[ An End to Intolerance (Volume 5 -- June 1997) ]

The Herd

By Rachel Chapman
Ararat Community College

Indiscriminate death waited inside those tombstone walls. Its aura and awful finality permeated the stone and suffocated her as she entered the ghetto. The clanging of the gate as it locked behind the last wagon tolled mournfully again and again inside her head.

[ Student Drawing ]She looked at the faces as they glanced up without curiosity at the new arrivals. Implacably, they soon turned back to study their own feet and path as they moved, like one. Confused by their herd-like behavior, she wanted to jump off her wagon and shake someone, scream and hit them until they were forced to do something individual. But she was held immobile by the weight of her own fear of being noticed by the soldiers, emerging out of her group only to be thrust into the scrutiny of those silent gazes. So she stayed.

She reached the room she was to share with twenty others. Its stark conformity to ghetto regulations blended with the expressions on her room-mates' faces. Only she was without family in the group. Her young husband had been shot as an example to those who would not wear the Star. She, herself, now bore the emblem on her chest as if to cover a hole in her own heart, leeching away all feeling.

Quietly, she drew herself into her allocated corner and huddled against its embracing walls. The others also slowly moved into their positions, lying down on the freezing stone without even bothering to get blankets from the packs. She felt as though she were drowning in the regularity. She was losing herself, just as she had lost sight of her God. There was nothing left; no joy, no sorrow, no love, no hate. All that remained was a feeling of lassitude and continuation she could not escape from.

She struggled up and maneuvered through the bodies sprawled on the floor, then stepped out onto the street. She let herself merge with the natural flow of people. How long she let herself float this way she did not know, but when her mind began to stir from its submerged state, she became aware of drifting out towards the gate. Once more the tombstones reared menacingly above her, but instead of inspiring fear this time, she ached for the trust she could no longer carry.

There was a sudden ringing tone as the gate slammed shut. She looked up quickly. What was happening? A new line of wagons moved closer. So that was it. Her face remained emotionless even as her mind began to sink once more. Her feet shuffled beneath her, and she suddenly noticed how amazing this fact was. She marveled as she let them carry her where they would, on past the wagons.

A peal of laughter burst through the street. The feet were suddenly silent, and she looked up from them. Two children on the back of a wagon were scrambling over the packs in an effort to catch a cricket. Too young to understand, they giggled as it desperately hopped to avoid them.

Numb, she watched them. Two more in the line of thousands to enter the ghetto, leaving belongings, friends, lives, and even singularity outside. She saw the silence in the street begin to make the two self-conscious of their noise, and as the wagon turned, she glimpsed their small faces begin to set in impassiveness. Then the convoy was gone, and she gazed down once more at her feet as they slowly began to move.

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