Juvenilia: Back in the Stalag (An Unwilling Time-Traveler, Part 4)

Part I

Part II

Part III

They put me back in my old barracks, which hadn’t changed much.  Even the mouse still lived there.

I sat on a bunk staring into space until the guard fetched me for dinner.  Looking around for familiar faces, my heart stopped as I spotted Scott.  For a moment I thought I was dreaming about a dead friend again.

I inched toward him, clutching my bowl and cup as if fearing he was a ghost, until he saw me and invited me to sit with him.  I did, only taking my eyes off him to set down my bowl and cup.

He laughed.  “Think I’m a ghost or something?” he said.

“Actually, yeah,” I said.

“I’m flesh and blood, just like you.”

“But why?”


“Last time I saw you, you were lying face-down on the ground.”

“Just wounded in the leg.  They fixed me up, put me in the cooler for a while, and here I am, good as new.”

“Did they hurt or kill anybody after the escape?”

“They’re not allowed to because of the Geneva Convention.  They just stuck us in the cooler and had us bury the ones who got killed.”

“Including–” I gulped– “Torsten?”

“They took care of him themselves.  They said one of the prisoners killed him, but I saw that Kraut shoot him.  They just didn’t want anybody on the outside finding out one of their own guards helped us escape.  They probably weren’t too happy he got shot in the first place, even though he helped us.”

“That’s a relief.  I hope I can visit his grave someday, maybe fifty-some years in the future, and put flowers on it.”

“How did you end up with the escapees?”

“I left on impulse when Torsten died.”

He grimaced.  “Running away from your problems, eh?  So what’d you do while you were gone?  I’ve really missed you.”

I told him about my flight and the couple who took me in.  “I felt so safe there.  I don’t know if I’ll ever feel safe anywhere again.”

“I’m amazed the Frau turned you in.”

“They’re members of the German Evangelical Church.  You remember how the Nazis were in control of that during the War–I mean, do you know they are in control?”

“I don’t believe I’ve heard that.”

“She’s a Christian, but she believed her pastor when he preached Naziism.  Just like in the old South when they preached slavery was biblical.  I don’t think the Mann and Volker did, but she did.”

“So she believed der Fury.”


“That’s what I call Hitler.”

“You know, you look older.”

“Of course.  I’m twenty-two years old now.  You also look ol–no, you don’t.”  He looked closely at me.  “You look just the same as before.  Even your hair’s the same: same length, same everything.”

“That’s because I’m still only seventeen.”

“But that shouldn’t be.”

“But it is.  I haven’t aged.  Time has passed without me.”

“Did your time-traveling cause that?”  He leaned forward, his eyes wide.


“And I thought you’d still be only three years younger than me.  Now you’re still the age of a high-school girl and I’m old enough to be out of college.”

After dinner, we went to our separate barracks because of the coming night, but we had a chance to talk again the next afternoon.  I told him everything that happened the last two times Torsten and I were together–then broke down and sobbed.

“I killed him,” I cried.  “It’s all my fault!”

“No, it isn’t,” Scott said.  “You had no way of knowing what would happen to him.  If anyone’s to blame, it’s the guard who shot him, but I suppose he felt it was his duty.  You’re completely innocent.  But go ahead and cry, darling.  You’ve been through a lot for your age.  The war has done that to people, aging us fast.  Even you.”

That “darling” took me aback for a moment, but I cried myself out on his shoulder as we stood inside my barracks.  Holding me and saying nothing, he comforted me with his silent support.  Afterwards, I looked up at him, wanting to thank him, but he kissed my forehead.  He said,

“I have a problem as well: My girl wrote me a Dear John letter saying she couldn’t handle being separated like this.  So she found somebody else.”

“It’s not like you’ll be gone much long–whoops, forget I said anything.”

He brushed a few wet strands of hair off my face.  “I’m not even sure what you meant.”

I smiled with relief–as he moved a little closer.

“We’ll have to comfort each other.”  He kissed me again, but not on the forehead.  I was too spent to push him away, but didn’t really want to.

“Why’d you do that?”

“Because I’m crazy about you.  You’re so pretty, intelligent, a Christian–”

“And you’ve just been dumped.  You’re on the rebound.”

“I’m not sure what you just said.  But I’ve been thinking about you ever since you left.  I started to fall in love about a year ago, even though I didn’t know if I’d ever see you again.”

“You also never broke it off with your girlfriend.  She had to do it.”

“Don’t you feel anything for me?”

“Torsten took my heart with him to the grave.”

“It’s been two years.  Even widows fall in love again.  You’re too young to bury your own heart.”

“Not me, not now.”

“You may not think so, but I felt it in your lips.”

I couldn’t argue with him: I wasn’t even sure how I felt.  “Please, I need to be alone to think about it.”

Hope in his eyes, he said “okay” and left.  I threw myself onto my favorite lower bunk.

I thought I felt nothing but the love of a sister in Christ toward him–but I wasn’t quite sure.  Just ten minutes ago, I knew what’s what.  “Help!” I prayed.

At dinner, I sat with him as usual, but the atmosphere was strained.  He often smiled at me for no apparent reason.  I avoided the topic until we headed for the barracks, then said,

“For the time being, we’re just friends, okay?”

He nodded, but smiled at the same time.  Apparently, to him, “for the time being” meant “later it’ll change.”  Actually, it might.

The next morning, the Kommandant called me into his office.  Wondering what he wanted, I trembled while standing in front of his desk.

He looked up at me and said, “Herr Bismarck has been informed you are here.  He is coming to see you this afternoon.  You are his prisoner, so he may do to you whatever he wishes.  He told me he wants to take you to his home, then return you this evening.”

“Could–Corporal Scott Clifford come with me as moral support?  I don’t want to be alone with Bismarck.”

“Only if Herr Bismark allows it.  If so, I shall have to send a guard along to prevent escape.”  His voice froze.  “This one won’t help you.  Dismissed.”

I trembled to see the Kommandant, but shook to see Bismarck.  A guard and Scott stood beside him, a comfort in spite of recent events.  All three stood in front of a Volkswagen.

“Nice to see you again, my little Ally,” Bismarck said.  “I heard you left these accommodations for a little while.  Was your emotional well-being destroyed here?”

“No, just harmed a little.”

“Are you still a–” he grinned– “maiden?”

“Yes.  No harm done there.”

We got in the car, Scott behind me, the guard behind Bismarck so he could watch Scott and me.  After about half an hour of driving, Bismarck pulled up to a large house in the middle of nowhere.  The guard behind us, Bismarck led us into the house and up a flight of stairs.

He told the guard to wait at the foot of another flight in a different part of the house.  He led Scott and me up some old, narrow, rail-less, winding stairs to an attic laboratory.  He didn’t even stop to take off his coat.

We picked our way carefully up those stairs.  We went through a trap door, hung over by a pulley, into the lab.  It was full of the usual scientific paraphernalia–test tubes, Bunsen burners, beakers–and papers with diagrams, information, and articles.

He shut the door.  “In my coat pocket is a loaded revolver, so try nothing.”

He led us around, showing us everything.  “My time card works perfectly now.  I know exactly where and when I’m going whenever I time-travel.  If your guard heard us talking, young man, he’d think me insane, and wouldn’t be much help to me.  That is, if he understands English.  I thought you might as well see this, however, since Madge the Ally wanted you with her.  You probably think I’m just an eccentric old man, but I don’t care what you think.”

