Flora MacDonald – Heroine or Traitor?

Written by: Isabelle Sher.

On the 16th of April 1746, the Jacobite rebels were defeated at Culloden by Government troops under the command of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. Following the catastrophic defeat of Charles Stuart (better known as ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’), those who remained loyal to the Prince’s cause sought to help him negotiate a means of passage to France, all the time braving the possibility of discovery of his escape by the ‘Redcoats’. In June 1746, Charles and his few remaining loyal supporters arrived at Benbecula, where they enlisted the help of Flora MacDonald. 

Time does little to alter the vivid images of those two short weeks. I have nothing else to occupy me here. The heat in London rages on; the stench of death and fear overpowering. I pray that he, at least, is safe; to regret my own actions is a lost cause. With each fresh sensation of regret I intend to displace it by a determination to rid from my mind what has passed, and what cannot be altered.

I ought not complain, I repeatedly tell myself. I have not been imprisoned in The Tower but placed under the close watch of one of the King’s own messengers. I think of my dear brother Angus and the sheep, the little white specks just visible in the distance of the never-ending twilight of June in Benbecula. I close my eyes and dream of peace. I wonder at the hearts of those Government soldiers, as they rampage across the land like savages; burning all they find. I think back to that fateful night when Hugh O’Neill and Charles Stuart arrived to speak with me. I imagine one could never forget a sight such as the one summoned to stand before me. The prince reeked overpoweringly of alcohol; an abhorrence I could forgive under the circumstances. His deathly pallor contrasted unnaturally with his peeling sunburnt skin. Upon his head was his filthy, louse-ridden periwig, Lord knows why. The men’s voices rasped in a silence disturbed only by gently breaking waves and the odd sheep. They had little regard for how my assistance might ruin the reputation of my chieftain Sir Alexander MacDonald. That wretched O’Neill. I cannot fault my dealings with him, sharp as they were, for inherent in his manner was a detestable cheek. I repeatedly asserted that I would have no part in assisting the Prince and yet against my better judgement I allowed my mind to be turned. My family are no sympathisers to Charles’s cause and were it not for his pitiful condition, and the merciless way in which the Government forces treated our Highlanders, I am certain that even fewer would have come to his aid.

Even then the wretch hardly helped himself; dressed as my maidservant in women’s garb, he did nothing to keep up appearances, though doubtless his drunkenness and pain from the scurvy did little to help. Though I did not think much of it at the time, it is curious to think that the rightful heir to the throne was acting as my own named maidservant, Betty Burke.

I shift uneasily in my cramped confinement. The sun burns brighter still, hot on my face. I long for a breeze. I can hear the men laughing. They can make merry. I can only be melancholy.

I was aghast at the conduct of the Prince, who behaved in such a manner as to arouse the suspicion of everyone on the island following our crossing to Skye. I suspect he was too proud to play the part of a woman, for he would insist on being armed, despite mine and the party’s protestations that a thorough search by Government forces would give him away.

My arrest came several days after the prince and I parted ways. God willing, my life will be spared. From Fort Augustus I was moved to Edinburgh Castle, and then to London. I pray that nothing more terrifying befalls me again, for the unfairness of what has become of me is, I believe, undeserved. I only did as I believe any kind-hearted soul would have done when confronted by so pitiful a man.

The summers are too warm here. I long for the roaring winds and treacherous seas of my homeland. There at least I can witness the liveliness of the world. If it were not for the sheer number of people residing in and amongst this city, London would stand quite still. They say it will begin to cool in a month, for it is nearing September. I hope that they are right.

I wish the prince Godspeed, I tell myself, but I cannot ever wish for his return. 

Image: The Field of Prestonpans, Coloured lithograph by Mouilleron after Sir William Allan, printed by Lemercier, published by E Gambert and Company, 25 Berners Street, London, 1 September 1852. https://collection.nam.ac.uk/detail.php?acc=1971-02-33-303-1

The Revealing of the Gunpowder Plot

Written by: Isabelle Sher.

The author wishes the reader to know that the details of this event are to this day shrouded in mystery. We will likely never know if Lord Monteagle was one of Cecil’s spies, if he had some part in the writing of the anonymous letter, or whether he knew anything of a plot at all.

It was well known that Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, was not to be trusted. The same had been said of his father who had served in Her Majesty’s court before James was crowned. It was a time of great division; everyone sensed it, everyone talked about it, but there was little anyone could do about it. The long-standing injustices felt by the followers of the old religion would not be silenced by the king’s more tolerant outlook. It was sceptics such as Cecil who were fully aware of the dangers of complacency. 

That was why Lord Monteagle was so useful; he had much to prove, he had wasted his youth in ambitious plotting, in dreams of heroism, in the restoration of what he knew to be the truth. William Parker, Lord Monteagle, was done with all that now. He was a changed man; he would no longer risk his life for religion. At thirty years of age, those youthful games had to be at an end. Could he deny that Catholicism was a part of him? No, he could not. His wife was a Tresham, his sister now a Habington. Catholic blood flowed powerfully through their veins. It bound them together. They were a silent force that would not be supressed. And besides, with danger came advantages, and crucially the favourable attention of Robert Cecil himself. William was a part of a network so vast and so secret it was unlikely Cecil himself knew how far it extended, though he was its master. It was advantageous in such times as these to turn a blind eye, not only to those around you, but to one’s own decisions. Oftentimes he felt as if he were host to several William’s within his own mind who knew not the secrets of the other. It couldn’t only be him who felt that way.

