I'm working on a story called "the secret in the cellar" and this is the prolog to the book.
Rain pattered down, splattering on the weathered cobblestones of Laufen Street. The streetlamps were lit even though it was day, due to the the grey storm clouds, heavy with rain, making it dark as night. Nazi troops marched up and down the wet road, seemingly oblivious to the heavy downpour, and the town of Geilenkirchen was silent, all its people under their own warm roofs, huddled around their fires and stoves, out of the cold.
Two Nazis trooping down the sidewalk suddenly stopped before a small oakwood door. “Are you sure this is the right house?” Asked one soldier. “The Hell if it is!” His partner snapped and pounded on it, breaking the robot-like sameness that hung over the street and adding a bit of color to the gray silence of the day. "Öffnen Sie ihr Juden! Sie filth geschüttelten Tiere! Ich werde diese Tür brechen, wenn Sie kommen nicht aus dieser Sekunde! Aufmachen! Zur Zeit haben Sie unzivilisierte Bestien!" They barked harshly, shattering the dreariness out of the day and breaking free from the beat of the raindrops. "Open up you Jews! You filth-ridden animals! I will break this door down if you don't come out this second! Open up! Right now you uncivilized beasts!" The two began to kick the door with their shiny boots and rammed it with their rifle butts. The startled and mortified family inside rushed to the door and opened it as fast as they could, not daring to displease the ruthless Nazis.
As soon as they came inside, the Nazis broke things. A vase, a cupboard full of glassware, a coffee table, everything they could get their hands on was instantly turned worthless. The things they could't break, they misplaced. The bed lay on its side, halfway in the doorframe and the couch was leaning against the wall in the kitchen. The family watched in horror. Then the Nazis turned to them.
“Please! No! Don’t take me!” The mother shrieked. Their two year old daughter screamed and cried. “Mommy! Mommy! Save me Mommy! Help! Daddy! Do something Daddy! Don’t let him hurt me! No! Help!” The father struggled and resisted but it was no use. They were doomed. A few hours later, all three were on a train to Aushwitz, ready to be gassed to death upon arrival.
Esther Fordaun ran home as fast as she could. Not only did she want to get out of the rain, but she wanted to avoid Rudy, her cruel neighbor, who wanted nothing more than to beat her up and bully her, and the Nazis who would do the same things Rudy would. But Rudy was a single fourteen-year old boy and just one Nazi patrol was about ten or fifteen fully grown men with guns and blackjacks to hit her with, not fists and sticks. To Esther, they were all the same. So she ran, a book above her head and her face buried in her coat, until she got to her house. It was her only defense against the bullies of the block.
She splashed through the mud in the schoolyard, then turned onto cobblestone and soon made it to her street. Before she even saw her door, she knew someone had been “attacked”. That was the neighborhoods word for when the Nazis broke into someones house. There were shards of glass and splinters of wood on the sidewalk and Esther could see what appeared to be a desk or table sticking out of a large front window.
Esther filled with dread. Was it her house? Her house had a large front window like that and the table jutting out from it into the sidewalk looked like the one she had in her kitchen! It was about where her front door was too! She slowed to a walk and closed her eyes, praying pleaseGodpleaseno as she neared her home. She felt glass crunch under her shoes and opened her eyes.
When she looked at her house she felt Gods voice vibrate in her chest; yes. The door was slightly ajar, splintered and covered in boot marks. When she stepped inside, she didn't recognize it. It was a junk heap. Esther burst into tears. Her family was gone and the Nazis were probably going to come back for her too! She cried even harder. Picking her way through the wreck of the living room, she managed to get into the hall and crept in her bedroom. To her surprise, it was just as she had left it that morning.
She put her schoolbag on the floor and sat on her bed, tears dripping off her cheeks and splattering on her blanket. “What am I going to do?” She sobbed. But then, she remembered her promise and filled with hope. Almost a year ago, a family was attacked while their son was at school. The boy returned home to an empty house and stayed there for three days before the Nazis returned and found him.
A few days after his capture, Esther was talking to her elderly neighbor, Herr Leibech, and that came up. Herr Leibech had looked at her sternly and very seriously told her, “now Esther, if that ever happens to you I want you to come straight here, ok? Straight here. You can stay with me. I don’t want you to live in a junk heap waiting to die. I want you safe, you hear? Can you promise me you will come straight to me if that happens? I want you to promise.” Esther had promised, and now it had happened.
Even though Herr Leibech had told her, “straight to my home”, Esther stopped to grab a few things before leaving. She got up and went to her closet, leaving a trail of tears on the carpet. There, she kept a knapsack that she planned to take with her, should she actually have to go to Herr Leibech. It contained a picture of her family, a deck of cards, two books, a pencil and a candle. She opened it up to take inventory but before she closed it, she took her diary off its shelf and slid it in with the rest of her things. Then she was off.
