Notes and acknowledgments: In all the focus on Rogue and Logan, I think it sometimes gets forgotten that Marie received Erik Lehnsherr's memories, too. Now what does she do with them? This little piece could fit into any or none of the various story threads I've created. Remember, I follow the film novelization that suggests Scott's parents are still alive. Thanks (as often) to Naomi for some well-placed comments and corrections. It's handy to have an editor looking over your shoulder. :-)
All of the death camp events that I relate are adapted from actual memoirs of survivors. Joseph Mengele was one of the Nazi doctors who conducted experiments on camp prisoners. Elie Wiesel, quoted herein, became (along with Primo Levi) one of the great "voices" of the holocaust. And Dietrich Bonhoeffer, also quoted herein, was a famous theologian and minister, arrested for participation in resistance activities against the Nazis. He was eventually executed on April 9, 1945 at Flossenbürg camp. He was not a Jew. Letters and Papers from Prison is the collection of material which he wrote while incarcerated. Like Steve Biko, Rev. Martin Luther King, Anna Mae Aquash, and Bishop Romero, Bonhoeffer was a modern martyr.
Sometimes, unexpected people stand by you.
Ate Wakantanka, micante ki eciya tanhan.
It's cold out. Standing at a fence, fingers twined through the links, I rub metal. Cold and hard. There is a lesson in metal. I look past the other yard, out to a field where more arrivals are marching into Birkenau. Auschwitz Two. Right off the train. The sky is greasy-grey as men, women, and children are herded up the road like cattle. They don't know yet that they go to their own slaughter. At least some of them. The weak, the old, the young. A few will be preserved, a few who are "useful."
I spent the morning with that bloody monster Joseph Mengele. He was trying, again, to figure out how I do what I do. Even I don't know that. Freak. Freak-Jew. Twice-damned.
If I could only learn to control it, I'd cut his throat with one of his own scalpels.
An hour ago, I was released to work in the yard. Now I see the new arrivals at a distance, plodding towards brick walls. Exhausted after days on a train, a young mother and her toddler cannot keep up with the group and have fallen behind. Finally, the mother lifts the child to carry her. The child's little raspberry hat bobs, a spot of bright color against that greasy-grey sky. Ash grey. Human ash. It begins to rain. Isolated drops hit me heavy, glisten on the skin of my bared, bruised wrists. Grey sky and blue bruises. A reversal of the natural. That is what this world has become.
It was raining the day I arrived with my family, too. "God is weeping," my mother had said. Before they dragged her away.
But the child is heavy and the
woman very tired. She stumbles. Impatient, one of the soldiers pulls the
child from her arms, tosses it away into the grass and shoves her on. At
this distance, I cannot hear the screams of mother or child except in my
imagination. The mother is dragged along with the prisoners. The child
is left in the grass. I watch her, watch the raspberry hat go around and
around in circles in the rain until finally, too tired to move further,
the child falls down. In my mind, the unheard wails of her mother echo a
long time. My fingers stroke the cool metal of the fence. I must be like
the metal. Metal feels no pain.
Marie woke screaming. Kitty and Jubilee were there instantly. "Rogue?" Kitty hit the light switch on her desk lamp.
Warm yellow drove away the grey. Rogue took deep breaths. Her right hand was clenching Logan's dogtags. Jubilee hugged her tightly through the safety of her nightgown. "He'll be home, girlfriend," she said. "He told you he'd come back."
Rogue shook her head. They always misunderstood. It wasn't Logan. Someone was knocking on the door and Kitty answered. Mr. Summers, dressed in his New York Knicks t-shirt. The teachers took turns. This must be his night. "Marie? Another nightmare?"
"You want to talk?"
Normally, she said 'no' and whoever had come to check on her would go back to bed. It had become so common in the past three weeks since the incident on the Statue of Liberty that it was almost rote routine. She wondered why the teachers even kept coming. She was like the little boy who cried wolf.
