HITLER’S SHADOW: a novel

Chapter 1: Jasmina

Sharp taps at my front door. Who could be out there so early in the morning? I peep through the opening in the window curtain. Nothing I can see in the murky mist. Peril lurking in the pea-soup fog? The indignant wind gods the Anemoi inhaling the savage smog out for revenge?

Continuous short and long taps as if someone telegraphing my name. But I cannot see anyone out there. My mind goes back to an earlier era in my life. Morse code for my name I had learned earnestly as a girl guide: di-dah-dah-dah di-dah di-di-dit… Butterflies in my stomach, my eyes glued to the window. Slowly a silhouette appears, turns into a bluish blob as it walks towards the door.

‘Can I come in, Jasmina?’

Who could that be? No one here knows my name; my first morning in my new house in a new city. My lips are buttoned up in fear, heart trembling. I draw my dressing gown together, my body armour. Look for a butter knife, my Excalibur sword.

‘I live in the block of flats down the street,’ the voice continues, sounds like the voice of a young boy. ‘Not as fancy as your new house, but still cosy.’

After drumming up a wee bit of courage, I open the door and let him in. ‘How could you knock at my door from so far away,’ regaining my composure, I wonder loudly.

‘Don’t be spooked by this action at a distance,’ he says as he walks in dim light towards the living room. ‘It’s a simple matter of bending Newton’s gravity.’

‘Or a matter of bending the mind?’ I mutter thinking that fear makes the mind irrational. We humans might be the smartest beings on the planet, but our minds are inherently lazy; they subconsciously rely on shortcuts to make crazy conclusions such as turning random sounds into orderly Morse code taps. What a boy! Trying to impress an old woman as if I was his new girlfriend. Practising, perhaps.

‘I help neighbours with their computers,’ He continues ignoring my comment. ‘I thought you might need some help.’

‘At this ungodly hour?’

‘Not ungodly for yoga addicts waiting for sunrise to do their daily sun salutations.’

‘What do you mean?’

 He ignores my question and continues, ‘I was passing by when I saw the lights on upstairs. Some writers start working early in the morning to brighten up their creative minds with the bursts of golden dawn, I reckon.’

 ‘You have been to this house before?’ I ask absent-mindedly, wondering: How does he know I’m a writer? A long time ago, I was a journalist in a different land, but no one here knows about my past.

‘No, it’s the first time. The old couple before you feared computers as if they were ghosts. Devil’s tool, the old man shouted and pushed me out when I went to see them. Always glued to his old cathode-ray TV, his brain roasted by radioactivity. Now in a nursing home. Cancer, I reckon.’

He takes off his jacket and tosses it on the floor as he might have done in his house if his mother was not watching. He then pulls up a chair and sits at the kitchen table, his hands clasped and resting on the tabletop. ‘What’s for breakfast? I love pancakes.’

Sharp taps at my front door. Who could be out there so early in the morning? I peep through the opening in the window curtain. Nothing I can see in the murky mist. Peril lurking in the pea-soup fog? The indignant wind gods the Anemoi inhaling the savage smog out for revenge?

Continuous short and long taps as if someone telegraphing my name. But I cannot see anyone out there. My mind goes back to an earlier era in my life. Morse code for my name I had learned earnestly as a girl guide: di-dah-dah-dah di-dah di-di-dit… Butterflies in my stomach, my eyes glued to the window. Slowly a silhouette appears, turns into a bluish blob as it walks towards the door.

‘Can I come in, Jasmina?’

Who could that be? No one here knows my name; my first morning in my new house in a new city. My lips are buttoned up in fear, heart trembling. I draw my dressing gown together, my body armour. Look for a butter knife, my Excalibur sword.

‘I live in the block of flats down the street,’ the voice continues, sounds like the voice of a young boy. ‘Not as fancy as your new house, but still cosy.’

After drumming up a wee bit of courage, I open the door and let him in. ‘How could you knock at my door from so far away,’ regaining my composure, I wonder loudly.

‘Don’t be spooked by this action at a distance,’ he says as he walks in dim light towards the living room. ‘It’s a simple matter of bending Newton’s gravity.’

