“Why can’t we leave this place?” Michael said.

“Why would you ever want to leave East Berlin? You have everything here. Food, school, medicine. Why would you ever want to leave?” his parents responded.

“I want to see the outside world!”

“Outside world? Pfft. Now go to bed before the Stasi comes to whip you!”

He went to bed without questioning it. He had seen people get whipped to the point of bleeding and get beheaded for more serious crimes on top of a platform that was right in front of the Brandenburg Gate, where the scandalous West Germans over the wall as well as the public could see it happening. These people were people who tried to escape through the wall or tried to steal something and survived but got beheaded (head melted off with a very powerful laser) on a daily basis. After he thought of this idea, he got up quietly and got on his computer. He searched on Deutschesuche and searched how to leave Germany. His computer started freaking out and spewed warning messages saying, Warning. Leaving Berlin will result in death or severe punishment. Do not attempt to do so. You have been warned.

He hoped the government wouldn’t find out what he searched, but they controlled the Internet, so he thought they might have already known and would come to arrest him the next day. He heard footsteps and instinctively fell on the bed to pretend he was sleeping. The door opened with a creak behind him, and he heard his mom whisper, “I think he is asleep,” and closed the door behind her.

The next day at school, he asked around with the teachers and students about how to leave Berlin. It was like the word “leave” didn’t ring a bell in their head. Besides the one or two people who whispered to him about how people got punished and beheaded for trying, the rest just stared at him blankly and said, “What?”

When he asked his friend Fritz, he said, “Shhh!! Don’t ever say that in public! If the Stasi gets wind of that, they’ll kill you and your parents at Brandenburg gate! No questions asked.”

He thought he might have already alerted the Stasi that he wanted to escape because he had basically asked everyone in the school. People had been known to rat out their friends and family so they would get a reward or a promotion in school or work. He couldn’t even trust his friends or parents. They could have easily turned him in and not blinked an eye. One lead he could follow was an old baker, a friend of his when he was little, who owned a bakery down the street and had tons of books in a secret closet. He used to read Western stories to him. But when he escaped through a tunnel that he built under the shop, which only he knew about, he found that the bakery was abandoned along with the books and the tunnel. He had not visited the place since.

A few blocks down the road was the bakery, an old building around when the cruel Nazis were around. The third and second floors were bombed out and boarded over the sign and the windows. He went to the back of the building and opened a dusty door, which creaked. He walked down the stairs to the basement. If you looked at the basement, there was nothing wrong with it. There was a pile of boxes in one corner and three sacks of flower in the other. But he knew there was a small tunnel just behind the pile of boxes. He moved the boxes with some effort and stared down the long, damp, and low tunnel. He crouched and moved forward. It felt like forever, but finally he made it to the end of the long tunnel. He came out in an old building’s basement. He could tell it was a basement because of all of the house junk that was lying around. He climbed up a hatch and got onto the street.

He heard, “Hello.” He understood that was English. He had made it.


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