But this time, she nodded and stood up. She wasn't sure why it was different tonight. Maybe just because it was Mr. Summers, not Dr. Grey or Miss Munroe. Miss Munroe was too calm, Dr. Grey too perfect (and Logan too infatuated with her). But despite Mr. Summers' reputation around school as a tight-ass, and despite Logan's memories in her head (or maybe because of Logan's memories), he didn't scare her. So she nodded and stood up, said, "Yeah, I think I would like to talk." She took the robe that Kitty held out to her, one of Kitty's own. Mr. Summers stepped aside to let her exit.
"Where do you want to go?" he asked her.
She shrugged; he waited a moment, then said, "Come on." And took her to the kitchen. He poured milk into two mugs and heated them in the microwave. Then he put honey and vanilla in them while she watched. When he brought her a mug, she said, "Thank you," and, "That t-shirt's about to fall apart. You might should find another."
He took a chair opposite hers at the little eat-in table in one corner of the big commercial kitchen. "That's what Jean tells me. I've had it since college."
"You went to college?"
He laughed at her, but in a friendly way. "Yes, I went to college. How do you think I got my teaching certificate?"
"Nobody bugged you? For, you know, being a mutant?"
"A few did. Most didn't. Believe it or not, the average person has better things to do with his or her time than harass mutants." He grinned at her.
"Oh." She sipped the milk. "This is good. Funny, ain't it, how warm milk makes you sleep?"
"Must be dim memories from infancy."
"So ?" he asked.
"You having Logan's nightmares?"
"No, dammit!" She immediately put a hand over her mouth. "Sorry."
He seemed mostly amused. "It's okay, Marie. I've used that word occasionally. I've used a few more colorful ones, too, and I bet you have, as well."
That made her smile. He really was funny. He cracked jokes in class all the time, but only about half the students got them. Logan had thought him a wise-ass. He probably was. She thought him funny anyway.
"They're not Logan's nightmares," she said now.
"Your own then?"
She just shook her head. He didn't hurry her, let her speak in her own time. "They're Eric Lehnsherr's. Megneto."
"Oh." He seemed a bit at a loss. He and Logan might not have hit it off, but at least they'd fought on the same side.
"Everybody thinks it's Logan in my head. Always Logan. That I have his nightmares. It's not that his memories are pure as driven snow or anything." Mr. Summers grinned at that. "But it's just What happened to him, happened to him, y'know? It was pretty bad, but he's just one guy. Maybe there were others, too. There probably were. But how many? Ten? Twenty? I don't mean to sound callous, like it's all about numbers. But it was millions in Germany, y'know? Six million or more. What Eric lived through It's a lot stronger in my head. Weird, huh?" She hugged herself, looked off at a corner of the kitchen. Someone needed to use a vacuum under the edge of the counter. "Maybe it's because it didn't all happen to Erik. He had to witness it happening to somebody else.
"He was in Birkenau. Auschwitz two, they call it. There were different kinds of camps. Some were just holding camps. Birkenau was a death camp. By the time the Nazi's fled and burned the books, by the time the Russians came, he was so weak he couldn't stand up. Just a skeleton with skin and lice. The Russians they didn't even want to touch him. His best friend had died, and he was all alone. Like me."
She looked back at him, wished she could see his eyes. "I feel sorry for him. I know why he's like he is. I know why he tried to do what he did. I don't forgive him, but I feel sorry for him. Do you think I'm horrible?"
"No, Marie. I don't think you're horrible."
"I'm not even sure he ain't right."
"He's not right."
"But it happened once, Mr. Summers. Why do you think it won't happen again?"
"I don't know that it won't. Human beings seem to have an amazing ability to butcher each other over insignificant differences, whether it's lynching blacks, shooting Indians, beating up gypsies, or gassing Jews. Maybe we're next. But making a pre-emptive strike isn't the answer. And I don't believe that having a mutant gene makes me a better man than someone who doesn't have one. We're not homo sapiens, superior. I hate that name."
