Debunking 11 Myths about Hitler

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

Responses to an interview granted to Nova Makedonija, April 2014

A: Holocaust deniers are ignorant or malicious or both. A preponderance of historical evidence, not least from German sources, points at the occurrence of this tragedy. I believe that 6 million is actually an underestimate, taking into account the fact that in 1944-5 Jewish deportees (for instance, from Hungary) were conveyed directly to the gas chambers without any form of registration, counting, or monitoring.

A: As far as European history goes, Hitler was not an aberration. On the very contrary: in line with 19th century geopolitical thinking, he sought to establish a German colonial empire in east Europe (since Africa and Asia were already claimed by other European powers.) His only revolutionary “contribution” was the idea that certain white “races” (e.g., the Poles, the Jews, and the Russians) could be considered on par with non-white natives, which were traditionally thought of as primitive and inherently inferior.

A: Hitler was emphatically not out to establish a global empire. His Lebensraum extended to east Europe only. He was forced into war in western and southern Europe. He had no designs on Africa or Asia. He even offered the British a pact: they will let him found a German empire in Poland, Ukraine, and Russia and he will leave the British Empire intact. The British declined the offer, committed as they were to the outdated concept of “balance of powers” in contiguous continental Europe.

A: The West committed a colossal error in supporting Stalin against Hitler. They should have let these two rabid dogs annihilate each other. Hitler couldn’t believe the West inanity in irrationally buttressing Bolshevism in Europe. Churchill’s compulsive doggedness and commitment to 19th century ideals dragged a reluctant USA into a ruinous conflagration and ended up handing half of Europe to the bloodthirsty Stalin, dismantling the largely benign British Empire, pulverizing both Britain and Germany, and engendering a Cold War that almost led to a nuclear apocalypse.

A: There was no Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews. At first the Nazis tried to legislate the Jews out of the ever-expanding Reich. When that failed, they conceived of a Jewish enclave in Lublin, Palestine, or Madagascar. But the Allies were dead set against any influx of Jews into their territories. The administrations of both Great Britain and the USA were anti-Semitic and, in the USA, there was an aversion to getting involved yet again in European affairs. The American Jews, not wanting to be seen as war-mongers and ashamed of their destitute Ostjuden brethren, supported their government’s neutral stance.

When Germany invaded Russia, it became clear that the Reich is going to end up with more than 7 million Jews within its borders. This was unacceptable to its paranoid and virulently anti-Jewish leaders – hence the Wannsee Conference in 1941 and the Final Solution of the Jewish Question, now known as the Holocaust.

A: Fascism and even Nazism were global ideologies, not confined to Italy and Germany. By the middle of 1941, there were two dozen countries with Nazi governments in place or with sizable and politically significant Nazi movements: from Iraq (Rashid Ali al-Keilani) and Egypt (the Green Shirts of the Misr el-Fatah party) to Norway (Quisling) and from Bulgaria and Rumania to Hungary. World War II was a clash of global ideologies: Communism against Fascism against Liberalism.

A: Hitler regarded the Jews as the potent equals of the Aryans, the two races competing for world dominance. The Aryans were the fount of everything that’s good and positive, the Jews (and the Judeo-Christian tradition) at the source of every manifestation of evil and decrepitude – hence the need to cleanse Europe (Judenrein) and restore it to Aryan stewardship. In his political will, dictated to his secretary, Martin Borman, a day before he committed suicide, Hitler concedes defeat in the fight against the Jews but exhorts the Aryan Germans to continue their struggle against the Jews and Bolshevism.

A: The Nazis were eclectic: they borrowed concentration camps and scientific racism from the British, extermination camps from the Russians, eugenics from the USA and Scandinavia, mass propaganda from the USSR and Italy. They merely applied legendary German determination and industriousness to these assimilated institutions and ideas.

A: The Zionist movement regarded the rise of Nazism as a great opportunity: the Nazis will drive the Jews out of Europe and into the waiting arms of the Zionists in their new homeland in Palestine. The Zionists collaborated with the Nazis for the better part of a decade in transporting Jews (and their money) across borders and over the seas from Germany and Austria to Palestine.

A: Hitler most definitely committed suicide in the bunker. To the several testimonies to that effect we can now add incontrovertible evidence (such as dental records) from the recently opened archives in the USSR. Suicide is also more congruent with Hitler’s character as a notoriously narcissistic drama queen.

A: Hitler’s grandmother worked for a Jewish family, the Frankenbergs, in Graz. She got herself pregnant and left in a hurry. The rumour was that her paramour was the family’s 19 years old scion. She gave birth to Hitler’s father, Alois, out of wedlock. Well into Alois’s teens, his mother cashed checks she had received from the Franknenberg family.

Hitler asked his lawyer, Hans Frank, to look into the matter, but the report he submitted, a few months later, was never found. There was persistent gossip that Hitler was being blackmailed by his cousin, but this cannot be either proven or traced back to Hitler’s alleged Jewish ancestry. More about this in my book “The Hitler File”.


Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, and international affairs.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site at



“I am with child” – says Mariam, her eyes downcast. In the murk he could not tell if her cheeks are flushed, but the tremor in her voice and her posture are signs enough. They are betrothed, he having paid the mohar to her family two moons ago with witnesses aplenty. She was a virgin then: the elders of both families made sure and vouched for her. At 14 years of age she was no beauty, but her plainness and the goodness of her heart appealed to him. She was supple and lithe and a hard worker. He liked her natural scents and she often laughed, a bell-like tintinnabulation that he grew fond of as her presence insinuated itself into his dour existence. By now, she has permeated his abode, like silent waters.

Yoseph was somewhat older and more experienced than his wife-to-be. Short, stocky and hirsute, his only redeeming feature was his eyes: two coals aglow above a bulbous, venous nose in an otherwise coarse face. Originally from Judea, he found himself stranded in Nazareth, an outpost, half watchtower half settlement of crude and stony-faced peasants. He traced his ancestry back to King David and wouldn’t marry one of theirs, so the locals mocked and resented him. Mariam’s tribe was also from Judea and her barren cousin, Elisheva was long married to a Temple priest. Mariam was well-bred and observant of God’s commandments. He could not imagine her sinning.

As was his habit, he laid down his tools, straightened up and stood, frozen in contemplation. Finally he asked: “Who is the father?” There were bewilderment and hurt in his voice.

Mariam shuffled her bare, delicate feet: “You are”, she whispered.

He tensed: “Don’t lie to me, Mariam.”

“I am not!” – She protested – “I am not!”

A shaft of light penetrated the hut and illuminated his table and the flapping corners of her gown.

“We are not to be married until after the harvest. I cannot know you until you are my wife. I did not know you, Mariam!”

