"When I came to power, I did not want the concentration camps to become old age pensioners homes, but instruments of terror." - Adolf Hitler
I remember sitting for what seemed like the entire two hours, soaking in all the information shared this morning, rubbing my own temples in a failing effort to rid myself of that headache. There was so much confusion now in what I thought would be an easy decision. I walked around the room I was in, taking notice of the steel walls, cold to the touch, adding a chill to the air you couldn’t escape. The size of the room was roughly 16 x 16 feet. The ceiling as well as the floor, also steel, were covered with evenly spaced holes the size of a pencil eraser, about nine for every square foot. Along the floor’s edge that meets the walls were gaps the width of an adult finger that encompassed the entire room with the exception of six inches on each corner. There was a chair, a desk, and of course the puzzle in this room. The room was illuminated with a lantern as the room offered no outlets or built-in lighting. On the desk beside the box of puzzle pieces was a flashlight which Celeste had intentionally left for me. I picked up the flashlight then stepped out to the main room, about half the size of the previous, and immediately noticed a warmer feel. There were no holes in the ceiling and floor nor was there spacing in the corners where the two met, and from the ceiling hung a light. The door to the larger room was a six inch steel slab with a latch on the outside and very heavy to move. Observing the other side of the door again, there were no latches, locks or knobs. This door’s intent was to keep anyone inside this room trapped. The smaller room had one wall with a breaker box. I opened the little door to the box, and saw nothing but a few buttons and some switches, all unlabeled. Again in the larger room, I looked up then down, staring at the holes before I was struck with a horrid thought. Flashing in my mind were images of the gas chambers used by Hitler within the steel walls of his concentration camps. Graphic pictures in history books showing bodies thrown upon bodies by the hundreds, tossed into large holes and buried in massive graves. Images of people screaming within those gas chambers; mother and child dying in agony in each other’s arms. Victims plastered the pages of these books, looking anemic and starved, clothed in rags, if anything at all. I shined the light into one of these holes hoping to see something familiar, or any evidence to dispel the now horrifying thoughts taking grip of my emotions. I didn’t know what I’d hoped to find, but I wasn’t at all surprised to see nothing.
“So how the hell is the gas pumped into this room?” I remember asking myself, convinced now of this room’s purpose. I walked back into the smaller control room, as I now referred to it, staring at its ceiling, noticing one spot at the corner had a handle and outline of a trap door. I dragged the chair underneath the handle, climbed up and tugged on its cold steel a few times before it fell open, knocking me off my feet and off the chair. After a few choice words, I got back up and pulled myself into the crawl space above me. I had to maneuver on my stomach for there was no room to sit up or crawl on hands and knees. I wiggled my way towards the larger room seeing nothing worth mentioning until flashing the light just beyond the steel girder that separated the rooms. I was rewarded with a sight that terrified me more than those “gas chamber” images.
The best way I can describe what I saw is that above each hole in the ceiling, and now assuming the same from the floors, are nozzles attached to hoses that all led to another wall. A much closer look at these nozzles showed me a small flint on the ends. It wasn’t gas they’d be releasing but flames. This chamber was an incinerator adorned with over two thousand small blow torches no one could escape, a super-sized crematory!
It all made sense now. Anyone entering this room would not be leaving. Their ashes would be swept quietly and inconspicuously into the finger wide gaps against the walls, forever lost and forgotten. No evidence, no massive graves to hide the crimes to be committed here. Everyone unfortunate enough to visit this room would vanish into a pile of ash. How convenient that these death traps would be underground! I was instantly enraged and disgusted that my own beloved country would stoop this low!
“Most of the Isolation Camps we’ve discovered don’t have these chambers.” Celeste had returned exactly two hours later, as promised. “Most of the camps will be used to house people. A last chance effort, if you will, for citizens to conform. If their conditioning is successful, they would return to their new world unharmed. If they refuse conditioning, if they refuse the implant or new laws that will govern them, they are then shipped to this place, the only one we know of on U.S. soil.”
I couldn’t fight the lump swelling in my throat when I tried to respond to Celeste. I fell to the floor, leaned against the wall and buried my face in my hands, all the while shaking my head, fighting a losing battle against the tears swelling in my eyes.
“The gentleman that leased this place didn’t know until much later what its use would be. This entire facility houses nothing but these chambers. Once he realized the true nature of his investment, he became an advocate for our cause. He wanted something good to come from this place before it becomes tainted and stained with the blood of thousands of American citizens.”
“What a trouper!” I said, deliberately sounding sarcastic.
“Come, Daniel. You’ve learned all you need to know about this place and it’s time to leave. We’ve only been given 72 hours to use this place and I don’t think you want to spend another night here.”
Celeste waited silently by the door, waited for me to stand up and walk out of here with her, but I couldn’t move. The heavy weight of reality had immobilized me. My only inspiration, my only hope came from Celeste, when she took my hand in hers, returning the earlier kiss I’d given her, before pulling me gently to my feet. “Come on, Daniel.” Was all she said before leading me out of that room with my hand still in hers.
From that moment on, my greatest wish is to forget I ever saw that place.