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Ramen 6378

Ramen 6378

7/10/2011 9:13:43 PM
The only thing I could feel was my heart thumping. Always thumping. Just like my feet. Adrenaline rushing infiltrating every pore of my body, I weaved through the entangling vines of the forest. Branches whipped at my face, leaving dripping red scratches. But my mind barely registered the newborn pain. That paled in comparison with what I had run away from. Shouts echoed, seemingly bouncing off the bark of the trees and into my ears. Ringing, ringing, ringing. Beams of light glanced across the thick trees. Even through all the adrenaline, all the heartbeats, I could hear the systematic, coordinated movement of forces that I once fought against. The movement of forces that I was now running away from. My feet suddenly caught on an arching root. For a moment, it seemed like time had stopped, leaving me floating in the middle of the air. I could spot out the individual specks of dirt. Maybe even say with confidence that there were about seven leaves lying on the ground. But only for a moment. My face slammed into the dirt. My arms twisted at an awkward angle beneath me. My entire body twisted and smashed into a nearby tree. I lay there in that broken position, heart beating so hard that I thought it would rip out of my chest. I couldn't catch my breath. Tears began to form at the corners of my eyes. Then I noticed that all had become quiet. I became absolutely still, trying to blend in with the undergrowth. My war drum of a heart continued to betray me, so loud that surely a deaf man could hear it. A voice, probably American, slightly tinged with pompousness, rang out from where the lights came from. "Sven Sommer!" I cringed at the mention of my name. "We know you're here! Come on out. It's no use running anymore. You and your N@zi filth are finished!" The throbbing pain began to subside. My mind cleared. If I was that commander, I thought, I would only bother giving a speech like that to serve as a distraction, so that my forces can surround the runner. Sure enough, as I glanced around cautiously, I heard rustlings emanating from the surrounding underbrush. It was now or never. I sure as hell wasn't planning to go to be tried for war crimes. The pain returned, and my body protested with sensations of aching and throbbing as I began crawling towards the beach nearby. I could already hear the waves crashing along the shores. Or maybe that was just my exhausted brain. Suddenly, I heard footsteps to my right. I hurriedly pressed my back up to a tree and pulled a nearby cluster of ferns towards me. Holding my breath and closing my eyes to prevent any sort of light reflecting off of them, I waited. The footsteps passed me without a break in their rhythm. The commander continued talking. I was safe, for the moment. I let out a breath silently, allowing my heart to slow down. After a few moments of precious rest, I let go of the ferns, reassumed my crawling position, and began my stealthy journey to the beach once again. I soon left the speech of the commander behind. The tree line thinned, and I could definitely hear the rumbling of the waves. Never mind, I could see the shore now. Before the war, there would be people all throughout the day on this beach. I still remember. The families setting up their blankets and shades on the sand, the children running out to the shallow waters, the various vendors selling their food to hungry customers. Even at night, you would always notice at least one love-struck couple walking down the sand. Now, all I could see were the faint outlines of explosions, black against the otherwise white sand. And the waves. Always the waves. I pulled myself up, grabbing a nearby branch for support. After taking a deep breath, I began sprinting to the nearest rock for cover. My legs buckled with the first step I took; I stumbled and fell to the ground. With practice that only comes from many years of military training, I turned the fall into a roll, ignoring the burning pain in my legs. Still, sprinting was probably not the best idea. I quickly jogged to the rock, crouching to ensure maximum security. I took a glance at the forest behind me. No lights emerged from its dark depths, nor could I hear the shouts of the Allied forces. Best to just do it all in one go. I ran to the ocean, not bothering to take cover by the rocks and piles of driftwood beside me. I waded into the water, stripping off my heavy uniform in the process. Extra baggage would just hinder my already tired body, especially in the water. I stood waist-deep in the water, adjusting myself to its ice-cold feel and readying myself for the long swim that was to come. I took a deep breath, and then dived into the water, submerging myself completely. In a weaker-than-usual, but still steady freestyle, I oriented myself to the east, where I knew an airfield would be. Hopefully, I could hijack one of the smaller planes and get out of Europe. There was almost a feeling of serenity as I swam. It was just me, the wide expanse of ocean, the overarching night sky, and the sound of my arms and legs splashing. My body seemed to go into autopilot after a while, and my mind began to wander. The war was over. The Allies had won. No doubt that my fellow N@zi comrades would be tried in the international courts. I myself was a high-ranking military officer. But I, unlike the others, escaped. Of course, I wasn't supportive of all of the Fuhrer's policies. The execution of the undesirables, the Holocaust, they call it, disgusted me beyond belief. How could my fellow officers stand for the killing of so many? The originally righteous goal of the N@zis had been twisted horribly. This was not what I envisioned it to be. That's how it started, you know, a part of my mind said, in a mocking voice. Everyone who supported the extermination, they thought the same things as you. No, I replied defiantly. I didn't want those people to be killed. Neither did them, at the beginning, the voice said. Well, most of them didn't want that, anyway. The extermination was inevitable, really. You would've done the same, now that I think about it. If you'd known of it longer, you would've supported it, just to go along with the crowd. That's what you always do. Be the equivalent of a teacher's pet to the higher-ups. Gain rank. Everyone's happy, besides the ones under your command. That's not true, I protested. That battle was my only loss on an otherwise perfect service record. But that was the worst, bloodiest, and most tragic battle in the war. And guess what? You don't go down in history for being the commander with only one loss on his record. You're remembered for being the commander that was in charge when the worst battle of the war happened. Just like no one's going to know that you opposed some of the Fuhrer's policies. All they're going to remember you for is being a filthy scumbag of a N@zi that caused over four hundred thousand of his men to die. *** My eyes flew open. Seemingly out of their own will, they flicked back and forth, scanning the surrounding area for possible threats. Some parts of the war never leave you. I was in my bedroom. It was dark, probably early morning, as I could see some weak rays of sunlight beginning to shine through the closed blinds. As my heart began to slow down back to its normal rate, the first thing I noticed was the layer of cold sweat on my back. The covers were sticking onto me from the heat of the summer nights that were quickly approaching. Ha, summer. Ironic, isn't it? My last name, Sommer, means summer, yet summer's easily my least favorite season. I peeled the blankets off and sat up. For a moment, I just stayed there, still, head bowed and eyes closed from exhaustion. It's that same damn dream, I thought. Only thing was, that dream wasn't a dream, really. It's been a long ten years, but I still remember the night that I escaped what was left of N@zi Germany, right down to the last blade of grass and piece of driftwood. I can still recall the feel of the cold seawater on my skin, chilling me right to the bone. I can still remember the feeling of fear as I swam. The black, dark depths of the ocean made me feel like I was alone in the world and that a monster of the sea could rise out of the black and drag me down to the ocean floor. Of course, it wasn't a sea monster that troubled me to this very day. I'm still here, Sven. I cursed quietly, Get out. Still having nightmares? After ten years? You should really see a doctor, Sven. As if you care. Why, of course I do, Sven. After all, I am you. And you are me. We're like peas in a pod. Anyway, I've already stated what I think is the problem here. I sighed. I'm not having guilty thoughts. Of course you are. You still regret killing all those men back in the war. Your own men. I regret losing those lives, yes. But I do believe that they died doing something right. Keep on telling yourself that, Sven. But you do have serious denial issues, let's just get that clear...

