Phantom of the Amnion: Murder in The Beginning

The human aura is a phantom of the amnion. Our murdered twin. The slain Abel, or Hevel as he’s called in Hebrew. The word means vapor. The insubstantial one whose death haunts all of us in the waking world. The murder that begins human existence. In Hindu mythology, Shiva cuts off Brahma’s upward facing fifth head, the one directed toward the ether, for the lie that he has told to Vishnu. Thus all of material reality, whose source is Brahma, is doomed to impermanence. In the Babylonian epic, the storm-god Marduk defeats the primordial sea serpent, Tiamat, the ‘glistening one’, and cuts up her body to create heaven and earth. The Norse account of human creation tells of Odin and his brothers murdering Ymir, the original hermaphroditic deity from whose parts all life is constructed. The Egyptian deity, Seth, slays his half brother Osiris and distributes the fifteen pieces of the corpse in the bog of the Nile Delta. Isis, sister and wife to Osiris, reassembles him, albeit with one synthetic part, and human life continues through the cycles of Osiris’ rebirth and re-death. The Chinese primordial brother and sister, Fu Xi and Nüwa, become husband and wife, gather the primordial mist and then separate it into yin and yang. They create a child, a lump of flesh that falls to pieces and populates the world. The Greeks tell us that Chronos swallows all his children except Zeus, hidden in a cave by his mother. The power child then castrates and kills his father, releasing all the gods as well as creating Aphrodite who arises from the foam in the sea created by the castrated parts. Foam and chop, everything is foam and chop, O the dreadful foam and chop.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I texted my brother one more time before giving up. My brother was so totally unreliable. It had been that way for as long as I could remember. I was the doer of deeds, the rough and tumble kid, the one my father knew would eventually grow up to be a man’s man. Abie was a different story. A dreamer, a bit on the soft side, the classic momma’s boy. Our parents tried to treat us alike, but the differences between us were so stark that it was impossible, even for the former flower children that they were. So Pops naturally inclined toward me and Moms doted on her sweet Abie. I snorted to myself in annoyance, “Ghosted again, the little fucker.” I was so tired of Abie’s ‘specialness’, always having to cut him slack for being such a space case. I knew that at some random hour within the next 24 I’d get a lame text from ‘sweetie pie’ saying something like, “Yo bro! Gee, so sorry, I didn’t have my phone on,” or “Man, I got so caught up in binge-watching ‘Cheers’ I totally forgot to check the time. Another time, aight?” The thing was that I knew that Abie didn’t mean to deliberately diss me, his older brother, but it didn’t take away the sting of it. I was busy. I was taking a full load at the community college and working two jobs to get some scratch together. The plain truth was I didn’t have time to fuck around with my lame-ass little bro. A high school student, for God’s sake! But Pops had a way of twisting my arm, not so subtle. He’d get this perturbed look on his face and put his arm around my shoulders as he muttered painfully into the air, “You know Abie is so different from all the other kids, such a loner. I mean Moms and I are so proud of him for his poetry writing and charcoal sketching. Moms even got him to play his flute in the marching band, though we’re afraid he’s gonna get himself canned. Just can’t seem to get the hang of marching in formation. Different drummer, you know. Anyway, you’re just about the only one remotely close to his age who’ll even talk to him. The other kids, well, they just don’t seem all that friendly toward the little guy.”

