Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sehnsucht by Alex Jensen

Hitler won the war but has lost his sense of purpose in this bold short by Alex Jensen.

The world was blonde and blue eyed but Hitler gazed out his window wishing for an access to purpose. With the canvas now cleaned for his people to paint, he wonders but what do I do? I've traveled through the maze and am now free. Yet every moment of freedom brings with it a burden of responsibility that I cannot explain to any of my friends or family that I sit static with across the finish line.

Adolf felt a bit embarrassed after breakfast. Dietrich, the butler's understudy dropped a piece of toast and Adolf screamed obscenities as the boy scrambled to sweep up the crumbs. He knew as he was shouting that his anger had nothing to do with the accident. It had to do with jealousy. Dietrich was in his early twenties, he had his life ahead of him. He wanted to be a top butler and to some that may seem unambitious, but what Hitler saw was a boy with a goal. The freedom of time and life and choices, stimulated by a constant fear of failure. Dietrich took this for granted, Adolf thought, As if he was not thankful for the world Adolf had created for him. A world of opportunity.

The next day, Adolf met with a molecular scientist to discuss the reversing of age. The scientist, Dr. Baumgartner, saw Hitler's insecurity but had a difficult time believing that such an accomplished individual could feel such feelings. Baumgartner, an intellectual who interacted almost entirely with intellectuals, was quite aware that he could occasionally come off as pretentious when speaking to someone without a PhD. He maintained a double consciousness in order to fight his condescending tongue as a way to simulate a perception for Adolf as a scientific equal. However when your scientific equal asks questions about bathing in the semen of young twenty somethings like Dietrich as a way to rejuvenate skin tissue, the fight is a difficult one. In this case, Dr. Baumgartner responded with the joke, "Well if that were true, the Jewish women would have faces like babies." Hitler did not laugh and this made Dr. Baumgartner very nervous. But the reaction was not a distaste of the scientist's pretension but a distaste of the nostalgia Hitler felt for oppression. Hitler was now free from those people and in a way that he could never admit, nor verbalize, he missed them. He sat there and thought about this feeling, then he looked at Dr. Baumgartner and faked a laugh.

Hitler got up from his chair and went to the canvas. He painted for fifteen minutes and became overcome with boredom. He poured himself a cup of coffee hoping it would stimulate some feeling of inspiration; normally he could go on for hours, painting and painting, but at some point the ambition was beaten by apathy. There were a few years after the war when Adolf was doing paperwork and signing signatures for ten hours a day, approving criteria for proper genetics. He wanted to paint so badly during those days but could never find the time after work. Painting was the reward, he would tell himself, soon there will come a time when the days are empty and I can fill them with any color I desire. Two more years of paperwork and I will spend every day with my brushes. But now he had finished four cups of coffee and could only sit in a chair vibrating with anxiety.

Eva, Adolf's wife, had noticed the lack of spirit in her husband. Desperate to cheer him up she would spend hours designing magnificent breakfasts to bring him in bed, but all he would do is eat an orange wedge and go back to sleep, sometimes until two in the afternoon. He had stopped brushing his teeth as well, which Eva would not dare to comment on but once read in a Psychology journal was common for those who were suffering from depression. They hadn't had sex in seven months and the last time they attempted, her love could not maintain an erection. Ever since then, he had given excuses like, "I'm too tired," "My back hurts," "I have work in the morning." Eva could not defend her vanity against this situation and would spend afternoons crying in the bathroom. She would remind herself that she made a commitment by chanting their vows like a mantra to the mirror. This would eventually halt her tears and end her hysterics with the hope that this marriage could be saved. She would then leave the mirror with the optimism that this would be the night her husband saw her the way she wanted him to. She would shower and put on makeup to cover up the effects of crying. She would put on an expensive night gown and she would get one of the servants to do her hair the way he liked. She would then wait in bed for her husband and then every night she would receive one of the same excuses she had heard so many times before. This cycle went on and on for poor Eva until finally she gave in and lost hope that her husband would ever find her attractive again. Yet somehow she still valued her commitment and decided that if she could not please him, it was her responsibility to find someone that could.

Eva did not have to hold an audition as the yearly beauty pageant had already done the work for her. She took the five top finalists home and undressed them in her room. She thanked each one of them and even looked deep in their eyes wishing she could fully transcend through their skin and look outward from those alluring bodies of youth.