She sobbed softly.

He sighed:

“What have you done, Mariam? If this were to be known …”

“Please, please,” – she startled – “tell no one! No one need know!”

“It is not a thing you can hide for long, especially in Natseret” – he sniggered bitterly.

“I swear before God, as He is my witness: you had me, Yoseph, you knew me at night time, several times!”

“Mariam!” His voice was cold and cutting and he struggled to regain control and then, in softer tones:

“I will not make a public example of you, Mariam, worry not. I will give you leave tomorrow privately. We need only two witnesses.”

She fell silent, her breathing shallow and belaboured.


“You fell asleep and tossed and turned all night. I could hear you from my chamber. You then came to me, your eyes still shut. You … you had me then, you knew me. It is the truth. Throughout the deed you never woke. I was afraid. I did not know whether to resist would have meant the end of you. You were as though possessed!”

Yoseph mulled over her words.

“I was asleep even when … even when I seeded you?”

“Even then!” – Cried Mariam – “You must believe me! I didn’t want you dead or I would have done to rouse you! But you were so alive with passion, so accomplished and consummate … and yet so numb, so …” – Her voice faltered.

Yoseph crumbled onto a bench: “I walk at nighttime, Mariam. I know not whence and whither. I have no recollection. People have told me that they have seen me about the house and fields, but I remember naught.”

“I saw you at times,” – said Mariam – “so did Bilha the maiden servant whom you expelled when it was found she was with child.”

Yoseph drew air and exhaled.

“Have you told this to anyone?”

“I did,” – said Mariam, kneeling beside him and laying her calloused hand on his – “When I found out, I went to visit with Elisheva.”

Yoseph nodded his approval: “She is a wise woman. Had she some advice to give you?”

“She had,” – answered Mariam.

Yoseph straightened up and peered ahead into the penumbral frame of the reed door.

“She said I have a son,” – Mariam recounted softly – “your son, Yoseph! Our firstborn. Her husband, Zacharia, had a vision in the temple and was struck dumb by it. Elisheva is pregnant, too.”

Yoseph chuckled in disbelief: Elisheva was way past childbearing age.

“An angel appeared to Zacharia and told him that she will bear a son, a great man in Israel. I had a similar dream after I have returned from her. I saw an angel, too.”

“Woman, don’t blaspheme,” – exclaimed Yoseph peremptorily, but he was listening, albeit with incredulity, not awe.

“An angel came to me,” – persisted Mariam: “He said that I am the blessed among women and that I need fear not for I have found favour with God. He knew that I am with child. He promised me – us – a son and ordered that we should name him Yeshua. He shall be great, the fruit of your loin, and shall be called the Son of the Highest and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David and he shall reign …”

“Enough!” – Shouted Yoseph – “You have gone mad, woman, you took leave of your senses! Not only do you blaspheme against God, the Holy Blessed be He, but you also incite rebellion! You will bring upon us the wrath of the mighty with your troubled speech!”

But Mariam pressed on, her diminutive frame ablaze with the crimson dusk, her hands held high:

“He shall reign, Yoseph, over the house of Yaakov forever and of his kingdom there shall be no end!”

Deflated, she crumbled onto the bench beside him, respiring heavily, supporting her bosom with one hand, the other palm again camped on his sinewed forearm.

Yoseph stirred: “How shall this be, seeing that you knew not a man?”

Mariam implored: “I did know you, Yoseph! Believe me, please, for I am not a harlot!”

He knew that. And he remembered Bilha’s words when she left his household, Hagar-like with her baby. “You are the child’s father!” – She protested – “You came upon me at night, aslumbered! I could not wake you up no matter what I did! There and then you took me and you knew me many times and now you cast me out to destitution!” And she cursed him and his progeny terribly.

Mariam beseeched:

“Zacharia told Elisheva that the Holy Ghost shall come upon me and the power of the most High shall overshadow me. Our son will, therefore, be the Son of God!” Yoseph recoiled involuntarily: this was high sacrilege and in his home, he who observed all the commandments from the lightest to the harshest!

“What did you answer?”

Mariam responded instantly: “I said to him who was surely the messenger of God: behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

Yoseph kept quiet for a few moments and then rose from their common seat:

“Mariam, tomorrow, in front of two competent witnesses, we will part. You will go your way and I will go mine. I cannot invoke the name of God, blessed be He and blessed be His Name, in vain. Not even for you and your child …”

“Our child!” – Mariam screamed – “Our child, Yoseph! Curse be upon you if you abandon us and your firstborn son as you have Bilha’s!!!”

He swerved and left the shed, forsaking her to the shadows and the demons that always lurked in him and his abode.


That night, he slept and in his sleep he dreamt an angel. And the angel regarded him with great compassion and said to him:

“Yoseph! Fear not to take unto thee Mariam thy wife for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit and she shall bring forth a son and thou shalt call his name Yeshua for he shall save his people from their sins.”

And in his slumber, Yoseph turned his face from the terrible sight and cried, the tears rolling down his cheeks into the stubby growth that was his beard and onto his blanket. Even then he knew that he would marry Mariam and father Yeshua and that he will not live to see Him die a terrible death.

