A scary little short story
"For the dead and the living, we must bear witness."- Elie Weisel
I remember holding the yellow little newspaper, staring at the words without truly seeing them. A jagged rumbling, like boulders, bounced around my skull. The sound, I later realized, was the crushing of my needs, my wants, any dreams I still dared to have.
Things were bad already, but this could not be real. I thought it would end with me having to wear the little symbol on my left sleeve. When we were forbidden to sit on the regular benches. When we were not allowed into the parks or museums.
But moving us into a square this small? I stared down at the tiny portion of the city. There were thousands of us. There was no way we were going to fit in there. It was only a little over a square mile.
Someone spat at my feet as I read the article. It splashed in the stagnant, gutter water. I looked up, wrinkling my nose.
It was a little boy. Probably only about ten. His mother pulled him closer, and muttered something to me that I didn’t quite catch. I think it was along the lines of,
“…going where you belong.”
My forehead crumpled up in confusion. Everyone was human. That was simple, square, just like the running. And anyone could see that I have the same stretchy tendons and firm bones as completely human neighbors. What, exactly, made me so
I suppose I should backtrack a little. I am a runner, an athlete, really, with a viciously
difficult task. I enjoy it immensely. Nevertheless, to even get my weekly miles, I would have to circle that tiny square at least eight times a day. At least.
I dropped the newspaper in the gutter and wandered away, lost in my thoughts. A voice in the back of my mind, a bitter little voice, shut out from the hundreds of miles I ran, reappeared. It was a voice that pushed me towards depression. Running
saved me from it, but it returned now with an awful report.
It’s so obvious. They say your stretchy tendons and hard bones are a façade, a disguise for what you really are. You are a veiled monster. Know why? If you beat your neighbor, starve your neighbor, kill your neighbor, then you are a monstrosity. But if you beat a monster, starve him and kill him, you are a hero.
I almost laughed aloud at this thought. It was just me overreacting, as
usual. They weren’t going to kill us. This little square was just a
neighborhood opportunity. When I thought about it, it almost seemed like a
kindness. We wouldn’t be scorned there. We would be among friends.
When I got home, I was greeted by my sister and father. They already
had bags slung over their shoulders, ready to go. I scooped up a few
possessions into a backpack, ready to follow them out.
The things I took: Running clothes. Running shoes. Both of which,
crucial to my existence. I snagged my deceased mother’s journal, one of my last
connections to her. And a notebook with some of my writing in it. A sketchpad
with a few drawings. My religious studies.
I left without a backwards glance, following my father and sister in silence.