Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta winter. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta winter. Mostrar todas las entradas

miércoles, 28 de septiembre de 2016

Facts of war

   The bombs had suddenly stopped dropping from the sky. There was an awful, eerie silence that occupied everywhere that still stood, which wasn’t much. Most of the city was now ruins, a bunch of unrecognizable rubble where people had lived and tried to have good lives and happy days. But that had ended some time ago, when the war started and things went rapidly downhill for everyone in every corner of the globe. It had happened so fast that no one really knew how to explain it or understand it. It was just chaos in it’s simplest form.

 Before bombs started dropping, people thought it would never come to that. They innocently thought that the war would be fought in empty, far away spaces, where no one would ever get hurt and where countries could argue for long periods of time without really affecting the civilian population. Those who thought that had visibly no idea of what war was really like and how it had destroyed and devastated the world once and again in the past. How cities had been leveled down by fire and force and how the strong ones didn’t really care who they hit and how.

 The morning before the bombs dropped on the city, people were already getting a bit nervous but not nearly as nervous as they should’ve been. They had all heard about the rumors that new airplanes that could fly without being detected could be sent in any moment to attack. But the frontline of the war was so far way that people simply didn’t buy that theory. They claimed that some people were being alarmists in order to get some sort of advantage in the war. They decided to deny any possibility of war coming to them. It was their undoing.

 Most of the people in the city died right then, that morning when the sun was just coming up and then, out of nowhere, the first bomb was dropped in the city. It is strange to say it, but the enemy had the so-called kindness to drop a single bomb on an industrial part of the city first in order for people to be able to run to the nearest shelters or to get safe in any way possible. It was a kind of warning shot. Most people ignored it and that’s why the amount of survivors, on the days following the decimation of the city, was so low.

 The few people that survived did recognize the signs of what had happened and ran to the underground parking lots and places similar to those. There were no shelters because they had chosen not to get ready for a war that was real, even if it was far from their homes. Most survivors had to be dug out from under the rubble because they had been underground by chance. Almost no one had actually run down from their home to protect themselves. They really didn’t believe anything could happen to them, as if they were special in some way.

 But they were not. The city was not treated any differently than any other city before or after that. The enemy had a clear objective and new exactly how to hit a target in order to have maximal damage and be able to withdraw fast if the attacked nation reacted efficiently. This was almost never the case as they always destroyed military bases and other potential points of defense in order to be able to do whatever they wanted. The rules of war were clear to them.

 Exactly two day after the bombing started, the bombers retired and went back home. They had done their job and the ground army was already advancing fast, taking advantage of the new position they had taken. It was a very dared strategy but it had worked perfectly for them. When the army arrived, they helped the survivors out of the rubble and they put them in special camps to be held as prisoners of war. No one was mistreated in any way and that made the whole experience a little bit worse. People couldn’t properly hate them if they were suddenly kind to them.

 Of course, they had been the ones that destroyed their city and probably killed many members of their families and friends. But the treatment in the detention center was not the one of a concentration camp or anything like it. It was exactly as if the hundreds of survivors had been taken to a five-star hotel to be locked down as prisoners. It was a very odd thing to experience and most people had no idea what to feel, what to say to the guards and how to react to anything. However, it was clear who had won and who had lost that battle.

 Many other camps like that one appeared in the region, as the enemy’s army advances through the continent. They had a pretty successful year but then, at the end of it, the expansion stopped. The invaded nations were responding but only with skirmishes and guerrilla warfare. The fact that winter had come was an important factor in them being successful and the enemy deciding that the advance of their troops could hold for a while as they decided a new course of action that would end the war in the favor, once and for all.

 The winter was unusually long and harsh. Snow covered the ruins of many cities and prisoners in camps realized that their situation was harder than they realized. Even though they had a goo reason to feel good about being in a warm place during the violent snowstorms, they realized that they were prisoners because of they weren’t they would be out there, standing in the storm with a weapon, defending their countries and their right to exist. Not all of them thought the same but a general feeling of sadness and confusion could be felt among the prisoners.

