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The Tourist - a short story
He tried to hide his excitement, but it was difficult. He had saved and done without for six years in order to be here, and now he could barely conceal his glee. It was the dream of a lifetime, but he had to contain himself, and maintain a sober face. To do otherwise might expose him.
Luckily, he had no tattoos or markings. He had decided against it as a precaution, and also because he was vain, and did not want to spoil what he saw as perfection. There was nothing to identify him as one of the chosen, other than his blond hair and blue eyes, but they were common enough here, so he felt safe.
Over there was the railroad siding, and over here was where the famous sign used to be, proclaiming: “Arbeit Macht Frei”…Work makes freedom.
Here was where millions of filthy Jews and other undesirables were exterminated by Hitler, and the chosen people…the glorious Nazis.
Ernest Mueller had long ago changed his surname to Miller, and his American activities as a Neo-Nazi were well disguised, so he was not worried that anyone might know of his true reason for being here in Auschwitz on a tour. He was not here to mourn the deaths of millions. He was here to relish it, part of his initiation rite in becoming a member of the top secret, Aryan Rebirth. He had already burned a synagogue in America, killing a rabbi and a child in the process.
Ah yes, there was the rail line, and those boxcars sitting on the spur were among the precious ones that once transported the Jews here by the millions. Over there was the building where they were gassed, believing they were about to take a shower. The thought amused him, and he stifled a grin. Over here was the killing field, where worn out slave laborers were made to kneel before being shot in the back of the head. He wished he could have seen it! What a glorious time, and had the weak German people not have betrayed the great Herr Hitler, the Third Reich Nazis would have been the undisputed masters of the world! The thought angered him.
He glanced to his left and was startled to see a man smartly dressed in an officer’s uniform. He seemed to be beckoning to him. The tour group was already some fifty feet ahead of him, and the guide was looking the other way. On a whim, he turned and headed for the officer, disappearing behind a prisoner barracks.
The officer waited, his hands clasped behind his back. He wore a pistol in a black holster, and Ernest could see he was holding a riding crop. His boots were knee length, and his uniform pants were neatly tucked in. The brim of his hat was shiny black leather, and he wore the twin lightning strokes of the SS. He looked at Ernest dispassionately, his face unreadable.
“I am Colonel Wagner. If you wish, I will give you a private tour of the crematorium, before the crowd gets there.” He was a tall blond man, like Ernest, and his piercing eyes were sky blue. His smile was chilling. “Think of me as your private guide. I know a fellow believer when I see one.” Ernest was startled that it was so obvious, but he felt safe with this man. It was as if he understood Ernest completely.
They walked slowly, along a double fence row of barbed wire, supported by concrete fence posts some twelve feet high and curved inward at the top. They had once been electrified, and it was a voltage meant to kill. Off to Ernest’s right was a small platform, with two sets of steps. Two upright posts supported a heavy crossbeam, and he could see it was a simple gallows, but without a rope.
“Did they also hang prisoners?”
The Colonel glanced at the structure. “They killed them any number of ways, but that’s where they hung the Auschwitz Commandant, Rudolf Hoess, after the war was over.” Ernest’s eyes narrowed. A good man had been mistreated.
They walked for some time before finally coming to a long, low structure with a tall stone chimney. “Is this a crematorium?” The Colonel nodded. “It is not the largest, but it served its purpose well.” He smiled, and Ernest felt a cold breeze across the nape of his neck. He shivered involuntarily, but he was fascinated.
The structure looked almost new, and the interior was spotless. They entered, and their footsteps echoed on the stone walls as they slowly strolled past the massive iron doors. It was surprisingly warm, and Ernest though he could hear muffled, far-away voices. Or was it crying? He couldn’t tell. It was very warm.
Suddenly he was startled by a piercing scream of agony, followed by hundreds, perhaps thousands of other such screams. The Colonel kept on walking, apparently oblivious to the cacophony. The sound became deafening, and Ernest threw his hands over his ears, but it helped little. The former warmth he had felt was now blast furnace hot, and the agonized shrieks continued to grow in volume until his covered ears protested in pain. Through the inspection portholes in the doors, he could see dancing, white hot flames, and the faint outline of human figures writhing in agony. He was now terrified by the noise and the heat. He grabbed the Colonel’s shoulder and spun him around.
“What is this! I thought the Jews were dead when they went in the crematoriums! Why are they screaming? Make them stop!”
The Colonel looked at him and the corners of his mouth pulled back in a horrible grin of yellow, pointed teeth. On his forehead were two protuberances that Ernest had not noticed before, and he stunned to see a forked tail flicking back and forth between his trousered legs.
“Jews? My dear boy, those are not Jews. No, the Jews all went to be with The Father. The ones dancing in my fires are not the Jews at all. They are the Nazis and they are now all mine.” His evil grin grew larger. “And so too, are you, Ernest.” His now yellow eyes gleamed at Ernest, with vertical slits for pupils. Ernest tried to run, but his feet seemed nailed to the floor. He could not move. The Colonel put his loathesome arm around him, and he could smell his fetid breath.
The female tourist screamed at the sight, and the guards came running. Suspended by his neck from the Rudolf Hoess gallows was the young, blonde American tourist, and he was very dead, his neck at an impossible angle.
“Where did he get the rope, and how the hell did he get up there? There’s nothing to stand on!” The second guard shrugged his shoulders. “Anyone know what happened?”
“I saw him walking down there a little while ago, and it looked like he was talking to someone, but he was quite alone.” The speaker was another tourist.
The guard looked where he was pointing. “Down where the old crematorium used to stand? What the hell was he doing down there? There's nothing to see!”
The tourist shrugged, and just for a moment, they thought they could hear a faint, agonized scream. Then all was silent as death.