“No, I don’t think you are,” Scott said.  “Madge my friend already told me about you.”

“I see you’re a feisty one, countering my epithets like that.”

I always wondered where he learned so many big English words.  He must’ve had a good teacher.  And he was probably a brilliant student.

“While I was with you, Madge, I researched this war.  I tried to tell Hitler the outcome, but found that one cannot change history.  I made the mistake of going to him too early.  We were still winning, so he thought I was mad.  I told him I was a time traveler, but he laughed me out of his office.  He deserves to know nothing.”

I couldn’t resist a jab at Hitler.  “Wouldn’t he believe you if you said you were a fortune teller?”

“I would not submit myself to such indignity.  But I have a plan that will send chills up your spine: I found out about your time’s neo-Nazis.  I will go forward in time and help them gain political power.  Little by little, I will influence people into thinking the Nazis had at least some good ideas.  That will lead them to believe everything was a good idea.  That shouldn’t be too hard.”

I shivered.

“Aren’t you ever ashamed of yourself?”  Scott’s voice shook with indignation.

“You foolish boy.”  Bismarck laughed.  “All Jews and their sympathizers must be annihilated as parasites on society.  I just want a better world for us all.  What’s wrong with that?”

He picked up the time card and waved it tauntingly in front of my face.  Then he slipped it into his coat pocket.

“End of lesson,” he said.  “Come on.  Remember, the guard is watching, so don’t try anything, either of you.  Stay at least eight steps behind me at all times.”

Bismarck led all three of us outside, behind the house, and some distance away.  A few inches of snow covered the ground.  The sky was white, the wind bleak.  Bismarck told the guard to keep his gun on Scott, who stood a little to his left.  He pulled out his own revolver.  Pointing it at me and cocking it, he said,

“I’ve decided to kill you.  Good-bye, little Ally.”

I went numb.  All I could do was stare, gaping, at the barrel of the gun.

“No!” Scott screamed.  He leaped on Bismarck before the guard knew what was happening.  As Scott struggled with Bismarck, I ran.

But the guard yelled, “Nein!  Laufen Sie nicht weg!” and pointed his gun at me.  I couldn’t argue with a machine gun.

Scott and Bismarck fought for the revolver.  As they struggled, it went off accidentally, shooting Bismarck in the chest.

He dropped to the ground, blood–his life–draining down into the snow.

Scott had the revolver now, so he shot the guard.  I slipped the time card into my own pocket.

Scott said, “What a pity.  All those brains gone to waste.”

“Think of where his spirit has gone.”  My eyes watered.  “All that time he was with me in my time, his soul was suffering in Hell.  All those years so far–about forty-six.  It’s so sad.”

“He almost killed you and would have wreaked havoc on the future, yet we’re feeling sorry for him.”

“Shows we’ve got compassion.”  I paused.  “You saved my life.”

“What’re friends for?”

“Look, I have the time card.  It’s time for me to go home…to my own time.”

“Take me with you.”

“It wouldn’t be right.  You belong here with your family and friends, and I belong in 1991 with mine.”

“But I love you.”

“I don’t love you.  At least, not that way, and I haven’t had time for it to grow into anything more.”

“Then at least take me back to my regiment.”

I studied the upgraded card, which now even had a setting for distance off the ground.  I went back into the house and rummaged through the lab until I found Bismarck’s notes and plans on the card–taking them all to make sure the Nazis would never know about time-travel.

“It won’t be long before the end of the war,” I said.  I gave Scott a long, warm hug.  He enclosed me in his arms.  It seemed to last forever.  He nuzzled the top of my head.  When it finally ended, I said, “Good-bye, Scott.”

Using the card, I took Scott to England so their military could help him get back into action.  I offered to take him home, but he said that would make him look like a deserter and a coward.  He wanted to help defeat the Nazis, not just run home, he said.

Then I slipped back into my barracks to grab my journals.

I wanted to start aging again, so I set the card for my room, five minutes before the quarter-hour in which I left home so long ago.  I pushed the button–and there I was, in my room again.


I sat on the bed and waited.

I listened as my old self argued with a living Bismarck and then ran around the house.  It was eerie.

I waited a little longer to be sure my other self was gone, then went downstairs.  I sat on the couch and picked up my Government homework.  I stared at it, not believing I held it.

My eyes were blinded with tears.  Once, traveling back to the forties didn’t seem possible.  Now, being in my own house didn’t seem possible.

I couldn’t consider it my homework anymore, so I threw it on the couch.  I took the card and its papers outside: I chopped up the card with a small axe I found in the garage, and burned the papers on the barbecue grill.

Scott came to visit me the other day.  He stood smiling outside the door, sixty-eight years old, hair gray and somewhat receded, face aged though not “old” yet.  I just stared at him.

“Madge, don’t you recognize me?” he said.  “Scott Clifford.  I haven’t come before you left and met me, have I?”

I grinned.  “No.  Come in, dude.”

He came in and I closed the door.  As I took his hat and coat, he said, “I must be a shock to you, but you look just as I remember you, except you changed into what the kids are wearing these days.”

“I never did get my own clothes back from the stalag.  I changed when I got home, but my mom didn’t even notice.  She left for work before I got dressed that morning.  My dad never said anything, either.  They never knew I left.”

“Where are they now?”

“Still at work.  I’ve missed you.”  I threw my arms around his neck.

“Your hugs still feel as good as before.”

We sat in the living room.  He looked around and said, “So this is your home.”  He winced and grabbed his leg.  “This old wound didn’t bother me until recently.”  He rubbed it.  “You were right, of course.  Everything you said, has happened.”

He stopped rubbing his leg and gazed into my eyes.  “Seeing you makes me feel like that twenty-two-year-old kid in love with you, again.  You always were my little space heroine, stepping right out of a Saturday matinée picture.”

He took my hand.  “After we won the war, I went back home, eventually fell in love again, married, and had three children.  After my wife died from cancer, I wanted to find you.  I expected you to be the same seventeen-year-old, but at the same time I expected you to be only three years younger than me, however old that made you or me.”

He chuckled.  “I should’ve known you’re ageless.  If I were to come back thirty years from now to see you, I’d be surprised if you were older than seventeen.  You always will be ageless, no matter how old you get.  I’m not sure what I mean by that, but it’s true.”

We chatted and caught up for a little while, then he gave me his address and phone number, kissed my forehead, and left.

All I could think about was how right he was: No matter how much I aged, my mental and physical ages would always be out of phase.  I would be out of phase.

Written January 23-31, 1991


I wrote this between my freshman and senior year of high school.  I believe I finished it early in 1990, during my junior year; the first part was written probably in 1987.

My favorite TV show at the time was Hogan’s Heroes; not only did it inspire me to take German, but I liked to imagine myself at the POW camp with Hogan’s group.  I wanted to write a story which explained how I would end up in a POW camp in the 1940s.

I wrote the first part while listening to the album Reconstructions by AD, a Christian band from the mid-80s which included two members of Kansas: Kenny Livgren and Dave Hope.  So now my story and this album are forever linked in my mind.

While researching the third part, I sat in front of my open bedroom window on an unseasonably warm night, listening to the local pop station, and looking through beautiful pictures of the Alps in an encyclopedia.  “Hippy Chick” by Soho came on.

