Alex opened his bedroom window, lit up a cigarette, and rested his elbows on the window sill.
Tonight was Studio Rock night. The radio show would start in an hour, at ten.
He looked forward to listening to metal and learning about new releases while getting hammered. The fact that they had no math tomorrow made things even sweeter.
No Mr. Stan!
No Mr. Fucking Stan!
Alex's apartment was on the main level and he could closely follow the activity on his block. The view wasn't perfect, because of the trees in the building's yard and the chain-link fence around them. But Alex could see the Galaxy shop across the street, and its proud owner, Mr. Tache.
Mr. Tache was chatting with two guys out front, while Magda busied herself with the till inside. Short, fat, and bold, Mr. Tache wore his sunglasses. He was a poker player and, running a business, he never tired of saying, was a lot like playing poker. Sunglasses helped him bluff. His tight red Nike t-shirt barely covered the navel of his bulging belly. Left hand deep in the pocket of his tight blue jeans, Mr. Tache used his right hand to gesticulate broadly as he spoke.
Now, Alex noticed, the businessman was pointing toward his new car, a dark blue Audi parked on Alex's side of the street, right in front of the chain-link fence. The car keys hung from Tache's index finger. The West European car was something to brag about in a country were many people still drove horse-drawn carts or Russian Volgas and Ladas.
One of Tache's interlocutors, a young gypsy, crossed the street and peered inside the car. "The boss is right, it's all automatic," he shouted back over his shoulder. Tache nodded, beaming with smug pride. The gypsy crossed back and resumed listening to Tache's expostulations.
Alex hated Mr. Tache. He wanted him dead.
He remembered how the man had been a nobody before the revolution. Alex used to play with Tache's son, Florin, and had been to their apartment a few times. Alex had noticed that Florin's parents were even poorer than his own. Didn't even have a color TV or record player.
After the revolution, Tache jumped on the entrepreneurial bandwagon and opened Galaxy to sell blue jeans, Coca-Cola and the latest must-have American imports. The corrugated iron shack was a big hit. Under the influence of shows like Dallas, Romanians thought that under capitalism they had to wear blue jeans like the American ranchers. After lining up for hours customers had to use the bushes behind the shack as a fitting room.
That's how Tache became a somebody overnight. At first, he and his wife were the only staff. When business picked up he hired Magda, a fresh high school graduate, and an older woman with retail experience. A few months later, Tache divorced his wife and shacked up with Magda in the new apartment he bought. All the men on the block looked at him with deep respect mixed with bitter envy.
Now he was showing off his brand new car.
Alex exhaled cigarette smoke through pursed lips and spat on the ground.
He turkey fucked a new cigarette into life, smashed the filter of the old one on the window sill and tossed it outside.
He forced his mind away from the infuriating Mr. Tache.
Instead, his thoughts turned to his obsession: Romania's destiny. Alex found inspiration in Romania's past: Decebal, Vlad Ţepeş, Ştefan the Great, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, a.k.a. "The Captain," Marshal Ion Antonescu, whose surname Alex proudly bore.
"Alex Antonescu." A name meant for the history books.
But, Alex thought, after the Second World War Romania had deteriorated. The fascist leaders of the 20s and 30s, Zelea Codreanu and Horia Sima, had envisioned joining Hitler in the war against the Bolshevik plague. But then, during the invasion of Russia, things went terribly wrong, especially in the battles of Moscow and Stalingrad.
Every time Alex thought about the Führer's defeat he felt like crying.
After the war Romania was trapped in the Soviet nightmare of humiliation and degradation that culminated in the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceauşescu, the butcher of his nation's soul.
In 1989 Romanians took to the streets, defying Ceauşescu's regime. Many were massacred, a blood sacrifice for freedom. In the end, revolutionaries seized and killed the dictator and his horrible wife.
And what did they get in return? Alex asked himself bitterly.
They had deposed the socialist Jew only to meet his capitalist twin, the merchant Jew. Romania opened for business in the world market and the American capitalist worm wriggled inside her.
That's how Tache had become a hero.
