A short fan fiction mash-up of The Book Thief and All the Light We Cannot See.
| In the middle of a broken town Werner Pfennig discovers a girl who should be dead. She crawled from beneath the rubble of her home and stumbled towards her family. A dead father, a dead mother, and a hundred dead friends. As the worlds of the Book Thief and All the Light We Cannot See collide we will see just how much it hurts to lose everyone and weâll see what the story of Leisel Meminger can inspire people even in the worst situations.
What would you do if you lost everything?
Everything was gone. My house had crumbled. My papaâs accordion was destroyed. My papa. My papa, oh god. I couldnât see my papa. I couldnât see my mama either. And Rudy. Where could Rudy be? I saw a soldier drag his mamaâs body out from the rubble that had once been his home. She was so pale. And his little sister, she hadnât even been in one piece when they found her. Her right arm had been somewhere near me and her foot somewhere else. I started to get up but I was so dizzy it was impossible. One of the soldiers, a young man with hair as white as snow, sees me and begins to yell. My brain is so fuzzy and thereâs a ringing in my ear, I canât tell what he is saying. A moment later he is at my side. He is helping me to a truck. I think itâs a medical vehicle.
Heâs still yelling but quieter now and I can understand what heâs saying. Heâs saying that there is a survivor. A survivor. As in the only survivor. If I am the only survivor than that must meanâ¦ No. God no. It canât be. To my right is the alarmingly still figure of my mother. She is covered in dust and her head is bent at a strange angle but somehow she looks peaceful. She has a sort of smile on her face. Like the one she got on those nights when sheâd stay up playing papaâs accordion when he was gone. The one she got right before she cried. Like she was reliving old memories. Next to her is my papa. The man who had taken me in without question. The one who taught me to read. The safeguard when I got in trouble with mama. The man who had loved me even though I wasnât his real daughter. He used to be so full of life and now he just lookedâ¦ dead. Dead, because thatâs what he is. Thatâs what mama is too. Maybe even Rudy.
Then I see him. Rudy a pale lifeless figure. His lemon colored hair, almost black with dust. He was breathing, but barely. I broke free of the soldierâs grip and stumbled over to him. He tried to speak but I hushed him. I took his hand. âCome back to me Rudy,â I said. He tried to speak again. I told him to shut up. He let out a wheeze which was probably meant to be a laugh. Then he started coughing. His eyes went wide for a moment then he stilled. âCome back Rudy,â I cried. Then I kissed him I tried to force my energy into him. I tried to make him wake up but he never did.
The soldier came over to me again but then I saw them loading my papaâs tattered accordion into a trash truck and I ran to it. I screamed the nastiest words I knew at the man throwing away my one last connection to my papa. I yelled and told him to give it back. I said it wasnât his to throw away. I tackled him and hit him and clawed until eventually, the white haired soldier pulled me off. He politely asked the garbage man to give him the accordion. The man did as he was asked. The white haired soldier took me to a medical truck and sat me down.
He told me that his name was Werner. He was from a small town in Germany, called Zollverein. He asked me my name. I stayed silent, unsure if I should trust him or not. I didnât know if I should trust anyone. There had been so few people I had ever trusted. Three of them were dead, one I hadnât seen in years and another that probably never wanted to see me again. The soldier kept telling me about his childhood. I listened. It was soothing to be able to listen to someone retell tales of a relatively happy child. When he got to the part about an oncoming war I told him to be quiet. I couldnât listen to anything about war, not now, not later, not ever again.
One of the other soldiers, an older man, yelled to him. Werner yelled back a reply that I didnât quite catch. I knew it was something about the mayor and his wife. I understood that the other soldier man had said that they had confirmed survival and then there was something that they were looking for but I didnât know what. Werner told me to stay put and said heâd be back in a minute but as soon as he turned his back I got up. I started to walk over masses of rubble. Finally I saw them. The mayor and his wife walking around, searching the faces of the dead for someone. I just stared at them for a moment. Eventually, Ilsa Hermann, the mayorâs wife, looked up and saw me. A look of relief crossed her face then she started rushing toward me with outstretched arms. I didnât know what was happening at first. I thought this woman hated me. I had stolen books from her, I had screamed in her face yet here she was hugging me and reassuring me that it would be alright. Then I just let it all go. I wept until there was no energy or liquid left in my body. Then I collapsed and blacked out.
