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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This was a short story I wrote for school recently. I definitely have trouble with characterization, making dialogue sound natural, and basically having my characters not sound like robots. Any and all criticism is welcome. Thanks for reading!

Submitted: August 22, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 22, 2012




The cool spring breeze drifted through the window as Erwin slowly drifted into consciousness from a deep slumber. He rolled over, a content smile spanning his face as he remembered that he didn’t have school this particular day, and therefore could spend the day as he pleased.

A few minutes later, he rose from bed and shuffled to the kitchen. The radio was buzzing incessantly with the morning broadcast in the background while his parents sat at a small table eating breakfast. He was greeted with a cheerful “Guten Morgen!” from his father and a quiet smile from his mother.

His father was a member of the Nazi party, caught up in the fervor of Hitler’s powerful charisma. He was a tall, lean man, stoic and bordering on the impersonal side.

 He sat down at the table, where he helped himself to a cold cut of ham and a slice of bread. “Did you sleep well?” inquired his father.

“Yes, sleeping late felt wonderful,” replied Erwin.

“Tonight is the night,” Erwin’s father announced.

Erwin looked up from his meal with an inquiring gaze.

“Don’t tell me you don’t remember! But son, I’ve been talking of this for weeks!” Erwin picked at his bread, trying to remember what could possibly have his father so excited. “The Action Against the Un-German Spirit, Erwin!” proclaimed his father, grabbing his arm.

“Of course,” muttered Erwin through a mouthful. He was largely disinterested in the politics that consumed his father.

“Goebels himself will be making a speech in the Opernplatz. Come with me! We can revel in the glory of this day, in rebuilding what will be a greater Germany.”

“I don’t know…I think I might rather spend the night reading, or even try to get to bed early.” Erwin was throwing out excuses, anything to get him out of another politically charged rally. He wanted nothing to do with it.

“You really should spend some time without your nose buried in a book. You might learn something about the world around you.” His father stood up, brushed off his jacket and left the room. His mother had been silent the whole time.

“Don’t listen to your father, Erwin. The party means a lot to him, and I’m sure he’ll warm up once things settle down more.”

Disgruntled, Erwin left the table to fulfill his own agenda for the day. He planned on spending the day around the city, with no specific ideas other than reading at the library. He headed out, grabbing a messengers bag full of books to be returned later in the day.

It was a beautiful spring day. The sun was shining, the air was a comfortable temperature, and thus many people were walking the streets alongside Erwin. He took in the sights, enjoying the nice day and reflecting on what his father had said. Occasionally, he heard someone talking of the events coming that night, or saw a poster promoting them. He felt indifferent to it, just did not want to be caught in the middle of it. He went to the park and sat down on a bench, setting his bag down on the grass. He relished the peace and serenity. Here, there was no one criticizing his passion for reading or trying to pull him in one way or another. The whole park was peaceful, and though there were still signs of the coming frenzy that evening, he savored the solitude and quiet air.

Late that afternoon, he went to the library to browse the books and spend some time reading. He nodded at the familiar librarian behind the counter, and proceeded to the fiction section, his favorite area in the library. He could lose himself for hours amongst the books, drinking in the scent of aged paper and the countless titles and authors. He walked down bookshelf after bookshelf, pleased by the mere presence of so many books. He would examine whichever books piqued his interest, reading passages to sample author’s writing styles and hunting for new books by favorite authors. The wonderful realms of science fiction and occasionally fantasy appealed to him the most, where he could leave behind all the stress and problems of the present for a time and place where dragons roamed and swords clashed. On some days, these escapes seemed like the only thing that let him endure his father’s relentless criticisms to make something of himself. For hours, he read various books on the comfortable couches within the library.

Eventually, hunger stirred in his stomach, pulling him from the books and compelling him to make his way home. He glanced at a clock, noting it was almost 7 pm. Hopefully, he would still be home in time for dinner. He hurried out, nodding to the familiar librarian again and briskly walking the streets back to his home.

He could smell dinner as walked in the back door. The meal consisted of hot sausages and scalloped potatoes. He wolfed it down quickly, for he did not care to participate in his parent’s conversation about the coming rally. He shut them out, preferring to stay in his own world. His father was also in a hurry, taking care to be on time to the event. He was dressed impeccably; wearing his finest suit. Erwin finished his dinner and retired to his bedroom for the night.

