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Historical Fiction Inspirational

We were packed like sardines in a tin. The putrid smell of urine clouded my nostrils and my eyes watered at the horrible stench of body odor that surrounded me. My calves ached, but I knew if I sat down I would never have the strength to rise again. My neighbors shared the same predicament. Ever since boarding that crowded box car I had never looked in a mirror, but I had a general idea of my appearance by observing the other passengers aboard.

It was dark inside the train, but it was still possible to see that their pale faces shone like the despairing moon. Their once healthy, rosy cheeks were but a forgotten memory experienced long ago. There were no windows in the box train except for the small cracks in the wood which expressed poor workmanship. After all, this train was meant to be for cattle not people.

I was one of the lucky ones on the train since I had the good fortune to stand next to a particularly large hole in the wood. There were a lot of things I could do with that hole.

I peeked through it and watched the passing countryside which often rekindled my hope. Outside the fields were bare, the corn stalks covered in powdery snow, and the rivers and lakes frozen solid. It was a drab landscape but it was much more pleasant to look at than the poor sight inside the train.

I stuck my tongue out of the hole and a few snowflakes landed on it. Nature’s water. I had to be careful when I did that, lest I should cut my tongue on the rough wood or, even worse, get splinters.

Some courageous early dawn light seeped through the cracks, illuminating the imperfections on our sallow faces. Even with all our mishaps, it still graced us with its presence. The sunlight was the only creature who dared to see us when nobody else would. Nature looked past our history and appearances.

I saw bits of dust rise in the faint sunlight. My nose itched, but I knew if I touched my face I would get sick. My parents would never have wanted that. I missed them a lot, but I never cried. Crying would waste both water and energy. I was strategizing the best way to survive. I felt selfish for doing this. A daughter should cry for the death of her parents. But why didn’t I?


***


Through that same hole, I later watched as a warm glow rose in the east. I knew it was the east because the east was where the sun first shone its heavenly rays on earth.

My late grandmother, or Bubbe as I liked to call her, once told me that thousands of tiny fairies, like fireflies, used their magic to paint the sky. She told me that if the fairies grew extinct, there would be no light and the Moon Queen would rule over the world completely with her dark and mysterious reign.

My Bubbe had also told me stories of the Moon Queen whose whole life was dedicated to making schemes (which were as countless as her subjects, the stars) to make the light fairies disappear so only she would rule. Her wicked plots were always thwarted by the fairies in some humorous manner. Those were the stories my Bubbe told me when I was a little girl.

Even so, I never believed in witches or warlocks or centaurs or mermaids like other girls my age. I never read fairy tales because I thought they were a waste of time. I only listened to my Bubbe’s stories because I liked the way she told them.

At all the exciting parts, her voice rose into a crescendo which made the entire audience absorbed into the story. At the scary parts, she hugged me close as if she’d never let go. At the funny parts, she let out a merry laugh which echoed along the walls of my mansion back home. The thought of my Bubbe’s stories about light fairies and Moon Queen’s made me quietly giggle to myself in the dank, smelly train.

“What are you laughing at?” A small voice whispered. I looked to my right and saw a young boy, about seven years old, holding hands with what seemed like his mother. He looked like the rest of our neighbors except that there was a distinguishable twinkle in his eyes.

“I laughed at a story that my grandmother always told me.”

“Oh, can you tell me? I’d like to laugh,” the boy replied with all the innocence a youth possessed.

“Yona, do not talk to strangers,” whispered the woman I thought was Yona’s mother. She had a thick accent, like the rest of us. She grabbed his shoulders and steered him away from me.

“But Aunt, I want to hear a story,” the boy protested. “She’s not a stranger because she laughed. Bad people don’t laugh.”

Yona’s aunt looked me up and down. Surely a weak girl of sixteen could do no harm, she thought. She stiffly nodded at me and pushed forward her nephew.

She tried to look tough, but I could tell from her face that she was exhausted from hiding and running. We all were. There were many deep wrinkles around her forehead birthed from stress and worry. Her clothes were not fit for an animal. No one would bother to dress a rat in nice clothing, not even a princess rat like me.

Her hurt eyes had lost their spark. She’d silenced herself all her life, but I knew that she longed to speak her mind about the crimes of reality. Yet, she was willing to snuff out her burning thirst for justice if that meant clothing on her back and a bowl of murky soup a day.

