Thursday, June 11, 2009

Shadows of Annihilation

Just a thought…for a slight departure from the ordinary today, I thought I would post an example of an exercise I performed while writing a particular scene for my work in progress The Legend of the Netherscape.

This is a young adult fantasy and I did a good deal of research trying to get a scene from the Holocaust era. As Kylie is the writer of the group and the keeper of the journal, to get the scene right, I wanted to see it from this particular character’s point of view. The novel itself doesn’t come from her point of view, but for the purpose of this lesson which will become clear at a later point in the novel, it was necessary to get her perspective. This scene is graphic and disturbing - it's the holocaust - fraught with senseless killing. The scene in the book is not as graphic as this, it is written for a younger audience, but I had to totally get inside her head to see what she saw and feel what she is feeling and find the trigger that brings this memory back later in the novel.

If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, you may want to skim it to get a feel for what is going on and a short intro to the characters. Again, I appologize yesterday and today's posts are a little longer than usual because of having to set the background and introduce the characters. Thank you for your indulgence.

As part of an Interactive History class, the Destineers are getting ready to go into the Incarnation Chamber for their Holocaust lesson. The translation software is on so they will understand everything being said. The date they are visiting is November 9, 1938.

I will now turn the blog over to 15 year-old Kylie O’Connor.

Journal Entry: September 5, 2008

Why am I breathing so loud? Do you know what fear
tastes like? I do…it’s in the back of my mouth right now. It’s hot and it’s dry and it’s swallowing up all my spit. It’s like someone wadded a big ball of cotton and rammed it down the back of my throat. It tastes bitter, acidy. It takes my breath away so I can’t even scream.

Why is my skin so clammy? I can’t stop sweating. My chest physically hurts; my heart is beating so hard. The shadows are going to find us and it’ll be my fault. I’m not so sure I’m going to like this class.

Just reading about these times in history is horrific enough, but to witness it
up close as it really happened…I don’t know about this. Okay. Deep breath,
Kylie. Here we go.

I take a deep breath and follow the class into the chamber.

Suddenly, it is mid-day November 9, 1938…again. There is frenzied chaos everywhere, people running every which way. I feel the fear choking me as my eyes dart across the landscape taking in everything. I can’t move. My legs suddenly feel very heavy and rooted to the ground. A Ukrainian peasant, middle aged of moderately wide girth runs by exclaiming, “The troops have arrived, they are executing Jews in town. No one is safe! Run! Hide!”

Sounds of screams, running…surround us. People flood into the streets, running amuck, yet there is nowhere to run – no way to escape. Even the birds are trying to get away, I hear wings fluttering softly at first, raising to a heavy beating sound as they squawk and flap about panicking now too. The ground is shaking – I can feel the trucks filled with soldiers rumbling down the dirt road. My hair is bristling on the back of my neck.

Oh my God. What’s that?!?! My heart is racing. Gun shots! There is gunfire everywhere! They’re coming! Strike that –they’re here!

I can’t breathe; cold perspiration runs down the back of my neck, matting the tiny hairs that are standing upright. “Professor!” I scream in horror. “Where do we go? What do we do? They can’t do anything to us, right? You’re sure?” My head pivots wildly taking in the scene around me. Tears spill uncontrollably down my cheeks.

“Kylie!” I hear the headmaster calling out to me. “Try to stay calm.”

His voice is soothing, but he sounds so far away from the chaos around us. Why does he feel so far away? I trust him. I know he will keep us safe. I want to find him, I need to find him. Everything is dark and spinning around me.

His distant voice calls out to me; a warm safe feeling is enveloped in his voice. “Remember, we are in the Chamber and it is set to Replication mode only. They can neither hear nor see us. However - we will see and, to a degree, experience what the people here are experiencing, but we have the safety net that we cannot be harmed. Sadly, we can do nothing to save these people from the shadows of the past and the fate that awaits them. Quickly class, stay together. We need to take cover where we can observe.”

I stumble blindly towards the sound of his voice and feel a gaggle of arms reaching for me, and then holding me, pulling me close. Through my teardrops, I see Ryan’s stony face as he pulls me to safety behind the shelter of bales of hay where the class is gathering out of the line of fire.

Professor Derrnz’ voice continues “I am truly sorry for what you are about to witness, you may not understand now, but it is a very unfortunate necessity. This is the only way you can know, it is a lesson you cannot learn at the level you need to understand it from simply reading a book. It is cruel, but it is a lesson you must experience in person for it to touch the very depths of your souls for you to truly understand. Again, I am sorry. Quickly! In here!” His voice is curt as he leads us into a storage room of some sort made of cinder block.

I can see light passing through some cracks in the stone, but I don’t think the attackers see us. There is mayhem everywhere. A short distance away, about half a mile down the road, a large German military truck is spewing out soldiers firing their weapons at the innocents running through the streets. Frantic bursts of gunfire resonate through the town. It is all happening so quickly...yet in slow motion...time seems distorted somehow.

The screams of people being exterminated literally only a hundred feet away from us haunt me. Bodies are falling everywhere – old, young, fat, thin, men, women,children, all gone. All dead. They never had a chance. None of them. Goosebumps travel down my spine sending uncontrollable shivers through my body. I can’t stand on my own and feel myself slump hard against the cold stone wall. I don’t think I will ever be able to close my eyes again and not hear the terrified screams, the rat-a-tat-tat of gunfire and then the most horrific sound of all – the deafening silence.

And the smell…blood spilling out on the hot pavement, gunpowder, perspiration. It is nauseating and I feel myself starting to retch.

I feel compelled to watch, horrified as I am, I can’t turn away. Through a distorted teary-eyed gaze I watch one soldier as he chases a young mother trying to run away, in her arms is a squirming terrified toddler. But the soldier grabs her by the shoulder, spinning her around. No!!! Her eyes are huge as she turns to him pleading for their lives.


The sound echoes in my head.

She crumbles on top of her baby, small crimson rivers pooling from the bullet holes that riddle their bodies.

I can’t hold back the tears and fall over sobbing convulsively. I feel the arm of the headmaster around me, gently pulling me back towards the door to the exit, back to our own world and time.

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Anonymous said...

Wow, Kylie - you have writing skill and a writer's voice way beyond your years. :)

The Old Silly From Free Spirit Blog

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Gosh, Nancy, what a powerful and well written post. Length is certainly, “excused.” How did you do the research you mentioned? Now, I know why you were so tuned-in, in the sense that you were aware of it right away, to the Holocaust shooing of yesterday.

Best Regards, Galen

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Ooohh! What a vivid description, Nancy. It sent chill bumps up my arms. I can feel Kylie's fear at the gruesome scene she's witnessing. I'm anxious to read more to see what lessons the professor has from this and what lies ahead for the Destineers.


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