Trying to swallow a lump in his throat, Alex remembered the words of his idiotic history teacher, Mr. Ion: "In capitalism, everything is for sale."
Alex cringed. The teacher should have been dismissed for spewing such traitorous nonsense.
Alex firmly believed that both communism and capitalism must be eradicated and Europe had to be returned to its rightful leaders: the Aryan race. Other races, whether Slavs, Gypsies, or Blacks, were to become slaves. Either that or be exterminated.
In the youth's view, Germany and the Northern Countries were waking from centuries of slumber and Romania had to join the Aryans or be destroyed in their brutal war of revenge. Alex thought of himself as the representative of the Aryans in Eastern Europe. His life’s mission was to raise the racial consciousness of Romanians, to remind them of the main commandment from the God of nations: protect the survival of the Aryan race by enslaving or decimating the inferior races, the physically and morally ugly, the mentally ill, the handicapped, the mercantile Jews.
Unlike his classmates, Alex had clear plans for his future. He wanted to get into the Theoretical High School and to qualify for the National History Olympiad and, in senior year, the International Philosophy Olympiad. He also needed to master English and German. Then he would go to the University of Bucharest to study political science and form a radical right-wing political party. He wasn't sure of the name yet but "Land and Blood" tripped nicely from his tongue. Once his fascist party gained power, it would purge the nation's tired body of all foreign parasites and effect Romania's transfiguration.
Besides being a prodigy, Alex had no doubt he was a natural born leader, like his idol, Adolf Hitler. People obeyed him instinctively. Even his parents submitted to his will. They knew he was already a smoker and a drinker but never protested. The teachers loved and respected him. His classmates strove to please him. He had always felt that he radiated a magnetic energy, just like the golden halo around the heads of saints. This meant only one thing: he was one of the chosen.
Like the Führer, Alex had a talent for oratory, a skill he wanted to cultivate during his political career. Once, when Mr. Ion had begun lecturing on Nazi Germany's war in the East, Alex, tired of the teacher's mistakes and omissions, jumped from his desk, snatched the pointer from the teacher's hands and went to the map at the head of the class. Humiliated, the young teacher sat at his desk and listened to his student. Alex lectured for a whole hour, making his classmates see and feel the battles. They listened transfixed. During that hour Alex was all powerful. He felt he had hypnotized the class and they would do whatever he wanted. Kill, rape, torture. With brutal savagery.
Alex knew his best friends, Tudor and Edi, were just followers. Tudor would assume leadership from time to time, but was uncomfortable doing so. He was born to follow. Alex knew of Tudor's raw power, having witnessed him destroy Cornel. But that power needed to be channeled by a true leader.
A natural ruler, Alex thought, needed to choose his acolytes carefully. If they proved faithful and competent, they were to be promoted and encouraged. If otherwise, brutally punished or mercilessly rejected. Maybe in ten years or so, Alex reflected, if they displayed enough strength and spirit of sacrifice, Tudor and Edi would lead two nests of "Land and Blood."
Land and Blood, Alex murmured to himself, staring at the green yard outside his bedroom window.
The Blood was essential. It was about the Aryan blood pumping through Alex's veins. He was blond, with blue eyes and an elongated skull. He was already 5'7, as tall as Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer of the SS. On his mom's side, his roots were in Brașov, a German settlement in Transylvania.
In Romanian lit. they had learned about Mihail Sadoveanu, who claimed to hear the voices of his ancestors, unknown heroes and warriors, whispering their stories to him. Alex felt the same way. His Germanic ancestors were alive in his blood.
The language of blood transcended space and time. Alex had received the call in sixth grade. The caller was none other than Vlad Ţepeş, a.k.a. Dracula. It happened during summer camp at Sinaia, deep in the Carpathian Mountains. The teachers had organized a day trip to Târgoviște, the medieval capital of Wallachia, the southern part of Romania. Tudor and Edi didn't want to go, being more interested in the soccer tournament at the camp. At Târgoviște, they visited the Chindia Tower, the only fortification remaining from Ţepeş' castle. Alex and the group climbed the spiral staircase to the second floor and looked through a narrow window at the courtyard below. While the guide explained that the courtyard had been Ţepeş’ execution grounds, Alex's head exploded.
