by Ken Davey
Mansfield Secondary College, Australia
The snip of the wire set the siren off. All of a sudden the camp roared into action as the huge lights began sweeping across the snow. Arthur froze. Above the high pitch wailing of the siren and the barking of the dogs, the sound of the guards' heavy boots running across the hard cement of the yard could be heard. The search light grew closer. Arthur could make out a yellow haze through the snow. Now he clambered out of the snow and began running.
He didn't run, but rather stumbled as the fresh snow made every step a struggle. The bitter wind carried with it snow that stung his face. The light swept back towards him, but the woods were now within reach. Arthur made a final dive crashing through the trees just as the light passed harmlessly behind.
The sound of the dogs coming through the fence made him jump. He forced himself through the dense forest and snow. The branches tore at his face and bare skin, and soon he was streaming with blood as he blindly stumbled through the thick snow in an attempted run. The blood-curdling sound of the dog pack appeared closer with every step he took. His whole body ached with an unbearable pain, but still he fought to push on, to try and escape.
The road was just ahead; if only he could reach it, then maybe he might be able to escape the blood-thirsty dogs that followed him. Just as he neared the road, a huge truck screeched to a halt, and Nazis began pouring out the back shouting commands in German. Arthur made out the unmistakable sound of guns loading over the din of heavy boots running onto the road.
Arthur veered to the left and headed toward the river. Machine-gun fire ripped through the trees and into the clearing. The dogs charged close behind him. They were gaining quickly now as every step he took became a struggle. The lead dog reached him, ripping at his leg. He let loose a hard blow, and the dog, yelping, let go. Arthur kept moving towards the river.
The German troops came into the clearing. The yelling and shouting was quickly broken by the roar of machine guns, and Arthur felt the bullets whistle past his ear. In a last effort at survival, he flung himself towards the river rolling down the steep bank and into the icy river. The dogs came to a halt at the river's edge as Arthur disappeared beneath the murky surface.
By the time the Germans reached the bank, he was face-down, floating downstream, leaving behind him a trail of blood. The Germans stood there, cold and heartless, and watched as Arthur's body wound around the corner. Then they turned, patting each other on the back as they made their way back towards the truck.
Meanwhile, Arthur's body continued its path down the river eventually snagging on a log. Arthur moved and slowly hauled his body up onto the log. Then he passed out with pain.
As the sun rose, a German farmer strolling along side the river, heard a coughing sound on the bank. The farmer quickly ran towards the bank. As he looked over the edge, he saw Arthur slumped over a log coughing convulsively. He began to make his way down the bank, but halfway down noticed the straight uniform and the bald head. Through the blood on the forearm, he could just make out a tattoo.
Arthur was an escaped Jew from the nearby concentration camp. The farmer's mind raced as he tried to think what he should do. He was torn between turning and leaving the stranger to die or helping him and risking his and his family's lives. The farmer took a good look around, scanning the horizon, before moving quickly down the bank to grab Arthur.
The farmer was a strong, tall man, and he quickly flung Arthur's limp body over his shoulder and began to make his way up the bank. He moved quickly across the clearing heading for his hay shed. It was important that no one saw him. If he were caught, he would be shot or hung in the square, in front of everyone to act as a reminder of what happens to traitors. He panicked as he heard the sound of a jeep coming along the nearby road. A voice let loose a huge shout as the jeep skidded to a stop. The two soldiers jumped out and began running across the clearing, yelling and shouting in German.
The farmer began running for his life, Arthur still slumped over his shoulders. He was dead for sure now, but he ran as hard as he could. Behind him the click of the magazine in the machine gun was followed by a frenzied burst of bullets. In the farmer's head everything went silent and moved in slow motion as the bullets ripped through his body. Blood spurted. As he slumped towards the ground, a final scream came from this mouth.
The soldiers made their way quickly across the field. When they reached the farmer, they kicked him hard in the stomach to make sure he was dead, before moving towards Arthur. Arthur lay motionless in the snow. The soldier's boot sunk into his chest, and he gasped in pain as his eyes fluttered open to see the faces of his attackers.
One of the soldiers pulled a pistol from his holster and took aim. Arthur took one last breath as the sound of a pistol shot echoed through the valley taking Arthur's life with it.
Student Art by AETI Staff Artist Joe Vaux
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