Hi everyone! I'm browneyednezumi, and I'll ask you to refrain from abbreviated due to the fact that it spells out 'BEN', and my name is definitely not Ben. This is my first Vocaloid fanfiction, so please be nice. I might have not captured their personalities quite so as I imagine. I hope you enjoy the story, by the way! This first chapter is a prologue, so it's actually quite boring. There's a lot of important information, but for the most part, there's only really a couple of things you need to know. In fact, you can skip this altogether seeing as it won't be hard to jump in with the first chapter.
Yes - this was for NaNoWriMo. So yes, most of the first section is completed, so you don't have to worry about me going on a hiatus. This will probably be updated weekly should I feel inspired to. So don't forget to Review! I'll let you go and read the story.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own the songs 'Prisoner' or 'Paper Planes', nor do I claim ownership of Vocaloid. All recognizable material goes to their rightful owners.
Paper Planes and Prisoners
aru jidai aru basho
(in some place, at some time)
hitori no shuujin ga
(one prisoner fell for a girl)
sakugoshi ni koi wo suru
Through heavy-lidded eyes, the blond boy arose from the camp, looking in dismay at the still black sky. At first he was confused – why would Mutti want to wake him up at this ungodly hour? However, it took him a moment to realize after the shuffling of other people, that he was in an overcrowded room, sharing a bunk bed with another boy of the same age. As always, he was late again, and he knew that the kapo would be on his case again. Not that he didn't have enough beatings, although he had no quite trained himself to get accustomed to just harsh conditions as the ones he had been exposed to these past two months in the concentration camps. He blinked the sleep away from his bleary blue eyes and continued on with the motions of making his bettenbau. As soon as the kapo turned around the corner, he knew he would be better off just not doing it. His bettenbau was nowhere near done, the bed far from the military style is should have been. Even as he rushed the make the bed, the kapo seemed to be targeting him.
"Why haven't you made your bed, Judebrut?" Even though he tried to put up a brave act in front of probably the hundreds of pairs of eyes staring at him, he could feel his resolve crumbling.
"I-I…" He barely had any time to respond, as the kapo's hand came in contact with his face, leaving a blotchy red mark stained there. If he had asked the question, why did he have to slap him when he had started to answer? However, he grabbed his cheek, thankful that it was the only thing that would be administered on him this morning, if he was lucky. He breathed a sigh of relief as the kapo turned away to look for some other unlucky victim to strike out on. Which should be easy, seeing as the bentennbau bed making was never easy, and given the very short amount of time they were required to achieve it… well, let's all just say that it was almost part of routine for a couple of the prisoners to get beaten. Even though these were never happy and often agony filled, he couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief whenever the kapo chose another person. Should this be called inhuman, to have pleasure from another person's pain? Indirectly, of course, but the heartlessness was still there – as he never did care about other people and only himself, ever since arriving at this 'work camp'.
However, he could never say the same for some of his fellow workers. Although most kept to themselves, there were some self-sacrificing newcomers that would always give away portions of their food for the more needy, such as some of the elders and young children. Even to the adults who had been worn down with work, being here since the beginning, they offered their food.
The one thing that Len had learned through his days at the camp was that no one was greedy. Although all of them thirsted for more food, more water, rarely did anyone use heist in order to obtain such things. The kapo often prevented such things, for they thought that fighting were a riot, and that would result in many unnecessary death. They mainly targeted people no matter where they are, for a mere excuse for death. In a sense, every prisoner in the camp was united, yet divided on terms of care as well. Although a bit difficult to explain, the system went something like this. First bit of information to be spread was that each person got around 10 ounces of bread and some coffee, which was tasteless and disgusting, with no sugar or milk for the children. The new people, should they decide to spare all the older and well seasoned people in the camp their food, would divide it into as many rations as they possibly could, and split it amongst the people whom needed it most, such as the young children and the elderly. However, should their needy mouths be sated and there was still enough, those people whom had been weak and tired and could barely make it through the day would then have their share. The newcomers were the strongest of the bunch, but even then they were considered the weakest on the account that they were not accustomed to such cruelty that was displayed by many of the kapos.
During this exchange, people accepted their food, and those whom were unable to give up their meager amount of food would then consume it, and attempt to shield the exchanging of the food from the schutz staffel. On the account that these little barriers failed to keep the schutz staffel's eyes away from the exchange often ended in disaster – usually leaving the elders and the younger children to their death from severe beating and near-starvation. After the first few catastrophes of this sort, the young adults and adults did their best, although still some of the schutz staffel's eyes wandered through the cracks and all the adults could hear for the rest of the day were the agonizing cries of the children. Even when the beating was long over, the beaten were still whimpering and hurt, and workload was about 5% less productive, with the adults and teenagers trying to pull their weight and make up for the injured inability to handle the work like they usually would.
Sometimes when adults felt like they could go without food for a day they would also ration their food and split it amongst the others, perhaps for ten others, one ounce of bread each. They, of course, would get to keep their coffee, as it goes without saying that they needed something to go on for the workload, and coffee would be the only thing if they could not get their bread and share it amongst ten others. Often times these would be the adults that were strong, but sometimes they would be the adults that knew they were to die soon, and shared their food because eating would not prevent their death, and why take the food if all they would do was die in the end? It would be better, from their mindset thinking, if they gave their food to the younger children and the elderly, rather than eat it and die.
But even then this system would often be wreaked, since there were times that the schutz staffel would order the kapo to dispose of the youngest children and the oldest elders from their work team. In actuality, this happened quite often since the elderly and the children would delay work further and just be like dead weight, from their point of view. So the adults of the camps were the luckiest ones that got to live, if that were to be lucky. Perhaps they were better off dead, to not live through the torture of working and making weapons that would ultimately help the people who were keeping them captive? No, they could not think of this negatively, they had to stay optimistic and not pessimistic. This was easier said than done, though, as each passing day made the inmates even more depressed and wanting death. Their conflicting feelings between life and death were common amongst them all, only the newest prisoners would always try to lift their spirits with their "don't give up hope" cheers and optimistic attitudes. This never lasted long; the kapos would always break them within a couple of months at latest. There would always be a period without the cheers and the hope, until a new train delivered new people.
The boy was still rubbing his cheek as the other prisoners filed away towards the sanitary stations. Already he knew that this day would not turn the tables into his favor. At this rate he wouldn't even make it in time to the sanitary stations, and if he did he'd be overcrowded by the people rushing to be on time for the daily morning roll call. He himself knew that if he did not hurry, that he would be beat again for being one of the stragglers. Besides, it was only a stinging red spot on his cheek, and it didn't hurt too much compared to what he had gotten before in one of their beatings. Maybe it was because of it growing fatigue, collected from the piles upon piles of days upon days spent in this hollow and soul eating camp. The happiness has been sucked out of him.
"Allen, we'll be late. They'll beat us again." His bunk mate, Thom, was shaking him. The slightly younger boy's brown hair peaked from his half-closed eyes, as he tried to pull himself away from his slumber.
"Thom, you don't have to stay with me. In fact, it'll probably be best for you to go before they petition to try to kill you because you're too young." Too young, and too innocent to be here and be exposed to such a cruel fate. There was almost no doubt about it in the blond boy's mind – either Thom was going to die from over exhaustion or the schutz staffel would go and kill him. Each day he had been growing increasingly worried about his friend. Even though he had vowed to himself not to make friends in this camp to avoid a void of sadness and a pit of despair from forming in his heart, before he knew it, he felt like he was responsible for the innocent brunette boy. He didn't mean for it to get this far, but he knew if the younger boy got harmed he would never forgive himself for it.
"I just wanted to see if you were okay, Kamerad." He had to shake his head. No, Thom should be caring for himself, not someone older and more than capable of taking care of themselves like Allen. But taking one look at the boy's grim face, he felt bad for putting him into such an off mood.