He was rocked by a flash of light deep within his brain. Alex looked out the window again and saw the courtyard filled with impaled victims. Some dead and decayed, some still twitching like pinned frogs. He felt trapped in someone else's body, unable to control his movements.
The eyes of his host scanned his surroundings and settled on two monks. The elder of the bearded, brown-robed monks was speaking, his bushy eyebrows furrowed in anger. Alex didn't understand the words, but it sounded like Latin. Abruptly, the monk stopped talking and his eyes rolled back in his head. Blood gushed out of his mouth, spattering his beard and chest. As his white eyes bulged in terror, the sharp tip of a bloodied stake emerged from his mouth. Alex's host shook with bombastic laughter. His visual field reddened, becoming a window deluged with a rain of blood. The laughter stopped, and a deep voice intoned a warning:
The day of judgment shall come,
My rule in blood!!
That "blood" resounded with anger and thirst, causing Alex to envision the dark prince's full, red lips under a thick moustache. He remembered how, when dining among the impaled, Vlad Ţepeş would chase his food with his victim's blood instead of wine.
When Alex returned to his ordinary senses, he lay on the floor, surrounded by the worried faces of the guide and the other students.
In the following months, Alex thought long and hard about his experience and read voraciously about psychic and mystic visions. It all made sense when he found Mircea Eliade's description of initiation rites in archaic societies. Around puberty, novices were sent by themselves into the wilderness, where some, the chosen ones, were contacted by the spirits of their ancestors. The spirits imparted wisdom and sacred knowledge. The more powerful novices experienced more profound visions, which sometimes shook their minds to the brink of insanity.
Since the sixth grade, Alex had regularly seen visions, usually of scenes from the history books he devoured. But school and the desolate town didn't provide an environment for spiritual growth. He ached to escape into the wilds of the Carpathians, to find the deep roots of the Romanian nation. Now, he planned to visit his aunt in Brașov in the summer and to venture alone into the mountains for a week or so. He still needed to work out the details and find a way to hide his absence. But his mind was settled. He'd bring only bread, water, and hard liquor. He knew first-hand that alcohol facilitated entering ecstatic states by undermining the authority of the conscious mind and giving free reign to the unconscious, where the memory of the sacred lay hidden. He'd sleep in the woods, with no tent or other shelter, purifying his body and mind of the toxins of "civilization." As Eliade explained, the novice must become dead to the world. As a clean spirit craving enlightenment, Alex hoped to receive wisdom and guidance from ancient Romanian warriors and shamans, noble spirits disgusted by the degeneration of their race.
Now, with a few minutes remaining before Studio Rock, Alex thirsted for a strong drink. He opened his bedroom door and listened. The hallway was dark and quiet. His parents must have gone to bed. The teen stepped through the darkness toward the kitchen. He flicked on the light, opened the fridge, and grabbed tomato juice and a lemon. From the cupboards he produced an empty glass and a small pepper shaker. He placed the lemon into the empty glass.
Alex turned off the kitchen light and returned to his bedroom with the four items. He placed the ingredients on his desk and retrieved a bottle of vodka from under the bed. He filled half the glass with the liquor. Then, with a hunting knife he produced from the drawer of his desk, he cut the lemon in half and squeezed its juice into the vodka. After adding tomato juice and pepper, he took a sip.
Pleased, he drank deeply.
The liquor sent chills through his body. He released a satisfied sigh.
The Bloody Mary was his favorite drink; vodka for those who didn't want to get smashed right away.
Alex unwrapped a blank cassette, removed it from its plastic case, and inserted it into his boombox. He turned on the radio and selected the right frequency, 98.3 FM. Static ceded the airwaves to Leni's deep voice greeting the listeners. Alex pressed the Play and Rec buttons and the cassette started recording.A
Alex sipped his Bloody Mary, reclined in his chair, and lit up a cigarette.
When Leni began talking about Rammstein, the German industrial metal band, Alex turned the volume to the maximum and ensured the player was recording.