The nights were closing in early now. Winter would soon be upon them. Parliament opened in ten days. William’s Hoxton home was well-lit, a good fire blazed in his study. He took up the letter once more. His hands were unwavering, calculated and practiced:

My lord, out of the love I bear to some of your friends, I have a care of your preservation, therefore I would advise you as you tender your life to devise some excuse to shift your attendance at this parliament, for God and man have concurred to punish the wickedness of this time, and think not slightly of this advertisement, but retire yourself into your country, where you may expect the event in safety, for though there be no appearance of any stir, yet I say they shall receive a terrible blow this parliament and yet they shall not see who hurts them, this counsel is not to be condemned because it may do you good and can do you no harm, for the danger is past as soon as you have burnt the letter and I hope God will give you the grace to make good use of it, to whose holy protection I commend you. 

William sighed. He must not let himself dwell, to dwell was dangerous. The warning contained within that letter was very real. Equally real was a rare opportunity for increased favour. William knew where this would ultimately lead, that there would be no hope of reconciliation now. James was an idealistic king, such tensions that lay in this country would not be resolved by union nor by tolerance. And there was no one more keenly aware of that than Cecil himself. For only one moment did William hesitate, contemplating the reality of what he was about to do. Condemning men; friends, to certain death. But it was only a moment. His loyalty was to the king, and more importantly, in line with Cecil’s will. The contents of the letter had to be exposed. He could already visualise the piercing, half-accusing expression that was a permanent feature of that little man’s face. A crooked little man, with a mind that surpassed them all. It was a family trait; it was why you kept on their side. To oppose the monarchy was one thing, but to oppose Cecil was to secure your own fate on the scaffold.

Just hours before the state opening of parliament, Thomas Knyvet and Edward Doubleday were tasked with searching the undercroft, whereupon Guy Fawkes, under the alias of John Johnson, was found having hidden thirty-six barrels of gunpowder.

Image: Festivities in Windsor Castle by Paul Sandby, c. 1776

The Fall of Troy

Written by: Justin Biggi

Words take bright flight. Torn from the round, a city fire, a city burning. They spread their wings like black omens. Carrion birds line the walls. They wait, eat a child’s arm. In a silence too still to be real, Cassandra waits. She waits because there is little else to do. She sought refuge, her body a thing to be sacred. They have denied her that refuge. In a torso no longer able to be breathing, she must relearn who she is without Troy around her. Troy, that hated her and raised her. Troy, that she loved with the love of the despairing. 

She is a creature of in-between. She is shaped like the present, and her words reek of past. Here she is, awake, alive, alert. But behind the glass of her eyes there are oceans, a myriad of ships; and a frightened girl in a temple, curled around her grief like poison she cannot live without. She has been branded and re-branded. They have torn her, broken her, denied her a voice. She is tired. She has grown tired in ways that are impossible to speak. A war that lasted too long and took too much. She has seen it all. She has known it as well as she knows the shape of her own despair. It is shaped like men, so many men, too many goddamn men. Cassandra has no words left inside her. In the end, they made her tired, and her voice does not matter at all.

She has been touched, spoken to by the lightning, the lightning a child of thunder. She has been touched, and she did not want to be. Ajax holds her, holds her. Agamemnon claims her. She spits venom and it burns as it falls. In her hands there is nothing: she is the abstract act of prophecy. And in a new world where heroes die, prophecy is as meaningless as iron, its song of blood poetry. As meaningless as what stays behind after genocide: the broken bits of a wooden horse. A child devoured by crows. A snake that slithers back into water.

So sang the thunder’s light. It spits in her mouth, and she sings back. Sings, in her throat of black prophecy. The earth bends like ice after winter, on the brink of breaking, ready to give. A sheet beginning to fracture, open wide. Like old bones left out too long, the rot all bleached out of them. Ready to snap underneath feet. In the harsh smell of the air, the soot and the charred bodies. There is little answer to be found here: death has taken and there is no other way.

She spoke to them of it. They did not believe her. Across the plane of her father’s ruination, in the stench of the burning, thick and deep inside her, she sees every second she has ever dreamed of manifest too bright to bear. The ashes of Troy fall on her head, this newfound baptism. So few of them are surviving. Living is no longer part of the equation.

Sometimes she damned her voice. Sometimes she wanted to go back, shake the god who gave her this gift until he relented, until he took it back, until he denied, denied, denied. But she had made her choice and he had made his, what came after had not been her fault, nor his. Some things are simply written, going back upon them is as impossible as stitching a wound without scarring. 

And besides. And besides… 

Who would she be, without the days that unfold backwards? Who can she be, if not incapable of going forward, unable to look back? They trapped her. They made her this: prophetess without belief. She has taken these gifts and she has washed them in blood, over and over, and they have laughed as she tried to make them listen. In the end, they listened, in the end, and she stood and watched unfold a horror she knew would happen and they did not. Did it make it any less terrible?

No. 

Perhaps that is the only answer she has left. That the knowledge did not make it any less painful. That to know did not hurt her any less. That the ash was the ash of her family, that this was a world, then, where heroes came to die. 

Image: Cassandra in front of city of Troy by E. De Morgan (1898, London)

The Pendle Witch Trials – The Testimony of Jennet Device

Written by: Isabelle Sher

Extracts taken from the work that earned Thomas Potts the King’s favour – and which is entitled The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster.