 When the winter ended, people assumed the enemy would resume expansion and the war would be over in months. But that didn’t happen. Pockets of resistance had appeared during the summer and they turned stronger once the weather got better. No matter their big guns and strategies, the enemy’s army couldn’t taken them all down as they wanted to. They had to be smart about it and realized that their plan for expansion had problems from the beginning, as they had never thought people could resist them.

 That entire year, the Resistance movement, which spanned several countries with different languages and cultures, was able to have some small victories over the enemy. They robbed some weapons or transports; they temporally blocked their advance or just annoyed them when trying to do anything. It was a very tense year and it was the turning point for everything or at least for most things. Prisoners were still in the camps and the destroyed cities remained on the ground. That hadn’t and wouldn’t change in a long while.

 The following winter, the enemy decided the offensive was taking too long so they did something that no one expected them to do: they reached out to the Resistance and proposed they negotiate a deal to end the war. Of course, the people that had been massacred and persecuted were not very keen on accepting anything that came from the invader. Most people called the move a trap and felt that it was a new strategy by their enemy to exterminate any opposition to their plans for the whole world. They didn’t trust them at all, they couldn’t.

 However, they finally sent a group to discuss what the ideas were for the ending of the conflict. The war had lasted for too long and it was worth the shot to at least know what they could potentially do to end the fighting. The group that met with the enemy was very nervous about everything but the others tended to tend as if they were allies. They gave them a great dinner and told them that they wouldn’t return any of the occupied lands but tht they could liberate some territory for people to leave in what could be called the Free Cities.

Those cities would have access to sea and rivers, would controlled by Resistance but an Occupation Board would oversee anything to do with the cities and their development. They would basically be free but with a few limitations. The group went back to the rest of the rebels with the proposal and, it had to be said, they discussed thoroughly for many days. It was very hard to discuss what was right or what was wrong because any measure is good to end death. But at what cost should that be done? The decision didn’t make everyone happy, that’s for sure.

domingo, 21 de febrero de 2016


   It was the children that love to look at him more than anyone else. Maybe it was because he was some kind of a novelty in their lives, having seen only their parents all their lives. The man in the bed just lay there, having been unconscious since the day he appeared in the front lawn of their cabin, far into the tundra. They had a decent life there, maybe not very exciting but they it was consistent and it was mostly safe to raise a family and to create values that in the rest of the world we in decline.

 The man they had found had his nose broken and several bruises all over his body, as if someone or something had kicked him repeatedly. He had some older scars and he had a black eye that healed pretty quickly. Yet, he wouldn’t wake up. Mama would try different salts and medicines they had, she tried the fat of the animals they hunted and several leafs and fruits from the forest but he appeared to be oblivious to an of them. Father was a bit more violent and would yell in different volumes to try and wake him up. He would say different kinds of things including asking him if he was a soldier or a spy but it never worked.

 After the first month, they got really worried. Even the children, who love to go into that room and play around the man, were now tired of him been asleep and wanted him to live, maybe even to tell them their story. The kids, boy and girls of around ten years old, jumped all around the poor man and screamed like crazy, hoping it would work but it didn’t. They pushed him hard and were even as violent or more than their father. They cried and screamed and the kicked him and screamed again but eventually they would just make their parents crazy so they stopped.

 Outside, winter was finally over and the sun was beginning to be a little stronger. In this region of the world, winter never really ended and it was cold all year except for some days were things appeared to change. Anyway, the fact was that there was no more snow and the temperature was tolerable so Father took both kids hunting one day and retook the lessons he had been giving them before the winter. He had been teaching them about the bow and arrow and how to use them and how not to scare your prey.

 As the kids and their father bonded, Mother stayed in and cooked some deer meat she had frozen a week before. Deer meat was the best kind of food one could find in the region as it was soft but also rich in nutrients and could pass for cow meat, which they never consumed. She chopped some of the vegetables they grew on the greenhouse and put them in the pot with the meat. She realized she had forgotten to chop the onion so proceeded to do it but them a muffled voice, more of a complaint, was heard all over the house. She turned and screamed her lungs out.