As soon as Pops would use a phrase like ‘the little guy’ I could feel some iron sphincter inside of me tighten right up, like the door to the vault in the First National Bank. Kachink, clank, chunk. Done. I heard Pops droning on in the background, but the words kind of foozed out. It sufficed for me to know that I wasn’t walking away from this ‘conversation’ until Pops had extracted a promise from me that I’d keep looking after the weird little dude. It gave me a queasy feeling of unreality, like Pops and I were in parallel universes and I couldn’t quite get a message past the event horizon. And Moms was even worse. She’d stare right into my face with that weight-of-the-world expression and there was just nothing to be said. All she’d do was slowly shake her head and mouth the words, “Kenny, please.” Period, end of sad story. What’s a bro to do? It was times like this that I would jump into my rig, a sweet 2012 Jeep Wrangler I’d bought and paid for myself, crank up some headbanging music full tilt and drive like the world was on fire. Trouble was it just refused to burn down. Every time I got home the same damned world was still there, just as fucked up as when I tore away from it. Just a little less adrenaline and a slightly decreased probability that I’d go to bed with a fratricidal scenario playing in my head. This night the amperage was way up. I’d bought two tickets to see Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart play at the Arena. It was sold out weeks in advance. I could have taken Wild Lil, but I just couldn’t shake the kabuki puppets of my parents dancing inside my head telling me what I really should do. No amount of high speed driving and screaming out the window could erase them. I bit the bullet and invited Abie.

So here I was again, motoring aimlessly around an some random part of the countryside at breakneck speed half-hoping I’d hit and kill something. Not really, but there was definitely blood behind my eyes. I was listening to a mix of my high school favorites—Blink 182, Nirvana and Slayer—when a lone figure suddenly flashed before my headlights just as Kurt Cobain reached maximal volume. I jammed on the brakes, but at that speed there wasn’t a chance. There was a thud, then silence. Maybe it was a hallucination, just an all-too-real death fantasy. Or maybe I sideswiped a deer, but it didn’t look like a deer. I turned off the sound and rolled down the window to listen as the jeep ground to a stop. I still couldn’t hear anything so I cut the engine. Then I heard it, between the chirp of crickets and the clack of tree frogs, a moan. I must be hallucinating. Please let it be an hallucination. My heart dropped into my gut and I broke into a cold sweat. Hands shaking, I turned the ignition key and slowly did a three point turn to bring the jeep around 180 degrees. The headlights turned everything a flat white and the air was still dank from last night’s rain. As the jeep crept forward I saw something right at the edge of the road. “Oh God, what have I done,” left my lips and reverberated over and over in my head. My mouth went dry and my hands grew an order of magnitude more clammy. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears as I pulled over toward the creature I’d hit. With a shock of recognition I saw the bloodstained tattered colors of a high school marching band jacket. Shit. It’s a fucking kid! The headlights caught the sign at the side of the road for the Pishon Creek Trail. Some damned band geek out for a night hike. Oh God! I yanked back on the parking brake just because I needed to feel something solid. The road was flat, but it suddenly felt like the world was spinning away from me in every direction. I leaped out of the car leaving the door dangling open and rushed in front of the headlights toward the crumpled body. The kid was lying face down on the shoulder of the road. A pool of blood was already forming beneath his head. My breath was slow and labored as I reached down to feel for a pulse at the kid’s neck. Nothing. I knew CPR, but wasn’t sure if I should move the body. Next thing I knew I was rolling the kid over when I got the shock of my life. Abie! No, it can’t be! Fuck! This has got to be a nightmare, please God let me wake up and find out none of this has happened. I began performing regular chest compressions on Abie’s sternum, but as the bright red blood poured out the corners of Abie’s mouth, I sensed that it was futile.