Though I didn’t hear the song again until sometime in 1991 or 1992, I remembered it, and connected it with a warm evening and pictures of the Alps.

My BFF (senior year of high school) and my boyfriend (freshman year of college) loved this story.  Though they weren’t too happy with the ending of Part II (I won’t spoil it).

Since this is science fiction written by a teenager in the days before the Internet, when what I could learn about POW camps was mostly limited to television, it probably isn’t in the least plausible.

Also, both in college and now as I review it again, I can see that it desperately needs editing and lengthening: more scenes, more showing, less telling.  But that’s why I stuck this with my “juvenilia.”

I revised the story in college for a writing class.  Since there are three different versions, I’ll give you the best for each passage.

I do make changes here and there, where the original versions are egregiously bad, or an improvement screams at me.  But for the most part, this is as written.

Though after typing it up and reviewing it for this website, I start wanting to finally write that longer version, 28 years since I wrote Part I….

Juvenilia: Hiding in the Bavarian Alps (An Unwilling Time-Traveler, Part 3)

Part I

Part II

I fled in terror at the woofs and snarls of guard dogs.  They didn’t know the difference between the other prisoners and me, the one who wasn’t supposed to be killed.

I found myself going downhill, my velocity increasing until I couldn’t control myself.  At least a recent rain had dissolved most of the snow, and the mud had dried since then.  I fought to stay upright as I slid to the bottom of the hill.  I nearly crashed into a tree a couple of times.

Running up the next hill made up for the time I gained going downhill.  Winded, I reached the top, paused to catch some of my breath, and began gaining momentum going downhill again.

At the foot of the hill I stopped for a moment to rest, then started up the next one.  I was so thirsty that I started swallowing spit to try to wet my throat.

At the top of the hill I found a spring feeding a trickle–and my best means of escape.  The water was so icy I had to wet my fingers and suck them.

I went down the hill and found a place where the trickle curved south at the bottom and began to widen slightly.  I forded the spring at an angle past this place.  In case the dogs could find my scent again if they crossed the stream or went around the spring, I doubled back several times before running away.

I trotted at right angles to the western-flowing first part of the trickle until I figured I was far enough away.  I climbed an oak tree and hid among the branches.

I kept watch until sunrise.  The last rays of sunlight disappeared, the stars came out and moved across the sky, and the first light of dawn dared to show itself in the horrifying night.

Fear kept me wide awake and begging God for help.  Terror made my hearing, always better than average, especially acute.  I held my breath at the slightest noise.

A few times I heard murderous snarls along with voices yelling in German.  Once I shuddered at a scream.  But they were always some distance away.

When the sun cleared the horizon, I hadn’t heard any such noises for some time, so my fear waned a little.  Thinking I might have successfully evaded the searchers, I fell asleep almost as soon as I put my head down on the branch and closed my eyes.

When I woke up, the sun was starting to set, at about four in the afternoon–almost twenty-four hours since Torsten’s death.

I wept again, suppressing the sobs so no searchers could hear me.  My throat ached.  The physical ache in my heart just couldn’t go away.

I forced him from my mind so I could stop crying and clear my head to think.  If I traveled at night, any guards that might still be searching would have trouble seeing me, but I would have trouble seeing where I went in the unfamiliar hills and plains.  But I needed food and water–and fast, especially if I were to travel far.

I thought I’d heard the average temperature in that part of the country at that time of year is between 28 and 32 degrees.  Either that or below 28.  With the help of constant walking and the coat given me by the camp officials, I shouldn’t freeze.  Following the stream would give me a constant source of water, even if I had to break through ice.

Maybe I could even find a farmhouse along the stream which I could hide in.  I knew acorns could be eaten, but not how to get rid of their poison.  I considered catching fish and cooking them over fires hidden by the hills, but had no knife nor fishing line.  I prayed to soon find food or someone to take me in.

The best thing seemed to be to go on.  I walked between the hills in the miniature valley along the right bank of the stream, which used less energy than climbing hills.  I hoped I was close to the Bavarian Alps, which I’d heard are so high and beautiful.

The lower the sun dropped, the more afraid I got, especially when I started across the first of several large patches of sand that reminded me of the Saudi Arabian desert.  The Gulf War was going on when I left home, you see.  A few plants and trees lined the stream, which I called my oasis.

I felt exposed, even in the dark.  The light from the moon helped me watch my step when twilight passed, but I believed anyone who looked hard enough could see me.

I pressed on, fording rivers and streams, going out of my way sometimes to avoid towns and villages, taking rests when I needed to, hoping to cover a lot of distance before dawn.  How much, I did not know.  The water helped stave off my hunger as I walked, but I didn’t have the energy to go fast near the end of the night.

Just after the first light of dawn, I climbed a little way up the first foothill on my side of the stream, looking for a place to collapse and sleep.  I began to turn around in a circle, scanning the hillside with my eyes, then stopped and gasped: The Alps began in the distance, and not far away stood a house.  I slid down the hillside and hurried down the bank.

The three-story house stood on the side of the nearest mountain.  Stones weighted down the obtuse roof.  A chimney, like a misshapen chicken coop, jutted from the roof.  The top floor had a balcony; a balustrade surrounded the lower third of the second story.

I ran to the house as fast as I could–which wasn’t very fast–and slowed down to find the door.  I knocked.  I could barely stand.  I must have been a sight, with my scrapes, bruises and tangled hair.

The door opened.  I cried in German, “Please help me,” and fainted.

I awoke in a bed.  The room was neither large nor small, and had few furnishings besides the bed: a nighttable, a dresser, a closed closet, a simple kerosene lamp on the nighttable.

There were no pictures, but there was a small bookcase full of books.  A small mirror hung above the dresser.

A middle-aged woman sat beside me, feeding me chicken broth.  She spoke in a dialect I didn’t understand, so I said in German, “Do you speak High German?”

She smiled.  “Yes, a little.  You’ll be all right,” she said, addressing me in the formal Sie, according to custom.  “Have a roll.”  It and the broth gave me strength to sit up.

“Where am I?” I said.

“On the second floor, in the bedroom of my only son.”  Her eyes filled with pride.  “He’s fighting in the war.”

“What’s his name?”  I kept my composure, not wanting to show disgust, offend her, and find myself turned out of the house and back in the wilderness, alone.  Or worse, turned in to the Nazis.


“How old is he?”


“Eighteen?  I’m seventeen.  What time is it?”


“In the morning?  Ach, Mensch!  I’ve been unconscious that long?”

“Yes.  Who are you?”

I panicked.  How much should I tell her?  And how should I tell it?  I decided to act as much like a German as I could, which meant pronouncing my name the German way.

“My name is Margaret.  I need help: Some men are chasing me.  Maybe I’ve lost them, but I’m hungry, so I don’t want to go back on my way.  I don’t know what’s good to eat outside, and I’m dead tired.  Will you help me?”

“Yes, I will.  Don’t worry.”

Ach, thank you, thank you so much.”  I saw in the mirror that I wore a nightgown and my hair was brushed.  “Where are my clothes?”

“Do you want them?  They were so–” I didn’t know the next word, but I guessed it was “torn” or “dirty”–“except for the coat.  I’d rather make them into rags.  I’ll make more clothes for you.”

Ach, thank you.”  I felt more gratitude than I expressed.  The clothes the Germans gave me, even torn, could identify me much more easily to searchers than the clothes of a young German girl.  I felt safe such a long way from the camp and closer to the border, but not safe enough.