The mention of his favorite band felt like and electricity jolt and the teen jumped from his chair and began pacing up and down the room.
"Their shows are literally incendiary," Leni said. "The frontman, Till Lindemann, performs while on fire!!"
Petre Malin, the co-host, added, "I bet our listeners are eager to hear about Rammstein's new album."
Damn straight, Alex mumbled, his heart racing.
Papers rustled in the background. Then, Leni's voice: "Yes, indeed, Sehnsucht, their second studio album, was released last week and has already reached number 1 in Germany. It is selling better than their first release, Herzeleid, which itself was a stunning success."
"Here's the title track from the album," Malin announced. "Afterward we'll let you know how to order Sehnsucht through Heavy Metal Magazine."
Alex obsessively checked whether the tape was rolling and then struck his chest and thrust his hand outward, palm down. Heil Hitler!
The song started with a simple, eerie, melancholic keyboard melody. Then the musical panzer division exploded into a rhythmic frenzy. Alex banged his head wildly up and down, his blond hair lashing his face. His mind filled with black and white images of marching German soldiers accompanied by motorized divisions and Stukas that dominated the sky. Lindemann's deep, hypnotic voice blended into the martial music. His obsessive refrain — "Sehn-sucht/Sehn-sucht" —was at once victorious and heartbreaking. After the chorus and the reprise of the wailing keyboard bit, the drums and guitar boomed back to life. Alex jumped onto the bed and launched himself into a flying knee. He hammered his thighs with his fists while banging his head.
When the song ended there were beads of sweat on his forehead. Dizzied by the intensity of his musical rapture, he stumbled to his desk, sat, and emptied his glass. He pushed the bangs from his eyes and, with trembling hands, meticulously prepared another Bloody Mary. More vodka this time.
Ordering Sehnsucht was now Alex's first priority. Then listening to it all day, learning the lyrics by heart, and singing along.
Buzzing from alcohol and anticipation, he took a deep drink and sat back in his chair.
Leni announced how Sehnsucht could be ordered by writing to HMM. The host also advertised new Rammstein merchandise for hardcore fans, as well as tickets for their show in Budapest. Unfortunately, the band wasn't scheduled to come to Romania. But dedicated fans could travel to Hungary for the opportunity to see their idols live. Now, after the fall of communism, Leni reminded his audience, no visa was required.
Alex considered going to Budapest for the show. He looked at the large map of Europe hanging on the wall above his desk, and followed the path from Bucharest to Budapest. It led through the Carpathians. It would be a nice trip to make with Tudor and Edi, and they could stop at his aunt's place in Brașov, meet some of his metalhead friends, and head for Budapest as a group. This was a golden opportunity to make friends with other neo-Nazis, although, as a Romanian nationalist, Alex hated Hungarians, a most inferior people. However, the youth realized bitterly, the concert was in late August, during the high school entrance exams. He couldn't miss those for anything.
Preparing another Bloody Mary, Alex thought he'd have plenty of opportunities to see Rammstein live. Maybe he could write them, beg them to come to Bucharest. Write to them in German.
Petre Malin interrupted Alex's reverie with his top ten of black and death metal songs. The section featured brutal songs from Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Carcass, as well as the Swedish band Grave, whose song "Soulless" caught Alex's attention. Gorgoroth and Emperor represented Satanic Norwegian black metal.
In the middle of the Emperor song, Alex got up to flip the cassette and made a mental note to order their new album.
As he grew more intoxicated, Alex found it increasingly difficult to keep track of all the bands and new album titles. Thankfully, he would be able to revisit the recording in the following days, when more lucid.
By the time the show ended at midnight, Alex was halfway through his vodka and seeing double. His blurred hand found the cassette with the Rammstein song and inserted it into the player.
He thumbed the Play button.
The quality of the recording was good.
He rewound the tape to the beginning of the song and pushed Play again. Now, the eerie keyboard melody impressed him more. The wailing expressed the pain of a nation. The cry of Germany, its Aryan spirit suffocated by Slavic waves of filth. The bass guitar pulsated evenly, like the heartbeat beneath the ruins of Berlin, the vital rhythm of the Nordic Man’s battered soul.
