Enoch had planned everything. He had even warned them when they interviewed him after his graduation from college. He told them how Enos, his chimp, would have gone trigger-happy if he were bullied as he had been in secondary school.
Enos, his chimp, had been confined to a pressurized room where his temperature and heartbeat were controlled. He was conditioned to survive extreme conditions. His carer controlled his every step and strolled with him in crowded shopping malls. His physiological reactions were measured under stress. He had asked them if civilization was based on conditioned reflexes?
One dark day, Enoch was thrown down on the floor of the gym by older boys who planted their boots on his back shouting, “You’re done, you fickle-bodied asshole!” Like Enos, the chimp, he was often bullied, and mobbed from school.
The morning of the assault, he put on his jeans and tee-shirt, picked up his mother’s revamped automatic rifle from his room, entered her bedroom, shot her in the head at sleep, jumped in her car, broke the glass window of the primary school with her rifle, shot the teacher and some kids, among them six-year-old Hillel. Then, he killed himself.
The townspeople knew Creedence well. She had survived a difficult divorce. Her husband was the corporate manager of a processed food company. During her divorce, she had survived with alimony from the local authorities.
After suing her husband, she had finally obtained enough indemnities to raise her troubled son. Even so, she had to write insisting letters to obtain the extra money needed for his therapy. Enoch suffered from a violent form of autism that alienated him from the external world.
After her divorce, she worked as a teacher at her son’s school. The kids loved her. Although Enoch’s harassment had diminished since she joined the staff, he remained a fragile introverted child. He was an anorexic who, unconsciously, might have blamed himself for his parents’ untimely divorce. He remained attached to his father who always played with him, took him for long walks, and gave him presents.
Like a current of rumors the local river flowed over its obstacle-bed and resounded with the townspeople’s subterranean song. They cared yet kept on talking.
For their safety, she practiced at a shooting range. Guns re-assured her. She taught Enoch how to shoot from his early age. She kept an arsenal of guns at their mortgaged home. The automatic machine gun that was overhauled for hunting could kill a juvenile boar weighing up to 120 lbs. or 55 kilos.
Day after day, Enoch would shut himself up in his room whose windows he blocked with a thick black plastic sheet to shield him from his mother and the outside world. Enoch’s room was as hermetic as a compressed silo. Locked in his room, he watched violent videos. He stocked reports of all the main mass shootings and identified with the gunmen.
One day Creedence knocked on his door. Despite her appeals, she did not obtain an answer from him. After several hours, Enoch finally emerged from his room and joined her to shoot with small caliber guns.
Véronique had been married twice. The four children from two different unions played under the same roof. Hillel and Ruth were the twins from her second marriage born by artificial fertility. The twins got along well with their half-sister, Irene. Like other six-year olds, Hillel and Ruth loved brownies and pancakes. They danced together, played “Beat ‘em up” on their videos, and watched “Star Wars”.
Véronique was the daughter of European immigrants. She had a full round face with big brown eyes and a prominent mouth. She spoke her mind in equal measure like the whole-meal yeast bread that she baked at home. She was an oncology nurse in a local clinic of integrated medicine.
Véronique was administering a blood transfusion to a cancer patient who had read about the rampage on her cell phone and alerted her. When she arrived on the scene, she found Ruth and Irene who had hidden in the bathroom to escape the rampage.
Véronique thought that Hillel must have been hiding among parents, policemen, and fire fighters. The girls had not said anything. Exhausted in a state of utter panic, Véronique had difficulty breathing. Her heart beat irregularly. She was disoriented and numb; yet, she was still looking out for Hillel. But, when she sighted the pastor, she knew the worst had happened.
Véronique had been in denial for many months now, waking up in the middle of the night, feeling Hillel’s presence in the living room, reminiscing. She was in denial just like Ruth who kept asking when Hillel would come back from school to play with her. They were incredulous.
Ironically, she was in denial like Creedence who ignored Enoch’s mental crevice. In denial, like Creedence, who appeased her son’s pent-up violence hidden by his deceptive lethargy. Véronique was in ironic denial like Enoch, too, which had suffered from the dead-mother syndrome in his childhood. His mother’s melancholy had prevented her from bonding with him emotionally.
She was in ironic denial like the paranoiac hoaxers who were, themselves, in denial, since they provided misinformation to the press. They not only denied the shooting but misidentified Véronique as a virtual diplomat whom, they pretended, was not Hillel’s mother. They had even used the picture of her virtual double covered by a paid press.
Even if Véronique had had a double, in reality, who resembled her, the double would have meant the perpetuation of her life and values for conflict-resolution. The double would have also served to protect her from danger. At best, Véronique’s double, as a virtual diplomat, would have been introduced to implement gun control.
Ironically, Véronique had been in denial like the hoaxers who, through their denial, used their lies to persecute the victims’ families. For their perverse minds, the victims’ families were scapegoats. They would have to bear the blame because a culprit had to be found.
The minute the lone young gunman, who hated himself, used his mother’s revamped gun against her, he entered a state of utter automatism. He unconsciously, projected his despair upon the gun and identified with it totally just like he had with Enos, the conditioned chimp. He had, in turn, been unconsciously conditioned by his mother who, unrealistically, wanted to educate him first at home, then, in a normal school. They both suffered from excessive guilt.
Through his matricide, he had annihilated Creedence’s delayed indifference to his despair and to her own miserable life. Unconsciously, he had pulled on the trigger to destroy his mother’s overprotection that prevented him from growing up.
He had killed her to quell her death-drive. This triggered off his shooting frenzy against the children his mother had cared for more than him. Deprived of a healthy ego, Enoch was a sexually frustrated buffer-boy between his possessive mother and passive father. He was split between Enos, the chimp, and his depressed self, split between his self-hate and the growing exigencies of his schooling he could not cope with. He would not admit missing his father who also grew indifferent towards him after the divorce.
After the tragedy, Véronique joined the political scene and lobbied for a reform plan for gun prohibition that she presented to the government’s task force. Despite attacks against her life, through her foundation and the help of the victims’ families, she denounced the fake press.
Still depressed, she remembered Hillel saying that he loved her more than she would ever know. She had both her arms tattooed with her son laughing on a swing and was, thus, tattooed for life.
Unlike Creedence, Véronique would not relinquish to Thanatos who, Sisyphus-like, keeps throwing the death-rock upon innocent victims.
We, as real or even virtual witnesses, are left to wonder about the inversion that Enoch’s act caused between truth and untruth, between belief and incredulity, between the identity of the victims and the misidentification used as a weapon against them. We are left to wonder about the deceit caused by denial which we all use as a defense against excessive anxiety.
But does a simple denial not become defamation when it is used as a weapon? If so, what would be the nature of a new legislation? And what would be the homeostasis of the state? How can we dismantle conspiracy theories and the paranoia they induce? And how must we assume the responsibility of teaching the contemporary inversion of values to our children? These are the questions at stake in the new order that emerges after such a tragedy kills innocence.
Trigger-blind, the loner targeted
his peers, and kept on shooting
by impulse, those he disowned,
children of a primal original
imprinted sin. Their spilled blood
expiated his pent-up old guilt
until, he, emaciated and blood-eyed,
shot himself with his guilt-eating gun.
Cover image courtesy of AK Rockefeller via Flickr
Poem previously published in ‘The Linnet’s Wings’, May 2016