Black Snowflakes This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

April 1, 2012
When Sophie was born, life was green.

The fields of vibrant reds, yellows, and blues swam before her infant eyes. Sophie watched and collected as few young ones do, each new sight a new friend that she welcomed and, more significantly, remembered. She watched the clouds bathe in the sun and slide lazily across the sky, and the rain skip across the land in a dim violet glow. She watched snow dance on the mountaintops and the saw the grass move in, out, in, out rhythmically with the wind as if breathing.

Sophie’s favorite thing to watch was the tree in her yard. She loved seeing it change and grow and considered it as much a member of the family as her mother or father. In the winter the tree shed its leaves proudly and looked like a dressed-up lady with the sparkling ice crystals that covered it faithfully every year. It undressed again in the spring, pressing green sprouts on its bare branches to match the green surrounding it. Sophie’s favorite thing to do in the spring was to sneak outside early to watch her tree sing. Not with music, but she could feel the rhythm and the words in the tree as it basked in the early-morning glow, surrounding it with a halo. Ever after it was the singing tree.

It was late winter when Sophie’s life sickened and faded to yellow like grass sickening before winter. All of a sudden the talks in the kitchen at night were no longer open to her and were spent in hushed voices over the kitchen table. She would’ve been hurt by being excluded had she not been so worried about the talks in the first place.

The radio was nearly always on, not to hear the fun music stations that Sophie liked but to the long talks on German news. Her mother and father would always shoo her away when she entered the room, so Sophie never found out whom she should be blaming for this new and strange behavior.

The sickening yellow barreled straight into red, like a spark exploding into flame. This time there was no transition at all, and Sophie’s life changed dramatically without anyone asking her what she thought about it. The red reminded her of the screaming red STOP signs, and STOP was exactly what she wanted to scream. She didn’t even get the chance.

More long conversations were held over the kitchen table, but this time they were about leaving. Leaving? Sophie asked. Why would we be leaving? This is our home. Her questions were never answered and instead she was sent to bed at six o’clock at night, two hours early. Clouds ballooned outside, throwing down rain like stones and screaming at the top of their lungs. Sophie couldn’t understand what they were saying, but she could tell that it meant nothing good. Just like that, Sophie’s red started turning dark gray to match the storm outside her window.

Hitler. Sophie finally learned his name but didn’t know what it meant. Either way, she hated him.

It was too late. Sophie’s life began to pour as people in red uniforms took them away from their home. What did we do? Sophie asked but was silenced by her mother’s shaking hand on her shoulder. Sophie decided that these people were just mean. She wondered how long they’d be gone, because she was sure her tree would miss her.

Sophie was loaded into a train with her parents. Are we going on a trip? This time she didn’t expect to be answered, and it didn’t matter because she knew the answer anyway. After a long time in the train, bad smells started to come from the other side. Sophie tried to see the source, but her father pulled her away. The storm raged on.

They were unloaded from the trains into an even bleaker place. Snow fell, but it wasn’t the pretty kind that dressed her tree up like diamonds every year. This snow was black, and it smelled awful. Everyone seemed to be in a big hurry to get wherever they were going, and somehow in the chaos Sophie got separated from her mother. She cried out for her mother until she finally saw her waving Sophie over frantically. Sophie ran straight into her arms. Mother was crying. It’s okay. I’m here, see? Sophie told her. She just cried harder, and Sophie wondered what she had done wrong.

The two were herded into a line with some other women and children. Sophie wondered where her father was, but she decided not to ask this time. She was sure that he would find them later, and then they would go home. A loud noise came from the front of the line, and the line struggled backwards. Sophie looked forward just in time to see a little girl younger than her fall face-forward into a hole. Sophie waited for her to get up, and was surprised when she didn’t. Where was that girl’s mother?

Sophie’s question was answered when a woman that had to be her mother stepped towards the hole and the little girl. Sophie was relieved. That little girl was probably just tired, and now her mother and her father were going to take her home to rest.

A sound like a clap of thunder broke through Sophie’s thoughts and she saw the mother fall down too. Sophie started to shake. These people couldn’t be…right? She looked to her own mother for reassurance, but she saw none. If anything, the pure horror on her mother’s face confirmed her suspicions. Another woman was taken out of the line.

Just like as a baby, Sophie watched. She couldn’t look away.

Green. The trees singing in the morning.

Yellow. The grass sickening before winter.

Red. The sign screaming STOP.

Gray. The clouds in a storm.

The line drew closer.

Green. Yellow. Red. Gray.

Singing. Sickening. STOP. Storm.
The colors swam before her eyes. Green—yellow—red—gray until everything just looked black. Black like the snowflakes she had just seen outside. She looked forward. There was no one else there. Sophie craned her head back, looking for her mother but before she could see her Sophie was forced forward towards the gun and towards the hole.

Don’t look. Close your eyes, Someone said. It could’ve been her mother, but she didn’t look. Sophie closed her eyes.

Darkness. And then--





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