Why wouldn’t they believe me when I said we had to get out of there NOW? The house was on the inner circle, the firing squad was sure to come by any minute. We could already hear the the copters above, loud. Once the gas was gone, the firing began. I knew what was going to happen and was shouting out in panic, but no one seemed to bother.
It was always the same routine. The copters come first after sundown with their poisonous gas. The firing squad followed — two open jeeps that came in succession, filled with Nazis who shot randomly and mercilessly at houses and streets. Then came the individual inspectors. They walked into every house, checking for survivors and executed them. We were lucky we were alive till today. Everyone beyond the inner circle had disappeared or were killed. Living on the circle was a privilege, till recent times. I am not sure what happened, but we were no longer safe.
I think I had a gas mask on, I do not remember. But I remember seeing the fumes spiraling down from the sky outside the window. They were clouds of pale red and green smoke, and hung over the entire city like a fluffy, floating blanket. I had seen this before, and I knew what to expect next as I heard the copters recede.
“We need to get out of the house,” I screamed again, now starting to lose my mind. “I know what’s going to happen next and I don’t want to die. There is a water tank outside, we need to get in there and hide.” It’s where I had hid the last time, and I knew it was safe. I was here, wasn’t I? But no one else seemed to realize the seriousness of the situation. They were all just huddled together in the dark living room, looking about uncertainly, wondering why there were no lights in the house anymore. These were Nazis, they weren’t going to spare them just because they lived on the inner circle. We might have as well been Jewish townspeople outside the circle.
We could hear the sudden burst of shots from a distance. The squad was coming.
I started to run towards the back of the house, hoping we’d be safe in the water tank this time. They finally realized staying inside the house wasn’t safe and started to follow.
I woke up because I had to pee. I remembered the dream distinctly. (Or was it a nightmare if people were chasing me to kill me?) After about 2.5 minutes, I went back to bed.
We heard the bullets pierce our front doors, and suddenly, the roar of the jeep outside was louder than the helicopters had been. We all sprinted across the long corridor towards the backdoor to the sound of gunfire behind us. The water tank at the back was a floor tank, not an overhead one. You had to open the hatch and climb down about five steps to enter into the tank. It was about 8 feet long and 5 feet wide, and maybe 10 feet in height. The inlet was at the bottom, and filled the tank upwards when water was supplied to the houses. I reached the tank first and pulled back the hatch, lifting up the door. There was water in it this time. I couldn’t see clearly in the dark, but estimated it was waist deep. The tank had definitely been empty the last time. I felt a moment of panic, but realized we had no time to come up with an alternate plan. Besides, the water might actually even protect us. Maybe we could hide better; the Nazis might have trouble spotting us under the water in the settling dark.That meant we had to immerse ourselves in the waist deep water when they came out the back of the house.
I held the hatch open and motioned for everyone to get inside the storage tank. Quick, quick! There were five others. Or six, I do not remember. I suddenly realized I didn’t even know who they were. But we were all fighting to survive together and there was no time to think. As the last person descended, I heard the withdrawal of gunfire, coupled with the soft splashing of water below. I was the only person above ground now. I waited. The silence was deafening.
Suddenly, there was a loud crash inside the house and multiple shouts of command issued forth. They were in the house, looking for survivors. Looking for us! In all of one second, I jumped inside the tank, pulling down the hatch door above me, climbed down the stairs, and pushed my head under water, willing myself to be immersed in the crowded tank fully, just as I heard another loud noise directly overhead. They were coming for our hiding place. I was fully under the water as the hatch opened above me.
I woke up.