The Monster has a Soul, it carries my Body
‘The Red Snow’
Twenty-seven years ago
“Rebecca, the Avernia soldiers have arrived!” cried the old woman, limping in the snow in a hurry. Her brown dress left linear traces in the snow, concealing her footprints. “They have reached the market place, we must hurry!”
Rebecca dropped the clothes she had taken off the washing line and rushed towards her mother in law. “Martha? What do you mean?” asked Rebecca, assisting her mother in law to walk.
“We must get the boys out of here,” said Martha in a panic, leaning into Rebecca for support. “They asked about Fredrick in the market place. They know he is a traitor.”
“Oh my god!” exclaimed Rebecca, aiding Martha to the house. “But how did they know about Fredrick? He was one of the Avernia soldiers for ten years and so cautious,” she paused, first confused then realising her husband could be dead. “Does this mean he is dead?”
“I don’t know, Rebecca,” said Martha, reaching the front steps of the wooden house. “But we are in danger now.” She hugged Rebecca as she spoke, “Listen, I will stay here. You must take Abel and Cain and hide them.”
“But what about you?” asked Rebecca, tears in her eyes.
“What can an old lady do with a bad leg?” she said and gave Rebecca an encouraging look. “Don’t cry, do not be frightened, this isn’t the time. You must be strong. You must protect your children, this is the purpose of a mother.”
Rebecca tried not to cry, she tried her best not to be afraid but her heart pounded in her ears and her body trembled as violent thoughts of her husband raced to her mind.
He could be captured, tortured or dead in the prison cells of Avernia. She collapsed in the snow, still conscious but trembling.
“How can I not be afraid?” she asked Martha, her voice strangled in panic. “How can I not cry? My husband is dead and is known as a traitor to the government! What will happen to our children?”
Martha bent down and hugged Rebecca, trying to provide comfort by rubbing her back. “That is the reason you need to stop crying. The reason why Fredrick went against the Avernia government, to provide you and those boys a better life,” said Martha, her voice quivering with emotion. “Rebecca, I loved you as my own daughter even before you married my Fredrick. You were always strong and kind-hearted, please, please listen to me.”
“Mom,” said Cain, popping his brown head from the door. He pushed open the door when his saw his mother crying and trembling in the snow next to his grandmother. “Mom, what’s the matter?” he asked and rushed over to the women. “Grandma, what happened?”
“Nothing, Cain,” said Martha, trying not to sound panicky. Cain was only six years old, he did not know anything about war and violence, as a grandmother, Martha would never allow them to face such atrocities at such a young age. “Help me get your mother in.”
Cain followed his grandmother’s instruction; he gently took his mother’s arm around his small shoulders and helped her to stand. “Mom, everything will be fine,” he whispered, although he had no clue that his father could be dead.
They entered the house. The house was made of wood and small; it had two bedrooms and an open spaced area for the kitchen and lounge. Cain and Martha sat Rebecca on the kitchen chair.
“Where’s Abel?” asked Martha as she stared in concern at Rebecca who was weeping uncontrollably on the kitchen table.
“He’s on the sofa, playing with mother’s necklace,” replied Cain, softly patting his mother’s back. “What happened? Why is she crying?” he asked his grandmother.
“It’s a long story, not for children to worry about,” said Martha, as she began walking around the house, feeling the wooden walls with her hands and then knelt down to do the same for the wooden floors.
“I am not a child!” protested Cain. “I want to know what is going on. I want to help!”
“Cain, do not scream,” said Rebecca, she had stopped crying and sniffled as she looked up at her son. “I know you want to help but you must listen to your grandmother.”
“But mom, how can I help when I don’t understand anything?” he protested, stiffening his arms on his sides.
“I found the passage,” interrupted Martha, she pulled out two large planks from the floor. “It leads to the forest. We must hurry now! Rebecca, take Cain and Abel and go!” she instructed.
Rebecca stood up and picked her three-year-old, Abel from the sofa. “Take my hand Cain,” she instructed and Cain obeyed.
They went down the passage in a hurry. It was dark and wet. There was murky water beneath their feet, it reached Rebecca’s ankles and Cain’s knees.
“Where are we going?” asked Cain, coughing at the putrid smell from the murky water as his mother dragged him forward.
“We are going to a safe place, we have to hurry!” answered Rebecca, wading through the dirty water as fast as she could, holding Abel closely to her chest with one arm whilst she held Cain’s hand tightly with the other.
“But we are in a safe place,” retorted Cain, letting go of his mother’s hand. “Dad said, home is the safest place! He is going to be here soon! We can’t leave him behind! What about grandmother?”
“Your father is dead!” exclaimed Rebecca, losing her patience with Cain. Abel began to cry in her arm. “He is dead! This place is no longer safe. It doesn’t have your father! It doesn’t have the safety of the law when we are considered traitors.”
“What?” cried Cain, tears forming in his eyes. His cheeks red and puffy. “What do you mean father is dead? He can’t be dead –he’s alive! He’s a senior soldier of Avernia! He is no traitor!”
“Listen to me!” said Rebecca, firmly as she tried to control Abel’s crying whilst gazing down at a confused and disheartened Cain. “Your father was a good man –let no one tell you otherwise. The things he fought for, the things I’ve fought for and you will fight for –“
“NO!” yelled Cain, shaking his head in protest, trying to make sense of everything. “How can I fight against the law of Avernia? Does that even make sense? Dad fought for Avernia... Everything I learnt in school… my friends told me… my teachers told me… Avernia protects its own! Dad is not a traitor! He isn’t dead!”
Rebecca bent down, staring into her son’s teary eyes. She stroked his head as her heart broke. “Listen Cain, you are right,” she said slowly, trying to calm him down. “Your father was not a traitor –he was never a traitor. He always stood for what Avernia could become.”
“What are you saying?” asked Cain, uncertain of his mother’s words. “If he isn’t a traitor then let’s go back to the house –let’s go back to grandmother. Let’s go back to dad.”
“We can’t,” said Rebecca, trying desperately to find the words to explain but before she had them, foreign footsteps waded through the waters. They made splashing noises of danger.
“Halt! Stop there this instant!” commanded Avernia soldiers, eagerly aiming their rifles at any movement.
They shot when they caught glimpses of the traitors.
Rebecca grabbed hold of Cain’s hand and began to press forward with all her might. She ran and ran, holding her sons tightly as she heard bullets sway past her. She heard the soldiers demand her to stop but her soul and body continued onward until she saw the bright white snow above a staircase.
We’ve made it. We can hide in the forest.
She thought as she ran, thankfully reaching the snow but she stilled as she felt a trembling pain hit her back.
“Cain…Abel,” she whispered, coughing blood as she fell in the snow letting go of her baby in her arms. Abel cried loudly when he hit the ground, he screamed as tears raced down his cheeks. He couldn’t understand why his mother lay red and bleeding in the white snow but knew something was wrong.
“We got her –the damn traitors. They are just like rats,” said one of the Avernia soldiers, shooting his rifle again at Rebecca. “Just like her husband –dead.”
“Mom!” cried Cain, his chest pounding when he couldn’t feel the grip of his mother’s hand. He tightened his small hand around hers. “Mom! Mom!” he prayed loudly, “wake up, you have to wake up!”
But she did not reply, she was silent like the snowflakes that briskly fell on her dead body. Her blood seeped into the snow, infecting the frozen flakes. There were no words just cries, screams and red snow.
This was the day that one boy forgot.