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Part 1

Hide and seek was always fun, but standing behind a tree as the sound of distant gunfire came ever closer was not music to my ears. What did we do to upset the maniac? Is he crazy? Or is it because he seeks ever more control over the whole world and not just eastern Europe?

From my lofty perch above the village, I can see the lightbulbs below slowing fading away. My friends and family are either dead or dying. Somehow we have awoken the monster. Why does he hate us so much? Does he not realise that all war is essentially futile? Does he ever listen to the weeping of the mothers and daughters, fathers and sons?

All the men and teenage boys were rounded up and incarcerated in our old weather-beaten hall. We tried to get out but only my best friend and I managed to escape. As we ran, I heard the sound of gunfire followed by a scream. My friend had fallen and I dropped to the ground beside him. A hole in his head showed me he had been hit by a bullet, probably from a powerful rifle. I held his hand and said a little prayer in his honour. His blood-

stained my trousers, but I didn’t care for he was like a brother to me. I couldn’t stop shaking as I sobbed, my tears falling like winter rain.

I looked down on the spirals of wispy smoke below. With no soldiers trekking up the hill to kill me, it was time to move from my hiding place behind the tree. A bee flew past my face and a few birds were singing in the highest branches. It was surreal, crazy, a time of fear and despair that wasn’t there yesterday yet nature continued as if nothing had happened.

I finally walked away. I had to but as the forest thickened, the fear of death slowly melted away like snow in the sunshine. But where do I go now, I asked myself? I had a compass but the lands beyond the next hill were unknown to me.

Nevertheless, I had to quickly move away from the place of my birth. I was still trembling but my resolve was clear now. I would venture into the forests to meet others like me; to find weapons; to

fight the uninvited monster from the east.

The dense woodlands spread much further than I ever imagined. I was lost, tired, and hungry. And when I finally looked down, onto a land of peace and prosperity, the tears fell once more and my body shook like falling leaves in autumn.

My feet were sore, my face covered in sweat, and my stomach was as empty as an old tin can. But I was so relieved when the smiling face of a man greeted me. He led me to food and water and asked many questions. I replied and soon after I was lying on a bed in his home of stone. My sleep was troubled as I awoke many times, yet a soft hand gently stroking my face was always there. Her eyes were the colour of the cloudless sky, her smile akin to a goddess.

And when I awakened from slumber, sat up, and screamed, the smiling face greeted me. Her hand was holding mine as she asked me how I was.

Soon after, her father entered the room and the beautiful

goddess left. He soon made it clear the invasion of our wonderful country would not be tolerated and all able-bodied men and boys over the age of fifteen would be required to fight. I was three months short of the date but, luckily for me, my lies went unnoticed.

Two days later, a truck, with young men and boys in the back, pulled up at the house. The girl shed tears as she kissed me on the cheek whilst her father gave me a thick sheepskin coat. For warmth in the hills, he said. I hoped I’d see the girl again as I waved my goodbyes, especially as she blew me a kiss for luck.

Like so many of my people, I was off to war, to save our country from the mad dictator in the east.

And as the truck chugged off, I prayed I’d live to see democracy return to my beautiful country once more.


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