The song slowly tightened its grip on Alex’s mind, sending vibrations through every cell in his body. His fingers rewound the tape and pushed Play automatically.
Until they stopped.
Alex's body froze, like a robot that ran out of power. The song was imprinted in his brain, a code that would unlock the door to his unconscious. Alex opened the mental gate and staggered under the force of an icy gale. Clenching his teeth, he willed himself into the frozen landscape.
A blinding light exploded in his head.
His physical eyes rolled back. His mind's eye opened.
He was flying.
He was in an aircraft, piloting over snow-covered territory. Lucid and free from his physical body's intoxication, Alex looked through his host's eyes. The wind was blowing snow to powder, obscuring the land below. But during gaps in the blizzard, Alex could distinguish charred fragments of ruined houses, with only chimneys left standing. Here and there he spotted rusty skeletons of tanks, like carcasses of prehistoric giants.
Alex lifted his gaze to the horizon. Between columns of black smoke he recognized a structure: the massive Grain Elevator. The rectangular concrete building commanded the Stalingrad skyline. It stood like a decayed tooth, windows and walls smashed by artillery and Stuka attacks.
"I'm at Stalingrad!," he shouted in his mind.
But his enthusiasm was clouded by the sense of doom surrounding the place, its dark, heavy, suffocating ambiance. It was as if the tortured souls of the thousands of dead people coagulated into a plasma that covered the ruined city and devoured everything around it. Even the plane was unable to ascend over the clouds seemingly trapped by the black aura of the industrial wasteland.
Fighting the gloom, Alex realized with excitement that German soldiers were on the ground below, hiding in trenches and dugouts.
"Germans, down!" he thought, trying to manipulate the hidden mechanism of his vision.
He willed himself down.
He hurtled through a tunnel of light and alit in a dugout. Despite the log-lined walls and fire crackling in the stove, the room was frozen. In flickering yellow lamplight from, Alex discerned half a dozen bodies. The men were inert, and Alex was unsure whether they were alive, dying, or already dead. With scarves wrapped around their heads and their large dirty coats over their tunics, they resembled a group of old hags. Only the Nazi eagle emblem on some hats and helmets identified them as German soldiers.
Alex knew he must be inside the mind of a Nazi soldier but his hosts' brain was devoid of thought. The young guest fought off sudden panic when he imagined getting trapped inside a soldier’s dead body. But then his host moved his head and looked down at the comrade leaning against his legs. He shook him by the shoulder, sending the soldier's head lolling up and down. Alex's host rose and inspected his comrade. Alex saw a face disfigured by frostbite: black, lacerated nose and cheeks under sunken, vacant eyes; bloody, swollen lips twisted in a rigid grimace. A mass of lice crawled from the head of the unresponsive man onto the hand and wrist of Alex's host. The soldier shook his hand free of the parasites. At last Alex recorded a spark of brain activity: an image of winter boots. Alex's suddenly enlivened host dropped his comrade and pulled off the dead man’s boots. He slowly stripped off the rags wrapping his feet. Alex looked through his host’s eyes at a foot ravaged by winter. Only one crooked and black toe remained. The big one. The other piggies stayed home in the filthy rags. Or were eaten by mice. The foot reeked of rot.
The soldier’s anguished scream catapulted Alex out of his mind.
Alex landed in a conference room. His new host was discussing strategy over a map spread on a large table. Hands moved in big sweeps over the chart dotted with swastika flags. The man looked up. A few Nazi generals came into view. Alex immediately recognized Friedrich Paulus, commander of the Sixth Army, and Franz Halder, Chief of the German Army General Staff.
Alex couldn't contain his excitement.
He had landed the big one. He was inside the Führer.
