Excerpt from David Britton's novel Motherfuckers: The Auschwitz of Oz, published in 1996 by Savoy Books of Manchester, England.
IT WAS a day much like any other in Dachau when the little red Volkswagen drove over the hill.
The red car screeched to a halt. Its tyres squeaked, and it revved its little engine excitedly.
"Mon cheri, mon amour!"
The voice rolling from its silver fender surprised the car. It had never heard its own voice before. Until it crossed the borderland into Dachau it had never spoken a word in its life.
"I am Herbie Schopenhauer!" the car declared excitedly. It rattled its headlights with pride. "I have driven Benito Mussolini, Frau Goering, Marlene Dietrich, the Great de Gaulle, Eva, Adolf, Blondie and Ben Turpin. My name is synonymous with chivalry, for I love the ladies, cieste se l'amour pa la frite."
His windscreen wipers whirled. "I would lay down my life in their honour."
Glowing in the bright sunlight, Dachau looked its loveliest. Its chimneys puffed quaint tracks of sooty smoke over the hamlet and the attached camp.
"Nick-nack-paddi-wack..." sang Herbie happily, "...this little car comes rolling home!"
He looked at the wooden signpost for directions. 'Travellers to the heart of Dachau', it read, 'go left at Nietzsche Avenue, pass the Yellow Hexed Church to the Emporium of Diminishment, progress along Hegel Boulevard to the Chapel of Dispersement, then across Russell Square to Hobbes's Palace of Discorporation. There you will find your heart's desire.'
"Right, I think I've got all that." Herbie set his gears in motion and chuntered down the hill, soon passing the most splendid charnel house in the world.
A cluster of linden trees brought him to Hegel Boulevard, where a burning man raced towards him and melted over his bonnet.
"Enchante," said Herbie. He swivelled his headlights.
This was a noble reception indeed!
"All right then, move along," said a policeman, scraping the glue from Herbie's bonnet, "before I put my truncheon up your exhaust pipe."
"Thank you officer," said Herbie politely, "and a good day to you!"
A Red Cross hospital with a dozen corpses swinging from its front door failed to dampen the little car's enthusiasm.
In a litter of filth and matted grease a number of hulking skeletons eight or nine feet tall appeared. They stood silently watching the cruising Volkswagen.
A gaggle of surly pygmies came next and surrounded him with expressions of curiosity. The Amahagger were a race of tiny cannibals exiled from their immortal queen, Ayesha, from the H Rider Haggard novel She.
A curiously immobile pygmy wearing a 'Pop Against Homophobia' T-shirt tried to open his door.
Herbie sounded his horn loudly. "Monsieur," he said, "hands off the chrome, if you please."
"Don't be a lemon," responded the pygmy. "Give us a fucking ride."
"Nein!" asserted the little car. "You are far too vulgar to ride in the Schopenhauer."
Depressing the accelerator, Herbie sped off in the direction of Hobbes's Palace of Discorporation.
A despairing breeze swept through Dachau.
"Dachau, so beautiful and strange and new," reflected Herbie. "Since it is to end so soon, I almost wish I had never visited it..." a bump in the road, which could have been several corpses embracing, shook the car "...for it rouses a longing in me that is pain..." the Volkswagen joggled along "...and its music is so sleepy and tender; tragedy masquerading with the vitality of life." He hummed a few bars from Tannhauser.
An errant mayfly swerved unsteadily, intoxicated, over a pool brimming with blood. Herbie's little wheels paddled through the liquid and skidded to a sharp stop in front of the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
"Shall we copulate?" he enquired hopefully.
The woman was lean and keen-featured. Her head had been shaved and he noticed that a number had been fetchingly tattooed on her arm. She was swathed in rags.
"Desirable wench, bones of my heart, c'est si bon." He flicked his headlights coquettishly. "Brightest of blossoms, finest of flowers, vessel of perpitude. You who are sweeter than the graceful doe, more winsome than the capricious mermaid..."