Mindgames Tales

The Capgras Shift

I Hear Voices

Folie a Plusieurs

The Elephant’s Call

Night Terror

Anton’s Trap

A Dream Come True

Lucid Dreams

Live Burial

The Galatea of Cotard


The Con Man ComethReaders Discussion

The Last DaysReaders Discussion


“It is June”, she says. The anxiety wells in the contours of her contorted face as she leans closer to me and scrutinizes my evasive gaze. I am in January and she is in my future, in the June of my life. Her eyes suspicious slits, wrinkled in the twilight zone between disbelief and fear and self-delusion. These months, a temporal abyss. She passes a hesitant hand through my hair and eyes her fingertips wistfully. She asks where I have been. “Here”, I retort, “where else?” Where else, indeed. I am here in the month of January and it is searing hot and flowers and bees aflutter and the sun, an incongruous disc high in the sky. “It is June”, she repeats, “and you have been gone for months.” She elevates her lithe frame and sighs as she glides towards a half-opened door. Then she pauses, her hand on an immaculately polished metal handle. “The Police say they found you in the city, wandering, aimless, disoriented, half-naked.” She studies me, hunting for a flicker of recognition, an amber of admission. In vain. The voices of exuberant children drift through the window and hang like pulsating smoke in mid air. She shrugs resignedly and shuts the door behind her. Minutes later she returns with a sweaty jug of sparkling water. “It’s hot,” she says, “it’s summer, you know.” I don’t know, but I gulp down the libation. She reclines on the worn armrest of the couch and supports her oval face on a cupped and sensuous palm. “What have you been doing all this time? Don’t you have the slightest recollection? Can’t you try harder?” It’s getting boring. I can’t try harder. I can’t try at all. I don’t know what she’s talking about, except that she has a point about June. Unless this is the hottest January on record, which deep inside I know it is not. I study the floor tiles intently: aquamarine borders besieging a milky center. I count them. It gives me respite, it calms me down. “What have you been doing so far away from home?” She utters the convoluted, hyphenated name of a town I do not recognize. I shrug, it’s becoming a reflex. A snippet: a man walking; the sounds of a raging sea as it confronts a barrier; the haunting lament of a solitary seagull. I shrug once more. She sighs and retreats, a whoosh of warm, perfumed air, a presence withdrawn in feigned resignation. But I know better than that: she never relents, that’s the way she is. How can I be so certain? How could I have become acquainted with such an intimate detail if we have never met before as I so tenaciously maintain? It may well be June, she may well be right. There is a tiny fairy-tale house directly on the beach, its foundations bone-bare, gaping in limestone and steel-pierced concrete. The man is inspecting these exposed ribs of a beached abode, kneeling and fingering the walls in a curious cross between sacro-cranial massage and a caress. I cannot see his face, just the crew-cut of his hair and the outline of his sagging jaw. Then it’s gone and she busies herself with a cigarette, the lighter clinks as it hits the reflective surface of a rotund glass stand. I watch her silhouette in the hallway mirror. She is a zaftig woman, her hair long and unbraided, eyebrows unplucked, two simmering coal lumps for eyes and a pale rendition of a mouth. She may well be a vampire. But sunlight is streaming through every crack and opening, a yellow, ethereal emanation, distinctly unsuited to zombies and other creatures of the night. Eerie apparitions jostle on the television screen, cut in half by potent words scrawled atop captions and banners: something about a family found murdered, stakes driven through their hearts while asleep. She says from the doorframe: “This happened a few days ago in (again the unutterable name of that town).” And then: “They are still looking for the killer.” I nod. The man is raising a glove-clad hand and peruses it in fascinated horror: the garment is bloodied and torn. He peels it off and tucks it into the crevice that underlies the house. The wind is howling. He scoops up sand and lets it drip through a funneled palm. Upstairs a woman and her children. He shudders at the thought. There’s something familiar in the man, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I wish him to turn around so that I could see his face, but the man just keeps facing the wall, his back to the foaming sea, on his haunches, ramrod straight, frozen in time, in a grey January morning. January. Not June. A tsunami of relief: it couldn’t have been me. I was here in January, almost throughout the entire month. With her? She stubs out the cigarette and re-enters the room. She catches  glimpse of the gory news. Her voice is firm, determined: we have to talk. Talk, I say. “You vanished one January day …” What day? On January 23. Go on. “You did not make contact since. A week ago, six months after you have gone missing, the Police found you …” Yes, yes, I know, dishabille, rambling, incoherent. “When was this family killed?” I catch her off-guard. She veers towards the blaring set and then: “Their bodies were discovered a few days ago, skeletons really. They seemed to have been butchered months before, no one knows exactly when.” An oppressive interlude. Why did it take so long to find them? “They have just relocated. No one knew them, the kids didn’t even register at school yet.” Kids? As in how many? Three, the youngest one four years of age. The man … was he the father, her husband? Her breath is bated: “What man?” The murderer. “No one said anything about a man. They don’t know who did it, could have been a woman.” And then: “Why do you think it was a man?” It takes a lot of strength to drive a stake through someone’s chest, even a child’s. “How would you know?” – she whispers. Was she married? I insist, an urgency in my voice that compels her to respond: “She was a widow. Cancer. He died four years ago to the day.” What day? The day they were slaughtered. There’s such finality in her voice, it’s chilling. A tidal wave of apprehension. “You think I did it?” Her turn to shrug. We contemplate each other in the waning light. Her hair is glowing as she avoids my stare. Finally: “I know you did it.” Know? How? “You told me.” I am overtaken by panicked indignation: “I never did.” She smiles wanly: “You were worn-out and fatigued. You remembered nothing except that you have finished off a family of vampires. You said you have made the world a better place.” Vampires? “Vampires, like in the movies and the books.” She crouches besides me and takes my hand tenderly. Then she pulls me off the couch and drags me through the penumbral corridors of her home. “Where are we going?” She doesn’t bother to respond. We climb some stairs and walk the length of a carpeted landing. She turns a key and unlocks a massive oak door. She stands aside and lets me enter first. “This is your study.” – she says. I want to deny it except the words stick in my throat as I survey the cavernous space: photos of me everywhere, and of us and professional certifications and award plaques and framed letters to and from. Too many to forge, they resonate and reawaken, they overpower me. I wander in, dazed and perplexed. A massive mahogany desk, littered with papers and opened books whose spines are shattered by frequent use. “Have a closer look”, she suggests, quietly. I sink into an overstuffed imitation leather chair and ponder the stacks. “Vampire lore, vampire science, vampire films, vampire literature,” – she exclaims as she ruffles through the papers and the dusty tomes, enunciating the titles. “The family …” – I mumble feebly. “A stake through the heart,” she concurs, “the surest way to kill a vampire.” “It’s still doesn’t prove it’s been me …” “Oh, give me a break!” she erupts and then clams shut and settles onto the window seal, pondering the overgrown garden. “What will you do now?” I ask and she quivers. There is a long silence, punctuated by our belabored breath and the rustling of dying leaves against the window. Her skin is abnormally pale in the dusky orange-flaming sun. I study her profile: the pronounced, hollow cheekbones, the deep-set sockets, the venous neck, down to her arthritic, gnarled hands that keep clutching and unclutching an imaginary purse. I can’t remember the shape of her feet, or breasts, or womanhood. She is so alien, so out of my world. “You really don’t remember a single thing?” I don’t, except the maddening racket of the sea. The man springs to his feet. I feel he is about to turn. My knuckles white against the armrests, I shut my eyes and look inward at the unfolding scene. He swerves and, for a dizzying moment there I am afraid that he will lunge at me, just cross the distance in a leap and drive a sharpened stake down my spurting, protesting, convulsing heart. But, instead, he merely smiles, awfully familiar and friendly-like, and hands me the dripping implement. Then he waves his head in her general direction, something between farewell and an admonition. He is full of empathy and compassion as he fades and exits the darkened chamber.

