This is actually the sequel to 'The Night of Broken Glass'. I wrote this a couple months ago; it was the first story I had written in approximately 6 years, though I have had this idea for a story for even longer than that.

If you have yet to read '

The Darkness Concealed

The war had been over for some time.

After being fortunate enough to move to America, after the rebuild of course, I was afforded a comfortable life. I was able to find a secure job with steady pay which helped me to get a proper house in a nice neighborhood. All the necessities were available to me; I even made a decent enough wage to include a few minor luxuries on occasion.

Unfortunately, apparently due to my status as a German national who had fought in the war, my social status did not exceed a particular point. My accent never disappeared entirely, my scars never faded, and the people knew who I was immediately after looking upon my face and hearing the sharp voice sound from between my lips.

While I had all the superficial comforts a man could need, I felt alone. I was alone.

Women did not seem to want to give me a chance and I understood why, so I accepted that. At times it was very difficult for me to not have somebody to trust, somebody I could hold and tell my deepest secrets to.

The weight I carried sometimes felt unbearable. So badly I yearned to have someone's assistance in lifting the burden from my mind; alas, it was not to be.

I focused on my career instead. I did not make it as far in the company as I felt I should have, again likely due to my social status as I felt more than capable of providing superior work than my peers. I have always striven towards being the best in anything I did. It is another slight I have had to learn to accept over the years. I must be grateful for what I have and think not of what I feel I should have.

After all, I had survived the greatest war mankind has yet to endure, and I did as such on the losing side. If these were my punishments, I certainly was lucky.

My endurance had already been tested and nothing could ever compare to such trials.

With all the stigma that came with my social status I must admit that I was treated well enough. Time had passed and people had moved on with their lives; they had to accept their own terms with life and had little time to go out of their way to affect my life, positively or negatively. Generally, as long as I treated others with respect the treatment was reciprocated.

Even if I were to make complaints about my treatment, they were sure to go unfounded. What I had been a part of had put me in the position I was in and I could only consider myself fortunate. Self-pity was not an option as it would be sure to ruin me over time.

Working in an office and not being promoted, at times I did find myself bored with the tedious tasks that I found to be beneath my skill level. I worked on the bottom floor of a three floor building, essentially laying the foundation for those above me to work upon and make their imprint on the world. Everything important that was done by the company I worked for was started by us on the first floor and we gained none of the recognition. We were the pawns, for those deemed more important, to be stepped upon and elevate themselves to the top.

At first, I did not mind. I considered myself as prepared to make it to the next level and I would not falter in my efforts to do so. It was only after years of not making it to the next level and seeing those around me move up that I realized where I belonged in their eyes.

It was a bitter pill to swallow and got caught in my throat when first introduced as a realization. It choked me, and it was difficult to find the glass of water to help me swallow that pill.

In truth, I'm not really sure I ever was able to swallow this pill, rather I simply got used to the taste that would rise into the back of my mouth regularly.

The only solace I could manage to find was that I was not alone in not being elevated within the company, even if those others were not as talented as I am and had reached their intellectual ceilings. These thoughts could be self destructive however so I tended to suppress them as best I could.

On the first floor, those I worked with were kind enough to me. We all helped one another when we needed it, speaking strictly in business terms of course. There were those who seemed not to join the group as often but they were only a few and usually they did not last long with the company.

The building had been of more recent construction with large windows viewing the lawns outside. I will admit that the company did an excellent job in maintaining the property and the view was nothing to grouse over. In fact, many of the workers found it pleasant.

As I sat at my desk facing these windows I allowed myself to drift into thought. It was early in the day and the weather had finally cleared up from the Spring showers; plants were beginning to bloom and the pollen was practically coming down in sheets, covering everything it could. My allergies were acting up to a degree, stinging my eyes, puffing my face, and congesting my nose. It was the price to pay for the beginning of Summer.

One of my coworkers approached me. Not a coworker from my floor, but one of the esteemed elites from above. He made a comment I did not fully recognize in my daze and made a queer face at me when I did not respond. Seeing him react as such, I shook my head a little, coming back to reality.

"I said, how is it going today?" he repeated.

"Oh, it is going rather well, just dealing with these allergies. This year seems to be rather harsh on my symptoms than in the past."

"Ah, yes, I can see that now! Are you aware that there are medications made to alleviate such symptoms without having a drowsing effect? They are relatively easy to obtain now."

"Indeed, someone else had just informed me the other day. However, I am not one to take medication unless absolutely necessary to my well-being. My symptoms are something that I can tolerate without intervention."

"Understandable," the man nodded his head, "However, I must ask if these symptoms happen to have an effect on the quality of work you are producing down here?"