"And how many times have I told you not to call me Allen? Len. Call me Len. Everyone does. Now… go wash up, I don't want to see your stinky face." Glad that his friend was alright, Thom ran off to the sanitary facilities. However, Len himself did not rush himself to go, even though he would be late, and probably would be beaten again. Although beating the crowd was his goal, it was more than likely he would meet death and beatings and pain rather than sanitary conditions. Besides – it was rather unsanitary to be crowded with about a hundred people per sanitary facility. Not to mention uncomfortable, as though the guards were begging for them to die of sickness and disease. He sighed. Would he have to skip washing up again just to make it to roll call? It was still dark, and he could barely see, and there were hundreds of prisoners with him, what could one prisoner be?
No, he shouldn't be thinking like this. If he did not obey orders, then he could potentially. Actually, by even existing, he could potentially die by the hands of the schutz staffel, or Adolf Hitler himself. This was all caused by the man, wasn't it? Couldn't he see that it was stupid and immature, honestly quite stupid? And even then, why would he even be here? And it was all just because he was Jewish. Was there something wrong with his religion? No – he knew many, many people who were Jewish, excluding his family, which was still quite a lot seeing as his family would be as good as dead to him if he could not see them anymore. In fact, they were probably dead right now. But he could not mourn now, not when there was work to be done and his life on the line – Thom's life on the line as well.
Was this fatherly affection? His legs pounded to make it in time to at least wash his face in the sanitary facilities. Did he really care that much for the little brown haired boy? It seemed that he did. Honestly – it really did seem like he cared for him, despite knowing him only for the amount of time that the little rascal had been at the camp. Len had been one of the first and gotten accustomed to the workload quickly, and Thom had come in a few months later. The trick was to make the guards think you were trying your hardest so they would not push you as much. Even if they did still push you hard, keep up the pace until they get tired of beating you. As long as the pace is productive enough not to arouse suspicion, it should keep you alive and not let you exert all of your energy all at one time. So long as the guards didn't get wind of everything. In order to ensure this, Len had only parted with this information to Thom, whom he had sworn to secrecy. The two boys were often ignored, and that was alright with them as long as they had each other. The corny and cheesy scene would then come on where the boys hugged each other when one of them was scared, or perhaps something nerve wreaking had happened, such as a death. Not that those were not frequent – they were – but still the concept of death was scary for the two young boys.
Especially when they had to carry the body back. That had yet to happen at all with Allen. He was quite lucky, actually.
However, it really nagged at him whenever Thom was being treated poorly by their kapo or any of the schutz staffel. He could stand himself being their target, but the poor thirteen year old boy did nothing but attempt to be himself. Being oneself was hard in the camps, but Thom was spirited. Although his hope had been broken quite a while back, he was still spirited and determined. And at times, Len had to admire and envy the younger boy. But whenever the kapo or the schutz staffel officers would see this, they would beat Thom. And even though it was Thom that was getting physically hurt, it was as though Len himself were getting hurt. And then the anger would start, sending his blood boiling and his hands clenched into tight fists. How Dare They?
He splashed his face with water. The sign that the sanitary facility he had chosen was still a little full made him sigh in relief. Although he saw Thom nowhere, he was relieved that he would still be able to make it in time for roll call. And if he did, then Thom would be able to, since he had gotten a head start. This was a good thing. Wiping his face, he headed outside, the winter wind blasting his face, the dampness from the water intensifying the cold. He was not looking forward to roll call, but then again, who would be? Seriously, standing out in the cold for hours as they rattled off the list of numbers of prisoners, waiting their turn to be called in the cold morning, not moving an inch, and starting again if one of the kapos messed up, it was not something one wanted to experience at all. The fact that everyone would be trying to survive the morning cold in their rough cotton uniforms didn't help, as the material did not protect anyone from the cold. Many of the prisoners fell to their deaths during these morning tortures, especially after being exposed to them almost the moment they had woken up. As for Len, he only wore his black ones, his tattered black ones he had been handed at the time. He was lucky – some of them had gotten thin white ones, and they were usually the ones to fall to their death first. He was one of the luckier ones, when his clothes weren't so tattered and worn; they were long sleeved and warm. His pants were long as well, and they protected him from the wind and the coldness, for the most part. Now they had grown thin.
No one had really gotten used to such a punishment, and the only thing they could do was bare it, until their fingers and toes were numb from pain, blackened from the freezing temperatures. It got better as time passed – or rather, did it get worse? Being exposed to such conditions for a long period of time – did it ever get any better? No, Len himself had never felt it get better, even as dawn approached and the beams of sunlight fell on the prisoners. They never did get to relax either, staying at attention for sometimes hours a day, when the kapos messed up. One might think that they would be glad for the extra time not doing work – oh they were wrong. When they did get to work, the kapos beat them up more than usual, which was a great deal more considering the amount they already beat the prisoners without being so much on edge. The longer the roll call, the angrier they were, due to the fact that it was their bumbling mistakes. Out of hundreds of prisoners, they needed to count each and every one of them; anything forgotten or miscounted earned them to restart from the top – all over again.
Len could somewhat relate to their frustrations, and he could even imagine how they blamed every one of them. But was it really their fault that their counting skills sucked, or that the schutz staffel happened to be watching over them? It could hardly be it; however the mere number of inmates in his division was a hard number to count correctly. For the whole camp – well he could see the difficulty. Just to put himself in their shows – he'd find his job merely infuriating and perhaps take it out on something – or someone. These people took it out on the prisoners, evidently. Although it was unfair, Len could certainly see it from their point of view. After all, the government had already degraded them as lower than human beings, so what could a couple of beatings and deaths be to them? Certainly, they were unfazed by a death, seeing as the sheer number of them kept growing throughout the work camp as they were pushed harder and harder until they had reached their limits and pushed themselves into death.
They really were marked as lower than human beings. After all, what were a couple of lives in a work camp where they were whole camps dedicating to cleansing the world of such people – the Jewish, the homosexual, the crippled and abnormal killed by gas chambers or by other cruel means. In a sense, the workers were lucky. There wouldn't be so much death – however death was never out ruled as impossible. In any means, it was just a less frequent occurrence of death in the work camps than in a death camp, or rather a concentration camp. Len didn't know what it was like, but he had heard rumors of overcrowding, the screams, the terror, and the yells. The kapo for his work team had fed them enough information to give him and Thom nightmares – Len could often hear the young boy moaning in his sleep about not wanting to die in a death camp. It often kept Len up, and as a result made his worn body even more tired. Not that he could sleep anyways – slumber was hard to succumb to when you were paranoid and terrified of death.
However somehow near the middle of the night when all was quiet and somewhat peaceful, he would be able to drift into a light, peaceful slumber, one without dreams to haunt him, or nightmares to scare him. His family would never appear – unlike some of those that had families they cared about, and were probably dead. Those people moaned in their sleep as well. They had seemed too tortured. What would it have been like if he were one of them? Would he have done away with himself already, unable to stand their cries and whines of his family?
He was the lucky few. Sometimes he felt good about being one of them – but at time he found it discouraging. At least they had something to care for, Len only had Thom. Not that Thom wasn't good enough, the innocent little boy was nice enough and a great company, but it wasn't enough of an importance. Not in this sort of sense. However, speaking of that little rascal, where was he?
Len had to stop reminiscing; or rather drifting off as there was nothing for him to reminisce about. He had to stay up at attention; he had to check on Thom first. As soon as he found the brunette boy, he took his position two rows ahead of him and one row to the left. He regretted being in this position for he could not look after the boy as well as he could if he had been behind. But what was he to do – his kapo would never let him trade spots. In fact, he might get beaten if he even opened his mouth in front of them for something so trivial, or something as equally trivial as it. And that could mean death. If he had departed – what would happen to poor Thom? He could, of course, continue on living, but as just a shell? It wasn't as though they were packed full of emotions and life anymore – they were hollow. They would always be, for their values had been beaten from them. From day one, his kapo had told him "Here there are no brothers, no fathers, no friends. Everyone lives and dies for himself."
