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20 February 2012 @ 01:45 pm
The Real LJ Idol: "Vigilance" (PG)  
Vigilance
the real lj idol | week 15 | 389 words
Preoccupied

x-x-x-x-x

You asked and I answered, as near the truth as I could get.

I am not nervous or worried, or anything so simple.

I am terrified. Each waking moment is an agony of potential discovery and death.

You know this yourself—we are trapped here together, close-quartered and cloistered down below the floor. We struggle to stay quiet, to eat little, to achieve near-invisibility and yet be thankful for this burden cloaked in chance.

Human beings are not meant to live with constant panic. It is a poison that threatens our sanity, so we try to think of anything else, to force a smile now that laughter is gone. A deck of cards, a few well-read books, and whatever memories we can conjure are all that stands between us and the truth of the soldiers on the streets who relentlessly try to find us.

We whisper warnings in the dark, and try to reclaim the sense of light by telling stories and sharing foolish dreams.

All of the news comes from rumors too terrible to believe: this person, that town. Taken.

No one ever comes back.

But we know those are not just rumors. All of the papers reported on Kristallnacht, on the deaths and destruction, and the Germans invaded new countries, including ours. We know how right we are to be afraid, and how lucky we are to have friends who are willing to hide us.

It is difficult to be so obligated to someone. Living in the dark, with the mice and dirt and the ever-present danger of detection, having to be grateful carries a weight of its own. Yet, we are. We do not have a choice.

It is terrible to live in silence, as if we are already ghosts. Even our tears (our desperation) must be noiseless, to keep from unsettling our saviors above.

So we try to distract ourselves, pretend we are somewhere else or that this threat will someday end. The reality is still too pressing for us to ever let it go.

Dwelling too much on our situation will surely drive us to despair. But neither can we forget.

Our safety hinges on the slightest sound. If we ever lose sight of that, the terror and frustration might escape in a long-suppressed scream that brings the whole world crashing down around us.






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medleymisty: booksmedleymisty on February 20th, 2012 11:27 pm (UTC)
I read every book the local library had on the Holocaust the winter that I was 9. I mostly remember two of them - Martin Gray's For Those I Loved and a thick white hardback named Treblinka.

Fascism has haunted me ever since. It feels sometimes like humanity, the species that is capable of this, is a giant black tidal wave crashing down on the planet and destroying everything in its path. I've had nightmares like that before.

This is a very well-crafted piece of that nightmare.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 21st, 2012 08:03 am (UTC)
I can't imagine learning about the Holocaust at age 9. I'm not sure when I first learned about it, via reading the Diary of Anne Frank, but I was just devastated to realize that people could do such things to one another.

Have you ever read "Briar Rose," by Jane Yolen? It retells a Holocaust version of Sleeping Beauty that works so well, you would think that fairy tale was always meant as an allegory for such a story.

This is such an important and serious subject that it must be told and retold so as not to be denied or forgotten.
Danmuchtooarrogant on February 21st, 2012 03:19 am (UTC)
"Dwelling too much on our situation will surely drive us to despair. But neither can we forget."

All too true. You're narrative captures that desperate and terrifying time extremely well.

Great job!

Dan
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 21st, 2012 09:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

The stress of hiding for so long-- months to sometimes years-- must have been just terrible. But people did it because they had to, in order to survive.

That takes such strength of character, it's almost impossible to comprehend.
Danmuchtooarrogant on February 22nd, 2012 04:17 am (UTC)
Very true. Of course, the Jewish people have been scapegoats throughout history. Not that repetition makes that sort of thing easier, but...

Dan
cindytsuki_no_bara on February 21st, 2012 04:58 am (UTC)
this is kind of claustrophobic, and i mean that in a good way. it's a really good response to the prompt, too. and coincidentally band of brothers is on tv right now and the guys have just liberated a concentration camp.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 21st, 2012 10:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!

I think the claustrobophia is important, because the space in which the narrator is hiding is close and confined and stifling, but the same is true of their current emotional prison as well. It's such a hard thing to survive, yet so very important. The prompt really worked toward this setting: how do you think of anything else, really, when you're in this situation?
A Sentient Being: Heartsalien_infinity on February 21st, 2012 02:38 pm (UTC)
Wow.

This was really well-written.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 21st, 2012 10:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm glad you liked it.
similiesslipsimiliesslip on February 21st, 2012 03:40 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you are writing about this. In our self-absorbed culture, I think it is so important to remember to think of others and what they went through in the past. Our problems are so small.

So many people find it easy to dehumanize others and see them as annoyances rather than human beings.

I can't imagine trying to exist like this. The determination of the Jews is inspiring in the midst of sadness.

I like how you took the prompt and wrote about something that matters. I wish I had used the prompt to look beyond myself.

Thank you for these reminders. We should never forget what they went through.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 21st, 2012 10:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for your kind words, here.