Mindgames Tales

The Capgras Shift

I Hear Voices

Folie a Plusieurs

The Elephant’s Call

Night Terror

Anton’s Trap

A Dream Come True

Lucid Dreams

Live Burial

The Galatea of Cotard

The Con Man ComethReaders Discussion

The Last DaysReaders Discussion

The Galatea of Cotard

We watch the dusk-drenched pyramids from our hotel room balcony and I say: “You got it all wrong, ma. He is not dead. We are.” Her stony face immobile, she wouldn’t look at me: “He has been dead for well over a decade, dear. You are confused.” I fidget and she hates it. I smirk, she hates it even more. I say: “He got me with a child. I had to rid myself of it.” She nods, exasperated.

I glance furtively at the inordinately large screen of my iPhone. Dali’s “Galatea of the Spheres”. Like her, I sense the wind howling among my molecules. I am grateful for the stillness of the air. The faintest breeze would have dispersed me irretrievably. I tighten my grip on the ornate banister and stare down at the teeming street. Where my womb used to be there is nothing but a weed-grown ruin. I feel its weather-beaten absence, scraped at diligently by doctors with scapulas and scalpels. I saw the blood emitted by my body, oozing from my genitalia, a wrathful, tar-black admonition.

“Are you hungry?” Her grammar and syntax always impeccable. I study my parent’s profile: the erstwhile firm chin now buckled, the flabby contours of her once muscular arms. Her stomach gone, like mine. Her eyes are tearful, the knuckles of her sculpted hands are white.

I chuckle bitterly: “Dead people don’t supp, mother. I expired during the operation, remember? When they extracted it …” There is a moment of dead silence. “My succubus to his incubus.”

She takes a deep breath and exhales the words: “If you are truly deceased, then how are we conversing?”

That’s an easy one. “In our minds. In mine and yours. You took your own life, mama, when you found out. I stumbled across your lifeless body in the dark.”

She pinches me hard, her fingers clawing, clinging, burrowing deep. The flesh changes hues in protest. There is no pain, just a sudden blush and then it reverts to its waxy countenance. “This hurts,” – she declares – “I can see it on your contorted face!”

I am tired of being denied, of being negated so. “Father had me several times, mother, lasciviously. He got me pregnant. I went to a clinic. You visited me there. You were with him.”

She nods and shuts her hazel eyes:

“It was a psychiatric inpatient facility. They gave you medicines and electroconvulsive shocks. They diagnosed you with Cotard’s Syndrome. You were depressed, delusional, and suicidal. I had no choice. I am sorry.”

The intoxicating sounds of the street: donkeys braying; peddlers advertising their wares, often in rhyme; a muezzin’s call for prayer, nasal and atavistic; beggars whining, abscessed arms resting on amputated, fly-infested stumps. Death is everywhere. We are touring Hades and its infernal monuments: the pyramids, the sphinx, pets and people embalmed, fragile hair intact, desiccated eyeballs resting in grimy sockets, skeletal hands folded on disintegrating fabrics.

“Why are we here?” – I demand – “Why did you bring me here?”

My mother hesitates, bites her lips, cracks her fingers, all very atypical. Her nervousness is contagious and unsettling. She is always so composed. She is still a very beautiful woman. I have to remind myself, almost aloud, that she is a corpse, an apparition, an unreal projection of my mind or hers.

“I thought it would do you good,” – she finally utters enigmatically: “all this devotion to eternity, the afterlife, this unflinching and fearless obsession with death. It reminds me of your fixation, but it is not delusional and fallacious. Maybe it will give you the courage to confront … I don’t know …” – she tapers to a wistful whisper.

I reposition on the reed recliner. She notices my discomfort and raises her perfectly-plucked eyebrows:

“Uncomfortable, dear? One would have thought that you would be …”

“ … impervious to the inconveniences of the flesh.” – I complete the sentence for her. “I am, but my spirit isn’t. It needs time to adjust. My decay and putrefaction in the hospital were very sudden.”

“Ah!” – says mama, her gaze farsighted, contemplating the missing golden apexes of the pyramids.

There is a long silence, punctuated by eerie disembodied sounds emanating from the neighbouring rooms. A couple is making love passionately and audibly. The woman screams, it sounds like agony. The man growls. Mother seems unperturbed.

“You find it difficult to accept that we have all died, that we are nothing but memories.”

“No,” – my mother’s tone is strict – “I find it painful to come to terms with your delusion that you are the disembowelled remnant of my daughter, that you are a rotting corpse, and that your father violated you which led to my demise. It’s all untrue, a figment of your overcharged mind and overburdened psyche. And despite abundant evidence to the contrary and notwithstanding many courses of treatment, you are still bent on your version of morbid fantasy. I resent it for your sake as much as mine.”

“Tomorrow we will visit the pyramids?” – I point at the distance. My mother perks up: “Yes, love, we will. Anything special you would like to do and see?”

I would like to visit graveyards. I would like to lie prostrate among the decomposing earth and smell the roots of flowers. Father is there. He bequeathed me hell and left. I would want to hurl it in his face. But, I exclaim none of these wishes. I merely shrug and shut my eyes, obscenely abandoning my face to the sun’s slanted caresses. I can feel my mother’s querying look upon me.

“One good thing,” – I try to comfort her – “is that the dead can never die again. We are both immortal now.”

My mother gulps and tries to control her wavering voice:

“Why do you prefer immortality to mortality, child?”

“I am afraid of dying, mummy.” – I mumble, now drowsy – “I have been through it once and didn’t cherish the experience.”

Mother laughs harshly: “What is death like? You’d be among the first to enlighten us. Others have never made it back, you know.”

I, lazily: “It’s like evaporation, an inexorable fading, an incremental shutting down of faculties and functions. It is this graduality that renders it so intolerable, I guess. The predictability of your own annulment.” – I sat up: “You remain conscious to the very last nano-second, you see. Even beyond, when you are no more. There’s no respite, you are forced to witness. Some unfortunates are never gone for good.” – I shudder.

“Ghosts,” – says my mother, but without scorn.

“Ghosts,” – I concur and rest my head on my mother’s plump shoulder. She strokes my hair and sings softly to herself. The sun is golden now, concealed behind the massive structures on the far horizon. In the emptiness that’s me, a steering, an alignment of the atoms, a coherence that is almost being.

“I love you, Mom,” – I say.

Mindgames Tales

The Capgras Shift

I Hear Voices

Folie a Plusieurs

The Elephant’s Call

Night Terror

Anton’s Trap

A Dream Come True

Lucid Dreams

Live Burial

The Con Man ComethReaders Discussion

The Last DaysReaders Discussion

Lucid Dreams

“Imagine a Lucid Dreaming Tournament for Individuals and Multiplayer Teams” – I said.

Jack imbibed his drink listlessly. He was as uninspiring as his pedestrian first name. I couldn’t fathom why I kept socializing with this amebic specimen of office worker. We had nothing in common, except the cramped and smelly cubicle we shared.