She tried to hide her bag and her tears as she trudged to Herr Leibechs' but she was sure she looked suspicious and as sad as she really was. She was just glad it was raining, for she was crying a river. The raindrops would hide her tears, but not her frown. Her bag was hidden under her coat but she couldn't find a way to erase the bulge so she just put it on the side that faced the houses, not the street. The Nazis would have a harder time seeing it that way. But then she realized something. They knew that school had just been let out, she could wear her bag on her back and fool them into thinking she was coming home from school. But that still wouldn't explain her sobs to them. They still might stop her.
But it was uncomfortable to hide her bag so she turned into an alleyway and slid it out from under her coat and onto her back. Then, making sure the coast was clear, walked out. She was still weeping when she heard a Nazi patrol coming up from behind. They were walking faster than her and she soon saw them out of the corner of her eye. She hunched her shoulders over and picked up her pace. But despite that, she heard a Nazi yell at her, “Du, Mädchen, zu stoppen!” “You, girl, stop!” Esther stopped without turning her head. The Nazi walked up to her and demanded harshly, “where are you going?” Esther looked up at him and sniffed, she knew she couldn't hide her great sobs now.
She needed to think of a quick lie. “I'm going to my Opa's, sir. My family just got word my father died. I was sent to tell him.” The Nazi considered this, decided it was valid, and dug deeper. “Why do you have your schoolbag if you were already at your home?” Esther sobbed harder, so fearful of the Nazi figuring out her plot she couldn’t hold back. “I just stepped through the door and my mother told me to tell Opa that father died. I didn't have time to take it off, I just left.” She could hardly choke out the words. “I see. Very well, get on your way then.” And he marched off. Esther sighed deeply with relief and quickly dashed the last few blocks to Herr Leibechs' home, crying even harder from fear and trembling with sobs.
Esther rang the bell and stood at the door impatiently and fearfully. Soon though, Herr Leibech opened it and looked down at Esther's tear stained face and shaking body. “Oh, Esther.” He breathed and beckoned her in. She graciously threw herself inside and bawled her eyes out. “Oh Esther. What happened to you? They came didn't they. Oh, I'm so sorry.”
Esther was glad of Herr Leibechs' large comforting arms around her and she sniffled and looked up at him. “They ruined everything! The house was so trashed I couldn't recognize it! And they took them all away! Mama, Papa, Anna, everybody! There all gone, I'll never see them again!” Herr Leibech felt a pang of sympathy and sadness. The Fordaun's had been his friends too and he would miss them dearly. But Esther, their oldest daughter, was still here and now in his care. He would have to push his own feelings aside for now.
He hugged her close to him and patted her gently. “There, there.” He shushed soothingly, “I know how you feel. I will miss your family too. We were good friends, I can’t believe their really gone. And Esther, it pains me to say this but their not coming back either. I’m so sorry. But we can’t be stuck in the past. You are at risk too. The Nazis will kill you. Your family should have gone into hiding a long time ago. Its too dangerous for you to be out in the open.” Hiding! Esther thought with terror. I can't go into hiding! I don't want to live in a dirty cellar with the rats! I would rather die! But even though she was telling herself that, she knew she wouldn't. She would much rather live in a dirty, rat infested cellar than go into a concentration camp. But she still despised the thought of both.
Thinking about that, she realized the two options were kind of like her thoughts towards the two bullies of the town; Rudy and the Nazis. She would rather get beaten up by Rudy, the unarmed, single, fourteen year old boy, than the Nazis, the carriers of loaded rifles and blackjacks who came in numbers and were strong young men, but both were feared equally to her. She hated the thought of hiding as much as a concentration camp but would much rather sit in a cellar for a few months than be starved, beaten, gassed and killed after a few months.
She sighed and nodded to Herr Leibech. “Yes, I understand. I know how lucky I am just to have a hiding spot. Thank you for your hospitality.” She whimpered, glumly. For some reason, when Herr Leibech was telling her she needed to go into hiding, her sobs had stopped and she was put into a deep sulking mood. She was miserable and not present in the room. Herr Leibech knew how she felt but knew nothing could make her feel better but time. “I'm sorry, Esther. Here, come on, lets go.” He beckoned quietly and escorted her down the narrow staircase and into the cluttered basement. Esther shivered with cold.
Upon nearing the far corner, he halted and stooped down to grasp a floorboard. Pulling it up, Esther saw it was a trap door that looked like a piece of the floor from above. The small space beneath it was probably an old cellar. She climbed in with a sad air about her and glumly sat down, took off her knapsack and set it in her lap. Herr Leibech watched her take out her things and arrange them in the small space sadly. Seeing she had no blanket or pillow, he fetched them and gave them to her without a word. He pointed out a small latch she could use on the inside, then closed the door on her melancholy face with a sigh and a shiver. The image of her wide scared eyes being trapped under the basement floor broke his heart and flashed in front of his eyes every time he thought of her. But there was nothing he could do. He just sighed and went back upstairs sadly. The part that hurt him the most was that today would be the day she would always remember as the one where her family was taken away from her and she was trapped in her neighbors cellar. The worst day of her life, she would think of it as. The worst day of her life.