The Dreamer of Cologne

Submitted into Contest #99 in response to: End your story with somebody stepping out into the sunshine.... view prompt


Historical Fiction

TW: anti-semitism, violence


Cold. Cold. All I feel is the cold. Drenched in sweat, face flushed, but all I can think of were those cold, cold eyes.





Lifeless. Eyes.


I stumbled to our makeshift bathroom, ignoring the cries of my baby sister, ignoring the few kids screaming with joy as they played football. Ignoring the shards of broken glass, stinging my feet. No, with the same cold, cold eyes I watched the ball deflate and tossed the fabric back to them. I watched as their once gleeful eyes turned into the eyes of my dreams. I watched as my city burned. 


That day, and days to come, I would be grateful my mother never invested in a mirror. I did not want to see my eyes. I did not want to see the eyes of others. I feared I may gouge them out. But if I did, it might stop the nightmares. 


I did not attend school; there was none in Cologne. None open to Jews.


Our whole street was filled with Jews, Jews were my neighbors, Jews were my family, Jew was I. A few years ago, I might have called my German friend down a couple houses if he wanted to walk with me to and from primary grade, but I couldn’t do that anymore. There was no more German friend and there was no more school. 


A few years ago, I might have also called myself German. I would have described Finn and I as two young hearty German boys, walking to school and from school every season. In winter I could have spoken about the leafless trees, the slippery grey ground, ice crunching under the shoes my grandmother had repaired. Except now, I wasn’t allowed to be German. I was a Jew. There was no German best friend. Finn was German and that’s it. There was no grandma. They killed her. There was no winter. No winter for Jews. Not the winter I want.


When I went to sleep that night, I could confirm there was no winter, only fire. Fire plagued the city, taking down flats, German or Jewish. I saw my people chained, led like slaves from their houses. Not “like”. They were slaves. I saw my golden painted football trophy, collected and broken on the knee of a Gestapo soldier. I saw my mother and my newborn sister separated, their haunting screams begging for reconciliation. I saw some begging for forgiveness. I saw some with the very fire in their eyes that burned through the city. I saw them revolt. Revolt and die. I saw the optimists who accepted their fate, and voluntarily walked themselves to the increasingly cramped truck. NO, NO. I wished I could tell them. NO. STOP. ALL THAT AWAITS IS LABOR, PAIN, AND DEATH. I HAVE SEEN THEM BEFORE. 

Those cold eyes.

Those dying eyes. 

Those pleading eyes. 

Those emotionless eyes. 

Those praying eyes. 

Those lifeless eyes.

I saw someone brought out of a flat. He was called “their dreamer”. Whose dreamer? But I wouldn’t know, for he was shot and killed the next second. I saw his cold eyes. They looked at me, conveying that I failed. I failed.


I must not fail. I must tell. I must prevent.


I frantically glanced around my room. There was no money in it; my mother already took my savings to buy food for my sister. But, I didn’t give her my other stash. I had hidden 200 Reichspfennig under the floorboard on which I slept. That would be enough to buy 100 pieces of paper. I could make leaflets, and hand them out. I could make paper planes for the children to bring home to their parents. I could…


My mind was working overtime, rapidly developing new marketing tactics. Maybe I was deluding myself so I could have said I tried. But really, would anyone listen to me? A juvenile boy, one that is not in school. I had nothing to my name, no friends after Finn, no extended family, no achievements, nothing. I couldn’t send my sister out to deliver leaflets, and she had no friends either. But I must try; try to rid myself of those cold, cold eyes.


Guten tag, may I buy a bundle of 50 papier-”


Now the process of creating the flyers. What should I put? What words could truly represent the dreams I had? What would I have them do? Surely I could not ask my people to leave, that would be too much to ask of them. Simply preparing themselves would not work either...nor would arming themselves. Jews would just be viewed in a worse light, not only outcasts, but armed rebels. I could not ask that of my people. So simply, I drew on one paper the best I could the horrifying nightmare of half the block devoured by flames and on the other half, my neighbors and family thrown from their houses like mutts. Happy with the depiction, I titled it “Our Future”.

Still having 100 Reichspfennig, I headed to a man I heard off who knew how to print designs onto paper. I knocked on his door, only to be met with a shadow of the man I once knew. His knees had buckled, leaving him on wheels. His face had contorted, eyebrows pulled inwards, eyes nearly shut, mouth permanently pouted, skin sagged and shriveled like the texture of a dehydrated raisin. Simply ghastly, but I had no choice but to ask of his services.


“You want my printing press, Jew” he sneered. “Dream on. Even if I let a Jew into my house, I would want more money.”


Money, money, money. Everyone was caught up in money. I understood why though. My 200 Reichspfennig (20 USD), was barely enough to buy even 30 pieces of paper, but the shop vender did not need to know I carried an extra 20 underneath the bundle he gave me. And now, my funds are exhausted.