My strength returned the next day, so the Frau measured me for clothes.  Her boots were too small, but taking me or even my boot size into the village could be too risky, so we decided I would wear the ones I already had.  If only they didn’t look so odd with my dress.  Until she made my clothes, I had to wear one of her dresses, which just fit my measurements but was too short.

Now that Volker was in the war, only the Frau and Mann lived in the house.  When addressing them, I called the woman Frau and the man Herr.  They spoke in High German when they wanted me to understand them, but they also began to teach me the local dialect.

They farmed the slopes and everything else they could with potatoes, hay and grain.  The livestock wintered there, but in spring were taken to the alps, or pastures, above the tree line at a higher elevation.  A foot or two of snow now covered the forty-acre farm, and in the distance I could see rocky, white-lined peaks.

Having left tracks didn’t concern me, since there hadn’t been snow or even much mud until I’d left the camp far behind.  However, I’d feel safest if only rain would’ve come and washed away my tracks.

I began my walks again as soon as the Frau gave me my first set of warm clothes.  Until then I had to amuse myself somehow while shut up in that little room, so I began to explore it.

First, after brushing my hair with an old brush the Frau washed and gave me, I opened the closet.  Insider were Volker’s clothes.  Many of them were fashionable for the time, though simple, but there were some lederhosen and heavy walking shoes.  Also some hats, some modern, but others traditional Bavarian hats with a long feather sticking out of each.  I figured he had knee socks in one of the dresser drawers, but didn’t want to go snooping in his underwear.

Next, I scanned the titles in the bookcase.  Trying to read the books could keep me busy for hours.  I pulled out a Bibel and leafed through it.  If I could read it well enough, I could keep up my daily readings.

I turned to the first chapter of Genesis, but translated it more from memory than from the words.  I “read” the first chapter, then prayed.

I put the Bible back in its place and picked up Faust.  I read it in English as a sophomore, but even after another year’s worth of German, I had so much difficulty with the original German that I put it back.

I reached for Grimm’s Fairy Tales.  It was hard to translate, too, being in old-fashioned German words and writing.  While I still studied it, the Frau brought me Mittagessen, or lunch.

Sitting by the window that night, I chuckled at the thought, “I feel like a prisoner, shut up in here–like I was back in the POW camp.”

Then the memories of Torsten came gushing back over the dam that conveniently blocked them.

First the good ones, such as his conversion to Christianity and the kiss.

Then the last few moments of his life.  I sniffled as hot tears soothed my cheeks, then I sobbed.

Oh, Torsten, if no one had planned to escape, you’d still be alive today, and I would be in the camp with you.  If only there hadn’t been an escape plan.  If only you’d refused to open the gate.  You’d have been knocked unconscious, but still alive.  If only you hadn’t been involved.  And whose fault is that?  Mine.  If only I hadn’t suggested you.  It’s all my fault.  I killed you!

The Frau rushed into the room and knelt beside me.  I sat hunched over with one hand over my eyes and its elbow on the windowsill.

“What’s wrong?” she said, adding denn for emphasis.

I turned my head to look at her.  “I–My boyfriend–he is–dead.”

“in the war?”

“Yes.  And it’s all my fault.”

Now she used the informal du.  “Your fault?  How is that?”


Ach, no, the enemy did.”

“No, it was me.”

“You’re too hard on yourself.  It wasn’t your fault.  Tell me, did you love him?”

“Yes, very much.  And I killed him!  Ach, Gott, will you ever–forgive me?”

The Frau put her arm around me.  “I don’t know why you blame yourself, but I understand your sadness.  If I were to lose my husband….”  She said nothing else, just stayed with me until I calmed down.

I loved wearing the Bavarian dresses the Frau gave me.  I had a black hat with a white band and feathers at the back.  The bright-colored dirndl dresses each had a black waistband laced in X’s down the front and a full skirt.  I also had white stockings.

The prison boots looked ugly, so after a while we decided it wouldn’t be quite so risky to just take my shoe size into Wil, the town, and get some shoes made.  I got black ones with open tops and high heels, each with a strap under the ankle.  I wore pigtails, trying to look as much like a German maiden as I could.  The couple chuckled at my hair, thinking it cute: It was, after all, the forties.

The Mann drove me around the Bavarian Alps in their Volkswagen.  I thought, but didn’t dare say, If I ever get back home, just think of what I can tell my friends: that I’ve seen this part of the Alps in the forties, and without spending a dime on plane tickets.

I began to learn the couple’s dialect and understand Volker’s letters, though at first I had to read them on my own after they were read out loud.  The writing seemed guarded, hiding a hostility to the war from his mother.  The little family were all Christians and belonged to the Wil German Evangelical Church, but Volker and his father were most devoted to the faith.

Torsten’s absence grew more acute as the days passed since I last saw him.  My pain grew much worse.  I often cried.

Spring finally came.  I walked on the south side of the mountain, hiding from anyone who might still be searching for me.  Hopefully they gave up by now.

I wandered through unplanted fields and greening groves.  I imagined I was a native, living in the days of fairy tales.  Whenever visitors came, I hid outside until they left.

On Sundays when the couple was at church, I went to a special part of the forest.  Here was a fallen log over which the trees arched and blocked out the sun.

I either sat or walked back and forth on the log, reflecting on God.  This was my worship service.  Sometimes I sang a hymn or other Christian song.  I sometimes brought Volker’s Bible with me.  Translation came more easily now; I looked for answers to many questions, and ways to make my beliefs and theories fit together logically.

One morning in the fields, someone called to me.  Torsten?  That was impossible!  I turned in the direction of the road, which was some distance to the west of the mountain.  A half-sized figure ran toward me.  In no time, he came close enough to recognize.

Torsten, in his guard uniform!

I ran to him, my heart pounding.  We hugged and kissed; the kiss felt like our first.

“You’re alive!”

“I was only wounded, Liebchen,” he said.  “Now have I come to help the Mann with the cattle.”

“Come on!  I want to show you the beautiful things I see on my walks.”

Strolling with him and pointing out the scenery and flowers, especially the edelweiss and Alpine roses, I mentioned my upcoming eighteenth birthday.  I grinned.  “What will you give me?”

“The best gift for a woman: a wedding ring.”

Ignoring the old-fashioned sexism, I stopped and stared at him in disbelief.

“Yes, Liebchen, I want to you marry, and as soon as possible.  We can live here in den Bayerischen Alpen.  Do you accept or refuse?”

“Accept, natürlich!”  I threw my arms around his neck, the Alps timeless, our families nonexistent.  “You’re not just playing with me, now?”

Natürlich nicht, Liebchen.  Ich liebe dich.”

“I love you, too, Torsten.  Ach, Mensch, I’m so happy.”

I closed my eyes as we kissed again.

I opened my eyes–in bed in Volker’s room.  I glanced around the room in bliss at the gray and black shadows in the moonlight.

I got up, went to the window, and gazed at the same effect on the mountains and trees.  My mind began to awaken.  The mountains were black monsters against the dark gray sky.  Morning wasn’t far off.

Wait, it was only a dream!  Torsten was dead.  He never joined me on that walk, and he never proposed to me.  The bitterest tears fell.