Afraid his joy might tear the thin fabric of his vision, Alex focused on the historical meeting unfolding before him. Paulus was explaining something, pointing at Stalingrad. Halder intervened and indicated the Caucasus. Alex felt the Führer's anger as he looked at the map and the city bearing the name of Stalin, his arch enemy. Suddenly, ripples formed on the surface of the map, as though it had turned liquid. When he looked more carefully, Alex saw undulating snakes, their skin changing its pattern to reflect the chart below. The reptiles slithered rapidly from the Urals into eastern Russia and Poland, leaving bloody trails.
When he realized the snakes were moving toward Germany, Hitler panicked. His vision blurred and shook, stuttering like the image on a broken TV. The hands that moments before had swept grandly over the map now clenched into fists and smashed the camouflaged snakes. Blood jetted from the strikes and splattered on the paper. Red drops splashed the Führer's eyes, and he shut them reflexively. Trapped in the dark, Alex felt paralyzing venom pervade his host's body.
Afraid he'd be trapped buried alive in Hitler's mind, Alex panicked and screamed.
He woke at his desk, drenched in sweat. For a few moments his eyes rested on the map of Europe above the desk. He visualized the progress of the Red Army: Kiev, Bucharest, Budapest, Vienna, Berlin.
How could this happen?
Alex broke down in tears and covered his face with his hands.
He wept convulsively, trying to catch his breath between sobs. "Fucking slaves! They were nothing! Less than nothing! The slaves of slaves! How could they beat the Führer?" he demanded through a curtain of tears and spittle.
After a while the sobs diminished. Alex lit a cigarette, rose from the chair and sat on the edge of his bed. Dark thoughts filled his mind, the echoes of his nightmarish visions. He imagined Hitler spending the last months of the war in the Führerbunker, a shadow of his former self. He had a hump, Parkinson’s disease, an ineradicable tremor in his left hand. His eyes were dull, and his skin had a greyish, mortuary complexion. He was nothing but a beaten dog in hiding. A scared and humiliated old dog. When he ventured outside the bunker, he looked like a ghost haunting the ruined city.
Alex clenched his teeth and his eyes teared up again when the next bitter thought came.
He knew the war was lost but couldn't understand why.
A cyanide pill and a bullet in the head wouldn't help him understanding. The old dog would die consumed by the fear that Stalin would find his body and hang it upside down in disgrace, like they did with Mussolini.
Alex started weeping again and the room blurred with his tears. "Berlin must burn!" he declared stridently. Then he took a long drag of his cigarette, clenched his left hand into a fist, and pressed the fiery tip into the pale skin of his forearm. Pain hit his numb brain and he smelled burnt flesh.
"Burn, Berlin, burn!" he said through cigarette smoke. "You're not fit for life!"
In an agonized haze, Alex managed to crush the cigarette butt in an ashtray. Then he passed out on the bed, the darkness behind his closed eyes still lighted by flames.
A booming thunder woke him an hour later. He looked around with bloodshot, crusty eyes. He realized he had left the bedroom window open, and now rain water wetted the curtains and the window sill. As he got out of bed, a jolt of pain from his left arm made him grimace. He closed the window, turned off the lights, and looked out into the rainy night. The neon yellow Galaxy sign warped and glimmered, refracted by the torrent. Lightning illuminated the grey apartment building across the street like artillery fire. The street was dark and deserted. The whole neighborhood slept.
Hopefully it will swell the river and flood this fucking town.
He remembered the flood from the mid '80s, when he was just a kid. The waters had drowned the gypsy slums in the valley and the authorities had to build tall dykes on both sides of the Amara. But on a night like this the angry waters might break the dyke and wash away the scum again.
A rainy night like this, Alex thought, was perfect cover for a surprise attack. The lightning outside coincided with a flash in Alex's mind. The war wasn't over. He was a German soldier deep in enemy territory. Although Hitler was dead, he, Alex, was very much alive. And this wasn't Hitler's war; it wasn’t the Great War or the Cold War. No, nothing like that! This was the primordial war between the majestic blond race and the inferior, resentful apes.
It was a spiritual war in the name of the cultural progress of humanity waged by its most evolved biological creation: the Aryan Man.
Emboldened by the rightness of his sacred operation, Alex formulated his strategy in a split second. Possessed by a sense of invincibility, he disregarded all tactical obstacles.
