Welcome to the Camp

May 31, 2012
My eyes flew open to discover that this time, it wasn’t just a dream. The car was pitch-black dark, but I could smell the musty, unbearable odor, feel the warm breath of others on my neck, taste the dryness in my mouth, and hear the doubt-filled voices or mothers as they assured their children that everything was going to be ok. My stomach cried out to be fed and my muscles ached from standing so still for so long. Even if there was any possible room for movement, I felt numb, body and mind, as if my limbs refused to move; as if I was watching this happen to somebody else from outside the train. We really were packed in as tightly as possible, a sea of living, squirming flesh. “Packed in like minnows,” my mother would always say before we corrected her. She’s the kind of person who never fails to slaughter a phrase. Where is she? What was she thinking when I didn’t come home from school that day? My thoughts were interrupted by the high-pitched screeching of the brakes. I felt the crowd huddle together even closer, pushing in on me from all sides, as the train, and time, slowly came to a halt. For a minute, we stood frozen, a noiseless panic hanging in the air. Then suddenly, we heard voices, the words short and clipped, spoken with sharp tongues. The doors to the car slid open, and immediately, I was blinded by the intense sunlight reflecting from every direction off of snow. The crisp, cold air filled my lungs as I took the first clean, full breath in days. I was pushed along with the shuffling crowd off the train and onto the snow-covered ground. The crunch of my boots echoed in my head, and gradually, things became more and more real. With the numbness receding, I let my eyes fully adjust to the sun, and took a good look at my surroundings. In front of me, lay chaos. Hundreds of people wondering blindly to and fro, shouts all mixing into a jumble of noise. Behind me, the train and its seemingly endless track seemed safe and comforting. All around me was whiteness, scattered with dark grey buildings, and fences. Everywhere. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a man in a grey uniform approaching, wearing a Swastika on his sleeve. I backed up instinctively, expecting some sort of violence, but he stopped a few feet in front of me. And in that same sharp tongue, he sneered, “Welcome to the camp.”





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