The Mann left to drive the cattle to the alps, and didn’t come back until the end of September.  I watched him go, my eyes wet because of his absence and because it reminded me of my dream.

I helped the Frau with the crops until he returned.  The summer temperatures, even in July and August, rarely went above the lower 70s, and averaged in the lower 60s.

After about a year, I often thought about Torsten with a deep, aching sorrow, but rarely cried.  In my dreams and daydreams, we shared time and mountain experiences and what I read.  I asked God to send messages to him from me.

In the winter, I went on walks, helped with the housework, or read, making good progress in the books.  My sense of humor and appreciation for beauty improved.

I’m low on paper and don’t want to forget anything important, so I’ll jump ahead two years after they took me in.  Thinking I was nearly twenty, I looked in the mirror, but saw only a high school girl.  One day, I overheard the Mann say to the Frau,

“How could you tell a thing like that?”

“The same way I can tell a clock has stopped,” the Frau said.

“But then you have markings to use as comparison.”

“We have that here, too: You estimated her age at seventeen before she told us, and Volker also looked his age at seventeen.  See this picture of Volker at eighteen, before he left?  Does she look older or younger than he?”

“There’s not much difference, and she should look older.  Good heavens, you’re right.”

“She’s never told us her birthday.  Strange, isn’t it?”

“How can this be possible?  She’s not a witch, as you think she is.  I’m sure of that.”

“But I’ve heard they age very slowly.”

“An old wives’ tale!”

“A government experiment, then.  She said some men chased her here.  Maybe she escaped the government.  If so, we should return her.”

“This all seems so ludicrous.”

“To me it seems so supernatural, eerie, unnatural.  We must question her.”

Hearing her step on the stairs, I rushed back to my room without a sound, closed the door, and hurried to the window.  I regained my composure, and turned to face her when she opened the door.

“Sit in the chair,” she said, so sternly I couldn’t disobey.

I sat down without delay.  She stood over me; I craned my neck to look at her.

“Who are you?”

“I’ve already told you: I’m Margaret.”

“Margaret who?”

I gulped–no easy thing with my neck in that position.  My last name wasn’t at all German.  But could it be?  I mentally spelled it “Rusch” and pronounced it “roosh,” to fight my ingrained resistance to lying.

“Don’t give me that.  I don’t know where you’re from, but you used to have a foreign accent.  Now give me your full name as one of your countrymen would say it.”

I rested my neck by staring at the floor.  I could barely say, “Margaret Rush.”  Yet I sounded more German than American, after such a long time in Germany.  I even thought and dreamed in German now, and had a German accent for my own tongue.

“That’s English, isn’t it?  Well, isn’t it?”


“So why are you in Germany?  Who–what–are you?”

How much would she believe?  Anything she wanted to, probably.  I prayed that, if it were God’s will, she would take pity on me.

“In America I stopped a German from killing some Jews.  He tried to take his revenge on me without killing me, which would be too quick and painless.”

“You’re a Jew-lover!  What was his revenge?”

“He abducted me and stuck me in a POW camp here, hoping the women-starved men would rape me, I guess.”

“So you escaped and the guards were chasing you?”

“Yes.  Please, as a woman, have pity on me!”

“Why don’t you age?  Why doesn’t your hair grow?”

“If I knew, I’d tell you.  Trust me.”

“We did trust you.  We sheltered you, fed you, even–even let you use our only son’s room and read his letters home.  It’s a blessing we never told Volker about you.  And all the time we were harboring an escaped prisoner.”  She sniffed, then asked me the name of the camp.  “You are not going to get us into trouble.”  She turned on her heel and stalked out of the room.

I trembled, knowing what she would do.

What could have caused me to stop aging?  Whatever it was, it was my betrayer.  Maybe crossing the time lines and entering a different time frame had so shocked my body that it stopped aging.  If I returned to my own time, the exact moment when I left, the aging process would probably–hopefully–resume.

The next day, after Mittagessen, as I tidied up my room, I overheard the Frau and the Mann:

“She’s done nothing wrong.  She has good character.  I want to keep protecting her!” yelled the Mann.

“It’s too late.  I called them already.”  Using the old crank phone I admired so much!

“We are violating hospitality!  How can you do this, wife?  I will help her escape!”

“If you do, I will tell them what you really think about the Jews.”

Just then, someone rapped on the door.

Strange men’s voices came next, then tramping on the stairs.  I opened my window, but, checked by the sight of melting snow in the unseasonable warmth, didn’t jump.  As I stared at the once-friendly landscape, a strong hand grabbed my arm and spun me around.

A uniformed man looked me over.  “That’s her, all right.”

The Mann was nearby.  My eyes pleaded with him for help, but he just stood there, helpless, afraid of the guns.

The other uniformed man said, “Thank you for capturing her.  We were in a great deal of trouble when we couldn’t find her.”

“Capturing me?” I said as they led me away.  The Frau either lied or withheld information.

I can’t write anything more.  This is the last of my letter paper, which of course I can’t use for letters because I have nobody to send them to.  Maybe I’ll be out of here in a couple of months.

Written January 9-11, 1945

118 days to go

Part IV

I wrote this between my freshman and senior year of high school.  I believe I finished it early in 1990, during my junior year; the first part was written probably in 1987.

My favorite TV show at the time was Hogan’s Heroes; not only did it inspire me to take German, but I liked to imagine myself at the POW camp with Hogan’s group.  I wanted to write a story which explained how I would end up in a POW camp in the 1940s.

I wrote the first part while listening to the album Reconstructions by AD, a Christian band from the mid-80s which included two members of Kansas: Kenny Livgren and Dave Hope.  So now my story and this album are forever linked in my mind.

While researching the third part, I sat in front of my open bedroom window on an unseasonably warm night, listening to the local pop station, and looking through beautiful pictures of the Alps in an encyclopedia.  “Hippy Chick” by Soho came on.

Though I didn’t hear the song again until sometime in 1991 or 1992, I remembered it, and connected it with a warm evening and pictures of the Alps.

My BFF (senior year of high school) and my boyfriend (freshman year of college) loved this story.  Though they weren’t too happy with the ending of Part II (I won’t spoil it).

Since this is science fiction written by a teenager in the days before the Internet, when what I could learn about POW camps was mostly limited to television, it probably isn’t in the least plausible.

Also, both in college and now as I review it again, I can see that it desperately needs editing and lengthening: more scenes, more showing, less telling.  But that’s why I stuck this with my “juvenilia.”

I revised the story in college for a writing class.  Since there are three different versions, I’ll give you the best for each passage.

I do make changes here and there, where the original versions are egregiously bad, or an improvement screams at me.  But for the most part, this is as written.

Though after typing it up and reviewing it for this website, I start wanting to finally write that longer version, 28 years since I wrote Part I….

Juvenilia: Madge’s forbidden romance with Stalag guard (An Unwilling Time-Traveler, Part 2)

Part I

Halfway through my senior year, as I sat in the living room doing my first U.S. Government assignment of the semester, Mr. Bismarck appeared in the middle of the room.  My eyes widened.

“Now what do you want?” I cried.

“To avenge myself on you,” he said.

The blood deserted my face.  I whispered, “How?”

“By taking you to a prisoner of war camp.”

“Prisoner of war?  I may be a prisoner, but not of war.  Wouldn’t I be a political prisoner?  Before the Panama invasion, only men fought in wars.”

“Exactly.  All of the prisoners are men.”

