It happened in a flash, like the flash of lighting, but the thunder… the thunder never came. I was marked two days after the forming of new political parties was forbidden2 in my Vaterland.3 Bastille Tag. Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin — more even than death…. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.4
I remember this know this well, because it was the date the rival for my mortal beloved5 Bertha6 set his trap of treachery. Heinrich7 denounced me to the police that night- the night of the silent lightning storm. He announced to the Gasthaus8 that he would do me in- and that this time- he meant it. I ignored him, like so many times before. I ignored the dark eyed, dark haired, devil. I had only been listening to his raving for 33 years then. I did not know that his knife had grown that long.9
Oh that I had died that night.
The charge was false, of course. I was as loyal to the government then as I am now. I do not concern myself with politics. How parts of this story came to happen, I do not know. I can only relate those which I have witnessed- to which, I shall give a full accounting.
You have no doubt heard stories of reanimation,10 of those that never sleep,11 and of those whom have been the subjects of great trickery like that of Sultan Schemzeddin12 (all of which are fictions by the way). So, I will expect you- with your scientific minds- to be incredulous and to offer me nothing more then score. But hear mean out- because it is possible to live forever.
When it happened, I was younger, before the war, I was possessed of modest means, though I was to see fortunes come and go, and I was possessed of a great love- which has never been replace. As the years have drug on, it is her memory that has sustained me. Only the pondering over the fate of her should and of my own soul has kept me from attempting to take my own life (a point on which I am not assured of success). If I only knew whence she had gone and could be assured of following her, I would have undertaken the journey long ago. I, like Juan Ponce de León,13 do not fear length, hardship, or time… I fear only the unknown.
When the political difficulties14 of my Heimland15 were concluded on that lovely day in May,16 I set about that very afternoon to assemble the pieces of what had happened to me. But, I should begin at the beginning, rather then at the end.
Even before my rival had spirited me away, my friends had urged me to find a different profession. I was studying the wrong sort of physics they had told to me. It is true, I was a devoted advocate then- and now- of the Heisenberg17 Heresy, but what can one do? Is not the truth still the truth, even when one is told that it is not? My model thought so and I followed in his footsteps, though to my doom, for I had not the talent that he (which preserved his life, though not his reputation).
But this story is not of physics, but rather of biology.
I was seized from my bed, in the dead of night, but ruffs in black shirts and boots. Fighting them, I knocked the silver picture frame of my mortal beloved. Looking back, it is odd that I should remember that more clearly then the boots, the dogs, the screaming of my landlady, or the beating (the first of many). I was indignantly throne in the back of a barred wagon and taken to Stadelheim,18 in the dead of night. I was deposited naked on a cold concrete slav of a floor, and wondering in an our of consciousness, thought that this would not- after all- be such a bad place and time to die.
How little one cares for anything- anyone- even my mortal beloved- when afflicted with mortal pain.
I was tended by a nurse that morning. She dressed my wounds, stitched my face, set and plastered my left fore arm. For the next year, she was the only soul that spoke kindly to me, if you could call her lack of warmth kindness. Every seven days, the same. She came to the cell, flanked by a black shirt, gave me cold water and a bit of soap about the size of a small hard candy, asked me about my health, and told me that it was my duty to consider my allegiance to the Leader. On her 13th visit, she removed the plaster. I had scratched a note to her on it, with a bit of nail that I had pried from the bed frame. I drew her attention to it when she bent over me to remove the plaster. She wrinkled her nose and tossed the plaster into my washing water, without comment, or reading the communication. No ill that I can tell came of the attempt, but I never bothered to try again either.
I remember that the nurse, for I never knew her name, was pretty, though now I do not know if she was in fact so, or if I only strongly desire that she should be. She was not as much as my mortal beloved. She was my only human contact for a year.
Even then, Beppo in his gray pointed woolen Stahlhelm21 uniform, with the eight front vertically straight buttons, pointed green collar, two chest pockets, and row of metals above the heart, looked like Death awaking.
The first interview was simple. A medical examination preformed by Morell. The gentlemen were polite, almost jovial- speaking of my release in return for my cooperation, which I assured them they would have. Morell even remarked upon my physical resemblance to his more famous patient.22 They left in high spirits, slapping one another on the back at their extraordinary luck.