 The youngest heard her and ran as fast as he could to the house, followed by his sister and Father. When they got there, the man that had been in bed for so many months was laying face down on the kitchen floor, now drooling and making a very strange sound. The Mother was livid, shaking like crazy. She was still holding the big knife she used to chop things and only let it go when her husband pulled it away from her. He then checked the pulse of the man on the floor and realized he was still alive and that his pulse was faster than before. He asked everyone to help him carry back to the room and there they tied one hand to the bed, preventing another scare.

 At dinner, everyone ate their deer in silence. They didn’t talk, ever, during meals, but this time Mother started crying and told Father she couldn’t keep living like this, with that man being captive in and improvised room. It was like keeping a prisoner and that didn’t make senses. She proposed to take him to the authorities, even if it meant travelling a full day to reach the nearest settlement. The Father did not respond, not right then at least. He had never trusted the authorities, even if it had been the government itself the one that had gave them authorization to live there.

 He finally said he would think about it. He wanted to know that man wasn’t going to die in the middle of the journey. And he really wanted to know who he was and why he was wandering so far into the tundra. Mother did not insist, changing the subject to the children not eating because of the earlier scare. She was right: they had always thought of the man in the bed as some sort of good elf but after hearing their mother’s tale of how he yelled something she couldn’t understand and then collapsed and drooled making sounds, it scared them.

 The next day, the Father tried again to make the man talk. This time, he didn’t yell or pushed him. He just sat down by his side and started reading the man in the bed the contract the government had given him in order to be able to live there. He started reading from the very beginning, with a normal pace and changing pages with a gracious move of the hand. The document consisted of at least twelve pages, detailing every single aspect the family had to take into account while living there.

 Back when he had signed the contract, it was only Father and Mother. But the contract specified how many children they could have living in that house, the dimensions of he house itself, which animals they could hunt and which ones they couldn’t, from where they could grab the water to survive and which trees they could use for heating and so on. Every single detail about living in that remote region of the world was in those pages and Father read every single one of them. But he didn’t need to as he knew them by heart.

 When he finished, he raised his head and realized the man had his eyes open. Without changing his pace or volume of voice, he asked the man who he was and what he was doing in his land. The man open his mouth but the words appeared to be trying to get out of it all at the same time. He grunted and tried again but nothing came out. He seemed to wanting to say something and he wasn’t happy at all when he couldn’t. He was certainly not happy when he couldn’t move one of his hands in order to complain. He looked at Father with red eyes, grunting.

 Kids and wife looked at Father, how he asked silence from the Man and slowly move his mouth, making soft sounds and then reciting all the letters of the alphabet. The Man stopped grunting and looked at Father. There was something dark, something mysterious in his voice. As he tried to recite the alphabet two, he started sweating and his eyes went very fast from Father to Mother and then to each of the kids. It was unsettling and combining it with the letters of the alphabet didn’t make it any better. Father continued, slowly, by spelling his name. He did it several times, pointing at himself with a finger.

 Then, he pointed at the man and fell silent. The man looked more scared that ever before and tried, again, to talk. At first, the same type of grunts returned to his mouth but then he tried to clear his mouth and a letter came out in a very deep voice. Mother let out a squeal and the kids’ mouths were very open. The letter was “D”. Father asked Mother something to write on and a pencil and she looked for them after snapping out of it. He wrote a big D and showed it the man, who nodded.

 The following letters where “A” and “N”, so they decided that his name was Dan. He started coughing like mad after he had said that last letter; coughing so hard blood came out of his mouth. Mother brought him something to clean himself with but he prevented her from coming neared. He saw the spots of blood in the covers with terror, his eyes also filled with blood. He looked at them, hopeless and guilty. Trying to calm him, the family came closer but he just said to more letters, which Father wrote.