There it was. He was testing me and my patience for these types was thinning after all the years I spent on the first floor.

"I do not believe so," I replied cautiously. "If you would like to review my work with me, I would be more than happy to oblige."

"No, no, that won't be necessary." His tone said that he would find such an activity beneath him.

There was a momentary silence between us and the man looked out the windows, seeming to admire the landscape of nature that was designed with purpose by man to appear aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

"We certainly do have a nice view here, don't we?" The man inquired, finding a new topic to transition to.

"Yes, I would say we certainly do." I felt irritable as I wished the man would say his goodbye and leave me to my work.

"The gardening crew has done an excellent job this year, I must say. All the new flowers they have bedded are a great addition to the trees they had planted years ago. The harmony of nature is impressive."

The man certainly was a pest. In my mind, I tried to will him to leave yet to no avail.

"Definitely, I would agree." I would make my responses as short as possible without losing my courtesy, however I was unsure of how long I could manage to do as such. My ears seemed to be blocked, though I was unsure if that was my allergies or the annoyance of this man continuing such fruitless conversation.

"And would you look at those cherry trees? How beautiful are they when they are in blossom! Impressive, are they not?"

My mind went blank momentarily. What had he said? I felt the irritation and exhaustion quickly turn to exasperation. Memories were recalled to my mind; memories of before the war. They flashed before my eyes. I briefly closed them.

It seemed as if I had my eyelids shut for hours as these memories of before the conflict developed into more impressionable memories. Admittedly, I had done terrible things, even before the beginning of the conflict. I followed commands without dispute and allowed myself to become a monster, hurting people who had done nothing to receive such punitive actions.

Why am I still here? I do not belong here. This is not punishment enough for the things I have done.

I did not believe in a Heaven or a Hell as reward or penance of how I acted in this life. Only the way I would be treated in this life would reflect upon the decisions I had made. Decisions that not only cost lives but directly destroyed them without proper judgment.

Who was I to have acted upon such decisions? How could I possibly atone for all the wrongs I had made? The people I acted upon never had a chance to even make such mistakes as I took away their basic right to live without so much as an individual sentencing upon them.

I could feel the burn in my heart begin to rise and the tension in my face as I remembered all of those who I had wronged; all of those who never had a chance to live a full life directly because of my doing.

I do not belong here. I belong in the ground in my homeland, next to most of the other evil men who acted upon orders without any question of morality. It was not right for me to still be alive after the crimes I committed.

Very quickly, my mindset shifted and I felt the fury coursing throughout my body, curling my toes and making fists of my fingers.

I cannot change the past. Who is this man to force this upon me? Have I not lived through these traumas enough? I know I have done wrong; I cannot change these things. I was young, I was naïve, and I was just like millions of other damnable men who had done the same during the war. This man knows nothing and will never understand. I will not let him do this to me.

I opened my eyes. Only a few seconds must have passed. The rage was still inside me and I was doing my best to contain it.

"I hate those cherry trees," my voice dripping with malice, the tone low and hostile. I could not control myself.

The look on the man's face went blank and he straightened up his posture. It was clear he did not anticipate such a reaction.

He will never understand the hate that flows through the entirety of my soul for I hate what I have done. I already know who I am and what I have done; he need not remind me.

He cleared his throat, and leaned forward onto my desk, his body tense.

"What is wrong with you? Why would you say such a thing?" He asked in a hushed but stern manner, looking me directly into my eyes.

He is trying to see but his ignorance blinds him. He will never understand and I can never allow him knowledge of the things I have done.

I took a deep breath in and felt my body shudder with it. I could feel the fire in my eyes, staring into his, as if to scorch the man hiding behind them.

"Because," I said, barely audible, almost unable to talk, "every single Jew in Neuenbürg had a cherry tree on their front lawn."

The incredulous look he managed was almost sweet to see.

He will never understand.

He leaned away from my desk, opened his mouth, then must have decided there was no appropriate response as he closed his lips tight, his face drained of color. At that point, the pest timidly turned and began walking away.

If it was not for them, I would not have been forced to do such terrible things. It was not my fault I had been put into such a position; I never asked for it. It was given to me, and I was expected to execute my orders to the fullest, regardless of what they were.

These men would never understand. I cannot even fully understand...

I stared at the window at a cherry tree in the distance, it's pink flowers at their peak.

My vision began to blur. A moment later, I could feel the heat streaking down my face as tears rolled over my eyelids and down my face.

How do I live with myself after what I have done?

My chest was tight, my throat seemed to close, and my entire body was tingling.

Why am I still here?

I closed my eyes tight and let the darkness consume me.

Short story by Paul Vermette
Read 830 times
Written on 2016-10-15 at 01:35

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