This is the very first short story I ever wrote, approximately 11 years ago at 15 years old.

I never posted it on this site as I utilized italics and cannot do so on this site, but have changed my mind and decided to add it to my list.

It was actual



The Night of Broken Glass

The night was unusually still. A feeling of anticipation crept through the ranks, and I was faintly aware of all the men around me, shuffling with excitement and nervousness. Shivers flooded up and down my spine, and I forgot what I was doing just standing in the bleary, damp camp.

Without notice, a whistle pierced the night. The shrill, high pitched note reverberated off the barracks' walls, awakening the slouched soldiers around me. A wave of life rippled through the ranks of men, and we all began our unwavering march onwards towards the city. Our commanding officer was to lead us directly into the heart of Berlin.

The sure-footed steps of my SS unit clapped through the streets, with a rush of superiority emanating throughout the narrow roads. Each time I passed a window I trembled at the sight of myself disappearing into the adjacent wall. I knew it was only my reflection but it still felt ominous. We marched for about fifteen minutes, though it felt like fifteen days. I tried to reassure myself that I was going to be fine, that nothing would befall me, that it was only a job. Personal feelings were subdued as I repeated over and over: it's only a job.

Soon, after several turns and being forced to march faster, we came to our destination. It was a predominately Jewish community, with its own synagogue at the far end of the block. Small two story apartments lined the left while larger and newer three story apartments lined the right. It's only a job, I thought again, shoving any humane thoughts out of my mind. It's only a job.

The second lieutenant jogged over to me as we broke ranks and split into our squads. He told me to clear the second house on the left. Clicking my heels and saluting, he nodded quickly in response and I turned away. A faint feeling of sickness filled my abdomen, and bile rose in my throat, but quickly receded. It's only a job. I broke my squad into two groups, one for each of the two doors at the front of the house. I wonder how they feel about this, looking at my squad members. All were grinning eagerly.

How is this right? How is it right that we must choose others' fates so painfully? People whom we don't know, people we do know, people who have nothing left but their innocence. How is it right that we get to undertake in the destruction of the livelihood of so many, yet they have no say in the outcome?

"Now!"

The groaning and snapping of hinges and woodwork tore through me as doors were kicked or battered inwards. Millions of tiny pieces of glass flung themselves at soldiers when bricks and rocks penetrated windows. Only the windows owned by Jewish descent were destroyed. I ran past the private who had kicked down the door for half my men, and ran for the stairs, leading my men to the night of horrible fate- fate decided by us, yet not for us.

My body lined with sweat, I begin to take the stairs. The burning liquid began to pour into my eyes, my heart pounded, and red flashed across my vision. I was halfway up the stairs when time seemed to blur. Thirteen horrible steps, each taunting me to run faster to that horrible fate I was destined to act out. I came to the top of the flight. Thirteen is not a lucky number, and time came back to normal.

Instincts told me to turn left, so I did what my gut feeling told me to do. I ran down the tiny corridor, passing closed doors to my left and right. I halted to a stop at the last door on the right and jumped through the doorway, like a man possessed by every horrible demon imaginable.

My sight blurred, and I fumbled around the room for a lamp. Suddenly, a light above my head snapped on.

As my eyes adjusted to the new source of bright light, I jumped backwards into the wall, for I had found myself staring straight into the eyes of a man not so much younger than myself, his green eyes vivacious and dancing with life. They searched my uniform, and after having glanced at my SS collar patch were immediately filled with hatred- and respectable fear. But his eyes also had an inquisitive look in them, a look that seemed very familiar, as if asking why? Why me? Why have you chosen MY fate, when it is up to God to decide that?

I searched his eyes more deeply and found feelings of compassion, of charisma, of honesty. I saw into his soul and felt horrified at what I knew I must now do. I had to, I wanted to. I reminded myself: it's only a job.

My rifle whipped through the air. It hit the young man hard and solid on the side of his head, with a dull crack reporting the blow. My head suddenly burst into pain and remorse.

I saw my mother in the kitchen, preparing a meal for my family.

My head grew hotter.

I saw my father sitting in the study, reading the newspaper solemnly.

Searing hot liquid ran down my throat as I bit into my tongue.

I saw my neighbor, a Jew who happened to be the Rabbi at the local synagogue in my neighborhood.

Pain tore at my eyes, threatening to rip them out.

I saw the Rabbi's daughter walking next to me, smiling, laughing, and holding my hand as the sun set in the distant mountains.

I released my pent up anger, howling with rage and frustration I was sure would never be matched by a man, and began to bludgeon the young Jewish man on the chest and sides with the butt of my rifle.

Why? Why must all this be done?

One of his ribs cracked under a swift blow underneath his right breast.

I can't do this, I WON'T do this, I just don't understand.

His shoulder ripped out of its socket as he tried rolling away and a blow landed solidly under his armpit.

I have lived with these people all my life; I have shared pain and memories with these people... I have loved these people without so much as a whisper of hesitation.

Blood spattered on my uniform and skin as I redirected my blows towards his face. The rich red liquid poured from his mouth freely; his jaw had been fractured so badly that bone jutted out underneath his cheek. He was still miraculously alive, his chest breathing shallowly and with obvious hesitation and effort.

I crouched low next to his body, the bile rising back into my mouth, but this time I could not hold it. Shuffling to one of the corners of the rooms, I heaved as the contents of my stomach sickly spewed onto the floor.

I then remembered that I was not the only one. I turned my attention to the surrounding area, and heard the screams of women, the shouts of men, and the wails of children. All of them innocent, all of them helpless.

I looked out the window and saw flames shooting into the midnight sky from a Jewish grocery store. Two Jews ran out of the inferno, a husband and a wife, both burned badly and covered in soot. I saw three fellow SS troops run over to them. They unslung their rifles and gripped them by the barrel. I grimaced as I heard the thuds of the solid wood as they made contact with the Jews, the people.

I was trying to divert my attention to something else when I noticed how bare the room was; just a bed, a small table, and a lamp. No items adorned the walls except for a painted Star of David above the bed and a cracked mirror above the table. I looked into the mirror and noticed the blood that blotted my face; I looked as if I had been crying crimson tears. My eyes were clouded with remorse, but pride was streaking through the empty spaces.

The floor had no carpeting, just wide, dark floorboards. Blood ran between the floorboards. That's when I remembered the defeated man lying, his life being quickly exhausted.

I crept towards him and looked at him. The breathing had stopped. I checked his pulse and found none. I looked into his eyes, searching for the same vibrant eyes I had just gazed into but two minutes ago. There was no sign of his soul remaining in his eyes, for they were dull and blank. They now only spoke one word: Why?

It was only a job, I thought, head throbbing, it was only a job.

Memories blurred past my weeping eyes, memories of brighter times, memories of dramatic times, memories of love, and memories of hate. I couldn't focus on a single memory and the different feelings began to overwhelm me.

All I heard was the shattering of fragile, innocent glass as my vision went dark.

My mind faded into an emptiness.

An emptiness as black as the night of broken glass.




Short story by Paul Vermette
Read 826 times
Written on 2016-06-30 at 06:28

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Kathy Lockhart
I am stunned. I want to to cry, sob, wail for this whole hellacious act brought on not just by one scared soldier but by the demon of Hell itself! Your writing is superb! I am amazed at how I am still trembling inside and out because your words brought history alive and put me in the middle of it. I am so humbled to be in such a place of such a time as this. My words escape me. I am overwhelmed with so many emotions by the knowledge oh historical fact and your fictional story bringing a personal scene alive. I applaud your courage and talent. 👏👏👏
2016-07-02