She dreamt of hell. A world of fire and death, rampant with misery and hopes that would never be realized all around her. Blind-white pain would seep through her subconscious every night, and screaming souls would dance among the flames. She knew that these were nightmares and that she, as a little girl, should be scared, but she wasn't. Each night she would witness another scene of horror, in the same setting but with different characters. Some nights they would be people she knew, and some nights just faces among the smoke. There were a few dark nights when she would wake up with a start and feel really hot with tear stains all over her pillow, feeling confused, and rushing over to her parent's bedroom and staring at her mother and father. They seemed to have peaceful dreams, at least that's the way she saw it. After a few minutes, she would silently walk back to her dreams of hell and continue to wonder why she was having them.
No one could possibly imagine that this happy, yet quiet girl would have such horrible premonitions; she was just a little 7-year-old girl! Though she lived in a ghetto, with very little food, water, and space, she was the most carefree child there. She wasn't rambunctious—her parent's wouldn't allow that even if it was her nature—but she could find the prettiest flower on her side of the barbed wire. Her siblings couldn't help but smile when she happily raced towards her mother with a bouquet. They longed to be like Tzipora, and not know the difference between life in the ghetto, and the life they once had. Tzipora was too young to really remember, or even when she remembered times before the ghetto, they were the transition years. The yellow stars were always part of her world, and the almost house arrest restrictions were just rainy day fun games.
Though only her older sisters would play with her, she wasn't as close to her sisters as she was with her brother Elie. Her sisters always seemed too old, but then again, there was a big age difference between her and her brother too. It was more of the youngest children bond. There were some days when she would act out the bible stories with him, and end up making them silly. Elie would get angry at first, but soon he would succumb to laughter as well. He couldn't help but be happy when Tzipora's big eyes looked up at him with her small mouth upturned into a shy smile. She was the only blonde daughter, and she was going to be a beauty when she grew older.
But even the harsh got harsher. Tzipora's father started getting more visitors and seemed even more distressed than usual. It seemed like everything was a heated discussion to the Tzipora. She knew something was happening, and no something good. Her mother would whisper things about 'the Gestapo' and to 'get our things ready.'
"Mama, why are we packing our things?" Tzipora asked her mother as she was putting essentials in backpacks for everyone to carry. Socks, underwear, two shirts, and a pair of pants for each member of the family. Packages of the stale crackers she had been keeping in a box in the back of the cupboard, small water bottles, assorted valuables like photos, and Tzipora and her sisters' dolls and a bible.
"Mama, what's going on?" she asked again. She already knew the answer. Why else would her mother be packing away her favorite necklace that she hadn't taken out since the yellow stars were sewn on their clothes? She had also watched many of her friends walk out of the ghetto earlier in the day. She said her teary goodbyes, almost knowing that they would never see each other again.
"Tzipora, we're going away for awhile. We might not come back here, but we're moving somewhere else with all the other Jews. Don't worry, it will be alright." As her mother said that she could feel a lump forming in her throat. It was all wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. She touched the large backpack that was to be hers for tomorrow to carry, and could already feel the weight of it on her back. Her young life would soon be carried on her own shoulders. The more she thought of it all, the more she felt the burden building up. She slowly walked out of the room her mother was working in and laid down on her bed. When she closed her eyes, she saw ashes falling softly. When she left them open, she felt as though the weight of everything she knew was pushing down on her eyelids to close them. She let her droopy lids shut and the image of ashes filled her mind.
She woke up with a start to a dark house. It was before dawn, but she knew it wasn't too early to rise. She quietly stepped out of bed and slipped into her dark leather scuffed shoes. They were a little too tight, but there was no use complaining when there were no other shoes to have. She tiptoed over to the coat rack and pulled her red coat off. She slipped the red wool coat over her nightgown and proceeded out the back door. She scuttled through dewed grass and spring wild flowers over to a big rock near the edge of the ghetto. She sat down on the rock and looked through the barbed wire fence. She still didn't fully understand the difference between the inside and the outside. She continued to get lost in thought while staring at the woods beyond the ghetto. Her brother Elie then ran over to her and sternly told her she needed to come back inside because they were leaving soon. She sighed and dragged her feet through the wet grass, kicking it up with her shoes along with flowers.
Soon she was standing in line in the street, with her heavy backpack on her back. It was much to heavy for her, but she stood as straight as she could, and bared it. Her mother scolded her for leaving her nightgown on and how they were going to have a long trip and she would embarrass the family with only having her nightwear on. Tzipora said she was sorry, but she liked it better in her nightgown. It was the prettiest thing, in her opinion, that she owned, along with her red coat. She was wearing her best, because she just had a feeling that it would be proper. She watched her sisters, brother, and parents' eyes wander aimlessly through their little ghetto town, not really seeing any of it, but rather trying not think of what would be coming next. All there was left to do was deny, but Tzipora faced the inevitable in her mind, head-on. She thought of what was to come, and if it was a future. The Gestapo screamed the order to march, and off they went, to dreamland, to hell. The orders soon started screaming to them to be faster, and she tried to be faster, and faster, but it was no use. She screamed for her father, and soon her scooped her up in his arms.
