The Birthday Doll
“Good morning little princess, did you sleep well?” the tall blonde man asked as he kissed his yawning daughter on her head.
“Hi” she whispered, playing shy as her father lifted her from the bed.
“You are growing too fast,” he slung her over his shoulder. He was tall, though in his dark grey military uniform and boots he seemed all the larger.
“Will you be home late?” his daughter, Linda, blonde, pretty with snow white skin, asked as he lowered her to the table ready for breakfast.
“I will be home as swiftly as I can,” he gently patted her on the head.
“Johann, I packed you a special lunch,” his wife Greta smiled as she kissed her husband briefly. The two parents took a moment to watch their daughter together, she sat at the table and ate her food with curious routine. Greta held Johann’s hand, sharing the love and pride before he would leave for work.
“Good bye my ladies,” Johann announced before kissing them one more time each.
“Love you daddy.”
“Be careful husband. Remember the eggs.”
He rode his horse, a brown mare named Tsili, the three kilometres to the camp. He smiled as he thought about his ladies, his blonde hair kept in place beneath a dark officers hat. The grey clouds above trapping a warmth despite threatening rain, once he reached the tall barbed wire fences, machine gun nests and armed guards. Johann’s smile lowered. He was now as formal as his uniform, long black jack boots polished twice daily by a camp inmate, nicely pleated grey pants tied with a leather belt that held the holster to his pistol. Beneath the grey pants he felt the silk comfort of the underwear that the inmates had made for him, just like those he had them make for his wife. His tunic jacket held his torso in place, insignia and medals decorated it as a finality to his formality and authority.
“Good morning sir”
“Hello Andreas and Walter, good morning to you both.”
His horse walked past the two rifle holding guards as they opened the gate for him. Once inside he turned towards the railway yard, there empty box cars waited to be collected. Listless guards smoked awaiting the next arrival. Johann looked towards the many geese kept inside their pens that lined tall barracks where smoke stacks pushed up through their roofs. “Don’t forget the eggs”, he said to himself.
Johann looked at his watch, he returned it to his chest pocket as he positioned Tsili ready for the arrival of the next lot of incoming trains. The nearby bakery caused his hunger to stir briefly, he considered what his wife had made him for lunch, as he patted his trim though growing belly. His days of playing football were behind him, so he needed to remain cautious of what he now ate. Though the bakery was becoming tempting the longer he waited.
The familiar sound of a trains steam engine and its series of brakes slowed stirred Tsili, as the long line of cars came to a steady halt. Johann watched as his guards and officers emerged, ready to greet the arrivals. Once the wooden doors opened, wretched bodies spilled out. Hundreds of them, some dressed as though on their way to an evening dinner while others looked as like they had been dragged from labour camps. They were all the same to a man like Johann, legally they each held the status, Inhuman.
Officers spoke to the arrivals, explaining that they would be fed and showered. Other arrivals translated from one language to another, their expressions went from relief and even the sparse release of smiles to those who remained emotionless. Johann had observed thousands of arrivals each being told the same thing, the reaction was always the same.
Tsili carried Johann closer, he looked over the arrivals, the ocean of eyes and faces merged into one helpless, pathetic mass. Among them a small girl, with blonde hair and snow like skin clutched onto a doll. She reminded him of his daughter. Johann rode Tsili into the filthy mob, they moved aside for fear of punishment should they touch man or horse. Once he was close enough to the blonde girl, Johann dismounted.
“Hello, what is your dolls name?”
“She is very pretty, you are also very pretty and may I ask what is your name?”
Johann stood upright and placed his hands on his hips, he looked across the sea of arrivals, aware of the stench that wafted from them, he then returned his gaze to little Liddy.
“I have a daughter with a name close to yours.”
“What is her name?” the young girl asked, as she released the doll from her chest.
“That is a pretty name”
Johann smiled proudly, “She is a pretty girl. You also are a pretty girl.”
Liddy smiled, “thank you.”
“Did you hear that you will be showered and fed soon?”
“Perhaps I can hold Alexa for you as you have your shower and food?”
