by Emilios Solomou
As published in In Focus, Vol. 9, No 2, June 2012
I coasted down the ravine. The morning mist had swallowed everything around me. From time to time I could make out the trunks of pine trees peeping out through the dense cloud. Dead silence, all around me. Every now and then it was interrupted by my father’s drawn out voice, calling my name to make sure we kept in touch, and by my own voice in response, returning its echo. On occasion, a piercing gust of wind sounded amidst the pine needles, its cold breath caressing my cheek.
Lost as I was in the mist, looking for mushrooms amidst bushes and saprophytes, I found myself in front of a fence. I raised my gaze to follow its perimeter until I reached an iron door. It was a small cemetery in the middle of nowhere, concealed by trees and wild vegetation. How strange, that it would emerge in this wilderness!
As I slid back the rusty bolt, it creaked. I stepped inside. And I bulged my eyes. There, where the mist was torn in stripes, iron crosses emerged, one after the other. In between them, weeds and bushes had flared up. I began reading the names, the age, the date of death. Andreas Georgiou, 9 years old, died on 13.11.1941, Costas Theophanous, 40 years old, died on 1.9.1940, John Smith, 27 years old, died on 5.6.1947. All of them were young people and children, and I didn’t know why death, so cruel and relentless, had prematurely cut the thread of their youth.
I stayed there, in the wilderness, gaping at this macabre picture – crosses, sprouting up from the ground like haunted creatures, as I wondered who had forgotten them here. Are there no relatives to look for them, light a candle in their memory? I was thinking that death is the loneliest act of our life, in fact our last one, when my father’s voice interrupted my reverie, breaking the silence as it resounded, anguish-ridden, across the ravine. I slid back the bolt and ran towards him. The air hissed, the humidity pierced my bones and I felt as if the shadows of the dead had touched me for one fleeting moment.
Later on I found out that those wretched people, about twenty of them, had died of tuberculosis and were discarded there, offhandedly, in a deserted cemetery, far away from the sanatorium and the inhabited area, lest would they desecrate the living.