"Papa, are you afraid?" She quietly asked her father as they ran down the road. His neck stiffened, and he didn't respond till a few moments after.
"Just a little, sweetie, but only because I love you. Are you?" his voice was hoarse and wheezing, tears were racing down his face.
She quickly responded with, "No, I'm not Papa. I'm not afraid, or scared, or anything." Tears rolled down her face also, as she said the words. She wasn't afraid, she just wished she knew more. She just wished for more, more of everything.
Then they were all herded into a smaller ghetto, and spent the night there. There was more heated discussion, with whispered plans of escape and other similar things. The next day they were up early to march again. This time they were crowded into cattle cars. She was lucky to be small because most people couldn't sit down because all of the people. As hours passed she heard whispers about how they were leaving Hungary. She closed her eyes and her mind was filled with fire and smoke, but just as she did that she heard screams. Not the screams she usually heard in her dreams, but real screams. There was a woman screaming in the cattle car, and of all things, about fire. She was crying and screeching that she saw fire. Tzipora felt like she was hit in the gut. She started to sob violently into her mother's side.
"Shhh, it's alright Tzipora," her mother cooed. "There's no fire, that woman is just sick. Don't worry, and hush now. Go to sleep little one" The words calmed her, though she knew they were not true. She let herself drift to sleep, to her dreamland. The fire was hotter than normal, very much hotter. And more people were burning, more people were screaming, more people were weeping, and more people were dying. She woke up to moaning and stifled crying. She wanted to sleep forever. She wanted to dream of hell again, at least then she could avoid the reality of the waking world.
Soon the train came to a stop, and they were all told to leave their belongings on the train. Tzipora quickly opened her bag and stuffed one of her smaller, but favorite dolls in the pocket of her red coat. Its black yarn hair and its red dress were enough to soften her hard expression. That's really all she needed in her eyes. Her mother held onto her tightly, caressing her blonde hair every once and awhile. Then the order echoed through the air. "Men to the left! Women to the right!"
She saw her brother and father walking away holding hands. Words were caught in her throat. She was trying to say goodbye, but not words came out. She had to keep walking, to keep going, for both her and her mother. Her sisters were walking ahead a little bit, but at the time it didn't strike her or her mother as bad. Then the line they were following led them to an authoritative figure. He looked at Tzipora and her mother and quickly just nodded his head to the left. They were pushed to a line to the left and had to keep walking. Her mother then noticed that her sisters weren't in the same line. They were walking the opposite way. In a split second, any sort of logic or reason was lost in the mind of her mother. She started running towards the other line, pulling Tzipora along.
"MY BABIES, DON'T TAKE MY BABIES" a shrill voice called from deep within her. Her eyes were crazy, like nothing Tzipora had ever seen before. Her mother was so desperate. Suddenly there were two loud bangs. Both mother and daughter fell in a pool of dark blood.
Tzipora opened her eyes. She opened her eyes to a world worse than hell, worse than anything in her dreams. Lying next to her was the corpse of her mother, the dead body of what nurtured her, what loved her, and whom she loved with all that she had. It was a pitch-black night so she let her hand creep over to the crumpled heap next to her. Cold, so cold; nothing like the warm comforting body that she knew to be her mother's. She crawled toward this body she knew to once be a person she loved. She wrapped her arms around her body in pure and utter agony. She couldn't cry, there was just too much shock. She then felt the ache in her side she had only registered as emotional distress. She touched her hip and felt the warm slimy texture of blood. Her white nightgown was stained rusty red. She slowly let her eyelids droop and shut. Think of hell she commanded herself, think of dreams, of nightmares. But all she could think about was the cold body on one side of her, and her warm wound on the other side. Then she heard some shouts and two young men came into view. One of them went over to her mother and started to drag her body away. Tzipora let out a scream that rattled even her. The boys looked over at her with dead eyes, but one rushed over to her. She looked this boy in the eyes. He had dark brown eyes with a slowly escaping humanity. He scooped her up and walked in the direction the others were dragging her mother.
She felt safe in this stranger's arms, but realistically she would've felt safe in anyone's arms. She let her limbs hang loose and her mind as well. She wanted her other world, her world of fire. But she couldn't find it. They arrived at a smoking building. The smell of it entered Tzipora's nose and the fire in her dreams started to ignite. They walked up the steps to a building and the boy started to plead to her.
"Go to sleep, please, please go to sleep! Don't look at me anymore, don't let me feel your pain! Don't… Don't…" His lips were quivering and nostrils flaring from trying not to sob.
"I'm not afraid, mister. The fire is coming and I'll close my eyes." She said quietly closing her eyes. She felt the young boy's broad shoulders shake, but she let herself drift into hell.
Her mother was stripped of her clothes and thrown into the fire as she drifted through her nightmares. Burning among the piles and piles of other dead bodies.
The still shaking boy didn't take Tzipora's clothes. He left her dark red coat and her blood stained nightgown. He threw her with her favorite clothes on. Her grip on her small doll let loose as she was in the air.
Fire. Ripping everything apart, burning and destroying her. One last shriek escaped her lips as she fell into her hell, her dreamland.