“Lucid Dreaming?” – He intoned, gazing dolefully at his empty glass, his waxy fingers compulsively smoothing the doily underneath it.

“It’s when you know that you are dreaming and can change the contents of your dream at will: its environment, the set of characters, the plotline, the outcome …”

“I know what is lucid dreaming,” – stated Jack, his voice as flat as when he ordered the next round of drinks.

“You do?” – I confess to having been shocked. Lucid dreaming is the last thing you would dream of associating with Jack.

“Yes, I do.” – A hint of a smile – “I used to practice it.”

“Practice it? What do you mean?”

Jack turned and eyed me curiously, his equine face strangely animated:

“Just how much do you know about lucid dreaming?”

“Not much.” – I admitted – “Read about it here and there. I am more interested in its business applications. Hence my idea of organizing a tournament. It is doable, isn’t it? I mean, I read about shared dreams and such.”

If I hadn’t known Jack, I could have sworn to have seen his visage fleetingly turning derisive. But, the moment passed and he was his old anodyne self again. He sighed and sipped from his long-stemmed receptacle:

“There are many techniques developed and used to induce lucid dreams. There’s WILD, where you go directly from wakefulness to a dream state. It’s eerie, like an out of body experience.”

“How would you know what an out of body experience is like?” – I couldn’t help but ask.

Jack smoothed the greasy strands that passed for hair on the shiny, bumpy dome of his skull:

“I had a few when I was a kid. Doctors told me it was dissociation, my way of fleeing the horrors of my youth, so to speak.”

He smiled ruefully and the effect was terrifying. I averted my eyes.

“Anyhow, I also tried MILD, to recognize tell-tale signs that I am dreaming while asleep and WBTB – that’s: wake-back-to-bed – where you sleep for a while, then wake up, then concentrate on a dream you would like to have and then go back to sleep. I even went for supplements and devices that were supposed to help one to have lucid dreams. Some of them worked, actually.” – He scrutinized the fatty residues of his fingertips on the surface of the glass and then gulped the entire contents down.

“Wow!” – I said, appropriately appreciative – “I didn’t know there was so much to it!”. I hoped that flattery – augmented by a few more drinks – will be enough to secure the free consultancy services of Jack.

“It’s just the tip of an iceberg. Users and developers all over the world are now working on shared lucid dreaming and on enhanced learning techniques. It’s an awesome new field.”

I suppressed a smirk. “Awesome” was one of my favorite catchphrases and Jack has just plagiarized it nonchalantly. Maybe there’s still hope for him, I mused.

The conversation looked stalled, though, Jack lost in some labyrinthine inner landscape. I had to do something.

“Imagine a gadget that could record dreams, and then replay, upload them, and network with others. I call it: Mindshare.”

“Oldest theme of sci-fi novels and films.” – Jack shrugged and waved the waitress over. She glance furtively in my direction. I knew I had this effect on women: tall, athletic, always expensively attired, handsome, I am told. Poor Jack: dour, gruff, balding, dull and looks to match his character or lack thereof.

“Such a machine can be used to commit the perfect murder.” – I insisted – “Induce a dream of extreme physical exertion in a person with a heart condition. Or show spiders to an arachnophobe, or place someone with a fear of heights poised to fall off a cliff.”

He gave a stifled snigger:

“You seem to be good at this sort of thing, but a bit behind the curve.”

I ignored the insinuated disdain:

“I have it all figured out.” – I proceeded cheerfully – “The implement must come equipped with a mind firewall for protection. I call it the mindwall. You know, to fend off unwanted intrusions, hackers, crackers, criminals, that sort of thing. The mindwall will be designed to prevent exactly the sort of crime we have just been discussing.”

Jack shifted his gangly body in the high-backed transparent plastic chair. He didn’t respond, just studied the fan-shaped pastel lights around us.

I got really carried away, treating Jack merely as a neutral backdrop:

“Now, there will be content developers, talented dreamers, dream distributors, platforms, and what not. Exactly like software, you know. All content will be allowed but with ratings, like in the film industry. Inevitably, I can foresee the emergence of miruses, mind viruses, and mrojans, or mind-Trojans. I even thought of a new type of criminal offense: Mind Trapping, trying to alter the consciousness of a collective by interfering with the minds of a critical mass of its members. All these will all be illegal, naturally, and the FBI will have a special branch to take care of them, the…”

“… MIND: Mind, Identity, Neural, and Dreaming Police” – Said Jack.

For a moment there, I was disoriented. This was my line, the next few words I was about to say. How did Jack … How did he …

Jack stared at me oddly. Beads of clotted sweat formed on his brow and stubbly jowls. He muttered: “Hutton’s Paradox”.

“What?” – He was beginning to piss me off with his feigned aloofness and enigmatic utterances. The waitress glanced at us curiously. I realized that I had raised my voice. “What?” – I repeated, this time whispering.

“The British writer, Eric Bond Hutton, suggested to ask the question ‘Am I dreaming?’ to determine if you are in a dream-state or not. This query would never occur to you while you are awake, so the very fact that you feel compelled to pose it proves that you are asleep.”

“That’s utter nonsense!” – I susurrated – “I am definitely and widely awake right now and I can ask this question and it’s not conclusive one way or the other.”

“Then how do you explain the fact that I knew what you were about to say?”

“Lucky guess!” – I hissed – “Sheer coincidence!”

Jack shook his head sadly and used a flimsy paper napkin to wipe films of soupy perspiration off his contorted face:

“The words were too specific. Plus I got the acronym right. Either I was reading your mind loud and clear or we are both dreaming right this very minute.”

We sat there, thunderstruck. I knew he was right. The pub, its tubular fittings, pinstriped waitresses, and ponytailed barmen looked suddenly contrived and conjured up, like papier-mâché, or cardboard cutouts, only animated somehow.

“But, …” – I began

And he continued: “… who is …”

“… dreaming who?” – I finished

Who is the dreamer? Who is the figment? I certainly didn’t feel invented. I had a flat, a horde of girlfriends, money in the bank, a family, a history, a future. I had Jack, for Chrissakes! I had co-workers, a boss, a career, a cubicle that smelled like wet dog in winter and a man’s locker-room in summer!

Still, Jack didn’t look unreal, either. He was too loathsome to be a dream, but insufficiently deformed to fit into a nightmare. He was just an ordinary, interchangeable, dispensable cog. Repellent cog, but useful. And he drank martinis. No one in my dreams ever drank alcohol, a vestige of my teetotalling upbringing. And Jack, too, had a job and a life.

Or, did he? What did I really know about him? Coming to think of it, nothing much. He wore garish clothes, ate sandwiches wrapped in oily paper, claimed to have a parrot, which I never saw. Is that enough to disqualify him and render me immaterial? No way!

