Hannah kept herself busy with little chores. She kept an eye on her father, Hans, who was having one of his many naps in preparation, as he called it, for the other side. “One has to be prepared,” he would say to Hannah when he was awake. They were in a room of a country hospital. From outside a Magpie could be heard singing. When he was awake Hans could see a gum tree through the window. In the afternoon the sun shone through the branches, bathing it into a green and golden glow. The Magpie and the gum tree, Hans loved those two aspects of Australia.
Sometimes he became restless while dozing and one afternoon as Hannah sat by his bedside she heard him shouting, “Eva”. Hannah jumped up to check on him.
“Dad, wake up, you are having a bad dream,’ she said shaking his shoulder.
“It’s you,” he said and shook his head as if he wanted to shake something out of it.
“I was miles away, actually over sixty years.”
“What was it, Dad?”
“You may think I’m silly, but it is an old dream I had.” Hans said.
“I heard you shout, ‘Eva’, so it must be about a woman? Did you know an Eva?”
Hans cleared his throat and sipped on the glass of water Hannah was holding to his lips. His hands were shaking as he tried to get hold of the glass.
“I will tell you, if you promise not to get cross with me,” Hans said.
“I won’t Dad,” she said as she put the glass back onto the bedside table.
“It is always the same dream and the story goes back to the the end of the war. You know, of course, that I was a soldier in the German army when the Red Army encircled Berlin and we seemed to be trapped, expecting the worst.
In the dream, all the buildings in the street are burning and I’m on a military truck with some mates. We are heading out of the city. I tell you, it is an apocalypse. Dead soldiers, of both sides, are laying everywhere. Dead horses, partly cut up, are rotting in the gutter. Dead young boys are hanging from the lamp posts. They were executed for wanting to go home. As the truck, in the dream, tries to navigate all the obstacles I see a woman running out of a building. The fire storm is tearing at the flowery dress. She looks at us bewildered and waves with both arms. She wants us to stop. I recognised her as the Red Cross nurse I had met previously a few times and I want to help her, pick her up and take her out of the inferno. But the officer in the cabin told the driver to move on and not to bother. I was devastated. When I called out her name she recognised me. Our truck sped away. I could see that the walls of a burning building collapsed into the street and I was not able to see her any more. With only slight variations I dream the same dream, again and again.” Hans stopped and seemed exhausted. He asked for water.
“That is a terrible dream, Dad. Did you know the woman?” Hannah asked.
“Yeah, yeah, I knew her. But it was before your Mum, you have to understand.”
“Was her name really Eva, Dad?”
“Yes, Darling. As I said, she was a Red Cross nurse and she did good work with the wounded soldiers. The army had established a field hospital in the subway tunnel. The nurses were real angels, I tell you. They were often the last people the soldiers saw before dying. Later, some idiot flooded the subway so the Russians would not be able to use the tunnel. The wounded drowned by the hundreds.”
“What happened to Eva, Dad?” Hannah wanted to know.
“I first met her in the tunnel, when I was getting a minor scratch attended to. The war hadn’t stopped yet, nothing was virtual then. After a couple of hours or days, who knows, I saw her again in a cellar were we received some food. Someone had found some Schnaps and in no time we had a little party going. Eva and I, we started to talk and as she was very attractive I felt we should do more than just do the talk. In those days we were all opportunistic, men and women. It could have been the last time. We did not promise much to each other but implored each other to survive and we exchanged home addresses.
The next day our officer organised a breakout to the West. We met up with a group of Flemish SS volunteers, real desperadoes, they did not want to fall into the hands of the Russians. To cut a long story short, we made it to the Elbe, where the Americans took us prisoners. I felt sorry for Eva, could not forget her for years. After the war I made inquiries. Her family told me she was missing. When I met your Mum I forgot about Eva for a while. But then the dream started.”
“Did Mum know about the dream?”
“Yes, she knew, but she was never jealous.”
“Mum and you loved each other, that is what counted.”
“But I’m worried now, that my life comes to an end and I will meet both women in heaven and I have to decide between the two.”
“Don’t be silly, Dad. In heaven no one has to decide anything. That is why it is called ‘Heaven’.”
“If you say so,” Hans said with a wry smile. He was exhausted and shut his eyes.
Hannah stroked his hand. He was asleep.