting a pair of adorable dimples. "Hans, you will always be able to help me," she chuckled. "Don't you ever worry that someone might catch us speaking so offhandedly to each other? An SS man is not to be seen fraternizing with the… lowbrow race, as you know."
My eyes flickered downward toward the SS emblem emblazoned on the right collar of my SS uniform. It winked with an infernal seductiveness at me, as if trying to lure me in as it did the day Hitler took power when I was still in middle school. But this time, I was no longer hypnotized, and with profound shame I brought the neckband of my lab coat up to hide it.
"You know I don't care about that," I said, mentally recoiling from that comment. I knew Magda hadn't meant to be snide—Magda was not the sort of person to say such things with the intent to harm—but the statement still stung. "I'm not like the rest of them."
Magda's gaze softened. "I know you aren't," she said. "You've never been. So why, Hans? Why join them?"
My breath hitched in my throat, imprisoned, unable to escape. Why had I joined the SS? Why could I have somehow dodged the draft and continued my work as a medical professional in Berlin? I would have been rescued from being employed in hell long before it had even begun. Had I been drunk the day I enlisted? Indoctrinated by Goebbels and the infernal psychological weapon he called propaganda? Or merely stupid and not having a clue that I would be dragged forcefully to a place like Auschwitz—and have a savage angel take me under his wing? I opened my mouth, trying desperately to fumble for the profuse words of my apology that in theory, I was Magda's enemy instead of her ally. Her lover. But I could not verbalize my words and I found that my tongue had quickly gone numb.
Magda's mien did not harden, nor did she glare upon me with eyes clouded by hate. Instead she sighed gently, as if kindly impatient with a child. "It's all right," she said. "I've always known you were as far from a dogged Nazi as they came. You just want to serve your country. Isn't that right?"
A pang shot through my heart like a poison barb; it took every ounce of restraint inside me to resist bursting into the office to hold her. "It is your country as well," I promised.
Magda grimaced. "Not since that son of a bitch Hitler struck my people down," she hissed. "Germany used to be my country, and I was so, so proud to be a citizen of the Motherland. But then she gave birth to that demonic, mustached killer."
"She didn't mean to," I said hastily. As much as I despised Hitler and his inner circle—however clandestinely—I did love my country, and my fierce Nationalism would sacrifice my mind, heart and spirit for her in a heartbeat. "It was rape. An unnatural defiling. Hitler is Germany's bastard child."
"But with who? The devil?" Magda said darkly.
I was taken aback at that claim. "But Magda, I thought that the Jewish faith did not believe in Satan," I said.
I should have eaten the words that had fallen out of my mouth, for I could tell in an instant that Magda was unnerved. She clenched her already wraithlike, bony hands into fists, clutching so hard that her knuckles went white. Eyes cast to the floor, she snarled, "I thought I did not believe in him. And for the longest time, I didn't. And guess what?" Magda released her trembling hands and gestured loosely to the office environment surrounding her. "He lives in this office."
A shudder whispered throughout my bones, undulating at the base of my spine. As little as I wanted to accept it, Magda was right. He was here in this office—even when he was not physically. My mentor's aura saturated the place from constant exposure, and all were petrified to even set foot nearby it.
In all essence, I had to work with the Prince of Darkness every day.
"But if my ability to successfully subsist in this place means that I have to consort with the sensual brute of Birkenau, then so be it," Magda said tartly. "Damn him. Damn him to hell. His Bavarian handsomeness, his half-dead eyes, his m-shaped smile, that demented gap in his teeth…" Magda's voice grew edgier every second, as if speaking of a man who had raped her. "I came in here to confirm an incoming transport of twins, but I suppose he caught wind of the news from somebody else. No wonder he is gone."
Supervising the transport of Jews, I thought with equal dourness. Combing the crowd with his eyes, searching for twins, dwarfs, sufferers of noma, and able-bodied youths for hard labor to send to the right. All others—too old, too young, too sickly, or simply uninteresting? To the left. To the chimneys. To die. My dreams in Auschwitz mainly consisted of his rich, seductive baritone, booming thunderously when crying out "Zwillinge, zwillinge!" Alluring and soft when speaking to female prisoners or SS nurses. Harsh when speaking to me. And cold and businesslike when speaking to anyone else. The German fell like a symphony of raindrops from his mouth, forming puddles of sentences that no one dared to disturb. Poison everyone feared.
