Chapter 17 – Why Me?

It was early evening and Marcus was lying on a consulting bed in the small observation room in the hypnotic regression centre where he’d previously met Sarah, the woman who had been treated by Constance. He was very still. There was a DVD camera filming him from the ceiling, and Walter, Hemlo and Constance were watching from behind the glass observation panel. A hypnotist, bearded, in his mid forties and dressed casually in a thick blue poloneck sweater, was seated facing Marcus. The hypnotist held his hands together, his fingers forming a church spire, his elbows resting on the arms of the chair. He was regressing Marcus, who was already hypnotised.

“Go further, try to go further back”, said the hypnotist reassuringly.

“Why, Daddy? Why … no, I’m not.  I’m not a useless piece of … … Please Daddy, don’t, don’t!” Marcus intoned.

Walter leant over to Hemlo and Constance and whispered: “Look you can now see Marcus regressing to yet another beating in his early life. It’s probably part of the reason for his financial success – a domineering father who showed no respect, no belief in the young, would have contributed to Marcus’s desire to succeed, to prove himself, especially as we know Marcus’s father died when Marcus was only eleven. He died of alcohol poisoning, drank himself to death. From what we’ve discovered from Marcus his father was a loser, supported by his wife, who took out his frustrations and lack of self-respect, his failings, on his wife and only son. “Thank God for Marcus’s maternal grandfather,” he went on. “Apparently he was a factory owner from Detroit, who stepped in and had the boy educated and acted as his occasional mentor.”

“Is that what happened?” said Hemlo “so how’d Marcus make his fortune?”

“No one really knows the true story other than Marcus himself but the rumour is that whilst still at college he set up a data registry system for healthcare companies.  He’d spotted a niche in the market regarding the collection and redistribution of information.  Apparently he signed contracts with different states to store healthcare data and then found a way to sell on the information to private healthcare providers and insurance companies without infringing anyone’s rights.  It could never happen today, what with confidentiality clauses and the rest, but in the seventies it was all acceptable.  The story goes he sold out at twenty-eight for $30million and has never looked back since.  Apparently he’s worth over twenty times that today.”

“Phewey, ain’t that some dough” giggled Constance “I could buy a lot with that.”

“Hold on a sec’ guys” interrupted Hemlo, pointing at Marcus through the glass, “he’s about to go back beyond his childhood.  To an earlier life.”

“I want you to go back further, Marcus.” Said the hypnotist “Try to relax and let your mind travel back to an earlier stage, an earlier life than the one you are living now.”

There was a long silence, perhaps a minute or two, then Marcus’s body suddenly jolted on the couch. His hands reached out to his neck and he started screaming. “Aaaargh! My throat! It’s so sore … argh!” Marcus was breathing heavily, gasping for air. “Aargh! I’m suffocating! I can’t breathe!”

Hemlo looked at Walter, deep concern on his face. “You know he talked to me about the Holocaust earlier? Do you think he could be reliving his own death at a camp?”

Walter gravely returned Hemlo’s look. “It’s appalling, if he is.” He pushed then leaned forward, spoke into a microphone on the console and said to the hypnotist, who was wearing a small earpiece: “Take him back to before his death – the last two or three weeks.”

The hypnotist glanced through the glass at Walter, nodded and said to Marcus, who was still visibly disturbed and gasping for air: “Marcus, go back beyond this moment. Remember back to the period in the weeks before this event. What can you see?”

Marcus began to relax, his hands came away from his neck and settling on his belly.  His breathing subsided, but the frown on his forehead showed he was still obviously disturbed.

“I’m at a railway station. It’s night, but very bright. There are searchlights lighting up the station and there are people huddling together, so many people, all dirty, cold and tired, and very frightened. The whole atmosphere is one of fear. I can see soldiers in dark uniforms, German soldiers with dogs. They’re bullying the crowd out of the station and up a road towards some gates, into what looks like a factory. I’m moving with the crowd. There’s a feeling of dread, it’s horrible. Bang. There’s been a shot, a soldier has shot someone who was running away. His body’s crumpled there in the snow twenty yards from the crowd.  Shot in the back.  He’s a teenager.  His family are on their knees in the snow crying, his mother hysterical, screaming to reach the body, and they’re being whipped and hit by soldiers to keep them walking with the rest of the crowd.

“I’m trembling with fear. We’re moving through the gates. There’s an inscription carved into the stone archway. It says “Arbeit Macht Frei” – “Work makes one free” – but I’m not sure what it’s supposed to mean. We’ve entered a parade ground, there are watchtowers with soldiers and machine guns trained on the people.  Now people are being separated into groups of men, women and children. The soldiers are pulling people away from each other, carrying babies away from their mothers.  People are crying, screaming and the guards are beating them apart. Beyond this parade ground are what look like huts, possibly barracks or mass dormitories, and in the background there is something that could easily be a foundry. It has a large chimney belching smoke and flames. It’s lighting up the night sky.

“There are orders and shouts coming from all over the place. People are huddled together, frightened and confused.  They’re being taken off in alternative  directions – to different buildings.  For some reason, I’m following a group of women and girls. Now we are entering one of the huts, it’s empty apart from an enormous pile of clothing at one end which people are sorting through.  These people look up at us briefly, but they don’t seem to want eye contact, then they hurriedly carry on with their work, with genuine fear and concentration in their expressions.  The women and girls are told to strip naked and prepare for delousing. All of them are terrified, I’m terrified, I can’t bear it, I know something awful is about to happen. My whole body is trembling. Now the naked women are being ushered through a door.  They’re trying to cover their nakedness from the guards with their arms and hands. I’m right behind them. It’s a long dark room with no windows and I can see fitments on the ceiling. They look like showers.”

By now Marcus was trembling, his forearms and hands nervously flapping around his body. Suddenly he became even more frantic, and his hands started pulling at his hair. “No! No, I can’t, I won’t, no!” Marcus yelled. “It’s so terrible … Why? … Why?”

The hypnotist interrupted. “Marcus, I want you to tell me what’s happening. Where are you now?”

Marcus was panting, “Why me? Oh, why me?” he gasped through rapid breaths. Then his eyes flew open, staring wildly and he sat bolt upright. The hypnotist, worried by Marcus’s maniacal stare, decided to end the session immediately, and said: “Marcus, on the count of three, I want you to wake up. One, two …”

“No! I … I can’t believe it, no! Oh God, why me?” wailed Marcus, raising his hands up to hold his face and swinging his legs off the side of the bed.

Hemlo and Walter got up from their chairs and ran from the observation room through the intercommunicating door to the hypnotism room.

“Three”, said the hypnotist as they came through the door.

As they reached him, Marcus was sobbing uncontrollably. Walter rushed up to the bed and put his arms around Marcus’s shoulders and held him. Marcus was crying, tears running down his cheeks, and he hung his head low over Walter’s shoulder.

“Oh, I can’t believe it. Oh God, how ghastly!”

“What?” said Hemlo. “What did you see – were you all gassed together?”

“No! No, no, no …” groaned Marcus. “They all died! They screamed, the mothers hugged their daughters, and they died, but I, oh God, I just watched! No, it’s worse. I didn’t just watch. It was me”, he said, pulling away from Walter and jabbing his chest with his fist, “… it was me. I wasn’t a victim. I put the Zyklon B gas into in the vent. It was me … I was their executioner. Me.”

Hemlo looked aghast at Walter. Walter stared at Marcus’s sobbing head and pulled him closer again, stroking his back. “Sweet Jesus”, he said. “Oh, sweet Jesus.”

Copyright Anton Bilton