He left his bedroom, walked to the front door, and slipped on his black high-top hiking shoes. From the hallway he could hear his parents snoring in loud, regular unison. Back in his room, he opened his closet and grabbed a black hoodie and a black balaclava his parents had bought him when they'd gone skiing in Brașov. He also put on his pair of black gloves, so he wouldn't leave any fingerprints. Together with his black sweatpants, the new ensemble would make him almost invisible against the dark night.
Then the teen grabbed his hunting knife, sheathed it, and put it in the large pocket of his hoodie. He opened the window and breathed a deep draft of fresh, humid air. The wet pavement glistened in the pale light of streetlamps. The paws of stray dogs on the asphalt punctuated the rain’s drumbeat. Probably on their way to the dumpster, he thought. Another lightning strike split the horizon but the delayed crack of thunder showed that the storm was slowly moving away.
Alex jumped through the window into the small yard. The ground was muddy, so he shifted his weight onto his toes to avoid leaving footprints. He reached the short chain-link fence and scanned his surroundings. No one in sight. Mr. Tache's Audi was just beyond the fence, a glittering token of the triumph of the Slaves.
Alex wondered whether the car had an alarm system.
He squatted and fumbled for a stone. He lobbed the small rock over the fence, onto the car’s hood. It ricocheted unceremoniously onto the pavement.
Relieved, Alex jumped the fence and crouched by the passenger door. His heart hammered in his chest, and his back was drenched by intermingled sweat and rain. After a few seconds he brandished his knife and impaledt the the front tire. Air escaped the tire like the last exhalation of a euthanized beast, its usefulness exhausted after years under the yoke. The car slowly leaned forward. He repeated the procedure with the rear tire and then sidled to the other side. He was now visible to the street and the adjacent apartment building. Crouching in the lamplight, he impaled the two tires in quick succession and withdrew to the dark space between car and fence.
Still no sound but the drumming of the rain. No footsteps, no movement.
Alex was soaked but ecstatic. He decided to add artistry to violence. He reversed his knife and engraved a swastika onto the hood of the car. The blade easily penetrated the dark paint. The emblem shone clearly in the Galaxy’s neon light.
He sheathed his knife and put it in his pocket.
Overjoyed, he jumped back into the yard and crouched down behind a tree trunk. Still no sound or movement, as if the constant raining lulled everyone into deep sleep.
Alex looked at the Galaxy and the logos crowding its large front windows: Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Levi's, Adidas. The shelves were bursting with merchandise: on one side clothing, on the other food and drinks.
Suddenly, Alex felt the small shop was the pinnacle of perversity, the embodiment of everything he hated.
How he wished for a hand grenade! But, for now at least, smashing those windows was enough. Alex fumbled through the mud looking for a rock. He rejected one as too small for his task. Then he unearthed a stone the size of a brick and wiped away the mud adhering to its surface. Stretching his neck, he calculated the distance to the shop's window. Hefting the stone, he computed the force and trajectory of the throw. He scanned the missile’s flight path for obstacles. Then, tensing all his muscles, he fired the stone high into the air. His breath caught in his lungs. A cacophony shattered the night as the Galaxy's window disintegrated into tiny shards that traced glinting arcs along their route to the shop floor. A moment of silence followed the commotion. Alex stood motionless behind the tree trunk. Although his heart pounded in his chest, he was smiling.
Shortly afterward, someone opened a window and shouted. "Who's there? I'll call the police!" the voice demanded from the building across the street. Alex saw windows light up and shadows move behind curtains. The crowns of the trees hid him from the residents of his building. He crept slowly toward his window. He grabbed the sill and dragged himself up. After he jumped back inside he carefully closed the window.
Quietly, he stowed his gear in the closet, lay down in his bed, and folded his hands on his chest, a huge grin splitting his face.
I did it! I fucking did it!! Mr. Tache will shit his pants!
Shortly afterward, Alex heard police sirens and people talking outside. Dim red and blue lights played on the rain-splashed window and on the ceiling.
Soon, Alex fell asleep, his lips curled into a smile.
There were no more nightmares.