Sunday, 11 April 2010
FFF #28 A New World Tomorrow
So, another week, another FFF!
Thanks Cormac, for giving us the focus to write, and thank you Paul B for an interesting starter sentence.
Here's my offering, a little different from my usual stuff....
A New World Tomorrow
"The trouble with me is that I never realise how deep in the shit I am until I'm choking on the stuff."
It wasn’t a joke this time. I said it quietly, almost to myself. I didn’t want her to worry. But, as it was currently lapping under my chin, perhaps now was the right time to finally start panicking.
We’d been down here for hours. I was almost used to the stench. Even breathing through my mouth it still caught in my throat and made me retch.
I tried to ignore what floated past me, thankful it was so dark. My sense of touch hadn’t gone though. Ugh!
“How much longer?” From her perch above me, Maddy’s voice echoed along the brick roofing. With the level rising we’d scrabbled around in the filth until I’d spotted a small ledge sticking out from the curvature of the sewer wall. Only room for one, though, and seeing Madelena descending into near hysteria I’d helped her up there.
“I don’t know. Not long,” I lied. We were already an hour past the deadline. The river of excrement had steadied, but I was struggling to keep my footing. Sooner or later the cold would get to me. The foetid liquid around me was giving off nitrous gasses, a faint sheen of fog rising into the cold, dank air.
It was time to face the reality of our sad existence. We had foolishly relied on others to help us to escape. We had followed their instructions, even though something in the back of my mind had repeatedly echoed, “..what if..”. We had given our futures into the hands of people who had not delivered.
And now I knew what that future held.
Escaping to freedom was our biggest wish. Since our parents had died, it had just been me and Maddy. Our Mother had made me promise, as she lay dying in that austere and crowded hospital ward, that we would reach the West; that we would not stay here, living in the time warp created on this side of the Iron Curtain
And I’d promised that her children, and the generations that might follow, would never live like prisoners, without hope. It would be a whole new world, a new tomorrow, starting with both of us.
“Viktor?” Maddy’s voice was whispered and quiet. “Will I be able to go to university when we get out?”
Madelena had nurtured hopes of becoming a writer one day. But the Soviet regime had been less willing to support the free-thinking teachers of literature and philosophy, preferring to force the production of munitions and pushing the boundaries of science.
“Of course,” I whispered back, glad she could not see the tears in my eyes. “And I’ll be able to get a good job as a mechanic.” That was one legacy I would carry into our future. I’d avoided conscription by working hard in the factory. Learning to use my hands had become the best way I could think of to escape the monotony of the cheerless life that had descended on our country after the war.
I closed my eyes, listening to Maddy humming a song to herself. It was 1962 and I knew, now, that we would never reach the West, where young people like us looked forward to futures filled with bright hopes and unlimited opportunities.
We had walked for miles into the sewers, following the instructions we had been given. It had cost us most of the money we had. Everything else had been left behind. All we carried of the past were a few simple possessions and family memories.
We had done as we were told. We had waited. Someone would meet us and lead us to a place where we could cross over into freedom.
But, they haven’t come. They are never coming.
Half an hour has passed. It’s quieter now.
I held Maddy down, her head trying to rear up against the force of my hand searching for breath, until she stopped struggling and lay still. Then I let her go, let her drift away from me.
I could not bear to see her face when they came to take us back. Or think of what would become of her when I was deported to some far flung munitions factory, probably never to see her again.
But she is free, now. And soon I will join her.
I hear the sirens and wonder whether to struggle here, forcing my head into the mire, ending my escape, or simply to welcome the bullet as I run from those who pursue me.
Soon it will be over, one way or another.
Forgive me, Mother.