They returned the next day, and lead me, alone and unrestrained to a room, upon which a solid back dental chair mortified with restraints. You may find it odd that I did not fight them, and then I calmly sat down in the chair without as much as a command. On this side of history, I fid it odd as well, but the weeks of silence had drug on, with no other contact then a cold nurse, and the rats that crawled up out of the hole into which I released my waste. My only desire was to cooperate, to be released, and to see my mortal beloved again.
I was strapped down, at the ankles first by Morell, and then at the head by Beppo. Then the knees, the shoulders, the waste, and lastly the wrists. How easy it would have been to hit these men, to strike them both down- but for what? The door was locked from outside, and I would surely have been killed had I harmed them. That much was certain. So, I sat. I sat and I waited.
Morell turned to a table, by the barred window, neither of which I had noticed when I entered the room, and opened a large leather case that sat upon the table. He removed vial after vial of liquids, and a crucible. He did not speak German, but rather Latin as he mixed those halcyon liquids together in his crucible.
In articulo mortis.23
Beppo laughed, grinning the stub of a cigarette under his black heal.
IL sangue muove solo le ruote di storia,24 he said producing a pair of black gloves from his uniform pocket. Herr Morell glared at him, but said nothing. Morell filled a small glass with this dark purple liquid and then nodded curtly to Beppo.
I do not remember much of what happened next. Beppo struck me violently across the bridge of my nose, and I tasted for the first time my own blood. It was not like anything I had ever imagined. It tasted strangely bland, devoid of substance other then salt, or sodium bicarbonate. I fought, tossing my body one way and then another, only to find the blows raining down upon me no matter what I did. But nothing prepared me for the pain that came from Morell’s hand.
Weather Beppo stopped, or I failed to perceive his blows, I do not know. The first beating was the most merciful. Later, I would remember, each blow, each cut, the breaking of each bone. I became detached from my own body, standing behind Beppo, watching him work. I would later begin to comment on his efficiency. On day when he was is his vigor, he would start on the torso and work his way down, never passing the groin, to work his way to my toes. But on other days, he would start right on the bridge of my nose. Those days, the days he did not feel his heart in his work, those were the days I almost liked him.
But I digress to details unattractive to the reader.
That first day, Morell pried apart my mouth and downed that purple liquid into my stomach by working my throat muscles. My entire body was numb, until that brew infected it with a flame of pain so tight that I still fear to recall it, leapt I feel it again in my soul. They came a total of fifty times over the course of that year. I lost trace of the days. Sometimes the liquid was blue, or orange, or green, never black, but always painful. The first condition of immortality is death.25
Oh that I had died that night.
One day, Beppo did not work on my face at all.
Why do you do this to me?
The more we do to you- the less you believe we’re doing it.
Then on hot July day, I realized that they had not been to visit me in a long time. The prison was cold and quit. The nurse had not been in a long time either. I still received my bread and water in the morning, cold meat and cheese with bread and water at night, through the small opening in my cell door. I never saw more then the hands that feed me.
I was awakened from my dull slumbers in the middle of one night. Gleichschaltung26 had begun. Their very own Kristallnacht.27 The noise became unbearable as black shirts drug in brown shirts and the screaming never ceased. In the morning, the shootings began. Always seven shots at a single go- always outside in the courtyard, where I had been permitted on occasion to take my constitutionals- always I feared every sound, praying fervently that my captors would not come for me. Death is not the worst than can happen to men,28 I know, but I had finally recovered my senses, and did not with to die before having had my revenge, and another glimpse of my mortal- my mortal beloved.
Days past before all was quit again. I was not feed until the fourth day, but when meals resumed, they took on the characteristic punctiualness of my people. I sat waiting for Beppo and Morell to return, but I never saw them again in life, and death hath so many doors to let out life.29
And just like that, on bright crisp afternoon in August, my door was opened by a short balding man in a brown suit coat. I was free to go, he said giving me a small package wrapped neatly in brown paper, tied with a double wound string. I found some of my old clothing inside, even my wallet and watch. Inside my wallet, a note dated from the time of my arrest:
Kommen Sie nach Hausesafe mein Geliebter. Ich verpasse Sie schrecklich. Ich werde auf Sie warten.30 –Bertha
I was released from Stadelheim with thoughts of my mortal beloved Bertha’s dark eyed, dark haired, angelic face dancing before my eyes. I hardly noticed the cold of the night, as I drove my feet onward, ever homeward.