Was that what they had planned for them all along – to break their spirit, and then eventually break their hollow bodies to be a cluttered mass of absolutely nothing but flesh and bone; to have death emanate through them and be walking corpses? It seemed highly likely, now that Len thought about it, pondered as he stood at attention waiting for his number to be called. But even then their plan was faulty – if they wanted no relations between the people, then wouldn't they be separated and fed information to hate each other? And wouldn't relationships like the one he and Thom shared be banned? After all, they were bound to make friends, or at least be acquaintances with the people they slept with, ate with, and worked with. Their reasoning was a little bit faulty. Not a little bit – actually their reasoning was quite off the mark. Who in their right mind would try to make enemies with someone they'd probably be seeing for the rest of their life – providing that life was guaranteed, which it wasn't. It never was, these days. They had to stick together to be strong, and they had to be strong to survive. And they all wanted to survive right? Save for a few select people, whom only had death in their minds, invading it and tearing it apart.
Speaking of which, there were still some people that held on to that one shred of hope. The hope being that they would be liberated in some way soon. However, Len found this doubtful. The schutz staffel seemed as strong as ever – if not stronger – and the kapos were still mean, latching onto any sign of despair. And since despair was plentiful in the camp, well, the kapos seemed quite happy. This could not possibly mean they would be liberated soon, if the kapos were this happy, and the schutz staffel still this healthy, alive, intact, and well. But still, those people held on, as though the United Kingdom, or the United States, the Russians, and the France would help them. In actually, there was probably a great deal more seeking help towards them, other countries that wanted rid of Germany. Sometimes while they were working, planes would fly overhead. The people would cheer, but the kapos always whipped their team back to shape. And the bombers couldn't even see them, for they were concealed. As hard as it was to keep twenty feet high chain linked fences and barren land concealed. They were surrounded by grassland, and the nearest village was an estimate of about 10 miles away. Or that's what all the prisoners said. It could have been much, much closer. Or it could be much, much farther away.
Len was growing stiff from standing in this position for so long, but he dared not break his stance. Who knew where the kapos were looking at now – and when they could unexpectedly call his number? He stared forward, unable to look at the kapos, and the schutz staffel overseeing them. Perhaps another reason he was afraid to move – perhaps the schutz staffel would see him and sentence him to death for some little thing like disobedience. So he stayed rigid, and probably would for another hour or so, which he was decidedly dreading. However, his life depended on it. As the numbers rolled off the kapos' tongues, and the total count of prisoners were rallied up, he could almost feel the relief in tension and the slight relaxation of his fellow inmates' muscles. That meant his number would be called up soon. For some reason, the newest people were always called up first, and the oldest were last. Not that Len minded, but it was still confusing.
"He is here, sir."
This was when they paid the extra attention to him, when they checked to see if he could be broken down – and what would be the most effective if he could be – and looked for any excuse to inflict any more torture on him. They didn't succeed, and he was happy for at least that. They called out the next number. And then the next. Until finally, it was all over. Or at least, morning roll call was over. The day was far from over – it had just barely started. The prisoners were dismissed (but not without some violence that was ensued), to eat their breakfast. The ten ounces of bread and tasteless black coffee only made Len hungrier. He was a growing boy – growing boys needed lots of nutrition and food to be strong. However, food was barely enough for to sate him and give him a bit of power before he had to work again. It was far from nutritious, and he was lucky if he got any taste from the bread itself. And sometimes, the chefs there would cook sausages, and spare them some. Of course, splitting the sausages among all the prisoners, all one would get would be a thin little slice, seeing as there were hundreds of inmates and mouths waiting to be fed, in comparison to the fact that there were not a lot of sausages, and that they weren't even supposed to have sausages to compliment their food. However, the workers in the cafeteria were okay in the sense that they were nice and not cruel to everyone, they weren't the evil brutes like the kapos or the schutz staffels.
Today they were lucky again, it seemed like the chef had enough margarine, to spare for spread a thing bit on the bread. It wouldn't be the best, but it would be better than nothing, right? Or maybe it was butter – a rare treat that Len would savor. Butter was rare, it deserved to be rationed and saved. He took his tasteless coffee and bread with a bit of margarine on it, and sat at his usual spot, where he usually ate with Thom. Thom, however, did not come right away like usual. Curious as to what was happening, Len looked around. It seemed like the brunette got into another mix up with one of the kapos, or the schutz staffel – or maybe even both. It seemed he was always getting in trouble with them. What was it this time – one of the kapos or the schutz staffel spill his coffee or bump into him, ruining the bread? Thom was coordinated enough not to go doing something like that on his own, so it must be the result of either of those. In any case, Len was dreading this part the most, for this was considered wasting food, and there was always a penalty for that.
Len winced as the younger boy was struck once, twice, three times on his face, and then kicked repeatedly as he fell to the floor, trying to defend himself with only his arms. They were raised in a protective shield, but there was a loud whimpering that could be heard from across the room, if one were only to stop what they were doing and listen. This was not unusual, however it being Thom, Len's anger flared and his fists clenched once more. Did he have to do such things to the boy, did they really find it necessary? How inhuman they were, to strike a little thirteen year old boy? One that did nothing wrong, at that point. Now, not only was the boy bleeding, clutching his right arm, his food was soiled and ruined. Inedible. Len felt sorry for the boy, he really did. He didn't deserve to be pushed around by the kapos and the schutz staffels, and in the midst of it, loose his breakfast! Breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Even if it were a meager amount of bread and coffee (although the bread did have margarine on it - or butter, whichever one it was, it still tasted really good), breakfast was important to build up strength for the oncoming workload for the next couple of hours. No, actually, for the next twelve to fourteen hours. Twelve to Fourteen long hours, with barely any rest in between except for a lunch break with the same mediocre meal, and perhaps not even that good of a meal as the one from breakfast, seeing as butter or margarine couldn't be topped by anything other than a sausage, or some sort of meat and protein that would make working just a little more easier. That was all. Then they expected you to immediately get back to work. Such bakas. How could they even live with themselves? They were cruel, inhuman. So inhuman. He had mentioned it many times before, but that didn't remove his harsh emphasis on how cruel they were, how inhuman and mean they were, how maybe they should step into their shoes for once and see how it was to be treated like scum.
They didn't deserve even that. They should rot in hell, burn for an eternity and more, in constant agony. Should God help him? If it was his religion that got him in here, then why not use that religion against them by praying to God to send these torturers into hell and make them repay their sins, repent. And still not let them go, for they never did relent whenever the prisoners begged them to stop after beatings after beatings. And over exhaustion from the workers. The thing was though, with all this talk of that, where was his God now while he was in his constant suffering? Had he done something wrong to anger him? No - that would mean each and every person in this camp as a prisoner or inmate had sinned in some way - and that was impossible. God could not be this cruel. Could he?
He wanted to scream out suddenly. Where was God? Where was his God? Why did he throw them here, neglecting them and making them suffer in the hands of these... these bastards? These hundreds of Jewish, they did not deserve to be here. They did not deserve to be exposed to this. They did not deserve it. He didn't deserve it either, he suspected. Then why was he here? Why. Was. He. Here? Where was God? Where was he? How could he just leave like that, after his mother had told him never to give up his faith even when times were hard, because God would always be by his side. Well, where was he? Where the hell was his God, by his side, helping him when times were tough? He wasn't there. Len couldn't have ever been angrier in his life than he was now. Just because of what the kapo and the schutz staffel had triggered by bullying Thom.
But he could not doubt his God, for the last words he had heard from his mother after she was rushed to the right with his sister, was that God would always be by his side. And his mother was no liar. She was sweet, she was the one who would always help him through with times. Over the past month he had learned that prisoners going to the right were immediately sentenced to the gas chambers. His mother, his sister, sent to the right then to the left with other women. His father... was sent to the right, and entered to the right. Was his father dead, lost to the gas chambers? Really... actually gone? He couldn't believe it. His father, the strong, brave man. Gone from this world in a matter of seconds. He didn't even get to say his last goodbye, as his father forced him to get into the truck with the other Jewish being sent to the work camp. When Len got off again, his father threw him back onto the truck. By the time Len had gathered his bearings, his father was gone, nowhere to be seen.
