A bird flew over camp today.
All the prisoners were in formation for roll call that cloudless morning when I saw it out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head to follow the creature’s path, but structures of worn, skeletal men in striped pajamas obscured my view.
I shook my head in dismissal. ‘Warum die Mühe,’ why even bother.
A distant ‘SQUAK’ broke the sacred silence of roll call only to echo through all of us. I saw some flinch at the interruption to their internal silence. Others, who were barely there, other than in body itself, didn’t even notice. Some of the younger ones like myself just wanted to see it again. Life did not come and just go so freely unless in smoke or by train.
It circled once more and made that beautiful noise once again. And again it became a black spec against the pale sky. In this moment, I felt rather fortunate in an unfortunate situation to be graced with this sight. Then this majestic creature turned once more and flew back to us and landed on the roof of the barracks in front of us. I stared at her and she stared back. I thought I was hallucinating for a second time, but why would some wandering bird replace the image of my dead sister? My bird unceremoniously jumped back into the sky and began to fly away as if our presence offended her. As I watched her fly off into the morning light I thought again of my sister. My sister. I haven’t thought of her in quite some time actually. The last time was when I thought I saw her standing by the latrines as we were being shuffled into the barracks after a long day of work. Snow covered, and half asleep, I broke free from the line and ran as fast as my half-starved and exhausted body could to her. For my trouble I received a nasty bruise on my face from the guards who dragged me back inside. As I lay in the heap they had dropped me in, did I realize I had been crying. Icy rows lined my face for the rest of the night. That was a year ago. And the last time I cried.
A gun shot broke my reverie and I realized my bird was gone from the sky. My eyes frantically searched the sky for her, but I was looking in the wrong place. Krauss still had his rifle aimed when I realized what happened. That poor bird. She was almost free. Why did she come back? Were we really worth it to her? The guards mourned her memory in laughter and a few of the rats congratulated Krauss for his excellent shot.
I wish to ignore the irony.
If I could have cried, I would’ve, but I didn’t remember how.