|This is the darkest place I’ve ever been in.|
On and on it goes. We’re in the dark both physically and metaphorically speaking. I’ve got no idea how much further we’ve got to go, I’ve got no idea what we’ll find at the end of it, and I’ve got no idea what lies between here and there.
It’s damp. It’s muddy. It smells. I’m afraid that at any moment one of us might trip. I keep remembering what happened to Fulpmes. If someone should be injured here, what on earth would we do? I mustn’t think about that. And I mustn’t think about how tired I am. And, most of all, I mustn’t think about what happened in Spartz, and what might now happen to us, to all of us – the girls, me, everyone at the School, everyone at the Sonnalpe. Not until I’ve got us out of here. But we seem to have been walking for hours, and there’s still no sign of an end to it. And it’s so dark.
How can this be happening to me? I’m just an English schoolmistress. I teach science and geography. I praise effort and good work, I scold girls who fail to finish their prep or who don’t concentrate in class. I take girls on trips at half-term, I help to raise money for the free beds on the children’s ward at the San, and I tell girls to pay fines for using slang or the wrong language for the day. A couple of hours ago – it seems like weeks, but I know than it can be no more than a couple of hours, if that – I was drinking coffee and eating cake after a shopping trip. What could be more normal than that? So how is it, tell me, please tell me, how is it that I’m now groping my way through a dark passageway, leading who knows where, fleeing for my life from an angry mob who’ve attacked an old man on the street and then tried to break into a church, like a scene from the Middle Ages? With a group of young girls following on behind me.
I was in charge of them. I was supposed to be looking after them. Should I have stopped them? I didn’t have chance to: it all happened so quickly. By the time I realised what was happening and got outside, Robin had her arms round Herr Goldmann and the others were with her.
Would I have stopped them even if I’d had chance to? Is that why I became a teacher – to teach my pupils that they should stand by and do nothing whilst a defenceless, innocent old man is about to be murdered before their eyes? No. It isn’t. If I’d been sitting where Robin had been sitting, if I’d seen what she’d seen, then I hope I’d have had the instinct and the courage to do exactly as she did. But I don’t ever want any of my girls to be in that position again. Even if we didn’t now have to leave for our own safety, I’d want us to get away from what this place has become. If that’s what’s happening in a little town like Spartz, then who knows what might be happening in Vienna or Berlin or Munich. I fear that a great darkness has descended all over Germany and Austria, and I fear for the future of us all, of the whole of humanity.
I’m in the dark about what the coming months will bring. I’m in the dark about what tomorrow will bring. I’m in the dark about what even the next few minutes will bring. And I’m in the dark in this passageway. But I must keep on. We may be walking through a terrible darkness, but we are not the ones who are truly walking in the dark. We are walking away from those who are walking in the dark. I have faith that, in our hearts, we are walking in the light.