She couldn't help but think back to her childhood It had been Ostermontag and she had hurried excitedly down this path after a morning spent decorating eggs A small clutch of mothers had stood reminiscing about the days when all was still perfect and intact Before the husbands fathers and brothers had gone to war She turned and raced towards the trees eyes alight giddy with delight in search of her favourite large crimson flower Its waxy leaves were caught in a low evergreen rosette and the red hue on its petals seemingly determined to consume its brilliant yellow centre She remembered that her mother had called them Aurikel though others called it bear's ear Aurikel She had whispered the word with wonder She had turned onto the path that meandered between aged linden trees the thickest roots intertwined with the soil in slow dances of waltzes and minuets With practised ease she manoeuvred over its gnarled roots under the skeletal boughs facing lament rays eager for the homely aroma of freshly baked spritzgebäck from the friendly lady who was her little secret
They would talk the girl munching on biscuits and chattering about her day what she saw what she found the nice old lady laughing along and genuinely curious She barely noticed that the gorgeous smell of biscuits did not hang in the woods Retracing that path six decades later dread shook the old woman s frail body once again She had sensed something was wrong even as a child but of course could not put it in words at the time The wind howled an endless lament sending leaves into a whirlwind of gold and snatching away the few consoling words she murmured beneath her breath It had taken this long to find the strength to return But she knew that only by confronting these shadows she can finally liberate herself from them She remembered the surrounding trees had been charred black and thick beams of wood were scorched from where the flames had hungrily gnawed at them She had carefully touched the remains of what had been a cabin watching her skin get dusted a charcoal grey A roughly daubed 6 cornered star on a crumbling wall was strangely familiar even then Years later it would be her nation s and in a sense her own shame The old woman now stood in break between trees that was filled with low bracken fern But time had not erased the memory it superimposed over it the revenant of the cottage s wreckage The remembered the symphony of a thousand discordant sounds the cacophony of machine guns bombshells and anonymous screams produced an orchestration of horror Startled she had stared down straight into the blank stare of the woman half buried beneath charred cottage beams She must have seen the reddened flesh ulcerated from the intensity of the flames She must have Her nightmares still disclosed it in the burning red Aurikel blossoms she had woken up to in screams
She trembled now remembering it That even something so beautiful had been corrupted The same eyes that once provided comfort and care were now closed and sunken into the earth From the smiles of her friends family neighbours a beast began to emerge Their savage eyes curled and decayed revealing their naked smiles bright with hatred an insidious intent She shuddered at the distant sounds of the piercing crackle of the rifle contrasted with the low grumble of the machine fun The vapour of blood caused a pink mist that hung in the heavy humid air and just the sudden memory of constantly tasting it not knowing whether it was the blood of friend or foe made her gag in disgust The smell of burnt gunpowder and molten flesh was a weird concoction of the natural and man made All five senses were being harassed constantly and the men the other men continued the spray of bullets and the ricochets of bombshells All the charming little gardens and patios were upturned by grenades and tank shells tobacco stores and sweet shops lay in shambles and the pretty close knit houses were covered in grey ashes Now the clearing seemed to be glistening even under the fading sun The old woman wept in a way she had never really been able to in all these years She could finally declare the guilt of all those who had sworn to nurture her who had patted her blonde hair and consoled her and murdered her friend She stood still while the last vestiges of twilight melted away into the stygian stillness Yet she still remembered the woman's kindness The blind hate and violence had not she realised in that moment stolen that from her And she looked up to see that stars speckled the sky Stars like Aurikel Finally she had salvaged something from the fires
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