Thomas Wictor

A secret revealed

A secret revealed

People ask me why I’m so unforgiving of criminals and terrorists. I understand the distaste they feel at my uncompromising approach to fighting evil. Yes, criminals and terrorists are evil. They do what they do because they enjoy it. That’s all there is to it. The vast majority of you will never experience what I have. It ruined me, but it also brought clarity. In answer to the many, many questions, and in the hopes that writing about this might change the direction of my life, here’s a secret I swore I would never reveal.

This is only one event, and it’s the only one I’ll talk about.

When I was three years old, a man was murdered in front of me. I’ve worked out my age by remembering the circumstances of the murder. I have another, much better memory from the same period. The murder was very hazy until recently. In contrast the other memory is crystal clear.

Here’s the good memory.

A woman came over to our house and told my parents that an airliner had crashed. I won’t mention her name. She said everyone on board had been killed, including a person my parents knew. I was in the living room, hiding behind a chair, eavesdropping.

“Jesus Christ,” my father said. “I can’t believe it.”

I came out from behind the chair.

“Were you killed?” I asked the woman. I fully expected her to say, “Yes, I was killed.” I didn’t know what death was. It was just a word.

My parents tried to shoo me away, but the woman knelt in front of me and put her hands on my shoulders.

“No, lovey,” she said. “I wasn’t killed. I wasn’t on the plane.”

The crashed aircraft was Pan American Flight 292, a Boeing 707 named Clipper Constitution.


It crashed into a mountain on Monserrat, in the islands of the British West Indies.


The reason it’s a good memory is because the woman took the time to explain to me what had happened, and she put her hands on my shoulders to calm me. The date was September 17, 1965. I was three years and one month old. It’s very strange to remember not possessing knowledge. I remember not understanding death.

Though I can’t put an exact date on it, I recall the day I grasped the meaning of death. It was sometime in 1968, when I was six. We always had the news on at dinner. While eating a grilled-cheese sandwich, I saw group of soldiers carrying a man with a floppy head. I remember it in color, but that’s not possible, since at the time Venezuela broadcast TV shows only in black and white.

It looked just like this.


“What happened to that guy?” I asked.

“He’s dead,” my father said. “A Viet Cong killed him.”

I went cold, and my stomach dropped into my feet. That floppy-headed guy would never eat birthday cake again. He would never see his parents, smile, feel, or move. He was empty of everything, including his very self, and someday that would happen to me. From 1969 until 2007, death terrified me.

It took facing death to make me lose my fear of it. I’d faced it before, most memorably on December 28, 1995, when this came out of the darkness and shoved a giant gun in my face.


It was different in 2007. I was twelve years older, and several oceans’ worth of water had passed under my bridge. When my eye doctor told me that my swollen optic nerves meant that I could have a brain tumor or multiple sclerosis, I went out and sat in my car, and I decided, “Why not me?” People got terminal diagnoses every day. American troops were dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. What made me so special?

For whatever reason the idea of death didn’t scare me any more. It made me feel closer to humanity and to all those who’d died before me. They were my brothers and sisters. I wouldn’t be alone when my time came.

It turned out I had an insanely stupid disease called pseudotumor cerebri. The pressure inside your skull increases for no reason. Mine was cured with an eight-month regimen of acetazolamide, but I was left with gigantic “floaters” in my vision that look like dust bunnies, as well as eyes that are very sensitive to light.

How ironic that I’ve had my eyes fiddled with so often. I’m what’s known as a “glaucoma suspect,” so I have to have my interocular pressure measured every three months. They use a tonometer to flatten your numbed eyeball. Even though I can’t feel it, I hate it.

The murder

It took me forty-nine years to remember that night. Now I know why I am. As a child I became hysterical when shown any depiction of eye injuries, such as this German air gunner being shot in the film The Battle of Britain.


It wasn’t just the wound to the eyes; the flailing hand was part of it.

I had a teddy bear named Boney. It wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I realized I pulled out his left eye. He was one eyed for almost as long as I had him. I always stuck pins into the left eyes of dolls and GI Joes. The film Enemy at the Gates had a hold on me because the Russian sniper was taught as a child to always shoot his prey in the eye.


In my high-school biology class, we had to dissect a cow eyeball. I was unable to cut into it. My redheaded Norwegian lab partner Gita did so, while I dry heaved. Gita made me actually throw up when she skinned the face off the fetal pig we had to dissect. Suddenly it was a pop-eyed monstrosity. I ran out in the hallway and vomited. Everyone thought I was just a delicate little flower. I myself didn’t know why eyes sickened me. Not until about two months ago.

This piece of scanner art I did in 2011 was mesmerizing. I could stare at it for hours.


It’s from an old doll, the type that closes its eyes when you lay it down. A lead weight attached to eyes does the work.

Eyes and damage to them obsessed me. Two months ago the answer finally came to me. It was fragmentary, but I reconstructed it.

The night of the murder, I was in the back seat of a car. A man leaned into the driver’s side window, and the murderer grabbed him by the back of the head. Then the murderer shoved an icepick into the man’s left eye. He did it slowly. From 1:52 in this clip from Blade Runner, the scene recreates almost exactly what I saw and heard, except the man’s hands beat against the side of the car and the window in front of my face. And he screamed in a man’s voice, not a girl’s.

After a very long time, the man abruptly stopped screaming and went limp. The murderer let him fall to the ground, and then he got out of the car and put the body in the trunk. We drove for what seemed like years, and then stopped. The murderer took the body from the trunk and dragged it into tall grass. He splashed it with gasoline from a can and set it on fire. I remember the black soot motes, like tiny lengths of string suspended motionless in the air.

That was the first time I dissociated. Everything was so dreamlike that I didn’t really remember it until two months ago. I pieced it together bit by bit, the way I did Operation Four Little Martyrs.

I wrote this post as an act of banishment, an experiment to see if the nightmares will stop. And to be frank, I wrote this as a raised middle finger to all you pantywaists who think you’ve suffered and who use your shallow pain as the rationale for bad behavior. My childhood was much worse than that of most Palestinians. Those rioters in Ferguson would last three seconds inside my head. What I wrote above is only a tiny fraction of everything that happened. Some events are theatrical abominations that you wouldn’t believe.

Also, I post this in the hopes that well-meaning people will stop giving me advice on how to improve my life. You don’t come back from what I’ve experienced. I’m already two-thirds into the next world, but I like that. It comforts me. As do ghost cats.


I recently met a man who’s so full of joie de vivre that simply knowing him will sustain me. I live vicariously through others, and it can’t be any other way. Since I don’t feel sorry for myself, you shouldn’t feel sorry for me.

But understand that you should never accept terrible experiences as an excuse for committing crimes or atrocities. People like me should always be scrupulously empathic toward others, because we know what it’s like to live in hell. I hold victims of crime and brutality to a higher standard than I hold others. In this tiny arena, I’m the authority. I know what I’m talking about, and you don’t.

Avoid the trap of hesitating to defend yourself because your attacker may have suffered. Fight back with everything you have. All that matters is that someone is trying to harm you. The reason is irrelevant. Eliminate the threat; that’s the moral thing to do.

The victimized who becomes the victimizer is doubly evil and doubly damned.

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