The shortwave crackled and popped. They crouched around it, watching as he tapped tapped paused tapped out the Morse code. They weren’t sure how much time they had. They weren’t sure anyone was listening. His hands shook as he sent out the message. He forced himself to take slow deep breaths. If they wanted to survive these last, they had to get the message out. - —- / - …. . / .- .-.. .-.. .. . … .-.-.-
He was so weak. He wasn’t sure if he’d make it. If any of them would make it. Their numbers had been so diminished, the survivors themselves so diminished until they were skeletons. The walking dead contained by the well fed captors. It was almost impossible to grasp the enormity of the slaughter. He would have never thought they could kill so many. Imprison so many more without the slightest pang of guilt.
The men hunched over the shortwave were the last holdouts. The ones who had survived the forced labor, the experiments, the casual cruelty of their tormentors. They had only a few days until they too joined the ranks of the dead, an army to stand in accusation of the Nazis.
He ended the transmission in English, began again in German. Tap tap tap tap. He tried to make no errors, despite the urgency of death’s breath down his spine.
Leo took over in Russian, awkwardly switching places with him, their bones creaking and cracking in the silence. The same message in Russian, help us, they’re going to kill us all. Please, dear God, save us.
They traded again, urgent whispers in the dark. He tapped out the message, English then German. They had to hear, they had to listen. He closed his eyes, willing the transmission through the air, praying it would be received.
He wouldn’t survive, most of them wouldn’t survive, the march. The SS would march them until they died, to cover up the evidence of their inhumanity. He had been forced to bury friends and family, fellow Catholics and countrymen. He was determined to leave a message, proof of the Nazi’s crimes. If it could save even one man or woman, it was worth it.
They sent the transmissions and then waited. The silence of the camp unnerving around them. There were no owls or night creatures. The rats had been eaten. Their ragged breathing filled the tense, waiting, silence.
The minutes ticked by, hope warring with despair in his chest. Burning, tightening him.
A response. “Hold out, rushing to your aid.”