Another day on the job. Another day in my crisp myrtle green uniform patrolling the fences on a dull grey day. The same assignment, the same weather, the same repetitive job. As I stroll past a monotonous building I catch my reflection in a grubby glass window and pause to observe myself. I have only been out here for 20 minutes and yet everything from my skin to my uniform is already dirty.
I pull off my hat and dust what I can off of it, still staring at my reflection. I cannot help but notice how blue my eyes appear in comparison to everything else, including the sky, and as I place my hat back on my blonde head I spot an empty hole where a brass button should be. I swear under my breath and pat my pockets down as if it could have magically fallen into one of them.
Suddenly I hear the sound of boots crunching over gravel and I spin around, saluting feverishly. I was so engrossed with my appearance that I did not notice my commanding officer approaching me from behind.
"Having fun, Lang?" Officer Klein sneers, calling me by my surname as all officers do.
"No, sir. I was just getting back to my patrol, sir." I respond staring straight ahead and praying that he will not notice the absence of my button.
"If I were you I would watch myself, pig." Officer Klein begins to turn away and I let out a breath I did not know I was holding. Before I have the time to straighten my stance Officer Klein spins around and strikes me across the face. My cheek burns and my eyes sting with the threat of tears but I do not lift a hand to feel the damage. Instead I stand like a statue, unmoving.
"Just because your Daddy is high up in rank and can get you into this camp at only 16 years old does not mean you can get away with being insolent. Your uniform represents your respect for our leader-" I do not breath as I wait for the Officer to continue but he only glares. "Now go down to the uniform facility and get that button replaced, Cadet Swine." Officer Klein spits at my feet and walks away looking pleased with himself.
I wait until Klein is out of range before spitting onto the gravel and turning around to face the glass. "Son of a - !" I hiss, staring at my reflection. Across my right cheek is a large red mark, clearly the silhouette of a hand print, and I clench my fists with rage.
Grudgingly obedient, I turn in the direction of the uniform building and walk along the fence. A hand reaches towards me and grabs at my clothing, moaning sorrowfully and pressing against the rusty barricade. I struggle to pry the hand off of me, not bothering to look at the face of the prisoner. I am finally released after a moment but I am stopped again by more hands, fingers, and cries.
"Get off of me!" I yell and fall backwards onto the sharp stones but the prisoners continue to reach for me. I cannot help but stare into their faces now, dozens of eyes boring into me, irises all the same shade of the slate coloured sky. I kick at their hands and hear a few cry out in pain, their mouths agape and their cheeks hollow. I am momentarily captured by a feeling of pity but quickly push it aside and stand up, shaking myself as if to shake off the images I now have etched in my mind.
I grunt in frustration and begin to run down the path, past the hundreds of committed humans. I take long gasping intakes of air and try to clear my vision, the images of deteriorating bodies surrounding me. The fenced in area ends but another begins, an endless encampment of terminal prisoners. I finally reach the uniform building and stand at the entrance, leaning my forehead against the concrete door frame.
"Another cart? Fine, put it over there." I turn around confused and realize that the voice is not addressing me. The man who spoke is a few ranks higher than myself and is speaking to another soldier with a wheelbarrow. The soldier dumps his load onto the edge of a pile spanning hundreds of meters in area. I approach him as he rubs his hands on his pants.
"What is this?" I question. He turns to me and dusts soot out of his hair, surprised by my question.
"Hmm? Oh, just some filthy junk." The soldier says and turns away to continue his work.
I stare down at the pile of "junk" and kick it, creating an avalanche of warped leather. "Shoes -" I whisper to myself, "The shoes of the prisoners."