Dimitris Passas is a freelance writer and the editor of the online magazine Tap the Line (, in which he reviews books, movies, and TV series while also featuring articles, news, and Q+As with authors and artists. His academic background includes bachelor studies in sociology and a master’s degree in philosophy. His work can also be found in ITW’s legendary magazine The Big Thrill and various online platforms such as DMovies, PopMatters, Off-Chance, Loud and Clear Reviews and others. His latest book reviews have been accepted for publication in esteemed literary and film journals like World Literature Today, American Book Review, Alphaville, Bright Lights Film Journal and Compulsive Reader. Dimitris’s short and flash fiction can be found in various literary magazines such as Litro Online, Amsterdam Review, 34th Parallel, Asylum (UK), and several others.


Trigger Warning

He was walking with fast strides toward nowhere. Within his headspace a war was raging, a merciless bloodshed claiming the lives of myriads, and he felt like the sheer bulk of his niggling memories would eventually override any sad attempts at rational thinking. He has been up since 4 a.m., after managing to get nearly two hours of disturbed sleep and that only became possible for the sole reason that he swallowed 4 pills of diazepam, something that had become a custom for him during the last 12 months. When he got up from his bed, he took a shower to shrug off the drowsy aftereffects of the drugs and then dressed in a t-shirt and his threadbare sweatpants. Who cares about that stuff anyway? What you wear and trendy brands and all that nonsense. Perhaps his mother would. She had always been somehow despotic, and they used to mock her by calling her their very own Gauleiter. Both he and his baby brother, Jimmy, had invented silly nicknames for their mom, words that made sense only in their little heads. However, they wouldn’t dream of ever talking like that to her, especially when they were kids, petrified by their mother’s hysterical outbreaks.

With these thoughts churning around his head, he stepped out and closed the door behind him without even locking it. He started walking in a way that became increasingly frantic. In Athens, the atmosphere was dense and warm and felt like you could cut it with a knife. Summer was approaching. He had no idea where he was going; he just needed to come into contact with the gloominess and eeriness of the night that felt so close to his present state of mind. He kept rewinding his mind’s tape, and a torrent of incongruous imagery invaded all his senses. The news of his death, the searing sense of loss that always fails to translate into words, the grief that permeated the totality of his existence since the day when he lost his sibling, it all happened a year ago. April the first, the “fool’s day” as they call it. Overdose on prescription opiates and alcohol, a lethal amalgamation. The coroner couldn’t exclude the possibility of suicide, a suicide. And it took place on an April’s foul day.

His parents would be holding a memorial service in Jimmy’s honor, in their spacious house, only a few hours from now, but he has already explained to them that he wouldn’t be attending. Even though he acknowledged that such practices were meant to appease the pain experienced by the deceased’s family and that the presence of people in some ways made the mourning even slightly bearable, he was suspicious of the people’s motives for gathering around Jimmy’s urn to shed their precarious tears. As if they deigned to help him when he was alive. They’ve all witnessed his downfall from a safe distance only to be able to deny all responsibility, leaving Jimmy all alone to fight the dragon. It all happened before their eyes, but they didn’t even bat their eyelids. Was he different, or better in any way? No, and that was what made his heart sink lower and lower. He didn’t even go to the funeral, to his mother’s dismay, because he didn’t want to see anyone, but most importantly, he didn’t want to be seen by anyone. He was the epitome of a guilty conscience, the curse of the cosmos on all humanity, something more primordial than God dragging us all down since time immemorial.

They say that self-destruction is incubated in the womb of shame, a sad truth that traverses history; he had come to realize that truth in the most agonizing of ways. He remembered reading in an encyclopedia that during the 18th century, the Anglo-Latin synonym of suicide was felo de se, translating into modern English as “one guilty concerning himself.” No. Jimmy was not guilty, not this time. Throughout his life, he had been constantly bullied, in the widest sense of the concept. It began in their home when they were both only a couple of cute little boys. Jimmy was always the one who got to listen to my mother’s tirade even for minor misdemeanours, things that he had also been doing back then but was never punished for any of them.

The situation kept evolving throughout their shared childhood and reached its first peak in adolescence. When Jimmy was 15, he shaved his head and started to get dressed as a skinhead, a neo-Nazi. He wasn’t one, he could guarantee that. He only wanted to become a part of a group, of something bigger, to stop feeling like an outcast and being called semi-autistic. Mother reacted in a way that still made him livid: she pretended to be sick, something to do with her heart in order to emotionally blackmail Jimmy and force him to stop acting deviantly. Jimmy reneged, and she miraculously came round after his brother gave up his skinhead gear, returning to his former self: shy and withdrawn, a bona fide misfit.

