This story is by Margaret Atwork and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I just wanted to see her again. I was going mad at the very thought that our world had been torn apart. I could hardly eat, I could hardly sleep. I was restless all the time. My mother was worried about me and I kept saying that I could not stand the situation any longer. Frequent visits of the secret police, questioning and all that political stuff, only because my sister had been living in the other part of the city. The truth was I had longed to see her, my angel.
I met her on a gorgeous April day. I came to see my sister who had moved to her new flat in the western part of our town soon after she had married. She was not at home so to kill the time I was strolling up and down the streets in the neighborhood. My attention attracted a girl, probably my age, wearing a bright pink coat and holding a bunch of yellow daffodils. She was standing in front of a bookshop and inspecting books in the window display. I stopped and started staring at her. The bunch of flowers was enormous. There must have been dozens of them. They must have been bound loosely with a string, as a few of them fell down on the pavement. I rushed to pick them and when I was giving the flowers back to her, our eyes met. She smiled warmly and thanked me.
“Oh, these daffodils. My grandma has given them to me.” She said as if apologizing for the trouble.
“Do you live here?” She asked.
A moment of hesitation.
“No. I … we live on the other side.”
No more comments.
She told me she studied art and she hoped to go to America one day. She and her parents had many American friends and she shared her time between parties and her easel. She tried to paint in the Georgia O’Keeffe’s style and while she was talking cheerfully and freely, I was getting tense. I was just a bricklayer. I finished my education at the age of 14 and to satisfy my parents and the party, I started to work physically. I was building the bright future for my country. I was a good bricklayer and had never heard about Georgia O’Keeffe. She was the most cheerful person I had ever met in my life. She was like a whiff of fresh air and I would risk all my life to share her world.
I never told anybody about her. A girl from the west as I used to think about her. I was from the eastern part of the town and had learned not to talk much about my life with anybody. The fact that my sister had been living in the west, had already made a lot of trouble to us.
Since that meeting, I often closed my eyes and thought about her. I did not know her name but for me, she was an angel although even day-dreamt angels were forbidden in our town. I visited my sister more frequently and hoped to bump into her again.
The summer that year brought an unexpected turn of events and yet the worst was still to come.
The government decided to close the border between the eastern and western parts of the town permanently. Permanently. We were one nation. We lived in one town. We were both responsible for the atrocities of the war. Why should we be punished even more?
“They cannot do it,” I raged.
“Oh, yes. They can, my son. They can do what they want,” mum said with resignation and she added, “Maybe it is even better. You will stop sneaking out over there. We’ve already been questioned about your sister.”
After a year the government decided to build the second wall as if it were not enough to have one concrete well-guarded wall.
And then my friend, Helmut, came up with an idea.
“We could jump over it and flee,” he suggested emotionless. “It shouldn’t take longer than counting to 10.”
“What are you talking about, Helmut?” I asked suspiciously.
“It shouldn’t be so difficult,” he started. “You will start with 10, when you reach 1 you should be already there. In freedom.”
“Easier said than done,” I thought to myself but the thought kept nagging me night and day.
It had never been easy to cross one wall and now there were two of them. Armed guards and dogs made sure nobody would make it to the other side. The second fence was strengthened with barbed fire and between the two, nobody’s area, known as the “Death Strip”.
I never mentioned it to anybody. Especially to my family. I was afraid if they knew about my plans they could even report me to the secret police to save me. And maybe they would have really saved me.
It was a beautiful sunny August day. Helmut and I had no concrete plan of action. We started walking at a leisurely pace along the wall observing the guards but trying not to attract their attraction. They seemed to enjoy the nice summer weather and did not take any notice of us. After all, we were just bricklayers and there was nothing that could arise their suspicion.
I was nervous. When I started thinking what we were about to do, I got totally paralyzed. If not physically, surely mentally. But then, I thought about her and the thought gave me courage.
My friend was more determined and sure that we would have breakfast together there the next day.
“Just climb it and run,” he said. “Do not hesitate for a moment about what you are leaving behind. It can cost your life. Just run for your life.”
I looked at my watch. Ten to two.
“Let’s go, comrade!” he whispered to me. “10. Our clock to freedom is ticking,” he added and skilfully started to climb the wall.
I followed him.
“10 … “
When I saw him safely landed in the Death Strip, I looked back. First mistake. To my horror, I saw the guards running in my direction. I hoped the guards would not start a fire. They were young boys just like me probably hating the system as much as I did.
“9 … “
“Just let me go. Let me go,” I kept whispering to myself.
“8 … “ Just when I was on top crossing the wall, without any warning, I heard a couple of gunshots and saw blood on my jacket.
“7 … “ I did not feel any pain and I thought that I had hurt myself with the wire. I heard them shouting to come down and then saw my friend disappear on the other side of the wall.
Just when I was at 6, I felt dizzy, lost balance and fell down onto the ground in the Death Strip. The wire all around me made it difficult to move. At that time I was bleeding badly. I had never seen so much blood. It was on my hands, my clothes. I felt it in my mouth.
Just 5 to go but somehow I could not move.
I started to shout for help. I cried loud, very loud. I thought my mum could hear me, Helmut can hear me and maybe he would bring some help.
“4 … “
“Hey, people, help me, please. Please help me. I need help. Take me away.”
“Help, help,” I begged them.
On both sides of the walls, people had gathered. I hoped someone would come and drag me to freedom.
“He needs help,” someone shouted. “He is bleeding badly.”
After the fall, I wanted to stand up and run but my body covered with blood was so heavy. I could move.
“There’s no time to lose. He needs help urgently,” I could hear someone saying.
I was getting weaker and weaker.
“4 … I am still at 4,” I thought to myself.
“Am I playing “Hide and Seek”? Am I hiding or searching? Then I saw her in my room. So she is in my house… When did I invite her?” I looked at my watch. 2:47.
“Throw him some bandages.”
Someone threw something at me and shouted in English.
“Americans,” I thought. “Her friends came to help me.”
I couldn’t move. I closed my eyes.
“3, 2 …”
I saw my angel-girl coming to me to dress my wounds. She said in her sweet cheerful voice that now everything would be all right. She was stroking my forehead, cleaning blood from my face, and her American friends were waiting to take me to freedom.
They started to drag me.
1 … I made it. I was finally free. Then I lost consciousness.
Ps. Peter Fechter was the 27th victim of crossing the Berlin Wall on 17th April 1962. He did not make it to the west. He bled to death.