In this excerpt, we get to read a passage from the new dystopian thriller, Judenrein by Harold Benjamin. Please view the book trailer above for more information and enjoy the excerpt.
Zack hated the waiting. Still, it beat the alternative, which was an overdose. That’s what had gotten him to the methadone program originally. He’d been clean for forty-six days now, a personal best. Zack was short for Zacharia, the Hebrew name given to him by his father, an Orthodox Rabbi Zack hadn’t seen since he was 15. The name meant “God Remembers.” Maybe God will remember me again, Zack said to himself. Forty-six days was good, but it wasn’t a long time to be off of heroin.
“How much longer?” asked Sarkisian, Zack’s army buddy who was new to methadone. Sarkisian could count his clean days on one hand, and it wasn’t going well for him. “I need this stuff, bad.”
“I hear you, man,” Zack replied. “You can handle this. You’re part of the G Battalion. No one messes with us, right?” Sarkisian nodded, but Zack could tell he was troubled. That’s when he noticed his friend glancing through the clinic’s window at a man standing outside on the street. “Did that guy talk to you?”
“The dude standing on the sidewalk, the one who tries to buy our methadone.” The clinic operated out of a storefront. Sarkisian shook his head. That was lame. His friend was lying. He was waiting to get the stuff, pretend to swallow it and then spit it into a cup for ten bucks. It would then be sold to addicts for many times that amount.
Zack got up and walked out the door. He might miss his turn, but this was more important. The man saw Zack coming and adjusted his stance. He was taller than Zack and easily fifty pounds heavier. He set his feet apart and let his massive, heavily-tattooed arms hang by his sides, affecting a seemingly relaxed pose but one that tended to intimidate.
It did little to stop Zack, who got right up in the guy’s face. “You’ll be leaving now,” Zack said, calmly but with menace. “My friend will not be working with you anymore. He needs to get clean.”
“Is that a fact?” the man replied. He seemed amused. “How are you going to help him after I break your neck?” Zack wasn’t afraid. He knew about pain and death from Afghanistan, where a sniper’s bullet consigned him to Walter Reed and endless opioid addiction. He’d wished for death more than once, but he still preferred living. As he’d learned in Jewish elementary school, God told the Jews, “I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse—therefore choose life!” He was choosing life, for now at least.
“Don’t make threats you can’t back up. I’m giving you five seconds to clear out of here,” Zack said. The bigger man didn’t move. He just stared at Zack, trying to figure out his next move. Was this underfed junkie really going to get into it with him? He must be high, the man thought.
“Don’t mess with me, Jewboy. I know where you live. I can have you sent away with one phone call.”
Zack laughed and said, “Yeah, and I can have you doing a nickel in Joliet with one phone call.”
This seemed to stump the larger man for a moment, but he then muttered, “You talk tough, but you won’t make any calls if you’re dead.” And with that, he lunged at Zack. The move was not a surprise. Zack stepped aside and let the man’s momentum send him careening forward. Zack then kicked the man’s legs out from under him, causing him to crash face first into the sidewalk.
Before the man could get up, Zack jumped on his back and pulled the man’s arm up behind his back. He broke two of the dealer’s fingers. The man started howling. “How many more do you want broken?” Zack asked. The man didn’t respond, so Zack cracked a third finger. “Another?” The man shook his head. “You coming back here?” The man shook his head again. “Okay, now get lost.”
Zack stood up. The man got up and started to walk away, but he turned back to Zack, holding his mangled hand in his good one. “You’re a dead man,” he said. “You’ll never see it coming.” Zack didn’t reply. He just stared at the man until he got creeped out and stalked off to nurse his wounds, periodically glaring at Zack over his shoulder to make sure another attack wasn’t coming his way.
The people in the clinic’s waiting room had been watching the encounter. When Zack went back inside, everyone pretended they hadn’t seen anything. That was fine with Zack. He didn’t care what people thought. He only wanted Sarkisian to take his methadone and get clean.