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  • the panzie man

    the panzie man

    7/12/2011 2:47:44 PM Permalink
    erm I would give it a nine, but you used a bit too many descriptive details for my taste, not to mention the plot hole inherent in the complete lack of a trial(in which based on his memories he wasn't guilty of committing any war crimes as he was obviously a German army commander and not directly related with the extermination camps.) 8/10
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  • Ramen 6378

    Ramen 6378

    7/10/2011 9:59:14 PM Permalink
    [quote][b]Posted by:[/b] Sangheili Dude Must...NOT...say THOSE 4 letters... THE OP TRIED HARD.. BUT MY LAZYNESS MUST SAY!!!!!!! *resisting* TL; *screams* DR! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! *gets shot* [/quote] *reloads* [quote][b]Posted by:[/b] RAGH I'll save this thread and read it later. I'm going out for dinner soon. [/quote] Okay, cool.
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  • RAGH
  • Sangheili Dude

    Sangheili Dude

    7/10/2011 9:50:41 PM Permalink
    Must...NOT...say THOSE 4 letters... THE OP TRIED HARD.. BUT MY LAZYNESS MUST SAY!!!!!!! *resisting* TL; *screams* DR! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! *gets shot* [Edited on 07.10.2011 1:51 PM PDT]
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  • Ramen 6378

