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The Fallen Angel of Palermo - by Ashton Howard

Emiliano

As I lay my head on the end of the wooden bed frame, I take in the air of the new morning breeze, the scent of the flowers of the window sill gravitate towards me. I lay in bliss for a moment. The only sound heard is the children playing outside, and the sound of the breeze rustling the leaves. The birds suddenly fly away, the laughter stops, screaming ensues, the sound of the breeze is clouded by the cry of scores of engines. The house slightly shakes, the cups topple over. I ran to the door. Only to see the oncoming horde of man and machine, the synchronization of the marching was astounding, the deep rumble of the tanks engines brings everyone outside to watch the occupation of our small town. It seems endless. However, they are all heading to the same place, Palermo.

It has been almost 2 years since the war ended. Food has been scarce. Only the local government survived. After Mussolini’s fall, the Communists took control, according to the refugees from Rome. Radios have been down. Until today, we all thought it was too far fetched, but we didn’t think we would hear about the fall of Berlin. My family was lost during the war. My father was a soldier in the Italian Army, he died in Ethiopia. My mother was a nurse, but she hasn’t come home. For a while, I reminisced about my family. The soldiers brought back such nostalgia it made my stomach turn. The type of feeling of sorrow, you get lost in your world. All I could do was stare at the wooden floor, and remember the days my father would walk down the hall and the sound of his footsteps.

“Emiliano!!” “Emiliano!!” I suddenly snap out of my world and rush to the window. “Emiliano what was that!!” Said Mrs.Romano, she lived across the street, which was a very slim, rugged brick road. The roads across the town were accompanied by a collection of apartment buildings, all touching, there was no in-between. The buildings themselves were all two stories and lined brick road to the center of town, which was a very large cathedral. “I don’t know, Mrs.Romano! I’m sure it’s nothing!” I was sure something was wrong. No one else had better insight than my uncle. I decided it would be a good time to go visit him.

I didn’t have anything to pack but half a loaf of bread and a small canteen. The terrain was difficult, but I decided to use my work boots anyway, even though I couldn’t afford a new pair. I walked down the stairs, attempting to be careful of the very loud steps, the neighbors often got mad. There wasn’t a way of transportation besides by foot or horse. Only the rich had horses, so everyone just walked. As I opened the door I realized, this is gonna be a long trek. Palermo is at least 15 miles away. But I wouldn’t have worked for a couple of days, so I thought it would be worth it to see the only family I had left.

After about 14 miles of extremely rugged terrain, sharp rocks, avoiding patrols, and random inspections, I finally was within vocal and almost visual distance from my Uncle's home. The walk was peaceful until a loud yell and a blast of small arms fire rang in the distance. I stopped and hesitated for a moment. Only to hear more screams. Without hesitation this time. I ran. I ran until I couldn’t anymore. I knew something had happened. I stumbled over my uncle's fence. Only to find my aunt. She had been shot three times in the chest. My cousin. Rosa was staring in horror at her mother. She was a small girl, Maybe 11, but looked much younger. As I stared in horror as well, I had finally realized two trucks driving off into town.

I knew what had happened. Without even asking Rosa what happened, we grabbed my uncle's mule and rode as fast as we could into town. The mule was hesitant to me, but my aggression and worry must have intimidated him to comply. As we approached Palermo, we saw the crowds of people flock to the town square. I dismounted the horse and grabbed Rosa. We pushed through the crowds of people. Attempting to find the trucks. We had reached an intersection. As I and Rosa ran, we turned the corner, and there he was. In the town center, they had constructed a noose and limb. My uncle stood there. And it seemed as time suddenly stopped. My uncle saw me. As I looked into the man's eyes. I saw such fear and pain, like someone who had lost all hope and had been taken over by sorrow. I grabbed Rosa and turned her away. As I watched the latch open, my uncle drops through. I saw the life in his eyes fade away.

I remember the long ride back to my hometown. Rosa was broken beyond recognition. She never even spoke a single word to me. As I looked at her, it looked like I could see her heartbreaking apart. She looked at the ground, She didn’t move her head or body the whole way, it felt as if I was carrying a lifeless body. I had never seen anyone succumb to this much grief before. As I dismounted again. She stayed still. “Rosa, please come down.” Nothing, No movement. “Rosa..” she turned her head slowly. She looked at me directly in my eyes without saying a word. I hugged her. In the middle of the small brick road. She didn’t let go. I just picked her up and went inside, yet again moving slowly on the steps.