She sipped more milk. "But nobody cares what happens to us. I heard some guy got beat to death yesterday, in Cincinnati, in broad daylight. Cause he was a mutant. Police didn't come till it was too late."
Reaching out, he put his hand over hers resting on the table, gripped hard. "And they don't necessarily hurry when the person is a black alcoholic indigent, either. A black man is far more likely to be stopped and questioned by police than a white man. Even if the white man is wearing sunglasses indoors. I've seen it happen with my own eyes. To my best friend. We were dressed exactly the same the only difference was the color of our skin. Those are the ugly realities, Marie. The world isn't fair and justice isn't color-blind. Or bribe-resistant, either. That doesn't mean I'm going after cops in my spare time. There are good cops out there. And honest people. And not all Germans were Nazis. Some of them fought Hitler."
"But who's gonna fight for us, except us?"
"You might be surprised. Do you assume that this school funds itself? Or that the professor and Warren's father can pay for it all? They're rich. They're not that rich. Most of the donors aren't mutants, or related to mutants. Most of them aren't even wealthy. They're just people. Like us."
"But we're not 'just people.'"
"Yes, we are." He tightened his hold on her hand. "Look at me." She did as he said; saw herself reflected in red: white streak against dark hair, dark eyes in a white face. "Don't ever forget that we're people, Marie. We have a slightly different genetic code, but we're people. We're human. Don't think of yourself as less than non-mutants. But don't think of yourself as more, either. You have a gift "
"I have a curse!"
"I could say the same thing. My fiancee won't see my eyes on our wedding day. She'll probably never see my eyes at all. Without these glasses, I could turn this whole mansion to rubble in under five minutes. Mostly, I don't think of it as a curse, though. That didn't happen overnight, but it happened. My attitude changed."
"What color are your eyes, anyway?"
Why on earth had she asked that? It seemed to catch him by surprise, too. Then out came his quirky grin and he went with the subject change. A body could be serious only so long. "They're blue."
"Light blue or dark blue?"
"Light blue, Miss Nosey. That kind of flat blue shade."
She smiled and pulled her fingers out of his. "Oh, my. It's a good thing you got the glasses, then, or you'd turn a few hearts to rubble instead of the mansion."
He just laughed. "Well, if I can ever lose the shades, I'll hide behind Jean."
She finished her milk. It was almost cool now. He watched her. "I think I'm ready to go back to sleep," she told him.
"Okay." And he walked her back to her room. Outside, he took her by surprise by hugging her tight in one arm and pulling some of her hair across her forehead to kiss her quick through it. Brave guy. But she supposed that was why he was leader of the X-Men. "Sleep tight, don't let the bed-bugs bite, kid-o. Or the nightmares. Come find me, if you need to talk again. You know where I live."
She grinned up at him. "I do. Thanks, Mr. Summers. And I won't tell Jubilee what color your eyes are."
Laughing, he headed back to his own room and the woman who couldn't see his eyes but loved him anyway.
The next day, as he walked into math class, he passed by her spot on the end of a long table and dropped two books in front of her. Letters and Papers from Prison by some guy named Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and a thin little book by Elie Wiesel that she recognized from Eric's memories. Eric had known Elie Wiesel. They'd both been teens in Auschwitz. And survived. Once, later, they'd met again. She opened the front of the book. It was signed by Wiesel himself, and on the other side, across from the title page, Eric had written, "To Charles. So you can understand." She had the memories of the day he had given the book to the professor.
After class, Mr. Summers said,
"You can return the books to Professor Xavier, when you're done
Beneath, at the chapter's end, was
written: That child wasn't a Jew. A smooth, fine hand. Different
from the one in which the dedication had been written.
The students didn't have individual mail boxes because most of them had no need for them. Nobody was writing them letters. Those who did get mail picked it up in the office, or had it slipped under their doors by Miss Munroe or Mr. Summers.