"Little car. Spare me your amorous blandishments. Do something useful. Take my life and free me from this hell."
"So, mademoiselle, it is a Lebensfrage ('question of life'), or, perhaps, what Heidegger calls the Seinfrage ('question of being'), that you seek from me?" In the looming arc of a crematorium a Hebrew dwarf performed a shaming service. "I am at your call," continued Herbie, "for such a challenge." Dancing hares were all around him. "What small knowledge I possess is at your service. The honour is France's. The pleasure is mine. The credit is Germany's."
Her silence and the black air thrilled Herbie.
"Haughty damsel, free your heart..." he pleaded "...and your body will surely follow." Involuntarily, oil leaked from his motor. "Jung once defined a dream as a lucky idea emerging from 'the dark, all-unifying world of the psyche'."
"There," Herbie continued, his chassis trembling with emotion. Love was a terrible thing. "Doesn't that resolve your problem?"
A cloud of cheesy-green mustard gas burst from a crematorium and engulfed him.
"Vide dell a cosa belle / che pona il ceil." The voice, of equine register, fluted from a band of weasels. They were armed to the teeth, and had crept rapidly upon a party of skirmishing stoats. Soon the whole assembly of battling animals were clambering over the little car. Torn fur and blood splattered Herbie's bodywork and sprayed his upholstery.
"Sacré Bleu!" the car shouted angrily. "Hand me my fighting sword."
He peered anxiously through the green gas. He could see nothing. "Pardon, mademoiselle." The mêlée stormed around him. "You have gone from my sight but not from my heart...ah, there you are!" Her silent form reappeared.
"God's recreation!" A fleeing stoat had stood on his steering wheel. The animals were running from him, still fighting amongst themselves. The last to leave, a humped weasel, leapt from his bonnet and swept a thin blade up to the woman. It let the knife pass across her throat, and she fell dead to the ground.
"Pissoire," sobbed Herbie. "The weasel has ruined me."
In grief, the little car blinked its headlights. Red ultima covered him. He felt defiled. He tried to shake loose a dripping brown pelt that had lodged in his door.
"Oye, Dicky Sam the Tin Man!" A wooden truncheon banged on his rear fender. Herbie lifted weeping headlights. A policeman stood brace-legged behind him. "If you think you're going trolling about Dachau looking like a refugee from a rape project, then the Pope's a fucking Jew."
"Officer," said Herbie plaintively. "I have suffered a bereavement."
"I don't care if your shit's purple." The policeman strolled around the Volkswagen, running his truncheon through streaks of blood. He stopped in front of Herbie, an angry expression on his face. "You're a fucking disgrace."
"I am a clean car," Herbie replied indignantly.
"You're a dirty bastard, and that's the end of it. You'll get yourself cleaned up. We take a pride in our camp..." The policeman pointed toward a large building bearing the sign, BRAUSEBAD (Sprinkleroom). "Get your fucking wheels in there."
"God bless, officer. I must admit, a nice hot shower would be most welcome." Herbie started to cheer up. After all, life must go on. He would feel better after a wash-and-brush-up.
He drove across a field livid with muck. So many bodies had been buried there the ground looked like white mud. Flesh and bones shone in the pitch.
The little Volkswagen joined a queue of naked men, women and children, lined up in front of the sprinkleroom. He would soon be as clean as a new pin. Herbie's motor purred, and he began to whistle a few bars from Parsifal.
In front of him, a near naked woman cut a fine figure. Her shanks were thin, as favoured by the French. Her only apparel, a pair of wooden clogs, were quite becoming. She turned on him the most luminous eyes in the world. A leap of his heart almost stalled his engine.
A kapo pressed a bar of soap into his dashboard, and flung a towel on his front seat. Slowly the queue shuffled towards two metal swing doors and, presently, Herbie entered the bath house. The brightly-lit room was about two-hundred yards long, its floors tiled, its walls whitewashed.