I didnât think it was possible to feel so much sorrow for something that I had no control over. This little town in the middle of nowhere, destroyed the tragedies of war. There wasnât one survivor on the street. Nothing moved except the soldiers trying to clean up this town. I moved to drag a child from below the rubble, a child with hair that would have been the brightest yellow Iâd ever seen if it hadnât been for the ashes and dust covering him. I pulled him out and saw that he was breathing. I was so excited that I didnât even notice the blood pouring from his side. He was going to die and he knew it. He told me to take him to his mother. I didnât know what to do. He was too weak to show her to me but he was dying and he wanted to be near his mother when he finally passed on. Seeing the lost expression on my face the boy pointed me to a woman who had no arms left on her. I carried him to her and laid him down next to her. He whispered thanks and closed his eyes.
I walked away only to be totally caught by surprise when I saw a girl who looked perfectly unharmed aside from a couple bruises and cuts. I started shouting for the other men. They all looked just as surprised as I must have when they saw her. She was stumbling around on her hands and knees like a drunken fool. It appeared that she was looking for something. Someone maybe.
She looks fine but I can tell that she canât get up. I rush to her side and begin to carry her to the medical truck. She looks around and she sees something. She breaks away from me and begins stumbling toward the boy I pulled from the rubble. She kneels next to him and takes his hand. I can tell that he is trying to say something but she quiets him. She whispers something to him but I canât tell what she said. He tries to speak again and this time she tells him to shut up. He wheezes for a second and then his eyes go round and he stops moving altogether. She tells him to come back to her but he doesnât. Then she does something that completely surprised me. She leans down and kisses him. She puts all of her strength into that one kiss. Every ounce of energy and I know that she loved this boy.
I go over to her so that I can bring her back to the medical truck but she takes off again. The trash man is loading an old tattered accordion in with the rest of the rubbish. She tackles him and tells him things that should never come out of the mouth of anyone, let alone a girl. She keeps screaming that itâs not his to throw away, that he shouldnât dare throw it away. I pulled her off of his back and keep hold of her. I ask the man for the accordion and then I carry it and the girl over to the truck.
I told her where I grew up and my name. I asked her for her name and she remained silent. I could tell that she didnât trust me. Then again, would I trust anyone if everyone around had just died?
The head soldier called to me. He said that they had confirmed life of the Hermannâs. He said that they were looking for someone, a young girl. I told the girl to stay put and then walked off. A couple minutes later I saw the girl being tackled by Ilsa Hermann. Mrs. Hermann held the girl to her chest, told her it would be alright. She said a name and I knew that it was the girlâs. Liesel.
âDo you want to come live with me?â
Ilsa Hermann had just asked me the most life changing question ever. Everyone I loved was dead and here she was this woman who Iâd grown to like, be offering a home. A refuge from the horror that surrounds me. At first, I didnât know what to say. I thought about what papa would want me to do. I said yes. Then I cried again.
My family was all dead. Hans Hubert, known to me as papa. Iâd never hear is soft laughter or see his warm smile. Iâd never feel his hugs or get to learn the new words on the chalkboard. And Rosa Hubermann. The woman I had just begun to call my mama. I wouldnât see her crack one of her infamous smiles. Or hear her yell across the street telling the other woman to shut up. None of these things will ever grace my life again. I will never see Rudy run another race. I will never hear him ask me to kiss him in exchange for something. Everyone Iâd ever loved was dead. Except Ilsa.
I let a soldier remove me from Ilsaâs arms and carry me to the medical evacuation vehicle. The Hermannâs came with me. The doctors studied me and discovered a couple of broken bones and a dislocated shoulder. I didnât know how I hadnât noticed the pain of it before, but now that they were telling me that the injuries were there I could feel them. I felt like I had been run over by a bus. The doctors wrapped my broken bones and then told me that they were going relocate my shoulder. The man set his hand down in preparation and I flinched because even the slightest pressure hurt. I sat and I waited for the man to pop my shoulder back in. The doctor began counting to ten, but instead of waiting for ten the man put my shoulder back in at the count of five. Then I passed out.
I watched the girl and the woman for a moment longer. They were still hugging and I could tell that they both needed it. Then I turned and started to walk away. I tripped on something, and I thought it must be another part of a body. But no, it was a book. A little black journal filled with words. I picked it up and put it in my pocket. I knew I would want to read it later. I also knew that soldiers are not supposed to keep anything they find at cleanup sites. I was painfully aware that if I got caught with the journal I could get in a lot of trouble but for some strange reason I felt like I needed to keep the journal.
