The short story is about a boy who is sent to a Nazi camp back in World War 2. He finds that his Uncle is already at the cabin and has been there for several months. The story takes about 10-15 minutes to read, enjoy!
“The Sun Thief”
By Hayley Olivia H.
The barracks were small, but the amount of people crammed into the them wasn’t that small. All of the faces in the room were blank and ghostly pale in the most disturbing way. Hundreds of pairs of sad eyes fixed themselves on me but eventually looked away. The stripes on their pajama-like attire and all their heads almost hairless, was making it even harder to find someone, anyone I could recognize. I felt my own buzzed head and winced remembering the short man with a sharp black uniform, and how he’d taken away my once-long brown hair, and the suitcase filled with the only things I’d owned. A tall lanky man with a dirty face and sunken crossed eyes moved across the room stepping over people that were lying on the cold wooden floor.
“Jamie?” the man asked.
“Uncle Rolf? Is that? I didn’t even recognize you!” We hugged, and my heart skipped a beat feeling how bony his body had become.
As if reading my thoughts, he spoke softly, “I’ve been here for three months, and the portions here are quite unhealthy. I haven’t seen your Aunt Dina or your cousins since they abducted us and took us here.” There was a long silence before he spoke, “I’m sure they’re okay, Jamie. Don’t worry,” His voice quivered, and his eyes started to fill with salty tears. He inhaled deeply before putting a hand on my shoulder and guiding me through the barracks. I felt eyes burning holes through the back of my head; the hair on my back like racing horses, as they galloped top speed up my spine.
“Have you seen my parents?” I asked regretting my question as soon as I spoke it. I knew very well my parents had been taken in the opposite direction as I did. There was a one in a million chance I’d see them or even my brother again.
“I don’t want to lie to you, Jamie. These are tough enough times; even the wind seems to whisper lies. Therefore, I’ll tell you straight up that no, I haven’t seen your parents. The likelihood of that happening is slim. I’m truly, deeply, sorry.” As if planned, the moment he stopped talking we reached our destination; a bunk in the far back corner. I took it that the lower bunk was ours due to the way my uncle flopped down on it kicking up little chocolate colored specks that seemed to be--- moving. Dirt? No dirt, doesn’t move...
“Lice,” he replied to my thoughts. “The little brown things are bugs. They nest in your scalp and feed on your blood.”
“And you still sleep there? That’s gross! Haven’t you informed the soldiers about…”
“Jamie, let me ask you a question. Who put us here? Who took away our families and belongings? Who shaved our heads and filled these cabins with an overcapacity of people?”
“I hate to break it to you, my boy, but I doubt the soldiers are unaware of the lice.”
I sat next to him curling up in a ball and letting my body rest against his side. He wrapped an arm around me and sighed deeply. Suddenly a loud BANG came from the front of the cabin. My head bolted upright and turned to see an older looking soldier with a mustache and goatee, dressed in the same black attire the rest of the soldiers wore.
The whole barracks was silent as the soldier spoke, “I’m looking for number 4528.” The soldier looked around impatiently, “Now!” he screamed. Across the room an older looking man struggled to stand and limp his way across the room. He had a grey beard and tired looking eyes.
“Come with me!” he barked. The man turned his head and fixed his gaze on an elderly woman and mouthed I love you. The soldier tetchy, grabbed the man by the wrist and dragged him out the door. The woman cried out then began to ball. A few people shook their heads in dismay, but most hadn’t even looked back when the soldier came in, looking like the life had been sucked right out of them. Uncle Rolf lay down, and I decided to do the same before my head reached the pillow I was out cold.
The days went by slowly, and soon they turned to weeks, and to be honest, I stopped keeping track of how long I’d been there. It didn’t matter; we were all dying anyway. Even I became bone-thin, and judging from my reflection in the only glass window, it didn’t get much better. My face looked like something from my worst nightmare. My eyes had rings under them so dark, and cold it was like night itself had seeped into my skin. A bony face stared back at me, not the pudgy face I had recognized. Dirt layered my face like icing on a cake. Uncle Rolf shifted his weight, we’d been lying there the whole day too tired to move.
I’d finally become one of those lost, hopeless souls that no longer had a name or a drop of energy to spare. The only time I had a name was when Uncle Rolf and I talked, which we did often. We’d talk about how life had been before we were brought here. We talked about random pleasures and how much we took them for granted. Like bitter-tasting lemonade or popcorn at the movies. I think my favorite topic we came across though was the one about the Sun Thief, aka Adolf Hitler.
“He stole the sun,” he’d said.
“He’s a cruel man, but he couldn’t possibly…”
“He stole our families, he stole our rights, and well being. He even stole something as simple as a proper meal, all of which made me happy.”
“I’m sorry, but I still don’t get how he stole the sun…”
“Without the sun, we wouldn’t have anything to live for; all our happiness and simple pleasures would be stolen out from under us. Therefore, in my eyes, Adolf Hitler is indeed the sun thief for every unfortunate soul here.” I nodded in agreement suddenly realizing what he meant and how much sense it made. My thoughts were soon interrupted with the door opening and slamming shut.
