THE LOCKED DOOR

Submitted into Contest #130 in response to: Write a story titled ‘The Locked Door.’... view prompt

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Historical Fiction Suspense

(Warning: May cause emotional response)

Years of hiding in the shadows behind a locked door had become a way of life for Claus Snepps. It was the Germany he and his five-year-old grandchild had come to know. To them there was only darkness and fear surrounded by death and despair for his grandchild was Jewish. They had been living in a world of quietness for the past year on the first floor of his once proud beautiful building that had once vibrated with the sounds of life, the very sounds that could now lead to grief and death. For now, survival was counted in minutes and in any one of them it could be their last A lot depended on their locked door.

      Fortunately, Snepps deeds of the past had stretched those minutes to days and months, he had once owned a butcher shop in the good old days before the war and it was busy along with being well known in the neighborhood, it was his pride and joy but had not made much of a profit. Instead, it had produced a wealth of gratitude from others for he was a man that could not say no. He extended credit when he really couldn't and shouldn't. He fed the poor that could not pay and measured his success by the fact that he was able to stay open. Now those who he had helped were helping him as he now hid almost in plain sight behind a locked door.

      They brought him food in the dead of night at the risk of their own lives, told him of the news that sometimes gave him and his granddaughter the hope that soon the war would end. His granddaughter's name was Christina Helmut, she was small for her age, beautiful and full of the life. She, like almost every five year old, she had dreams of what she wanted and they were not diminished by the life she lived.

      Her worries were not the same as her grandfathers who had taken her in after her mother, a Jewish woman was dragged away in the middle of the night by the Nazi Bastards who also shot his son as he hopelessly tried to stop them. Snepps was doomed to always remembering that nightmarish day   that started with the morning being filled with horror and despair , as the news of what had happened reached him. 

      He knew right then that God had placed his granddaughter in his hands that night for a reason. She was considered Jewish, and death now would always be on her heels, as the days of their lives now passed slowly. They lived with the fact that one day they could be caught or exposed. This fact was always hanging heavily over their heads, always in the background of every thought and in every living minute. One locked door separated them from the madness outside.

      Only in a child's world was life still just the life of a child. Her sense of danger was always like that of any other child's would be at her age... short lived with a short-term comprehension of the life they really lived. That's way the unexpected knock on the door was a devastating blow to the heart of the 67-year-old butcher. It was bad luck coming at the wrong time as he was walking past the locked door with Christina, as they headed for the kitchen. 

      What amounted to seconds of lapse in their carefulness was about to change everything. Their shadows which could be seen through the window of the door, took away the option of ignoring the knock. He had just taken Christina from their well-hidden somewhat noise proof crawl space that they had built and had occupied this time, for two straight days. All he wanted was to let her stretch her legs, get a glimpse of the sun and let her help him cook, which she loved to do. 

      Their long running luck had indeed run out with that knock on the door, which was followed by the quick unexpected words that came out of the mouth of his beloved granddaughter as she responded in an instant. "Who is it". Yes, it was over, even if somehow the person had missed her shadow, if it wasn't seen, her little voice was heard. 

      What had seemed like an eternity of hiding in fear had come to a crushing end and Snepps was now in a quiet heart stopping moment as though he was stuck in a blackhole that only released him when he answered as he held his too late hand over Christina's mouth.  "Who is it, may I help you" The response from the other side of the door was almost too much to bare even as it came in a woman's voice, because it was hard and stern with the words’ ‘Gestapo, open the door...NOW" 

      Snepps never even knew there were woman in the Gestapo. That didn't matter because he was still powerless with no way out and armed only with the hope of a miracle from God. He opened the door and the woman who was alone was met with a soft sweet child's voice saying "Hello" . The Nazi told them that her partner was upstairs checking on another apartment and that she was there because someone caught stealing food had gave them information. Information that there was a Jewish child named Christina hiding there. 

      At that second, again with lightning unexpected speed Christina yelled "That's me" as she had the most wonderful smile on her face. Snepps heart sunk into his stomach and everything around him, sound and all seemed to again just stop. Frozen until the woman's words broke through the air cutting though it like little razors “I'm removing her" Snepps in an instant fell to his knees and broke down in tears. 