Thomas Potts triumphantly abandoned his quill and took up the finished manuscript in his hands. He could not help but smile, for it was this work that would make his name. This was how history would remember him, for accounting a trial so bizarre and wonderful that it was almost certain to attract the attention of readers throughout the kingdom, maybe even King James himself. Stretching, he rose and made his way to the fireplace. Outside the wind raged and rattled the windows. With every gale the rain changed direction, so that sometimes it hit the glass with a force that made him jump and his ink smudge. It was five in the evening and very dark. He would not have the shutters closed yet however. Thomas relished the brutality of a cold and bleak November evening. 

He turned to the completed work that now lay dormant on his writing bureau. The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster. A spectacle that he had witnessed and after which the judges, Sir James Altham and Sir Edward Bromley, had commissioned him to compile for publishing. Who better than the clerk of the Lancaster Assizes? His mind fleetingly turned to the irony of the situation – as ten witches hung, their lives at an end, his own future was about to begin. How much did he owe to the testimony of that scruffy nine-year-old girl, Jennet Device? 

He poured himself a little wine and leaned heavily against the mantelpiece, glass in hand, reminiscing on the events of that day and, more importantly, the testimony of that strange little girl…

18-19 August 1612 – Lancaster Castle.

Thomas Potts cleared his throat. His fingers quivered slightly as he squinted at the papers before him. The atmosphere of the courtroom was distracting. The air was sticky and still, a horrid hot sweat lined his back, cold as his clothes pressed into him. He turned to look at the magistrate, Richard Nowell, the man responsible for the organisation of the proceedings taking place today. Nowell was a man of ambition, what he had achieved would no doubt set a precedent for future trials of this kind. Thomas glanced to the judges, Sir James Altham fumbled with one of his rings, nodding thoughtfully as Sir Edward Bromley spoke in a hushed whisper. The jury was mostly silent. Thomas tapped his fingers on the wooden desk before him as a general hush signalled the beginning of the proceedings. Thomas quickly took up his quill, poised to start.

One by one the women and men stood before the judges. Thomas wrote diligently, the quill scratching audibly against the paper. A part of him wanted to glance upwards to witness what was taking place before him but he did not want to see Nowell. He did not want to look upon the smug face that had brought these people to trial, however heinous their crimes. 

Allison Device, the young girl who had bewitched a pedlar resulting in his death, left the dock, her mother Elizabeth taking her place. It was Elizabeth’s mother, old Demdike, who had been known as the local ‘cunning woman’. Since her imprisonment however, she had passed away in the prison. As the two women swapped places Thomas abandoned his quill to the desk and, unable to resist, allowed himself one fleeting look at the woman. He was horrified by the figure that stood before him. She was hunched, frail and filthy, grasping at the railings with horrible thin fingers. Her face was evil, her mouth pulled downwards into a grimace, her chin sagged, her skin so grey it almost shone. It was her eyes however that revolted him most. He began to write:

This odious Witch was branded with a preposterous mark in nature, even from her birth, which was her left eye, standing lower than the other; the one looking down, the other looking up, so strangely deformed, as the best that were present in that Honourable assembly, and great Audience, did affirm, they had not often seen the like.

It was then that her youngest daughter, Jennet, was brought out to testify against her own mother. The old hag screamed such violent threats, such appalling language as made the court gasp and the judges shake their heads. Thomas was appalled, they were such words as could not be repeated in writing. No doubt overcome by the circumstances in which she had been placed, the young girl began to weep bitterly, saying that she would only testify if her mother was removed from the room. The screaming woman was dragged from the dock. Thomas wrote again:

In the end, when no means would serve, his Lordship commanded the Prisoner to be taken away, and the Maid to be set upon the Table in the presence of the whole Court

Jennet clambered on to the table and spoke calmly and articulately of the crimes her mother had committed. Thomas was in awe. From a group of individuals imprisoned in the castle, she also picked out all those who were present at the Good Friday meeting of the witches at Malkin Tower, the home of her grandmother. Each was taken by the hand. One of the judges then attempted to trick Jennet, creating a fictional character of the name Ioane a Downe, and asking if she had been present on Good Friday. The little girl testified that she had not seen the woman, nor had ever heard of her name. Thomas looked again at Jennet. The girl was surely speaking the truth. She looked unflinchingly back at him. 

The court was spellbound. 

All of Jennet’s family were put to death. Ironically, in 1633, Jennet Device would be in court once more, accused of witchcraft by ten-year-old Edmund Robinson. 

Image: Salem witch trial. Witch trial in Salem, Massachusetts, lithograph by George H. Walker, 1892. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-DIG-pga-02986)

The Journey Back Home

Written by Luis Monroy

 

 

“It is almost time, Erendira, hurry up.”

“I am coming, I am coming. They will wait for us, they always do.”

“Every year is the same with you, woman. You are unable to be ready on time.”

“Old man, you have been saying this for centuries now. And you always wait for me, the same as they do.”

Erendira and Pedro had a long way ahead of them. Once a year they visited their family. Once a year they had to make that long and dangerous journey. But family awaited. And the feast was worth it. So Erendira and Pedro always made that journey. That long and dangerous journey…

“Do we really have to go there? Can’t we go directly?”

“If you know the answer, why do you keep asking the question?”
“Because you know how much I despise these visits.”

“Well, Pedro, these visits are a necessity. And you might as well try to smile. But do not dare to fake it. The Lords know when someone is faking.”

“How on Mictlan am I supposed to smile without faking it if I do not want to be there?”

