The year was 1942, and I was a young Jewish boy who was sent to the concentration camp, Auschwitz. My brother and I were separated from our parents a couple weeks back, and haven’t seen them since. We were attempting to make it across the border to Russia in order to escape the Nazis, but we weren’t fast enough, and they quickly caught up. My brother, Alois, was two years older than me, and went to Auschwitz when we were caught. Unfortunately, he died on the fourth day from too much hard labor.
I was all alone and on the verge of starvation, for I was younger and weaker than everyone else. When we got our small, disgusting portions of food, the greedy would beat me up and take it from me. I eventually learned to take a bowl of slop and run. Run fast and hard, as far as my feet could take me. Then I would hide. Only after the people hunting me down were gone would I start to eat. I would eat all of it in two or three bites, since the food was scarce, but I enjoyed every second of it.
A couple of weeks later, smoke started puffing up from the ovens in which the Nazis would take a large group of Jewish people and burn them until all were dead. The population in Auschwitz plummeted every week, although new arrivals kept on filtering in. I had made friends, but, sadly, they were soon after burned in the ovens along with their families. I was in that point of time in which I felt incredibly scared, but I wanted to be a hero, so I kept my chin held high and my chest puffed up.
Every so often, a new sickness would pop up and kill off nearly half of the people in the concentration camp. I don’t really understand why, but nothing bad ever really happened to me. I didn’t ever get sick, and, for some strange reason, the Nazis would skip over me when the next oven group was being chosen, even if everyone around me was selected. One time when this happened, a man that used to beat me up for my food gave me a deathly scowl and said, “Little brat. Always getting away with things,” and then he spat in my face.
One day, I was so confused on why I wasn’t being chosen to be put in the ovens that I asked a Nazi on guard. It’s not like I wanted to be put in the ovens, but something was fishy about this whole thing. The Nazi told me, “We have something special planned for you,” and deviously grinned at me. This just made me even more curious. I asked him what it was, and that was obviously a mistake. The Nazi shot me in the foot and I started to cry. He said, “You want something to cry about, kid? How’s this?” and he shot me again, but this time, in my right shoulder. The man laughed and shoved me to the ground. I resisted the urge to cry out in pain, and I held back all of my tears, for I didn’t want to get shot again. The Nazi started kicking me in the head. I was just about to scream and let it all out when he said, “Your lucky I’m not allowed to kill you, Jew.” I stayed there, crumpled up on the mud-ridden ground, as the Nazi walked away, cackling to himself.
The next day, I was practically naked, for I had used my clothes to bind my wounds the Nazi had given me. I unsuccessfully tried to remove the bullets, so I applied pressure to the deep holes instead. It was time for a group to be chosen for the ovens, if I had guessed the schedule correctly. However, that day, only one little girl I recognized was taken out of the crowd of people. I recognized her because she had always been there in my sight, she just never said anything. As I looked at her, she looked away. However, she turned back, a fearful look in her eyes, when a Nazi shoved her forward and into the ominous shadows. I desperately wondered where they were taking her.
That night, I couldn’t sleep. I kept on thinking about that girl. I was laying in a pool of sweat, and the hay lumps were not very comfortable beds. I felt a cockroach scuttle over my stomach. I fought back the urge to quickly grab it and eat it alive. I had seen others do that, and they quickly got sick and died. Even though I had not gotten sick before, I didn’t want to risk anything. All of a sudden, a piercing scream cracked my eardrums. It seemed distant, like an echo, yet so close at the same time. I sat up, and the scream seemed to dissipate. As I laid back down, the screams got louder again. I put my ear to the floor, and the screams got even more vulgar. Then I thought that the screams were from the girl. When the voice said, “Stop it! Stop it!” I was certain it was her. I told myself that the Nazis had made an underground torture chamber right beneath the broken down hut that I lived in. Little did I know, it was much worse than a torture chamber.
The girl was in the assembly line two days after the incident with the screaming. Something about her changed, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Perhaps an unsettling milky white film had covered her eyes, or that her skin had been unusually pale. I hadn’t noticed those subtle details at first. I went over to talk to her, but when I spoke, her mouth hung open in the same fashion as before and the only noise that came out was a rasping breath. That was when I noticed her platinum blonde hair had turned white. I also noticed her skin and eyes were white as well. And then I saw the most disturbing thing. When I took a closer look, there were stitches running up and down all her limbs and her face and I suspected the rest of her body as well. But that was not all. The stitches were made out of clear fishing lines. I started crying because I felt so sorry for her and because I was scared. And she started crying as well. Her blank facial expression didn’t change, but there were tears coming from her eyes. But the tears were not the regular salty water type of thing. She was crying tears of blood.