      As he did so , Snepps glanced at a knife that was on the stand by the unlocked open door, near to where the woman was standing but he dared not reach for it. He knew that in these years of his life he was to slow and to weak, he could only beg and hope to convince her that letting one child go would not change or have any effect on anything. He began to tell her the story of the child's life trying to reach whatever passion was hidden in the depths of that woman's cold seasoned heart. He was sure that she had done this hundreds of times and her face most likely matched her heart, which he was sure was made of a stone. 

      Then somehow in that second with the grace of God a miracle did come. Could it be for her, that this may have been one too many. Could there really be as they say, a straw that could break a camel's back. Snepps watched in disbelief when a tear formed in her eyes. She didn't give it a chance to fall. She quickly wiped it away. It was truly water coming from a stone.

      The woman suddenly turned as she stepped all the way into the apartment, reached out for the doorknob, then closed and locked the door behind her. Then in a continued motion put her finger on her mouth signaling to him and the child to be quiet. Christina responded by doing the same with her finger, only she had a big smile on her face. The woman then told him to trust no one, show sorrow to all as though the child was gone or dead, do not make the mistakes of the past.

            She then said that the child must be taught the reality of the life she lives even at her age. Snepps, clutching the photo he kept in his pocket of his dead son, daughter in-law and Christina responded with, "I will" as he felt his heart pounding with renewed hope.

      He asked the woman what he could do for her, he told her he had money. Her response was unexpected but seemed sincere when she said "Nothing, the war will end soon...just survive". Right then and there it seemed that somehow, in this world they lived in today, even under the face of evil there could be goodness. 

      Then suddenly out of nowhere shattering the moment came another knock on the locked door. History repeated itself. Christina again answered unexpectedly and with a swiftness yelled "Who is it". The response was also stern and hard it was an order from the hallway . The words broke Snepps already weakened heart even more, “Open the door”. The light that had started to shine in the room, quickly darkened again and the air once again filled with hopelessness and despair. 

      The woman reached for the doorknob then unlocked and opened the door. There stood her partner, a man dressed in traditional Gestapo type clothing and standing straight up like an arrow. You could tell he was proud of his work and without any doubt, he most likely had an inner belief, that what he was doing, was good and that all that was Jewish should and must die.

          He looked straight at the woman and asked her what the delay was. Then he told her the words that would haunt Snepps until his last breath on earth "Take her in the room and do it...unless he wants to watch"

      Snepps again collapsed to the floor and his breathing became the hardest thing to do. Again, he found himself clutching the photo but he knew showing it to them would be pointless as Christina's screams got louder and louder as she herself now seemed to sense the danger she was in as the woman pulled her away into the next room.

          In slow motion, nothing seemed to be real, not even the Gestapo devil that was moving from the hallway door to look into the room where the woman had taken his granddaughter. 

      Snepps looked up to see the man nodding his head as if to approve of what he had seen in the room. The man then turned his head back into the apartment hallway as Christina's screams came to a stop. He went back to the door and then walked out the apartment without saying a word and without closing the door.

      The woman came out of the room and was about to follow the man out when at this time Snepps and the women's eyes met. In that instance they both knew what they had always really knew. That the world was the same as it was yesterday. That noise can mean death and a locked door doesn’t always mean.... your safe.

January 21, 2022 21:17

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5 comments

Chris Campbell
04:59 Feb 11, 2022

Very sad story and well told. Brought back memories of the movie, "Life is beautiful."

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Darrell Grant
05:04 Feb 11, 2022

Thank you for your read and comment. I will have to check out "Life is beautiful" then I'll try to convince them to make a movie out of mine lol

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Philip Ebuluofor
19:15 Feb 03, 2022

Well detailed I must confess. Only minor typo of 'to' instead of too. It is excellent piece.

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Darrell Grant
19:27 Feb 03, 2022

Thanks Philip and yes I missed that....too

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Philip Ebuluofor
04:54 Feb 05, 2022

Welcome.

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