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It's night again and I've crept above ground to my window to watch the activities in the main square. I have come to watch every night since the strangers came into our village. They are soldiers. The only words I have for them are cruel and evil. They have been set upon us by a man seeking to rule over us. We, who have been free for so long, now are subject to impending destruction, for we will never give in.

From this very window, I used to watch my people gather in the square at night, it seems long ago now, when the people would close down their open markets and their shops. The string lanterns would come on and the music would begin to play. There would be singing and couples would dance together. Men and women who had worked so hard in the fields by the light of day would find the strength to dance well into the night.

Those times are long gone, for when the lights come on in the square now, there is no singing, no dancing, no shouts of joy, only the shouts of anger and chants of alliance to ways of hate and lies.

They are assembling now to bring out and accuse those now seen as enemies to their new way of life. At first, those on trial in their open court were people I knew, neighbors, shop keepers, representatives of our former government.

Some were great, some were small, but all came to their end in the same way. First, they were questioned about their supposite insurrection. The men were always labeled as the most dangerous, for when the soldiers first appeared, the men joined together, with me among them, to withstand and protest their taking of our food, our goods, our living places, but we didn't hold out long with our knives and axes against their guns.

They soon were taking our sons to serve them, our young women and daughters to placate them and all who protested were put in the makeshift prisons they built. There were some who must have escaped, for I did not see them during the open trials or their bodies swinging from the gallows, built the same time as the prisons. 

The chanting had begun, their song of praise for their new frame of mind.

On trial this night were two men, neither of whom were familiar to me, but it didn’t matter, for they were sons of truth, against the accuser's lies, they were sons of hope against their tyranny. This made them our sons. Their crime was aiding in the escape of some people from the outlands of our village.

Soldiers were assaulted according to their accusers. They had stolen their weapons, and escorted some people to the river; they provided a small boat to float to freedom beyond the grasp of the invaders. It was declared by the accusers that several soldiers were injured in pursuing them before they reached the boat. They were unsuccessful in stopping the people from fleeing when the two accused men sacrificed themselves to allow for the others to escape.

When I heard their brave story, despite the accurers' attempt to poison it, a cheer nearly escaped my lips, for they were heroes in his incident. I was however, far too weak to cheer aloud, but in my heart I was sure what cheer I mustered rang and shook the heavens. I also prayed the people had escaped and were free. The two men were, as expected, found guilty. Their punishment was of course to be hanged, but before that and because they had severely injured several soldiers, they would also suffer severe injury first. The only words that escaped their lips was a song of liberty, once sung by us all for our country and for our little village.

They sang until they were too broken by the crushing blows of clubs to sing more. I instead finished the song for them, the croaks of my voice barely audible to my ears, but I finished it for them as they hung limb and bloody on the gallows.After witnessing this, I felt something I hadn’t felt for awhile, a sadness that caused convulsions of weeping. I hadn’t weeped in such a manner since my beloved wife died in my arms. This cry was far more painful as I lacked the strength to sob and more of a mockery as I had no water for tears.

I had seen so much, yet it seemed I had not seen enough. All I knew was that on this night, I could not stand to see any more. I turned from the window, dragging myself down on what was left of a stone staircase. My useless legs were heavy as usual, causing my arms renewed injury on jagged stones that were no longer stairs.Though my body was markedly heavy, my heart felt far heavier. I laid myself beside the ruins of my former life and began to drift as this former life rose to haunt me, imploring me never to forget what had happened. I closed my eyes, hoping this would be the last time I would need to relive my torment.

The soldiers began to fire on us as we fled the square. Most of us made it back to the barricade. We set fires to keep the soldiers from breaking through to the last safe corner of the village. My home with those of my two closest neighbors combined to form a makeshift fortress, with broken parts from destroyed homes. We had stolen enough guns from one of their less guarded supply huts and had given them a gun battle they didn't expect.

As more soldiers became involved, a distraction was created for a planned escape for others to flee to the woods and to the river. We sent off as many of our old, our women and our children as we could. My wife was never more stubborn than when she refused to leave. I had also hoped my youngest, my daughter would have at least considered leaving, but she was just as stubborn as her mother and as fierce a fighter as her two older brothers. When the night came, our watch had received the signal that those sent had made it to the river. We prayed they would reach the boat and escape to freedom. 

The rest of the night was unusually quiet. We had thought there would be at least a rally in the square speaking their threats against us. Many felt our stand against them had perhaps caused them to retreat. Some were naive enough to believe their retreat could be permanent.

I had no such beliefs, for their evil didn’t seem like the type to be repelled easily. As I continued my vigil of the village square from my window, I took note of an eerie stillness and though my fellows tried to get me to relax, even celebrate with them, I couldn't relax, and I was far from any thought of celebrating. I continued looking out of the window, finding myself straining to see into the shadows of the square where there was usually light.

The light of a feeble dawn was breaking as I awoke to shouts of alarm from outside. I looked and was now able to see what the shadows had hidden. They were upon us now, there was no time to prepare a defence against this attack. The deafening blasts blew away the barricade and most of the homes. I grabbed my weapon and stumbled through the thick smoke only to meet the blast and fire of more explosions. One of the men yelled, "They're firing cannons, fall back!"

I called frantically for my wife, unable to see anything. Thankfully the smoke cleared enough for me to see her coming out of a side room and collapsing to the floor. I managed to catch her and I lifted her into my arms. The voice of my son was behind me urging me to move quickly to an exit at the back of the house. I turned to glance at him and he gave me a look of reassurance, then disappeared in the chaos of smoke and screams. I was able to see my daughter and other son also struggling just ahead, making their way to the rear exit. It was then, I looked down into the face of my wife.

She was badly injured, her face bloody, her eyes glazed and unfocused. I held her closer and whispered to her, hoping she could hear, "Stay with me love, we'll soon be out of here." Her body shifted slightly in my arms, assuring me she had heard. We were steps from the exit when another blast from a cannon blew us backward.

The floor collapsed and we fell to the cellar. I recalled falling near her and crawling to cover her when the rest of the house fell on us. The only sound I recalled was the sound of the debris and dust setting softly around us.

All my memories are painfully vivid now, as I lay here beside my wife, her once lovely face as still as the pieces of the dead stone around us. My children and some of those who fought by my side are here as well. Our enemies, satisfied with our deaths, thought us too unworthy to bury. They left us here twisted and broken beneath our home, the only grave we will have. Yet, I had survived and was left to bear witness.

Crawling up to the street level window night after night, I watched, and the window of my soul saw much darkness, so now I only want to rest, to turn to dust with my family, and I pray for the light of freedom to shine on us all, so we would not have died in vain. Tears tried to fall again as I thought I heard sounds coming from the square 

Why can’t I have silence? What is it now? I do hear something, but... It’s not screams, It’s not shouts…. What is this soft sound? It...It is a song and people are singing...It is our song, the song of my people. There are so many voices, oh they are so lovely, so lovely… they are singing our anthem of freedom and they couldn’t sing if we weren’t free….

He smiled and closed his eyes, for through the window of his soul, he knew his prayer had been answered. 

June 08, 2021 02:47

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