“That is not my problem. I am ready, now. Let’s go. The Lords are not to be kept waiting.”

The Lords owned the land in which Erendira and Pedro lived. That land was named Mictlan. And whoever wished to make a journey had to pay respect to the Lords of the land. Mictlantecuhtli and Mictecacihuatl were the names of the Great Lords. Their faces were pale white and almost fleshless. Their garments were like frayed bones. Their eyes almost disappeared into their immense cavities, and yet they followed your every move, every minor gesture.

Mictecacihuatl, the emaciated queen, was said to have given birth to a thousand infants. It was said that she showed compassion. It was said that she had wisdom. And every time travellers approached her before taking course, she advised them to stay safe. Safe from every danger, either real or imaginary.

“We are almost there, Erendira, hold my hand. Do not let it go.”

“What is wrong with you, Pedro? We have done this for centuries, now.”

“They frighten me. I cannot stand their sight. Those eyes. That silence. They transport you out of this world.”


“Gentle Lords. Gentle King Mictlantecuhtli and My Queen Mictecacihuatl. We are here today presenting you with the humblest of our gifts. Our respect. My name is Erendira. His name is Pedro. And we wish to make the journey. We wish to visit our family.”

So it was that Erendira and Pedro started their journey. The journey they made once a year. It was a quest of nine stages. Erendira was wearing a long black dress, covered with blue and orange blossoming flowers. Her head was crowned by a hat decorated with ribbons, with her beautifully arranged hair braids peeking out of it. Pedro was wearing a dark suit. It was a sober and elegant garment, accented by a hat and his long-ridged moustache.

“Do you feel it, Pedro?”

“I cannot feel anything. And I cannot see anything. There’s too much fog.”

“Pedro, this is it. This is Chiconahualoyan. I remember everything now. Oh, those candies you loved. Oh, and my chair. Pedro, I remember everything. Even when you proposed. Who would say you could be such a romantic?”

“Oh, I remember. I remember that damned Ramon. He never gave me back my rifle. He took it and never gave it back. As soon as I see him I’ll…”

“Shhh. This is it. This is the road, Pedro. Forget Ramon. You haven’t seen him in ages. And you do not need your rifle now.”

“I might need it now, especially with where we are going.”

 

“Pedro, wait. We already left Mictlan. That’s why we couldn’t see anything before.”

Erendira and Pedro passed the first of the nine stages. A place called Chiconahualoyan, a foggy place where it is said you lose external sight, and so you can look deep into yourself. Now, they were approaching Apanohuayan, the place of nine rivers.  

“Erendira, my suit will be ruined. I want to go back.”

“Pedro, your grandchildren are waiting. They won’t mind if your suit is clean or dirty. They just want to be with you.”

“What if I bump into that damned Ramon? He will make fun of me.”

“That damned old Ramon will be as dirty as you. Now, hold me tight, you know that this river is tricky.”


“Look at my suit! It is all wet now!”

“If Ramon does not mock you, then I will for being so faint hearted.”

“I am about to lose my heart. We are getting near to Teyollocualoyan. This place is full of jaguars!”

“Those are gentle jaguars. You just have to feed them and be nice.”

“Feed them with what? My heart?”

“Well, Pedro, if a jaguar complains less than you, I will let it have your heart.”

 

Always arguing, always bickering, Erendira and Pedro continued their journey. That long and dangerous journey. They crossed Temiminaloyan, where they had to dodge a hundred arrows. They crossed Pancuetlacaloyan, the desert. A desolate place where you feel so light, that if you do not grip enough onto the ground, you might just fly out. They crossed Cehueloyan, the coldest place in the boundaries of earth. They were careful enough not to fall onto one of the sharp rocks of Itztepetl. And they had to find the exact moment to jump in Tepeme Monamictlan, the place where the mountains come together.

“Pedro, look up! Do you see it? That is the river. It must be on the other side. I am so anxious. Pedro? Pedro?”

“Erendira, I see it. It is Tizoc! My old dog! My faithful companion! Erendira, do you see it?”

“I see him, Pedro. We are here. Tizoc will help us cross the river. And we will finally see them. Oh, I will see my grandchildren. I wonder how tall they are now.”

 

Erendira and Pedro had reached the final stage. Itzcuintlan. The stage that divides the world of the living and the dead. Erendira and Pedro had been dead for more than a hundred years. And every year, on 2 November, they made that long and dangerous journey. Just to be near their family. To have a feast with the food their family enjoyed whilst living. To see how their family is doing in the world of the living. To see if they needed anything in the world of the living. For they have passed away, but they never left their family behind. They will just stay that night. They will just enjoy the feast. They will admire the altar put up in their honour. They will laugh, they will rejoice. And Erendira and Pedro will go back. Back to Mictlan, the place of the dead. And they will make that long and dangerous journey again. The journey every deceased person must make. A journey that no matter how long and dangerous, our relatives will make every 2 November just to visit us. To see how we are doing in the world of the living.

Every year – for centuries now – Mexicans remember those who have passed away. Every year, Mexicans remember with joy those who once were with us. Those who are resting now. They place photographs, food and items onto altars. Colourful altars. Altars with flowers, the most colourful flowers of all. And it is not a day to wear black; it is not a day to mourn. It is a day to rejoice. To remember that death is just another stage in life.