Sarkisian didn’t seem very pleased, though. He was obviously selling his methadone and buying heroin. He wasn’t getting clean at all. “You need to take this seriously,” Zack said. “You’re going to die if you don’t.” Sarkisian didn’t want to talk about it.
Fine, Zack thought. It’s his life. You can only do so much for people. He leaned back in the plastic chair and tried to calm himself. Fighting made him tense. He took a few deep breaths and reached for an old magazine on the table in front of him. Maybe that would distract him.
It didn’t. The front cover alone was enough to make him more anxious. It showed a photo of a Hasidic Jew being beaten by a mob of skinheads as a crowd holding up Confederate flags cheered them on. The headline read, “What’s next for America’s Jews?” The magazine was at least a year old. Zack knew the answer to that question.
The aftermath had been a disaster many Jews claimed they hadn’t seen coming, though they should have. Zack certainly had. Anyone with a sense of history had seen what was happening, like watching a car crash in slow motion and being powerless to do anything about it.
In the end, it had taken only a few weeks to crush American Jewry. The country had remained oblivious during the improbable rise of Pete Kasprzyk, an unknown State Senator from Montana whose pushing of white supremacist boundaries made him insanely popular with his party’s “base.” Kasprzyk was rumored to be a member of 88wh1te, a huge, well-connected white supremacist group, but public speculation on this topic was dismissed as paranoia by the press.
An unfortunate and suspicious confluence of events catalyzed the termination of citizenship for American Jews. A group calling itself Palestine Chai, comprising liberal Jewish pro-Palestinian agitators, marched in Washington to express their anger at Kasprzyk’s perceived collaboration with the “White Supremacist” state of Israel. Immune to the irony of their message, they took their cue from the Antifa and sought violent confrontations with a crowd of White Nationalists staging a counter-protest. A brawl broke out and shouts turned into shots. When the smoke cleared, men carrying Nazi flags lay dead and bleeding on the streets of DC.
Immediately after, a series of damning attacks ensued. Bombs went off all over DC, killing scores of people. The Jews were blamed. A big news story, eventually proven to be fake, simultaneously told of a rich Jewish pension fund manager making off with workers’ retirement savings. A deluge of well-scripted anti-Semitic messages got repeated endlessly in the media echo chamber. Jews are terrorists. Terrorists Jews. Ungrateful Jewish killers… stealing the white man’s hard-earned dough… until it became a settled fact: Jews were thieving, America-hating terrorists. Something had to be done.
The Congress, full of closeted 88wh1te members, voted to declare Palestine Chai a terrorist organization. Due to tight Jewish family and social networks, nearly every Jew in America suddenly discovered that they were “associated with terrorists.”
Now branded as accomplices to terrorism, Jews were purged from their positions in American life. Overnight, a database of Jewish people and Jewish-owned businesses was systematically cross-indexed with bank records, real estate titles and professional licenses. Jewish lawyers were disbarred en masse; Jewish doctors had their licenses revoked; Jewish academics got gleefully ejected from universities as “pro-Zionist terrorist sympathizers.”
Exploiting arcane anti-terror laws, the government seized Jewish financial and real estate assets. Attempts to sue for discrimination were laughed out of court by Kasprzyk’s judicial appointees, who had secretly pledged loyalty to 88wh1te. Within weeks, nearly every Jew in America was penniless, homeless, unemployable and stateless.
Every identifiable Jew in the US was forced to move into designated protection areas, a collection of modern-day ghettos dubbed “Kike Kennels.” Zack appeared to be safe during all of this, for reasons he didn’t understand. He must not be on any official list of Jews, he thought. The army knew he was Jewish, but somehow, that hadn’t translated into him being rounded up.
“You worry they’ll come for you?” Sarkisian asked. Zack was still clutching the magazine, lost in his thoughts.
“If they do, they’ll have to deal with G Battalion’s best,” Zack replied, giving his old friend a smile. Sarkisian grinned. The man didn’t have much longer in this world, Zack thought.