"our sorrowful songs, set to staccato beats"
Genre: Drama, Angst
Notes: This year I am playing around with the 50 sentence challenge over at another site - which prompts one to write four stories a month based on a set of fifty prompts. The fifty prompts result in one sentence each, and then a whole story is formed from the snapshots provided in those sentences. Obviously, this challenge will slaughter grammar, and bring out the seldom seen fandom from the muse - but is a fun and curious thing that has already been incredibly interesting. If you wish to, you can track my progress in my profile.
This is Table III for February - and one that was a challenge to write for the emotional impact I wished to create, and the challenge of keeping true to a historical feeling within the structure of sentences. I hope you are able to take something away from my humble attempt to capture a truly horrific time in human history.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words.
In time, their miracle did not come from deliverance or divine intervention – but from the simply glory of surviving every day until the next; one at a time.
Over the years, the sight of a dead body would move him less and less; but that first introduction to death was his family (mother and father side by side, face to face forever to stay), and he couldn't seem to stop himself from shaking as his mind replayed the images to him every time he closed his eyes.
That first group of survivors saw to the faint formation of an idea, born by necessity; and soon, the name of Bielski became a whisper to those who had nowhere else to turn to, pushing the idea to reality.
Koscik played a go-between with the Germans and the Jews; keeping the former happy and the latter hidden, until his dabbling at both sides got him killed.
"Only one bullet left," Zus muttered as he shut the clip of the pistol; his sharp gaze taking in the dead cast of his older brother's eyes, and the droplets of blood staining his coat crimson . . . and he knew.
Dimly, Aron registered his brother trying to shake him out of the grief that had taken him like a shroud; but he could not bring himself to speak for any outside impetus, no matter how hard he tried.
"And there was a daughter too, what of her?" Zus whispered his question upon hearing of the massacre of Jews in Horodyszcze; horror something molten within him as what he thought was safest for his small family was suddenly no more.
"One can grow used to smelling like a campfire, and even find some comfort in it – I take your words as a compliment, brother."
With a blush, Asael introduced Chaya to their forest home, bowing with a just burgeoning confidence, "And welcome to our humble palace grounds – as you can see, royal accommodations await you."
Their first camp lasted them from August to October, housing erected from sapling trees, and the promise of something approaching life for those determined to keep on living.
Tuvia's hesitance left him in a rush of purpose as he saw the faces looking to him for guidance – it was not vengeance these people needed; it was a leader – someone to have faith in, someone to believe in.
"And how do you expect to feed all of these mouths, to cloth all of these backs, to keep all of these souls safe – do you know your lines, and know still when you are crossing them?"
"I believe that I would sell my soul for something as simple as a hot bath," Bella whispered conspiratorially to Chaya, "and if there are bubbles included I would give up my rations for a month."
Sometimes normality was simply to be found in the schoolteacher and the intellectual bickering, views that defined the whole of their world debated and sparred within the depths of the concealing forest.
"We're leaving to stand with those who will fight," Zus scathed, his hard eyes on his brother's, daring him to speak (to tell him not to leave, to tell him to leave), and was greeted with only silence.
"All must give for sake of the Community," Malbin said gently as the gilded woman (wearing furs and elegantly poised) placed her heirloom trinket down next to everyone else's humble offerings.
In theory, knowing the possibility of a loved one not surviving was a far cry from having that possibility affirmed; and, even still, Tuvia tried to feel more than a simple pang at the news of his wife's death, having tried for so long to feel as he imagined a spouse should.
Ironically, where his wife had gone though many pains to declare to him his ineptitude as a provider, around him the gathered people looked to him with faith in their eyes and hope in their steps – they relied on him, and he felt a familiar ache fill him as he strove not to let them down.
The way he saw it, it was his right and duty as a brother to push Asael towards the rather pretty girl who had enraptured him; sure that if he pushed him enough, the young man would find the courage to answer the unconscious temptation she served to him.
"And how many could have been saved if you had what it takes to truly lead – if you killed that man, our location would have never been given away, and our own would never have died because of your attack of conscious," Zus scathed, watching the realization remain cold in his brother's eyes.
"Robin Hood," Simon muttered, his voice fond with irony, as he uncovered the titles of the books that had been liberated along with the other supplies.
"I accept," Chaya said on a whisper, a smile just daring to trace her lips as she answered the question that Asael couldn't quite seem to move past his lips.
The battle he had sought was what he was found; and yet, Zus had childhood prayers on his lips as around him gunfire sounded like breaking glass; the forest becoming a swirling maze of virgin snow and steady evergreen, staining his vision red.
Eventually, the air was so cold that it ached even to sleep; let alone do anything else – and around him, the camp rumbled in disapproval.