The Two Houses

Written by Daniel Sharp

 

John Fast, a doctor, walked with a newspaper under his arm down the busy London street. He was heading towards the coffeehouse for a day of conversation and civility. Being a doctor was no easy profession; he had to deal with all manner of vulgar, uncouth individuals. It paid good money but it was hardly the life of a gentleman. And that, above all, was what Dr. Fast saw himself as. Perhaps his clientele was unsavoury, but he himself was a sophisticated and educated man far above the dirty people he had to deal with all day, every day.

    Mrs Phillips’s Coffee House (and a genial old woman she was) was where he had learned many of the gentlemanly arts he was now not very good at. But at least he knew them, unlike the vagrants and the poor folk who crowded the city. This made him feel better about himself, made him feel that, despite his constant contact with the hoi polloi, he was fit for better society. In his day job, he felt tired and disgusted, but at heart, he knew he deserved better. He was a gentleman, yes. And today, dressed smartly, paper under his arm, clued up on all the latest political news, he was heading to his favourite place in the world – the coffeehouse – where he could engage in decent, civil conversation with decent, civil gentlemen.

    The good doctor entered the establishment, nodded politely to his fellow gentlemen, took a coffee, and sat in a comfortable seat. The coffeehouse was small but tasteful. Mrs. Phillips was a fine woman and knew how to make a place look lovely without overdoing it and making it look vulgar and common. John settled himself in and looked to see who was present today.

    Mr. Hunt, the lawyer, a thin man with an imperious temperament. John enjoyed his conversation but thought he was slightly too arrogant. There was Mr. Leigh, the most common member of the group, a rotund sailor turned merchant. Mr. Leigh was one of those few folks from uncouth backgrounds who was trying to better himself. Dr. Fast thought he was an admirable role model for the filthy masses outside. There were a few other gentlemen from various professions – more merchants, another doctor, a tailor, and three rather wealthy businessmen. Some regulars were missing from the group; perhaps too busy with their work – a terrible excuse, thought Dr. Fast.

    And then there was Mr. Renfrew, the unofficial head of this coffeehouse group. Though equality was one of the rules of the coffeehouse, everyone looked to Mr. Renfrew to guide the conversation and allowed him to have the final word. For he was an old Anglo-Scottish gentleman, a self-taught philosopher who had lived on a considerable inheritance from his merchant father all his life. He had no wife or family, and spent all his time with books and the gentlemen of the salon (and once, John thought he spotted the old man entering the tavern across the street, which was rumoured to be a meeting place for mollies – but John was rational enough to dismiss the evidence of his own eyes).

    The group exchanged greetings and waited on the wise old man to pronounce the subject of today’s meeting. Mr. Renfrew drank his coffee and looked around as if surprised people were waiting on him. This was a ritual he conducted at every meeting of the group. Raising his white eyebrows and patting down his rough grey hair, he began. ‘Gentlemen! How very pleasant to see you all here again – I hope you have all had an agreeable day thus far.’ The group nodded affirmatively. ‘Wonderful! Well then, shall we begin? I assume you all know the news today? Yes, it is true – the American colonies have declared independence. The war will continue. What do we all think?’ The group waited for Mr. Renfrew’s viewpoint. ‘Well, well, it is most obvious that the colonies should be allowed their independence, is it not? They are simply desirous of our settlement- for a Glorious Revolution and a Bill of Rights and all that. I cannot see why they should not be allowed that. I applaud them.’

    And so, having set the tone and given the conversation’s conclusion, Mr. Renfrew sat back and let the group talk in circles until they came back to the point put forward by the old gentleman, who made some conclusory remarks. Dr. Fast sometimes wondered if the gentlemen were truly using their own reason or being guided. But who was he to dispute this? Mr. Renfrew surely knew best how the minds of men should work in harmony with their rational faculties. Satisfied, John reflected, as the conversation concluded, that he had certainly had a most useful afternoon. Yes, the colonies should be independent, of course! It was the reasonable answer.

    As the good doctor walked home, he considered how lucky he was to be part of such a group. How fortunate he was to have such an education in gentlemanly virtues, how fortunate he was to not be led by tradition or authority as the common folk around him were. So blind, he thought, observing a dirty old woman begging, so irrational! Dr. Fast, of course, was an eminently rational man. He would never judge people, and would always come to his own conclusions, like with the American colonies issue. What a light in the darkness John Fast was! What a bright mind, what a decent man!

    Feeling happy and satisfied, John glanced once more back at the coffeehouse. Across the street, the tavern and suspected molly house stood. How unfortunate that the coffeehouse was so close to a den of iniquity. He walked on, ignoring the sight of Mr. Renfrew entering the tavern, for Dr. John Fast was the most rational creature who ever lived.

    At the tavern, Mr. James Renfrew drank with a gentleman companion, lamenting how unfortunate it was that he had failed, all through his life, to use his reason and the morals of society to restrain his unnatural and irrational desires. Soon enough, however, loosened from the shackles of morality by drink and cheerful company, he laughed for the first time all day with his gentleman friend, who kept him in good spirits, with nary a hint of rational discussion, all night. How odd that human feeling should produce more happiness than rational discussion. How odd indeed, John Fast would have thought, how terribly irrational.

The End of the Old World

Written by Daniel Sharp

 

France, 27 December, 1793

As darkness encroached and the air grew colder, a passer-by on a certain country road, would – if he or she looked hard enough – spot the outline of a small, isolated cottage in the distance. Surrounded by fields lit by the emerging moonlight, whose blades of grass glinted with frost, the cottage would appear perfectly normal. Indeed, that was the point. The common sight of a cottage in a field in France would hardly raise eyebrows, and this is what Louis Francis – a former Count with wealth, abundance and a reputation for lavishness – had reasoned a few months previously when he first took residence there.

