Ash

I couldn’t breathe the mountain air. It was so thick with the sins of humanity that it paralyzed me. Across the valley, the Vosges sliced into the sky. They’d been privy to it all – stoic sentries. They had seen the smoke billowing from that chimney from dawn until dusk and they’d morphed the wind that carried it through the air until it was no longer smoke, just atmosphere. The Vosges themselves were a casualty. Mankind had carved a piece off of a mountaintop and placed Hell there. The area had once hosted a modest patch of life but it had been sterilized by a process that began with one man’s vitriol and ended with humans being reduced to piles of ash.

Then the piles of ash were buried in the mountaintop. Often, the hair was turned into felt hats. If you were so inclined, you could wear a hat made out of a human being. So efficient.

The whole thing was so goddamn efficient. If you put some human beings into starched uniforms and some human beings into striped uniforms, you can very easily wipe out an entire population. If you pour a canister of pesticides into a room full of human beings, you can very easily turn them into a pile of meat. If you, a human being, allow yourself to be seduced by those who orchestrate it all, you can help bring Hell onto earth.

You couldn’t do that. You respect human life. You would die before you would shepherd a group of Jews onto a train or into a gas chamber.

Right?

Ask any man or woman and they will tell you that they aren’t capable of evil. The most humble of us deify ourselves. The people we put in power – the ones who seduce us – they are just like us but they are audacious enough to play the part of the gods. They’ll make the world a better place. You’ll have a job. You’ll be safe from your enemies. They’ll float to the top and they will thank you.

And in no time at all, human beings will be turned into piles of meat. Ash. Felt hats.

We are not different from our ancestors. We are just more efficient. Flick through the pages of human history and you’ll notice that there is always at least one man on each side of the gun. There are millions of people like you behind every leader who has brought forth barbarism and despair. Trace your finger down the pages of human history – the ink will collect on your fingertip like a mountain snowcapped with every speck of Hell’s ashes.

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