Magda's eyes wavered for a moment, but then moved up to meet mine. I wanted to sally forth and wrap my arms around her waist, bury my face in her neck, and be inside of her all at once. Her encapsulating blue gaze was pleading, begging for me to agree with something left unsaid. "You know what I mean, do you not?" She said.
"I know," I responded with sincerity. "I know very much."
Slowly, Magda's arm raised itself, a lever holding a massive amount aloft, and crooked her right index finger at me. But the gesture was not sexual, did not beckon in a "come hither" motion. It was more beseeching, like she wanted me to defend her from something. "Come here," she said, face hazy with some unreadable expression. "I want to show you something."
I hesitated, my foot halfway inside the threshold. I feared that my very presence in this room would not be without disregard, and that the minute my mentor's convoluted eyes swept the interior of his office, he would be able to identify my entrance. Then my career would either be over… or my mentor would come after me himself. Neither scenario was desirable.
Still, I pushed these rational qualms aside and acted upon my wild notion; the notion that loved Magda and would do anything for her. With one shaky, natal step, I crossed the doorsill from even partial comfort into the very realms of hell.
My mentor's office looked normal—although from experience, I knew it was far from being so. Tight and enclosed, the room itself was rather barren. Four white walls harboring a yellowish tint were not more than ten meters tall or wide, and an ostentatious but surprisingly plain red oak desk sat in the very center. A pair of burgundy rayon guest chairs were placed diffidently before the desk, disheveled in a manner that was far from inviting. Mountains of papers—documents ranging from medical invoices to sickeningly sexual notes passed between him and his "lover" Irma Grese—sat atop this surface, almost baiting an incomer to sift through them. A few framed photographs hung on the wall, mainly consisting of my mentor in his SS uniform and a family portrait with him, his wife, and his baby son fast asleep in his mother's arms. There was one particular photograph that caught my eye—it was sitting on his desk in a custom brass frame, and it contained only a picture of his serious yet smiling wife. If he's so in love with the woman he's married to, I thought viciously, why carry on an affair with the Grese whore? This world confused me.
But it was not this, nor the papers that had captured the attention of Magda. It was his seldom-used briefcase, sitting suspiciously and widely open. I hoped that the elements of the briefcase were not confidential. My mentor would fly into a rage would he realize his neglect—and bearing the brunt of his ire would either be Magda or me. Partners in tribulation.
Magda blankly gesticulated to the intramural of the briefcase, urging me to inspect it. Morbidly curious to see what my mentor kept hidden away in the briefcase I had seen him carry so periodically, I peeked around Magda's supple body and let my eyes rest, feasting my eyes upon the forbidden sight.
There were papers—their words indecipherable from my vantage point, but within seconds, I knew that they were not what Magda was so disconcerted about. For sitting on the very top of these loosely organized reports and archives was the sleekest of all weapons, a device meant to inflict pain, all with a macabre, sordid look painted on my mentor's face each time he wielded it.
It was my mentor's personal revolver, a Walther, standard SS issue. Only the best handgun in German existence. I had seen my mentor coupled with the vile weapon many times during selections, but never had I seen the object on its own—especially not in such pronounced sight. As far as I knew, he always kept it tucked away in his uniform, accessible if the need ever arose, which it did multiple times over the course of even one selection. So why had he left it so candidly behind?
"Do you see?" Magda's voice shook as she spoke. "His gun. His Walther. It is here."
"Yes," I said with disbelief, not able to grasp the sight myself. "I see."
"He always carries it around with him," Magda said, still unsteady as she spoke. Now her entire body was quaking; I could barely decrypt a single word she was uttering. It sounded as if she were speaking Greek. "Never leaves it in his briefcase. Never. I've never accompanied him to selections, for prisoner doctors are not allowed near the premises of the ramp…" She paused to swallow and take in an immeasurable gulp of air. "… But I know. The doktor seems the type to never be without a weapon. Something to harm the undesirables with."
I knew how much it pained Magda to refer to her own people—and not just her own, but the other persecuted minorities as well—as "undesirables." My mentor demanded that she berate her own ethnicity, saying that it helped cleanse her mind of Jewish impurities. She has true mental capacity to be an excellent doctor, my mentor said, if only she were not a Jew.