Survival was more important than allowing her spirit to live. Being a Jew meant giving up one to keep the other.

Those dull eyes were engraved in my memory forever. They expressed that of a wounded bear who had fought others in self defense. Bets were laid on her and the other dozen pairs of starved hound dogs who were to be her challengers. The canines won more than half of the time.

Yona waddled over to me and squeezed my hand. I never had a brother and never felt the sisterly urge to take care of anybody else but myself before. I looked down at him and he looked up at me curiously.

“Now can you tell me that story so I can laugh, too?” he asked.

I look back at the boy’s aunt for permission and she nods.

“Ok, Yona.” And I began with the words, “Once upon a time…”


***


I stepped off the train for the first time in days. My boots landed in the soft white snow. Crunch. How I was still able to stand, was a miracle. Everyone filed out behind me. There was shouting in all directions, but I continued to follow the flow of people.

All too familiar people wearing a red armband with a white symbol roughly herded us through huge ominous metal gates that screamed the words, “Beware.”

I was tossed into a sea of people and never gave a second thought about where Yona and his aunt had gone. I never even got the chance to say goodbye, but I’m glad I didn’t need to. I was terrible at goodbyes.

We filed into the camps I’d heard stories about back home. The one thing they all had in common: those who entered, never returned.


***


“But you returned, didn’t you Bubbe?”

“Yes Eva dear, I did and now we’re here to honor those who did not.”

I was a WWII survivor. My strength of mind, spirit, a little luck, and divine intervention kept me alive. God kept me alive so I could tell the truths of those times I was imprisoned.

I looked down at my little girl who was holding my hand. She would be my successor who would continue to tell the world the cruel truth.

It was cold outside but her tiny violet mittens warmed both of our hands. Her smile thawed my heart. Her electric red hair stuck out against the snow reminding me of a cardinal. We looked nothing alike. She was my adopted daughter.

“Can I place the wreath with you, Bubbe?” Eva asked.

“Yes, but before we do that can you answer my question?”

“I’ll try.”

“Alright, little one. Do you know why we’re doing this?”

“Bubbe,” Eva says playfully, wrapping her little finger around a strand of my curly greying hair. “That’s easy. To pay respect to everybody who didn’t make it out.”

“Yes, dear.”

I give the girl a small kiss on her right cheek. Photographers and reporters surround the two of us, snapping away with their cameras and scribbling down notes on their cheap notebooks.

Together, we bend down and place an evergreen wreath on a raised gravestone. It was simple but made from an expensive piece of granite. Names were carved into the block. Each one belonged to a person who lived and died at the camp.

The dull eyes I'd seen in the train continued to haunt my dreams. Their minds screamed for justice to reign. I would be the one who would tell the people their stories.

Eva hugs me as I look past her toward Auschwitz. The barbed wire is cut and rusting and the inside of camp is empty. The looming furnaces in the distance emit no smoke or heat. All is still. Even with the camp unoccupied, it is not a beautiful sight and never would be. Only horrible memories and suffering haunt that place.

At the entrance of the camp, the only object worth anything is a barren tree; the only piece of nature miles around. That tree was only a sapling when I entered the camp but, years later, it had grown into a majestic tree.

It was still dormant so I could only imagine its beauty during spring when its flowers blossomed. Maybe soon the world would learn to accept the truth just like nature had long ago to me on a cattle train.

April 24, 2021 03:57

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66 comments

Hey Jose! Just letting you know that with the whole form you filled out, Chronokinesis is already taken :) please choose from these remaining kinesis: Atmokinesis and astraphobia: ability to control the weather, however, you have a phobia of lightning and thunder Chlorokinesis and entomophobia: ability to control plant life, however, you have a phobia of insects Elektrokinesis and hydrophobia: ability to control electrical fields (lightning), however, you have a phobia of water Gravitakinesis and microphobia: ability to manipulate gravity, ...

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Valerie June
18:56 Apr 28, 2021

That's ok! Can I have the plant one instead?

