The murderer’s gaze
Steps to no end. He knew that there were 508. Everyone was learning this at school, and all those memories, accumulated since then, through the years, even decades, had not been enough to overwhelm that one tiny insignificant detail. It was to believe that this too precise number was taunting him, cunningly repeated by a voice increasing in volume every time he put one foot in front of the other, louder and louder, step by step. Seeking to calm his pain, he let go and was carried away to the place where the carelessly thrown stone had pierced the surface of the water, causing thousands of wavelets to spread in concentric circles, now progressing through space and space. time, hidden from view, vibrating the underground of his consciousness,
A summer day, bathed in a dusty sun. Heat at ten o’clock in the morning already. A group of third-grade students, kids from eight to nine, an infernal noise, teachers sullen, angered by a chore they had not been able to avoid. To cap off a local history class, the children had been led to the feet of the cathedral, telling them to climb to the top, beyond the bells that were perched at unlikely heights. On the way up, the number had been engraved in the memory of the children, walking after walking, as they climbed painfully over the rooftops of the city. Initially, the entire gang had launched into an outburst of youthful strength, happy to be able to move, eager to play their muscles and tendons, to leave behind adults, but their cries of defiance had quickly drowned in sweat, which soon covered the foreheads and bit into the eyes. Out of breath, they had scarcely taken note of the impressive wooden structure where the awful weight of the bells, brazen monsters, whose voice, once unleashed, made the air vibrate far away, was held prisoner. Beyond the river, and deafened the imprudents who had the misfortune to pass too close, a day of great feast or disaster.
Arrived on the platform, the kids had dragged to the balustrade in the hope of being able to pick up a bit of freshness. To prevent accidents, iron bars were planted in the stone, which gave visitors the impression, reassuring or frightening, depending on the case, to be locked up. Assistant to the show of the out-of-breath kids, it was the turn of the teachers to sneer and comment on a youth rotten by civilization and who no longer knew how to support the slightest effort. Some glances were even directed in an insistent manner towards the boy with the too black hair who stood motionless in front of the balustrade.
He, too, had been part of this group, and the main memory he had kept of the excursion, beyond the ridiculous one, of the figure whose echoes he still could not contain, had been that to be imprisoned, for real and definitively, in a sort of cage, hung in the emptiness far above the men, the prey of the wind and curious glances which he knew filled the apparently desert space which extended to his feet.
While the child he had been still letting his eyes sink into the abyss, whose steady breath continued to penetrate through the iron bars, the adult had to confess – momentarily at least – vanquished and s stopped in front of a clover-shaped opening to allow his lungs to pick some oxygen. His heart was beating furiously in the cage of his ribs, and the blood was pounding the walls of the arteries in a desperate effort to free himself. It took time to recover his strength, the minutes clinging to each other, stretching in passing, and refusing at the same time to their prisoner the sweetness of the rest.
In the meantime, he was looking at the railroad tracks coming out of a large curve of the central station, before meeting in a bundle to rush on the railway bridge, their momentum collected by a metallic network and propelled towards the east. immense spaces awaited the benefits of a new type of civilization. The humid air of November brought him the confused sounds of loudspeaker announcements, the metallic creaking of the wheels, and the rustle of the crowd, whose movements he tried to follow on the platform square and on the platforms. . At first glance, the variegated spots seemed to move in all directions, in no apparent order, but as his expectation continued, he finally saw currents, fed by a constantly renewed flow of humans, reproducing, in flesh and blood, the stone geography of the building. From time to time, the order destroyed by some obstacle, sheaves were detached from the main currents, which resulted in a swarm of color which ended each time, to meet the crowd that would have said endowed a form of collective intelligence.
Meanwhile, his body had calmed down. Even the inexorable figure had withdrawn into some remote corner, leaving him a little space to realize the options that remained to him. He could just come back down and try to escape by more promising routes. For a few moments, this idea was about to prevail, clothed with the charm of a blind action, quite the opposite of what it used to do. And then, he should not continue to ride, which would make things easier. However, some jurisdiction that he had previously ignored, almost immediately refused to yield to this easy solution, not only because it would involve giving up all the ground that his efforts had already won him, but especially because, by yielding to something as stupid as gravity, he would confess himself the toy of fortuitous forces. Like what, bitter reflection, he was reduced to consider as exploit the simple fact of having climbed a few poor steps. Sighing, his eyes closed, he resigned himself to the inevitable, and lifted his foot to put it on the next step, when he heard a hissing, still far enough, damped by the stone and the space.
He stopped to look. First, he saw nothing. Then, untangling the skein of all these entangled movements, he thought he could give a tiny, almost imperceptible change in the arrangement of the currents. New elements were introduced, invisible until then, endowed with the power to coagulate other corpuscles, which stopped later, eventually blocking the passages through which the human current had passed unhindered a few moments before. Fascinated, he forgot to move, leaning over this new development which he sought to pierce the mysteries with the distant gaze of the doctor, accustomed to see without judging.