When we loaded up the trucks and were preparing to leave I took one last look around. I let my eyes wander to look at every single face. I noticed the boy I had pulled from under the rubble, and the woman he had called his mother. I looked at the man and woman who had come from the same place as Leisel. I wonder if she had called those people her family. I wonder if she called everyone in this town her family. In disaster, families come closer together. Only this time, there was no one to get closer to. Everyone is dead and thereâs nowhere to turn. The dead are dead and the living are living. This is how our world works. Pain and misery seem to be the king and queen, and happiness is the lowly court jester.
One Month Later
âWerner!â Jutta cries.
I am so happy to see her healthy and happy that I just laugh and hug her in return. She guides me to her living room and asks me to tell her of my journeys. I begin to tell her about how terrifying it was, and then I remember the journal. I tell her to wait a minute while I grab it.
I pull out the journal and I show it to her. I have looked at it many times since the day I found it and I have it practically memorized. In the journal it tells the story of a young girlâs life. It took me a while to realize it but eventually I figured out that the journal belonged to Leisel. The only survivor.
I read my sister the first couple of entries. She asks me where I got the journal and I tell her that I picked up on a street called Heaven. I tell her that it had been bombed and that there was only one survivor. A girl who was only fourteen was left alone with no one. Then I tell her how the Hermannâs came and found her and took her in. I also tell her about how when Leisel saw the boy with lemon hair she kissed. I tell her about Liesel's childhood.
Leisel grew up in a small house with her papa, Hans Hubert and her mama, Rosa Hubermann. She didnât know how to read or write when she first went to live with them. She got teased for it until one day, she lost it and beat the living hell out of one of the boys in her class.
The boy with the lemon colored hair was named Rudy. He was Liesel's best friend. He always tried to protect her but most of the time she was the one protecting him. When they were about twelve years old they joined a gang of thieves that stole food from the local farmers for their families.
There were so many things that happened in Liesel's life that screamed normal child, but Leisel had a secret. In her tenth year, a man named Max showed up at her front door. He had walked in the Hubermann's door and collapsed. Leisel had been confused and had, had no idea as to who the man was. One day she asked her papa and he replied saying that the manâs father had saved her papaâs life in war and he had taught him to play the accordion. Leisel also asked why they didnât bring him to a hospital. Her papa told her that he was a Jew and if anyone found out that he was here, they would kill him and separate Liesel's family.
I was so shocked when I first read this part. I didnât understand why anyone would risk their own lives for that of a stranger. These people were holding a Jew and they had managed to hide him through security checks and all. The only other person outside of the Hubermanâs who knew was Rudy. One day Rudy and Leisel had been by the shore of the river and and Leisel had been writing in her journal. Rudy took her journal and read it. He then asked Leisel who Max was. Leisel did not know what to say so she told him the truth.
Rudy later found out about Liesel's sticky fingers when it came to books. He gave her a name that seemed to truly fit. He called her The Book Thief. I read of all the wrongdoings of Leisel, and yet I still felt like she made all the right choices. The Book Thief wasnât a thief at all. She was just taking things to keep herself from pain. She wrote how when she read it was a way to escape to a whole other world. She was able to get away from the pain and agony of the world in which she lived. She kept herself going by reading. If she hadnât read she might not have lasted. Leisel Meminger was The Book Thief and a good one too.
The last entry in the journal had been written the night that the bombs dropped. Thatâs what she mustâve been doing in the basement. Her need to write in her journal had saved her life. She said that she was happy because her papa had just come home. She also said that she missed Max and she missed talking and laughing with him. The last word wasnât quite finished because she must have fallen asleep while writing it.
My sister cried as I told of what happened after that last entry. She prayed for hours after this. Maybe my sisterâs prayers were heard because two weeks later there was announcement that all Jews are free. Something told me that if Max was still alive he was going to find Leisel.
I spent many years going around telling the tales of The Book Thief. Many people were surprised and astonished by Liesel's story. To most though, she was an inspiration. When I went to war I would leave the journal with my sister. I knew she read it over and over again because every time I would come home, the pages were a little more tarnished.
As years passed I kept the story of The Book Thief in my heart. Sometimes it was the only thing that kept me going.