“There are tests.” – Said Jack after a while.

“What do you mean: ‘tests’?”

“Tests to determine if you are dreaming or not. Like: pinching your nose tight-shut and trying to breathe without using your mouth. If you succeed to do it, it’s a dream.”

“Anything else?”

“Oh, there are hundreds.” – Grunted Jack noncommittally.

“Something we can do right here and now?”

“Both of us don’t need to do it.” – Said Jack – “If one of us succeeds, then the other is real. If he fails, the other’s a mere fantasy.”

I shuddered.

Jack raised both his hands and stuck his left thumb through his right palm. Clean through. I gazed at him, dumbfounded. As the realization of what this meant dawned on me, I felt elated.

“There!” – He said, strangely triumphant – “I am the delusion and you are real. I always knew this to be true. In fact, I am relieved. It’s wasn’t easy being me.” He stood up and repeated the stunt.

“That was cool!” “Could you do it again?” “Way to go, man!” – A chorus of adulation, applauding bartenders, waitresses, and patrons surrounded Jack, who seemed to bask in the attention. He kept thrusting his thumbs into his palms and extracting them, not a drop of blood in sight, his hands none the worse off for the tear and wear that must have been involved.

Suddenly someone asked:

“Can your friend do tricks, too?”

Jack chortled:

“No way! He is real, man!” – And the room exploded in sinister laughter.

“I don’t think he is more real than you are!” – Said the red-headed waitress that couldn’t keep her eyes off me when she served us drinks. The bitch!

“Yeah, right, let him do some magic!” – Everyone joined in and gradually drifted and formed a circle around me. Jack stood aside, smirking and spreading his hands as if to say: “What can I do?”

“Do it! Do it! Do it!” – The murmur gradually increased, until it became a minacious roar, an ominous rumble. I lifted my hands to fend off the sound wall, but all I could see was two bleeding stumps where they should have been: crushed, bleached bones and protruding arteries, spouting a dark and strangely fragrant liquid onto my face.

“Jack!” – I shrieked – “Where are my hands? Where are my hands, please! Jack!”

The mob clapped thunderously and Jack took bows, as he weaved his way towards me. He knelt down and put his fleshy mouth to my ear:

“That’s another test. If you cannot see your hands, if they are replaced by something hideous, you are dreaming. It’s merely a nightmare, don’t worry about it.”

“But, I can’t be dreaming, I am real, I am not a character in a hallucination!” – I protested, striving to raise myself off the shiny chessboard-patterned floor, supporting my mysteriously weightless body on the two stumps that were my arms.

Jack sighed:

“I don’t know about that. These tests only tell you that you are in a dream, but they can’t distinguish between characters in the phantasmagoria. They can’t tell you if you are the dreamer or merely one of the characters being dreamed of.”

“But, when you pierced your hand with your thumb, you said that you were unreal and that I exist! That I am doing the dreaming and you are in my dream!” – I cried.

He smiled benevolently: “I knew that it meant a lot to you, that this is what you wanted to hear.’

“So, it was all a lie? All of it?” – I heaved, holding back a torrent of tears.

Jack slid by my side, legs extended, touching the opposite wall:

“All you have to do to find out is to wake up.” – He said and rubbed his temples wearily. I noticed how fatigued he looked: bags under his eyes, his veiny skin, his distended paunch. He appeared old, unkempt, and disheveled.

“I don’t want to wake up, I am afraid, Jack. I am afraid that I might not exist.”

Jack nodded in empathy:

“I know, I know. But, like that, trapped in a dream, you definitely do not exist. It’s an illusion, all of it. It changes at its creator’s whim and behest. We are nothing, mere stand-ins, decorations, frills. Don’t you want to at least try to have a life? Don’t you want to have something to call your own, to be someone? You don’t even have a name here!”

And he was right. I didn’t. I wanted to protest, but, the minute I opened my mouth, I knew Jack had a point and I did not have a name. I was nameless. I might as well call myself “Jack” for all I knew.

“Just give me your hand.” – Jack said softly – “We are in this together. We will wake up or we won’t, but we are a team, buddy. After all, we share the same office, remember?” – He smiled, a vain attempt at joviality. He extended his right hand and I proffered my left, coagulated stump, and we held on to each other and willed ourselves awake.

Mindgames Tales

The Capgras Shift

I Hear Voices

Folie a Plusieurs

The Elephant’s Call

Night Terror

Anton’s Trap

A Dream Come True

The Con Man ComethReaders Discussion

The Last DaysReaders Discussion

A Beheaded Cart

(In Hebrew, the word “Agala” means both cart and the feminine form of calf. A beheaded calf is among the sacrificial offerings enumerated in the Bible).

My grandfather, cradling an infant’s crib, departed. Navigating left and right, far along the pavement, he reached a concrete, round, post. There he rested, sheltered from the humid sun by peeling posters for lachrymose Turkish films. He pushed the crib outside the penumbral circle and waited.

Curious folks besieged the old man and his orphaned frame and then proceeded to buy from him the salted seeds and sweets that he lay, meticulously organized, inside the crib. My grandfather smiled at them through sea-blue eyes, as he wrapped the purchased sweetmeats in rustling brown paper bags.

My embarrassed uncles built for him a creaking wooden cart from remaindered construction materials. They painted it green and mounted it on large, thin-tyred, wheels borrowed from an ancient pram. They attached to it a partitioned table-top confiscated from the greengrocer down the lane. Every morning, forehead wrinkled, my grandfather would fill the wooden compartments with  various snacks and trinkets, at pains to separate them neatly. Black sunflower seeds, white pumpkin seeds, the salted and the sweet, tiny plastic toys bursting with candies, whistles, and rattles.

Still, he never gave up his crib, installing it on top of his squeaking vehicle, and filling it to its tattered brim with a rainbow of offerings. At night, he stowed it under the cart, locking it behind its two crumbling doors, among the unsold merchandise.

With sunrise, my grandfather would exit the house and head towards the miniature plot of garden adjoining it. He would cross the patch, stepping carefully on a pebbled path in its midst. Then, sighing but never stooping, he would drive his green trolley – a tall and stout and handsome man, fair-skinned and sapphire-eyed. “A movie star” – they gasped behind his back. Day in and day out, he impelled his rickety pushcart to its concrete post, there dispensing to the children with a smile, a permanence till dusk. With sunset, he gathered his few goods, bolted the fledgling flaps, and pushed back home, a few steps away.