Oh that I had died that night.
My failing steps were directed whither for a year my have been attracted and bent, almost every night, when the pain did not dull me to my mortal beloved. The evening was crisp and cold. But I was able to secure three rides, first from a pig farmer, second from a military officer, and lastly from an untouchable. The farmer said nothing, not even wishing me a good evening when I crawled into the cab of his machine. The military officer spoke of the great changes of the last years and throwing off the chains of imprisonment and ruin- of a victorious culture triumphant. The untouchable merely asked me where I was going. He might have said more, had I not foolishly mentioned where I was coming from. Our conversation quickly staled and became nothing.
Arriving home, I found political men had taken my flat for a party officer, so I pressed on to the Gasthaus. The roaring fire danced in the window pane, inviting me like a mother’s warm embrace. I wondered what beer tasted like and who I would speak to about Heinrich, for my revenge was ever present on my mind. For the last year, I held only the two twin ambitions; live and revenge.
It did not happen as I had expected it to. I did not throw open the doors of the Gasthaus to find a hushed silence- surprise- or greeting. Heinrich did not step forward right then to fight me.
My disappointment was to be more bitter then any of that cheap American entertainment.
I did throw upon the door, but no one turned. Only the men at the table closest the door only glanced up and returned to their beer. Political men crowed around the piano at the far end of the bar, singing songs, and carrying on. I sat down at the bar, closet the door, and the wall, and it was a time before I was even noticed. The Barkeeper, a man I know from childhood, did not recognize me, so gaunt had I become. I asked about my mortal beloved.
It is bitter to lose a friend to evil, before one loses her to death.31
I pressed him for details. He refused. I drank my beer in silence. When the meat and potatoes that I had not ordered, I eat them, paid for my beer, and left. I marched on through the cold night, down the village road, out towards the Eastland farms. Bertha was sure to be with her mother in their old farm house on the hill. Vainly I counseled my imagination to leave off its agitations, for since my conversation with the Barkeeper, I felt knew in my most rational mind that I had been betrayed. Time is a cruel thief to rob us of our former selves. We lose as much to life as we do to death.32
I crept to the farm house window, beside the wood pail, and saw them there, sitting in the kitchen, before the dull yellow fire. Heinrich sat with his back turned towards the door, a beer in his hand. Bertha sat before the fire, one bébé at her breast, and a second upon the table, resting in wrap. I stood, stricken dumb, with horror at the perceptions of my eyes. Failing to rub them away, I stumbled backward, and fell against the wood pile. The handle of the axe struck across the bridge of my nose.
Taking the tool firmly in both hands, I kicked wide the door. Heinrich was the first to die. I lodged the blade firmly in the back of his skull. My mortal beloved opened her mouth, but gave no sound, couching her baby to her chest. I fell upon her, beating her furiously. The child, falling to the floor, one short wail, and then nothing more. I settled my debt with my mortal beloved, hating myself for following in the plow of Heinrich. When I finished, I discovered that my violence had undone the life tether of my mortal beloved.
I removed the limp body of the small child and placed it next the still warm child on the table, which had never opened its eyes. I closed on hand about its neck and for one brief second, its blue eyes fluttered before me.
Pushing Heinrich to the floor, I sat in his chair, staring at the fire, I do not know how long. The fire tarnished, grew cold, and soldered before I rose. I do not remember when the thought came to me, I only remember having gone to the pantry, and taking then entire supply of Barium carbonate,33 mixed with beer. I instantly became sleepy and slept till late in the morning, but I did not die
Oh that I had died that night.
After ransacking the house for portable property, I flight it aflame the following night, and fled west, eventually stopping in Spain for several years. I watched on war after another come and go… after a while, they all seemed the same. For a long time, I amused myself by adding all manner of chemicals to my own drinking water. Nothing has hurt me yet, though the grenades of the Americans in Mesopotamia, where I now work as a doctor, do make me sleepy. I do not fear death so much, but rather the inadequate life.34
Oh that I had died that night.
There was nothing to do to Morell, even after the time of troubles had past. His fall from grace was amusement enough, thought it was short lived. He died a miserable fat, discredited man, unable to speak a coherent thought.
