A big group of us were passing through a luscious valley. The trees were green, the birds were singing and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. The kids were boisterous and chasing each other around acting as satellites to our group’s gravity; for the children this was a beautiful day. Yet, for the rest of us… It was a cold and damning day indeed…
We walked further down the path with just a few swinging sacks loaded up with clothes and necessities. It was all we could gather in the short time that we had before we made our move. As we trailed deeper into the valley the sound of running water from a nearby creek began to fill our ears and made us feel somewhat at ease. The foliage became thicker and rays of sunlight peaked through the dense ceiling of tall oak tree limbs. It became dark and cool down here, and as the sound of the running creek behind us faded away it also became eerily quiet.
David spoke curtly, “The boats better be there when we arrive…”
I looked over at him and I could see that he was trembling but trying hard to hold it together, “Why wouldn’t they be?”, I responded.
“You never know! I’m sure there are a hell of a lot more people like us trying to get out of this place… I don’t know this friend of yours, what if he has second thoughts about this…”
I responded with a hushed tone, “We can’t think like that David. Asher will be there; he gave us his word. There’ll be two boats ready for us to go to Sweden as soon as we arrive. Just another kilometer or two and we’ll be there. We have to trust in the plan.”
Christine and Margaret walked up ahead with the young ones in their arms and the children by their sides so that they might not overhear our conversation. They were entirely preserved with smiles and charm, by the determined courage of Motherhood, protecting the young emotionally and maintaining the appearance of calm for the Children’s sake. But us men, we were dubbed with the duty of protecting, and the inner tension we felt to carry through that duty left only cold and serious expressions upon our faces occasionally glazed by beads of sweat.
David fell silent and huffed. We were all struggling internally. The Children lived in blissful ignorance, happily unaware that we may not return for years. Happily unaware that this was a life or death situation for us all. Happily unaware that sometimes humans were more dangerous than the callous indifference of Mother nature. Unaware that our faith and traditions sparked by the hope for salvation may lead to our damnation if we ever were to be captured… No… It’s better that they don’t know…
A rustle of leaves and the sound of quick movement startled the adults, as a group of deer sprinted off from the not so distant woods. The children had barely noticed. My skin was feeling clammy and my heart pounded with force, all the way up into my throat… We’d be alright… The deer fled from us and we’ve fled from those damn Germans. Humans might be at the top of the food chain, but it matters not when we spend so much time eating each other alive.
The dirt path began to wind through a maze of brush and foliage, around a high hill with looming trees on all sides. We followed the path carefully up the hill and the sound of civilization could be heard in the distance. The children became tired from the long journey and had fallen silent except for two boys who were throwing stones into the woods. I exhaled a deep breath of relief as we approached the exit of the valley…
“Christine, Margaret, why don’t you two stay here with the Children for a minute while we check on things ahead”, I’d cautiously insisted. The kids played and picked at leaves while we sauntered up the path, and as we approached the exit, we began to hear car motors and people speaking in the streets.
Just as we were about to breach the cover of the forest, my heart sunk in my chest… This was not our language, but the words of monsters. How did they arrive so quickly? David and I met eyes; we felt the fear of the deer in the woods.