Bobby Drake was one of the lucky ones. He and Rogue and Kitty Pryde were coming back from lunch and he stopped in his room to drop off one set of books and pick up another. There was a letter under his door. He grinned, when he saw the writing on it.
"Parents?" Kitty asked.
"No, my friend Joe."
"He graduate from here before I came?" Rogue asked.
"Oh, no. Joe's no mutant. He's my next door neighbor. We grew up together." He turned the letter so they could see the front address. "He calls me 'Iceman.'" And he grinned that wonderful Bobby-grin.
Rogue wondered what it was like,
to have a friend who wasn't a mutant but who still wrote letters?
The book Eric had given the professor wasn't the only one annotated. Marie discovered the second book, the one by Bonhoeffer, had been marked and written in, as well. Page 27:
I believe that God both can and will bring good out of evil. For that purpose he needs men who make the best use of everything. I believe God will give us all the power we need to resist in all time of distress. But he never gives it in advance, lest we should rely upon ourselves and not on him alone. A faith as strong as this should allay all our fears for the future. I believe that even our errors and mistakes are turned to good account. It is no harder for God to cope with them than with what we imagine to be our good deeds. I believe God is not just timeless fate, but that he waits upon and answers sincere prayer and responsible action.
I recall the day Moshe died. He had been the only one not frightened of me, not frightened by what I could do with metal. But he had grown weak in these past weeks. He had been abused for too long, and his once-bright spirit had faded along with the flesh off his bones. Soon, they would come for him. He had outlived his strength and his pretty face, and thus, his usefulness.
We learned, in Birkenau, to respect death. To respect choice. For three days before, he gave me his bread, told me to hide it in my bed. I did as he asked. On the third day, he embraced me before we went out into the yard, said goodbye. The sun was shining. It was almost pleasant.
There is a no-man's land between the outer fence and the yard where we are permitted to go. The signs along it read, "Halt!" This space had been used before for the same purpose to which Moshe put it that day. He flung himself out into it, as if racing for the fence. The soldiers in the towers above shot him.
He was free. But it left me alone.
Marked, page 221, a poem entitled "Who Am I?":
Who am I? They often tell me
"Jubilee, do you believe in God?"
Jubilee lifted her dark head and narrowed her eyes at Rogue. "Why you want to know?"
"I guess I do. I mean, like, who made the universe if not God? But I ain't exactly into church."
"I believe in God," Kitty said, firmly.
"I don't know if I do," Rogue told them. "If there's a God up there, why'd he make me like this? So nobody can touch me?"
"I don't know," Kitty replied. "God works in mysterious ways."
"That's a line of bullshit the preacher gives you when he can't answer your question."
"That doesn't mean it's not true!" Kitty seemed indignant. "I mean, God's omniscient. He sees everything in the past and the future. You can't. He knows why you're like you are. There must be a reason for it."
"How do you know God's a 'he'?" Jubilee asked with a smirk. "Seems kinda dumb, when you think about it. After all, don't the Bible say we were created in God's image? How could God create women if God was a dude?"
"Whatever," Kitty replied. "It's just figurative! He, she . . . Who cares? But I'm not going to call God 'It'!"
Rogue got up and left her friends to argue over the gender of God as she wandered the halls for a while, wishing Logan were around. But he wasn't. Logan was chasing his tail up in Canada. So she went down to Mr. Summer's office. He was working at his desk, writing by hand probably grading papers. He had a CD playing. Mary Chapin Carpenter. Stones in the Road. She knew that whole CD by heart, but hadn't expected it to be something Mr. Summers would listen to. Then again, he had more CDs than he had books, and that was a lot. He looked up. "Hi, Marie."
She sidled in, wrapped her scarf around her hand. "You like Mary Chapin Carpenter?"
"She's a country singer."
"So? She's a great song-writer. Her best stuff usually doesn't get air-play."
Rogue smiled. "I like the first one on that album best. 'Why walk when you can fly?'"