 Something happened then that no one would ever be able to explain mainly because no person alive can really say what happened. Some say the gran began to shake, others say it was the roof that suddenly came off. All agree, however, that sound appeared to disappear for a moment in the world. Many years later they would found that house destroyed and the notebook where Father had written the word “DANGER”. In smaller writing, below, he had also written “deaf”, and that was it. No one ever knew what happened but it was clear the Man had failed to deliver his message.

viernes, 16 de enero de 2015

The Winter

   Helena worked in one of the many factories located along the river, a fast-flowing stream filled with waterfalls and whirlpools. Every single worker of the factories and the people from the town knew that it was very dangerous to play or stand near the river. But Helena always did, just right before work and just after it. She loved to see the big chunks of ice go down the river, fast, as if they had a rush to get the waterfalls lying only some kilometers further ahead.

What she loved about the river was that she felt strangely alive when looking at it. For her, it was almost as looking a group of children play ball or a market filled with buyers and sellers. Anyway, not much happened in town so when winter came and the river started its battle against the low temperatures, it was always entraining to see which one of the two won the match.

Helena’s post inside the factory was just next to one of the big windows. She had to stitch together two pieces of fabric in order to make underwear, which would be sold in many stores around the world. At least that was what they told all the women working there and, as most of them would have never had the money to pay for such nice clothes, they had no idea if they got only to the next town or a fancy store in Japan, or something.

Through the window next to her, Helena saw the river trying not to lose its power, its grace and insistence. People around her never understood her fascination with it but she had no need to tell them. After all, it was her thing and no one else’s so, she kept this particular enjoyment to herself.

One winter in particular, it was clear that the river would lose the battle. Helena lived upstream and many sections there were already frozen. It did look beautiful, she thought, but it was better when it was liquid and it could do everything, even if it got dangerous and often devastating. By the factory, some waterfalls had frozen over too and it was clear the river wasn’t going to hold much longer which was particularly bad for town.

The electric energy provided to the houses, the factories and so on, were generated by a dam upstream but if they reservoir froze over the electricity would stop arriving. And that’s exactly what happened on the third week of January, when the hum of electricity coming from various machines suddenly stop. The heating system in the factory failed too and they were told by their bosses to get to back home. If they received a call, it meant they wouldn’t need to come to work the next day. Helena knew there would be no call.

She walked home but first stopped by the baker.  It was clear he was having problems to as they were trying, with his son, to turn on a generator that worked on gasoline. Not that gasoline wasn’t expensive but the baker couldn’t afford to lose the job of one day. So they turned the machine on and Helena took home a baguette and a couple chocolate croissants. She ate one as she walked towards home to make her heart feel warmer.

When she entered her small cottage, she looked through the window and saw how the river was almost entirely frozen. Only a small stream of water passed through the ice and it wasn’t enough to make the dam work; that was obvious. Helena left her bread in the kitchen and went up to change off her work clothes. She put on a thick sweater and loose pants, the kind you use to exercise. She went down to the kitchen and checked the time on a clock hanging over the oven: it was one o’clock.

Realizing they had really been let go rather early and wondering if this time the call would be real, she decided to make herself a proper lunch. She normally ate something like a sandwich in the factory’s cafeteria but the bread there was normally stale and the meat seemed to have seen better days. Helena decided she would take this chance to make herself something delicious to eat. So she checked the cupboards and the fridge, which wasn’t working anymore, and decided to make a nice fish on herbs and roasted potatoes to go with it.

She checked her oven and it did work. Thankfully, it worked on gas and not with electricity so she could cook her dinner there. In an hour, she was seating down to a small table by a window, the one from which she could see the frozen river. She started eating the fish, enjoying herself despite the cold. Then, for a moment, she stared again at the river but her expression was now pensive, almost sad. She seemed to scare the thoughts out of her head, in order to continue eating. But when she finished she was again looking at the window.

Several minutes passed until she stood up, washed the dishes and went to her room. Somehow, she didn’t really feel cold or tired. She just wanted to lie down and think. From her room, the river could be seen to but she deliberately lay with her back against the window. She didn’t want to look at it, at the water, anymore. She had tried hard to have a nice relationship with it but sometimes it got hard. It was as if winter made it harder on purpose, in order to make her remember.

