They Painted the Rainbow Red

Story narrated by a teenage jew boy during World War II. This fictional story paints a very graphic image of what a war feels like, especially when you are a helpless victim.

Written by Dr Shritama Das who is a dental surgeon by the day and loves weaving beautiful stories.

Year: 1944

Place: Corfu (under Nazi Invasion).

Historical significance: WWII

Though the schools, public places, markets, playgrounds were not accessible rather would say did not exist post the bombardment by the Nazis, as children my sister Judith (13) and I Joshua (15) chose our plain shabby backyard filled with wreckage from the on-going war as our perfect play area. Though we both were in our teens, we refused to settle terms with our age! Maybe because we somewhere always knew we had limited time together as a family. 

“War” this term though was almost like bread and butter for us by now, but still we never really understood the logical explanation behind it! What was so alluring about the power that the entire world, the entire civilization had to act as the fuel in the burning fire! I often would sit by the broken slider past our porch or so we use to call it and wonder,” how proud HaShem, the lord would have been when he created human! He must have had an idea of creating his omnipresent self in human mould!  Now that the entire humanity was under threat just because of political shifting, what was the Lord thinking? Does this concept of World war, the devastation, the mass destruction and suffering bring joy to His golden heart? Does any of these brutalities make sense to Him, make Him proud? Isn’t the time right to de-root the poisonous creations of His so that other beings could make it a better place?” My array of thoughts would often be flattened by some heavy booted march-pasts or some ear-piercing sounds of arms and bombardments shaking the dungeon we called home.

That morning particularly wasn’t very appealing, oh well I had never witnessed any in my short 15 years of life though! I could feel something was amiss but refused to bend down to my instincts. Blame it to my teen hormones! Judith was knitting a sweater for her favourite dolly while Bonny wagged his tail merrily and circled her perhaps the nth time! That was quite irritating as a sight for me, but I just chose to ignore and kept rolling the spoon in the bowl of the oatmeal. Suddenly, it felt like a bolt of thunderstorm fastened with the shrillness of ice knives cut through our ears. I sat there by the table numb while watching people running all over the street, houses turning to mere boulders in the wink of an eye, children orphaned within seconds who were holding their parents’ fingers and toddling around a few minutes before! I was not able to process the drastic change of scenario which made my personified persona appear dumb that moment! I could once again hear the heavy booted march pasts with roaring bullets and abuses with barbaric howling! The only difference this time was I could see them too! 

 My whims came to terms with reality when my otherwise kind mother grabbed me by my collar and hissed sharply and pulled me under the bed. I bent my head quizzically and was about to shoot her with my bullets of questions, but something hard knocked her down and she laid in a pool of blood colouring her dark brown locks bright red! That’s when fear clawed me for the first time! I looked up and found a pair of brutal monstrous eye glowing with fire from the hell staring straight into my eyes. I thought I would burn but I felt cold! I shivered in pain to see the soullessness in those eyes; I knew there will be no mercy now! Coarse abusive and collective pearls of laughter distracted the gunned monster’s frowning. Hanging the rifle butt covered with blood on his big sweaty arms he thumped forward towards the open kitchen. Re-collecting my senses and wits I silently pawed forward with the intention to take Judith under my safe wings, when I witnessed the most fateful event of my life! A tiny 13-year-old was clutching her half knitted sweater to her chest while she sat in her own piss terrified imagining the new fate and praying to her lord to send for a saviour! Her prayers were heard; the fluffy little dog jumped and furiously barked and snarled his teeth at the monsters masked with a human face. He fought for 5 minutes and then was silenced with the same butt of the rifle that was dripping blood from the last kill! The five booted and armed men and a 13-year-old with her unprotected self was at war in the room in front of my eyes while I just selfishly remained undercover to delay my fateful fate! The tenderness of the girl was torn to pieces, along with her clothes her soul was tethered yet lacerated in bits. I could feel the warm tears of our Lord on my shoulders and His helplessness too! Once Judith had pointed out to the wine bottle kept in the kitchen cabinet high up and expressed her desire to taste the redness of the liquid! I had never paid any attention then but now I had to as I could see her wounded soul hovering above while the empty broken wine bottle lies inside her lifeless body! The saga of her endless torture ended with turns of attention of the evils towards me! 

