Content Warning: Grisly images
Winter had come early that year, and the thick-falling snow had deadened the sound of his wailing until she was almost close enough to see him through the trees—a small boy of only two years, crouching by the body of a woman. Running forward, she had prepared herself to confront any attacker who might remain, but apart from the child’s cries nothing disturbed the gruesome serenity of the scene.
The woman lay face-down in a pool of rapidly-freezing blood, a hole torn through her torso. Nearby, just outside a small wooden cottage, the body of her husband had crumpled as he fell with his throat cut. The boy, still tugging at his mother’s sleeve in desperate persistence, was screaming in terror. She knelt first beside him and picked him up, hugging him to her chest and wrapping her cloak about him, for he was shivering with the cold.
When she had soothed the child into a shell-shocked silence, she took him inside and laid him on the bed, then re-kindled the small fire. By the time she had removed the most telling signs of violence from the house, he had fallen asleep, and she took advantage of his oblivion to dig graves for his parents within the clearing. Not long after she had laid them in the ground and spoken a few words over them in solitude, the boy woke again, and she fed him a small meal of bread and salted goat’s meat, after which he fell once more into a troubled sleep.
She had waited all night, watching over his slumber and thinking by the fire, and in the morning she had carried him into the nearest village and inquired after his family. His parents, it seemed, had been immigrants, fleeing a famine in their own country to settle here among the hills of Uri. None knew of any other family the boy might have, and as the couple had lived in solitude, they had had no close friends who might have taken the boy to raise as their own.
“I am thinking of my child,” she hissed to the men now standing outside her door, keeping her voice low so the boy would not hear. “He has seen enough of death. Just because your own children have grown and left your care doesn’t mean everyone can be so idealistic.”
The three at her door scowled, momentarily silenced, and she called out to the boy, “Son, come here! Come inside with me.”
The child looked up from reloading his toy, and his face brightened as he saw her holding out her hand toward him. He turned and ran toward her, and she ushered him back inside as the would-be revolutionaries turned to leave.
The soldiers had arrived only two days later.