He wept then. Cried like a baby.
But he could not linger on this. He had Thom now, Thom was probably the only constant he would ever have in his life from this day forward.
"Thom, are you okay?" The younger boy nodded slightly, wiping some blood that had trickled down his face.
"I'm fine, Allen."
For once, Len didn't tell the boy to call him Len. "Here, you can have some of my food." He started to break the bread in half. The brunette's eyes widened in delight, but then shrunk and he shook his head.
"No, Allen, I can't take it from you. You need to eat too..."
"Don't be silly, you baka. You need to eat too. Or else you'll be too weak to work, and they really will execute you. Eat, or I'll force feed it down your throat." Len managed to shut him up and made him comply. The hazel eyed boy took half of the bread and bit into it, delighted.
"It's butter, Len! Butter! Real butter! Not margarine!" Taken aback, Len had to see for himself. There was no mistake. It was butter. The creamy texture and the taste could not be matched with margarine. "Thank you, Allen! Thank you!" Len smiled, but looked around to check for any kapo or schutz staffel.
"Be a little more quiet. We can't let them see we've exchanged food. Here, hurry up and finish eating. I've left some coffee for you too. I'll meet you at the group. Don't be too late, or they'll beat you again." Len departed with a little wink, and left the kid in glee, eating his buttered bread and tasteless black coffee. His work team was surprisingly late, and his kapo looked less than pleased. Since Len was actually there early, he could do nothing but groan and moan, and then stare at Len as though longing to take a hit. It was as though he wanted to continue his little fight from this morning, when he slapped the blond boy for not finishing his bettenbau. His bettenbau still wasn't presentable, but they need not to know that. Soon Thom came running over, as well as the rest of the work team. Seeing as his kapo could not punish each and every one of them, they were on their merry way to the work site. What would they be doing today? Digging? Moving rocks? Or packages? Maybe they were going to the factory this time, to make weapons. Everyone knew that only the good work teams got into the factory, since there was less physical work needed to be done. It was as though it were some kind of reward. If that was what his team was doing - then no wonder the kapo for the team was in such an angry mood.
The kapo ordered them to march to military music, but as the workers continued on, they could not hide their joyous faces when they realized they were working in the factory. Although conditions in such a factory were not the best, it was definitely better than lugging bags or digging trenches. In a fit of anger, the kapo suddenly had to strike at the nearest person, who fell on the ground, clutching his face and moaning in pain. Needless to say, it ended with everyone shutting up and hoping not to get to their leader's bad side. He did have quite a temper, one would learn when working with him for a long time. But no, he wanted more satisfaction than the pain he had given to the one inmate. He forced them to sing along to the song they had to march to. The song they had to march to, it was the military music to the very military that sent them to this camp, for the torture, the beatings, and the cruel and unusual work. At first the words were mumbled – no one really wanted to sing it. However, the kapo was becoming more and more annoyed, increasingly so that he struck out at several more workers in the group. It was around this time when Len and Thom started to sing louder, trying to imitate the sounds, but somewhat failing. Seeing their dire predicament right then, the older teenagers and younger adults started to sing as well, until the voices melded together into a nonsensical babble. However, they were not chastised for it, for they were not butchering it, but rather trying their hardest not to offend. The kapo seemed to understand, or perhaps he liked their warbled voices singing the song.
Some schutz steffels rode by on their military car, checked in with the kapo, and nodded their head, dust billowing behind them as they sped off somewhere else. The yard was not too far off now, and not too far off from the yard was the factory. The kapo didn't seem to notice all the sighs of relief as they approached closer and closer to the yard, but Len noticed it. Perhaps it had something to do with that he had been one of the chorus of sighs, along with Thom and others. But either way, as long as the kapo didn't notice it, he was all good. The sighs of relief from the work team as they got to the factory, however, was heard. Or so Len suspected, because the kapo had tensed up as though ready to strike again. However, he seemed to let it slide. Was he being nice to them, or something? Going easy on them today? Perhaps he was. Hey, maybe this kapo wasn't all that bad. But he still seemed to be in a bad mood (probably still from the fact that his work team was going to be in the factory as opposed to the usual dragging around heavy bags or labor work that rendered almost useless), and didn't talk the whole way, only the glowering look on his face. Did it really put him in such an off mood, these days? Just because they were going to the factory? Honestly - it wasn't that much of an improvement. Len had worked in the factory a couple of times before. It was nothing incredibly special. The only thing different was the fact that they had gotten to sit instead of so heavy physical work. The work was still harsh, and it was as though by sitting down the schutz staffel and the kapo thought your fingers could go faster than their fastest limit - which was untrue. But the kapo ordered them to go faster, faster, faster than they usually would if they were outside doing the physical labor work. Was was with all the urgency, anyways?
The kapo assembled them at the assembly line, so that once the parts came to the roller, it wouldn't be too hard for them to grab on to a part and latch it on to its appropriate part. None of the prisoners in this group were idiots; the kapo knew that much, so not much explaining was done. Len started to pick up pieces and assemble them together, putting his part of the project down to ship to the next person who would then assemble it more there. Once in a while Len would check up on Thom, who would honestly be overjoyed at the not to physical work. In fact, if he wasn't mistaken, Thom was actually enjoying the work. Of course, whenever a kapo happened to look in their general direction, Thom would revert back to his old solemn self, trying to act as though this were difficult and hard for him. After a little while the kapo had given up on watching them. Maybe that's why their kapo was put off, maybe it was less entertaining to see them assemble parts for battle than seeing them lug around heavy bags or big or so the physical legwork of the schutz staffel and kapo.
Even after a while, they were afraid of slowing down, though their kapo often left the room and didn't care for their pace. The assembly line belt took care of their speed anyways, should they be afraid. This piece goes on that piece, and I'm sure that this piece would fit well right here... Len was thinking to himself again, but else was he supposed to do? Factory work was honestly boring. Easy, but boring. He could see the emptiness of his fellow co-workers about what they thought of such of a job. Well, as long as it's easier than the physical work they usually had to do, then they were pretty happy with it. This continued on for a couple of hours until Len's fingers started to hurt and grow red from pain. Just a little longer. Lunch Break was almost there. It was almost there. Just a little bit longer, really. There was nothing more to it. Just wait a little longer.
However, these silent urgings to himself was not much of a great help. Sure, it helped him get through it, but they didn't help make him more efficient in any way. Perhaps if they made him work faster, or try to do something fun until this was all over, it would be better. But it obviously didn't, and so it was obviously wouldn't be better. The silent seconds ticked by as the assembly line grew faster and faster, until it was impossible for him to keep up anymore. However, he could not just slack up. The kapo's watchful eye was now trained back on the inmates, in a frenzy. It must've been him controlling the flow of the assembly belt, and now he must be laughing at their pain and inability to keep up with it. Well, if he were down here how would he have kept up with it? How would he have indeed? It wouldn't be so funny, Len thought to the kapo's smirk. Although he didn't particularly see it, he could sense it, as he could sense that his eyes were trained to every little minute detail that the prisoners were doing. Len pushed himself harder by saying those magic words again. Just a little bit longer... Just a little bit longer.
Just a little bit longer until lunch break, and some food would enter his belly. He wasn't sure if it would make him hungrier or sate his hunger, but any would be fine, really. As long as he didn't have to deal with the lightening fast assembly belt anymore. Maybe the lightening fast was just his imagination, but then it would have been most of the work crew's imagination as well, so that was improbable. There were only a couple people whom seemed unfazed at the pace, and Len had to glare at envy towards them. Especially for little Thom, whom seemed to be in his element. Still, Len made no sign that he was in discomfort, as though he were at perfect ease inside his mind and that the assembly was mere child's play. There was nothing they could do about it accept for him to go faster. But surprisingly the kapo said nothing of that sort, and just watched them assemble parts together.
