Six Degrees

Six Degrees

A Story by WriterGirl247247

One act can have an impact that spans generations.


Act I

Lieutenant Edgar Reeves marched alongside the rest of his platoon. A tank rolled on the muddy path ahead. They were prepared for a possible fight, but the iron monster was merely a precaution. It was more for show than anything. A warning to squash any ideas of resistance.

Rain pelted down on the men. Thunder boomed in the distance as lightning danced across the sky. On another day, the weather would've reminded Reeves of home, of Seattle. How he would curl up with his wife, drape a blanket across them both, and together listen to the storm rage on.

But not today. Nothing could make this day any easier.

The men marched in complete silence. All were somber for what lay ahead. When the day was done, all would've seen enough death to last lifetimes. They finally reached their destination, the German town of Weimar. No great battle greeted them as they crested the hill. Dirt didn't fly into the air as landmines exploded. Airplanes didn't roar overhead, deadly dogfights taking place in the air. A chilling silence around them was far louder than any gunfire could be.

They didn't walk into the frontline.

Instead they marched into Buchenwald, through the concentration camp’s iron gate.

The monstrous SS guards fled at the sight of the approaching U.S. troops. Those that remained when Reeves and the others arrived were dealt with quickly-- those still willing to fight were shot, while the ones that wanted to live surrendered.

With the guards’ absence, the prisoners seized power before any more of them could be slaughtered. The troops freed them-- providing medical attention, reuniting loved ones, and accounting for the dead.

Reeves had seen corpses before. He was familiar with the sight of rotting flesh. But these were mutilated. Twisted and morphed beyond recognition. He walked among them in sheer horror, the stench choking him. He couldn't tell which were male or female, young or old. They all were piled on top of each of in disarray. In a nauseating pile of bodies.

It took all of Reeves’ willpower to hold back the bile rising in his throat. These people were treated like animals. Put down in an unimaginable way. All their hopes and dreams, gone. And all that was left was the horror surrounding him.

This image would be forever seared into his mind.

Act II

This image would be forever seared into his mind.

Hans Lehnsherr stared off into the bay. The Statue of Liberty rose up from the water and broke through the fog that enveloped the ferry. Hans squinted. The outline of skyscrapers beckoned in the distance.

Hans leaned against the rail. He was more excited than nervous as they neared Ellis Island. This was his fresh start. His chance to have a life and leave the horrors in the past.

It wasn't a hard decision to come to America. His friends and family were all taken by one of the camps. His best friend Max perished in Belzec. Auschwitz claimed his parents. He barely survived Buchenwald. Starved, beaten, and worked to near death. He expected to die in that hellhole. His body thrown on top of the ever growing pile.

Then the tank rolled through the gates. And for the first time in three longs years, he wept.

Everything was different now. His bones were no longer visible, his skin back to a healthy glow. His hair grew back and the bruises faded.

But he knew the scars were there to stay. Nothing could get rid of them. They would linger in the back of his mind, whispering dark thoughts as he slept.

He just couldn't let them win.

The ferry docked and the passengers were ushered onto the dock. The future lay before him.


The future lay before him. His flight out of Vietnam was in the morning. His parents were ecstatic, almost as excited as his father was when he learned of his enlistment. His father always admired those in the military, after being rescued from one of the Nazi’s many death camps. But he ready to have his son home. Everyone was. But as Sergeant Max Lehnsherr hunched over the bar, he wasn't sure he was.

Fighting was all he knew for the past year. Every day he fought for his life. Kill or be killed. Every day he felt the young, naive boy that arrived in Vietnam fade away even more. Death was the norm. Squadmates and friends were struck down in front of him. He learned quickly not to get attached.

And now he was being told to go home. To live again after a bloody, violent year.

But could he?

He had heard whispers of men who went home, only for the war to continue to torment them. Their demons grew stronger, not weaker. They were more accustomed to war than civilian life. Their wives and children left them. Their parents couldn't recognize their sons. Some even took their own lives. The war may be over for the country, but it wasn't over for them.

Max guzzled the last of his drink. Would that be him? Would he leave a shell of his former self? He would've preferred to die in a foxhole. Let his family bury him instead of seeing him waste away. It would've been easier for everyone if he died.

But he was alive. The future, whatever it was, started tomorrow.

He hopped off the stool and turned to leave. Then he froze at the sight before him. His heart skipped a beat. His stomach did somersaults. His mouth went dry and it was hard to swallow. He mustered his courage, and stepped forward.