When he grew old, he added to his burden a stool with an attached umbrella, to shield him from the elements, and a greenish nylon sheet to protect his wares. He became a fixture in this town of my birth. His lime cart turned into a meeting spot – “by Pardo”, they would say, secure in the knowledge that he would always be there, erect and gracious. Like two forces of nature, my grandpa and the concrete post – older than the fading movie posters – watched the town transformed, roads asphalted, children turn adults, bringing their off-spring to buy from him a stick of bitter black chewing gum.

Lone by his cart, he bid the dead farewell and greeted the newborn, himself aging and bending. Creases sprouted in his face, around his dimming sights, and in his white and delicate hands.

My grandfather had one love: my grandmother. A ravishing, proud, raven-haired woman. A framed retouched photo of her hung, imposing, on one of the walls. In it she stood, defiant, leaning on a carved pillar in a faraway place. This is how he must have seen her at first: a mysterious, sad-eyed disparity between dark and fair. Thus he fell in love and made her his only world.

This woman sat by his side, adjacent to his azure pushcart, day in and day out. She said nothing and he remained mute. They just stared with vacuous eyes, perhaps away, perhaps inside, perhaps back, to previous abodes in bustling cities.

At first, she seemed to like being his sidekick, confidently doling confectionery to toddlers, whose mothers remained forever infants in her memory. Intermittently, she laid a shriveled hand on his venous knee, leaving it there for a split, fluttering, second, conveying warmth and withdrawing as unobtrusively. It was enough to restore him to his full stature. But then, the municipal workers came and pasted funereal announcements onto his concrete pole and the magic was all but gone.

My grandma withered, dilapidated by this onerous existence. Eveningtime, she would get up and carry her stool afore, clenched in two twiggy hands, tediously dragging her reluctant self on the long march home. My grandfather observed her, his eyes a moist, eroding guilt. His disintegrating pushcart, the rain-drenched figure of his loved one, the whizzing torment of the desert winds, the sound of the crackling paper bags in her arthritic palms – they all conspired to deny him his erstwhile memory of her.

Each morning, my grandfather woke up to study this ageless image as he glided over her translucent skin, high-arching cheeks, and sleep-fluttery eyelashes. He fended off the intrusions of the world as he smoothed the covers and tucked her figure in. Then, he would get up and make her breakfast, arranging ceremoniously her medicines in multicolored plastic containers on the tray.

But my grandma rejected his sunup pleas. She wouldn’t go on living. One silent morning, she clung to her sheets and wouldn’t rise and accompany him. That day, gray and defeated, my grandpa ploughed the pavement with his barrow, unfolded a worn deck chair, and sank in, awaiting my grandmother’s reappearance.

When she did not materialize, he left his post much earlier than usual. He emptied the compartments duteously, packed the unsold goods in large canvas sacks, tidying them away behind the two bottom doors of his cart. He then unfurled a polyester sheet above it and sailed home, shoving and cajoling his screeching and scraping workstation.

My grandma was in bed, as he had left her, ensconced in blankets, a suicidal tortoise, glaring at the ceiling as it bled in aqueous abstracts. My grandfather parked his rusting, faded, wagon and climbed home. His wife awoke with startled whimpers, tears streaming silently down her creviced face, tearing his heart with the iron grip of festering love. He hugged her and showered her with panicky little kisses.

She froze and fortified her berth with pillows piled high, staring at him through narrow cracks of oozing sanity.

One day, my grandpa, returning in the evening, left his cart outside, uncharacteristically. He entered and, for a few minutes, he and my grandmother just watched each other wearily. He extended a calloused hand and she dreamily stood up and escorted him to their porch, which overlooked the weed-grown garden.

My grandfather draped her shoulders with a knitted woolen shawl. He tightened it, and then, her shivering hand in his, he sat his love among some cushions he prepared. She glanced aimlessly at a guava tree that shot among the trail of graveled stones. My grandfather contemplated her awhile and then, with sudden resoluteness, left.

Seconds later he reappeared among the shrubs, saluted her with a sledgehammer he held tenuously with both hands. She strained her face, attentive, consuming his image, like a flower would the sun, or the blind do the sounds.

Gasping and panting, my grandpa heaved the pushcart to the center of the plot. With repeated, furious, blows, he dislocated its wheels and doors. Reduced to splintered wood and twisted metal, he cocooned it in the nylon throw and left it, devastated by the trees.

Sitting beside, they watched the setting sun diffracted from the green-hued sculpture in the garden. A smile budded in my grandma’s honeyed eyes and spread into my grandfather’s deep blue gaze.

The cart stood there for years, disintegrating inexorably beneath its blackening shield. Its wheels, now rooted in the soil, it sank into the mildewed ground, another, peculiarly shaped sapling. My grandpa never adjusted the synthetic sheet that swathed it, nor did he dig out the burgeoning wheels.

My grandpa was visiting a pharmacy, replenishing her medications, when my grandma died. With the dignity of the indigent, he never bargained, never raised his voice. Packed in small, white, paper bags, he rushed the doses to his wife, limping and winded.

This time the house was shuttered doors and windows. My grandma wouldn’t respond to his increasingly desperate entreaties. He flung himself against the entrance and found her sprawled on the floor, her bloodied mouth ajar. As she fell, she must have hit her head against the corner of a table. She was baking my grandfather his favorite pastries.

Her eyes were shut. My grandpa knew she died. He placed her remedies on the floured and oiled table and changed into his best attire. Kneeling beside her, he gently wiped clean my grandma’s hands and mouth and head and clothed her in her outdoors coat.

His business done, he lay besides her and, hugging her frail remains, he shut his eyes.

My uncles and aunts found them, lying like that, embraced.

My grandparents’ tiny home was government property and was reclaimed. The sanitary engineers, revolted, removed from the garden the worm-infested, rotting relic and the putrid sheet concealing it.

The next day, it was hauled by sturdy garbage collectors into a truck and, with assorted other junk, incinerated.

Read the Hebrew Original


Sam Vaknin


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The Butterflies are Laughing

My parents’ home, it is dusk time, and I am climbing to the attic. I settle on my childhood’s sofa, whose unraveled corners reveal its faded and lumpy stuffing. The wooden armrests are dark and bear the scratchy marks of little hands. I contemplate these blemishes, set bright against the deep, brown planks, and am reminded of my past. A light ray meanders diagonally across the carpet. The air is Flemish. The fitting light, the shades, the atmosphere.

There is a watercolor on an easel of a thickset forest with towering and murky trees. A carriage frozen in a clearing, a burly driver, looking towards nowhere, as though there’s nothing left to see. No light, no shadows, just a black-singed mass of foliage and an incandescent, sallow horse.

My little brother lies bleeding on the rug. Two gory rivulets, two injured wrists, delineate a perfect circle. They cross his ashen palms and waxen, twitching fingers. It may be a call for help but I have been hard of hearing.