His flight from his ancestral home had been undramatic; Louis may have been a noble who gorged on wine, meat and other fineries, but he also was astute, pragmatic and intelligent. His advice had been ignored by the now deceased king to the latter’s detriment many a time in the preceding decades. Thus, Louis had realised that the time had come to flee – the Revolution was becoming increasingly voracious in its appetite, and it would not be long until he was caught in its maw. With a small band of loyalists, he fled across the country and took up residence in this little abandoned cottage. Alas, he had been unable to get abroad or reach the Vendée – where royalist rebellion was rampant –  but he was at least safe and comfortable, even if his usual standard of living had been severely reduced.

After a few months of hiding and lamenting over his fortunes, Louis had formulated a plan. He and his small band had begun to produce anti-Revolutionary propaganda and were disseminating it as widely as possible. They stirred up anti-Revolutionary fervour as much as they could, using Louis’ connections to their advantage. Several uprisings had broken out and governmental figures had been attacked. Louis was in his sixties, yet the fight had not left him – not yet. He may not have reached the Vendée, but he would fight against the Revolutionary abomination in any way he could.

Now Louis sat on a cold winter’s night, next to the cottage’s fireplace and wrapped in as many blankets as he could find, with maps and papers laid out in front of him. In the other seats, his allies sat discussing and planning their next move. They had just received the news of the Revolutionary victory at Toulons, achieved by some young Corsican upstart, and were chewing over this unwelcome event. It had only been a few months, yet it felt like they had been waging this campaign for years. Perhaps it was his old age catching up with him.

‘One of my spies has caught news that a man close to that rat Robespierre is coming to the area soon to investigate the spate of rebellions – should we reign in our actions?’ At this question from his son, Louis snapped his head around.

‘What? Don’t be so stupid! What an opportunity! So far, all we have done is sit here, holed up, inciting stupid peasants to attack a few nonentities. We have a great chance here to kill a close ally of the usurper! We will take this opportunity and stick a knife in the heart of this barbaric regime while we can.’

Louis’ son looked unconvinced and slightly scared – Louis had always thought he lacked stomach – but the rest of the group murmured in agreement. And so, the night passed into morning while the outcasts spoke for hours, planning how best to exploit this opportunity.

 

 

 

January 1794

In a village near the cottage, the plan was put into action. The conspirators were there in person for this event. They had received intelligence that Robespierre’s man was coming via carriage to carry out his investigations and would begin in this very village. He would be accompanied by a few guards, but in his arrogance and stupidity, would not be well defended. Louis sat in a tavern on the edge of the village square, watching out of the window. His allies were placed around the square and were ready to pounce, kill the guards and drag the official into the cottage to be questioned, tortured, and murdered.

Louis was nervous. Old age, he thought, cursing himself. This was a risk – but these were desperate times. This had to be done. The barbarians had to be taught a lesson. Calm yourself, thought the Count, and so he relaxed, sipped his drink and thought about how he would avenge his friends who had been dragged from their beds and guillotined.

Some movement across the square caught Louis’ eyes – the time had come. A carriage drew into the square and stopped by the fountain. Three guards emerged, followed by a fat little man with a vicious face. Louis’ grip on his cup hardened as the seconds ticked by.

It began. With swords and pistols, his allies attacked the guards, overwhelming them quickly. They grabbed the official just as Louis left the tavern with his hand on his pistol, and he walked towards the detained man. He couldn’t conceal his excitement – how perfectly the plan had gone! – and he smiled at his prisoner.

But it was a brief moment. Without warning, a swarm of soldiers rode into the square and Louis quickly realised that it had been a trap – a ruse to lure him out. Louis’ men put up a valiant fight and the old man managed to shoot down a few soldiers himself, but they had to admit defeat in the end. The little man had wriggled free and, smiling coldly, clapped Louis’ son on the back. ‘You will be rewarded handsomely for this,’ he claimed, glancing back at Louis whose face had fallen and whose heart had split in two.

The Count realised the truth. His son had reluctantly planted information to avert any possible suspicion, and he had led his allies into a trap to save himself. Louis stared at his son, who held his gaze. Communication passed between them in this way; Louis realised that his son had been too scared and had been willing to betray them if it meant an easy way out. The conspirators were chained and led away, and Louis’ only consolation was the knowledge that his son would meet the same fate. He had heard the little man whisper to a soldier to order the detention of the betrayer along with the rest.

We all die together, Louis thought, even traitors are betrayed by their allies. As he was bundled into a carriage, the old man mourned the loss of the certainties of his old world.

June 1940

By Daniel Sharp

  Lighting a cigarette, the old man sat down by the window to wait. The time was coming, he knew, when he would die. Not from withered age would he perish though– he would do his part and bow out voluntarily. The time was coming but until it did, he was quite content to smoke his cigarettes and drink some wine.

    It was June, and Charles de Gerre could hear artillery in the distance. They were approaching. Many of his fellow Parisians had already fled, and he did not blame them. He was just old enough to recall the dark year of 1871 when another German army had conquered his beloved city. He reflected sadly that his life had begun and would end with Paris under the heel of an oppressor. He knew they would enter the city shortly, and he knew that there was nothing anyone could do – France had fallen. Perhaps, soon, the rest of the world would follow.

