Senior 2nd Prize Winning Story
“The Border” by Clarissa Cynthia Salim, Singapore National Academy, Indonesia, is the Second Prize winning story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2018.
“Next!” he called out, the air is always so cold, even if it were to be one of the rare week of the year where it didn’t snow. The border guard, Andrei Mishkailov groaned. He, with all his disgruntled heart hated this job, too bad he’s born to a Class 8 family; a low class but not low enough to warrant him the rank of a labourer. His family had worked hard to get to where they are, and he too must do it; for his future children and their families.
His thought shifted towards the woman walking to his border checkpoint, a pale woman wearing layers upon layers of fur, protecting her frail figure from the elements.
“Show your documents,” Andrei asked. Shakily, she opened her withered bag, its flowery pattern had faded from years of damage and corrosion caused by the unforgiving weather the gods have cursed upon them. She slowly slid her documents to the tall man; a passport and an entry permit. Andrei opened the passport, from the country of Ortessia, an ally country in the eyes of his leader. Her name seemed to be Lyudmila Pavlov. Andrei kept that information in mind, checking the rest of her information, his diligent eyes keeping track of any possible discrepancy in her documents. Minutes felt like hours for her, his gaze turned to Lyudmila, his eyes burned through her in a piercing stare, causing the woman below him to shiver.
“I apologize, these documents are not in check with the latest requirements.” Just as he was about to slam the red stamp down as a sign of denied entry, the woman stopped him.
“Sir please! I haven’t anything back home. I’m a Class 12 citizen back in Ortessia! My family is in desperate need of supplies, I promise I won’t tell anyone. And I assure you I’ll be able to repay!” she cried. Her eyes stared directly at Andrei’s silver blue orbs. The strict border guard stared back, checking to see for signs of lies. Of course, his first instinct is to immediately deny her entry, as expected from the Great Empire. Oddly however, his heart broke out of its ice cold shell, telling him to let the woman be, besides, what’s the worse that could happen?
Andrei put away the red stamp and picked up the coveted green stamp and approved her entry, he noticed her face lit up like stars upon the night sky, her eyes widening from the shock of it all. Andrei put her documents and slid them back neatly to her, “Glory to the Federal States of Orbitov. Do not cause trouble in the state, or you will be executed,” he warned. The woman took back her documents, perhaps thanking gods that her entry had been miraculously accepted. He watched her leave, deeming her to be quite the adorable lady. He shook his head and held the built in microphone close to his chapped lips. “Next!” he ordered once more, continuing his endless cycle of checking and stamping documents, sometimes with the occasional threat by those he had denied entry.
As day turns to night, framed by the noticeable lack of stars, the alarm went off marking the border’s closure, and Andrei’s shift ending for that day. He closed down his border checkpoint, getting ready to leave to his deplorable dwelling the country calls an apartment. He made his way home, saluting fellow state workers. The sight of well designed propaganda made by state artists is a regular, showing the false prosperity and happiness of it’s citizens, the constant power shortages topped with famine. The start of a devastating yet rightful revolution should have occurred the moment the death toll reaches a hundred, oddly enough however, it’s clear the people had lost hope. For generations, the same family of dictators have ruled the land with an iron fist, accompanied by spies who would report anyone who has broken the tight law.
Andrei’s head by now filled with worrisome thoughts; what if someone reported him to the authorities for cash? Would he letting the woman in be the curse that falls on the hands of his now targeted family? Surely, he and his family would be forced to either live their lives in cages, treated like animals until their last days or outright executed without mercy. He opened the door to his room and trudged in, a picture of his family hung on the cracked wall, at least he has a roof over his head, he thought. For the night, he rested for another day of the same work until the day he’s put to rest in a shallow grave.
The next morning, Andrei was awoken by a direct hit of the blaring sun to his pale face. His face scrunched up in response to what feels like the blinding light as he let out a soft groan, stretching to awaken his limbs. He checked the time and immediately sprinted into action, getting ready for the day, taking the day’s newspaper with him. He read through the news and what he saw made his heart stop. The woman he had let in, was a spy, more specifically an enemy spy, his heart thumped, his execution is imminent now, it’s a matter of time before she spills the beans as to which of the border inspectors had so foolishly allowed a rebel from another country in to the glorious states. He knew one thing he had to do now, get enough money to bribe a broker to help him out of this hell and run, run and never look back.
That was when a loud bang was heard on his door. “Open up! We must question you, Andrei Mishkailov!” a voice yelled. Andrei couldn’t do anything to escape now, all he can do is to let the authorities in and pray to god he can slip from the grasp of the government one way or another.