So we were blocking him out. Before being able to access the platforms, the travelers had to pass in parade under the scrutinizing eyes of the policemen. The order had ceased to exist. Immediately after realizing the significance of this change, he resolved to act, and he took the first steps almost running. At the same moment, summoned by the first signs of weakness, the repressed voice began again, drowning all conscious thought in the head of Dr. Cohen, a gynecologist renowned a few hours ago, a criminal on the run since then.
Turning in the stairwell, he looked like a human spinning top, thrown by a force beyond his control, but to which he could only escape if he stopped moving, once and for all. Passing in front of other openings, his look captures a few details without being able to reconstruct even a semblance of reality. The blackened stones of the other tower, the horizon blurred by a winter mist, the glitter of one of the rare rays of sun on the surface of the water which passed quiet at the feet of the immense cathedral.
As he climbed, he saw the boy’s fists coming out of the darkness, his own fists clenched around the bars of the overhead cage, tight in a desperate effort to whiten the skin with his hands. Her nails had sunk into the flesh of her palms, and the blood ran down the iron, red on the soot of years.
It had taken the effort of several adults to make it give way, and they had nearly broken his fingers. Throughout this operation he had remained silent, but, on his way down, the professors had to carry him, in turn, all along the 508 steps. An ambulance had waited for him downstairs, and he would have been taken to the asylum if his father had not greased the hands of the right people.
No one had ever known what had happened in the child’s head. Frequent trips to the mountains had accustomed him to summits and expanses of air, and there had never been any fear of vertigo. But his silence and his quick return to normal freed the adults from further investigation, and the incident slowly sank into oblivion, buried under the events that rushed, with the entry into the war of the Empire, the departure and death of his elder brothers, the collapse of the dynasty and the advent of the unloved Republic. Remaining the only child, he became the sun of the small household, and his parents allowed him to begin medical studies which he finished with distinction at the end of a brilliant career,
Like the first time, he passed by the bells without realizing. He continued to climb, by a more recent staircase now, whose metal sounded the echo of his footsteps inside the spire, a kind of cone that rushed into space, narrowing before ending in tip, far above his head. We had built all this in the last years of the last century, when the Emperor had decided to wake up the sleeping giant and to finish the unfinished building for centuries. Tired, exhausted, his head worked by repeated hammering, he continued his ascent in the silence of the air. Finally, he pushed open the door that gave access to the upper platform,
There was wind that caressed his burning forehead. The stone was blackened by the rain and a moist odor floated in the air. It was not very cold, though. Advancing towards the railing, he noticed, worried, that the voice had stopped repeating the fetish number. Before putting his hands on the iron, he hesitated for a few moments to conjure more than half-awake memories. He took a deep breath, lowered his eyelids and reached for the metal. He immediately withdrew them to make sure of his undisputed mastery. Reassured, he repeated the experiment, forcing himself to be more assiduous this time. The first thing he noticed was not the cold of the material, but its roughness, result of continual exposure to the weather and corrosive substances that chimneys spew day and night in the atmosphere. Oddly enough, it seemed as if the bars had become vitally felt through the scars that made them unique and different from the neighbors. Just like forty years ago, he put his forehead on it, allowing his eyes to fly away. After the narrowness of the towers, where, before they could take the momentum, they had broken against walls too close together, their passage stopped by the snatches of a jagged reality rather seen than seen, they now dominated the scene which extended on all sides, helpless, however, and deprived of all means of influence. vital forces, through the scars that made them unique and different from the neighbors. Just like forty years ago, he put his forehead on it, allowing his eyes to fly away. After the narrowness of the towers, where, before they could take the momentum, they had broken against walls too close together, their passage stopped by the snatches of a jagged reality rather seen than seen, they now dominated the scene which extended on all sides, helpless, however, and deprived of all means of influence. vital forces, through the scars that made them unique and different from the neighbors. Just like forty years ago, he put his forehead on it, allowing his eyes to fly away. After the narrowness of the towers, where, before they could take the momentum, they had broken against walls too close together, their passage stopped by the snatches of a jagged reality rather seen than seen, they now dominated the scene which extended on all sides, helpless, however, and deprived of all means of influence.
The horizon was veiled by a mist that surrounded the city everywhere. That suited him rather, preventing him from getting lost in the details of too many impressions, of which there was still enough like that. The pigeons flying from the roofs of the buildings, the rows of houses with their shining tiles, the towers of the multitude of churches coming out pointed like reefs of the united surface of a frozen sea. Reefs sheltering sharks though. And towers that reminded him of lances in which impaled men and women struggled. Looking south, he could see the tracks of one of the fires that had lit up the previous night, the most important hearth that had consumed the great Cologne synagogue, ending a two thousand-year-old civilization. If the orange reflections had disappeared with dawn, there remained the black of the calcined beams and the stones of sizes covered with soot. Hardly, he tore himself away from this painful view to follow rather the human movements in the streets, resembling too much blood pulsing through the veins not to attract his professional interest. Even here, even after what he had seen and done last night, he continued to take shelter behind the indifference inherent in his profession, as he had done, day after day, all along these last days. years. He closed his eyes. too much like pulsating blood through the veins to not attract his professional interest. Even here, even after what he had seen and done last night, he continued to take shelter behind the indifference inherent in his profession, as he had done, day after day, all along these last days. years. He closed his eyes. too much like pulsating blood through the veins to not attract his professional interest. Even here, even after what he had seen and done last night, he continued to take shelter behind the indifference inherent in his profession, as he had done, day after day, all along these last days. years. He closed his eyes.