    But Monsieur de Gerre was not one of those who would flee, nor was he one who would accept what was coming. He knew he could not make a difference to what was going to happen, but he was damned if he was just going to roll over without a fight. He was a Parisian, for God’s sake, and abandon his city he would not. So he sat, waiting, watching out of the window while cigarette smoke curled around his large, domed head and long, grey, bedraggled hair. The smell of the wine as he brought the glass to his mouth invigorated him, and he considered that this was what he was fighting for. The wine, the art, the music, the culture and the cigarettes – all would soon be poisoned by the Nazis, and the least he could do was enjoy what he could before the end.

    Gazing out of the window at the wide street below, Charles breathed in the silent beauty of his city. Nothing stirred, all was eerie and quiet, but it was beautiful. In the distance he could hear the artillery pounding, but he focused his senses on the Eiffel Tower which rose up over the city and was within sight of his apartment. It was night, but he could make out the familiar shape. Ah, the Tower. This would be the last time he would ever see it. Soaking it in, recalling memories of walking under it with his long-departed wife, a tear came to Charles’ eye. He sniffed, wiped it away. Now was not the time for sentiment.

    Indeed, if Charles had begun to reminisce he would have died from sadness before anything else. Paris in 1871, the Great War, the deaths of his friends, sons and brothers and the suicide of his wife in 1919 after the war – all these, and many other events, would have ruined a less resilient man. But Charles de Gerre had borne the mud and the blood of the trenches, and had become accustomed to wrapping up his feelings in iron. Sometimes he pictured a miniature, deformed Eiffel Tower around his heart, twisted and writhed around it to hold in his sorrow.

    For hours Monsieur de Gerre waited for the moment to come– the wine bottles and the cigarette packets getting emptier and emptier until he worried that he would run out. He had picked up supplies for his wait a few days before, when he had taken a last, long walk around Paris to appreciate it before it was despoiled.

    The old man needn’t have worried, however, for the night passed and day came, and, with it, the Nazis. It would take a while for them to fully occupy the city, Charles reasoned, but that was immaterial to him, for all he needed was for a group of them to march down the street he had spent all night gazing out on. All he had to do was wait a little longer, and he would have revenge, however small his act would be.

    One last glass of wine and a cigarette later, the time came. At the other end of the street he spied a contingent of marching men – the Nazis. They must be coming down the street to keep us in check, thought Charles, while smirking at the surprise they were about to be given. The old man got up, adjusted his coat and put his hat on, and took his revolver from his pocket to check it was loaded. Satisfied, he hid it and walked downstairs to the main hallway. Taking a few breaths behind the door, he shut his eyes before opening it and running into the street.

    “Help! Help!” he shouted, “men with guns in the building – they want to ambush you!” The Nazis had nearly shot him on sight, but, alarmed at the seemingly harmless old man’s words, they shoved by him and ran into the building. Standing back, Charles let them enter, and looked up at his apartment window. It was not far up and he could see the explosives he had planted over the past few weeks, all waiting for this moment to be set off and engulf the invaders. The others in the block had left at his behest. God knows what will become of them, Charles thought as he aimed his revolver at his apartment window – but hopefully they will appreciate this.

    He fired, and hit his mark. The bullet flew into the central barrel of explosive powder, setting off the reaction Charles had so carefully designed over the last few weeks. The building was blown apart, rock and body parts flying across the street. Charles himself, smiling, allowed himself to be torn apart by the blast.

    The flames settled eventually, as the Nazis cleared the scene up. The commander of the clear-up crew grimaced as he observed the scene. The spirit of Paris, he realised, was a spirit of resistance.

     

    

    

    

    

It’s All About Borders

Written by Luis Monroy

“Look at the moon. Tell me. What do you think?” I was too incomprehensible to grasp the meaning of those words. My answer was a slight gesture.

‘For me, it is everything. For me, seeing the moon is a sign from God that somewhere in El Salvador my husband is watching the same thing. The moon is what keeps us together, since its light is the only thing we share now.’

These words crept deep into my conscience. I was on a bus going from San Antonio to Austin. And these words were said by a woman who had been traveling for more than two months from El Salvador to the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. Then, all the way to the US border, the deadliest migrants crossing in the world. Kidnaps. Extortions. Assaults. That is how law is enacted in the migrant’s world. It would have been reassuring that Texas was the last stop in her ordeal. But no. She and her baby, the only ‘possession’ she retained from El Salvador, still had a long way ahead. Her last stop was Baltimore. Without stopping at all, it takes about 23 hours to get there. But of course there will be stops. Of course, migrant officers will be sharpening their claws. Ready to perform their master trick: deport. Why would any person risk their life in such a dramatic way? Because the risk of staying is even higher.

1969. World Cup Qualifiers. El Salvador and Honduras were about to face each other. Football, a fascination for sociologists, a cathartic myth for the disenfranchised. Whoever wins will travel a few hundred kilometres to the north. To Mexico.  

First match. The setting was Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. A hostile environment for the visiting spectators. Nothing unexpected for whomever is familiar with Latin American football. First strike. Honduras won the match. The Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski, writing from Mexico, vividly narrated the unfolding drama. A Salvadoran girl shot herself in the head after the match. National tragedy. An innocent girl lost her life because of the defeat. The services were televised. The president. The army. Even the Salvadoran national team was there. As Kapuscinski wrote these words, another drama was unfolding. The armies of both countries were preparing for war.

