Fleeing

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Prologue

The torch flashes quickly; on, off, on. Then - far in the distance - on, off, on. The signal has been received. Slowly, a large boat crosses the horizon, coming into view through the light of the torch. He looks down at me and gently squeezes my hand. I look up at the calm face and the cool expression reassures me. I take a deep breath and wait as one by one the lights of Cuxhaven dim.

As the boat pulls into the harbour, Captain Smith lets go of my cold, clammy hand and, as quiet as the silent cries of a child, fastens the hardy rope around the boat's stern. The massive hulk blocks my view, I cower away; the metal brushing my camouflaged black hair. With speed, he grasps my hand and leads me to a ladder reaching upwards to the deck.

I have never been on a boat before and - as I feel the damp boards of the ladder - a shiver echoes through me; head to toe. Placing an uncertain foot on the first wrung, I cautiously begin to climb. The wood beneath my hands feels old, feels ancient. I'm uncertain it will hold my weight. My skinny legs try to hoist me up, and as I fail Captain Smith helpfully gives me a push upwards and onto the deck. My Torah almost slips from my hands so I pull it hard to my chest; the only possesion I carry.

To my surprise, I feel like a duck bobbing on water, not at all similar to the harsh rocking and swaying I'd imagined. I take a deep breath of sea air to cool my emotions but a memory of my mother hits me hard in the chest. There is the familiar ache, oh how I miss them all...but I can't think of that, I have to just move on; it's what they wanted.

(Or was it?)

They'll escape soon, no-one we knew had been 'called up' yet.

(Or will they?)

I'll be in England before I know it, starting a new life.

(Leaving them behind.)

But they'll follow  me, meeting me in England where we'll be safe. Shaking my head vigorously, i watch Captain Smith swing his torch onto the planks and clambour up. He takes me by the hand and - giving me hand a gentle squeeze - begins to creep silently across the schooner. Together we tiptoe, forwards, forwards - suddenly a man clad in deep black stops in front of our path, is he a Nazi? I hold my breath.

"This the boy?" I let out a sigh of relief as the gruff voice recognizes me.

"This one, yeah it's him. Did you get the others?" Captain Smith replies.

"Of course, and I wasn't seen, how about you Smithy?"

" Smith, you'll do well to remember that and you know not all Germans are Nazis." 

"I didn't say so, all I mean is we need to take precautions Smith. These are Jewish kids we're smuggling out of Hitler's grasp." I flinch at his name but only Captain Smith realises and gives me a small pat on the back. The other man  begins to lead us to a trapdoor and I clench my sacred Torah tighter.

"In here." The man speaks his first direct words to me since I boarded. He pushes Captain Smith down with me and follows, slamming the trapdoor as he flicks the torch on and the beam joins Captain Smith's. The light spreads and I let out a gasp. The tiny room is filled with masses of children.

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