"Because potatoes will put hair on your chest," the men chortled, patting little Aron on the back as they threw back their bottles of crudely distilled vodka – made from potatoes, of all things.
"Even the lice need somewhere to sleep," Riva said wryly, trying to sooth the furious blush from Lilka's face.
For a moment, Bella watched Tuvia and a few of the men walk off in the direction of the Soviet camp, a bitter and unnamed feeling within her as she let loose a brief prayer in honor of one who would never hear.
"Such strength hidden in unknown places," Viktor muttered, staring at the patterns the fire made, "to think that such potential has remained untapped by those more suitably positioned to use it."
Before her, the wild dog bared its teeth, as starved as she was, and just as desperate for the bag of supplies she was greedily clutching in her hand.
"It kept me safe," Lilka muttered in a low voice as she returned the small revolver back to Tuvia; not blind to the way his eyes were carefully searching her – the wind chapped face and the bloodied and scratched hands that more or less belonged to a wild huntress rather than the educated and privileged girl she had been.
"My Hebrew warrior, if only I had another dozen like you," Viktor chuckled warmly, his sharp eyes fond on his favorite of his otriad.
Even with his back turned, and his shoulders hunched – trying to prove that his brother's words meant nothing to him – Zus couldn't stop his hands from trembling when Tuvia told the Soviet commander about the outbreak of Typhus in the Bielski camp, his mind instantly imagining the worst.
"Communist, Zionist, Fascist," Zus snorted, his eyes dark, "tell me which of these roads you see in the end?"
"Moses was a lonely man when he led us," Simon placed a hand on Tuvia's shoulder, knowing how the winter's discontentment, and the fever he couldn't shake, was weighing on his leader's mind.
The winter gave a new meaning to the word hunger – and to those who would see their craving for power in the small group as well, the craving would have an empty fulfillment as they met their end.
"Can you believe that I once spent a whole month learning Chopin's Nocturnes?" Lilka remembered fondly as she ran a cool rag over his forehead, (even though his fever had long since broke), looking for any excuse to stay by his side as long as she could.
"I could not bear to part with it," Tamara muttered, her hands greedy over the pointed swell of her stomach - for while this was not the place to raise a child, and the father of the babe was a nameless monster to her memories of before her time safe in the forest; the life within was still her light and her hope.
Lilka could blame it on the spring, could blame it on the example of Tamara – desperate to bring a new life into the cruel world around her – or she could even blame it on a winter of silently watching and yearning; but, in the end, it is simply her doing what she yearned to do as she leaned into his kiss, the glorious bloom of feeling within her the most she had felt since the war started.
"The Motherland does not distinguish between those Jewish and those not," Zus pointed out, the Soviet dogma harsh on his lips in cold contrast to the reality of it before him.
For the first time in weeks, the sunlight painted the forest gold over the white snow, spring just daring to melt the harsh world around them . . . and yet, with the thaw, came the renewed interest of threats much dangerous than a treacherous winter.
Around them the forest hushed, as if holding its breath from those invading its peace; and Zus tensed as he made his decision – deserting the otriad who would not stay to aide those that they had helped and been helped by in return.
In the distance, the air rendering with unnatural fire sounded like porcelain breaking; those it struck even more fragile still.
"Nothing is impossible – what we all have done before this is the impossibility!" Asael cried; while before them the waters of the Krasnaya Gorka stretched, the press of the German troops behind them as harsh as Pharaoh's soldiers from legend as they made it through – not by divinely parted waters – but on the strength of their faith and determination.
They made slow progress, each soul looped together so none may fall, the stronger holding their children and their weapons above the water, and all so covered in mud and moss that they were indistinguishable from the waters they traveled – but a murmur of awe knit through the group as a whole, relief infecting them like wildfire once the shore was in sight.
The few skirmishes before hand had done little to prepare him for the reality of combat – the noise and the light and the confusion, and the loss . . . so many losses, all around.
"You are my brother," Zus whispered, and Tuvia tightened his arms around the other man, the simple statement enough to heal every rift between them.
The group was limping and weary as they made it even deeper into the forest – but they were alive, and they were together; everything else was merely a matter of healing.
There was no time for words, not yet, not until they were safe again; but Tuvia was quite aware that it was his brother throwing seedpods at him from a few steps back on the trail – and even though he was world weary and still emotionally on edge, he let himself smile.
By the time their labors were fully realized at their next encampment, they had established a hospital, a school, and even a nursery; their determination building a tired but high spirited community, bound together by a closeness that could not have been found without so many outside oppositions.
In the end, he lost count of the number who left the forest, for it was his small family whom he thanked God for every night, a snippet of a burned generation that will now live on from the ashes that they struggled to claim as their own.