I backed away from her, mortified by what I was seeing. When the person next to her noticed, he screamed and yelled, “KILL IT! IT WILL INFECT US ALL!” although he didn’t know what was really happening. Everyone around her started to punch her and kick her. Her legs gave out. She was still crying blood. However, even though her expressionless face did not so much as twitch, the tears were now like a bad bloody nose, gushing from her eyes.
In the moment, I was so scared I almost peed myself. All I could think about was what the Nazi had said to me: “We have something special planned for you.” I stared in horror at the girl as she laid there helplessly on the ground, getting kicked and beaten by everyone around her. I didn’t even understand why the other people- no, prisoners- were beating her up. Maybe they were scared. Maybe they thought she had a contagious sickness. I had no idea. I watched her blood tears stain the dirt around her a dark maroon, and thought to myself that I didn’t want to be in that situation, but I would end up in it anyways. I thought that the Nazis would do this to all the children, and I would be next. After the girl was beaten to death by her comrades, the Nazis chose one more person instead of a group. But I was wrong.
Instead of a child, they chose an adult. He looked like he was in his mid-twenties, and he was very handsome. He had the same look of fear in his eyes as the girl did when he looked back at an elderly woman, whom I assumed was his mother. When he turned around a corner, I surreptitiously walked over to the woman. I told her it was going to be okay, and she believed me. But I didn’t believe myself. I knew exactly what was going to happen.
That night, I actually fell asleep, which was surprising because I could hear the young man’s screams. I had a dream in which there was nothing but total darkness and a glint in the distance. Then a face started coming into view, along with the rest of its body. It was wearing a white mask. The mask’s only features were squinted eyes and a very smiley mouth, almost like one of the theater masks that represent cinema. The man was wearing a red striped tailcoat and a fancy shirt underneath. It was black, but appeared to be stained with something. He wore black slacks and fancy shoes. He was very skinny, the most skinny person I had ever seen. He was also wearing a very tall top hat that was black with a red ribbon near the base of the hat. He wore white gloves, and the hair behind the mask jutted out in crisp yellow spikes behind him. His yellow cat like eyes could be seen through the squinting slits on the mask.
The man was holding a curved needle. It almost looked like a fish hook. He put his white gloved hands behind his back and started to walk towards me. I couldn’t move, but I could hear my heart beating faster and faster, my breaths getting heavier. As the man came closer, I could hear him chuckling. It was a deep chuckle, and it seemed as though it was far away. When he came within two or three steps away from my comfort zone, he bent over and put his masked face a couple of inches away from my sweat ridden face. I couldn’t close my eyes; something was forcing me to look directly at him. He smelled strongly of porcelain. Then he said to me, “You are a nice one. I’m going to have fun with you.” He vanished into a wisp of smoke and the dream ended.
I woke up in a place that wasn’t recognizable. It appeared as though I was in a dark hallway made of dirt. I looked up and saw the starry sky high above me. I had fallen down a deep hole and still managed to be asleep. A panging agony formed on the top of my head, and when I put my hand on top then brought it back in front of my eyes, there was blood soaking my fingers. I started to panic, for I was bleeding profusely and stuck in a deep hole. For about 20 minutes I attempted to climb out of the hole. Nothing I tried worked. I then resorted to walking down the hallway and letting the darkness engulf me.
It seemed as though the hallway went on for miles and miles. I finally found a ladder going both down and up. I decided to go up, for I wanted to get out of the hole as soon as possible. The ladder went a long ways up until I reached a vault like door on the ceiling above the ladder. I rotated the wheel and it made a loud screeching noise that pierced my eardrums. I pushed with all my strength to open the hatch, and when I managed to lift it up a little bit, light spilled into the chamber I was in. I was filled with hope and determination that I would make it out.
I shoved the door with what little strength I had left and, thankfully, the rusty hinges gave in and the hatch fell open with a clang. I pulled myself up out of the ground and found that I was in yet another chamber similar to the one before, but there was a window where the light had come in to the previous room I was in before. I was obviously above ground, but I still had no idea where.
I looked out the window and saw nothing but a barren wasteland. I turned back around, and only then did I notice a door that I could have sworn wasn’t there before. I went to the door and opened it. It slid open easily, even though the hinges looked very rusted.
I walked into the next room and saw three more doors. I chose the one on the left. This went on for a while; me walking into the next room, three doors, I chose one, and then there’s another room. It got really frustrating. Eventually, I opened a door, and instead of a room, there was a long corridor that looked like it belonged in a space station.