“Ok, listen up! I need numbers 4677, 4678, 4689, 4899, 4803…” That was my number, “and lastly 4672.” That was my uncle’s number. They wanted us both, but for what?
“Let’s move! I ain’t got all day now. He turned around with the people who had their numbers called trailing behind him including my uncle and I. Before opening the door, he spat on the nearest person and laughed exiting the barracks.
Coming out of the cramped and dark cage we had been stuck in, the sun stung my eyes. The fresh air was nine but other than that, I now trembled uncontrollably. These selected groups didn’t usually get jobs; they received death instead.
Uncle Rolf and I were walking side by side when we were stopped in the middle of two barrack buildings.
“Here,” said the soldier, “is where another barracks will be built… Two months tops.” Two months? Was he insane? I was only twelve, and most of the men pulled including my uncle didn’t look like they could last another week. The soldier continued to talk but honestly I didn’t listen to a word. I focused on the main gate and the new arrival of Jews like me who were sent here for no good reason. As the soldier talked on, Uncle Rolf whispered, “This is your chance, son.”
“What do you mean?”
“I see you eyeing up those gates. This is your chance. Go take advantage of it.”
“But what about you? What if they…”
“You're going to die one way or another, Jamie. This may be your only shot. I’ll cover you best I can.” He was right, but how could we possibly pull this off?
“I love you,” he whispered.
“I… I love you too.” I responded, my heart racing. The soldier talked so loudly he didn't seem to notice we had been talking. As if on cue he turned around, and pointed to some areas of land; I bolted for the gates. No one noticed I was making a escape till the group of Jews that were being unloaded stared at me wide eyed. Thanks guys.
“Hey, you can’t… Get ‘em!” Guns were shot at me, the bullets landing in the dry dirt by my feet. Too close.
I heard shouts of angry Nazis, then a more distinct shout, “Run, Jamie! I’ve got you covered!” It was Uncle Rolf. I heard men fighting, then a gunshot, then silence except for my heart pounding. Uncle Rolf was gone; the only family member I was sure was alive was now deceased. I didn’t have too much time to grieve. I had to keep going. I ducked and weaved all over the place when a bullet whizzed past my head faster than time itself. Scared, I picked up speed and started to lose my breath. The woods seemed like miles away, even though it was only a few acres from the camp. As if bullets going past my head and hitting the dirt near my ankles wasn’t bad enough, I heard dogs now, the Nazi’s dogs. These dogs had razors for teeth and gruesome growls. Their eyes erie and their noses so keen they could easily find a Jew like myself in a forest in no time flat. Scared didn’t cut it at this point. On the bright side, the forest was close now to the point I could smell the pine trees.
The dogs gained on me, and my head throbbed from the lack of oxygen, but I ignored it and continued to run. I heard the Nazis screaming out German commands to the dogs I was assuming.
“Ihn! schneller erhalten!” The soldier shouted enraged. More bullets whizzed past my body as I entered the opening to the shadow-filled woods. The growls of the dogs were remotely close now, and I lost my momentum. It didn’t help that now I had obstacles like trees and large rocks to maneuver around, rather than the grass-covered terrain I’d just crossed. Not only did the obstacles slow me down, but it increased my risk of injury. With all of the holes and divides, I thought for sure I was going to twist my ankle or something.
The chase continued for another 20 minutes before I saw a cabin in the clearing. Smoke emerged from the chimney, and a stone path lead to the door. That was my only option. I started to pick up speed,---the dogs only yards behind me now. I heard a gunshot then pain surged through my body like no pain I’ve ever felt before. I took another step with my left foot and collapsed realizing the pain was coming from the back of my ankle. Dazed, I lay there and watched three dogs approach. They snarled, their teeth white knives. A soldier (the one who must have shot me) also approached smiling. I tried, Uncle Rolf. I’m so sorry. Suddenly the throbbing that rippled through my body rose to my head like hammers smashing my skull from the inside. My vision blurred, and the only thing I could see was the one dog in front of me. I didn’t have the energy to brace myself or move for that matter, so I simply stared and accepted my obvious fate.
Bang! Bang! Bang! A gun shot rapidly behind me. The dog’s ears bent backward, and he snarled. Bang! The dog was shot right between the eyes. It fell to the side, his eyes rolling in the back of his head. The other two dogs whimpered and ran back the way they came, the soldier wide-eyed did the same. I heard faint footsteps coming closer and closer to my body. Then as if being shot again, a wave of pain went through my body and everything went black.
My eyes fluttered open and instantly as if a punishment for waking up, my leg pulsated with pain. I moaned and winced.
“Oh, it’s not infected. Be thankful for that. You’d be in much more pain if it was.” A voice spoke. I couldn’t see her (or at least the voice sounded like a women’s). The ceiling was the only thing in view. “Oh, I guess it would help if you could see me, wouldn’t it.” Then a set of arms wrapped around me propping me up against the headboard of the bed. “There you go,” she said with a mesmerizing smile. I noticed her pretty blue eyes, cute dimples, and short curly hair right away. Not much older than 30, a refined muscular body flowed back and forth from my bed to the kitchen, her blue dress swirling as she walked.