 It had happened in winter too, so maybe that was why. One day, Helena had been walking upstream with her, holding hands, looking at every animal remaining in the cold and at every plant that looked as if they were also fighting the winter, just like the river. They had stared at the beautiful shapes of a frozen waterfall and the silent and peaceful sound of the remaining water, sometimes underneath the thick layer of ice.

The next day, she woke up suddenly, like scared or as if her body was warning her of an incoming danger. And it did: she looked through the window just in time to see how her only daughter, age five, was taking a first step into the frozen water. She ran as fast as she could, in her pajamas, almost falling to the ground, getting mud and frost all over. But as she drew near she heard that horrible sound, the sound that she would never forget.

It was the ice cracking beneath the feet of her daughter. In that moment, she screamed, calling her. Nowadays, she wished she hadn’t. The little girls, got even more scared because of this and decided to walk back to shore but then the sound coming from the ice became louder and Helena saw how her daughter was engulfed by frozen water. When she got to the spot where her daughter had been, she realized the river was only superficially frozen. Underneath, water still moved fast.

She ran downstream, screaming for help and then falling mute, as she saw her daughter’s body floating face down underneath a thin layer of ice. She broke it with her fists, dragged the girl from the water and held her in her arms as people gathered around and saw what had happened. Her daughter was dead, in the blink of an eye. From that day on she respected the river but she hated it too because it had taken her life from her.

Her daughter, a bright young girl, was going to be such a better person that she had ever been. She was going to be someone amazing and outstanding, fearless and strong. Helena was going to help her do whatever she wanted to be the best of all. She would have the courage to leave town and really live the life she wanted for herself. And Helena would have been proud and happy for her, because her life dream would have come true.

But the river ended that. She ended that. She blamed herself, even if it was worthless to do it. During winter, she remembered her daughter almost every day and tried to be strong enough to keep living but sometimes it got extremely difficult, because Helena realized she was truly alone in the world. She fell asleep crying in silence, in her bed.

But the following morning she went, as usual, to work. The dam was still no working but they had to work anyway. She stopped by the river on her way to work and looked at it for a couple of minutes, paying her respects. She got hold a beautiful surviving twig, with some leaves on it, and threw it in the water. Then she moved on, to work and to the rest of her life.

domingo, 28 de septiembre de 2014

A Royal Lady

Lavinia had been in the Montgraneux palace for only two months. On her first week she married the duke and her mother assured her it was the best choice she could've had for a husband.

The duke of Halesworth was one of those bachelors that every girls wanted to marry: he was rich do to his business as a country man and as a politician, he had participated in battles abroad and, most important, he was an elegant, gracious man.

To Lavinia, looks weren't that important. From the moment she realized she had come to the world only to get married and be someone's something, she had decided not to mind too much about looks. She wanted someone who she can talk to at nights, share silly facts about life and live a peaceful life, with children as her mother intended.

She was presented to the duke in a party nothing to fancy, and the man liked her for her wit and tenderness. Within the next month, the wedding was arranged as well as her moving from her parents house.

Montgraneaux was majestic. It had a french name as the duke's grandparent had built it for his spouse, a french lady. The palace was a two story building, filled with beautiful objects from around the world. Lavinia specially liked the ballroom, which had plenty of mirrors and the nicest view towards the gardens.

The wedding, of course, was magnificent. Every single person that counted was there. Even an envoy from her majesty attended. Lavinia was so happy and proud to be marrying such a respectable person. She never thought she would enjoy marrying but that day she was all joy and fun and her mother even asked her if she felt fine. She answered: "Mama, I love my new life".

So from that day onward she lived on Montgraneaux.
However, things changed fast and not as she would have liked to. The duke was rarely at home, even to work, so she would only see him on weekends when they walked the gardens and shared quiet meals.