But Magda did not listen. Prior to her transportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau, primarily during her existence in the ghetto, she had memorized the entire Jewish calendar. She sensed that she would hardly, if ever get to glimpse physically at it ever again. And indeed, her hunch was correct, but she knew all major Jewish celebrations and prayed in secret. If I happened by her little alcove at all during a session of prayer, Magda often asked me to join her. I always did, even tentatively, for imbibing my lover's faith felt even more intimate to me than making love. But we never spoke of our masses outright—to do so would get us both executed, and perhaps even tortured beforehand.
And my mentor would rather die than rescue me from a fate such as that one.
"Yes, he never does," I said, echoing Magda's words, for I was unsure where she was leading this. Yes, my mentor had forgotten his gun. Yes, my mentor was performing selections at the moment. And yes, even if he did realize his blunder, there was no possible way he could abandon his duty to come back and fetch it. He couldn't even request that one of the guards do it—every SS man was kept occupied to contain the screaming and crying of incoming prisoners. Each soldier or officer had their own responsibility; a responsibility that took every gram of their surveillance, or else the finely-tuned machine of the Reich would rust.
"Do you know what this means?" Magda asked, bordering on hysteria now. A positive sort of hysteria—she sounded as if she were building excitement. "Do you know what sort of opportunity this gives us?"
I cut Magda a glance. What was she saying? I felt that I was being led in circles. "Opportunity? What are you talking about, Magda?"
Magda seemed not to hear me. Instead she stood quivering, a starving grin stretched eerily across the breadth of her face. Her eyes were fixated on the gun, not even budging when I spoke her name. She almost didn't appear to notice I was there anymore. "This!" She said madly, her eyes wider than saucers and her finger jabbing in midair at the weapon. "This gun! The doktor left his gun behind! This is perfect! It is as if this is a play! Like everything is in place! And the final curtain is about to close!"
Alarmed, I grabbed Magda on the shoulders and spun her around to face me. "Magda," I snapped, clutching her shoulders and shaking her gently. "Calm yourself. It's only his gun. It may not even be loaded. Whatever it is you are thinking of doing, don't listen to your whim!" A spark of fear coursed through me at the endless possibilities Magda might be thinking of. She was an intelligent being trapped in a place that did not give her enough breathing space, much less enough to stretch her legs in. What if… what if… she was equally as desperate as every other prisoner in Auschwitz-Birkenau? What if she was too shrewd to go to the wires so conspicuously, but could quickly devise other, more secretive ways of suicide? What if she wanted to take that gun, press it to her temple, and pull the trigger? The block was empty sans myself. No one would discover her until my mentor would happen to come upon his office, with the door agape…
My blood instantly ran cold.
Eliciting no response from Magda—her eyes still glued to the pistol—I shook her slightly harder. "Don't do it, Magda! Don't kill yourself! Don't even think about it!" If you do commit suicide, what will that do to me, Magda? What will that make me to you? Am I not important enough? I may be an SS officer and you may be a Jew… but nothing is impossible. You are my world. Do I not encompass yours? These unspoken words made my mouth so dry that even shifting my jaw felt like a pair of cotton balls chafing against one another.
Magda's muscles were tense underneath my fingertips, but when I mentioned suicide so frenetically, her stiffness began to relax. Her delirium vanished with barely a trace, and a gradually placid smile replaced her anxious one. "Suicide?" She said, as if I were kidding with her. "Hans, I would never kill myself. Not when you mean so much to me. Yes, I am tempted, what with being in this place that rivals the very pits of hell… but I cannot help myself. I love you too much to forfeit my life."
My fingers went limp, and for nary a moment, I was overcome with relief. "Thank God," I whispered, worried that even in this desolate block, someone would overhear and try me for treason. "I would have been devastated."
"I know," Magda said, sounding slightly amused. "I would have been as well." A silence hung in the air—a silence that was at first comfortable, but as the moments ticked by, the mutuality was no longer present. Instead, Magda's mien became restless again, and the warmth of the silence once again dissolved into incipient chaos.