In the temporary night, found behind the too fragile ramparts of her eyelids, stood the nine-year-old, dizzy in front of a world too vast that he did not understand. That he refused to understand. The hands and the fingers hurt him, that was the force he was deploying to make sure of the solid iron bars and the shelter that would protect him not only from the fall, but above all from all that he felt hidden in the depths and recesses of this too big city that could choose this moment to unleash against him, poor Jewish child, with the past which was bequeathed to him through thousands of dark deaths in the lowlands of the History.
Torn by his strong shield, alone in front of the inexplicable, his parents carried away by the desire to assimilate, he chooses to forge a shelter that can not be taken away, a shelter not matter, but of spirit, imbued with the living force of indifference. From that moment, assisted in his projects by the concurrence of circumstances, everything succeeds him. Bright studies were followed by a career in the best hospitals in the country and the management of an establishment in the capital, a place he gave up later, having conceived the project of returning to his hometown, for cash to confreres who nearly fought at his door to take his succession. Thus, he returned to settle near the grave of his parents, who died in the aftermath of the Great Depression, where, in the absence of a body,
Still before turning his back on Berlin, he had received several proposals, and the installation had been easy. Remained without children, divorced by a woman who, excluded from her nightmares, ended by being afraid of the man who shrieked every night, there was only the material side of things to take care of. He continued to practice his profession with his habitual coolness which allowed him to cut, hands transformed into a precision tool, through the swollen flesh and tumors with fantastic shapes that he released in the deepest pain.
After the last years of an agonizing republic, he had to witness the advent of the beast and the beginning of the persecution. Having had to leave his post at the head of the department in the early days of February, he could still continue to practice in an annex of the house turned into a tiny clinic, his long-standing reputation holding in check the deep hatred that he the strong men of the new regime. But they, too, keeping remnants of humanity in this aspect at least, had women and girls who might need his services. So there remained, more obscure, less exposed to jealous glances, less rich too, and always prey to nocturnal fear, old friend always ready to share the darkest hours of the night.
Five years had passed like this, punctuated by the monotonous days and months, and by the ever renewed suffering of the human being, when, finally, arrived that gray November day, which ended with processions of torches in all the streets. He could follow their progress, from the small window of the attic, to their smallest ramifications, advancing towards the synagogues where the burst of flames met in fires that purported to purify the earth from the last traces of the cursed race. Fear had not been long in appearing, a fear that this time resisted the procedures that had been tried for many years and had left him crumbling on the ground, trembling, stuck against the balustrade of the staircase that led first floor.
He had regained a semblance of calm towards the wee hours of the morning. The child, eternal companion, had disappeared for good this time, leaving a void that indifference could no longer fill. He even managed to get up, and walk around the house in all directions, without any purpose whatsoever, avoiding the mirrors for fear of always seeing the night flames shine in his eyes. During these walks through a dreadful reality, he felt something break.
Haunted by the orange glow in the night, he bumped into the faint illumination visible through the curtains drawn from the small private clinic. The time when he was watching over an army of sick people was over, and there were only two women vegetating on the threshold of an early death in their sheets soaked by the sweat of agony. He went out into the garden, lurking in front of the windows, alone with his fear and his broken indifference. Without knowing why, he went in to look for the babysitter. He briefly asked her about the state of health of the patients, who remained desperate.
“You can go home, if you wish, there is not much left to do, and I’m not sleepy, so I can just as well take care of them. ”
The nurse, tired after the best part of the night passed without the slightest accident, opposed it only a weak resistance she believed due to her professionalism. Once alone, Dr. Cohen was walking up and down the narrow corridors, looking into each room, and watching the jerky breathing of the two women who had been drugged to relieve their atrocious sorrows.
Later, on the run, fatally attracted by the cathedral, of which he knew only too well that it offered no way out, he sought to pin down the fateful moment. In vain. He remembered the curtains in flames, his joy at the renewed spectacle, the cloak he had hastily put on before going out into the street, which was also beginning to light up. Disappearing in the night, he no longer heard the roar of the raging flames that plunged his house and his clinic into an earthly hell. The two women were consumed without recovering consciousness, thanks to the generous amounts of sleeping pills and morphine provided by the nurse who needed to spend a quiet night.
He saw bits of it all, his face still glued to the iron whose coldness made him calmer. Perched at the top of the tower, he saw the police converging on the main entrance. He was soon to hear their steps on the stairs, inexorably going to prey who had no intention, let alone of means, to escape. He saw his skin turn white, and the iron covered with red, where his palms pressed the bars with all their might. This time, they were going to break his fingers, before letting go of him to the executioner who would come, perhaps, to the end of his indifference which he always felt throbbing somewhere out of reach of any conscious effort.