Mystery Thriller Historical Fiction

Screams filled the air as the children chased each other on the grass. A small boy climbed on the jungle gym and screamed to the others proudly,” Look at me! Look what I can do! Follow me!” The others stared in amazement and they cheered him on loudly but none were so brave to follow his path. Little girls braided each other’s hair, and big sisters cuddled the smaller ones. The boys fought and threw punches trying to show off their manliness.

This was the scene that played itself out in front of Ludwig every day. Despite being a child himself, he chose not to play with the others. He spent his days coloring, hoping that one day soon he would master his craft. “Stay in the lines, stay in the lines, stay in the lines,” he told himself as the pen moved.

Some days a young girl named Gina would sit with him and watch him color. These were the most special days, as she lit up every moment she was in. The adults didn’t like her spending time with him, and would often chase her from him angrily. He was different, he knew that was true, but he was still just human and enjoyed the company of this beautiful girl. He closed his eyes at night dreaming of her sitting with him and laughing at his jokes. In his dreams, she would take his hand, and lead him away from his drawings. He would play, laugh, and feel free.

He would wake up, feeling cold and alone. He shared a room with his brothers and sisters as times were tough and although he had so many people around him, he felt completely alone all the time. During mealtimes, he would sit alone, eating food that he never enjoyed. The adults didn’t like them being social while eating and he hardly got scolded during these times. He fit their mold never wanting to have friends, never reaching out, although he burned to do all of it.

Winter came and the coldness bore itself into his bones. He continued coloring daily while his freezing fingers ached. The others continued playing outside, screaming loudly when an adult appeared. It had become part of the game, you see, hiding from the adults. They would scold and punish them if they caught them. The lucky ones were never caught.

“Ludwig. Ludwig,” the young woman’s voice brought him back from his daydream. He preferred these dreams to reality. He grunted as he moved up trying to sit up on his chair. Getting old wasn’t glamorous. It was hard, ugly, and cruel. He nodded at her in apology and moved his old hands over his face. She stared at him with a gentle kindness, taking in his withered fingers.

“Are you ready to continue?” she asked with a soft voice looking at him with concern. He picked up the cup of tea standing on the table in front of him. It was cold by now. He nodded again, giving her permission to continue. He needed to hear it; he knew that. It wasn’t easy to hear and it never would be. He had painted a world that wasn’t as gloomy as the one he was ready to leave behind.

He closed his eyes as a tear rolled down his face. “Tell me the truth, Ludwig,” she encouraged. He heard a sob escape his throat unexpectedly, his sadness had taken control. He took a deep breath and thought back to the real memories he made. Today would be the day that he would tell her. He would tell her all of it. He needed to hear himself say it. Willing courage from deep within him, he started telling her the truth of his days of coloring.

They weren’t children and neither was he. They were prisoners trying their best to escape the living hell they had been thrown into unfairly. There was no jungle gym, only barbed wire, and the boy who climbed it every day was the young man who refused to accept his fate as a prisoner of Auschwitz. He climbed up there every day, encouraging the others to follow and attempt an escape until the day he was dragged off by the Nazis, never to be seen again. Ludwig wished it was a quick and painless death, but he doubted it could have been. He thought back to the others, who ran around day by day, trying to get away from Nazis who meant them only harm. All the while, he was coloring. He had to stay in the lines as this was the only control he had in a place where he was no more than a game piece, disposable, replaceable, and of no value.

 He was the tattooist and he had the responsibility of mastering the bestowed craft. He inked more people than he kept count of. Gina was the only good thing here, beautiful and sweet. He remembered her crying softly as he numbered her. She looked at him with sympathy when he was done, knowing that he, too, never chose this. She had dragged him away from his workstation more than once begging him to help her escape. He didn’t have the courage; he wasn’t made to stand up against the powers. He was merely the puppet holding the pen.

It has been years since they were rescued by the Americans, but time had lost its value. Time had become like sand being washed around in the vast ocean, always moving but the effect of it not being felt by anyone. At night when he was in bed, he saw the faces of the people who shared those years with him. He saw the ghosts of the ones who didn’t make it out alive. He would close his eyes willing them away when he reopened them, but they remained untouched.

Every day was an internal struggle, dealing with the ghosts of his past, dealing with the ghosts of Auschwitz, trying still to stay in the lines.

October 21, 2020 09:14

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Aisa M
18:32 Oct 29, 2020

Weekly critique: Heya! This is quite an unexpected sad little story but it is well written. Keep writing! Cheers!


Louise Muller
04:50 Nov 01, 2020

Thank you so much, Aisa!


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