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Valerie June
18:59 Apr 28, 2021

Nice! I was thinking about the elemental one, but I love animals. That would be so ironic lol. XD

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Palak Shah
19:59 Apr 26, 2021

This was an amazing story and so powerful with your description of color and emotion. Well done !!! Could you please read my latest story. Thanks :)) ~Palak Shah

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Valerie June
21:29 Apr 26, 2021

Thanks for stopping by Palak! I try to “experiment” with different things. This time, it was nature. I’ll read your story soon. :)

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Palak Shah
15:16 Apr 27, 2021

Thanks :))

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Part 9 of the Adapters is out and you are featured! Please read previous parts first!

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09:59 Apr 26, 2021

I am in love with this sort of comtemporary historical-fiction, and I'd love to read more. It's really good! Thanks for putting it out in the world for me to find, just when I needed it :D

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Valerie June
16:25 Apr 26, 2021

I love reading historical fiction (when it's good) but writing it is much harder. I did have another WWII idea about a paratrooper that I'd love to write when a good prompt comes out. If I ever write it, I'll let you know! :)

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00:28 Apr 27, 2021

Thanks!!!

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Tj Squared
02:55 Apr 26, 2021

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!🎂🍰🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉.🎉🎉🎉 I hope your day was fun and filled with awesomeness! L.W.

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Valerie June
16:21 Apr 26, 2021

Thank you! I had so much fun yesterday. :)

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Tj Squared
16:22 Apr 26, 2021

that's good :)

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00:25 Apr 26, 2021

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! 🥳🥳🥳🥳🥳🥳🎊🎊🎊🎊🎊🎊🎊🎊🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈💖💖💖💖💖💖

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Valerie June
16:26 Apr 26, 2021

Thank you Amethyst!!!

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18:57 Apr 26, 2021

np! :DD

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16:27 Apr 25, 2021

This story is so beautiful and powerful... It's in a dark place, yet you added color and emotion, and wonder, and fantasy. The way your character connected with nature to strengthen her was a fantastic element in your story. Great Job! :)

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Valerie June
19:37 Apr 25, 2021

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, I appreciate it! I'm glad that the nature elements brought something more to the story. :)

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19:53 Apr 25, 2021

Yeah of course! It was a wonderful story! :)

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09:59 Apr 26, 2021

Why is your name that? Just wondering

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22:34 Apr 26, 2021

Childhood nickname ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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00:29 Apr 27, 2021

Oh

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Hannah Dominguez
15:01 Apr 25, 2021

One word: Powerful...

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Valerie June
19:24 Apr 25, 2021

That's exactly what I was going for. We need to honor and respect the few WWII survivors still out there more than ever.

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PART 1 OF MY NEW REEDSYCAST IS UP! GO CHECK IT OUT! It's a lil different than what I'm used to but STILL ITS SO COOL GO SEE IT.

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Valerie June
18:24 Apr 30, 2021

I'm so excited to read it!!!!! And boy, was that quick.

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Valerie June
18:56 Apr 30, 2021

I did see why and now I understand why it was so "different than what I'm used." XD

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Part 12 is out and you're featured!!!!!! GO CHECK IT OUT (please read previous parts first)

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Valerie June
16:42 Apr 29, 2021

YAY

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This is so amazing! Shows the suffering of the Jews back during the Holocaust (hope I spelled it right) and even beforehand. Amazing writing <3

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Valerie June
16:44 Apr 27, 2021

Thank you for reading Abbie! I'be been going through a "sadder" stage in my writing but my next story (the one I told you about) will be happier. :) Oh, and yes you did spell Holocaust correctly!

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nice! sad stories aren't bad tho XD yay! watched a movie about it, The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, but it was a while ago and I don't remember much about it. I used to have a Jewish friend as well. :)

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Hey, just letting you know Part 11 of the Adapters is out! Unfortunately, you are not featured and the few people that are only have small mentions. This story is revolved around the Battle of the All-Beasts, go check it out! :D

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Phoenix Langston
15:16 Apr 25, 2021

Aquí está tu sorpresa: 🎶Feliz cumpleaños a ti, Feliz cumpleaños a ti, Feliz cumpleaños querido José, ¡Feliz cumpleaños a ti!🎶 I told you, it's not much, but. . . it's something, right? Happy birthday! 🎉🎂🎈 Here's a gift for you, too. 🎁

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Valerie June
19:31 Apr 25, 2021

¡Gracias, gracias y gracias! 😁 This made me smile. I loved the song and present, mi amiga. And remember, a bit of kindness can go a long way!

