The Man with the Broken Whisper

By David Chernobylsky

The light turned on. Then it faded just as quickly as it had lit up. It flickered on once more and then everything went back to black. Otto stood up the third time it lit up, startling the young girl sitting on his lap. Just as he stood up, the light faded once more. “Wait here, my dear Anne. I’ll be right back.

He took as step in the direction of the lamp, into the darkness that lay before him. The lamp across the room flickered again, showing the intense fear on Otto’s face. Thick sweat beads hovered over every pore of his forehead, almost ready to drip onto his tinted, round eyeglasses. The light turned off and he was in total darkness once more.

Otto kept moving, one step after the other in the darkness. He felt his way through the long attic through the careful shifting of his feet. It was his utmost effort to not to disturb the countless people crammed inside. To him, the less noise he made the better. The wooden floorboards seemed to disagree.

With the light flickering on again, it was clear to Otto that his eyeglasses were slipping lower down on his arched nose. They were fluidly coasting along the trail of sweat leading down his nose that ended at a coagulated drop which almost hovered just below the tip. He blinked once, hard. He did it again. The room came into focus. The room went to black.

“Otto, that’s my hand!” whispered a voice from below Otto’s left foot.

“Oh, sorry…” Otto whispered back. “Hermann, is that you?”

Otto took a step back, and listened in the silent darkness. The few seconds of eerie silence seemed like he could have gone to the lamp and back. He so wish he had.

“Yes, it’s Hermann. What are you doing at this hour, Otto? Go to sleep…or you’ll get us all killed!”

“That lamp will get us all killed. The light is glowing right out into the window. They’ll suspect something!” Otto whispered back.

“Shhhh.” It came a voice from further down the attic. “I hear something.”

It sounded like a car had pulled up somewhere along the road. At this late hour? Otto glanced at his watch, just as the lamp flickered on once more. The silver, engraved pocket-watch showed that it was 4 o’ clock. Otto closed his pocket watch and clenched it in his shaking hands. This cannot be good.

He closed his eyes shut for the moment. He shut them very tightly and held his breath. Everyone in the attic was now awake. Everyone was holding their breath. It was grotesquely silent. Utterly horrifying, and everyone knew it.

A knock came on the front door of their house. Otto opened his eyes—this was the beginning of the end.

He turned to his daughter from where he had begun his journey several minutes before and just as the light flickered on, saw the growing fear dancing in her eyes.

“Don’t fear, my dear Anne. Everything will be alright.” Otto tried to whisper to her across the attic, but no words came out—he knew it wouldn’t be.

It was August 1944, and the SS Officer Karl Silberbauer had just stepped into the now Nazi-occupied German household.

Please Note: This historical fiction short story is merely a glimpse into what may have happened during the very real events that occurred during the Holocaust to the Frank Family and the families that were in hiding with them. It is with the utmost respect that this short story has been written as a commemoration on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

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