When Jimmy exhibited the first signs of drug addiction, it was already too late. For several months both he and his mother witnessed the radical metamorphosis of a benevolent, timid young man into a monster, fueled by heroin and methamphetamine. Jimmy stopped communicating with him or his mother except when he needed money, often playing the little brother’s card when he begged the older one for petty cash. He had been already well-off by then as his startup software business had become significantly more lucrative but never gave Jimmy a single penny, holding his ground and remaining loyal to his firm belief that one shouldn’t have any money unless they make them. Jimmy hadn’t had a job during his lifetime, and his two University degrees (Bachelor in Sociology and post-grad in Philosophy) never helped him land one. His money trouble was the subject of the last conversation he would ever have with his little brother.

It was April the 1st, and he had been awake for a few hours when he heard the buzzer indicating that someone was asking for his permission to enter the house. He peeked through the door’s peephole and saw Jimmy. He was in a terrible state, his face akin to a pallid wax mask with two dilated, bloodshot eyes that betrayed what he had been doing before he came there. He took his time before he opened, letting Jimmy keep violently buzzing and buzzing. When he did, Jimmy entered without saying anything and went straight to sit on the couch. He guessed that his sibling couldn’t even stand, forever stoned out of his mind. Jesus, he looked so haggard. Jimmy looked at him and said: “Listen, I am in a really bad place right now. I owe money. Serious money to people you don’t want to mess with.”

He sighed and responded: “Then why did you mess with them?”

Jimmy started fidgeting on his seat: “You know I’m sick, don’t you? Have you ever thought how much of a struggle life is for me? I needed money in order to go to a cheap hotel. I cannot live in the streets anymore. Is that too much for you to grasp?”

He didn’t lose his cool as he had had similar conversations with Jimmy numerous times in the past. He couldn’t get under his skin. “So, what do you want from me? Or to be more exact, how much do you want?”

He turned his head down as if he wanted to take a look at his shoes. He always avoided eye contact when he asked him for something. The ultimate sign of guilt and weakness.

“1000…”, he whispered.                                                                    

“What? You are kidding, right? Do you expect me to pay your debts to loan sharks? No way. Besides, I don’t keep that kind of money in my house. Oh wait… it’s the first day of April, right? Is this a prank?”

He said these last words out of pure schadenfreude, they were meant to sting. Jimmy remained silent, apparently contemplating whether it had any meaning to insist. Finally, he seemed to understand that there was no way his brother would budge. He got up, and moved towards the front door, leaving it open as he walked out. As he went to close the door, he thought how strange it was that Jimmy didn’t exhaust him this time with constant begging, threats, and all the antics he employed every time he got into trouble. That wasn’t like him, not at all. But he quickly forgot about that meeting. He was getting ready to marry the woman of his dreams, and he wasn’t willing to let anyone interfere with his happiness.

That night, his mother called him to tell him that Jimmy was in the hospital, fighting for his life. As he held the receiver listening to his mother’s delirious monologue, he felt like his head was gradually filling with hot air that made him increasingly dopey and lightheaded. His mother’s words sounded more and more faint, eventually devolving into nothingness. He let the speaker down and went to the balcony. There he stared to the open horizon, glorious in its vastness and allowing the mind to escape, even for a little while, the tragedy of existence and the wounds of love.

He was approaching Omonoia Square, the place summoning life’s rejects whether they were junkies, prostitutes, or homeless people. Only then he realized that he had forgotten to take his mobile phone with him. Earlier in the day, he received a cold message from Tania, the woman who was going to become his wife last year, who asked him when he would return the stuff that she had left in his home. She had every right to be angry as she felt jilted by him, and she was indeed. Jimmy’s untimely demise had devastating consequences for every aspect of his life and put his relationships to the test. It seemed that nobody was prone to put up with the grieving version of himself, each for their own reasons. In the first months after Jimmy was gone, Tania strove to keep up with his mood swings, outbursts of anger, and overall mercurial behavior. She put up with him for approximately 4 months and then one day she announced that she needed some space to consider our relationship from a certain distance. He instantly knew that this was the end. For some time, he thought that she was the love of his life and thanked his lucky stars to have met her. But death is a black hole that sucks our longing for happiness, turning it into pulverized pieces with no hope of becoming whole again. The soul fills with that virulent dust, struggling not to choke and give up once and for all.

