My mother slammed the door, and glared at me.
“No more talking with Jacob okay?,” she snapped.
I painfully nodded in agreement. I shuffled my feet, turned around, and trudged back to my bedroom. I sat on my bed, sullen and depressed. My head reeled and my hands shivered. My mother has successfully prognosticated the truth. But the reality was that I didnt think I would ever see him again.
Jacob and I met around 3 years ago. I was an obnoxious, and boisterous young boy. Jacob was calm, contemplative, and wholesome as he always was. We would meet at the swings every evening, play pranks on our neighbours, and laugh till our stomachs hurt. When we were younger, our favorite pastime was to count the stars in the night sky. I noticed a different side of Jacob when he was around me. He could be free and fully embrace himself. But he was a pretty troubled boy in general. There are few specific moments I recall, and they stand out to me now. I was walking with Jacob when some boys started sniggering at him. They were pointing at a star shaped badge on his shirt, and kicked dirt at him. I would snarl and chase them off, while Jacob would have a solemn look on his face. Another time, my aunt growled at me for hanging out with Jacob. She thought he wasn’t like the rest of us, but he was definitely more sane than my crazy aunt. These kinds of incidents became quite repetitive. Guards would throw stones at Jacob, and my mother would warn me about the dangers of being seen with him. I didn’t understand why others were so horrible to him; it was as if he was an outcast. Jacob would later tell me that his favorite game was Hide and Seek because he prefered to hide from “evil” people like my aunt. I told him he didn’t have to worry and that I would protect him. He was resistant to my offer. He said that nothing would be normal until he saw the stars shine again.
Jacob was right. The next few months leading into the the summer of 1940 brought with it a sullen, dull, grey sky. The stars no longer shone in the night sky. There were no specks of bright light left for us to count. This was also when my country, Germany, was in the middle of a war. Mother had signed me up to enlist in the army. She said I would work in a factory because it was safer. When I asked about what goes on in the factory, she bluntly mentioned that as long as I work hard, I would be treated properly. I didn’t realise then that she was talking about the deadly concentration camps. I got to know about this when I met Jacob for the last time that summer. His eyes were solemn and fearful. He told me that his father had been taken away from him. The soldiers had accused him of bribery, which was a false accusation according to Jacob. I remember feeling sick to my stomach, but the divide between us and the Jews was very much the harsh reality now. The war had given rise to this ruthless divide - between Jews and Germans, between my best friend Jacob and I..
Later, in my bedroom, I felt the walls closing in on me. I couldn’t face the fact that I could be a soldier in this war. I made up my mind calmly. I would leave home. But the streets were dangerous, with frequent bombings. I would go to Jacob’s house and protect him. I was a good German, I thought. Sneaking out of the house was a daily affair for me. I slowly crept down the stairs, and unlocked the door. I was out and free. The streets were deserted that night, with a few soldiers parading the corners. I felt guilty for the liberty I had, asI could walk around without the soldiers harassing me. When I reached Jacob’s street, I could smell burning ashes from the graveyard. This smell had become quite common during the war, as many people didn’t have protection from the air raids. Some buildings were shattered, blown into pieces. In the distance I could see a dull, grey train heading toward me. I stood quietly and watched it go by. The train passed by slowly. Desperate, dull faces peered out of the window bars. They seemed to be too afraid, too hungry, too tired to even scream for help. As I watched, I remember fainting in shock, but not much else. All I can say was that I looked up at the sky and noticed the slight sparkle of a star. Then everything went black.
I woke up with a start and realised that I was in my bedroom. God knows who found me fainted in the middle of the streets. I breathed a sigh of relief, when I heard a knock on the door.
“Are you okay?” my mother asked.
“Uh..yes mom,” I replied quickly.
“Thank god,” I heard my mother reply, and then she went down the stairs. I rubbed my burning eyes, and ruffled my ashy hair. I had a heavy feeling in my heart, and felt dry tears in my eyes. My stomach churned, and I had a bad gut feeling. I tried to recall a dream I just had when I was blacked out. In it, I was looking out a window and had seen a rusty green truck or some long vehicle pass by. I looked up and it was heading towards a giant black factory, with several chimneys emitting dark ash. It was an ominous sight, as if they were entering their doom. I had peered out to catch a glimpse of the people in the truck. Their pleading, discolored eyes looked up at me, begging for help. My heart had sunk because I realised there was nothing I could do. Then in my mind, I had pictured Jacob. His body was melting and blended in with the ash that spewed out the chimney. His face was big, with his soft smile and star badge on his shirt. The smoke indulged him as he waved at me. My hands were tied and my mouth taped shut. I was helpless. I was a useless German boy who stood and watched the fire consume my best friend.
I quivered and shook my head back to my senses. My shirt was wet as I had been sweating profusely. I looked out of the window for real. The night was still young, but for the first time, I saw the sparkles of the stars. There was no more ash or smog.
“Nothing will be normal until the stars sparkle again,” Jacob had said, quietly.
Now they did. They sparkled in great numbers. I almost thought I saw Jacob’s face on one. He was smiling as always, and his eyes were closed. Calm, serene, and tranquil, as if his mind, body, and soul had finally acquired the peace it long seeked for.