I found Beppo on the beach at Bertioga in Embu, Brazil. I stuck up a conversation with him, but he was guarded, stiff, and aloof. The last I saw of him, he went out for a swim. I added a bit of my own water to his and left him.
Oh that I had died that night.
Now I walk alone. The mark of Cain on my head and the blood of innocence on my hands… I walk alone
Oh that I had died that night.
1 The Mortal Immortal, a Tale, By Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley.
2 July 16, 1933. On the 14th of July, 1933, the formation of new political parties in Germany was forbidden.
3 German: Fatherland
4 Bertrand Russell quotation.
5 A phun pun on Imortal Beloved, the sudo(mostly inaccurate)biography of Ludwig van Beethoven.
6 Same name as the “my mortal beloved” mentioned in The Mortal Immortal, A Tale, By Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley.
7 Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, mentioned in the Shelley text.
8 German: Guest House, or pub, tavern, local bar and grill (only with much better food).
9 The Night of the Long Knives (June 30 and Sunday July 1, 1934) (German, Nacht der langen Messer), also known as Reichsmordwoche or “the Blood Purge”, was a lethal purge of Adolf Hitler’s potential political rivals in the Sturmabteilung (SA; also known as storm troopers or brownshirts).
10 Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus
11 Nightmare on Elm Street for a lame example… this is really a joke on the next sub-clause.
12 Frances Sheridan published The History of Nourjahad in 1767. The story describes Nourjahad’s life, who is tricked by the sultan Schemzeddin to believe that he has become immortal and that his period of sleep last for several years at a time. (This text is mentioned in the Shelley text.)
13 Juan Ponce de León (c. 1460 – July 1521) was a Spanish conquistador. The popular story that Ponce de León was searching for the Fountain of Youth when he discovered Florida is misconceived. He was seeking a spiritual rebirth with new glory, honor, and personal enrichment, not a physical rebirth through the waters of the Fountain of Youth.
14 World War II
15 German: Homeland
16 V-E Day, May 8, 1945.
17 Werner Karl Heisenberg, (December 5, 1901 – February 1, 1976) was a celebrated German physicist and Nobel laureate, one of the founders of quantum mechanics.
18 Munich-Stadelheim prison, where Ernst Julius Röhm (often written as Roehm in English) murdered on July 1, 1934. It has been speculated that Röhm was given his serrvice pist
19 Dr. Josef Mengele: nicknamed Beppo and Todesengel; German: Death Angel, or Angel of Death.
20 Theodor Gilbert Morell (July 22, 1886 – May 26, 1948) was Adolf Hitler’s personal physician from 1936 until his suicide in 1945. Although Morell had medical training and was licensed as a general practitioner in Germany long before he met Hitler, following World War II there were investigations into his practice along with interrogation by the Allies and he came to be widely regarded as a quack. Historians have speculated his treatment contributed to Hitler’s ill health.
21 Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten (Steel Helmet, League of Front Soldiers); this organization was incorporated into the SA in 1933.
22 Adolf Hitler.
23 Latin: At the moment of death.
24 Italian: Benito Mussolini; “Blood alone moves the wheels of history.”
25 Stanislaw J. Lec, from Unkempt Thoughts
26 Gleichschaltung: German; literally “synchronising”, synchronization. This term is used in a political sense to describe the process by which the Nazi regime successively established a system of totalitarian control over the individual, and tight coordination over all aspects of society and commerce. Another possible translation is “making equal”.
27 Kristallnacht: German; literall Crystal night, but figuratively translated as “The Night of Broken Glass.” Kristallnacht was a massive nationwide pogrom in Germany and Austria on the night of November 9, 1938.
28 Plato quoation.
29 “Death hath so many doors to let out life.”–John Fletcher, The Custom of the Country
30 German: “Come home safe my beloved. I miss you terribly. I will wait for you.”
31 Mary Renault, The Praise Singer, 1978
32 –Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, A Woman of Independent Means
33 Barium carbonate (BaCO3), also known as witherite, is a chemical compound used in rat poison, bricks, and cement. Barium carbonate is a useful rat poison and can also be used in making glass and bricks, while barium nitrate and chlorate give green colors in fireworks.
34 Bertolt Brecht, The Mother, 1932.