I've been a little frustrated with the prompts recently, in that they have turned me toward a lot of humorous writing when I'd hoped for more variety and 'leeway.'

My immediate reaction to this prompt was something more everyday, possibly from my job, which might have been safer. But that is not all that I came here to write, and once in a while I need to write about things that actually matter to me rather than just "are."

This topic... it fit so well with the prompt, especially because of how difficult it would be to go through an experience like this. You can't truly forget yourself, or you risk death. Yet if you don't try to forget a little, you might not make it through to the end. It's an impossible dilemma, where hopelessly shifting back and forth might be the only thing that helps you survive it.
whipchickwhipchick on February 21st, 2012 08:50 pm (UTC)
I especially like "human beings are not meant to live with constant panic". Well-written.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 21st, 2012 10:10 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you noticed that line. I think it captures what an incredibly hard situation this would be for someone to live in, and if you imagine it going on for months-- or years-- you wonder how exactly anyone was strong enough to withstand it.
basric: Basric Sparkly Rosebasric on February 21st, 2012 11:56 pm (UTC)
A powerful piece, well written.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 22nd, 2012 05:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
Laura, aka "Ro Arwen": Hidden Loveroina_arwen on February 22nd, 2012 05:07 am (UTC)
My maternal grandparents were in a concentration camp during WWII so this resonated with me. Well done.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 22nd, 2012 05:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

It's amazing how, in this context, the simple word "grandparents" carries so much extra meaning. To have survived, had children, and then later grandchildren, is a miraculous thing for anyone who went through what they did.
jacq22jacq22 on February 22nd, 2012 10:47 am (UTC)
Beautifully written, and the claustrophobic horror got to me, never being free to go out and every sound causing panic. I now want to re read Anne Frank.

For eight months I worked with Jewish elderly people in a day centre, so many had the tattoo on their arms, and told me such stories. they were all so kind to me too, even the short time I was there they gave me gifts and cookery books. One woman still stuffed bread rolls in her bag, as she had known starvation. Your entry made me think of them again.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 22nd, 2012 09:52 pm (UTC)
It is amazing, and humbling, to think of people surviving something so terrible. To still have their humanity afterwards speaks of a kind of grace that I think most of us cannot really hope to understand.

Do you have "Holocaust deniers" in Australia? I just can't believe that there is any kind of movement larger than one or two isolated wackos doing that, but there is. It is horrible enough that the Holocaust happened, but to assert that it didn't? That's the kind of idiocy that let Hitler gain power and run amok as he did. It just makes me sick.
A Karmic Sandbox: Wookie Tuckered Outkarmasoup on February 22nd, 2012 08:35 pm (UTC)
You've described the desolation and hopelessness of this situation so well it's stifling and painful. How I wish stories such as these were all fiction.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 22nd, 2012 09:54 pm (UTC)
Oh, so do I. As terrible as this situation is, it's even more painful to think that people such as this were the lucky ones, because they might have outlasted the war, or only been taken to the camps later when there might have been a greater chance of surviving.
shimmerdreamshimmerdream on February 23rd, 2012 10:25 pm (UTC)
This was amazing, you've captured the atmosphere really well.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 24th, 2012 01:02 am (UTC)
Thank you so much.

I tried to keep the physical setting in mind as much as that constant background of fear that you'd never be able to turn off in such a precarious situation. I am in awe of the people who went through that.
(Deleted comment)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 8th, 2012 01:03 am (UTC)
It's such a terrible part in human history-- the point where we forgot what humanity was, really.

Thank you for reading and commenting!
Kizzyxo_kizzy_xo on February 23rd, 2012 10:59 pm (UTC)
I would have guessed Kristallnacht even if you hadn't said it. The scene from Schindler's List where the Nazis were going through all the houses rounding up everybody, and a few people had hidden themselves underneath furniture. There was a Nazi with a stethoscope who kept holding it up to the ceiling -- the minute he heard breathing, he shot the ceiling. That, to me, was more terrifying than the concentration camp.

This piece gives me the shivers, and I mean that in a good/bad way...I hope you know what I mean by that.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 8th, 2012 01:05 am (UTC)
There was a Nazi with a stethoscope who kept holding it up to the ceiling -- the minute he heard breathing, he shot the ceiling. That, to me, was more terrifying than the concentration camp.
The relentless of that kind of pursuit, that such a man would find you no matter how well you were hidden, IS utterly terrifying.

How do you do this to other human beings? Hunt them like animals, kill them as if they were simply mice?

How do you deny the humanity of someone else? The Nazis wouldn't have treated their housepets that way, but they could do that to people?
java_fiendjava_fiend on February 24th, 2012 12:43 am (UTC)
Powerful, powerful piece. I think you did a good job of capturing the emotions well.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 8th, 2012 01:06 am (UTC)
Thank you very much!

I finally reached the point where I felt incompetent to even reply to comments on this piece, because it's such a serious subject. Sorry to be so late in responding. :(