Warily viewing a series of faucets in the ceiling, Herbie hoped that the jets of water wouldn't be too sharp or too hot and damage his paintwork.
There was an anxious movement in the crowd. Men were barking and women were keening. The little car surmised that they weren't too clean and that, perhaps, they had not wanted to take a bath.
He circled around the room, revving his engine discreetly, trying to catch a glimpse of the woman wearing the clogs.
"I'm just another soldier." Quietly, he sang a favourite hymn. "And I'm on my way home."
The hosepipes, spouts, nozzles and taps had a curious rusty quality about them. Belatedly, Herbie began to think that the shower water could be contaminated.
He was reminded of Husserl's soliloquy, that microbes bred in a slurry of cattle excrement could be used to clean up polluted water.
Dachau water was Mister Love.
Water utilised to sluice the crematoria was the purest water in the world, blessed by popes.
A light opera — Chopin's Butterfly Etude — flowed through the BRAUSEBAD chamber.
The music triggered instant mayhem, people rushing to all comers of the room trying to find the exits. The doors were now firmly closed.
A dancing chorus line leapt over Herbie. There must have been fifty people in the line. Red eyes, blue lips, clicking teeth, and those bald cuckoo heads — bopping, shining, surging with a mad passion. Everyone in the line either urinated or defecated over him. Herbie couldn't believe it. He was getting dirtier by the second.
"What iz zees?" He tried to get out of their way, but twenty men clung to him, and he was forced to drag them across the floor. He was at a loss to explain their actions. He had never seen people get so excited about a shower.
Maladies of the nervous system produced a robust activity amongst the interns. He had rarely witnessed such euphoria. The music played louder. A green gas shunted down from the faucets...and people screamed.
The little car must have stalled. By the time his motor switched on again the gas was dispersing, and the sucking of the green air had ceased. The terrible silence was thankfully broken by the Exhator ventilators swirling to life.
His wheels felt like lead weights.
In the centre of the chamber a motionless cone-shaped pile of bodies had appeared. The majority of the women and children were spread across the bottom like the ingredients in the base of a great blood cake. Dwarves occupied a position halfway up. An odd weasel or two, that had wandered inside the chamber more in error or bad taste than for ethnic reasons, was intertwined in the human mass.
All the bodies were covered with scratches and bruises from the struggle which had set them against each other. Blood oozed from their noses and mouths; their faces, bloated and blue, were so deformed as to be unrecognisable.
On top of the corpses, almost touching the ceiling, was an immense badger, the size of a small hippo, sprawled like a king. Herbie gazed in wonder at the beast. It must have put up a terrible fight. Blood globules rolled in a fire off its pelt. Empty eye sockets, eyes torn from its living flesh, stared grotesquely.
"Oh, Lord!" cried Herbie, his lights dimming. "Not for the world would I have allowed this to happen."
He knew from his reading of philosophy that the French nobleman Count Joseph de Gobineau (1816-1882) was responsible for the myth of the Aryan race. Perhaps the genes of the French too were responsible for today's bloody misadventure.
Goethe was wrong when he said that man's hidden urges generally point him in the right direction.
Never trust the art of estrangement.
His thoughts were interrupted by the BRAUSEBAD doors swinging open.
"Wakey wakey in there! I've got a six-pack...who wants a snort?"
In a series of coiling leg movements, Snuffy the Terrier Man marched into the sprinkleroom. He was at the head of a brigade of kapos. Sonderkommandos with shovels and buckets brought up the rear of his party.
"Yes indeed. Snuffy's here." His voice fought around the big chamber. "Blow the bugle, bang a gong!"
Herbie followed the Terrier Man's head as it voyaged down between his shoulders. On each side of his jowled face, whiskers, two feet long and thick as looping tails, twitched like antennae. He was dressed in a red top-hat and John Bull waistcoat. His chest swelled. "Fuck me, yes. Snuffy's Snuff Squad. Best in the fucking land...indeed."