His hands trembled.

Act IV

Her hands trembled. The ring slid onto her finger with ease. It fit perfectly, like it was always meant to be there.

Tears welled in Mai’s eyes. She couldn't believe it. Every girl wanted her fairytale love story. And now she was getting hers.

It wasn't easy. One year of long distance. Then she moved from Vietnam to America, and they moved in together.

The proposal came two months later.

She looked up into her husband’s eyes. He was as handsome as the day they met. And they were going to spend the rest of their lives together.

They turned together to face their friends and family. Her mother cried tears of joy. Her father fought back tears.

The priest addressed the congregation, his voice booming. “I present to you for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Lehnsherr!”

The congregation stood and applauded. The newlyweds walked down the aisle, hand in hand. They headed to the large oak doors, to the car that waited for them outside.

Mai Lehnsherr didn't hear the cheering. She was too busy thinking of what was next.

Act V

She was too busy thinking of what was next. The flight attendant tapped her shoulder and brought her back to reality.

Lily pulled out an earbud and looked up at the female attendant.

“We’ve landed, ma’am,” the woman said with a plastered smile. But Lily could see the hint of annoyance in her eyes.

Lily quickly realized why. The airplane was now empty, save herself and the attendant.

Lily smiled apologetically. “Sorry. Must've been daydreaming.” She jumped out of her seat, snatched her duffel bag from the overhead, and hurried out the plane.

She marched through the airport. She checked the address on her phone for the millionth time. She hadn’t flown across the country just to go to the wrong place.

She hailed a cab and jumped in. She gave the driver the address and they glided away from the curb.

What if no one was there? What if no one was left? She bit her lip. There had to be someone left-- whether it was a spouse, child, or grandchild. She clung to hope.

The cab reached her destination. She peered out the window at the gathering. Above their heads, the flag flapped in the wind.

Act VI

Above their heads, the flag flapped in the wind.

The veterans were gathered around the fountain of the World War II Memorial. The beauty of the National Mall surrounded them, but the veterans paid it no mind. All were recounting war stories to old friends and their families.

Sergeant Edgar Reeves stood quietly in front of the fountain, alone. His wife had passed away five years ago. His children were too busy with their families to come. They apologized, but he was happy to have some time to himself. It seemed there was little of that now.

He gazed at the gathering. There were fewer veterans than last year. More of his brothers gone. He wasn't worried if this was his last time there. He had a full life-- full of happiness and joy, ups and downs. He had no regrets.

He felt a light tap on his shoulder. He turned around to find a middle-aged woman, about the same age as his son. She had Asian features and black hair that was tied into a ponytail.

She smiled. “Hi. My name is Lily Madison. Do you know if there's anyone here that was in the 107th division?”

Reeves grinned like a mischievous child. “That would be me.”

Lily’s smile widened, and she shook his hand. “Wow. I was a little worried I wouldn't be able to find anyone. It was the whole reason I came out here.”

Reeves chuckled. “I don't see why a bunch of old men are important.”

“You are,” she corrected. “You and your troop saved my grandfather from the Buchenwald concentration camp.”

Reeves listened as Lily recounted how her grandfather-- Hans Lehnsherr-- later immigrated to the U.S. and started a family. Then how her father fought in Vietnam, and fell in love with her mother the night before he returned home. And how she herself had a family back in Nebraska.

“If it wasn't for all of you, none of us would be here,” Lily concluded.

Reeves beamed with pride. He stood tall, the first time he had since his wife died. For the longest time, he thought his family was his legacy.

Now it looked like he had two.

* * *

Author’s Note

This story is based off the Six Degrees of Separation rule, which states that one person is connected to another in six steps or fewer. This has always intrigued me.

One passing moment, one short interaction with someone can cause a ripple effect. We have more impact on each other then we will ever know. We are not just strangers, ships passing in the night. We cause the creation of families, the fall of empires, and so much more without even realizing it.

We are all complex, dynamic, and amazing individuals. We all play a key part in each other's lives, and others in ours. Everyone is important.

And to anyone who thinks otherwise, you just don't see it yet.

© 2016 WriterGirl247247

Author's Note

Please review and comment! And sorry for any mistakes.

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I like this very much. It is a wondrous account of the ties that bind people, even when not realized. I Applaud the depth of this touching story and commend you for your choice of subjects to cover.

Posted 3 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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Added on October 9, 2016
Last Updated on October 9, 2016
Tags: family, world war 2, inspiration



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A Story by WriterGirl247247