"Magda," I said hurriedly, once more tightening my grip on her shoulders. "Tell me what you are thinking. That gun is beguiling you somehow, and I want to know why before you do damage to someone or perhaps yourself."
Magda leveled her befuddling oceanic gaze with mine, her sapphire eyes drowning in an emotion that I could not even begin to decipher. She was a book in a language foreign to me, even though I had read and reread her soul a hundred times and believed I understood. "I just…" Her sentence trailed off, hanging unfinished in the air above us, causing even more strain to convene between us. Turning around, Magda faced the briefcase again. "I just want to take this gun…"
"And do what, Magda?" I demanded, distressed. "Do what? Tell me. Please don't hide anything from me."
My words went in one side of Magda's head and out the other, her acknowledgement of me only transient as her eyes settled on the gun. It unnerved me to see how she stared at that weapon with such hungry eyes, a starving woman eyeing a plateful of baked pike. And it unnerved me even more to consider what she might want to use that gun for in my mentor's absence. "The assassin's gun," she said simply. "The assassin's gun, lying out here so vulnerably. The assassin uses it every day without fail. He takes many lives with it, and the gun makes him ubiquitous. But what if...?"
She paused, leaving me desperate to know what she wanted to say next. With a hand as hesitant as her quivering, ragged breaths, Magda reached toward the open briefcase and wrapped her hand around the butt of my mentor's Walther. Without making a motion to move the gun, either fluid and gradual or jerking, Magda stared impassively at the lid of the threadbare briefcase. Her actions were erratic and jaw locked, but her eyes seemed unmoving, as if this did not bother her in the least. It was odd. Very, very odd—especially for Magda. "… Hans, what if I took this gun and slaughtered the assassin?"
Before I could even open my mouth to protest in astonishment, Magda picked up the pistol without even ruffling the papers even faintly. Magda shifted around, her gaze continually deadpan, and focused instead on the wall to her left, a wall covered with various portraits. At first, I could not pinpoint her line of sight, until I followed her gaze to the largest photograph, framed and neatly hung in the very middle of the barrier that enclosed my mentor's world.
It was a photograph of my mentor from the broad pampas of his shoulders upward. He was clearly dressed in his SS uniform, pressed and without a single prominent wrinkle on the cloth shrouding his upper torso. His lean Bavarian profile was turned to face the photographer, the visor of his SS hat cocked at an angle to eclipse the top of his towering forehead. But it was not his attire that was menacing—it was his expression that seemed to lunge out from the very glossy surface of the picture. A wide, cruel grin was stretched across his face, quietly crowing a pair of dimples on either cheek. There was a mole on his lower left cheek that I had not noticed before, as if bearing a mark that the devil himself had kissed. And his eyes—oh, his eyes were terrible. The photograph may have been gray-scale, but his eyes were so incredibly black that it seemed he had no pupils—only a pair of thick colorless marbles embedded in his head. The overall impression he exuded was that he wanted to lure you in, toy with you, and then eat you whole, a complete Machiavellian. I felt an unexpected chill enter the office staring at the face of my mentor. Even in photograph, he was still as coldhearted as he appeared in person.
"Hans… if I took this gun…" With a quavering grip that was ready to loosen at any moment, Magda raised the pistol to a one-hundred-degree angle, upward at the behemoth photograph. She leveled the barrel evenly with the very center of my mentor's SS picture, a hitman planning the execution of her victim. But her aim wavered—I sensed her fear sharply, for especially she was intimidated by my mentor's photograph as if he was standing before her in person at that very second. "… If I took this gun and killed him, would you be proud?"
Once more, I could not find the courage within me to speak. What was I supposed to say? Plead for her to put the gun back in the place where it had been placed before? Wrench the very confounded object from her hands? No, neither of these was true. Not at all. Just like Magda, I wanted to see his sleek, supple body crumpled lifelessly on the ground. Just like Magda, I wanted to watch rivers of blood flow from his broad forehead. Just like Magda, I wanted to see a bullet crush his skull and finally destroy that Dantesque mind of his.
Just like Magda.
Partners in tribulation.