"Why?" coughed Herbie. His headlights picked up the mass of bodies. Isolated pockets of gas, for all the world like small wandering children, were still lingering in the chamber's crannies.
"Because there aren't enough bullets in the world." The Terrier Man looked coldly at the little car.
"Snuffy," asked a perplexed Herbie, "are you perhaps a Scottish terrier?"
With the tip of his boot the Terrier Man lifted a lifeless head. A kapo ran to the corpse and attached a pair of metal tongs to its neck. When the tongs were fastened tight, the corpse was dragged headfirst into the sunlight.
A distant boom sent black fire into the heavens.
"I do this." The Terrier Man sprang to Herbie's side and fastened his index finger and thumb onto a kapo's nose and pinched them tight. Asphyxiated where he stood, the kapo fell dead. He lay unstirring at Snuffy's feet. "I say this." His powerful fingers closed, and another kapo keeled over. "I try this." A kapo died before he could touch him. "I do that..."
"Please stop!" cried Herbie. "I get the picture."
"Progressive methods of farming. Away lads, let's clear these valentines." Snuffy crushed a baby with his knee, hooking it with his foot into the mouth of a waiting kapo.
"Let me tell you, Roben Johnson got the better deal." Disdainfully, Herbie drove himself out into the yard beyond and switched on a hosepipe, allowing the water to cleanse his bodywork. "If you want a job doing..." he sighed resignedly.
Born again. Incandescent. God bless Dr Porsche whose prototype Beetle dated back to the mid-'30s. Herbie felt warm inside. Production of the KdfWagen, (Kraft-Durch-Freude Wagen, or Strength-Through-Joy Car) owed much to Hitler's enthusiasm for a people's car. It was Der Führer himself who had lain hands on Herbie's roof as he cruised off the ramp, the first Volkswagen produced in Free Germany.
Herbie was proud of his heritage.
He was soon as sparkling red as the day he rolled from the production line. "Now, where was I?" He tracked towards the nearest street sign. "Hmm, Kierkegaard Mews...seems a nice place."
Stretched before him was a glass hotel, on its front a neon sign: 'The Emporium of Diminishment'. The building was surrounded by a neatly trimmed green lawn, a single apple tree at its centre. In the blue sky glided a sleek silver rocket. Herbie recognised the colours of 'Horror's Freebooting Chrononauts' snapping gaily in the wind. By the means of sticking out his semaphore indicators he gave a loyal salute to the craft.
The Lord and his flying crew would be on their way to the termination kamps beyond the Humbolt Mountains.
Herbie looked into the distance. Silent lightning raked the mountain range, and a great insect — a fractal shape of luminous beauty — accompanied the rocket on its mission to free souls, racing through the heavens.
"Slit my beak. "
Herbie heard the melodious roll from the first voice of Free Germany. An uninvited pipe was fed into his petrol tank and he sensed precious fluids being stolen from him.
"Fletchin' devil, move it on up!"
Time stopped for the little car. He was stunned into silence. Who could perpetrate such a crime on him?
He tried to do a fast turn, but someone had let the air out of his tyres. His wheels were anchored to the ground.
"Don't turn around, Bud," an ominous voice called to him. "
"Once roused," warned Herbie, "I shy from nothing."
He did not need to be able to turn round to see Neb of Nog's End, his latexed head metamorphosing into a likeness of Germany's father, standing by his rear, crocodile whip in hand. Neb had corralled and tethered together forty Jews, who were standing about Herbie as though in a holiday group.
Neb's free hand held the withered neck of a Jew who was greedily sucking a pipe sticking out of the petrol tank. Petrol was sluishing down the man's throat.
Herbie watched spellbound through his rear mirror as the man's belly swelled. The skin over the stomach was stretched as tight as a drum. The man looked as though he had swallowed a football. With each passing second the little Volkswagen felt himself grow weaker.
