What if the book thief’s story ended differently?
Picture yourself walking down Himmel Street in the dark. Your hair is getting wet and the air pressure is on the verge of drastic change.
The sky is stained a tomato soup red, boiling and stirring. Burnt crumbs and pepper streak the heavens. Ash rains down onto baked pavement. Himmel Street is burning.
The sirens began to howl.
“Too late now,” I thought, “for that little exercise.” For everyone had been fooled, and fooled again.
***A SOMBER REALIZATION ***
The book thief’s world was about to end.
The sky had unfolded its infernal reds and charcoal blacks above Himmel Street, and the radio began to release its cuckoo shrieks.
Hans Hubermann lay, cocooned in rough woolen sheets. Charred cigarettes slouched, disfigured, on his ashtray. Next to him, Rosa lay snoring, cardboard face creased, arms splayed out across the bed. Hearing the wails, they stirred.
Liesel Meminger wrote.
She was perched on a rusty paint can, The Book Theif open in one palm, a pencil clutched in the other.
***THE BOOK THIEF’S FINAL PROCLAMATION***
I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.
Satisfied that she had said all she wanted to say, the book thief snapped the little black book closed.
That’s when she heard the sirens.
The deafening noise pounded in her ears, a panicky chorus. Through a flurry of hysteria, Liesel noticed Mama and Papa descending into the basement, worried looks etched onto their faces.
“Liesel.” Hans Hubermann set leathery, paint dyed hands on his daughter’s shoulders. “We missed our chance. The bombs are here.”
The book thief’s breath caught in her throat. The world went quiet, as if someone had stuffed cotton in her ears. Liesel forced herself to nod, and let herself drown in the accepting embrace of her parents.
When I arrived, I found them huddled in the center of the cold basement.
Hans’ soul sat up to meet me, like the best souls always did. This one was sent out by the breath of an accordion, the odd taste of champagne in the summer, and the art of promise-keeping. He lay in my arms and rested.
Rosa let out a final shuddering breath as I scooped up her soul. If she had seen me, I’m sure she would have called me a Saurkerl, though I would not have taken it badly.
***A REGRETFUL ANNOUNCEMENT***
I picked up one more soul that night.
As I gathered Liesel’s soul in my arms, she looked up at the others that I had collected. She looked sadly at Ilsa Hermann, at Rudy, and at her Mama and Papa.
“I love you,” she said softly, and I whisked her away.
***A LAST NOTE FROM YOUR NARRATOR***
It kills me sometimes, how people die.