I crouch beside him and inspect the wounds. They are shallow but profuse. Red pain has broken past his skin, his face is wrinkled. I wipe him gently, trying not to hurt.

He stares at me, eyes of a gammy colt awaiting the delivering shot. He radiates the kind of gloom that spans the room and makes me giddy. I cower to my heels, then squat beside him, caressing his silent scream. My palms are warm.

We while the time. His frothy exhalations, my measured air inhaled, our lungs entwined in the proliferating density. The volumes of my childhood mob the shelves, their bindings blue and rigid.

I look at him and tell him it’s alright, he shouldn’t worry. A mere nineteen, he gives me a senescent smile and nods in frailty. He grasps it all, too much. Shortly, I may have to lift him in my arms and set him on the couch. We are not alone. Echoes of people downstairs. I can’t tell who. Mother, our sister, Nomi perhaps. Someone arrives and sparks excited speech and lengthy silences.

I descend the steps, some hasty greetings, I stuff a roll of coarse, green toilet paper in my pants. Back to the horror, to frisk around the crimson wreckage. I wipe my brother wrathfully from floor and carpet and from couch, reducing him to a ubiquity of chestnut stains. I am not content. He is writhing on the inlay, attempting tears. It’s futile, I know. We both forgot the art of crying, except from torn veins.

The light is waning. The brown blinds incarcerate my brother behind penumbral bars. His bony hands and scrawny body in stark relief. It is the first time that I observe him truly. He is lanky but his face unchanged. I was no child when he was born but he is still my little brother.

He is resting now, eyes shut, our lengthy lashes – both mine and his – attached to fluttering lids. Birds trapped in quivering arteries flap at his throat. He is sobbing still but I avert my gaze, afraid to hug him. We oscillate, like two charged particles, my little brother and myself. His arms by his side and my arms by his side, divergent. I thrust into my bulging pocket a ball of ruby paper.

There is a clock in here that ticks the seconds. They used to sound longer. It was another time. The hemorrhage stopped. A mournful lace of plasma on his sinewed wrists. It must have hurt, the old corroded blade, no flesh, just coated skeleton. To saw the bones till blood. To hack the skin, to spread it like a rusty butterfly, dismantling slithery vessels. I move to occupy the wooden ladder back, near the escritoire that I received as gift on the occasion of my first year in school.

He nods affirmative when asked if he can rise. I hold him under hairy, damp armpits. I confront him, seated on my grandma’s rocking chair, a cushion clad in Moroccan equine embroidery on my knees. I gently hold his hand and he recoils. I didn’t hurt him, though.

I wait for him to break, his hand in mine. Thus clenched, our palms devoid of strength, we face a question and a promise, the fear of pain and of commitment. We dwell on trust.

He unfists and bleeds anew. I use the paper ball to soak it up. It’s dripping. I gallop down the spiral staircase and collect another roll, adhesive bandages, and dressing. Into my pocket and, speechlessly, I climb back. He is sitting there, a Pharaonic scribe, wrists resting on his knees, palms lotus flowers, but upturned. His gifted painter’s fingers are quenched in blood.

I mop and dab, swab and discard, apply some pressure and erase. My brother is calling me in sanguineous tongue and I deface it, incapable of listening, unwilling to respond.

I bind him and I dress and he opens his eyes and gapes at the white butterflies that sprouted on his joints. He feels them tenderly, astonished by this sudden red-white beauty.

I count his pulse and he gives in to my pseudo-professional mannerisms. His pulse is regular. He hasn’t lost a lot of blood, therefore.

He tells me he is OK now and asks for water. All of a sudden, I remember. One day, he was a toddler, could hardly walk, I led him back from the clinic. He gave blood and was weeping bitterly. A giant cotton swab was thrust into his elbow pit and he folded him arm, holding onto it tightly.

One jerky movement, it fell and he stood there, gawking at the soiled lump and whimpering. He was so tiny that I hugged him and wiped the tears from his plump cheeks.

I improvised a story about “Adhesa Cottonball”, the cotton monster, who forever wishes to return to the soil, her abode. His eyes cleared and he giggled nervously. This sound – his chuckle – is in my ears, obscuring all real-life acoustics.

He gulps down the water silently, his eyes a distant blackness, where no one treads but he, his forest, among the trees, perhaps this carriage and its attending coachman. Where does he want to go, I wander?

My brain is working overtime. My skull-domiciled well-oiled machine, whose parts are in metallic shine, impeccable, unerring, impervious to pain. Machines don’t ache this brother, sprawled on the couch, his shoulders stooping, in torn shirt and tattered trousers, my erstwhile clothes, his chest hirsute, his face adorned with budding beard and whiskers.

What story shall I tell him now to clear his eyes? How shall I make him laugh again? What monster should I bury in the sand?

I tell him to pack few things and come with me. He acquiesces but still won’t budge. His twin wrist-butterflies are quite inert. He sighs as he buttons his shirt and rolls unfastened sleeves to cover his abrasions. When he gets up I see him as before: a gangling figure, an angular face, two cavernous sockets, big brown mole. He drags his feet.

We both descend. Don’t tell our parents, he begs, I promise not to. Enters his room and exits fast, carrying a small plastic bag with severed handles. A pair of worn jeans spill from the top to cover some half-deleted lettering.

We bid farewell and walk placidly to the car. He freezes on the back seat, still cradling his plastic treasure, gazing forward but seeing little.

Nomi is driving while I watch him through the windshield mirror. His inanimate stare, directed at the window, is deflected by transparence. Slumped on the imitation leather seat, he and his trousers bump from one side to another on the winding road.

He falls asleep this way, sack closely clutched, chin burrowing into his hollow torso. At times, he shakes his head in stiff refusal. He is very adamant. Only his hands are calm, as though detached from his rebellious body.

Nomi is negotiating the parking and I touch his shoulder. He opens a pair of bleary eyes and looks at me like he used to when I was still his entire world. I touch once more and gently. When he was two years old , I left home for many years, never to be heard from. The hurt resides still in his eyes, that injury.

I touch a third time, thus pledging to remain, thus telling him my love. I study him at length and he does not divert his eyes.

Suddenly he smiles and dimples collect around his lips. He flings his hands high up and waves his red-white butterflies. He imitates their flight. He plucks their wings. He laughs and I respond by laughing and Nomi joins and the space of our car is filled with laughs and butterflies and butterflies and laughter.

Sam Vaknin


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Download Free Anthologies


Poetry of Healing and Abuse


Journal of a Narcissist


Malignant Self Love Narcissism Revisited


After the Rain How the West Lost the East


A World in Conflict and Transition