Now that he was looking at them, it looked like war parts. It wasn't a bullet, or a gun, but it was definitely military (if it wasn't so obvious that 'workers' at a 'military work camp' were working on it), and it looked pretty dangerous. Remind him again why they couldn't just sabotage the whole thing and make the incoming war between the Allied Forces and Germany a little more easier for the Allied Forces and a bit harder for Germany? Right - because they would probably all be executed if some little thing went wrong. A whole work team was executed because of that, once. He later found out that it was never their fault; it was a fluke from the producers of the material and the way they were told to make it. Their kapo was then executed, but they could never gain back the team that they had killed. They were short a team. And now, even slowing down was not an option, because that would mean sabotage, and sabotage meant death.
Sweet relief to his tired and sweaty hands it was when their kapo announced lunch break. Would he finally get some good food in his stomach and rest his tired hands? Would he get to talk to Thom again? Yes on both accounts, which was always a rarity in these kinds of situations. When you got a double yes, it was something to celebrate for. If the matter was happy, of course. If it was sad, then it was something to mourn for. Something angry, then... well you get the point. Et cetera, et cetera.
"So, how was the factory, Thom?" Len took a bite of his lunch, barely trying to savor it. He was hungry - he was going to eat.
"It was better than I expected, I actually had a lot of fun. Don't tell anyone, okay?" Len shook his head. It would be suicide telling anyone, anyways.
"Of course I won't, don't you know me at all?" Len inserted a smirk there, and then a few chuckles to indicate that this was obviously a joke, to the surprised little brunette, which his mouth wide open in horror at what he had just said.
"You're my friend, right?"
"Well, of course I am." Len paused. "What makes you think I wasn't?"
"I think… I think we should escape." Before the whole sentence came out, Len already knew what the brunette was going to say. And Len started to shake his head. They could not escape. They were better off accepting their fate, than escaping. It wasn't that he was scared. He just didn't want anything to happen to Thom. He was the one that didn't deserve to die, and will not die according to Len.
"No, Thom. No. Why would you say that? If any of the kapos or the schutz staffel hears us even talking about it, we'd be hung for everyone to see. And we're children; we'll die a slow death in comparison to adults who will immediately break their neck and die. No. That's final. You've seen the captured prisoners that escaped, right? Was there one that ever managed to really escape? No. They were all hung, and you and I, we both witnessed it, as well as about a hundred other people as well. They forced us to watch. Because they'll do the same to us if we tried it." The determination in Thom's eyes softened ad he mulled over Len's word. They were starting to make sense. He wouldn't try it.
"I… I understand. But you won't die on me; will you, if we stay here?" Thom was unsure. Len was sure as hell.
"Of course not. Who else would protect you?"
Lunch break was soon over, and Len had his fill of his food. At least now he could be able to work a bit more, although the energy would probably not last him for very long, being put immediately to work. All in all, perhaps it was not such a good idea, since his energy would be drained quickly, and he would then be both tired and hungry once this whole thing was over. Which had to be in a good five or six hours. And he was already thinking about fatigue? What a sissy he had become. Although, wouldn't one become hardened and more mature and strong as time went on spending time in the concentration camp? It apparently had some opposite effect on him, at least today. Couldn't he just man it up a little and bear with it for one more day? Working in the factory wasn't as hard as the physical labor he had been subjected to yesterday and the day before, and the day before that. But he couldn't slow down, and his hands were numb and tired from all the assembling he had done before. The worst part was, he himself knew that he was helping the German with the war, and that if they kept making top quality products (or as top quality as they could muster), then Germany might win, and they might never be liberated and die in this miserable work camp.
And he couldn't even do anything about helping their opponents win. Although easy to sabotage, the results of said sabotage would lead to the death of his companions, in his work team. If they were found out. And even if they weren't, Len was sure the paranoia would eat him up alive, and he wouldn't be healthy enough to be able to work. If he fainted, he died. Because the kapo would beat his shaken and broken body until it was a bloody mess, and someone would have to carry him back for the evening roll call – if he were to survive until then. And then… then he would be evaluated to see if he was even allowed to live anymore, his broken and beaten body supposedly dead weight. Then he really would be executed.
So, what would happen to Thom?
Len didn't want to die, mostly for him. He wouldn't let himself die. Although often times he felt as though he was losing strength, he couldn't stop his pace, and even if he wanted to rest his hands – for just a moment – he knew his kapo might beat him, potentially kill him. Today is a lucky day – he managed to make it through half of the time working on the assembly without feeling the tell-tale need to slow down for his whining hands. However, his loss of strength came as an impact, and he visibly changed, that even his kapo noticed. However, he willed his hands to keep working at the pace, he made them work, even if it slowly tortured him, and lead him to the death. Because he did not want to get executed. Not by the way they usually executed children. They would hang them, and since their weight could not break their neck immediately, they would die a slow and painful death. It was gruesome. Although he found that maybe he could live with that – and the real thing that irked him was the fact that this would be an event for everyone to see. All eyes witnessing his death.
Was this how that child felt when he had gotten hung? The child that Len had seen his first month here. The one he couldn't bear to look at, but his kapo had forced him to. He was crying bloody tears as the child, no older than himself if not younger sunk into his death. He was choking; his hands could not help him as his body had already been battered and weak. The sight, it still sent shivers down his spine. He never got nightmares, but whenever he thought back to it, he would get the uneasy feeling. So this was the doom he had been sent to go through, was it? Did he have to take it like a brave man, a brave young man? Or could he be allowed to choke on his tears and sob like a broken child? No, he had to take it like a brave man; he had to be strong for Thom. Because if he cried, Thom would be doomed. Because then… he would lose any semblance of ever getting out of there.
Len wasn't going to do that to the little brunette. There was no way.
His thoughts tipped over as suddenly, the kapo of another team started to beat one of his own team members until they fainted. No, not even then, the kicking continued and continued even after the prisoner fainted. Len looked up from his own work, although his hands never faltered. What time was it? It seemed to be nearing the time to march back. The man had to rise, he had to, or someone would have to carry his body back during the march. Someone like himself.
Of course, the man didn't march, and ended up with a bullet to his temple. The kapo had seen that Len was watching, and barked at him to go and carry to man back during the march, which was in ten or so minutes. Ten minutes? That was a miracle. A complete god-given gift. Had he really passed the time thinking to himself? Yes, he had. But the thing he was dreading, was carrying back the body. Why did he have to do it? Just because he laid witness to the whole thing… was this his punishment? Well, it wasn't that bad of a punishment, although the body was still bloody, the redness dripping from his temple never ceasing. He seemed to be dead, and the blood loss was great. Was he… was he really going to have to carry this body back to the camp? He didn't want to, but he might have to. Not might, he actually will have to since the kapo had ordered him to. This bloody, heavy body would burden him on his way back to camp, and he was not looking forward to it, not at all.
Yes, he was dreading the end of his work shift – if he had to carry a dead person on his back to the even roll call, he'd surely die. After his exhausting work, all he wanted to do was collapse and fall asleep, into peaceful slumber and a well rested body. But rarely did he ever get a good night's sleep, his shared bunk was crowded and whenever he wanted to turn, he'd have to make everyone turn with him, which was not a very comfortable or easy process at the least. The fact that they were basically all crowded and smashed together made it hard to move at all. It was too much effort to even want to move anymore. In fact, it was probably best for them not to move at all, for it was potentially dangerous that one might be crushed to death by the weight of the bodies, if they weren't careful. Or so, that was always what Len had deluded, although no one had met such an unfortunate and stupid death quite yet.