The night was very rough. Rosa did not sleep, she wouldn’t stay in the other room without me, so I brought the small chair into my room while she slept on my bed. When I awoke, she was already up, sitting on the bed, staying very still. “Rosa, do you want anything to eat?” Speaking for the first time in hours she said “No.” her voice seemed rough and broken. I sat up from the chair and walked over to her. I still had the canteen in my pocket from the day before, I handed it to her, and that was the beginning of our small family. Over the weekend she became more comfortable with me. I showed her around the town but did everything I could to help her avoid the soldiers patrolling the town.

3 Months later, it had been rough for her, I can tell that it’s a piece of her that cannot be replaced. She seems better though, She still will not leave the house without me. She either stays by the window and watches outside, or stays in the dark by the cheap radio. I’ve barely been able to take care of both of us. But it doesn’t matter to me. After all, she is family.

It was raining, I had just gotten a few groceries from the local market. All I had was a small leather bag, carrying bread, a few fruits, and a small treat for Rosa. My money had nearly run out, but I had faith it would be ok if I only made it home. The rain was not a subtle one, almost blinding if anything. It was later at night so I had just gotten off work. The lights inside of houses were off, The street lights were the only thing lighting the road. I was finally approaching my small apartment when I was approached by two soldiers. “What is in the bag?” said the first soldier. “Groceries Comrade.” The second soldier ripped the bag from my hands, dumping all of its contents on the ground. “You idiot! That's all I had!” I would end up regretting those words. The second soldier without hesitation hit me with the butt of his submachine gun. I fell to the ground onto the rigid water. As he threw his gun a few feet away, he kicked me in the face, dislocating my nose for good. The first soldier in shock yelled “Comrade! Stop!” The second soldier ignored him.

Rosa

I felt my screams, my cries of pain as the men with the Red Star beat him to submission. I saw his blood run down the brick road with the flow of the water. As quietly as I could, I walked down the apartment stairs and opened the door. It was too dark for the men to see me. The rain and darkness obscured their vision. The rain silenced my footsteps as I walked closer and closer to them. The man's laugh was cynical, malevolent. He kept beating Emiliano, until he seemed almost lifeless, as he raised his fist for one more strike. The submachine gun was already in my hands. The flash of the muzzle lit up the night sky, the recoil felt nonexistent. The man on top of Emiliano fell over, The other man turned, and in shock hesitated to raise his gun, but by the time he did, it was too late. Muzzle flashes again lit up the night sky, he dropped his gun, stumbled back, and fell onto the wall.

The Epilogue

Somehow on Emiliano’s face, you could see the horror in his eyes, even as he lay there, barely able to move. His eyes were wide open. Staring at Rosa. She felt no remorse. What she had done did not feel right. It didn’t feel adequate. As she stood in the rain, She takes in the smell of burnt gunpowder. The steam from the barrel gravitates toward her. She stands in anger for a moment. The only sound heard being the fall of rain, and the sounds of bustling footsteps in the distance. The road suddenly starts to rumble, the curtains of the houses close. A truck and several men of the Red Star are approaching from the cathedral. Without hesitation, Rosa unleashes a flash of flame and light as the bullets scream toward them. She looks as if she no longer felt anything, a heart of mortality and innocence taken over by anger and sorrow. One after another, the men completely off guard, Are gunned down. As she screams in anger, her gun ran out of ammunition. She put the gun down to reload, only to find out she cannot pull out the magazine. As she looks up, the bullets fly back. The first bullet hit, and as she fell, two, three, and four hit as well. her lifeless body laid upon the street. Emiliano, barely able to move, crawls to his cousin. He shook her, and started to sob. The footsteps got closer and closer, until suddenly he is kicked over, a man with an odd cap, with a large Red Star is looking directly at him. Emiliano’s vision begins to blur, he sees the pistol come out of his pocket. The man points it at him. As he takes another deep breath. Everything suddenly becomes dark.

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