“Ok” Liddy agreed as she slowly handed the doll to the tall man.
“I will protect her as though she belonged to my own daughter.”
Johann returned to the saddle and rode out of the mass of arrivals, he watched them as they stripped naked. Piles of clothing, shoes and toys rested in tall heaps as each of the naked bodies were led into the barracks. Boys and men went in one direction, girls and women in the other. Covering their bodies as they entered a long chamber many of the females did their best to conceal themselves from the eyes of Johann and his guards.
Johann secured the doll into his satchel on his saddle, making his way to the geese pens where they honked and called to one another. As he watched the barracks and plume of smoke rise, beneath the cries of the geese he could hear the screams from within. Where he sat Johann could hear the orchestra of nature, geese and the wind meet the cries of misery, the masterful progress of human civilisation. Riding Tsili to the rear he glimpsed the heaped naked piles of still warm bodies as they lay. Other prisoners in masks and coveralls dragged lifeless bodies from the inside of the barrack, as water washed the concrete floors.
Even such scientific liquidation as that which he oversaw was a messy business. Johann understood the nature of death, a human being, even the inhuman, would be reckless with their internal liquids and waste as death took hold. Johann turned his eyes across to the yard filled with geese and beyond where the white painted buildings and their brown roofs seemed like a small town within the confines of barbed wire and guardhouses.
Johann ran his fingers through the hair of Alexa, cleaning the doll. He admired the craftsmanship of the little toy as another pile of bodies grew nearby. The blasts of hoses and honking geese filled the air as a nearby song of crows commenced. Johann smiled as he inspected the doll, Linda would love it.
A small pale body fell free from the others, the corpses blonde hair washed across the naked skin, lifeless eyes gazed into the beyond, “rest little Liddy,” Johann whispered as he rode away.
“I want you to clean this doll for me and have it wrapped in such a fashion that it will appear as though it is a present perfect for a child,” Johann ordered a pair of elderly women prisoners. One of them carefully took the toy and delicately cleaned it as the other prepared wrapping paper. Johann watched on. The women worked fast and efficiently. Once the doll was wrapped he took it from the women and walked to his office.
As Tsili stood tied to a post with water and feed, Johann worked from inside of his office. Signing reports and approving the next batch of arrivals. He yawned as he looked at the clock on the wall.
“The days can seem long with the tedium of routine,” a colleague commented as he slid a cup of hot coffee to Johann.
“I was up late listening to the radio, one of those sleepless nights.”
“Have you tried warm milk before you sleep?”
“Yes, it only works sometimes.”
“May I suggest you add brandy next time.”
Johann raised his cup and smiled, “I will try that tonight.”
That evening Johann rode Tsili home. He was tired though excited to be returning to his ladies.
“Don’t give it to her tonight, she needs to wait until the morning,” Greta insisted as her husband enthusiastically flashed the wrapped gift.
“Oh, what is the difference between now and then”
“Patience my dear husband is apparently a virtue that you lack.”
“And you forgot the eggs again didn’t you!”
“Tomorrow, I will get them tomorrow.”
Greta shook her head.
Johann smiled, kissed her, then walked to Linda’s bedroom.
“Has my little Linda behaved herself today?”
“Always” she answered as she hugged her father tight.
Johann eagerly handed her the present, she embraced him again before slowly unwrapping it. Once she saw the doll she rushed to him for another hug, “she is bewtiful!”
“Her name is Alexa”
“Can she sleep with me tonight?”
“Seeing as she is yours and is your present, yes, she may.”
Johann tucked his daughter into bed, making sure the blanket covered Alexa. He then kissed his wife slowly, holding her close to him as they danced gently to a song that played softly on the radio.
“You look tired,” Greta observed.
“Long day” Johann yawned.
“Early to bed for you tonight,” Greta began to pour milk into a pot as she lit the stove.
“Would you be able to add brandy?”
Greta smiled, “Only a little.”
Johann fell into a deep and restful sleep that night. Tomorrow he would bring home the geese eggs.