    Ramen 6378

    7/10/2011 9:48:51 PM Permalink
    [quote][b]Posted by:[/b] Bard of Stories I liked it, but the ending seemed a bit rushed. I didn't really like the "floating in a tranquil sea" part either.[/quote] I agree that the ending was a bit rushed. This was for a contest, and I finished it just before the deadline was called. Glad you enjoyed it, though.
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  • Krogster

    Krogster

    7/10/2011 9:40:13 PM Permalink
    :C I'm sad that jesus dies at the end, I was hoping that he would marry spider man, and that they would have little jesus-spiders. Bonus points for the giant robot fight on the oil tanker, I really enjoyed that part. 8.9/10
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  • Bard of Stories

    Bard of Stories

    7/10/2011 9:32:35 PM Permalink
    I liked it, but the ending seemed a bit rushed. I didn't really like the "floating in a tranquil sea" part either.
  • Ramen 6378

    Ramen 6378

    7/10/2011 9:23:17 PM Permalink
    [quote][b]Posted by:[/b] REFlegacy Errr... I was told this was a SHORT story... three full posts = 30000 characters...[/quote] Short stories are often more than 10,000 characters long. It's not like 10,000 characters give you enough space to fully develop a good, fleshed-out plot.
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  • REFlegacy
  • Ramen 6378