I followed the hallway and came across a door; this time, only one. When I opened it, light flooded into the corridor, and when my eyes adjusted, I saw rolling hills, the green grass dancing in the breeze and the sunshine. A wide grin spread across my face. My hand slipped off the doorknob and fell to my side. I took a step onto the spongey grass. Then another. And another. And before I knew it, I was taking off to who knows where. All I cared about was that it was away from that horrible camp and the dark hallways.
But all of a sudden, everything went dark. It was as if the entire world had just fallen out of existence. I stopped dead in my tracks, looking around in horror. I started walking, my mind dazed and dizzy. Every direction I looked was black as night. I became disorientated, I couldn’t tell the difference from up to down, side to side. Just when all seemed lost and hopeless, I saw a rack floating in the distance, shiny objects hanging off it. I ran towards it, and realized that the shining objects were fishhooks. I fell on my knees, still staring at the fishhooks that would soon sink into his skin. They were all sizes, almost like sewing needles. There was one that was a tiny little curly-cue, and another that resembled a thistle, sharp spikes protruding from random places on the needle.
I heard the same deep chuckling that I had listened to in my dream. I jumped up with a start and swiveled around, yelling, “Who’s there?”
“I mean it! Show yourself!”
“I don’t intend to hurt you, I’m only doing my job.” The deep voice seemed close now.
“How does getting fishing line sewn into you with fishhooks not hurt!?”
“You mustn’t think I’m that cruel, now do you?”
I turned around once more, only to find myself face-to-face with the man. “Wh-wh-who are you?” My lip quivered as I spoke. The man leaned in close. I couldn’t see his face anymore, but I could hear his shallow breaths in my ear. “Whoever you want me to be,” he whispered. Everything went black.
I woke up, a blinding light shining in my eyes. I tried to move, but I was strapped down to something. My limbs felt like lead, and when I tried to speak, my mouth wouldn’t move. The blinding light disappeared, and in its place was the man’s head. “You’re an early riser. The girl didn’t wake until I was done. Well, that doesn’t matter too much. Oh, and remember when I said this wouldn’t hurt you? Well, I was lying.” The man laughed hard, like a mad scientist. I craned my neck to see the rest of my body. The only thing I saw before passing out were bloody stumps in place of my hands and feet.
When I woke, I was sitting in the meadow I had seen before. Once more, I couldn’t talk. I looked down at my hands and feet. My feet were huge compared to when I last saw them. I was missing a hand on my left arm, and on my right, there was a mechanical hand that was pitch black. I was relieved to see that there were no fishhook stitches, except for around my ankles. I then realized that the feet that were on my body were not in fact mine; the man had sewn somebody else’s feet onto me. I tried to scream, but to no avail. When I tried to stand up, I felt as though I were standing on deflated yoga balls. My eyes were filled with terror. The man said that the operation would be painful, but I didn’t remember so much as a prick. I slowly lifted my fingers to my mouth.
I was horrified to find the real reason why I couldn’t utter a word. My mouth had been sewn shut. I wanted to scream. I wanted to shout. Instead, I threw myself to the ground. I picked up a rock and looked at it. I felt as though this was not a life worth living. I raised the rock, and bashed it into my own head, hoping it would kill me. Apparently, my prayer for death did nothing.
My eyes slid open to find that I was in a little cottage. I sat up to find myself on a little bed in a corner. It was a one room house. There was a little stove in one corner, a small table, the bed I was sitting on, and a desk. I got up and shuffled over to the desk. Nobody was home. I found a pen and quill and an empty journal sitting on the desk, and nothing else. There was a bowl of cold oatmeal on the table, and the embers in the old fashioned stove glowed a sunset orange. I looked out of a small, rectangular window to find that I was still in the grassy hills, but there was an orchard covering some of the land. The orchard appeared to be hosting mostly orange trees and cherry trees, a mix of the two. I lumbered to the front door-the only door- and tried to open it. It was locked. I tried everything in my power to knock down the front door, but to no avail.
I tried the window next. It, too, was locked. I hurled a chair at it, but not so much as a thin crack split the window. I decided to wait for someone to come along. And here I am now. Writing in this journal, as I have since the day I woke up in this place. It’s been fifty-two years, if I scratched the tallies on the wall correctly. I’m going to run out of room in the journal soon enough, and it’s about time I died, too. I’ve tried it. Suicide. What a sweet thought! Like taking a nice stroll in a rose garden, the brisk, morning air filling my lungs. Nothing works here. Nothing but sleeping and writing on the walls and this journal. By the time someone finds this, if someone does find it, that is, I’ll probably be dead. A nice, decomposing body to seal the deal with my story. I can’t wait for the day I die. But like I said, nothing works around here. So, until then.
-Aaron Shultz, 1994
Credit to: koloolup