Lavinia didn't wanted too much of life so she was sad to see her low expectations were not being filled. The change became apparent from day one, or night one to be precise. She had never had sex but somehow she felt the duke just rushed the moment, which she didn't enjoy very much.

The young woman passed the time checking on the house, visiting new acquaintances and having her mother in for tea. Not much could be done.

Every time she had a chance to be with the duke, she reminded him of her ambition to have a house full of children. His response was always something like nodding or anything of the sorts. He didn't seemed interested in it.
She even tried seducing him at nights but that proved to be a failure too: he would leave to room arguing she was being "strange" or he would have some minutes of sex with her, as if just to please her.

Days and days alone, left her plenty of time to know every single corner of the house, which was pretty large. She would enjoy helping the gardeners, although it was not very lady like for him to be doing such chores. Anyway she did it, as she didn't care who would say what. She was a disgraced woman as far as she was concerned, so she didn't mind the opinion of others.

Winter changed things, again. The duke couldn't travel as much as he used to so he stayed in more but in his office. She would try to help him with things or take some tea for him but it didn't seem to do anything for the marriage.

One night, she discovered that the ballroom was closed, all doors locked with key. Curious, she went outside to look in, but found our all the curtains were down and nothing could be seeing. Only a dim light.

This happened at least once a week. Strangely, it coincided with multiple visits from statesmen, military officers and local authorities. They would always come right at lunch time and leave after dinner. This would annoy Lavinia every time, as she had to listen to endless stupid war stories or about shortages of wheat or some other kind of nourishment. She would always try to eat fast and argue she was exhausted to be excused.

Snow came in february and she would spend many hours making castles in it or playing by herself, She would remember her young years, when she was a lonely girl too. She wanted a child so bad, to take care of and to be with.

Exploring the palace had proven useful as, one day, she found at that one of the rooms in the second floor, mainly used by as a reading parlor, had a small compartment on one of the walls. When you opened it, you would enter a small space were an adult person could stand comfortably. Most curious, at the height of the eyes, there was a sliding plaque, in order to watch people below, in the ballroom.

She used it only once when the duke celebrated a Christmas party for every single noble man and lady in the region. Lots of people came and, at one point, Lavinia disappeared to watch everything from her private "booth": the view was amazing, felt like being a bird. She thought the person that made it should have being very suspicious of his guests.

One night, in which the duke had once again left the bed to sleep in some other room, Lavinia decided to go to the kitchen and have some warm milk. It had always helped her to sleep and she was having an awful time trying to sleep, as her thoughts of feeling alone, as well as her mother's insistence on the subject of children, were revolving on her mind.

She got her milk and was going back to bed when she came to one of the ballroom's doors. Strangely, she could see a under the door, as if fire had been lit inside. She had the urge to scream but realized this was the perfect time to use her secret "booth".

She silently climbed the stairs to the second floor and entered the reading parlor. She left the glass of milk on a table and opened her private space. When she lifted the sliding panel, her eyes had to close for a minute as the light was to bright.

Indeed, it was fire light, coming from the hearth on one side of the room. She couldn't see anything else except a table and... Clothing, on the ground. Her breathing accelerated when she understood it all: her husband suddenly got up from the floor, naked. He then laid on the edge of the table and that's when Lavinia saw it: one of the many military men that had come for supper penetrated her husband and he, the duke, seemed to enjoy it.

She close the panel and wanted to cry but didn't. She breathed heavily but calmed herself down, stood up and drank her milk. She was in that room for hours, gazing at the compartment from which she had seen it all.

No one never knew how or why but Lavinia suddenly became a leader in the region, touring towns and cities, helping those in need. She taken an interest in doing charity and people praised for that and for being an amazing hostess.

The height of it all was the birth of her daughter Anne. And it all happened due to her wit and strength, as she blackmailed her husband and let him do as he may as along as he kept his side of their agreement.

When he died, years later, in a skirmish in a colony far away, she received condolences from everyone. But she didn't mind. Her life expectations were fulfilled and more was yet to come.