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The Secret Door
The young, fair-haired Rivka ran hurriedly to the corner of Żelazna Street through the section of the city that connected the Big and Little Ghettos in Warsaw - or better yet, what was still left of the Ghettos after the cruel repression of the occupying troops against the hopeless Jewish rebellion in 1943. Everything around her was in turmoil. There were many explosions nearby and the sound of machine-gun fire rang out almost continuously. The latest fighting had begun on August 1st, 1944 when the proud, yet desperate, rising against the Germans was launched.
The Polish insurgents had re-taken part of the left bank of the river. Since then, more destruction and suffering had reached that part of town, as the street fighting became common and uninterrupted. Eventually, enemy reinforcements arrived along with siege guns - so all hell broke loose in the end. As if to give an omen to the fighting, a bright star had seemed to crash to the ground just beyond the city limits. Perhaps it had been only another missile fired during the fighting, a bit more brilliant than the ones before.
Rivka’s surname was Pocztowy but there were no other Pocztowys left, unfortunately, as all the other members of her family living in town had died over the course of the occupation. She was the last one.
The ten-year-old girl was trying to find another hiding place, away from the bombed house that had been her refuge. She knew that staying in the open wasn’t a good move because bad things happened to the ones who didn’t take cover immediately: the soldiers came for them and took the people away or killed them on the spot. Rivka had been hiding in the abandoned house for a month, starving and suffering due to the coldness, and she would have remained there if nothing had occurred, most likely, but the destruction of that building had forced her to go searching for somewhere else to hole up.
All of a sudden she heard the footsteps of a few people on her left. She hoped that these were only insurgents, but they were not: some German soldiers were there, weapons in hand, in search of armed rebels! Terrified and lost, Rivka held her breath and hesitated for a moment. Some gunfire erupted and so she ran to the left, quickly escaping.
Just round the corner, the little girl noticed something strange along the battered wall: a small door was just opening, showing a powerful, weird light from the inside. It was very narrow, but maybe she could try to get inside. Pressed by the military in the rear, she didn’t think too long about it and simply crawled in.
As soon as Rivka got past the door, it closed immediately and she found herself inside a small metallic room. There was a sort of hairless youth sitting just in the middle, who was apparently playing with some toy-like things and unusual tools that were on the floor The boy’s ears were rounded and strange. He had two very big eyes, and at first the little girl thought he had a pair of weird glasses on, but it wasn’t so. Even his complexion looked queer, being more whitish than the usual pink color. It was unnaturally white, actually.
The little girl didn’t attach the right importance to his features, because she thought that maybe he had stayed in the room for a very long time. Or perhaps he was suffering from some strange deformity: her parents had always told her not to ask too questions many about such things because it wasn’t polite.
The extraordinary fact was that there was no sound coming from the outside - the place seemed to be in the countryside perhaps, or maybe even far away from the world.
The boy raised his head, looked at her and simply gestured for her to come nearer. She did accordingly, without being afraid of him. There was no reason to look fearful, as this place seemed safe and well hidden from the soldiers walking beside the wall.
“What’s your name?” she asked him. But the boy didn’t reply. In fact, he didn’t tell her his name for the rest of the day. “This is a very good place to stay. How did you get here?” the little girl asked. But he still didn’t say anything. Actually, she remembered he didn’t say anything at all. The boy seemed to prefer staying cross-legged, busying himself with some metallic tools. As she approached his position, he looked at her and smiled. She remembered he liked to smile a lot.
So the weird boy took a disc-shaped object and started making some gestures, showing the course of a sort of vehicle flying in the air. Unexpectedly, he made a sudden movement and the object fell to the ground. Could he possibly be a pilot of some allied fighter hit by German antiaircraft artillery? Anyway, he looked very strange; his face didn’t even look human at all. Weren’t the American/British pilots supposed to look like them?
The hand motions the youth made indicated that he had gotten off, walked for a while, then had reached the town and kept hidden in that place.
Rivka was eager to know something more about him, but she was very hungry and thirsty. She was so weak she could only sit on the floor next to the boy.
His very big eyes turned to her, then he stood up, went to a shelf on the right, took out a little box and gave her some food, with some water drawn out of a weird jug-shaped bottle.
During the time she remained in the small room, the little girl was given shelter and provisions but was never allowed to leave that place. His gestures said such a room was reliable, hidden, and far from every danger around. He knew she had to stay concealed, and he needed the same, too.
The days Rivka passed in there proved to be the best she had had in the occupied town since she had begun to keep herself hidden in abandoned flats. The girl had eaten enough and water had been abundant so far, and no grip of the night cold had affected her body during this period. In a way, being in that room was almost the same as living inside another, magical dimension.
Then, one afternoon, as it happens in fables, all of a sudden everything changed. A big explosion made the entire room tremble, and a sort of crack appeared in the wall on the left. The youth went for the instruments he always had with him and the door appeared to be wide open. But, unexpectedly, this time a group of armed soldiers happened to be walking nearby, so they came closer and peered inside, looking at them.
The boy seemed unable to close the hole in time, even though he was bustling about his strange tools, so Rivka, fearing for her life, didn’t hesitate, getting out and running away. But the boy remained inside…
The girl saw that the soldiers weren’t following her, because they seemed much more interested in the boy. Maybe they had been searching specifically for him, over the course of the last few days and now that they had found him they seemed to not care about anything else.
She simply heard a voice inside her mind: Run…Run! And that was what she did.
The soldiers completely forgot her, then put their hands on the boy who started screaming but wasn’t able to evade their strong grip. She wasn’t able to watch the scene any longer.
Many years had passed since then, and Rivka had grown older. By now, she was eighty-eight years old. The woman knew that boy wasn’t a boy at all, of course, and still felt regret because she hadn’t be able to help him at that time or discover more about him.
As an astronomer, maybe the most famous one living in Poland at the present, every night she looked at the sky, watching for falling stars. She thought that one of them could be somebody like him, coming to the ground on board an object similar to the one which had brought him to their world during the last war.
Rivka didn’t know if she would ever meet another one like him again on Earth. But if she ever did, she was unsure if she would simply say “thank you” or show her deep regret for the awful loss of a true friend she had suffered that day.
micheledutcher - I really like this one. It's definately sci-fi, historical sci-fi, with a small alien space person who has been shot down accidentally during a battle. Her becoming an astronomer later in her life also points out how much she was...(more in forum)...
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