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As he started down the slope towards the old barn, he thought of her. Where was she? Was she alive?
His breathing was heavy and the cold air stuck to the roof of his mouth as he gasped it down. He had been running for a long way, or so it seemed. All the way from Danzig. He didn't know who the man was that chased him off the corpse (he had only been looking for gloves) in the Danzig square, but he wasn't about to give himself up to anyone, ever again.
It was only the third day of his freedom and the madness of sky and horizon still ran like wolves under his skin. He had not seen any Nazis since the previous morning when he ran suddenly upon a young militiaman removing a rabbit from a trap. Militiaman indeed, he was nothing more than a child; a fourteen year-old piece of cannon fodder, impressed into service in the final desperate flailings of a dark and maddened nation.
As the barn rushed up to meet him, he relived the grim accomplishment of strangling the militia boy. The hiss of his urine as it ran off the swollen purpled face and into the snow was particularly pleasant in memory. So were the breasts of his fiancé. Breasts that were now forever denied him. Perhaps that is why all this had happened. Yes. That single moment, that single silk sweet taste of his fiancé reddened nipples, before she ran, buttoning, out of his room, had ignited the Lord's wrath and plunged them into this boil of pain and deep insanity.
Yes, well, fuck the Lord, anyway.
The interior of the barn was dark and very cold. He still had no idea where the Nazis had gone. Or why they had let the remaining Jews go free. He hoped he would meet some more. It was good to kill them.
It had been three years since she had been taken from him. He hoped she had died quickly and without pain. He knew it to be otherwise, but consoled himself with the possibility. He thought of the frailty of all those women, all those Jewish women, who had given the keys to their wombs, the keys to the new Jerusalem, to Nazi masters. He broke out a window and gouged at the numbers in his arm.
After a while the wolves slowed and grew hungry. He lit a fire and had just taken the last half of his souvenir hare from out his jacket when he heard, whoever it was up there, moving in the hay loft. A sudden dreadful terror hit him and almost transmitted itself to his legs before he found his resolve. He thought of day the Nazis had come for them. He thought of the children he had seen murdered. He thought of the sergeant who had sodomized him while holding a pistol to his head. He snatched up a hoe and headed for the loft. He hoped God had sent him another Nazi to kill. He thought of his betrothed and what must now be the wormy beauty of her breasts.
He had just topped the ladder when the woman rushed him, trying to topple him back to the floor below. He grabbed her fiercely and fell forward on top of her. She began to scream and claw at his face. He had hit her twice before he realized she was a woman, a Jewish woman who was in a worse state even than he. He regretted that she wasn't German; he would have raped her if she was. She found an opening and sunk what was left of her nails into the flesh of his cheek. He had an erection. The first one in a very long time. It surprised him. Maybe he would anyway.
He grabbed the neck of her top and tore violently at the thin material. Her tiny breasts fell free and in one glittering explosion he recognized her. She had changed completely. Changed from the bright round girl he was to marry into a sunken doll of ashcake and old pale meat. She was unrecognizable. And yet he had. And in so doing had realized the extent and inventory of his own ruin.
She fought and screamed all the harder as he attacked her with her own
name. Finally, she stopped, little by little, as if the word had only reached her
brain a letter at a time, and was still.
Tears rolled tracks through the dirt in his face.
Her violence returned swiftly and with renewed vigor. It took every puzzle piece of strength he had to hold her there in that hayloft. She cried "no" over and over as he pinned her arms to her side and whispered the miracle in her ear.
"It's me, Rachel. It's Asa. I'm here and we're both alive."
He felt like a character in some impossible fiction. What if it wasn't her? What if he had died in the camp? What if the sergeant had pulled the trigger? In that moment she grew still in his arms and struggled out, "Asa?"
His black bile sack heart burst open.
Soon they were in each other. Mouths locked and feeding life between them with their breath. She was suddenly a virgin again. Suddenly the girl who had run, buttoning, from his room. She held him to her and prayed to God to give her body a child.
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