Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Manuscript (04/29/10)
TITLE: Flight of the Valkyrie
By Kristi Peifer
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“Mama, what do the spider-men want with Papa?” she asked, referring to the symbol emblazoned on their stark red armbands.
“Quiet, Anna! They’ll hear you!” Mama hissed.
Anneliese’s brow furrowed, her eyes beginning to well.
Elsa sighed, immediately remorseful for her harsh tone. She knelt down, wiping the tears from her daughter’s cherubic face. “I’m sorry, Anneliese. I didn’t mean to snap—it’s just,” she paused, choosing her words carefully. “The spider-men out there with Papa are called Nazis, and they’re very bad men. They don’t like what Papa has been saying from his pulpit or writing in his newsletters.”
“Has Papa done anything wrong?”
“No, dear, but the Nazis think…”
Her explanation was cut short by a barrage of angry jeers.
“Traitor to der Führer!”
“Liebhaber von Juden!” shouted a zealous new recruit, knocking the pastor to his knees.
“No!” Elsa choked, barely able to breathe.
“Mama?” Anneliese’s voice jumped an octave. “Is Papa alright?”
Elsa’s eyes darted around the empty sanctuary, finally settling on the polished altar. She knew what had to be done.
Oh God, I don’t know if I can bear this!
“Anna, I’m going to ask you to do something very brave.”
Please, Lord. Is there another way?
“Can you do that?”
Anneliese sniffed, her blond curls bouncing with each nod of her head.
“Those men are not going to leave us alone. When they are finished outside, they are going to come in here after us, too.”
Anna’s eyes widened before she hid them behind her hands.
Elsa continued. “Be brave, Anna. Now listen closely.”
Anneliese spread her fingers open enough to meet her mother’s gaze.
“Behind the altar is Papa’s Bible. Run and get it, and hide it in your overcoat.”
“But why, Mama?”
“Inside the Bible, Papa has a very important manuscript.”
Anneliese’s expression turned quizzical as she pondered what that meant.
“A manuscript is a paper with a special story on it.”
“Like the ones in my storybooks?”
“Not exactly,” Elsa answered. “It is very important that you get that Bible and the special story in it to your Uncle Dietrich. The Nazis want it very much, but we cannot let them have it!”
“Like hide and seek!” Anna said.
“Yes! Like hide and seek, only we must hide it so well that they’ll never find it!”
Elsa glanced out the door, just in time to witness a burly SS officer kicking her husband square in the face.
“Go now, Anna!” Elsa commanded. “Run, and don’t stop for anyone!”
Elsa allowed her eyes to wash over her daughter one last time, etching Anna’s visage in her mind’s eye.
I love you, my dear child!
“Go!” she said, shoving Annaliese toward the altar, leaving no room for discussion.
God, protect her!
Elsa squared her shoulders, and with every remaining vestige of resolve burst through the cathedral doors into the street.
“Ernst!” she called at the top of her lungs.
Anneliese heard gunshots, followed by her mother’s horrific scream.
She froze for a moment, paralyzed by her mother’s hysterical sobs.
Mama? Mama, where are you?
The harsh voice of the commanding officer outside the door brought Anneliese abruptly back to the terror at hand. With an urgency never before felt in all her seven years of life, she set to snatching up her cargo.
“Heil Hitler, Frau Heinrichs,” the officer quipped.
Elsa glared at him in disgust before adorning his face with her spittle.
“Insolent fool!” He backhanded her, tossing her to the ground effortlessly. “Find the child, and take them both to the camps.”
Elsa struggled enough to make them believe she was truly resisting.
Run, Anneliese! Run with all that is in you!
“And burn down the church,” he snarled, wiping his face with his sleeve.
There was a timid knock at the door. Answering it, Reverend Bonhoeffer found his frightened, filthy little niece staring back at him. She thrust the tattered old Bible into his hands and collapsed in a heap of exhaustion.
“Special story,” she gasped. “Hide and seek!”
The Reverend opened the Bible to the manuscript and began reading, his face draining of color.
“Dear God. Valkyrie has begun.”
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