Rated PG-13 for the general hideousness of the setting: Auschwitz ... 'Nuff said.
A Tale Of Poignant Meetings by Dannell Lites
The sibilant hiss of steam from the newly arrived train warred with the wails and cries of the frightened passengers being unloaded from the cattle cars, freezing and exhausted. Even in the frigid air of a Polish Winter the smells of close packed, despairing humanity were overwhelming. The senses reeled and shrank from the assault.
Until it was broken, abruptly, miraculously, by an island of relative calm.
"'Stop that infernal quaking!' trumpeted the irritable swan," cried a young girlish voice, imitating with great skill and delight the anger and the hauteur of the proud swan in her story. Mittened hands to their small faces the children sitting in the snow giggled .
"But Mrs. Quakenbush did not stop," the young girl continued, shivering slightly in the cold perched atop her small suitcase. "Instead, she gathered her ducklings under her wing protectively and replied in a stout voice, 'I will not! I have as much right to quack as you have to roar and cry out! Quack! Quack! Quack! In a fit of temper, then, the irate swan hissed and flew away never to return to the quiet lake hidden in the woods."
The children's eyes grew large and full of wonder. The muffled sound of enthusiastic clapping and high, pure childish laughter could be heard in the cold tumultuous air. Almost, but not quite, swallowed entirely by the sharp sounds of weeping and the keen of deep fear that surrounded them, grating on the senses.
Frowning, the boy turned from his assigned task at the unexpected sound and closed his piercing blue-gray eyes. His grandfather told tales like that one. He could barely remember his grandfather, now. His eyes closed briefly, warming himself at the sound of joy as though before a pleasant, crackling fire. Was it so very long ago? Yes. An eternity. Grossvater Josef ... His throat closed; suddenly; he couldn't draw proper breath. He was suffocating ... again ... clawing his way from out of that hellish pit, climbing, crawling over the bodies of his family, his neighbors, mingling his blood with theirs ... covered in gore; begrimed with stinking death. In his nostrils, in his hair ... Everywhere. Death! Death! Death! He was surrounded by it; engulfed in its hungry, gagging embrace. It was omnipresent, filling the world. There was no escape. None. Death was all that was left of his world. His fingers curled into his palms and his shoulders shook. From between his tightly clenched fingers blood flowed, dripping down, marring the purity of the snow at his feet. He longed to be free. To be ... gone ...
To simply not be.
'No! I won't die!' he raged. "I won't.'
How long since he'd heard the chimes of laughter and joy wafting on the winds? So long .... So very, very long ... Forever. Was such a thing real? Did it really exist anymore? He had not thought so.
Drawn like a magnet, the youth stepped quickly, furtively, to the side of the young storyteller. His shorn hair, the same pale color as the pristine snow drifting down from the night sky, shone in the moonlight as he watched her.
When she saw him she frowned, shifting nervously on her tattered suitcase. "You're a very rude boy," she opined in a cross voice that betrayed her uncertainty and fear just a bit. "Why are you staring at me?"
"The children ... " he rasped, his voice harsh with disuse. "You made the children laugh."
She studied her ragged shoes for a moment and blew on her hands to warm them. "It was just a silly story that I made up," she murmured. "I'm good with stories, I'm told." She pulled her colorful knitted cap down over her ears, wringing still more warmth from the freezing Winter night. "I used to write them down, but now I haven't any paper," she continued sadly. "But I'm going to be a famous writer some day," she explained with the unshakable confidence of youth.
With an almost audible ominous echo, his face closed itself like a slamming prison door. The silver haired boy said nothing.
"Do you like stories?" she asked.
"Yes. Very much," he croaked. "My grandfather used to tell me stories when I was small ... " His voice trailed off, snatched away amid the cry of the harsh whistling wind, lost ... Lost ... like so many other things were lost ...
"Where is your grandfather, now?" the pretty girl wondered, making polite conversation to fill the void. "Does he still tell you stories?"
The boy remembered his Grossvater Josef, then; murmuring Hebrew prayers under his breath calling upon the mercy of God as he held his hands over his grandson's bright blue-gray eyes, trying so very hard to shield him for the sight of the machine guns and the bullets.
It didn't work. The boy could still yet recall with perfect clarity the bleeding wounds that sprouted in his grandfathers belly when the bullets struck him. Like blossoming scarlet flowers. His skin remembered the touch of his grandfather's blood as it splashed down upon him. The metallic scent of it followed by the sharp, biting and acrid stink of ozone.
He could never understand the ozone. Where had that come from?
And then he was falling ...
Down ... down ...into the choking, reeking blackness of the pit they dug with their hands. Falling ...
He was still there wasn't he?
"No," he said in answer, betraying nothing. "My grandfather doesn't tell me stories anymore."
"That's too bad," she offered kindly. "But, I suppose, even grandfathers must run out of stories to tell eventually. Perhaps you'll like some of mine." She smiled weakly. "My name is Ann. From Amsterdam. What's yours?"
"E - Erik," he whispered. "Erik Lenhsherr."
Overcome, almost processed, he pulled her to her feet. When she cried out in fear, he ignored her. He pulled her close, looking her up and down, studying her carefully. Healthy enough to pass. But ...
"How old are you?" he hissed in her ear.
Struggling, she tried to pull away from him, angry and more than a bit frightened. "Let me go!" she cried.
He shook her. "Answer me! How *old*?"