    Ramen 6378

    7/10/2011 9:14:49 PM Permalink
    I obliged, turning around slowly. I heard footsteps and a clinking of metal. The next thing I knew, cold handcuffs were being placed around my wrists. I dimly heard the policeman say in an official voice, "Sven Sommer, you are arrested for war crimes during the Second World War. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in the court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?" My mind barely registered what he was saying. I looked upwards at the lobby's flowered wallpaper. The intricate, ever-repeating pattern of petals and leaves swirled. I had the feeling of blood rushing into my head. My eyes closed of their own accord, and my legs went slack. I vaguely felt my body falling to the ground. Suddenly, I felt a strong arm pull me up mid-fall. My mind rapidly regained clarity, and my legs became firm again. Pulling myself up to full standing position again, I took a few breaths. This was definitely not a time to be fainting. The officer released his grip on my arm and finished fastening the handcuffs. The other officer repeated, "Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you, sir?" I nodded, pushing back a wave of nausea. I could feel the blood pumping through my brain. The officer placed his hand on my shoulder and directed me towards the door. I stepped drunkenly forward, still in shock. After all these years, they've finally found me. My legs threatened to buckle underneath me. As the three of us walked through the wallpapered, quiet corridors of the building, I found myself strangelycalm. Like a weight had been removed from me. I could breathe freely again. You have been leading a faked life all these years, Sven, the voice said thoughtfully, appearing in a poof of cloudy mists. Perhaps it's time to let that fake life go. I found myself agreeing with the voice. Yeah, I thought, perhaps it is time. Suddenly, I was met with the door to the parking lot. Except I couldn't see the parking lot. A massive crowd of reporters, cameras, and practically everyone from the media was waiting outside. I could see some people lingering along the outsides of the crowd as well. Probably civilians. As soon as they caught sight of me, things went to hell. Reporters whipped out their microphones, cameramen raised their video cameras like rocket launchers, and flashes of bright white light exploded right in front of my eyes. "Who the hell brought these guys here?" the officer in front muttered, a scowl appearing on his face. "This wasn't supposed to be public!" The civilians were riling up. They pressed along the edges of the crowd, expressions of anger forming on their faces. I could hear some of the things that they were shouting from across the mass of people: "Damn N@zi!" "Go burn in hell!" "You deserve to die!" The shock intensified. The words of the civilians filled my ears and echoed around in my head, repeating over and over again. I vaguely heard the officer grab his radio and say urgently, "This is Connors. We need backup here right away. Someone told the press about the N@zi." He continued to speak into the radio, but I couldn't hear him anymore. The screams of the crowd were too much. How could they say that? I thought. They don't even know me. They know enough, don't they, Sven, the voice said, coming out of the depths of my mind. You're a N@zi. You even admit it. Yes, I am, I argued. But I only agreed with their basic beliefs. The creation of a humanity that surpasses the others. The other things, the Holocaust, the oppression, I never wanted any of that. Shut up, Sven, the voice said harshly. You're a failure. You hid behind your so-called beliefs and turned around when atrocities were committed. You led your own troops to their graves. You left your family, leaving them heartbroken. You hear those people out there, Sven? That's what the entire world thinks of you. I fell silent. I felt myself being led out the door of the building and into the crowd. Police officers appeared, creating a pathway for me to go through. The angry mass of people pressed along the border created by the police, shouting obscenities at me, shaking their arms furiously. As I glanced at all those faces, I felt something break within me. My resolve crumbled into dust. This was what the world thought of me. I was a failure. A failure to my beliefs, to my troops, to my family. As I was ushered to the police transport, my face remained stoic, but I knew that I was breaking into pieces inside. *** Ring, ring. Ring, ring. "Hello?" I let out a breath of relief. "Hey, Allison." "Oh, hi, Sven. Can I call you back? I'm sort of busy right now." "No, wait!" I closed my eyes and leaned my head back on the cold metal wall. In a calmer voice, I said, "Sorry. I just need to talk to you about some stuff." "Oh, okay. Go ahead." My ears picked up the faint sound of a faucet being turned off. The officer standing guard glanced at me and tapped his watch. I nodded. "I don't have much time to talk, so I'll get right to the point." "You okay? You're sounding a bit stressed." A bit stressed? I wish. "No, I'm fine. Don't worry about me. I'm glad that you picked up, by the way. I wanted you to hear this from me instead of from the news." "News? What's on the news?" "You can check after I explained why I called." I took a deep breath and moistened my lips. Clearing my throat, I said quietly, "Do you remember how we met?" "Yeah, of course. At the doctor's office." "I never told you why I was there, did I?" "No, but..." "I was there because I thought I was going crazy, Allison. I kept on hearing thesevoices. In my head. All the time. I finally gave up and went to get help." After a slight pause, Allison hesitantly said, "Okay, but I don't see how this has to do with why you're calling." "I fought in a world war, Allison." "I know that..." "You didn't know that I fought for the Germans." A terrible silence echoed from the earpiece. Suddenly exhausted, I closed my eyes, leaning my head back. "I was a N@zi. I fought for them." The silence continued. "But look," I said hurriedly, "you have to understand that I didn't agree with any of their methods." "But you agreed with their beliefs?" I paused for a moment, taken aback at the sudden sound of her voice. Carefully choosing my words, I said, "I agreed with only the belief that the human race could be made better." "Through what means, Sven?" Allison said. Was it just me, or could I hear a break in her voice? "If I was chosen as one of the weak ones to be removed so that the rest could be made better, would you let that happen? What if they decided to kill me, Sven? Just like the Holocaust?" "No, murder of innocent lives wasn't part of the plan..." "So you would let me be taken away to some concentration camp." "I..." I was at a loss for words. The blood started pumping harder in my head, and I could feel myself getting hotter. The stress had finally caught up. "Look, Sven," Allison said coldly, "I have no idea why you told me this now, or why you sound so agitated. Let's talk about this later, okay?" "No, Allison, I can't..." "Bye, Sven." The line went dead. I sat there, dumbfounded. The guard stepped over and took the phone from my hand. "That's your one call," he said in a matter-of-fact tone. Gripping my shoulder tightly, he pulled me up from the bench and nudged me towards the metal door. *** It was dawn when I was led outside, with the sun's rays just peeking over the dark purple horizon. For the first time in weeks, I felt the cool wind on my face. My eyes spotted a bird flying quickly across the buildings of the prison, my ears picking up on its harmonious melody. If it weren't for the group of officers holding rifles and the wooden stage stained with faint remnants of blood, I might've actually enjoyed all this. The guards pushed me towards the wooden stage and fastened the leather restraints on my wrists and torso, the metal buckles emitting a faint clinking sound. I spotted the officers checking their rifles. All of this was done with no talking at all. It was rather eerie. I had asked beforehand to not have a blindfold or hood, just as a last remnant of my dignity. After all, dignity was all I had left. That and my beliefs. My N@zi beliefs that condemned me to death by firing squad in the first place. I never heard again from Allison after that phone call, and I can only wonder how she and the children were taking it. Hopefully, she'll remember what I told her and take that into mind when the media makes a show out of me and my death. The officers stepped into position, holding their guns at the ready. I stood still and tried not to shiver, flinch, or show any other signs of weakness or fear. I dimly heard the sound of a voice speaking, presumably who I was and what filthy deed I did to deserve death. Funny thing, really. I only believed that the human race could be made better. Sure, there could be some mistakes along the way, but ultimately, the choices of who would remain and who would be stationed somewhere else would be determined by the grand scheme of things. It would be determined by thinking of the best thing for everyone. The signal was given. The officers raised their guns. There was a huge flash of light and sound. And there I was. A brief moment of pain and torture, and next thing I knew, I was floating in a calm, tranquil, sapphire sea. [quote][/quote]
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  • Ramen 6378

