Hope within fumes
By: P. Szwarc
Usually, it was the sound of the chirping robins that awoke me, or the blinding sun that slashed through my glass window. However, what I truly missed was the reason I got out of bed in the mornings; the freshly baked smell of my father’s Challah. But during these past weeks, robins were nowhere near my sight, nor the heat under the sunny rays of a new day. The smell of my father’s delicacy was gone; instead, a pungent scent filled the confined room where I laid with hundreds of other skeletal-like figures. I knew something was out of the ordinary—out of routine.
It was night when I woke up remembering nothing, only being able to feel misplaced panic and pain. My fragile limbs quivered involuntarily, stabbing the wooden platform I slept on. I had no more flesh to protect me. My bones; too thin to be considered one of a human’s. Control seemed unattainable as fear wound itself around my reach. But still, I slowly opened my sunken eyes, trying to orient myself. As I became conscious of my surroundings, I noticed how my body was shivering and soon my teeth began to clang together relentlessly. Never before had I appreciated how easy it was to get up in the mornings, only now when I could barely scavenge the will to stand up on my own two feet. Thankfully, I was able to get up just in time before officers would burst in our room, calling out our names in a patronizing tone. Brushing off the dust of my unknown surroundings, I tried to remember the memories that were stolen from me. My mind was still recharging due to my long slumber, and my eyes took their time to adjust. But eventually they did.
Screams and cries were all that could be heard; that, and the occasional bang of a gun shooting someone. The bodies were skinny—too skinny. Mine was too. Before I could ask an officer what was going on, I felt a pair of hands gently push me away from the bed I was sleeping in. The gesture felt out of place amid so much chaos, so I turned to face the body. He looked familiar, small grey eyes like my own, but I could not quite place my finger on it yet. His dry lips curved into a smirk and equally thin eyes crinkled at the edges. Numbly I held his gaze until I spotted a red badge securely placed in a man’s suit. Within a matter of seconds, he clenched my fragile arms with no mercy and shoved me into a line that spilled me into a crowded room, where we were all asked to remove all our garments. We obliged; a warm shower was all we wanted at the time. But not a drop came out of the shower heads.
In no time, my lungs felt like they were burning, and it was like oxygen was being ripped off from within my chest. Next to me, thousands of other bodies were slowly deteriorating, collapsing one on top of the other. Through the heavy smoke, I was unable to spot the man who had grinned at me and was convinced I would never see him again. As my body began to give up, I felt a familiar hand clutch my arm. That same hand that made my favourite dish, that cuddled me at night and that would hug me like I was the most precious thing in the world. My retarding thoughts were coloured in disbelief. The man that I could not recognize was him, whom I have not seen in weeks. Suddenly I wanted to scream his name, but when I opened my mouth, what came out was no more than air blown through an empty vessel: “dad...”