Bringing his knees to his chest, he felt the rock with his hand. The
air stunk of campfire. A suffocating fog was rising from the rugged
Alerted by a stir in the scrub, he made out a wounded bird beside him,
limping. A pigeon. The bird looked him in the eye as if trying to pass
on a message, then scampered away.
After years of war, first against the Italians, then the Germans, now
their fellow Greeks, even the fertile valleys in the Grammos mountain
range below had been exhausted. The fighters had eaten everything that
could be eaten, even the homing pigeons that they used as messengers
when they had to maintain radio silence. Hunger drives men mad.
His eyes searched for the bird, absurdly worrying that it might be shot.
His hand caressed his breast pocket, where he kept his postcards to
his wife. Poor Eirini, he thought. She didn’t even know he was still
alive; still fighting.
He had been “writing” to her without words since they retreated to the
top. The silence, the isolation and above all the awareness of
approaching defeat robbed him of words. He drew on the rough paper the
hills, the scrub, rocks that looked as if made by God, scree; the few
cypresses, plane trees, and pines he remembered from his village.
Recently, the faces of men who died in his arms.
One day, he thought, his postcards would be found – these drawings
would be his last words.
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