Never before in his life had he encountered life’s meaninglessness and absurdity in such a brutal fashion. Bad conscience and the overwhelming feelings of remorse over his past behavior toward Jimmy haunted him everywhere he went. Not only had he failed to provide an ounce of help but also let his lowest instincts rear their ugly head each time they met in the flesh, getting on his high horse and acting like he was everything and his little brother nothing. Their last conversation was burning him inside and tended to pop up, always uninvited, at the small hours of the night, rendering sleep an impossibility. That’s why he needed benzodiazepines like Valium. What an irony, he thought, I’ve become the very person I condemned, and that person was my kid brother.

He saw the vast square opening in front of his sore eyes. That time of the night, the dregs of the city were visible, and he saw a disheveled elderly woman with no teeth talking with a young Afghan. She was exchanging money for a wee bag that contained a crystalline white substance, perhaps meth. He turned his head away as he didn’t want to interrupt the comings and goings in the square or become a target for mugging, and he thought he saw one of Jimmy’s oldest friends, Markos, another hopeless case of a heroin addict, walking haphazardly towards a phone booth. Markos and Jimmy were classmates in a foregone era that felt like another lifetime, another world. He found a spot right outside a little shop that sold donuts during daytime and sat down on the dirty pavement. There his presence wouldn’t attract too much attention. Right beside him, a homeless guy was sleeping wrapped in a shabby blanket, snoring loudly.

Even though he was in one of the city’s seediest places, he didn’t feel threatened by the army of the living dead that surrounded him. In fact, he experienced something akin to déjà vu, the environment seemed familiar in a way that eluded explanation. He let his eyes close and transported back in the day when he and Jimmy were kids. Their nickname was “the twins” as they were inseparable and always ready to stand up for one another in difficult times. What had changed in the process and made him act with such cruelty to his baby brother? His mother would dismiss the question as she hadn’t ever acknowledged a single thing that suggested she was uncaring and oppressive, to put it simply a bad mother. Was he like her? He thought that this was a fair question. Questions are fair because they always carry meaning. Answers, on the other hand, many times don’t.

His guilt manifested itself in the form of an icy hand gripping his innards. His chest was constricted, and he was breathing with difficulty. For a moment, he believed that he was about to suffer a heart attack right where his brother perished, in the place that became his only home when their mother kicked Jimmy out after a nasty altercation between them. He got up and traipsed to the phone booth that Markos used earlier. He didn’t have a phone card, so he had to buy one. He found an overnight grocery store owned by a young Pakistani and purchased what he needed with the small change he found in his worn sweatpants. He got back to the booth, entered the card and dialed a number. After a few seconds, he heard his mother’s hoarse voice: “Who is this calling at that time of the night?

“Mom, it’s me. I call from a phone booth in Omonoia Square.”

What on earth are you doing there? It’s dangerous, take a cab and go home. What’s the matter with you?

“Have you realized what we did to him?”

“To whom? What are you talking about?”

“Jimmy. We left him all alone. He was sick, and we abandoned him.”

“Oh, please. Jimmy was a big boy; he knew what he was doing and the consequences involved.”

“How can you be so callous? He was your son. Your little boy. When did you stop loving him? When did we stop loving him?”

“Listen, I won’t engage in that kind of conversation. Jimmy threw away all his potential and chose to live as a beggar. That’s all there is to it. It’s not our fault. It’s not anyone’s fault.”

He slammed the receiver to the booth and kept doing that again and again until the dense, opaque glass that enclosed it began to crack. When he was done, he started walking with small but firm steps towards the Square’s bleachers which were crowded with a motley group of outcasts. Perhaps, he would find Jimmy there. He kept moving forward as he entered the dark void.


A young man has been missing since April 1, and the police had no updates for the case which remains unsolved/open. Stratos P. disappeared 5 days ago, and it is rumored that he was last seen in Omonoia Square at the crack of dawn. The authorities haven’t disclosed what he was doing there and whether he was a drug addict. His mother, Katherine said that her son had been a victim of a crime and offered a generous amount of money to those who would provide credible information about the case.


After 10 days of fruitless search, the enigma of Stratos P.’s vanishing found its tragic answer. The 33-year-old man was found dead in the basement of a block of flats near Omonoia. The cause of death remains undetermined, but our newspaper had a tip that the young man’s death was caused by a bad combination of opiates and benzodiazepines. His funeral will be held the day after tomorrow in the cemetery of New Smyrna at 11.00 am.

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