Across the Wall
I was born the year they built the Wall. It was a hideous monstrosity of concrete, barbed wire, and guard towers. They said that the Wall was there to protect us, that the people on the other side were "fascists" and "revanchists." But everyone knew the truth. They didn't build the Wall to keep out dangerous enemies. They built it to keep us in.
Ever since I was a little girl, I felt drawn to a particular section of the Wall at a particular time of day. Every day that I could, I went to that part of the Wall at that time of the day and stood there, just for a minute or two. Of course, I had to be careful not to get too close to the Wall or else I'd be shot by the border guards who were there to "protect" us.
"What do you stand there for, Comrade Heidi?" I was sometimes asked.
"I don't know," I could only reply.
I couldn't explain it. I just had this vague feeling that there was something on the direct opposite side of the Wall calling to me. It was like I was meant to be joined to it, but was cut off instead. Even if I could have explained this feeling, I wouldn't have dared voice it. There was probably a Stasi file on me as it was. "Comrade Heidi Baumann is daily engaged in suspicious counterrevolutionary staring contest with the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart," it probably said.
As I grew up in the shadow of the Wall, under the flag of the hammer and compass, I continued to visit that section of the Wall every day that I could. Some of the details changed over the years. The Young Pioneer uniform I often wore during my visits to the Wall gave way to an FDJ uniform. My method of traveling there changed as well, from a child's skip to a clunky Trabant. On the rare days that I couldn't manage a visit to the Wall, I felt a sharp stab of guilt, as though I had abandoned someone calling for help. But what sense did that make? I wasn't making a difference just by standing there.
So it went until the twenty-eighth year of my life. Following reforms in the Soviet Union, Poland, and Hungary, our own hardline government finally began to bend to the people's will. Erich Honecker, our intransigent fossil of a leader, was ousted. And then, on the evening of November 9, 1989, Günter Schabowski announced on television that the border with the West was now open. After all this time, could it really be true?
I went to see if it was. It wasn't exactly an original thought. Huge crowds were gathering at the checkpoints in the Wall to see if the border was really opening. The border guards seemed to know nothing about any change in policy, but they eventually gave in and let the people pass through. They were greeted warmly by the people on the other side, the people whom our government would have us believe were "fascists." Soon, people were climbing over the Wall, but no one was shooting at them. The Wall had become harmless.
I ran to the section of the Wall to which I had always been drawn. A hand reached down to help me up and I took it. As I came up onto the Wall, I gazed into the face of a twenty-eight-year-old woman. She was… me. A different me. A Western me, with a mass of curly hair atop her head and a most peculiar outfit composed of bright, neon colors. We embraced as we came together on top of the Wall.
As I would soon learn, she was Marlene Baumann, the identical twin sister I had never known. She had been with relatives in the West on that day in 1961 when the Wall was built. No doubt hoping to spare us the pain of separation, our respective guardians had both chosen to never tell us about the other.
And yet, we had somehow been able to sense the other. For as long as we could remember, we had felt the same pull. On every day that we could, we had stood directly across from each other, as close as we could be with the Wall in the way.
Matthew McAyeal is a writer from Portland, Oregon. His short stories have been published by Bards and Sages Quarterly, Fantasia Divinity Magazine, cc&d, The Fear of Monkeys, Danse Macabre, The Metaworker, Scarlet Leaf Magazine, Bewildering Stories, The Magazine of History & Fiction, Tall Tale TV, Fiction on the Web, and Necro Magazine. In 2008, two screenplays he wrote were semi-finalists in the Screenplay Festival. "Across the Wall" is a story about two sisters separated by the Berlin Wall. It is 726 words and was previously published in cc&d, Bewildering Stories, Tall Tale TV, DM du Jour, and Scarlet Leaf Review.