With my main plan of action failed, I had only one fall back: beg. 


That night had been without dreams, but without sleep as well. I created a mental list of who to tell first.


-Max the millian





All had been boys on my primary grade football team. The best team in Cologne. That day, we won a golden-painted trophy, probably my most prized possession.


I set out the next day with a strong mindset. I would tell the boys of the future, they would listen to me, we would form a strong union and spread the word. Then everyone would be ready.


“Hey Luka, in the future our town will burn-”


“Hey Max the millian-”


“Jeremiah, I need you to listen to me, the Germans are coming for us and they are going to kill-”


“Peleg, I’m begging you, 5 minutes of your time.”

“Do I know you?

“Listen to me! I-I have had dreams of the future. Terrible nightmares, fires roaming through our block. Chains around my mother’s neck and yours-”

“Dreams, you say, how much did I earn? How wealthy am I?”

“Peleg, you will be a slave sent to work. And once you can’t work anymore, you will die!”


“But Peleg, you're Jewish too…”


“Elijah, you’re my last hope. I must tell you of my premonitions”

“Elijah, who is that at the door?”

“No one mom, just a dirty beggar with stupid dreams.”

“We don’t want beggars in our house, make him go away”

“Yes mum”

I begged Elijah that he just listen to me. “Please Eli, 5 minutes, no no, 2 minutes. PLEASE. ELI, you know me, PLEASE!”


I trudged home, body scattered in bruises. Who knew how many days I had left until the nightmares were to turn into reality. How long did I have to warn them?




“Mother”, I whispered, trembling. Her eyes were like the cold eyes I saw in my dreams. Surely she had to listen to me. They could not have reached her already. I ran.

“Mama, mama,” I cried “mama, they are coming to take you away. The German soldiers are advancing. They will set fire to our village. They will chain you up. They will take away Kleine Schwester (little sister). They will make the strong men and women work. They will make you reproduce. They will kill Marie. They will kill you. They will kill me.”


I watched as my mother broke down crying. She gathered me in her arms. “Aih, mein sohn (my son), how could those gods be so cruel to twist your mind like this. The Germans are good. They will leave us alone. You have gone mad my son. Perhaps it is better I keep you away.”


“NO NO MAMA. MAMA YOU CAN NOT DO THIS TO ME!” I was sucked in, my kicks and screams doing nothing to stop my body from being dragged away from the sunlight. I still had a message to spread. They still had to know. How could she keep me away? The door slammed shut, locking me in.


It had been many days since I came in contact with anyone from outside my little world. I was trapped in my home that was now deemed a mental ward. Or had it only been a few hours? I couldn’t tell. Every time I looked up, I could see thousands of eyes lying on me. They said I could have saved them. I knew, yet did nothing. I couldn’t bear it, it wasn’t my fault. I tried. Not hard enough, they said. I felt the tears running down, yet they would not let them fall to the ground. I don’t deserve to cry. I wish I could just d-


I smelt the fire before I saw it. For the first time in days I saw a light dancing my way. I heard the screams of my people being burned alive or taken from their homes. I heard my mother crying out to travel with her child. I heard deep voices asking for the dreamer of Cologne. I felt myself being dragged, the jagged tops of screws tearing away at my loose shirt, keeping remnants of their dreamer. I felt the warmth of the sunlight mixed with the intense flames of the approaching fire on my skin. A chill ran through my body. Not due to the cold, more so from being right.


“Are you the dreamer?” a man with a hardened morose face dressed in a light gray uniform asked me. “Are you their dreamer? The one who knew before?”


“Yes,” I whispered. “But they did not listen”

“Der Träumer ist da is,” (the dreamer is here) the man shouted. I heard a gun being loaded, followed by the safety being clicked off, the cold circular chamber pressed flush to my forehead.


I felt a confused, terrified stare, glazing over the crowd. I turned to him. I recognized him. I wished I could tell him that he should not give into the eyes of his dream. He should still fight. That he should know that people won’t listen. But all I could seem to give him were cold eyes, conveying how I failed. We failed.


June 22, 2021 21:42

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Adrian Stolecki
00:55 Jul 05, 2021

Hi Jasmine, This was a really, really good story. I loved your use of vivid imagery. The pacing was great and I felt drawn in the entire time. It took me a second to realize the narrator was actually dreaming the future, but otherwise, awesome story. Very good job!


Jasmine Bell
01:00 Jul 22, 2021

Hi Adrian, Sorry for this late reply and not completing the critic circle. Thank you so much for your feedback on this story. I'll leave some feedback on yours soon. I wanted to keep it a bit open so that readers would come to a realization that the story loops around. I'm glad you figured it out. - Jasmine


Adrian Stolecki
00:14 Jul 26, 2021

Sounds good. I'm excited to hear what you think. =)


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