“I’ll be the first female a lot of them have seen for a while.  Don’t you know what they’ll do to me?”  I trembled.

“Whatever harassment, whatever violation, it’s part of my revenge.  I chose this time to come back because you are seventeen and nubile, but you are too young to move away from home, according to your American laws.  That makes it so much easier to find you, as you see I have done.”

“Couldn’t you just leave me alone?  We had enough of your kind of sadism during World War II, without you crossing the time lines and giving us more.”

He ignored this.  “I will tell the Kommandant to give you the freedom to go anywhere the other prisoners can go, rather than confining you in your safe little private barracks.  He is a close friend of mine.”

“No way!”  I threw my books on the couch, sprang up, and ran through the house.

I tried to open the back door, but in my haste I’d forgotten the key for the deadbolt.

Mr. Bismarck caught up with me, grabbed my arm–and pushed the button on the card.

We materialized in the Kommandantur, or Kommandant’s office.  The Kommandant sat at his desk in front of us; two guards immediately flanked us.  The Kommandant didn’t even jump: He must have been expecting us.

He said in German, which I understood pretty well, “So, Bismarck, this is your prisoner.  She is pretty.  And how old?”

Siebzehn Jahre alt,” I said.

“Ach, so she knows German.”  He smiled.  “That’s dangerous.  Guards, take her to her new home.”

The guards took one arm each, squeezing tightly as if I’d try to get away.  Why would I?  I had nowhere to go.

They led me to my barracks–empty, except for a stove and bunks lining the walls.

I hit the wall with my fist, shook my aching fingers, cried for a while, then explored the barracks.

I climbed on some of the top bunks and searched the floor, walls, ceiling and corners for cracks or holes.  I found a mouse hole.

“Oh, great, now I’ll have mouse turds in here.”

My guard fetched me and led me to dinner amidst wolf whistles from other prisoners.  One American didn’t whistle, but invited me to sit next to him.

“I’m the senior officer here.”  He grinned.  “I won’t treat you the same way these other uncivilized brutes do.”  He nodded toward the men sitting near him, who laughed.  “We heard you were coming, but what’re you doing here?”

“Bismarck put me in here because he hates me.”

“Still, a girl in a POW camp?  The Krauts don’t even use women secretaries here!  Discipline would be horrendous.  You see what happens when you just walk by.”

“There’s a reason for that, but I’d rather not go into it right now.  Do you speak German?”

“I’ve picked up some since I’ve been here.”

“What does sterben mean?”

“It means ‘to die.’  Why?”

“When the guards led me out of the Kommandant’s office, Bismarck told him–” I imitated him– “‘Sie muß nicht sterben,’ ‘She must not die.’  That means Bismarck doesn’t want me killed.”  I no longer said “Herr Bismarck” because it seemed too respectful.

“Probably because death is an escape.  Who is this Bismarck, anyway?”

“He’s a jerk who stuck me in here as revenge because I kept him from killing some Jewish friends in 1989.  No, will keep.”

He dropped his spoon and choked on his food.  “1989?” he said in a croak.

“Yeah.  He’s a time traveler.  I guess I am too, now.”

He didn’t appear to believe me, but humored me.  “I suppose that would explain your hair and clothes and the way you talk.”

“I’m from 1991.  That’s a pretty cool year, so far.  I just wish I had my jam box with me so I could listen to some of my CDs.  I’ll go crazy without my music.”

The officer and guys nearby just stared at me blankly.   I realized I spoke strange words.  “Your grandchildren will talk like this,” I said.  They just laughed.

Unlike the other prisoners, I wasn’t supposed to work, so I had nothing to do all day.

I didn’t want to get cornered alone in my barracks while everyone was off laboring.  So I walked around the camp three times a week, and spent as much time outside as possible.

The guards whistled at me a lot during the first few weeks, only stopping when an officer came by.  The guards inside the gate never failed to whistle.  Until one day.

Two months after my arrival, as I passed the gate, the guard on the right whistled.  But the bespectacled one on the left said to him in German, “Don’t whistle at her!”

“Why not?” the other one said.  “You do.”

“Not anymore.”

Good, he’s finally learning some respect for women. 

Every day, amidst disrespect, rough treatment and injustice, I grumbled, “You can’t beat me, Kraut Bismarck!”

As I passed the gate on my walks during the next few weeks, I noticed the Heart-Changed Guard still stared at me, but not with lust.  It was more like respect and adoration.

It made me uncomfortable at first, but soon it flattered me so much that I increased the number of times I walked around the camp each week.

I hated the wolf whistles from everybody else.  But from him, I loved the attention, and my curiosity kept growing.  I tried to suppress the feelings that budded and grew, but I couldn’t.

One day I smiled under his gaze.  I forced the smile off my face: I shouldn’t give him such obvious encouragement.

As I returned to my barracks from breakfast the next morning, the Heart-Changed Guard waved to me from behind one of the other barracks.  I hesitated, but he kept waving me over.

I finally went to him.  We hid behind a building, then he said in a low voice, “I know a little English, so I will with you in English speak.  That way can we our conversations private keep.  Yes?”

“But the prisoners can understand us.”

“Why should they care what I do?  The guards cannot understand us.  I do not wish to in trouble get for fraternizing with you.”

“You probably don’t have to worry about that.  The Kommandant and Bismarck have probably agreed to let you guards do whatever you want with me, hoping somebody will–you know what.”

We shared a glance; he knew what I meant.

“I would never to you such a thing do.  I would never you hurt.”

“Good.  So what do you want to talk to me about?”

“What is your name?”

“Madge Rush.”

“Madge Rush, my name is Torsten Schuhmacher, and I love you.”

I squelched a desire to laugh.  Such corny bluntness!  “Please, it’ll never work.  I can’t let it.  You’re a Nazi–aren’t you?–and I’m a Christian.”

“You talk so fast.  I do not understand.  You say you do not love me back?”

I slowed down my speech.  “‘Love’ is such a strong word.  I’m fond of you, yeah, but I can’t let it be anything more than that.  Even that much is too much.”

“Please, you hurt me.  Can you not it in your heart find to at least allow me one kiss? or loving glances as you pass me by?”

“No.”  I almost said, “I wish I could.”  I did say, “The Bible says, ‘Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers.’  I believe that doesn’t just mean marriage, but dating, too.”

He looked totally confused.  “Was?  Ich verstehe nicht.”

I talked really slowly.  “The Bible says–A Christian should not marry one who is not a Christian.  I think that also applies to dating.  Seeing each other.  More than friends.”  I sighed because he still frowned.  “Lovers.  Freund und Freundin.  Verstehen Sie?”

“Ach!  But this is the–Bible.  It is not true.  It is not for you to follow.  You should follow the Nazis.”

“What a way to get a girl–insulting her beliefs!”  I turned away.

He grabbed my arm.  “No, do not go.  I did not mean to be insulting.  Please think over it again.”

“No.  As far as I’m concerned, this whole thing is settled.  I can’t love you, and that is it.  Oh, one more thing.  Your English word order is totally screwed up.”

I broke free and strode to my barracks without looking back.  I knew if I looked I would turn back.  I went in my barracks, shut the door, and wept.


That happened on a Sunday.  I couldn’t face Torsten right away, so I postponed my walk until Tuesday.  When I did walk again I avoided his eyes.

