It Only Feels Like Waking Up

By Kate LaDew

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T HAS BEEN SOME TIME. It seems a long time. Pacing now. He has not looked at the papers on the desk. He has waited but it is hard not to wonder.

How long has it been? Watching her thin, delicate hands, looking young and pale, as if she were normally kept in a box underground. That hard spark of a voice asking with calm precision, Wait here, Mr. Metzer. Breathing his name as if she had been holding one breath her whole life. Wait here.  Door closing like a light going out. How long?

Walking to them now, he slides the white, angling it to his eyes. Recognition. He has seen this paper before. He has seen this type. He has seen these signatures, lining the bottom in black ink. Some are marked through. Marked through with a slow line. The letters are familiar. They make up the names of people he knew. His own name flashes like sun through trees. It is split in half by a slow, slow line.

. . .

It is not for us to feel sympathy.

Clean and cool in the villa. Lunch, superb.

He is a prophet and they have been warned.

Light everywhere. Not difficult to see time passing slowly in a place like this. Where they have chosen to think, to discuss, not a room for living. For display, for discussion, for showing off. It is a room to brag so the occupant need not.

It is final. It will solve any and all future problems.

They look like a painting, he thinks. All so still and solid, hair perfectly combed, boots shining, uniforms crisp, glints of silver sparking, aflame.

We will sign. We have all agreed. It is right, what has happened here.

He is unsure. He has wondered, What if God sees?

I will damn my soul to hell. Spoken and thought in the same moment.

Objections will be met with torture. With death.

Smiled, breathed in pretty words but he sees it in their eyes. What if the Führer sees? He will sign. He is as certain of this as he is of the devil. Every man knows in his gut what waits when he falls asleep the final time. Every man has written the story of his life with the decisions he makes. Few sign their own death warrant. He is in rare company.

Suddenly sick. Suddenly running. Staggering into the world outside, stomach expelling its contents on expensive German stone. This is real. This is vital. This has happened and he is gasping.

The sun is shining. It is beautiful. It is beautiful and bright and there is a breeze and there is nothing more one could ask of a day. The remains of the superb lunch are running down his mouth, mixing with the grass. Green and now, raising his eyes, clear blue. It is the color of heaven. He will not see it. He is certain.

On the ground now, alone absolutely, as the others continue the meal in their bragging room. High glass paneled doors shining, a barrier, a wall between what he was before and what he must surely be doomed to now. Carving his name into white pages dancing with authority, dancing with the knowledge that anything was possible, if one strove for the unimagined. If one undertook abominations only just invented.

He squeezes his knees harder against his heart, tightly, urgently. A fleeting thought – his heart was in danger of falling out, the erratic thump against his bones too strong to keep from bursting. He has never been so aware of how easy he was to break, how small and thin everything was in people and the closeness of the heart to the world outside. His body shivers without him telling it to, shivers like it knows, like it knows how scared Hans Metzer should be. Is it sympathy? Is he able?

The air is full of his own absence, the blue, blue sky and the green, green grass continuing to breathe as if the world was not changed. As if Hans Metzer had not redefined the soul God deigned to put inside him. Had he lived before this time? Had he lived before knowing existence of such feral hate? It would be easier to forget. It would be easier to disincline his mind to such notions. This was the world now. This was the world, and this was the green, green grass. This was the blue, blue sky.

. . .

Years. Everything that came from ninety minutes, from 5400 seconds. 5400 seconds over a superb meal, names carved, millions washed away, footprints in ocean sand. The steam of bodies hanging forever, still breathed by those who saw. Anything can be ruined, anything can end. A world innocent of unappeasable cruelty – something that good, something that pure, something vital, it does not take much – so fragile, if touched, breaks. Hans Metzer’s fingerprints were everywhere. He understood, he knew, he might have resisted and had his life drained away that very morning. He chose to watch it leach out more slowly.  Men, women, children seeping into the earth like water – but it is over now. It is from before. It is from history and now he is farther from Wannsee and closer to where he wants to be. Where he does not think of it, where he thinks only of working and gardening and the trust granted by those who do not know him and what he has done. He lives a very long time. He lives outside of those 5400 seconds and is happy.

One day he stops living, alone in his warm bed in his warm house and it is sudden because one loses sight of things when it is helpful to forget. One loses sight of things when seeing is painful. It only feels like waking up and he is seated in a room, facing a young woman. It is very nice in this room, very clean and very cool and very bright. The young woman does not look up from the papers on her desk and he smiles. She is lovely. He sees a door behind her. The only door in the room and it is puzzling to him. Where am I?

And she looks up. She sees him as if she were waiting, waiting for him to speak, as if she knew what his voice would sound like. Speaks as if she had been holding one breath her whole life. The young woman asks, Mr. Metzer? Hans Metzer?

It is surprising but he answers. Yes. And again, Where am I?

Picking up a pen, such thin, graceful fingers, the young woman draws a slow line on the crisp white in front of her, then, standing, speaks softly, carefully forming each word, Wait here, Mr. Metzer. She opens the door, walks out, closes the door. It is a single motion and Hans Metzer waits.

It has been some time. It seems a long time. Pacing now. He has not looked at the papers on the desk. He has waited but it is hard not to wonder. Walking to them now, he slides the white, angling it to his eyes. Recognition. He has seen this paper before. He has seen this type. He has seen these signatures, lining the bottom in black ink. Some are marked through. Marked through with a slow line. The letters are familiar. They make up the names of people he knew. His own name flashes like sun through trees. It is split in half by a slow, slow line.

. . .

It is so empty. Full of absence. Things he doesn’t want are falling into place, and he tries to smash them back into pieces. Tries to speak, to fill the space, but she’s stolen all the words. Her lovely, clear voice, Wait. Wait. It is the only word left with any meaning now. He has been waiting so long. The papers. It is the papers. Attestation. It is a shaking thought, a moving thought and he is inside again. He is inside 5400 seconds. 5400 seconds from decades of living. It is so empty. The room is so empty, so clean and cool and bright. No sign, no indication, nothing to show that once he was someone. That once he thought, What if God sees?

He waits. He is waiting. He watches the door. No one comes. Striding to it, placing a firm hand, turning the knob. Nothing happens. It is locked. It must be locked. It means something, he knows. This is very vital, very real. It means something, and he looks, as if his eyes were pulled by a string up, up, up. It is blue. Clear blue. It is the color of heaven. He has nothing to reach it with. He is so heavy. He could never lift himself that high, that far.

Clean and cool in the room. Light is everywhere. He is alone with names that were people and they feel no sympathy.
___________________
Kate LaDew is a recent graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Art. She is currently working on her first novel.


One Response to “It Only Feels Like Waking Up”

  1. lapia says:

    Love the mood, the flow of words, the elements of mystery repeated and depleated to the end. I would like to see more of your work, Kate LaDew, and something tells me that I will.