Not a Hair on His Head
These thoughts were easy. His dark and unrelenting imaginings kept his mind occupied even as his mouth shrieked and his body was once again used in the never-ending "experiments." A plaything for inhumane mortals. That word brought him... oh- yes. Hope. Something to look forward to. This man, these monsters would die. They, like all other people in this life-forsaken camp, were ephemeral.
As the scalpel once more tore into his flesh, his body writhing in agony, all he wanted- all he longed for, was to close his eyes to this Earth. To welcome that ever-elusive death. Revenge. Yes. Focus.
He screamed again, his pleas for mercy and relief all to no avail.
No thought, no plan, no dream could block out the pain anymore. Vengeance was useless. Anger was wasted. Revenge would never have the opportunity to come. Pain. Pain. PAIN!
This curse others insisted on calling a gift had no meaning. There was nothing good worth wanting. No desire worth having. No people worth saving.
In between screams he heard whispers.
They were coming.
They were angry.
They were near.
For so long, his captors had tortured and researched on the test subject that was his body. They always caught him, every single time he gave into blessed death. For a few, blissful moments, he was free. Then he was surrounded again. They found him, always waiting with a new agony. Hope. Something he once had. He forgot what it meant. Even thoughts of retribution ceased bringing him comfort now. All was lost.
The stench of death bled into his very skin, the decay of humanity as people became livestock. Death. The liberty he would never feel. Death. The incarceration even more permanent for those souls around him.
His eyes remained determinedly closed after this latest rebirth. Closed eyes meant he wouldn't see the soulless eyes around him, waiting for the latest torment concocted by mein führer and his heartless minions. Closed eyes meant he could imagine for a few precious moments that he was far, far away from this harbour of evil. Closed eyes meant he wouldn't see the camp from which there was no escape. The bodies piled up so high even mass graves seemed an illusion. The families that were no more.
If he just kept his eyes closed, he could simply imagine he was elsewhere. He blocked out the screams, the crying, the bleak silence that marked death. He willed himself to hear only the wind, the leaves, the gentle lapping of the water from which he emerged. He forced himself to ignore the soldiers, the prisoners, the shouting and weeping and begging and resigned surrender. And... the soft...oddly strong whimpers of a baby.
Suddenly, his eyes whipped open. The team assigned to fetch him were still a little way off. He had moments, maybe less. He followed the sounds, a purpose filling him for the first time in years. Frantically he searched, determination he didn't know he still possessed spurring him on. And at last- the tiny baby boy stared up at him, somehow hidden, weakly shielded from the fate of his peers. The soldiers were coming.
Doing his best to conceal the child, he ran. He had no illusions of escape, for either of them. But he could do this. Protect the boy for one more day. He couldn't explain why. Hadn't cared for anyone besides himself in centuries. But those eyes- those big, innocent, trusting eyes. The eyes of someone who...needed him. He couldn't let him down.
His efforts were rewarded with a more secure hiding place than the child had previously inhabited. Quickly, he stowed the baby, placing a finger on his lips to sooth him. Looking up, he met the eyes of a pair of doomed men, watching his desperate actions. A silent understanding passed between them all.
He gave the now-quietly curious baby a quick upturn of the left side of his mouth, before scurrying off in another direction, misdirecting the soldiers who then recaptured him for more suffering. He endured it just barely this time. He had a reason to.
When he died a few days later, he used his precious moments to check on the child again, miraculously still safe, and healthy at the expense of the condemned prisoners who shared what little they had. He moved the boy again, protecting him for one day more.
The pain didn't end, but the dreams had returned to him, once more giving his mind refuge as his body was broken in more ways he knew could exist.
It wasn't much. He knew the chances of the boy's survival were non-existent. He was a doomed as the parents who'd tried to save him. It would be easier to just give up on him, accept that this boy would die as they all would.
But he didn't.
But he couldn't.
He didn't believe in miracles anymore. Few in this place did. But he did believe in tomorrow- a simple logical fact inherent in his condition. And the child he protected would to. He would have a tomorrow, and a next day, no matter what it cost him. Defying the death camp by encouraging life. Oh, such wonderfully ironic revenge. Yes. He would have his vengeance. He would keep this child alive. He would ensure he lived.
Eventually, astoundingly, tragically, the camp emptied. His unyielding "usefulness" was pointless to the fleeing coward who'd kept him as lab rat. No one bothered recapturing him after his latest death. They were almost here.
Time to move on again.
He realized the need for urgency. To leave this place before he became another plaything, a tool for the other side. He knew better than anyone the lengths to which men would go to win a war.
He made his plans, preparing to infiltrate the Allies as they marched into the camp, then riding off as far away from here as possible. He... just needed to check on him first.
Cradling him in his arms as the invasion began, he found himself foolishly huddling down, protecting the baby from any fallout. Then he swaddled him, placing him in plain view for the soldiers to find. As he donned a stolen uniform, he did his best to blend in, keeping close watch on the building in which his ward was awaiting rescue.
He caught himself creeping forward, nearly returning for the boy himself. But he stopped himself, casually mentioning to a passing nurse he thought he heard a baby crying. She rushed past him, determined to assist the tiny survivor.
He watched as she wrapped him in a blanket, rocking the crying baby and lightly kissing his forehead, reassuring him with whispers and smiles.
She turned, and he heard her offer the child to a man who seemed entranced by her.
He found himself passing them, as casually as he could, just to make sure.
A doctor. Who, it seemed, was quite taken by the young boy. And the nurse. He'd heard her.
"A baby... perfect health."
In this horrible place filled with horror and tragedy and mortality.
He'd saved a life.
A new way to defeat death.