Well, maybe because they weren't too heavy, as their bodies were worn down to the skeleton, with barely any meat or flesh left on some. When one of them got too extreme, he or she was executed. How did he know? It was because he had nearly been one of them, when they had called up people for some inspection. He was so scared at the time, which he would die before his time; he would leave everyone and that he was much too young to die. He had just made it to being 'healthy enough to still work'. They were going take all the energy and work from him as he could. If he had working hands and wasn't going to let anything distract him, then they were going to make him work, work until he died. Until he was rendered useless.
Thom had been good about that, though. Even though the younger brunette boy was equally as hungry as Len was, he offered the blond haired, blue eyed half of his food for the rest of the week. Suffice to say, by the end of the week, when the schutz staffel and his kapo examined him in the thought that they would have a starved boy who would no longer be able to work, they found a healthier boy, whom seemed to have gained a few pounds in the process. Of course, they were suspicious – why hadn't he died yet, or starved, with his meager rations? He was monitored closely for a few days, but since nothing seemed to reek suspicious from him (at least, not whenever they had their eyes on him), they continued with their usual rounds. Besides, they were neglecting watching the other prisoners, which meant it was easier to exchange food to the elderly or the children.
In a way, they were thankful for what had happened, even though they did not voice their opinions on such a sort. Len knew they were, on the inside. They had to be, right? Because he had helped them, in a little way, yes, but he had helped them.
The whistle was sounding. It was time to march back for the evening roll call. He finished his last assembly and then looked at the bloody, dead body. Was he really going to have to take this back to the camp, carry it by himself with no help whatsoever? He wasn't going to make Thom help him carry it, but the man had to be like twice his weight. And it did not help that everyone was filing out of the room and he was struggling to get the man's body on top of him, so that he could carry it back to the camp. He was lighter than Len had originally suspected. But, it might have been because the blood had soaked out of his body, most of it anyways. The wound was still bleeding, after the ten minutes had passed. Did humans have this much blood? But, it was still a hassle for Len to carry this body, for him to have the extra hundred pounds (or so) on his shoulders and back. He knew it, he was going to have back pains tonight, and probably for a long time coming. Why did they have to kill this man anyways, as a life wasted was a pair of hands and strength from a worker wasted as well? Did they begin to resent them that much that they would kill now? For no reason? Even when they had the odds of surrender to their favor?
One conclusion – they were the stupidest people on earth. Only, he couldn't let them catch him saying it – or even thinking it. Surely they would know when he was having resentful thoughts about them – hadn't he seen them say so to another prisoner once? Yes, he distinctly remembered so. Although, they could have very well be lying. However, it seemed like they were spot on with the man's thinking, for he paled a couple of shades. And he looked sickened, as though they had really figured him out and that he would die, on the spot. They killed him, naturally, for he had shown all the tell-tale signs of a guilty person with trickery and had the potential to be a deceiver. Or so, that was what was probably going around in the schutz staffel's mind at the time.
Len tried not to think of such grim things. In fact, he was trying to focus only on hoisting this body on top of his and ensuring that it would not slip on the march back to the camp. However, he was already late, and getting beaten was expected from him, and if they didn't give him a proper beating, he'd be surprised. Either way, if only he could get some help with this. It seemed that most of the people had filed out – including Thom, that little traitor – and the only people left were perhaps one kapo and two other prisoners lagging behind. Not to forget about him and the dead body lying on the floor that he was attempting to drag onto his back and carry back to camp, what was now going to be his salvation. But as soon as the kapo and the prisoners left, he might as well be cast as an escapee. Because if he wasn't back at the camp before roll call, then he would be deemed as one.
If only someone would help him. It would certainly make his life for today a lot easier. And potentially prevent him from death because he seemed to be a runaway, but he really wasn't and was just struggling with a heavy body. Albeit, the body was lighter than he expected, but it was still heavy as hell. Why did that kapo make him carry the body? Perhaps he had just wanted to be evil and see him die. But that was indefinitely cruel, because Len had the inability to carry such a huge mass on his back. He would surely break his back, if worse came to worse. Or his legs would give out and he would never make it back with such a huge load upon him. How was he actually going to make this work? Camp was miles away. This body would impair him from making such a long distance. Where was Thom when he actually needed him to do some leg work for him? Apparently, fending for himself. Which Len was proud of, but did he actually have to get the balls to do so today?
After much experimenting, Len finally found a good position to actually carry the man and to reduce some of the excess weight he did not want to feel crushing down on him. It was the piggyback position, and although the thought of him having to give a dead man a piggyback ride was unnerving and might make him vomit up his lunch, if he hadn't already used up the energy from it during his work hour. The bile was entering up his throat, threatening to come out of his mouth. He was sure that it was comical for the prisoners watching, as well as the kapo that had lingered back. It was a little hard to at first to keep his balance, and nearly toppled over a couple of times. He heard the kapo in the room snickering crudely, much to his dwindling self esteem and hope. Well, if he was still here, then he couldn't possibly be deemed late. Since kapos were never late. Besides, where were the people on his team, anyways? They must have left. His kapo will surely beat him now… he surely will.
The next couple of steps were smooth sailing, for the most part. Although he was still uneven and unbalanced, at least he was able to move and such. As the steps carried on, it got gradually easier to walk. It seemed that the weight lifted off of his shoulders, somewhat. It wasn't a very noticeable change, but at least it was some change, and the he knew that by the time he got back to camp with the body, he'd get some more strength. His muscles must have been strengthening under the weight, although maybe muscles on this body were useless, for they'd just decay away from lack of food. In fact, he was sure most of the prisoners in this camp were going under malnutrition. In fact, most of the younger people were small; the adults were the same size as before, but incredibly skinny and boney. How most of them were still able to work, he wasn't sure. He was doubtful the worst of them had long to live, before they were either executed or died of starvation or even malnutrition. Starvation was the most likely cause, however.
Soon, he was running, trying to catch up to his work team and his kapo. The weight seemed like nothing on his shoulders, although whenever he bounced, they landed painfully on them, and his poor back. It would probably have back pains from here on over, for at least a couple of days. Just wait – the weight would be crashing onto his back if he even stopped for one moment. So he didn't, even if his lungs were burning for air and his legs were tired from all the pumping it did to catch up to his group. How did he get this sudden energy? A surprise adrenaline rush? Perhaps. He did feel the adrenaline coursing through his veins, and it was sudden, as though his urge not to get hanged and have a slow painful death, like that child. He wasn't heavy enough to break his neck immediately. He would choke, perhaps die from asphyxiation.
No, he wasn't going to let them do that to him. A beating was better than being hung to death. A beating was preferred by Len. If he could help it, he was getting that beating. Or else all was lost. His life would be lost. He didn't want to die – he was too young to die. He didn't want to revert to the same mentality he had before. About how he was too young to die. He had seen children younger than himself, small innocent little children, get killed and slaughtered by the kapo and the schutz staffel. Mercilessly they did this, those heartless bastards. Where was their sense of humanity? Oh right, how could he forget so easily? They had none. They were cruel, with cold hearts set into stone. The very reason that the people here in these concentration camps, and in the death camps, was because of their cruelty.
He could see his work team. They were marching and singing again. Amongst them was Thom. He seemed to be constantly searching, and he wore a puzzled expression. The work team was only one of many, and they were each marching together, each and everyone one of them singing the same, cruel, military song of the Germans. If one of them were to mess up, they were beaten. Len rejoined the group and started to feel the weight fall on his shoulders again, almost suddenly that he nearly toppled over once again. It wasn't that he did not have enough strength to maintain the weight – it just appeared so suddenly. He began to sing, although his voice was hoarse and occasionally his voice cracked. The kapos paid not a notice, and he was glad. Did his kapo even know that he was late and had lagged behind?
When they had returned to the camp, many of the inmates collapsed, although not for long that they could not scurry to their roll call line to be on time for the roll call. Consequences were dire when they did not meet. Hopefully, today would be an easy day, for they would then proceed to have dinner and then go back to their bunks. Not that it was something to look forward – there was hardly anything to look forward to here in the camps, but at least they would get some rest. A fitful sleep, sure, but that was better than nothing, for torture experiences using sleep deprivation would be the least of their worries. They would have survived another day, to live to see another sunrise, perhaps. And another sunset, if they survived the next day. And the next.