When the police and paramedics roared onto the scene they found me in a daze sitting by Abie’s unmoving body with Abie’s hand in mine. “Son,” the first cop began, “were you the one who called us?” I could only manage a nod. The officer hunkered down and continued, “We’ll have to take you in to file a report, the standard routine. The paramedics will transport the body to the Cadmont Regional Hospital ER so they can get a doc to pronounce him. Anybody else you wanna call right now?” I shook my head slowly—the static inside my head matched the static on the police radio—as I had no idea what I was going to tell Moms and Pops. Meanwhile, the other officer had gone over to the jeep and started the ignition. He yelled back to the first officer, “Looks driveable, but I guess we’re still gonna have to have this baby towed.” The first cop looked sympathetically at me and reassured me, “Don’t worry, they’re good. You’ll get your vehicle back as soon as we finish talking to you at the station. Come with me.” As if in a dream, I floated off the ground, the hand holding Abie’s let go. I took one more glance at my dead brother and ducked into the back of the squad car. As I sat there I felt momentarily a bit more oriented, a bit more calm. I knew I had to call Moms and Pops. I tapped on the plexiglass divider and gestured with my cell phone, mouthing the words, “Can I call my parents?” The two cops looked at each other and the one in the passenger seat nodded ok. Moms and Pops both answered the phone at once, “Kenny, so glad to hear your voice. Abie’s gone missing. He said he was going out to look for owls and he’d be back soon. That was three hours ago. We were getting ready to go out looking for him.” I gulped, my mouth went bone dry. A torrent of words croaked out of my mouth at my parents, “I killed Abie. I didn’t mean to. He must’ve been taking one of his walks along Pishon Creek. He stepped right into the road just as I was coming around the bend. I swear I didn’t see him. I couldn’t. I would never actually…” My voice trailed off as my body convulsed with sobs. The cop in the passenger seat said something to the driver who pulled over for a minute so his partner could get out, open my door and take the phone out of my hands. He got back into the front seat and they resumed driving. I couldn’t hear what he was saying to Moms and Pops, but I assumed he was telling them where to go to retrieve the body.

So I got off. They didn’t bust me. They told me that killing my brother was bad enough in and of itself. Of course my parents weren’t going to press charges. I just got a citation for speeding. They could tell from the skid marks. And I got the Wrangler back. But nothing was the same after that. At home, my parents could barely look me in the eye. Good old Dom and Evie, salts of the earth, lives shredded by their older son accidentally killing the younger. It was an accident, you see, even though I have a hard time believing that myself. I was never going to live it down. It was like I was living in this bubble made out of Abie’s ghost. Sometimes I thought I could see it when I stood in the dark looking in the mirror, a kind of vaporous envelope around my whole body with a little pair of eyes and a mouth looking out at the world. Just like Abie, innocent. It was actually kind of comforting, that bubble. It still is, sort of. Only now it feels like everybody else sees it too, and it makes them look at me strangely, like some kind of freak. Which I am, a boy in a bubble. Seems odd to think of myself as a boy even though I know I’m a full grown man living on my own and all. But you see, time stopped that day, and I haven’t aged one minute more inside my head. Inside my bubble. So—and I know this will sound impossibly weird—I’ve come to cultivate a relationship with the bubble, made friends with it. With him. When I reach out to touch the world, it’s mediated through the bubble. Same thing when the world reaches out to touch me. And here’s the really cool part. Because it’s a bubble, I can actually make it expand and contract. I can reach out and touch things with my mind that are well beyond my physical grasp. Now the truly crazy part is that I swear, when we do this stuff, me and my bubble, I hear my dead brother Abie’s goofy little laugh. Kind of sweet, really. Don’t you think?

About the Author
Michael Diamond is a writer based in the Washington, DC area. He practices psychiatry there and is a doctor of medical qigong. He has published occasional verse, fiction and translation in Andrei Codrescu’s journal, The Exquisite Corpse; in the journal Shirim courtesy of Dryad Press; in the online journal for Akashic Press; and in The Journal of the American Medical Association. He lives in the suburbs with his wife, an artist and illuminator of Hebrew manuscripts, their dog, two cats, a cockatiel named Peaches and a tank of hyperactive fish. He has had a strong interest in Torah since first exposed to traditional stories as a child. Over the course of his life he has run the gamut of spiritual exploration of many world traditions of meditation and mythology. For the last several decades he has landed squarely in the traditional Jewish world. His writing is informed by all of this experience, by his curiosity about today's world and by his desire to mine the Jewish experience for its hidden and revealed wisdom. Torah Obscura, as in camera obscura, from Latin, meaning "dark room", also referred to as a pinhole camera, exploiting the optical phenomenon that occurs when an image of a scene outside of a chamber projects itself through a small hole and can be seen on the inner surface of the chamber. A glimpse of an otherwise invisible world afforded by a small aperture for light. All materials herein copyright © 2018 Michael S. Diamond. All rights reserved.
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