by Greg Duncan
As Andrea sat on the couch she watched Mother look out the window through a small gap between the two curtains. Small enough for her to see through but not so much as someone outside might notice. She called out to her husband.
"Hans, come here quickly."
"I'm in the kitchen, what d'you want?"
"Quickly, Hans, before they get inside."
Hans came rushing over and Mother let him look through the gap in the curtains. "See - across the road."
"Yes. So what. I see people."
"Look again. Look at all those people going inside that house. Look at the number of people. We've never seen them before. Take a close look at their faces. See how they're looking around as if they're scared and shouldn't be there."
"Oh I see what you mean. You don't think they are? ... Really? Oh my god. Not here. How frightening. Will people think we're involved? That we are hiding them? We must report them to the police."
Andrea wanted to know what the problem was. "Is something wrong with my friend Rachel? I know she's not allowed to go to school, but we like to meet up together when I get home."
Mother turned to Andrea with fear written all over her face. "Did you say you meet with Rachel? Rachel, from across the road?"
"Yes - she's a nice girl."
"No. No. You must not talk to her. You must not go there. It's far too dangerous. You cannot see her, Andrea."
Andrea's mother and father tried to explain to her that the country was fighting a critical war and it was very important to stay away from certain people. They told her these people were bad for their great country and they needed to be locked away. They also told her that everyone must do what the government says and that we all must trust the government is doing the right thing to win this war.
At this point Hans indicated that it was his duty to report Rachel's parents to the authorities even if they were neighbours. In fact, because they were neighbours.
They tried to explain all this to Andrea but she responded as any normal young person would. "I'm 13 not 5. I read the papers. But why Rachel? This makes no sense."
Hans knew that very little of it did make sense but he was not going to risk his family's safety and future. He had to report these people to the police to protect his own family.
Andrea almost burst into tears as she ran upstairs and slammed shut the door to her room. It was time to talk to her diary so she opened it up to make today's entry. The date showed Friday 2 October 1942.
Her parents didn't know she had a diary. Andrea had been able to buy it cheaply half way through the year at the beginning of July at a second hand book shop and she kept it hidden under her bed. It was a lovely book with pictures on the left and space to write on the other side. Today's picture was of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. When Andrea had talked to Father about how beautiful Berlin looked, he had said they would all go there when the war was over but they could not go right now because of all the travel regulations and restrictions.
Andrea's diary was seldom a list of what she did - more often she wrote about how she felt and today Andrea was very upset as she began to write:
Is this really what life is? Spying on our neighbours? Listening to 'official' propaganda? Being afraid someone might report us to the police? Being fed manipulated data in the papers? Locking up foreigners? Not seeing my friends? Not able to travel freely? No fun?
And what rules do we need to obey today? Father says they change almost every day. He says the government does not care about people and does not need or even listen to elected representatives. He says officials now govern by dickey something - I think he said dictat.
Andrea stopped writing for a moment to look up her dictionary - dictat - a unilateral, often harsh, decree or rule imposed without consultation or public approval.
She went back to writing.
Father says we are fighting a war. A war for the survival of our great nation. I can see that myself every day but when will it end? What are we fighting and what will it mean to win? How can we trust the government when we know that what they tell us is not true. And what will the police do with Rachel and her family?
It's so sad to see Mother and Father frightened every day. Is this what the government wants? Is this the way we are supposed to live?
Perhaps I, too, need to learn to be frightened. But what are Mother and Father frightened of? The war or what the government will do next? Good night diary.
After re-reading what she had written, Andrea did what she did every night when she finished writing in her diary. With her pen she scrubbed out 1942 and wrote in the correct year - 2020 - and then went downstairs to watch the BBC news.