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Mr. Van Daan (After the Diary)

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The tower of smoke stretched for an eternity above the line of people. The white clouds were devoured by the poisonous black ones. They were a looming omen of what lie ahead for thousands, millions of people.

The smell of corpses and fire came with those clouds, and it wafted through the air and into the noses of those who were so unfortunate as to be in line at that time. They no longer shuttered at the smell. They were used to it by now.

Among the hundreds of those waiting in line was one with the last name of Van Daan. He stood with slumped shoulders, deep-set eyes, jagged fingernails, and a rumbling stomach. Soon, though, the rumbling would cease. Forever.

There were three, long, slow-moving lines of people who looked as though they had risen from the pile of corpses beside the furnaces. All that was missing was the blackened flesh. Several German officers who were stationed at the front, by the ovens, were shouting orders, but all the men in line ignored them. "At least," said the man ahead of Mr. Van Daan, "we won't have to hear their voices anymore." Mr. Van Daan lifted his head to look at the man. He had never seen him before, as if it mattered, but he was suddenly irked at the way this man looked at things.

"Stop trying to make light of a situation that is dire, the direst we will ever face," Mr. Van Daan spat and he bowed his head once again and shuffled along with the line. The man who had spoken first turned his head slightly to see Van Daan out of the corner of his eye.

"Dire? What is wrong with death? You know as well as I do it would take us away some day. Why not embrace it as it comes? Surely if it comes for us now, God has good reason for it."

"God!" Van Daan snapped, disgusted. "What god? He doesn't exist."

"Doesn't exist!" the man mimicked.

"Surely he cannot! Why would any god that we worship so devoutly wish this upon us, his humble followers? Think about it. If someone worshipped you endlessly, lavishing praise upon your existence, which itself cannot even be proven by man, would you want them to die? What have we done to deserve this? Not a damn thing! Now, those officers up there, they've sinned more than all of us combined, I'll bet! They're the ones who deserve to die."

The man ahead of Mr. Van Daan shrugged slightly and faced forward once more. The line trudged on, and, soon enough, he was close enough so that he could feel the heat of the furnaces against his bare arms and face. Before he knew it, tears were sliding down his face. All the things that were running through his mind. Too many things to count. He thought of his wife, of his son Peter. Even of Peter's cat, Moushie. He thought of the Franks. Of the mister and misses. Of Anne and Margot. Of Miep and Mr. Kraler. And of Mr. Dussle, too. Oh, how he regretted his actions towards Anne! How he regretted selling his wife's father's fur coat! Oh how he loathed himself at that moment; how, for a split second, he was ready to jump into the furnace and just end it all! All of the suffering and the pain and the lies and misery, anger, frustration, regret, deceit, doubt, sorrow, pity, hate. Yes! How he regretted them all, all of those feelings, all of those sins. How he regretted every last horrible thing he had done to anyone he truly and dearly loved. How he missed them; how he longed for his wife to be at his side again!

It was then he ran through the emotions again in his mind. Pain, misery, anger, frustration, regret, deceit, doubt, sorrow, pity. Hate. Hate? That did not fit with the others. The other nine were true, but hate? No no. He did not hate Moushie, Anne, Margot, mister nor misses Frank. He did not hate his wife nor his son. He did not hate Miep, Mr. Kraler, or Mr. Dussle. It was then he realized that he never truly felt hate until now. Hate towards what? Hate, not towards a person, but towards a fictional being. Hate towards a dictator who seemed so power-hungry, so insatiably angry that he could not and should not be considered human. Hate towards whom?

Hate towards a god that had turned on his followers. Not towards any god, but THE god, the one who is considered to be the sole creator of the life, the universe, and everything. Not just a god, but God himself.

Hate towards the mind-numbingly cruel being that was doing this to him. Hate towards the one who used the Jews and others as scapegoats. The one who may as well have said that if you were a Jew, even if you were just playing catch with your boy on the lawn, you were causing all of the problems. It was all your fault. What were you doing? Playing catch, that's all, and, before you knew it, you were being eaten alive by a flame that might as well have reached up from Hell and grabbed you and pulled you down.

Mr. Van Daan, standing still, a small amount of people left in front of him, looked up to the sky with dull eyes. He saw very few white clouds remaining there and watched as the thick black clouds shrouded the once beautiful sky. He thought about God, he thought about all the hours he'd spent in his life praying, of reading hymns, of celebrating Hanukkah. Of singing songs, of fasting, of worship. All the hours in his life that he had wasted. It was all useless. All the hours believing in a fictional story that was only suitable for parents to tell their children at bed time. A pitiful story they could use to easily explain the world and their existence. A story that, when looked at from a logical view point, made no sense, and could not be true by any means. A story that was just that: a story. A myth. A lie.

He looked back to the fires ahead of him. If this is what we deserve for trying to have a simple game of catch on the lawn, thought Mr. Van Daan, then what would be the punishment for our most horrible deeds? Our sins? Our regrets? Our morality has reached its limits. I have asked for forgiveness in the past, I have asked for blessings and pardons. For my sins, I will now ask no forgiveness. You are not real. Why should I ask forgiveness from that which cannot even declare what is wrong and what I should ask forgiveness of in the first place?

Now, he no longer cared. He forgot everything of his past, and he ignored the future. He knew well what was to come. Nothing mattered then. Not his wife, not his son, not the cat, not the Franks, not Miep, Mr. Kraler, nor Mr. Dussle. Not the stories he heard as a child, the stories that molded his religion built on lies. Not the fictional god he looked up to all his life. Not the emotions that he had felt throughout his life. Not anything.

At that moment, the rumbling of his stomach stopped, and the gateway to Hell opened as the flame gripped him tightly, never to let go.





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