On Thursday I caught a glimpse of them: They weren’t fixed on me in spite, but averted in sorrow.  I wanted to run to him and kiss away his pain, but fought that down.

After breakfast Friday morning, Torsten waved me over to him for another secret talk.  He said,

“Why is it so bad for you to me–to love me?  What is so bad about the glorious Third Reich?”

I rolled my eyes.  “Everything.  How blind are you?  The Nazis committed–are committing some of the worst atrocities ever known to man.”

“What are atrocities?”

“Things like murdering Jews by the millions and doing unspeakably ghoulish things with the corpses.  Taking away the personhood of each and every Jew you can find.”

“We are ridding us of the Jewish problem.  Jews are not of the Aryan, and they only cause problems for the rest of us.”

“Snap out of it, you brainwashed victim of propaganda.  Jews are human beings, not insects to be exterminated.”

I shuddered.

“Your precious Nazis make me sick.  You just wait till they’re tried in Nuremberg for their crimes against humanity.  There will be a film made that shows a swastika on a roof getting blown up, and it will make me cheer every time I see it.  Germany’s going to be divided into two sections so we can keep an eye on it.  It’ll be that way for 45 years.”

I could tell he didn’t understand everything, but he caught the gist.  “How could you know such things?” he said.

“Don’t you know who I am?  I crossed Bismarck, the time-traveler, back in–forward in–1989, and he brought me here to pay for it.  I helped some of your ‘non-Aryan’ Jews escape from him.”

“I have heard rumors of Herr Bismarck.  He is a friend of the Kommandant.  It is said he brings in strange objects to him, like–balls with–long threads in them.  Wi–Wires?”  He averted his eyes for a moment, then stared into mine with a stern expression.  “I cannot against den Vaterland go.  It is my country.”

“And I cannot against my God go.  Torsten, we are such opposites.  I wonder how we can even be friends.”

Torsten dropped his head, turned away, and left.  I stalked away, full of indignation, my heart silent.  I was glad to see him go.

We neither looked at nor spoke to each other for the next few weeks.  Then one day Torsten stopped me after dinner and whispered in my ear, “Why are you so–how do you say–loyal to your God?”

“Because of what He’s done for me.  He’s good and wise, and I love Him.”

“You love Him but you will not me love.”

“Not as a girl loves a guy, no.  I only see pain in our future.”

Torsten glanced around and hurried me behind a barracks.  He said, “I may be suspected of treason against den Führer if a German overhears me who English knows.  Please do not repeat this talk to anyone.”

“I won’t.”  Treason?  What did he–

“Do you really think the Nazis are–are–wie sagt man–making atrocities?”

“I know they are.”

“But like you Jews?  You are not a Jew.”

“Yes, I do.  Jews are human beings.”

He turned away.  “I should not question meinen Führer.  He knows what is best.”

“No, he doesn’t.  He’s not even all there.  He’s crazy–Er ist verrückt.”

“Please, nicht so laut!”

“I wasn’t even loud.  I think your fear is making my voice seem louder.  Why are you so afraid, if you’re so sure you’re innocent of treason?  Are you starting to doubt the Nazis?”

He glanced around again, bent down, and put his lips so close to my ear I could feel him tremble.  He said so low I barely heard him, “Yes.”

With a grin I whispered in his ear, “Come and talk to me in my barracks any time you want to.”


Over the next couple of months, I tried to quench my feelings–though they grew more and more passionate–and keep my heart from leaping as I passed the gate.

Every once in a while, Torsten took me aside so we could talk about a variety of things, except for the war.  I suppose he was pondering what I had said.

I became best friends with a sweet, Christian, twenty-year-old American named Scott Clifford.  We talked all the time about music, religion, slang, fads, our homes, and whatever else we could think of to compare and contrast.

Torsten must have seen us together, because he sometimes looked downcast or stared blankly at Scott.

He shouldn’t have worried: Nothing could compete with forbidden love.  Only Scott knew about Torsten, because he was the only one I could trust not to tell anyone else.

I told Scott I couldn’t stop my feelings for Torsten, no matter how hard I tried.

Scott said, “Getting involved with a guard would be far too dangerous for both of you.  But maybe, as a friend, you can influence him away from the Nazis and toward God.”

I said, “Sometimes I wonder if God even hears me.  What am I still doing here?”

“I don’t know.  I wonder the same thing at times.  But look at how you’re already influencing your–friend.  One less Nazi and one more for the Kingdom, eh?”

Near the end of these months, the senior officer invited me into the barracks.  Even with all those sex-starved men around me, I felt as safe with him as with my father.

They discussed an escape plan.  He privately asked if I wanted to join them; I said,

“I want to, but I don’t know where I’d go.  Remember, this isn’t my time.  Right now my dad’s only a boy and my mom hasn’t even been born yet.”

“But if you stay here in the stalag, Bismarck may get his revenge on you sooner or later.  The longer you stay, the more desperate the prisoners may get because they’re not allowed to go on leave.  If you understand me.”

“But here I have clothes and food–kind of.”

“A German family might take you in.  You look more waif than prisoner.  Act like one, and you might be well and willingly provided for.”

“Before then I could live on berries and roots, if I have to.  I hope I’d know which ones aren’t poisonous.”

“I’ll give you some pointers on survival.”

“But I could get shot!  My family would never know what happened to me, and I’d die thirty years before I was born!”


Several days later, the escape still dubious, I lounged on the floor of my barracks after nightfall, praying.

(I often did this, as well as visit the chaplain to talk with him and read from his Bible and commentaries.  He was pleasant, well-read and a great morale booster.)

Someone tapped on the door.  I called “Herein,” thinking it futile to refuse entry: Nobody but the Kommandant could get past the guard.

A trembling Torsten entered and hastily but noiselessly shut the door.

“Torsten!” I cried.  “How’d you get past the guard?”

“He is a good friend,” he said.  “He is the only one who knows I love you.  Do not anyone tell that I was here.”

He crept over and knelt in front of me.

Liebchen, I do not anymore believe Hitler.  I want to know for certain if he is wrong to be against the Jews.  What are the Nazi atrocities?”

I told him the ones I could remember from my History and German classes.  As I spoke, Torsten stared in my eyes with ever-increasing and visible horror.  When I finished, he stared at the floor in silence for a moment.

Then he sprang up, turned away, and cried, “No–No, it cannot be true.”

“You say you love me,” I said.  “Don’t you trust me?”

He turned back to me, shame plain on his face.  “Yes–No–I do not know.”

“Do you think I could make up those things?”

“No….I do not know.”  He averted his eyes.

“Will you keep on believing Hitler’s destructive, hate-filled lies, or will you believe me?”

He said “Still!” with so much force that it startled me.  He rushed forward, knelt before me, and said, “You must not talk so loud.  The guard is my friend, but he is also German.”

“I wasn’t that loud.”

Still, anyway.  I cannot take any chances.  We should be able to speak safe if we whisper.  Liebchen, tell me: Are you speaking the truth?  Are these things really happening in the Konzentrationslager?”

“You mean in the concentration camps?  Yes, they are.”

He snatched off his helmet and flung it onto a nearby bunk.  For the first time I saw him without it:

His long-nosed face was no longer shadowed; his sky-blue eyes burned bright.  His blond hair waved slightly.  His face was so close to mine that I gasped.