"C'est l'emphit! Good sirs, I will fetch a low price if you continue to tamper with my clock." Herbie spoke levelly, trying to hide his panic. "Is this how you treat a car who comes to your camp with only the best of intentions?"
"What?" Neb pulled the feeding Jew off the pipe. The man staggered backwards, petrol spurting from his mouth. He spoke angrily: "You want me to be a cunt like everyone else?"
"Quick, take me to a garage." Herbie couldn't help the urgency now in his voice. "Before it's too late."
"And what about him?" Neb tapped the Jew. "And all these?" He pointed to the mass around him. "Where's your compassion?"
"Under normal circumstances," Herbie tried to sound reasonable, "I would never begrudge my fellow man a good meal. But I scarcely have enough for my own needs. And you know how the Lord abhors an empty vessel."
"That's what they all say." Neb was not convinced.
"My licence is up to date."
"Right...!" Neb shouted at the Jew. "I obviously stand in my underpants. Wipe that fucking marmalade off your mouth! And give him back some petrol."
The man regurgitated some of the petrol into Herbie's tank. The little car's headlights flickered briefly to life.
"Mer¨i," breathed Herbie.
"That's enough," Neb instructed, yanking the Jew off the pipe. His alien form fermented. Autumn leaves dusted from his arms. His many legs percolated. "You lads had better shape up if you ever want to see Jerusalem again."
Each Jew was intimately tied to his neighbour by a thick rope of paraffin-drenched cotton. The ropes were wound tightly about their torsos, leaving only their legs free.
"Now brace up..." Neb addressed the men, who were dispersing, and falling naturally into a waiting line, ready to continue their journey "...it's only twenty miles to Nog's End and Monowitz. I want a steady canter, no slacking or queue jumping, and just to give you an incentive..." Neb brought the man with the swollen stomach to the front of the line. He produced a large box of matches. He took one out and lit it. A blue flame spluttered close to the man, and a wave of terror swept down the line of Jews.
Herbie tried to bring an appropriate quotation from Husserl to mind. But only 'Kairos and Logus', by Auden, came to him: 'One notices, if one will trust one's eyes, the shadow cast by language upon truth.' He would have to look elsewhere for an elucidation of his predicament. Wasn't it Derrida's spirit that was more properly called ironic?
"Chuck-a-butties," called Neb, holding up another blazing match. "On the count of three."
His foot stomped three beats.
"Karacho, Karacho," he yelled.
Like shit off a stick, like a bat out of hell, a pack of fever-horses, a stampede of buffalo, Neb and his posse of Jews took off in a billowing cloud of crimson dust, thundering out of Kierkegaard Mews, piston legs moving in one giant insect line, tearing towards the Humbolt Mountains, Neb shouting, "Hi-yo fuckin' Silver, away!" before roaring off into the Dachau mist.
Dante, reaching the frozen Lake Cocytus in the ninth and lowest circle of hell, found Lucifer, the fallen angel of light, embedded in ice.
All worlds inter-relate, thought Herbie. Fact is only a tributary of the imagination.
The ringing bell made Herbie jump. Now what is this come to further hinder my quest? he asked himself.
A mobile crematorium, on loan from Buchenwald, came klanga-klanging down the road. The combustion chamber in the back of the van was small. Already there were so many bodies stuffed inside that the end pieces of burning limbs were dropping out, littering the road. Legs, arms, feet, hands and heads lay scattered like horse droppings along the route. Long wisps of flame and smoke roasted from them. Some were black; burnt to a crisp.
"Corpse carriers to the gatehouse." The order coming from the public address system almost deafened Herbie.
Prisoners on a death march, with a military song on their lips, shouted to their SS guards as they swung past: "Us today, you tomorrow."
"Any gas handy?" The little car politely asked a Lagerführer.
"Sure, hop in the wagon, cuntface," the officer said dryly.