He grinned back. "Me, too. You have it?"
"I did. It's back in Mississippi. I couldn't exactly take my CD collection with me. Kinda heavy on the road."
"I'll make you a tape."
She continued to stand there, twisting her scarf. He watched her. Finally, she just blurted, "Do you believe in God?"
Maybe he blinked, but of course she couldn't tell. "Not especially."
Somehow, that wasn't what she'd expected him to say. "But you gave me those books and the guy Bonhoeffer was a preacher. He talks about God all the time."
"Bonhoeffer was a theologian, actually. A very famous one. And I can agree with many of his sentiments, admire him as a person, without sharing all his beliefs, Marie."
"So you're an atheist?"
"I'm an agnostic. I'm not convinced there is a God. But I'm not convinced there's not one, either."
"I think that's me, too. What about the professor?
"He was raised a Quaker and still is one, in many ways. But he can't support pacifism any more."
"And Dr. Grey? If you don't mind my asking "
"Jean's Episcopalian. Loosely."
"Did you go to church when you were a kid?" She knew her questions bordered on rude her mother would be appalled but he didn't seem to mind.
"I went every Sunday. I was raised Catholic. My parents are devout."
"What do they think of you not going now?"
"I have no idea. My parents and I don't talk much these days."
"Oh." She wandered over to his bookshelves, ran her fingers over the colorful spines of books. For a math teacher, he read a lot that wasn't math. History, anthropology, mythology, even travel books. Lots of science stuff, of course. And novels. He must like science fiction. He was watching her; she could feel his eyes on her back. And maybe he wouldn't care, but it seemed fair to give him the same information about her that she'd asked of him. "I was raised Southern Baptist. No big surprise, coming from Mississippi. My parents weren't really into church, though. We only went on Easter and Christmas and Mother's Day. But when I was in high school, I joined the youth group and sang in the choir. There was a cute guy in the choir."
He chuckled. "I hear you. Amazing what hormones will get you to do. Jean wants a church wedding. All the bells and whistles and a long white dress."
"So you gonna do it?"
"If I want to marry her and quit living in sin, I suppose I'll have to."
Turning, Rogue grinned at him. "Oh, but big weddings are such fun."
"If you're masochistic. Were
it up to me, we'd elope."
Men and women were kept in separate parts of Birkenau. We had no access to one another. Some might suppose that the men turned to each other, then, to meet certain physical needs. But desire is a casualty of depression and fear and hunger. Just another way we lost our humanity.
The guards, however, weren't depressed, frightened or hungry. So they used our wives and sisters and daughters. Reed-thin and shaven-headed, hipbones showing and no breast left. It wasn't for their attractiveness. It was just another expression of their power over us. They sometimes used boys, too, but thank God, I wasn't pretty enough.
Moshe was. I remember the first time they brought him back. They'd given him bread for his 'services.' Weeping, he threw it on the ground and tried to stomp on it. I grabbed it away and sat him down, held him in my arms while he cried. And then I made him eat the bread. "Use everything," I told him. "Survive. That's the best revenge of all."
Those were the same words he said to me, a year later, when he gave me his bread for three days before he took his own life. "Use everything. Survive for me, Eric. You're special. God made you special."
But like Feuerbach, I believe God
is just a reflection of what Man needs him to be. For me, a teacher.
Birkenau was a learning experience. "The boundary," said
Paul Tillich, "is the best place for acquiring knowledge."
Another section marked, page 21:
All the time goodness is successful we can afford the luxury of regarding success as having no ethical significance. But the problem arises when success is achieved by evil means. It is no good then behaving as an arm-chair critic and disputing the issue, for that is to refuse to face the facts. Nor is opportunism any help, for that is to capitulate before success. We must be determined not to be outraged critics or mere opportunists. We must take our full share of responsibility for the moulding of history, whether it be as victors or vanquished . . . To talk about going down fighting like heroes in face of certain defeat is not really heroic at all, but a failure to face up to the future. The ultimate question the man of responsibility asks is not, How can I extricate myself heroically from the affair?, but, How is the coming generation to live? It is only in this way that fruitful solutions can arise . . . For it is their future which is at stake.
