I have seen many strange things in my life time, though recent events make me wonder. I wonder a great many things, whether my life and the lives of those around me were really so tragic before hand. I wonder whether humanity really is the most wretched life form on planet Earth. But above all I wonder very much about the definition of the word “Strange”. For what I have bared witness to over these last few days is something which bears repeating.
The exact words required to explain it with meek accuracy escape me, though I will attempt it with what little energy remains with me. My story begins in a time and place of much sorrow, you may recognise it as the late 20th century. It began on one of Earth’s great corners, though you may recognise it as Eastern Europe. It started small at first, some protests here, a few riots there, though before we knew it the military began amassing and a series of conflicts spread like wildfire around our country and those surrounding. Our once great country was now fractured, and few would live to see the end of the madness.
I myself was raised in a small village, far away from the chaos of the larger cities. Me and my fellow countrymen watched on with uncertainty as war ravaged our once great nation. It wasn’t long before whispers started around our village, people were leaving their homes with trepidation and late night celebrations were being cut short much earlier than usual. This was more than just uncertainty, this was a worry. A feeling that was felt in every orifice of the village. From the cattle in the stables to the schools where the young ones were taught the skills necessary for life, skills they may no longer need.
It wasn’t long before ideas and suggestions came. From every direction people traded tales of woe, stories of anxiety as the conflict that previously seemed so far afield was now in danger of knocking our very doors. While the rest of the town was preparing their inevitable stance, me and my family had a different idea. The five of us, soon to be six would gather what supplies we could and head west with what little we had. There wasn’t any particular long term plan, the main idea was to position ourselves away from the potential line of fire.
There were many second thoughts and apprehensions before we left, but as the news reports grew darker by the day it soon seemed inevitable that we of this small village had only two options. Many more fled as well, though they didn’t make much of a show of it. Where they went I cannot say but where we were heading was the safest bet yet. In our part of the country we find ourselves surrounded by many mountains, Ozren in particular caught our interest.
On the surface there didn’t seem to be any reason to be wary of such a place, there were urban legends dating back generations about strange people seen cavorting around its edge, though these were long ago dismissed as folk tales, told by parents to discourage their children from venturing too far, less they found themselves lost.
My family however were never the superstitious type, we lived a relatively basic lifestyle and none of us bought into any such stories. Religion had its place in our community, but we didn’t much associated with it. Reality to us was as solid and logical as it was to the next man, without the added optimism. Despite all this, none of us liked the look of Mount Ozren as we drew near. Throughout our lives it towered over us, like a watchful guardian, or perhaps a demon waiting for its moment to strike. From what we could tell there were many hollow areas up its side, we decided to take aim for one out of view of the village, so any troops who marched by would miss us if they decided to sack the village.
It seemed a good idea to start with, but as we walked further up its side a feeling of regret began rising within me, and I sensed the same was true for the rest of my family. Mother was her usual calm and quiet self, though I sensed there was a lot more she wanted to say. Father, who’s usually the most talkative of the lot could scarcely find the words for an interjection on our entire way up. My younger brother was also fairly quiet, he wasn’t always like this, it seemed it was his time. My beloved concerned me the most, I knew her better than anyone in the village and I could tell she was worried. There was a sense of uncertainty that rattled us with each and every step. Our eyes darted in panic at the sound of every every stray animal or unusually strong wind. The village seemed fairly calm as we walked, the embers of war had not yet reached it. Even so, it was better safe than sorry, and looking out on long nights we often caught the sight of more people fleeing, most likely for neighbouring towns and villages. I wondered as we walked on how they faired, whether they found the salvation they were looking for, or if they fell victim to the never ending tide of warfare….