Summary:In war, we remember the victors. What about the victims?
Disclaimer:Death and all related Sandman characters are the property of Neil Gaiman and D.C./Vertigo Comics. The historical events and places mentioned here belong to themselves and the ages.
"Not as tyrants have we come, but as liberators."
- said by Adolf Hitler after annexing Austria, March 1938
Warsaw, Poland – May 5, 1943
She stood in the middle of the street, seemingly unnoticed by the soldiers that ran past. If they had seen her, it was hard to know what they'd make of her with her ghostly pale flesh and sable garb. She ran cold, white fingers through her black hair and looked around at the surrounding buildings, many of which were already burning. She moved over to one and stood by the door, waiting.
A man's harsh voice commanded, "Aus!" followed by a woman pleading in tearful, broken German for the lives of her family.
"Nicht meine Kinder! Für sake des Gottes ersparen Sie ihnen…ich bitten Sie!"
The man gave a short, barking laugh. "Wertloses Judeschwein!"
Gunshots, pained screams, and then more gunshots followed this impassioned plea. After a few more moments of terse discussion, the soldiers walked outside and left. Silence reigned inside the building again. The black-clad woman waited, serene as ever.
After a few more moments, a teenaged girl peeked out from the doorway and saw her. The woman smiled.
"Sara. I've been waiting for you."
The girl looked startled. "Me? I don't know you…do I?"
"You do," came the calm reply. "Think about it."
Sara looked her over, taking in every detail of her appearance from her black outfit to the silver ankh around her neck. She gasped, her dark eyes widening in her already too-thin face. "You…you're-"
"Yes." The woman nodded. "I am."
Sara looked down. "I…I didn't think I would see you for a very long time."
Death touched her arm. "I know…I'm sorry."
Sara sighed. "Excuse me for a moment." She closed her eyes and whispered, "Sh'Ma Yisrael. Adonai Elohaynu, Adonai E'hod."
After a moment of respectful silence, Death murmured, "Well said."
Sara gave her a small, sad smile. "I don't know how much good saying the sh'ma does me after I'm already dead," she replied shakily, "but I always promised my mother that I would."
Death patted the girl's shoulder. "I think she'd be pleased."
Sara nodded. "So…what happens next?"
"That's what you're about to find out." Death gave a friendly smile. "Ready?"
Sara paused. "I have a question…"
Death nodded. "Yes?"
Pain filled Sara's dark eyes. "Why?" she whispered, in a tear-choked voice. "What did we do to make them hate us so much?"
Death sighed and looked away.
"I don't know."
Baghdad, Iraq – March 29, 2003
She stood in another ruined neighborhood and waited. After a while, a slender, chador-clad figure stumbled out of the rubble and stood, looking around the bombed-out remains of her former home.
The girl looked up and caught sight of Death. She looked puzzled, then resigned, as recognition flickered over her face. She walked over the rubble, approaching the woman. "So…I didn't survive after all."
Death nodded. "I'm afraid so."
Almira whispered, "And my brother? Farouk? What of him?"
"I haven't seen him." Death smiled faintly. "He may have been lucky."
"Insh'Allah…" Almira breathed, fervently.
The two watched a battered group of people cautiously approach the former apartment. They started to dig, obviously looking for survivors. Moments later, one of the women called for help. Three others ran over and began shifting rubble, then tenderly lifted two small forms free. Almira gasped, recognizing her body and Farouk's. "Is he…"
"He's alive!" the woman called out, joyfully. She and another rescuer quickly put together a makeshift stretcher and carried the boy off towards the hospital.
Almira buried her face in her hands. "He's alive," she gasped, her shoulders shaking. "He's alive and he'll heal and I won't see him again for many years." She took a great, shuddering breath. "Allah akbar!"
Death patted her shoulder. "You saved his life," she said, softly. "If you hadn't shielded him-"
Almira looked up at her. "He is my little brother. What else could I do?"
Death nodded again, her eyes kind. "Are you ready to go?"
"I am." Then pain and anger filled Almira's velvet-brown eyes as she asked the one question that Death had hoped she wouldn't. "Why? Farouk…he's a child! What did any of us do to deserve this kind of hatred?"
Death's expression became bleak and sorrowful. Almira was startled to see a tear make its way down the frost-colored cheek.
"I don't know," she whispered. "I just don't know."
Author's notes:This story is in no way intended to be disrespectful to followers of Judaism, Islam, or any other form of belief. I have sought to maintain a historically accurate tone throughout this story, despite the fictional basis, but I also request that the readers keep in mind that history, historical events, and people are not always polite or kind. Atrocities have been and will continue to be perpetuated until we as a species decide to change that. It is my fervent hope that those changes will come soon.
To those who don't agree with the political slant of this story, let me address a few points. First off, people who dissented against those in authority founded the United States. If it weren't for people who chose to speak out against those in power, we would probably still be a British colony. Dissent and differences of opinion are not only solidly American things, but also one of our most cherished and Constitutionally protected rights. You don't have to agree with my politics, but please understand that I'm allowed to have them.
Fervent and heartfelt thanks go to my proofreaders, Fidget, Alryssa, and Ginzai, all of whom are truly wondrous and spiffy people and who probably give me way more credit than I deserve, but I appreciate every bit of flattery.
And I hope this ficlet (minus the rambling diatribe at the end) was both enjoyable and thought provoking. Peace out, ya'll!