For some reason, they didn’t kill but dragged me along with them while my hands were cuffed and mouth gagged across the bodies of my once-loved family! I didn’t even get to mourn or collect my ashamed self from the site of the ruins of humanity. While the process, my hands brushed past the soft fluffy tail of Bonny and that was the last thing I could remember before diving into the deep slumber where Judith, mother and I were holding hands and seeking refuge from the poisonous umbrella held by Humanity. 

I couldn’t recollect how much time had elapsed when finally my tired conscience decided to push open my eyes into the harsh world of absurd cruelty. I was free but not yet free! Once again confusion clawed me down when I found myself amid an overwhelming overcrowded wooden box sealed with many tired and tortured faces like mine! I could hardly sit up with all the dried up blood on my face from the last series of events back at my dungeon. I needed an urge to drink some liquid to ease my burning throat and to release the tension that had built up in my groin due to accumulation of fluid in my bladder simultaneously. I tried to speak in my alienated voice, but what came out was my thick mucus coated saliva with dried up clots on the corner of my lips which was bruised badly. I looked around and understood we were in a moving freight car sealed from every surface. This didn’t bother me much as I was hoping to reach to the ghettos where according to my mother was a place for forced labour. I didn’t mind working as long as I was getting my basic necessities of survival. 

As days passed, the rainbow of hope that showed up to me started changing colours. The extreme temperatures suffocated the colour green so bad that it never showed up again! The intense heat during the day (which we could make out only by the tiny fissures that allowed daylight to crawl in) and the freezing nights made our skin look like baked bacon with scales! Every time one needed to release the human wastes, they had to fight in that 8 meters wooden filthy box over a bucket provided for sanitary needs! The stench of faeces and urine was the only air we all could breathe in. 

After the green faded from my rainbow of hope, it was time for the blue and indigo! The journey which was supposed to be covered in 3-4 days’ time was extended and we didn’t know for how long! It was not easy to stay awake for so long days without food or water. Unlike many others, I couldn’t possibly drink up my own urine for survival but still, I did! There were days when we would just not move and neither would the wooden box! We could hear many trains and passenger cars pass by but not ours.  Gradual fading of the colours of the rainbow called “hope” resulted in the onset of the demonic activities required for survival. People indulged in the sexual activities in that small box forcefully with each other. Some started peeling off their skins from hands and legs and ate them to satisfy their hunger. Once a young boy named Aden who had an extremely pretty face so unlikely of a boy his age tried to escape the death box (as we started calling our new moving home). It was merely a few moments after which he was shot dead and dumped back in our cell. The tragic part was we discovered Aden was Agatha only post her death! 

Maybe a week had passed or even more, I didn’t know but all I could see was dead bodies of all the deportees lay everywhere. I felt for a moment I was the “Death”! My moment of solitude was interrupted by a feeble mumble coming from the corner of the sanitary bucket. I crawled up to the area with the limited strength I had over the bodies. A man whom I had acquainted with during this death journey laid there gasping for breath. Perhaps he wished to see a living man before giving up! He whispered with his dying voice, “See you on the other side mate, once the trials of humanity cease”! 

I never left the place after that not because I dint want to but because I couldn’t! I waited there till every cell of my body committed suicide after cursing the brutality the humans had inflicted upon other fellow beings! The day finally I was free was when the freight car had reached the destination after 18 long days! 

While I was beginning my eternal journey leaving behind my lifeless mortality, I saw my rainbow of hope again! I knew the war had ended and peace would soon prevail, but I also knew,” They painted my rainbow RED…” 

What are your thoughts about this story?