Herbie eyed the rattling crematorium. Not likely, he thought. It couldn't be much farther to Hobbes's Palace of Discorporation; the dwelling of the Afreet of Dachau. He'd make his way there slowly. Soon, the Being combining animus and anima would be behind his wheel. His reason to exist would be made clear.
Schopenhauer had written, 'The capacity for feeling pain increases with knowledge, and therefore reaches its highest degree in Man.'
In the novel, Simplicius Simplicissimus, by J J C von Grimmelshausen, the enigmatic phrase, 'So it goes', had appeared. How appropriate to his present position!
The half-mile journey to the Palace took him two hours. When he approached the Afreet's eyrie, his chassis ached and his exhaust was exhausted.
He dragged himself past a final brick crematorium, fuelled with coke, where the 'unholy flame of Dachau' leapt a dozen yards beyond the smokestack of dead. A group of inmates were drawing conclusions from the shape of the escaping smoke clouds as to the type of prisoner being cremated.
"That must be a Jehovah's Witness, snaking up like that."
"Nonsense, did you not notice the alien essence that hung for a second in the air? Obviously a Jew, with a full set of gold teeth."
Herbie registered for the first time that the surface of the road beneath his flat tyres was now crematoria ash.
Access to the Afreet's ground was past an iron lattice gate decorated with a series of musical notes. As Herbie approached, the gate swung open and he crawled through into the land beyond.
With a final shudder and a glance at the big blue sky he drove onto a pathway across the spreading green lawns. The occasional fire pit and the tops of sunken ovens broke the shorn grass, and several children burned on the stump of a sassafras tree. Two young boys had been crucified on its thin roots. Two more were frying to death. They were not more than a yard away from a stream of tangy spring water which chattered into a stone trough beneath a stern bronze image of Alice Liddell who, because of a fall of uxorious ash, looked uncannily like Karl Marx.
A group of 'Moslems', men who were broken, who allowed anything to be done to them, threw themselves under Herbie's wheels. As he drove over them he could hear their reduced bones cracking in the bright sunshine. It took all of his resolve to drive on, after he had carefully dimmed his lamps. Then a stillness came upon him, and he knew for certain that he had reached the Afreet's dwelling. Would the Afreet turn out to be Thomas Hobbes, or perhaps the misshapen offspring of Old Hob himself?
Instinctively he looked up, expecting to see a glorious edifice with obsidian towers and turrets of emerald and ruby shipping into the tireless heavens. A dwelling befitting the Oracle of Dachau.
Instead, Herbie found himself confronting a tiny wooden shotgun shack. Its front porch faced a dirt surround, overrun with squalor and brown Tupelo creepers. Its wood frame was rotting, and an air of desolation hung about. A dead monkey lay on a wooden swing. Cows wandered on Old Saltillo Road. Chickens pecked at the rich earth. Herbie thought he heard whippoorwills calling.
Gathering his faltering nerve, he revved up a shaky ramp. Twigs from a black gum tree stuck to his windscreen. With an effort he squeezed through the shack's rickety door, and he immediately sensed the presence of a being closeted in dark solitude and deathward ways.
"Satnin, is that you?" asked the Afreet from the gloom.
"It is I, Herbie Schopenhauer..." Herbie's eyes watered, and his vision was suddenly blurred by a migraine. He was assailed by a lethal mixture of chlorine, acrylonitrate and hydrogen sulphide, "... come to visit on this bright sunny day," he finished, spluttering.
"The same sun that brings out the lilies also brings out the snakes," the voice sighed.
Even without seeing the Afreet, Herbie recognised the rich Southern drawl. (In French:) "Your mother lies in the Memphis earth," he said to Elvis in hushed tones.
Motherfuckers: The Auschwitz of Oz © David Britton & Michael Butterworth 1996.
The Kindle and iBooks edition of Horror Panegyric has been expanded with a new afterword by Supervert and additional excerpts from Savoy Books' most recent Lord Horror novels, La Squab: Black Rose of Auschwitz and Invictus Horror.