    Ramen 6378

    7/10/2011 9:14:16 PM Permalink
    A sound reverberated throughout the small room. A small wave of panic ran through my body, driving away the incessantly annoying voice. The sounds continued, sending out their melodies. I slowly stood up, stretching my arms and yawning, the panic going away as quickly as it had started. My heart lifted as my ears registered the cheerful tune coming from the other room. My own personal alarm clock, I thought affectionately. The Asian college graduate living in the room next door apparently practices his violin every single day at precisely 8:30 AM. It's a good thing that he was skilled at it, otherwise I'd have to file a complaint. Still, the sudden flood of sound got my nerves every time. Considerably in a better mood than when I woke up, I went to the kitchen to pour myself my morning cup of orange juice. Humming along to the violin's melody, I took a look at the calendar on the refrigerator. My smile disappeared immediately. With a sour look on my face, I leaned against the kitchen counter and took a long draught of juice. You know, despite the military training and the fact that I was in a global war, meeting up with an ex after a recent divorce could be filled with tension. Pain, as well, especially since I still loved Allison and our two children very much. But even I saw that things didn't exactly go smoothly in the house before the divorce. Fights, arguments, and all that. Conflicting ideologies and ways of life? Probably. Secrets probably played a large part in the breakup in our relationship as well. Now that I look back, it was a mistake not telling her that I was a N@zi, especially considering that she was Jewish. *** The car leaned slightly to the side as I turned onto the synagogue parking lot. The afternoon sun beat down on the car's metal hide. Despite the running air conditioner, I felt beads of sweat running down the back of my neck. My shirt stuck to my back, creating that unpleasantly cold sensation that sweat makes. I managed to find a parking spot right under an overarching tree. Still, the shade provided little sanctuary from the summer sun. I pulled out a water bottle from the backseat. I hate drinking warm water, I thought. Still, I took a sip, feeling the water run down my throat. Turning on the air conditioner as high as it would go, I sighed and leaned back in my seat. Out of boredom, my eyes wandered over to the synagogue. Although I wasn't a religious man by any means, I had to appreciate the structure. Painted white, the synagogue was imposing, yet it was welcoming. Its two sets of double glass doors reflected the sunlight, making radiant rays dance all over the lobby whenever someone went in or out. The collection of trees, plants, bushes, and other greeneries added a lot to the peaceful, welcoming look. Light danced as the glass doors opened. I sat up and looked at my watch. Well, what do you know? The service is finally over. My fault for coming out so early, I suppose. People started filtering out of the building, dispersing out into the parking lot. I got out of the car, closing the door firmly. Setting off at a leisurely walk, I walked towards the crowd of people, most of who were congregating around the shade of the building, conversing with one another. As I got closer to the building, I spotted a woman with her arms around two children. She was smiling and talking to a group of other women, moms most likely. Still as beautiful as ever, Allison, I thought. One of the children noticed me. A smile breaking out on her face, she tapped her mother and pointed excitedly. The smile lost a bit of its vibrancy as Allison turned around. Excusing herself from the group of moms with a wave, she headed towards me, accompanied by the children. Despite the obvious buildup of tension, the corners of my mouth lifted up to form a smile. "Hey, Allison," I said. "Hey, kids." I hugged the two children tightly. God, it's been so long since I saw them. Out of the corners of my eyes, I saw Allison crossing her arms, mouth forming an expression of disapproval. Mentally bracing myself, I gave the kids one last tight hug and stood up. I put on a bright smile. "So, how are you?" Allison made eye contact briefly. "I'm fine. How're you doing?" "I'm good." Although there was plenty of conversation around us, I felt like an orb of silence enveloped me and Allison. Awkward moments. Don't you hate them? "So," I said, rocking slightly back and forth. "Yeah." Suddenly, Allison looked at me, as if finally into the conversation. "Listen, Sven." "Yeah?" "I know it's probably been hard on you. The divorce and all." "I'm fine, don't worry..." "No, really. I want you to know that I really appreciate all you're doing to help. Picking up the kids, helping me support them..." "No problem." "I just want you to