"Six -sixteen... "
Old enough, then.
He sighed in relief and loosened his grip. Fear staining her bright brown eyes, she backed away from him and sat once more on her suitcase, breath coming in quick snatches. She did not look a him.
He knelt at her side. "Listen to me," he said softly. "Listen well Anne from Amsterdam. If they asked you how old you are tell them you're seventeen. Understand? Seventeen. And if they ask you if you can sew, tell them yes."
Her thoughtful look made her seem wiser than her scant years. "But .. I *can't* sew," she whispered in protest. "My mother is a wonderful seamstress, but I can't even sew on a button properly. Mother complains about it constantly."
"It doesn't matter," Erik assured her. "Someone will teach you. Just be certain to tell them you can sew. Please. It's ... very important."
Wide-eyed, she nodded.
"When they march you through those Gates, you'll see a man in an SS officer's uniform," he continued swiftly, glancing about him with furtive eyes. "He's a doctor. You're healthy so you needn't worry. You'll probably be sent off to the right. That's good. You'll be taken to the main Woman's Camp." He did not speak of those sent off to the left and she dared not ask. He touched her arm with tentative caution, as if he didn't quite trust himself not to hurt or frighten her once more.
"You're very pretty. That's not an asset in this place. For God's sake, whatever you do don't let them put you in the middle group. Those are the whores."
She gasped in horror, covering her mouth with her hands, flushing a deep scarlet. Erik set his teeth when the memories came flooding back, bursting their hastily constructed dams, threatening to drown him all over again. Being flung to the ground ... thrust against a wall ... the smell of sweat and cheap schapps invading his nostrils ... the animal noises of grunting and thrusting ...
And most of all the pain; the searing pain of the invasion.
His face must have betrayed him, he decided later.
"Would you like to hear my stories, Erik Lenhsherr?" Anne asked in her sweet voice. "I'd very much like to tell them to you, I think."
He swallowed, hard, and his lips twitched. "You tell wonderful stories, Anne. I'd very much like to hear them." He closed his eyes. Grasping for a lifeline, he clutched her hand with frantic fingers. This time she did not flinch from him.
"And when you tell your grand stories, Anne, don't forget to speak of what happened here. Tell them what you see in this place. What was done to us. Don't let them ever forget. Tell them all. Tell everyone. The whole world. *Promise* me."
She searched his dull haunted eyes for a moment, alive with hate and pain and shivered. Perhaps it was only the cold.
"No," she vowed, squeezing his hand, "I won't let them forget. I promise. I'll tell your story, Erik. I will."
And then the Kapos came.
Pulling the two young people apart, the brutish Pole battered Erik to the ground and kicked him visciously in the ribs. Anne cried out and would have helped him, but the Kapo herded the Dutch Jewess and the children still surrounding her forward with brutal blows. Toward the checkpoints with their waiting doctors.
Toward the first obstacle between life and death she must hurtle.
"Schnell! Schnell!" he barked in the omnipresent German of the camp. "Move, Jew filth!"
Climbing to unsteady feet, Erik Lenhsherr, who would one day be known by another far more ominous name, watched as the lovely girl he'd just befriended turned for one last gaze at him.
"Don't forget me, Erik!" she called. "Anne ... Anne Frank! From Amsterdam!"
"Tell your story, Anne Frank," Erik whispered. "Tell your story."
When Anne Frank disappeared from sight, he turned once more to his task. He did not look at their faces. He offered the strength in his body (but nothing else) to help the new arrivals down from the trains. But he never looked at their faces.
In the distance, the crematoriums of Birkenau spat greasy smoke and ashes into the bright, clear night sky.
************************************************************************************** Amelia Voight paused at the heavy, carved door, unsure of what to do. Should she enter? Magnus was a very private man. He would not thank her for intervening in one of his frequent nightmares. No, he would not. Far from it. After all this time as his devoted Acolyte she knew him that well, at least. Curse her more likely. Magneto did not like to be vulnerable, she knew. And he was vulnerable when he dreamed. Vulnerable as any other lonely man.
She smiled, thinking of the joy with which any of his other feminine Acolytes would gladly enter this room. He was a ... charismatic man. His bed was, perhaps, the gateway to a great deal of power. But of them all, only she had ever been invited to share it. Amelia sighed with regret at the memory. The subtle touch of his fingers upon her palm ...
Perhaps her deft refusal had been a mistake. The first of many.
Was she also making a mistake this time as well, she wondered? She was privileged, she realized. Much moreso than any of the others. He sought her advice and most often listened when she spoke. That was rare for him. Was she jeopardizing that privilege, now?
The quiet sounds of restless sleep whispering through the thick oak of the door before her made the decision for her.
Silently she entered, teleporting easily past the wooden barrier that was scarcely a barrier at all for her. The sight that greeted her widened her dark eyes and caught her breath in her throat.
What in the Name of the Eternal?
He was ...
Magneto was smiling in his sleep.
Startled, Amelia froze for a moment. Only for a moment, though, before she reclaimed procession of her scattered thoughts and, coloring vivid scarlet, teleported swiftly away from the confusing scene.
But not before she heard Magnus murmuring softly beneath his breath.
In his dreams ill tempered tyrannical swans flew off in a great huff. Mrs. Quackenbush and her ducklings swam peacefully about their serene wooded lake, unharmed and free.
"Quack, quack, quack," said the Master of Magnetism. "Quack, quack."