It was all based off luck, anyways. If one were to live or die in these fateful camps. It was all based off that. Of course, Len had been lucky. Others, they weren't. Perhaps there was also the dependency on how well you had lived, and if you lived fancifully, the chances of survival were less than those who lived modestly. But even then, everyone was not used to such things like the decreased amount of food and their horrible living conditions, and the factor in the fact that they got beaten almost each and every day, yeah. It was a little different. Then there were those totally random chances that a doctor would choose you to experiment on. They were usually children, so Len was almost chosen. Twice. However, both times he was deemed too old, and they went onto younger children. This was a constant worry for Len, for if Thom were to get picked, he would be faced with just about three possible situations to get out of it. Death, Disfigurement, and Disability. The Three D's.
It hadn't happened yet, for they rarely ever visited this camp. Those two times that Len had almost gotten chosen were on odd days. These days being when they had run out of good choices in the other, more preferable camps. In a way, he had gotten off lucky. Death, Disfigurement, and Disability were not something he wanted in his near future – or even anywhere in his future. He's much like to stay the way he was, with more food and more shelter and more comfortable living conditions, at the least. They did not even provide them with such simple living as that, how miserable the schutz staffel were to them. How cruel and mean.
He dropped off the dead body amongst the pile of other dead bodies that other prisoners had carried. He shuffled to his row and column quickly. He didn't want to be counted as missing. He didn't want to die quite yet. No, what was he saying? He did not want to die at all. Why was he thinking negatively, all of a sudden? However, he found a problem. Evening roll call was hard, his back hurt, his lungs ached, and he did not want to stand at attention for the whole period. But if he moved, her could be beaten (he had gotten off lucky last time), or even death could be awaiting him from being beaten to death. No, he had to stay in this position, so in this position he stayed. His legs ached too, his shoulders were in pain. Could the schutz staffel see his face, contorted in pain and discomfort? Would they choose this day to pick on him? The kapo were no longer here, thank goodness, but the schutz staffel remains. And sometimes, they were even crueler than they were in the morning, if that were even possible. In fact, as soon as the prisoners got into the camp, they were transferred into the schutz staffel's control. So basically, their team was no longer controlled and looked over by the kapos, but rather the schutz staffel. A new opportunity for them to beat, and to kill. Len never liked this part of the day. Never.
"He is here, sir."
It was the same as this morning. He prepared to be in the best possible shape he could, at attention, not moving a muscle and staying as still as possible. He scarcely even breathed; for fear that breath would cause him death. His lungs ached so much more than before, his legs straight and the circulation cutting off where he was locking his knees. They were inspecting him, and he knew it, although he chose to try and not acknowledge it. Because if he did, he knew that he would get more nervous, and as a result it would mean that he might slip, relax his posture and his stiffness, and who knows what the schutz staffel would do to him? Honestly, he couldn't possibly risk it anymore than he had to. If he were just patient, when they left and checked another person, far far away, then he would be able to relax his stiff muscles, if only for a little while. But until then, he had to be patient. He had to bid him time, if he wanted to avoid more pain, and ultimately, death.
But he couldn't help himself. Only a couple minutes after they had left to check other prisoners, he was relaxing his stance. The worst part was that they were within sight. The even worst part was that they were facing his direction. He was absolutely crazy. He was committing suicide. And he knew it. But how come he actually did it? It was almost subconscious. No, it was subconscious. Because he would be crazy to attempt something like this willingly.
He had relaxed. And the worst part, someone had seen him. His shoulders had slumped ever so slightly forward, and his legs drooped. His head and leaned forward, and if he had given the chance, he would have collapsed by now. But by some miracle he had remained standing, however, he had attracted the attention of one of the schutz staffel on duty. How he had managed to do that, well, it was obvious. But Len had caught him stiffening and his head was turning just slightly as he straightened back into his position. When the young schutz staffel had finally turned to face him, his face searching through the seas of prisoners, trying to detect the one that had dared move an inch, he found nobody. Len was well hidden, and he would not be targeting. Thank goodness he was able to pull himself back to the uncomfortable stance.
However, the young schutz staffel was still someone to worry about. He kept making glances back at Len's general direction, and made it increasingly difficult to even relax just a bit. In fact, he wasn't sure he would be able to sneak a little time of relaxation now. Great, just great. Maybe it was because this was a new soldier that was making him get on edge. Len didn't know how to react to him – he was unpredictable as he was new. And with that, there was the guarantee that he would not let this go, unlike some of the older members of the schutz staffel. Could he be one of those sadistic ones that honestly liked to inflict pain upon the members of the camp, the prisoners? Or… or what? They couldn't possibly be anything but mean and sadistic.
The death count had raised from yesterday, Len heard, from the schutz staffel chatting between themselves in quick and curt German. Were they happy? No, it seemed like they were disturbed about something to do with the death count. However, Len couldn't quite hear, for the sound of the bell for dinner was sounding, drowning out the murmurings of the the schutz staffel soldiers. So, there were to be no punishments and no hangings today? A rare treat, but one that Len will savor for the remainder of the date, and hope that it will keep him happy through the night. It probably wouldn't, since the nights were living hell, but there was always that hope that he wouldn't succumb to total horribleness. This hope was small to begin with, and small right, now, but it was hope that he would cope with.
But wait until he finally got to this bunk again. Wait until the next day when the living hell would start again? What had he got to live for, really? Although he was afraid to die, the coward he was, he wasn't sure what exactly there was so live for. He could always commit suicide - get one of the kapo or the schutz staffel to kill him and end this endless torture. However, he knew that it would give them satisfaction, and wouldn't Len's aim to be to make these guys pay? To have revenge? Not that he could have much of a revenge in his state. But he vowed, if he could, he would make them pay for their sins and repent. But if he were ever to be liberated and regain his health again, wouldn't that be contradictory? For the mere fact that he were liberated, that would mean death and destruction would have befallen the schutz staffel and the kapos. Therefore, he wouldn't be able to do anything for living.
He wanted to see his family again, most of all. He wasn't sure if he were able to. His sister and his mother - where would they be? When would he be able to see them again? He missed them, he missed his old life and he wanted it back. But he could never have it back now, as he was sure he would have constant inner demons connected to this place. If he really wanted his old life back, his thoughts and his home and, just himself. He could never replace it. Len knew that this experience in the camp had changed him, probably for the worst. Well, at least he had Thom in the camp.
If he were to be freed, where would he go? First he would attempt to find his mother and sister, and tell them about the dreadful news of father. They would not enjoy hearing it. But he had to find them before this, but what if he found out that they had died too? He couldn't imagine his mother or his sister dying, he couldn't imagine it at all. If not for them, what other reason would he have to live to see the end of this natural days? To live old?
Only one answer appeared in his head, but it was cliché and not to mention never going to happen to him. Love. But where would he find love here, in a concentration camp? There were hardly any girls here. And the ones that did reside in this camp were too busy working and sleeping and eating, and basically just surviving the basis of life in the camps. And they never paid attention to anyone. The prisoners trusted each other in the camp, even if there were a hundred. The first thing that Len remembered was that the elder, healthier people would could speak, would tell the newcomers that they had to be civil to each other, and that there was to be no greed and no rash actions.
This ultimately failed at times. Whenever a prisoner got enraged to the point of bursting, that is. It had never happened to Len before, but perhaps that was because he managed to maintain a level head and a cool exterior whenever anger had boiled up within him. But he could not deny those times when all he wanted to do was get his hands around one of their necks and wrap his delicate fingers around it, squeezing and squeezing until their windpipe was crushed and he would be alive no longer.