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Phoenix Langston
22:35 Apr 25, 2021

I'm so glad it made you smile! 🤩 I know; I just felt kind of bad that it wasn't really a lot. How's your birthday been? Oh, and you asked me in the other thread if the title fits. I think it does, since the last sentence has that phrase in it. And the story has a lot of nature elements woven in it, so it's all right. 😉

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Valerie June
00:40 Apr 26, 2021

No, don't feel bad! So far, my birthday's been pretty chill but very fun. The beach tired me out (in a good way.) I'm gonna go out to dinner con mi familia, open a couple gifts, and then it's cake time! 🎂 Ok, thanks for letting me know that the title fits. I added that last sentence at the end when I had 3 minutes left to turn it in. Yeesh, this is starting to sound like homework. 🙄

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Phoenix Langston
23:01 Apr 26, 2021

Sounds like you had a good birthday! What were your gifts? Yeah, sometimes it really does feel like turning in assignments on time, doesn't it? My brother can certainly relate, lol!

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Valerie June
00:03 Apr 27, 2021

I got the books I wanted which I was super happy about! I got three more of Shakespeare's plays (Macbeth, Kind Lear, and Twelfth Night. I've been wanting to read Macbeth for awhile. Fun fact: If you're in the acting show biz, it's bad luck to say 'Macbeth.') I also got myself the two books you suggested, and I can't wait to read them. It'll take me awhile to finish all those books (not to mention the books I still have to finish.) I haven't had as much time to read but hopefully during the summertime I'll be able to read more often. Oh, and ...

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Tj Squared
14:47 Apr 25, 2021

Wow, interesting, sad, inspirational all come to mind. It's a little jumpy at times, kinda hopping from place to place. I noticed one small error tho: "At the funny parts, she let out a merry laugh which echoed along the walls of my manion back home." I think you meant mansion, I think... overall, great job of expressing her feelings! I also love how nature was a strength for her while growing up. L.W.

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Valerie June
19:21 Apr 25, 2021

Yeah, I agree. I didn't have as much time as I'd like to to go over this one so it was a bit clunky. Thanks for catching that error! Just fixed it. :) I wanted to write a story about WWII, and I thought that the prompt was perfect for that topic to shine. Thanks so much for reading Tiffany! :)

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Tj Squared
19:33 Apr 25, 2021

understandable :) np :) noice np :)

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Tj Squared
16:31 Apr 24, 2021

nice new pfp! I'll try to read this story soon I hope. part 4 is out btw :)

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Phoenix Langston
04:58 Apr 24, 2021

I loved how much the main character appreciated nature, how much it strengthened her. The bits about fairies and the Moon Queen were amazing, too! Did you come up with those? My favorite part was when the protagonist was with her daughter at the memorial service. It made me sad that Yona's aunt didn't survive the concentration camp, but I was also hopeful that her dull eyes and worried wrinkles wouldn't be gotten for nothing. Maybe Eva can help her mother make sure of that. 😉 I would suggest making the scene at the concentration camp a littl...

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Valerie June
05:58 Apr 24, 2021

When I started writing this one, I had no idea that I would include light fairies or Moon Queen's. I can thank my imagination for that! This was probably my first "short" story here. I think it was only about 1,900 words or so after I cut it down. I planned to give my main character more of a backstory, but I thought that would be too much information that wasn't necessary. I procrastinated on writing this story (what with studying for la prueba and all) so I wasn't able to fully drag out her arrival at the concentration camp. I agree with ...

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Phoenix Langston
17:51 Apr 24, 2021

Wow, that was a really good thing you came up with! (Also, only 1,900 words? What??? 😲) Love the changes you made to the ending, too. It's much better now!

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Valerie June
18:52 Apr 24, 2021

I never knew I would introduce Yona or the fairies until I wrote it down. It was a nice surprise! This is probably my shortest story on Reedsy. My favorite part was when Yona asked for the main character to tell him a story. Thanks for the feedback on my tweaked ending! Do you think the title fits? It was kinda random, and I only had minutes to come up with it.

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Phoenix Langston
18:53 Apr 24, 2021

I'm so glad you did introduce them. They made the story really good! De nada for the feedback. Are you ready for your birthday tomorrow???

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Valerie June
19:02 Apr 24, 2021

As ready as I'll ever be! It's so strange how it's already been a year, a crazy one at that.

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