‘Or a matter of bending the mind?’ I mutter thinking that fear makes the mind irrational. We humans might be the smartest beings on the planet, but our minds are inherently lazy; they subconsciously rely on shortcuts to make crazy conclusions such as turning random sounds into orderly Morse code taps. What a boy! Trying to impress an old woman as if I was his new girlfriend. Practising, perhaps.

‘I help neighbours with their computers,’ He continues ignoring my comment. ‘I thought you might need some help.’

‘At this ungodly hour?’

‘Not ungodly for yoga addicts waiting for sunrise to do their daily sun salutations.’

‘What do you mean?’

 He ignores my question and continues, ‘I was passing by when I saw the lights on upstairs. Some writers start working early in the morning to brighten up their creative minds with the bursts of golden dawn, I reckon.’

 ‘You have been to this house before?’ I ask absent-mindedly, wondering: How does he know I’m a writer? A long time ago, I was a journalist in a different land, but no one here knows about my past.

‘No, it’s the first time. The old couple before you feared computers as if they were ghosts. Devil’s tool, the old man shouted and pushed me out when I went to see them. Always glued to his old cathode-ray TV, his brain roasted by radioactivity. Now in a nursing home. Cancer, I reckon.’

He takes off his jacket and tosses it on the floor as he might have done in his house if his mother was not watching. He then pulls up a chair and sits at the kitchen table, his hands clasped and resting on the tabletop. ‘What’s for breakfast? I love pancakes.’

[more to come]

ChaPter 2 : Alois Hitzer

Well, I was not there to witness the ultimate sacrifice made by a man for his fatherland. Until that world-shattering though chickenshit moment, I worshipped him as my supreme idol. Never imagined that he would turn out to be such a candy-ass. Pardon my language. I learned such colourful, shitty words from black-and-white American movies when I was running away from American Nazi hunters. Ah, the twists of life.

On that fateful afternoon in the spring of 1945, hiding in a bunker beneath the garden of the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, Adolf Hitler, a failed artist but now the foxy Führer of the Third Reich, would rather eat his cherished Luger pistol and not his favourite egg dumplings. A spray of blood showering the self-proclaimed Prince of Germany’s favourite book, The Prince, resting on a side table; Machiavelli’s ghost aghast at this cowardly act.

Like all self-respecting Nazis, I’m also a proud owner of a Luger pistol, and believe the guns are for killing others. For us of the master-race, the others were always racially inferior Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals. We had no qualms about adding lovers of our unfaithful wives to this list.

Note long before his dishonourable death, the dictator, his right hand covering the trembling left hand, had arrogantly ordered his military commanders to demolish the British forces, ‘Cook them a stew they choke on’. Ironically, he choked on the stew of his blood.

What a hellish way to die considering Herr Hitler only had to ask his doctor to prescribe a calming cyanide capsule. Or order his underling and my SS supreme boss, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, to urgently dispatch a canister of cheerful carbon monoxide from one of his death factories. Himmler, perhaps you do not know, had perfected the deadly art by murdering six million Jews in his deathly gas chambers.

How could I forget the day when Himmler addressed SS leaders in the past tense? Imagining himself in the promised future, his eyes shining through round metal-rimmed spectacles, a sheaf of papers in his soft, womanly hands, he pronounced, ‘The extermination of the Jewish people is a glorious page in our history and one that has never been written and can never be written.’ I thought that the sheaf of papers was the first draft of our glorious Nazi history. So cool. Himmler was not so prissy as we thought after all. Alas, the promised thousand-year-Reich barely lasted twelve years and became a blot on the German people.

It had always weighed heavily upon my mind that I had failed to impress Himmler when I had managed to direct the extermination of a mere one hundred thousand ‘insects and parasites’. In a sea of six million, one hundred thousand is only a drop. At the meeting, I wanted to personally apologise for my meagre contribution and to seek the forgiveness of my boss for not running one of his death factories to perfection. If I had, I would not be here to tell this tale.

While in captivity in the occupied fatherland, in the present tense, Himmler decided not to eat a gun but a cyanide capsule. A smart move. Leftovers from my death camp doctor’s life-saving prescription of suicide cyanide capsules are still in my old canvas bag. One of these capsules unmasked my holy mask I wore for years. I’m running ahead of the story.

[more to come]

© Surendra Verma 2021