know that it really does help. Thank you." She smiled tentatively at me. I smiled back. "So, I'll see you next week?" "Yeah. Just drop them off here." She hugged the kids tightly. "Have fun with Daddy, okay?" After kissing them, she nudged them towards me. I put my arm around them and set off towards my car. As I was walking away, Allison called out, "Love you!" I smiled to myself. With the way things between us were going, I thought that we didn't have a chance at getting back together. But now, with the nice talk that we had, not to mention the "love you," I was beginning to think that maybe I had a chance at sewing our relationship back together. Then again, maybe she was referring to the kids when she said, "Love you." It would make sense, seeing as she didn't say it when we parted ways just now. Now that I think about it, she probably did say it to the kids and not me. I felt a pang in my chest. It was naïve to think that our relationship could be brought back from the grave. We separated because of our differences, right? It's not like those differences could go away. It's not like we won't keep secrets from each other. Actually, scratch that. It's not like I won't keep secrets from her. Correct, Sven, the voice in my head murmured maliciously. You're still a N@zi. You're still responsible for the deaths of your men. And everyone knows that you certainly haven't told Allison about your being a N@zi. I got into the car, leaning back in the seat. I vaguely heard the sounds of the kids buckling their seat belts and talking animatedly to each other. Ignoring the voice's incessant whispers, I started the ignition. With a rumble, the car rolled out of the parking lot and turned onto the busy road. *** "So, what seems to be the problem?" I asked, glancing at the computer. The child sitting on the bed opened his mouth to speak, but he was interrupted by another voice, "Well, Jimmy's been coughing really hard for a few days now. Then, he started getting a fever." Jimmy's mother leaned back in her seat, crossing her arms. "Frankly, I'm getting worried. He's missed two days of school already." Giving a quick smile to Jimmy, I asked his mother, "How long do these coughs last?" "Maybe a minute? I don't really know for sure." "Any other symptoms?" I turned back to the computer, recording her responses. "Um, he did have a runny nose that started about the same time as the coughs..." "All right," I recorded the last bit of information onto the computer. Turning back to face the two, I said, "This is probably a case of whooping cough. Nothing too serious nowadays. You have nothing to worry about." I pulled a prescription note from a drawer and quickly wrote down the appropriate medication. Giving it to the mother, I said, "Just pick this up from a pharmacy. Standard antibiotics. Follow the directions carefully." Suddenly, the door to the office opened. A nurse stepped in and said, "Dr. Sommer?" "Yes?" "A few policemen are here. They said that they want to see you." She gestured in the direction of the lobby. "Okay," I said. Closing out of the window, I shut off the computer and stood up. "Hope your son gets better soon," I said to the mother, giving her a warm smile. I waved at Jimmy and walked out the door. I couldn't help but feel slightly confused. Why were the police here? I haven't done anything wrong. At least, I don't think so. Really, the only thing that I've ever done wrong in my life is when I joined the N@zis... Oh. Then again, maybe I'm being paranoid. I covered my tracks after I escaped. Whole new identity, living in a new place, and all that. Yeah, I thought to myself, it's probably just something minor. Maybe I forgot to pay that parking fine the other day. I stuffed the fear back into my brain, closing shut a mental door on it. The fear shook the doorknob angrily. We reached the door to the lobby. The nurse opened the door quietly and gestured for me to enter. I took a deep breath to calm my racing heart. Why was it racing in the first place? It's not like I have anything to worry about. Parking fine, parking fine, parking fine, I thought. I stepped into the lobby. Two policemen stood in front of the receptionist's desk. One of them, dressed in a dark blue suit with a black tie, turned to me and asked, "Are you Dr. Sommer?" The fear banged its fist on the door mercilessly. The very fibers of the door began to snap. Parking fine, parking fine, parking fine. I replied, "Yes, I am. What's this about?" "If you would turn around, sir." At that moment, the fear was freed. As the door broke open, it dispersed into every pore of my body, cackling its triumph. I managed to maintain most of my composure and said, "What's this about?" The question came out with a noticeable stutter. "Please turn around, sir."
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