This week for Open Pen we have a great short story from Maddie Cait. This piece takes place in Nazi Germany, and while Maddie did not mention this specifically, her story definitely seeks to bring glory to God 🙂
As for critiques, Maddie would love feedback on her title and mentioned that she was also considering “Revealed by Light.” She also would like to hear feedback and get tips about showing and not telling, though I think most critiques would be welcome. As always, even short, simple comments help, and I know that Maddie really appreciates you taking the time to read her story and comment.
Open Pen is a critique opportunity on this blog. It is specifically meant for teenage writers who want feedback from their peers, but anyone is welcome to submit. If you are interested in submitting or learning more about Open Pen, you can on the Open Pen page.
Out of Darkness by Madelyn MacBoyd
Eva leaned her head back trying to ignore the screaming pain of hunger in her stomach. The unseen dust in the secret closet accentuated her thirst. Two days with no room to move, no food, and not knowing if she was safe seemed torturous. The Gestapo had taken Anni, the young woman who had been hiding Eva, when they raided her home. They found the four other Jews she was also hiding. Eva didn’t make it to the attic in time, so Anni had stuffed her into a secret little room in the library wall.
Eva’s eyes scanned the compact hiding place. In some ways, it was like her heart – dark, dirty, lonely. Eva longed for her life to be full of happiness and peace, but it always felt empty. She tried to ignore her feelings by paying attention to sounds outside the hidden door. She heard nothing.
I must get out, Eva thought, I will get some water and be right back.
The door creaked as Eva opened it. Moonlight streamed through the window as Eva snuck down the stairs to the kitchen. After gulping some water, she opened the cabinet and stuffed a piece of bread into her mouth. Swallowing the last mouthful she heard a noise behind her. Eva jumped and spun around. There in front of her stood a tall, bearded man.
“Are you Eva?” the man’s voice was deep and kind.
Eva stood speechless. Her heart pounded and her thoughts raced.
He looks familiar. I’ve seen him before.
“Anni sent me to find you,” he explained.
“Anni? Is she safe?” Eva blurted, forgetting her fear at the mention of her friend.
Nodding his head, he continued, “We must get out of here. The house is being watched.”
“Who are you?”
“There is no to time to expl –“
The rattling of the door knob and creak of hinges interrupted his sentence. Grabbing Eva’s arm, the man headed to the side door as the front door banged open. “Quick! This way!” He hissed, almost dragging her outside.
Eva and the man ran through the dark ally, weaving through streets Eva did not recognize. They heard yelling in the distance as a Nazi solder fired a gun. Turning the corner, Eva’s rescuer threw open what looked like a sewage circle and dived inside. Eva followed without stopping to think. A damp, musty smell flooded their nostrils. To Eva’s surprise, a hole, dug out in the sewage tunnel, created a small but excellent hiding place.
“We’ll have to sneak out when they’ve lost our trail,” he whispered, crouching in the corner trying to keep his head from bumping the ceiling. Eva sat against the other wall.
“Who – are – you?” she gasped, out of breath.
“Call me Nik. No need to worry about me. My mission is to help get persecuted people to safety. I usually work with groups of Jews, but Anni did not want to leave you behind.”
Suspicious, Eva stared at him. Then, the realization of where she had seen him hit her like a slap on the cheek. The photograph of Anni’s brother in a scrapbook back at the safe house flashed in her memory. “Are you Anni’s brother?” she asked, more in disbelief than with curiosity.
Nik looked at the ground a minute before he answered with a somber, “That’s me. We’re not supposed to reveal too much about who we are. It creates unneeded danger, but I guess you need to know that much.”
“But, I thought you enlisted in the German Air Force after Hitler came to power?” Eva accused, growing uneasy. “Anni was so upset when she heard.”
Nik sighed, “Yes, I was bomber pilot. A decision I regret. I used to be infatuated with Hitler’s promises to help the German economy and rebuild national pride . . . until I realized his true motives. God shone His light through my darkness and revealed to me the evil I was supporting. I still love my country, and it hurts deeply to see her generate so much evil. When you see the light, it’s a wonderful and terrible thing that happens.”
“Light reveals the evil things that the darkness hid. When you see them, you feel you must do something about them,” Nik stared up at the ceiling.
Eva could relate, but yet she couldn’t. She had a similar pain in her heart because her country, the country that she loved, had betrayed and despised her. But the light Nik was talking about confused her.
Nik looked up at the circle where they had entered.
“We should try to go now,” he whispered.
Nik opened the circle a crack to see if it was all clear. They snuck out and crept along the dark road. Eva followed Nik into the woods.
They ran quietly through the maze of trees. Without warning, Nik slowed to almost a stop.
“What is it?” Eva whispered.
“Sshhhh,” Nik thrust his hand toward Eva, signaling, don’t move.
“I think we are being followed,” he whispered quickly. Nik raised his head high, his ears searching for sounds from their stalker.
Eva’s heart began to race, and she could hear her pulse drumming in her ears. Nik shoved her and himself behind the thickest tree around.
The crunch, crunch of the stalkers boots grew louder. The stalker, a man in the Gestapo, walked past Nik and Eva, without seeing them. Nik drew his pistol noiselessly from his pocket taking aim at the Nazi. BANG! – The Nazi fell dead to the ground.
“We have to make it to the closest farm. I know the man who owns it, his name is Leo, and he will hide you. You will be safe there for now,” Nik whispered.
Nik stepped out from behind the tree before Eva. Eva was about to follow, when she heard BANG! Nik collapsed, groaning and holding his shoulder. Another Nazi soldier had followed them. He took another step closer to Nik, aiming his gun at Nik’s head. Another shot rang out from the opposite direction, and the Nazi fell limp on the ground. Nik and Eva looked.
There stood Leo, gun in hand.
“I heard the first gunshot, and I knew you were in trouble,” Leo exclaimed, rushing over to Nik’s side.
Leo and Eva applied pressure to Nik’s chest wound, trying to stop the bleeding.
“Eva – look,” Nik said, panting from the pain.
The first morning sunbeams streamed through the tree branches, revealing the dust dancing in the air.
“Does that mean we can’t travel because it is day?” she asked disappointed.
“No, look at the sunlight. It’s revealing the dust. That’s just what I was talking about. God’s love shines through showing us the dust – sin. At first, I wanted the light to go away. I didn’t want to see the filth, but it was for my own good. The light showed me the truth, and the truth set my soul free.”
He grew more breathless with each word. Nik winced with pain, as his eyes closed and he breathed for the last time.
Eva’s tears stung her eyes. Dear God, she prayed, shine your light on me. Fill my life with light, even if it hurts. I want to be free.