If I Come Home

March 18, 2012
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On a cold, starless night such as this, the only thing that I knew to do was to follow the hooded woman in front of me. She held my hand as she guided me through the woods. These woods that I knew so well, yet at this moment they seemed strange and distant. With my other hand, I clutch the small fingers of my young sister, Reyna, who is stumbling behind me. We move at a brisk pace, each of us filled with a sense of fear and urgency, since we are, in fact, escaping the law. Not just the law, but also the fear, the uncertainty, the sadness the German soldiers had brought with them as they invaded our country. They walked upon our streets and declared them their own, said that the Jews must be separated from society. But then, people began to disappear: friends, neighbors, anyone could be next. They came in the night and rounded them up into trucks, and as they sped away, people caught their last glimpse of them before they were gone forever.
It was father who first put forth the idea of hiding, and as time went by, both he and mother decided it would be safer to send Reyna and me away to some distant village, where we could pose as goyim and be protected. As for them, they never told us their plan for hiding, not even when we said our tearful goodbyes just hours ago. They promised Reyna and me we would be a family again after the war, but the uncertainty of that is frightening.
I awake from my thoughts as I hear a train whistle coming from a distance, and see dimly lit railroad tracks up ahead.
“The two of you must jump into the 23rd car; there you will meet people that will keep you safe and guide you to your new family,” says the cloaked woman, her voice soft and decisive, as though this was not her first time in this situation.
With the train coming up ahead, I turn for just a moment, glancing at the dim spots of light that shine through the trees: my home, my life. Would it be here when I came back? If I came back? My thoughts are interrupted as the train approaches.
1….. 2….. 3…. 4….. The cars passed by rapidly, flinging my dark brown hair into my face. I push it aside as a grab my sister tightly and wait for the 23rd car. Behind me, I hear a faint “Go,” and I jump towards the racing car. Two strong hands grab Reyna and me, and we are pulled into a dimly lit railroad car. The man who pulled us in sits one foot away, breathing heavily and reaching out to grab a brown, leather bag lying near him. He opens it up and pulls out two wrapped sandwiches, handing them to us.
“My name is Abraham; I am here to help both of you,” the man says, trying his best to be comforting, but my sister and I are trembling with both cold and fear.
“My name is Eva, and this is my sister, Reyna,” I manage to say, accepting the sandwiches and handing one to Reyna. We eat the food quickly, just now realizing how hungry we actually were.
“Well Reyna and Eva, we will reach Leeuwarden in the morning, but for now you can sleep there,” he says, pointing to the corner of the car where there is a pile of hay along with two threadbare blankets. We walk there quietly and I fall into a dreamless sleep while holding Reyna closely to my chest.
I am woken up by the sounds of yelling men. Men that are screaming in German, a language I do not understand, the language of the Nazis. I look up and see Abraham crouched in the corner, eyes wide and terrified, petrified at the prospect of being caught. Suddenly, the car shakes, as a result of a heavy boot landing on the car floor. From where I am on the ground, I only see a large, towering figure of a man wearing a heavy green coat and hat, a red band on his arm. He clearly sees all three of us, and quickly yells something I do not understand, but I hear the sounds of running feet. More men enter the car, all in the same heavy, green uniforms. Within seconds, Abraham tries to escape, but is seized before he can make it five feet, and as Reyna and I watch him, we are paralyzed with fear. We don’t even notice when we are grabbed violently by two nearby men and dragged off the car with Abraham.
Outside of the car, the sun is slowly rising above the horizon, the colors of dawn streaked across the sky. What is on the ground is a much less beautiful site. Groups of men in Nazi uniform, each with their own gun, lined half the length of the train. Their trucks and cars are sitting just a few feet away. But I am still trapped in the clutches of a man behind me, and I feel tears rolling down cheeks as I realize the true extent of this situation. In the corner of my eye, I see Abraham struggling, and the officer trying to restrain him says something in German to a man near him. Suddenly, he pushes Abraham into the barren surroundings of the train, and just as he believes he is free, Abraham is taken down by a single shot to the chest.
The sound of the shot echoes, and in front of me, Reyna screams, tears from her face falling to the ground. A man kicks her in the stomach to silence her, and I attempt to come to her aid. I am stopped by the force of the man holding me. He calls to another man, and they laugh. But I am afraid that they will kill me, leaving Reyna to face them alone. Instead of suffering the same fate as Abraham, we are pulled in the opposite direction, towards the large trucks.
They swing open the back to reveal a tightly packed crowd of gaunt, frightened people of all ages, and they shove us in to join them. They, then, immediately shut the door behind us, revealing only a tiny window in the corner and a crowd of people so vast I can do nothing but stand. It took a while, but I maneuver myself through the pack of mourning people to find Reyna. Though her face is wet and stomach aching, she smiles just a bit when I hug her in the darkness of the truck. I keep standing with her for what seemed to be ages, though judging by the light coming through the small window, we must have been traveling for two days. We stand for two days straight, no food or water, barely any sleep, and the smell of the dead and dying enclosing us in a realm of terror and uncertainty.
As the second day ends, a few soldiers open the truck and start motioning and yelling at us to get out. I make sure Reyna was at my side as we are pushed out and shoved into a long, long line. Men armed with guns stand in every direction I look, and I know too well that none of them will hesitate to use them.
As I get closer to the front, I see that people are being separated into two lines: people of all shapes and sizes, the rich, the poor, the young and old. All of them are terrified at the idea of what may be coming, including myself. I feel my heart beating rapidly as Reyna and I get closer to the front. A man in a heavy green coat looks at us for just a moment and points to the left. I turn to see a line made of the elderly, children, and women, and I grasp Reyna’s hand as I lead her in this direction. We follow the line to a brick building, and I begin to calm down; a strange thought had come to my mind: why would they shoot us inside?
“You are going to take a shower, so take everything off, you filth!” shouts a soldier, and he is speaking the language I understand. I help Reyna undress, and then I undress myself. Within a few minutes, I am in a room of naked people, soldiers yelling to take off all shoes, clothes, and valuables. This mass of people is herded into a shower room; Reyna is holding onto me as they slam the door, enclosing us in a small, tiled room. I wait for the water to come, but instead, something else is coming out. A gas of some sort, and suddenly, I can barely breathe, I feel as if I’m being suffocated. Around me, men and women are shouting and crying and shocked beyond belief. For all of us, the worst of our fears are coming true.
I look into Reyna’s deep brown eyes, and amid the chaos and screaming, she mouths to me, “But they promised.” I give her a mournful look and kiss her on the forehead. I hold her tightly, ignoring this room of screaming, dying people, refusing to acknowledge the fact that she never got a chance to live. I suddenly realize that I never got that chance either, but I accept my fate and close my eyes to embrace an endless, dizzying blackness.

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Madelyn H. said...
Apr. 8, 2012 at 7:14 pm
Oh my gosh! Thats so sad... but excelently written! i really felt close to the characters. keep writing!!!
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