"No," I finally said, albeit slowly. I was cautiously selecting my words, knowing that a single misstep could set Magda off. If there was a chance that the Walther was loaded—and that probability outweighed the preferred likelihood that it wasn't—then she could hurt me… or shoot herself. I couldn't risk that. Magda's well-being was too important to me. I would never let her waste herself on a fruitless whim. "No, Magda. I would not be proud. Slaughtering the assassin, even with his own gun, makes you no better than the assassin. You may have destroyed the killer, but the SS administration would find another savage to take his place. And then you are regarded by your patients as a killer yourself."
I wasn't sure if Magda was considering this or not; her countenance was distorted with a surreal mix of bloodlust and fright and her knees shook, ready to buckle at any moment. The gun grasped so despairingly in her right hand quaked. She was a quivering, emotional mass. Her thirst to purge the soul of Auschwitz had been thwarted—and I wasn't sure if she was relieved that I had saved her from poor decision or only angered her more. Tears began to slip out of her gorgeous eyes, the optical ocean beginning to flood onto the pallid seashore of her upper cheek. Yet her eyes never left my mentor's picture—she glared at him with a fiery, puncturing vengeance, poised to fire in case the photograph began to move.
Eventually, Magda's labored breaths began to slow, but her endless flow of tears only heightened in pace. The gun slipped from her hand, hitting the ground with a loud clatter, a clap that made my heart jump in unanticipated surprise. Magda brought a hand to shield her eyes, emitting hushed but shrill chokes and sobs, her palm becoming suffused with salty teardrops. Concern speared me more fiercely than any other emotion prior to this. Magda was a rock—I had never seen her cry out of sadness. Not when my mentor sent her mother to the gas chambers, not when she watched him personally bash in the skull of a young boy, and not even batting an eyelash as she administered phenol injections to prisoner patients at the beckon of my mentor. The single time I had seen tears fall from her eyes, the rare yet strangely beautiful Hailey's Comet, was the very first time we made love. After a passionate climax, Magda had buried her face in the crook of my shoulder and wept tears of joy. Tears that filled myself with a warm, satisfied glow.
But watching her shed these tears only left me with a sense of emptiness.
I stepped forward and, almost automatically, collected Magda in my arms, whispering gentle assuages to her. Magda cried without ceasing, staining the shoulder of my white lab coat with a puddle of sorrow. "Mengele," she choked hoarsely, managing to gather enough strength between hiccups to speak. "Doctor Josef Mengele. I cannot stand him. Oh, Hans. I wish he were dead. I wish that monster would just die."
I spent many minutes holding Magda, wallowing with her in her woe and agreeing grimly with her. I could not stand him either—and there was nothing more I wanted in this world than to see him in a coffin. Dead. Cold. Unmoving. Just as he rendered hundreds of thousands of other people.
And yet I could not even glance up at the large photograph with my mentor's rakish eyes and subtly bloodstained face, a gaze that would scare men, enslave children and seduce women. The sheer size of the photograph seemed to be a paradigm of his ego, the narcissistic man with a thumb on his pistol belt and his dark chocolate hair slicked back so evenly. Evaluating his Jewish prey on the ramp as he was evaluating us from the picture. It seemed nothing more than a mere photograph, taken courtesy of professional SS photographers. And perhaps to the naked eye, it was.
But behind those eyes was not simply a monochrome print, particles conglomerated to create the art. Behind those eyes was sometimes a human, with glints of sensitivity. My mentor often gave children sweets and treated them kindly or selected people to stay the right because he held a certain fondness for them. But the majority of the time, he was strict and unyielding. Those dead, gimlet eyes with the partially obscured pupil were just as they hinted—unfeeling. Unmerciful. Despite this, however, it is my theory that my mentor was the most alive person at Auschwitz. He thrived there. Loved the smell, the taste, the view. My mentor… he was Auschwitz.
As time passed, I oft asked myself why I didn't elaborate upon Magda's plan and slip my mentor's gun into my pocket, corner the bastard, and splatter his insides on some secluded wall. I could torture him, subject him to the same treatment he used on his experimental persons. I could have made the assassin pay for his deeds, and when the task was completed, watch the blood drain from his body and absorb into the ground, wielding the butchery weapon—his very own—and feel an unending source of triumph. Yes, the thought was tantalizing. I could have gotten away with the act. I could have rid Auschwitz of a true demon masquerading as human. I could have slaughtered the assassin.
But I didn't.
I simply couldn't.
… for it's impossible to murder a god.