“This uniform is a bad smell to me,” he hissed.  “I am part of an army that fights for a madman and so that millions of human beings will be murdered.”

“You finally see the truth?”

Ja.  Hitler had me under a spell–I did not know all these things–No more will I be against the prisoners.  I cursed them, called them names, hit them, and–put insects in their food.”

“Gross!  I had no idea.”

He forced himself to say, gesturing with one hand, “My family is of Luther’s church.  I should have known better.  I will be better man.”

I grinned.  Then he stood up.

Ach,” he said.  “Ich muß abfahren.  Es wird spät.”

“It’s getting late already?”  I said.

He put his helmet back on and hurried out.  I kept smiling and sighing for the rest of the night.


At the next meeting, the prisoners in the escape group finalized the plan.  I didn’t plan to escape with them, just watch and see if they succeeded.  I wanted to have a good chance of returning home.  I did say,

“There’s a guard by the gate during the afternoon who might help you.  He’s sympathetic to the prisoners.  Just–”

“Hang on a minute,” said an Englishman.  “Which one is sympathetic?”

I described him.

“Him?  He’s the worst of the lot!  You should hear some of the things he says.”

My face burned.  “The things he used to say.  He’s not like that anymore.  I’ve reversed a lot of his brainwashing.”

“Brainwashing?  What is that?”

“Uh–Indoctrination with Hitler’s lies.”

“Hey, isn’t that the German chap you’ve been seen with more than once?”

My face burned even hotter.  “Uh, yeah.”

“Do you two have something going on?”


“We were right, everybody, they do.  That’s how she reversed his ‘brainwashing.'”

“A fellow will do anything for a dame,” said an American.

“Please, let’s leave her alone and get on with it,” the senior officer said.

They decided to have two people knock out the nearest guards while hidden by a few others; the rest would walk or stand nearby in couples or alone.  They would then tell Torsten, “Machen Sie die Tür auf,” or “Open the gate.”  Then the escapees would run out through the open gate and into the nearby woods.  The day and time was up to the senior officer.

The next night, as I knelt in front of the mousehole begging the mouse to please stop chewing so loudly at night so I could sleep, Torsten visited me again.

“What are you doing?” he said.

I told him.  “This reminds me of an old movie I saw once, King Rat, about prisoners in a World War II Japanese prison camp.”


“It’s old to me: I wasn’t even born until 1973.  Anyway, they caught a couple of rats and started breeding them for meat.  Not for them, of course, but they sold it to the officers without telling them what it was.”

Torsten laughed and grimaced at the same time.  “That is–wie sagt man–disgusting.”

“But funny.”  I stood up and turned to face him.

He came up right next to me and whispered, “Liebchen, do you think Gott will me forgive?  I have gone away so far….”

My heart leaped.  “Of course He will, if you truly turn away from Hitler and abusing the prisoners.  He’d even forgive Hitler, if only he were to repent.  God loves you, Torsten, even more than I–” I stopped.

I hadn’t meant to tip my hand like that.  Torsten, encouraged, wrapped me in his arms and kissed me.  I melted into it, forgetting my resolve to resist loving him.

Then he whispered, “Liebchen, I must leave before I am missed in meiner Baracke.”

The next day, as I went for a short walk with Scott–my heart too full of the memory of the night before to want to talk–the senior officer stopped us.

Scott planned to escape, so he told us both that today was the day, and the time probably in the late afternoon when the sun set.  They could see, but the guards wouldn’t be able to see them so well.

I began my vigil around 4:00, Scott beside me.  Making small talk, we watched the gate out of the corner of our eyes.

At about the expected time, a few prisoners quickly made Torsten the only conscious guard.  They ran to him and made their demand.

He hesitated, then opened the gate far enough for them to slip out.

Scott, the other escapees, and some of the other prisoners joined them.

Guards fired on them as they rushed through the gate.  One targeted Torsten.

He fell.  I screamed and ran to him.

“Oh, Torsten, don’t die!”  I knelt beside him and held up his head.

“The–man who me shot must have me seen open the gate,” he said.

“Don’t die!  I love you too much.”

“I love you, too.  You will me again see in–den Himmel.”

“But I don’t want to wait for Heaven!  Where were you hit?”

“In–my chest.  It is–nothing.”

“Nothing?  But you’re dying!”

“Yes.  It is nothing.  See you–in–den Himmel, Liebchen.”  He died.

Looking through my tear-clouded eyes, I closed his.

“You’ve gone to Heaven ahead of me.”  I sobbed.

I couldn’t stay there.  I didn’t want to find out what Germans did with the bodies of traitors.  I shuddered as possibilities flashed through my mind.

At the risk of my life, I had to run.

I gently laid Torsten’s head on the ground.  Blinking so the tears wouldn’t blind me, I ran out the gate.

The adrenaline rushed as I ran, fear for my life giving me extra strength as it had when I squeezed the gun out of Bismarck’s grip–a moment now seemingly years away.

I hoped the guards would not forget that I had to live.

If I can just get to the woods I’ll be safe.  The trees’ll block the bullets, but they seem so far away.  

Oh Torsten, Torsten, protect me!  You’re not dead: You’re running beside me, shooting at my attackers every now and then.  

Wishful thinking; abolish it.  I’m in just as much danger as these guys ahead of me.  A stray bullet could–

Scott, where are you?  There you are, lying on the ground.  You’re dead, you’re dead!  But you’re in Heaven.  With my Torsten. 

I finally reached the woods, as did the senior officer and only a few of the others.  We separated and kept running to keep ahead of the dogs.

We couldn’t know how many of us were yet to be captured or killed.  I stopped to tear and arrange my clothes so they didn’t look so much like those of a POW.

Written January 7-14, 1943 (fancy that). 

Part III

Part IV

I wrote this between my freshman and senior year of high school.  I believe I finished it early in 1990, during my junior year; the first part was written probably in 1987.

My favorite TV show at the time was Hogan’s Heroes; not only did it inspire me to take German, but I liked to imagine myself at the POW camp with Hogan’s group.  I wanted to write a story which explained how I would end up in a POW camp in the 1940s.

I wrote the first part while listening to the album Reconstructions by AD, a Christian band from the mid-80s which included two members of Kansas: Kenny Livgren and Dave Hope.  So now my story and this album are forever linked in my mind.

While researching the third part, I sat in front of my open bedroom window on an unseasonably warm night, listening to the local pop station, and looking through beautiful pictures of the Alps in an encyclopedia.  “Hippy Chick” by Soho came on.

Though I didn’t hear the song again until sometime in 1991 or 1992, I remembered it, and connected it with a warm evening and pictures of the Alps.

My BFF (senior year of high school) and my boyfriend (freshman year of college) loved this story.  Though they weren’t too happy with the ending of Part II (I won’t spoil it).

Since this is science fiction written by a teenager in the days before the Internet, when what I could learn about POW camps was mostly limited to television, it probably isn’t in the least plausible.

Also, both in college and now as I review it again, I can see that it desperately needs editing and lengthening: more scenes, more showing, less telling.  But that’s why I stuck this with my “juvenilia.”

I revised the story in college for a writing class.  Since there are three different versions, I’ll give you the best for each passage.

I do make changes here and there, where the original versions are egregiously bad, or an improvement screams at me.  But for the most part, this is as written.

Though after typing it up and reviewing it for this website, I start wanting to finally write that longer version, 28 years since I wrote Part I….