An excerpt from Deutshland (working title). Anna Howden, an American citizen, looks back on her childhood in Nazi Germany, and remembers her friends who fought beside her against the SS and Hitler's totalitatian rule. Based on the true story of the Edelweiss Pirates and Fritz Theilen, who escaped Gestapo imprisonment and survived the war.
The sky was the colour of a dove's breast, a soft and feathery grey, stroked by weak fingers of sunlight. It promised snow. Purifying snow. I hoped it would fall soon.
It was November 1944, and it was Cologne. Köln. Nazi Germany. It was early morning, and it was cold. And in five minutes, they would hang thirteen children.
I felt I owed it to them to be there when they died.
The square was filled with unease. You could see it slouching against smoky doorways, all wrinkled nose and heavy coat. You could feel it breathing on your neck, raising the little hairs there until they all stood on tiptoe. You smelt it in the smell of your stale, sweaty neighbour, heard it in the staccato wail of a child.
Looking back, I'm sure it was really a bustling moment, full of noise and movement, but in my memories, I'm alone. It's silent and grey, like the old films. And I just stand there, waiting. Perpetually waiting, caught in a greyscale world between word, a space between spaces. A ghost.
The only colour in the whole world is red. Red and grey and black and white. Black of the cobbles beneath my feet. White of my skin. Grey of the sky. Red of the flag flapping against the wall. That ugly flag. Such a symbol of hope and power, then. Such a symbol of everything we hate in ourselves, now.
The juxtaposition of the ages.
In those first few years, we would have followed him anywhere. We gladly sent our fathers, brothers, husbands, sons - sent them to their deaths. When we saw atrocities, we shrugged and smiled - we were the great Aryan, German race. We followed a wonderful, powerful man, a man with a dream, a man whose dream we shared.
We didn't see the truth until it was too late. And even when we did - what then?
In my dreams, I'm the one who betrayed them. And there's red blood against my white, white hands. And no matter how hard I try, I can't wipe it off. It's ingrained into my skin. Sometimes I wake up, and for a moment I think it's still there.
But I don't wake up, not for a few minutes yet.
The blood begins to roll down my fingers, thick and wet and warm. It trips lazily, almost tenderly, onto the black cobbles. It drips, and it drips, and there's a pool of blood at my feet that grows larger and larger, and suddenly the world isn't black and white, it's red and red - red on red on red on red - blood and blood, endless seas of it, and I turn, and there's Fritz, standing there smiling at me, but he's dead, I can tell from the glassy, unseeing look in his eyes, the blood in his hair and the flies on his white, white cheeks, and I'm screaming, I'm screaming but I can't hear a thing, and why don't I wake up, why won't I wake up?
And just before I do, just before it all stops and I'm alone in my bed with sweat, not blood, all over my hands-
-I look up at the sky-
-to that dove-grey, snow-laden sky-
-and I see a swastika, painted in blood-
-and it drips-
-drips like a bleeding heart-
-like my bleeding heart-
-drips onto my forehead-
And I wake up.