“Why are you smiling?” she asked. I hadn’t even noticed I had been doing so till she mentioned it.
“I don’t know… Thanks” I said.
“For what, dear?”
“Well, I mean… taking care of me and thank your husband for shooting at the soldiers and the dogs. And thanks for not letting me die and…”
“First off, my husband isn’t here he’s… well, dead.” she interrupted.
I sat straight up, “They killed him!?! Oh no I’m so sorry I…”
“Oh, no no, sweetie,” she started putting her hand on mine. “He’s been dead since last winter. He grew ill and died.”
“Then who shot at the soldier and dogs? Your son?”
“No,” she bowed her head. “I don’t have a son. I shot at them with my husbands semi - automatic gun he left behind.”
There was an awkward silence before I finally spoke, “I’m sorry. I just thought girls didn’t use guns.”
“Well, it’s good my husband didn’t believe in that; he wouldn’t have taught me how to shoot it and you would be long dead.”
“I didn’t mean it like that, really I…”
“I know you didn’t. Never mind. Are you hungry?” she asked standing up and walking over to the other side of the room where the kitchen was. I hadn’t noticed how hungry I was till she mentioned it.
“Very well,” she said making her way over to the icebox. “What would you like?”
“Anything,” I said by this point I realized how hungry I really was I felt like passing out all over again. She smiled and nodded picking out a jelly from the icebox. Next she made her way over to the cupboard and picked out peanut butter and bread. Then she prepared the sandwich putting it on a napkin and handed it to me. I went to reach for it and realized it made me dizzy to move. I planted my head against the headboard and winced in pain.
“Oh, I’m sorry, sweetie. I wasn’t thinking.” She started to feed me the sandwich. I would’ve inhaled it, but I found out very quickly that she wouldn’t allow that.
I ended up eating seven sandwiches and finally finished around seven. We talked as I ate and shared stories and memories making each other laugh till it hurt. I also found that her name was Allison, but she rather be called Ally. I discovered that she and her partner never married but ran away as rebels and built a cabin living here since. I told her about my life and that obviously I was a Jew. I showed her my tattoo of my number and some scars I had gotten throughout my stay at the camp, half afraid she’d turn me in. She didn’t even mention turning me in. In fact, she only talked about how she’d hide me and keep me safe, and I eventually fell asleep full and for the first time in months happy.
Summer changed to fall, Winter transferred to Spring, and eventually two years flew by. It was May 8th and both Ally’s and my eyes were glued to the television.
“The war has come to an end…”
That's all I heard because, in seconds Ally and I were dancing around the room cheering, and hugging. Then we both cried in sadness and in happiness. I cried for Uncle Rolf and the rest of my family. For all the other souls who were killed and tortured.On the other hand, I cried of relief. I no longer had to hide or feel unsafe, and best of all I never had to worry about the Sun Thief stealing my happiness and brightness away ever again.
About a week later Ally and I were making cookies in the kitchen when a tall man entered the cabin.
“Ally, I’m home!”
Ally spun around so fast it had made me dizzy.
“Oh, my goodness, Jefferson! I thought you were, but...how?” Ally ran toward the man and jumped into his arms. The man was wearing a Nazi uniform… Oh no. This is it he’s going to find me kill me even… maybe even Ally for taking me in what do I do? Run for it? He spun her around then set her down gently. Then as if finally noticing me he turned around with a look that asked, Ally who’s this…
She beamed and said, “This is an orphan, I ah took him in.”
“That's wonderful Ally, wheres he from…”
“I don’t know…”
“You don’t know, huh?”
Ally tell him the truth then maybe he’ll spare you.
Ally began to bawl Jefferson wrapping her in his arms, “It’s ok Ally. The war’s over. I no longer have to pretend I don’t like Jews… and neither do you.”
What… he didn’t want to kill me?
She looked up at him, “How did you?”
“His arm,” he gestured to my tattoo on my arm, the number they had given me. I had pulled up my sleeves while making the cookies making it visible. The tattoo suddenly stung as if freshly planted on my arm.
He made his way across the room and reached out for my head. I put my hands up to defend myself. He reached over my head and ruffled my hair.
Bending down to my height he whispered, “ I promise I’m not going to hurt you kiddo. I’m not even against Jewish people like you… I’m a mercenary, a soldier that fights for money. I’d never go out of my way to harm someone out of my religion. I won’t hurt you… I promise. Ally and I have been wanting children for a long time now, and I’d be honored to call you my son if you would accept.”
I didn’t know how to take this so I took a deep breath and said, “Okay… I... ah... except.”
“He beamed well then, welcome home son.”
We all sat around the dinner table last night. A Jewish child, a rebel woman, and a Nazi soldier all at one table, what a sight. I have to admit that from that point on, I’ve been living some of the best days of my life and in a weird way, I’m happy my life turned out like it did… Happy and full of sun.