Of course, this would get him killed, and possibly they would think of a way to drag in those innocent bystanders. The kapo and the schutz staffel never played fair, the only rules they knew were the dirty rules, getting what they wanted through unfair and dirty ways. He could not act out his fantasy, even if he wanted to. The schutz staffel and the kapo would never let him. And even if this were to be means for suicide, they would never set him free through death with a clean conscience. They would... they would probably make him watch his fellow comrades die or get tortured because of his rash actions. And then they would make them watch his death. They would watch him scream for their help. And the worst part is, he knew they would be embittered by the torture and death that they had been inflicted because of him.
That was out of the question. He couldn't do that. There was no way. That would be cruel of him, not to mention selfish and utterly torturous. And what would he gain from this anyways? He'd leave his life feeling horrible, and he'll leave the other prisoners feeling horrible too. Honestly, thinking it through, it was stupid to even consider.
"Allen, why are you sulking so? We made it through another day!"
"You know as well as I do that we might still die. The block fuerhers are still waiting at our barrack. Who knows if we'd die by their hands this time? We were lucky last time; they didn't seem to notice us."
"Right. I forgot about that." But Len knew that Thom remembered it. It was hard to forget those real criminals, the ones that were branded with the green triangles. They wore them proudly, as though it were something to be praised for. But they were right about one thing, for showing them off. They got the fear they needed to control everyone in the camps. Well, almost everyone, at least. There were some rebels, but unfortunately, when they rebelled, they died. Because no one else joined them. If everyone were to join, perhaps the rebelling would have worked. But people were scared - and still are - so no one had stepped up.
The dinner was a sloppy, soupy mixture, of something that looked like potatoes and water. It was good enough for both Thom and Len, whom had been starved and hungry for just about the time they had gotten to the concentration camps. It's not like it was anything solid that would easily fill their bellies (not that their bellies were ever full). The kapos were still patrolling, even if their control over them had been handed over to the schutz staffel. Even at this time they took dinner to beat anyone they saw fit, knock over dinners and make people starve for the rest of the night, even if they needed the strength to survive with the block fuerhers.
As soon as dinner was over, they were returned to their barracks. Thom was still in the bunk above him, but they were not allowed to sleep just yet. The block fuerhers were coming. They decided if they would receive death or stay alive to live another day. Most people made it past the chopping block and will see another sunrise, should they survive the early morning roll call. There were some unlucky ones that the block fuerhers would summon, and they would never be seen again. And to the so called 'lucky' ones... There was a little bit of untruth in his words when he had stated that they would live to see another day. Although the possibility was highly likely now that there was only about an four or five hour gap to the next day.
"Judebrut. Run across the camp forty times." No... It was one of those 'fun' days. Which usually resulted in torture for the prisoners and fun for the block fuerhers. They would work the prisoners' already exhausted bodies until they fainted, and then order them to bed. By then, they would be too tired to care about the crowded conditions of the bunk, and fall into a dead sleep until they were to awaken for morning roll call, the next day.
Len had finally figured out something during his run, the one that the block fuerher had sent him to do, say, forty laps, was it? It was on his fifth lap that he realized it.
Concentration camps were not for the weak. Not for the weak, physically. But not for the mentally weak, either. Those weak-minded would be broken immediately. Children would be especially vulnerable.
Perhaps these forty laps were too much for his weakened body? Sure, he had grown accustomed to the work - somewhat. However, maybe putting all this extra work on his body would put him to sleep - perhaps this time for good. He didn't want this to be his last final act, but he did good to comply. To behave. Maybe it was because he was so close to living for another day. Maybe that was why he had the will to live right now, instead of dying and collapsing from over exertion.
Lap ten. Only thirty more to go, but he was already exhausted and gasping for breath. If only he could take a break. But he couldn't, because he knew that the block fuerhers would be watching him and some other prisoners running around the camp frantically. Even if he wasn't going full speed, he was going damn fast because, well, it wasn't like he could slow down and rest a bit. He'd be beaten beyond belief - he'd die! They would never let him rest until his forty laps were done. Maybe he should be optimistic. At least he didn't get fifty laps. A whole ten laps more - it would mark the death of him, he was sure.
Lap fifteen. Len ventured a rest here, slowing down a bit. No one noticed, for they were too busy. He ventured to a full stop. A block fuerher noticed him and came towards his way, yelling for him to continue. Frightened, he did just that, taking off in fear that they would sentence him to more laps. They didn't, thank goodness, but maybe it was because they didn't know who he was. Then again, his blond hair wasn't hard to miss. However, he had been far away from the nearest block fuerher.
Lap twenty eight. Len wasn't sure how much more he could take. He breathing was labored, his stomach was aching for food, and his legs were begging for rest. He needed more discipline if he wanted to make through these block fuerhers' torture. But his lungs were burning for more air as he continued.
Lap thirty. His legs were feeling like spaghetti - or was a jelly, they called it? Either way, it seemed like they would collapse any second now, and he would feel the relief of fainting. Sure, he'd be beaten until he woke up, experienced enough pain to make him grow unconscious, and perhaps die in the wake of whipping and beating. However, his stupid legs grew ever resilient, and he swore he could feel that there were muscles growing on his legs. Like hell - they were tired and maybe he was just hallucinated. Or something. He was losing his sanity - that's what.
Lap thirty five. Only five more laps to go - then he'd be home free. He'd be able to see Thom again, and he might be able to see his family once more. His mother and his sister. When the Allies finally liberated them... and he would find them, if it were the last thing he would do. He would find them, and see them, and then he might die in a sense of accomplishment. That he were to see them and be filled with accomplishment, with no real reason to live, and simply die. Without worries, without will, just let go of his shred of longing, and die peacefully.
Of course, he might not be able to do that. He'd be the only man in the family, to protect his mother and little sister. If he were to survive for long enough for the Allies to free everyone, that is. There was only that obstacle. If he were to overcome it, and be freed, he would eventually be faced with another obstacle - finding his family. Which would be downright hard.
Lap thirty nine. One more to go. One more to go. Len kept chanting in his head. One more to go. His head was spinning from oxygen deprivation, and his legs were aching for rest, feeling less than solid and wobbly. He had one more to go, one more before he could collapse. His sore legs and his tired lungs deserved their rest. He deserved the rest. He.. he...
Blackness overcame. He never did make it to forty.
Later, he wondered why he hadn't been killed. There must be a reason he was spared. Because, he would soon be dead weight and if he were dead weight he would have been sentenced to one of those death camps, one of the ones that ensured you had no hope of living. That you'd be gassed and you'd die. There was more than one way to die. There was another way instead of being gassed. Such as being hung, or something like that. But Len didn't like to dwell on such solemn matters. Rather, he'd wanted to think of good and happy things. Optimistic things. Things that were hard to think of in such despair and sadness he was feeling. Such emptiness.
Well, at least he had Thom to keep in company in this darkness and chaos. At least he had a friend. That was good, right? At least he had something. There were others who tried to survive life in the camps alone. Those were the truly foolish and stupid. The ones without moral support, the ones that only looked after themselves. There was a point that you reached, where you just got frustrated enough to say 'screw it, I want to die'. And there was no one there to stop you, because you fended for yourself, and only yourself. Those were the truly pitiful, the ones who would meet death early on.
Suffice to say, Len was glad he wasn't one of those people. He was glad he had Thom, even if he had just met him at the concentration camps.
And he was lucky that these bunks were less crowded than the ones in the camps with more people. They were a rather small camp, located at the back corner of some long forgotten village in Germany. Only about a few hundred people, not very much and very little. As a result their bunks were spread out, and there were less people to occupy. Only two people per bunk. One on top, one on the bottom. It was still crowded. But at least they weren't five to a bunk, unlike some camps that Len knew did.
Thom was already there. Although he was already tired from his work that the block fuerhers had assigned him, he had waited for Len. What did he do again? Right - he was doing crawling exercises. Those were, perhaps, the worst of them all. Maybe Len did get lucky, after all. What awful luck, though.
"We made it through another day?"