Cramped and crowded, hot and dirty.
Train doors slide open. Light.
I’m just a lonely Jew
Alone with no family.
Stepping off the train,
The first breath of fresh air
Coaxes my mouth open.
I try taking my first full breath in hours
Like a parched man finding an oasis.
My throat burns, hot and dry.
A strange smell attacks me.
It is not the same, sweet air from home.
Home smells familiar and kind.
Here, it is rotten, a vapor
Of horrific terror, unforgiving.
Smoke, a raging bull approaches
Horns facing me, threatening to puncture my lungs
Like a scared child I hold my breath.
Hoping fear and the beast cannot find me
But the beast is a skilled predator, a bloodhound.
Walking, shuffling, muttering prayers.
“Beast, stay away from me.” I whimper
The smoke, I come to realize,
Is not My Greatest Fear.
My Greatest Fear greets me
With open arms in an open flame.
My dreams catch fire first,
The dreams of family and school
The dreams of laughter and happiness
All reduced to smoke and ash
This pit is where the Beast laughs in triumph.
It sizzles with the fuel of flesh,
Giggles from the beast itself, happy.
Another nameless, faceless victim is I.
The beast consumes me
In a pit of screams and terror.
Madeline Hickey is a junior at Downingtown East High School. She has spent most of her free time this year writing for her creative writing class, reading her growing collection of books, and participating in her theatre department’s programs. She hopes to someday be a professional writer.