He reclined on his bed and closed his eyes, letting the day drift away. Within a few minutes, he had descended into a deep slumber, unconcerned with the world around him.

He woke to the sound of distant cheers and shouts. He was curious, but dismissed it, not bothering to try to figure it out while his head was still so foggy. He decided to try to shut it out and read some before falling back to sleep. He looked around his bed to see where he had placed his book bag. To his dismay, he realized it was not there. I must have left it at the park earlier today, he realized. He quickly put on a pair of shoes and clothes to retrieve it. It was only a short distance from his house, and he did not want the books to stolen.

He slowly closed the front door as to not wake his mother. A thousand stars shined upon him from the clear night sky, and a full moon illuminated the street. He moved at a quick pace with his hands in his pocket towards the park. He could still hear the din of a large crowd gathering in the distance, and noticed what appeared to be stragglers making their way through the streets to the rally. He turned right off of his street, which was also in the direction of the apparent rally. At the park, trees loomed ominously and dew clung to blades of grass. An eerie feeling passed over him, but he shook it off, figuring it was nothing. He made his way through the inky darkness towards the bench he had sat at earlier, spotting his bag laying on the ground. He picked it up and slung it over his shoulder and turned to head home. He glanced over his shoulder at the crowd, which was within a half a kilometer. He noticed an incandescent glow at the rally. Intrigued, he started to make his way in that direction. What are they up to? I thought this was just another one of Father’s rallies, mused Erwin. I’ll stop by quick to see what all the fuss is, and then I’ll head home. If listened closely, he could also make out what sounded like an amplified speech being projected.

He hurried quickly, not wanting to miss what was being announced. The event came into view, and he noticed a large mob of people surrounded the source of the luminosity. Nazi banners hung around the event, proclaiming their dominance over the German state. He slowly made his way through the crowd, pushing past people to get to the center. Soldiers presided over it all, with smug looks of total control. Finally, he could make out the words of the speech. A booming, passionate voice declared “The era of extreme Jewish intellectualism is now at an end. The breakthrough of the German revolution has again cleared the way on the German path...” Disconcerted, Erwin continued to make his way through the crowd. What was happening at the center of the mob? He could see torches being passed, and stacks of book being passed through the crowd. “The future German man will not just be a man of books, but a man of character…” The man continued his speech, but so zealous was Erwin in discovering what the center of attention was that he began to tune him out. Finally, he broke through to a position where he could witness what was occurring.

He saw a blazing inferno, a heap of books aflame. He froze, unable to process what was before him, his head spinning. In that instant, reality came crashing down upon him, destroying his notions of an easy, serene future for himself and his family. He felt immobilized, unable think rationally. The man’s speech continued, but Erwin was beyond comprehending it now. “You do well in this midnight hour to commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past. This is a strong, great and symbolic deed…”

Men continued to toss weighty tomes and books into the flames. He could feel the heat coming from the fire like he could feel the hate emanating from the men surrounding it. “A deed which should document the following for the world to know…” He slowly turned around, terrified by the men around him. Their faces looked on the flames with satisfaction, content with the burning of books and pleased by the speech. He felt truly horrified by them, could no longer look upon these strangers as men, but as monsters. They did not feel like they were individuals, but a mass of bodies, composing one large organism. They carried out their terrible deed with cooperation and synergy that could not be attributed to ordinary men. It was as if they were controlled by some overarching entity, each one commanded to hurl the tomes into the flame by the faceless speaker. Who would do this? Who would ignite so many pages laced with wisdom and knowledge? He clutched the bag close to him, afraid that it would join the flames like so many other books.

He began walking, fighting his way back through the crowd. He put forth his best effort to appear composed and unperturbed by the horrific events surrounding him. Once again, he could hear and comprehend the words of the man making the speech. “Here the intellectual foundation of the November Republic is sinking to the ground, but from this wreckage the phoenix of a new spirit will triumphantly rise.” So this was what this was about. Inspiring absolute faith in “Das Fürher”. Suddenly, losing himself in fantasy novels and forgetting the world around him did not seem like a viable option anymore.

As he made his way through the vacant streets to his home, he contemplated what he had experienced. He no longer felt like the same person he was when he went to sleep a few short hours ago. He felt not moved, but compelled, to do something about this. No longer could he shut his eyes to the world around him. No longer could he pretend it did not exist. No longer was he blind to the madmen running his country. He knew what he had to do.

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