The Night of Broken Glass (original story)
It is 1938 and the Second World War has not yet begun. The city of Munich is a shadowy world blighted by racial tension. Amongst it all is Ezra, a girl captivated by the shadows that protect her secret from the light. Her secret is Caleb, the boy she is forbidden from seeing. She doesn't care, and she's on a mission to find Caleb, to prove to herself that the rumours are just lies. Caleb isn't dangerous. He can't be- he's her best friend.
The curtains of night-time are drawn over Munich tonight. The moon is yellow and full, sewn into the sky with the pinprick stars dotting the shadowy fabric of the night. Darkness trickles down the sky in blobby drops like wet paint while the clouds lumber past aimlessly, without a care in the world.
I am alert. My eyes search the shadowy alleyways and darkening doorways. My ears are primed for the slightest noise. I sniff the air like a dog.
The night is ripe with the smell of Nazis.
Nazis are putrid. Their aroma is a fetid mixture of unadulterated intimidation and delusion. I hate them. Iâ€™m not supposed to though. I'm not Jewish. With blonde hair and blue eyes Iâ€™m a poster child for the Aryan race. Not that I'm proud of it. Iâ€™m not.
The Nazis changed my family. Not hurt them, but changed them. I used to think they were decent people, but what decent person would tell me I couldn't see my best friend anymore because heâ€™s Jewish? Thatâ€™s exactly what my father said.
He barged through the door, home from work. Stew bubbled on the hob. The smell of gravy poured out of the open door, dying in the cold air. Anger was etched onto his face. It tug at his cheekbones and died in the shadows that lined the sallow skin. His eyes were filled with fire. They fell on me. The fire flared. His mouth fell open a little to let the tsunami pour from his mouth and drown me.
â€œYouâ€™ll see no more of that Jew, Caleb. Do you hear me, Ezra?â€
I stared at him, open mouthed. Was it some horrible joke? His eyes were full up with anger â€“ there was no room for jokes there. I didn't even blink. I just listened to the sounds of my glass world shattering.
Every time I remember that awful evening, those two sentences that ripped an ugly tear in my world, I forget how to breathe.
I press my back against the wall of someoneâ€™s house. I pray to God they don't see me. No oneâ€™s allowed out this late at night, not when the moon is this high in the sky. I take a giant gasp, like a swimmer coming up for air. My chest heaves, rising and falling to the beat of my heart. It hammers inside me like the wings of a caged bird â€“ rapid and desperate.
Even after I've caught my breath, I remain stood in the gloom. The night is the strangest thing; the world looks different when itâ€™s painted with shadows. The light makes all the colours brighter, sometimes cancelling out the beauty of some things. Some of these things are more beautiful in the dark. Darkness is liquid. It pours into the landscape rather than the sunlight, which covers everything with a thick coat that never quite fits anything exactly right.
Voices shatter the night-time air. They are sharp shouts oozing white-hot anger and the syllables flit about like flies. I press myself against the cold brick wall, my heartbeat hammering even harder. The shouts rise up, filling the sky, poisoning the moonlight. The voices are multitudinous and filled with fury. The flames pour out of their unseen mouths. Racial slurs echo through the shadows.
â€œJews, you filthy Jews!â€
A smash of broken glass punctuates their words. Again and again, the windows cry out. Again and again, the men scream those hateful words.
I turn my head to the horizon. Smoke rises up into the sky, like desperate hands trying to capture the moon. The more I stare the more smoke there is, the brighter the scarlet smudge becomes. The scarlet smudge of fire. I don't need to think hard to know that building is the Synagogue. A place of worship going up in the burning tongues of hellfire.
The voices rise, the shouts grow, the screams penetrate the dark walls of the night. The city I've lived all my life transforms into pandemonium.