When the bedroom door creaked open and Adolf entered, his normal drooping posture straightened in surprise. "What is this?" he asked. Eva forced a smile and said, "It's a present for you, I thought this would make you happy." Adolf looked at Eva and then at the women. He approached the one furthest to the right and felt her breast in his hand. It was flesh and that is all. He felt completely aware of his own body. As if he was an astronaut and his skin the space suit he must live inside to survive. His eyes and his fingers told his mind that he was touching her breast but he could not feel her while wearing these skin gloves. He looked up from her breast and into her wishful eyes. He looked over at his dear Eva who tried so hard to make him happy, and then he began to weep. Eva told him that it was okay and he shouldn't feel guilt, that she wanted him to fuck. That she knew the difference between fucking and love and a simple fuck would never impose on what they had. But Adolf continued to weep and all he could spit over his emotionally swollen throat was, "I can't".

An hour later the five women were being hung as a precautionary measure and Adolf was resting his head on Eva's stomach, listening to her beating heart as a way to remind himself that the external world did have life in it.

"Do you remember that hole in the bathroom?" he asked.

"From your elbow?" Eva asked. "From when you slipped on the floor?"

"Yes," he said, "well no, it wasn't from my elbow. I was looking at myself in the mirror and I became so upset that I punched the wall."

"Adolf."

"I know."

"What's wrong?"

"I don't know, Eva, I don't know. It's just sometimes I feel as if everything important that I will ever do is behind me. As if I have nothing of value left to give the world. And as if the world has nothing left to give me."

Eva looked at him and thought of something to say. "You give me happiness every day."

"No I don't. I make you sad; I make you cry. I make you give away your love to young stupid women. And they take it from you without guilt. Who do those women think they are taking that away from you? You're beautiful, they're young and stupid just like that Dietrich."

"Oh it's not their fault," Eva said.

"It is," he said. "It is their fault. Maybe not their fault but something is broken when beauty is defined as youth. Beauty should be intellect, experience, the wise, it shouldn't be based on some pedophilic standard. There is no reason either of us should be depressed about aging."

"It's just something everyone goes through," she said.

"No! It doesn't have to be." Adolf lifted his head off his wife's chest and got out of bed. He wiped the tears from his eyes and then took a shower. He got dressed and combed his hair and brushed his teeth and looked in the mirror and smiled. His grin straightened, he looked at his clock; it was just past nine in the afternoon. The day starts now, he told himself, and he screamed, "Bring me Dietrich!"

7 comments:

  1. A chilling story whose icy tentacles send shocks through the reader's received knowledge about the world, This leaves feelings of disorientation, then yet more scarily recognition of core vanities that distort behaviour and judgement amongst us all. We like to see evil as 'other' but perhaps we are not as beyond reproach as we would like to think. A brave telling of a well drawn but challenging story, thank you,
    Ceinwen

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  2. An aging Hitler is an interesting premise. Personally I don't think that with the dimensions of his "cleansing" and transformation plans he would ever got to the stage when all the "work" has been done, when he had lots of spare time for looking into a mirror and crying over his old age, but never mind. There were a couple of places in the writing that made me stumble: when the tense jumped from past to present tense in the first paragraph; also, the "feel feelings" sentence. I liked that you make Hitler spending his time in painting -- a nice detail, back to his old passion. He was also a vegetarian, by the way, especially in his later years. By the time your story takes place, he could have imposed vegetarian law on the whole world.:)

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  3. An interesting perspective on a Hitler that survived the war. Would he have become bored? You certainly capture his lack of humanity and I agree that it's unlikely he would have become more empathetic. A chilling end to your story .... poor Dietrich!
    Beryl

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  4. I liked the economy "The world was blonde and blue eyed" and some of the description "As if he was an astronaut and his skin the space suit he must live inside." But the tense changing was distracting, and the story would have held together better if it had stayed in one character's point of view. Overall, though, the idea carried me though, and I was curious to see how it would play out.

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  5. Very interesting, especially with that new book out now – "Look Who's Back" – about Hitler waking up in 2011. Alternate histories always provide a chance to look back and consider things in a different light.

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  6. One wonders if the villains of the world should be left dead. Hitler was an ugly bum who catered to the lowest instincts of society. Solution - when all else fails, blame the Jews. Of course the WWI reparations were onerous, but that is not a justification for mass murder. It is difficult to believe that anyone followed him, but then many Americans backed Johnson's, Nixon's and Bush's atrocities. One infers that we never learn.

    This is off-topic and an inappropriate rant.

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  7. I'm not usually a fan of nazi themed fiction, which is merely a personal preference. However, I thought this was a great premise well executed. The casual violence and the portrayal of boredom (without boring the reader) was very well done.

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