Like all people diagnosed with terminal intelligence, and maybe just a touch of mental illness at a young age, I’ve always been convinced that with enough practice, I could master a superpower. Nothing ridiculous like flying or shooting fire out of my fingertips. But maybe something subtler like light telekinesis or predicting the future. “I envision another tax hike next quarter,” I saw myself saying, as a guest on the now-defunct Bill O’Reilly show.
Sometimes my dreams actually can predict the future, but that’s a different story. Even though I’ve watched Donnie Darko 86 times, I’ve never truly believed in time travel. I mean, I’m not schizophrenic, unless I’ve gone on an amphetamine bender.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I wake up in a German Concentration Camp circa 1943. I don’t know exactly what year it is because I wake up without a phone or a Tag Heuer watch. But if the décor and lack of strong cleaning products are any indications of the time period, I have a feeling I am pretty close, at least decade wise.
At first, I think that I’ve just overdosed again, and am coming to in some backwoods hospital since I do feel nauseous like I’m at the beginning of a long, painful opiate withdrawal.
That is until I see the barracks, the surrounding woods, and the guards – all wearing the same insignia. I’m in a fucking concentration camp. My sister is going to think this is funny if I ever get to speak with her again.
This is typically what happens in my life. Something awesome will happen, like gaining a superpower, but there will be a twist. Like one of those devious genies, where you get everything you ask for, but also everything you DIDN’T ask for.
This is my life – a fucked up fairy tale.
I hope that maybe the Jews were just being dramatic about how awful these places were (I know how my sister can be). At least I look super Aryan, blonde hair, light eyes, maybe I’ll be a camp favorite.
There’s a pack of cigarettes in my pajama bottoms, but no lighter. Maybe they haven’t invented plastic Bic lighter’s yet? I head outside to try and find some fire. What a find is a group of prisoners in the same grubby pajamas huddled around a weathered picnic table. Their eyes are down, faces emaciated, doing their best to impersonate abused animals.
“How can I light this?” I ask a frail old man, clinging to the table like a walker.
“They don’t let us have matches or lighters here…not after someone tried to burn down the Big House”
A seedy-looking youth interjects, “Only the guards have lighters, but you don’t want to talk to them”.
“We just light them off each other’s,” the first man says, handing me a lit cigarette, still wet with his gummy saliva.
“Doesn’t everyone get sick?” I ask as I notice two of the prisoners near the door coughing into their filthy sleeves.
“Everyone here has ‘the crud’…you’ll have it to soon enough. The cabins are full of mold”.
We spend most of our days, usually in freezing rain, marching up and down the steep hill on which the camp is situated. The guards bark reprimands at the stragglers, and anyone bold enough to sit down to try and rest. I feel bad for the older/weaker prisoners, and we do all we can to help them. We can’t do much though, as cold and malnourished as we are.
Most disappear, and we never see them again.
We stand in line waiting to be served cold gruel for hours each day. Often, by the time we to the slop through, it’s scraped clean. Some of the prisoners have taken to eating the soap. I know better though. I know what they are making it out of.
The camp officials move us from barracks to barracks, never giving us an explanation. We are forced out of bed early in the morning and can’t return until late at night. There is a constant state of panic amongst the prisoners, myself included. Three to five times a day we are herded into a mess hall for ‘roll call’.
The stench is unbearable, but no one wants to use the showers. Rumors keep circulating.
Everyone misses their families. Has mine been thrown into a camp as well? There’s no way to know for sure – we aren’t allowed contact with the outside world. Even radios are considered contraband. Some have wives, girlfriends, daughters, sisters, at the women’s camp next to ours and futile attempts at communication are made.
Many try to escape, but most only make it to the bottom of the mountain before they are marched back up and punished for their insolence. That’s if they return at all. Running is a death sentence – we are all so cold and weak from hunger.
After a long day of marching, I have two seizures in the barracks and demand to see a doctor. A pretty nurse takes pity on me and whispers in my ear, “Oh hunny, you don’t want to see the doctors, they aren’t here to help you”.
The next day I know I have to do something before I perish.
I find a phone attached to the wall outside a guard tower and dial my parent’s house number. How is this even going to work? My parents won’t be born for another decade. I have to try something though because I don’t want to die in this desolate wilderness, surrounded by human misery.
My father’s voice comes over the phone.
I can’t believe it, they will be able to get me out of here!
“Dad, thank god, I’m at a camp somewhere on a mountain, please, come save me,” I whisper into the receiver.
“We had to send you there Nick, you gave us no choice”
“But…what?…I don’t understand….where am I?”
“You’re in rehab at Cove Forge. You need help”.
DISCLAIMER: I love the Jews. They have always been some of my closest friends. My sister is actually a Jew now, and I love her even more because of it. So, if this was ‘offensive to you’, I took a sampling of Jewish people I trust and respect. Maybe you just don’t have a sense of humor…