And beneath that, in a completely different hand, square and blocky like an engineer's: I will.
It was the same hand that meticulously graded her math exams.
She took out a pen and beneath
Scott Summers' words wrote, "Me too."
"Good morning, Rogue. Come in."
"I just wanted to return these and thank you, sir."
He smiled and took the books from her hands. He was never shy of her gloved touch. "You're quite welcome."
"I remember," she tapped her skull, "when he gave you Night."
The professor just nodded. He'd noticed that she'd marked one page in Bonhoeffer with a blue post-it note tab. He opened to the page, read what she'd written. His smile was warm.
"I think I need to go to college," she said. "To get a teaching certificate. CUNY, maybe? Don't think I want to go to Berkeley like Mr. Summers. Don't think my grades are good enough to get in there."
"You have a year or two, to improve them. And we shall see about getting you the requisite college applications when the time is right."
She smiled, turned to go, but paused at the door. "Professor?"
"Next time you go to visit Mr. Lehnsherr, would you take me?"
A brief silence. She felt the
brush of his mind on hers. Then, quietly, "Yes, Rogue. I
She hadn't been sure if she could find a tattoo artist willing to give her the tattoo she wanted. Not because she was a mutant, but because of what the tattoo was. Finally she found a woman in Greenwich village who agreed to it. It took about an hour, and fifty dollars.
She hadn't told anyone of her plan
in advance. And didn't tell anyone after, either. They'd be mad at her.
But she always wore long opera gloves and the tattoo was small. No one
was likely to notice for a while.
"Eric, I've brought you a new chess partner."
Hands grasped behind his back, the white-haired man regarded Rogue thoughtfully. His eyebrow was up. "Have you come to forgive your would-be-murderer? How quaint."
"It's okay," Rogue said, then stood up straight and faced her nemesis with the same posture, hands behind her own back. "I'm not forgiving you. Not like you mean. 'Turn the other cheek' and all that. But I got you in my head. It's not just your powers, y'know. I got your memories, too."
Lehnsherr actually appeared interested, came over and sat down in the clear plastic seat on one side of the clear plastic chessboard. "Fascinating."
Charles Xavier regarded them both with a faint grin. Rogue understood why Eric found that smile so annoying. "I'll leave you two, to talk." And he let the guard wheel him out in his special plastic chair. "Come when you're ready, Rogue."
Rogue took the extra seat on the chessboard's other side, across from Legnsherr. "So what do you remember?" he asked.
"Bits and pieces. Not everything, not any more. Most of it faded. But a few things stuck. A few nightmares."
She pulled off her right opera glove; he watched, apparently unalarmed by this sudden baring of skin even though he knew precisely what she could do to him. The guards were far enough away that she could hurt him badly, if not kill him, before they could get in to stop her.
But killing him wasn't her interest. She held out the newly-tattooed arm where he could see. "I remember that, for instance."
For the first time, his lined face showed a genuine emotion. Shock. "I don't forgive you," she went on. "But I wanted you to know that there'll be somebody around who won't forget what happened."
Picking up her glove, he used the protection of silk over his forefinger to trace the outline of numbers on her flesh. Not his numbers.
"Moshe," he said, quietly. "This was Moshe's number."
"He was right, your friend. He told you to survive because you're special. But so is everybody, y'know? We're all special. Moshe loved you like a brother. But he wasn't a mutant. Don't forget that. Heh?"
"You lecture me, child?"
"Yeah. I do. You gave me a lot of shit to deal with. I got this shit in my head. From you. I have the right to give you some back."
Lehnsherr actually cracked a smile. "I like an opponent who speaks her mind. Shall we play chess, my dear?" He indicated the board between them.
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