But first, the second match. San Salvador is our new setting. Honduran players had to be escorted; protected by blacked-out automobiles. Regard for their life made Honduras lose the match. Good for them. They made it out of El Salvador alive. 3-0 was the score. That wouldn’t be the end. No. Another match would be played. This time without a ball. This time with guns and bombs. Kapuscinski, advised by a fellow journalist, travelled to Honduras. Both knew what was coming next. Reports came in. Hundreds of Salvadorans were kicked out of Honduras. Beaten to death. Assaulted. They had to escape. Back to El Salvador. The day Kapuscinski arrived, he writes, and a Salvadoran plane dropped the first bomb. People flee the streets. Even light flees the streets. After that, the city was drowned in darkness. More bombs ensued.

It was 14 July 1969. The war lasted five days. 100 hours. This conflict has many names, but none of them more accurate than ‘the Absurd War’. Kapuscinski was a journalist. He was there to report what was happening. His chronicles made it to Warsaw. And to Washington. The Honduran president and Kapuscinski used the same telex – now a relic of twentieth century communication. News spread. El Salvador and Honduras were at war. Since the outburst of the war followed the infamous football match, it was branded as ‘the Football War’. It is an alluring name, but not an accurate one. It is easier to be sensational than to be accurate. It is by no means Kapuscinski’s fault. He was a journalist. A storyteller. He did detail the real causes of the war. But politicians found it more useful to delegate the blame to others. They could not be framed as guilty. Football was to be blamed. Fans were to be blamed. The rest of the American countries had to mediate. Especially Colombia. And the war stopped. Six thousand dead. Five thousand misplaced. Five days. One hundred hours. Just one hundred hours and another stain on Latin American history.

Central America has always been a place of migration, by either letting people in or letting people out. It was the 1930s. There was not enough land for everybody in El Salvador. A few families possessed almost every inch of arable land. Honduras, meanwhile, had a spot for everyone. Its population at the beginning of the twentieth century was almost half of El Salvador. And its size doubled that of its neighbour. Salvadoran families migrated to the neighbouring country. Established themselves there. But they were still Salvadorans. Foreigners speaking the same language and doing the same job. But still foreigners.

During the 1960s, Honduran farmers demanded land. Massive demonstrations ensued. To deal with a social problem is nice and easy; you turn it into a political one. A bill was enacted. The Salvadorans had to leave the country. How could the Honduran government let its own people starve? They needed land. And this land was owned by foreigners. By ‘the other’. El Salvador’s government refused to accept a massive return of people. A crisis would follow. They could not accept that. There was no space for them. They kept refusing. Honduras kept pushing. Riots. Witch hunts. A football match between both countries in that context was the Shakespearean note. National pride at stake, some would say. National pride at stake, many assured. Perception beats reality. National pride was at stake. After Honduras lost, the only method of reassuring endangered pride was hurting the other. The foreigner. The victimiser. Hurt and be hurt. Feel so you can hurt back. That is how national pride is avenged in Latin America. Football was not the cause. Football was the tipping point.

War came to an end. Politicians agreed on terms. But people kept suffering. Just like that woman. She didn’t tell me her name. She didn’t have to. That war, that absurd war, paved the way for a militaristic race in Central America. And that, in turn, paved the way for even more violence. For more poverty. For the creation of gangs. Violence across the borders. Unparalleled violence. The very violence that the woman and her baby are escaping. These porous borders. In Latin America, it seems it is all about the borders. But it is not. It is more than that. It is about history. It is about remembering the most absurd decisions that have led to more violence than citizens can endure. The so-called Football War is just an episode. Just as this woman’s story is just another in the immense book of migrant’s stories. Some successful. Some dreadful. And, whatever the outcome, stories without a happy ending.  

 

Three Hours in Hell

Written by Lewis Twiby

Guernica, April 25, 1937

“Franco is about to deliver a mighty blow against which all resis…” Testily, Luisa shut off the radio. The rebels had been blasting out their asinine propaganda for the last few hours. It had been affecting some. Over half of her battalion had been destroyed during their flight from Bilbao. Poor rations, political infighting, cramped conditions, and a sense of impending doom had pushed everyone’s tensions to the limit. Franco’s boasts over the radio didn’t help matters either. She gave a heavy sigh. It was getting to her now. Please Maria, be safe. Maria had gone missing during the flight from Bilbao. The big bad generalissimo was scared of women with guns and was very eager to acquaint them with a wall…

“Are you not at all fearful?” the Brit asked. The journalist from London had been nicknamed El Señor for his formality. His hair was still ruffled from their exodus.

“No, Señor. We ousted Napoleon and we ousted de Rivera. Franco is a coward, scared of women and the future while licking the boots of Mussolini and Hitler. No, Señor. We are not fearful.” They would never surrender and that was a fact. Luisa had left her rural home in Catalonia to achieve one thing: freedom. No one could take that away from her and thousands more ranging from Catalans to Basques, from anarchists to Marxists to women.

“Anyway, we have the Soviets on our side!” Anton cried, slapping the journalist so hard on the back that his glasses slipped off of his nose. “They helped us at Guadalajara and they will help us again!”

She stared mournfully at Anton. He was so optimistic.

April 26, 1937

It was another quiet day. Every day was a quiet day in Guernica. Unlike most days a tense feeling hung in the air. The tension was so thick it could be cut with a knife. Refugees from across Basque had flooded into the tiny city putting everyone on edge. The fighters were waiting for the stomping feet of the Rebels and the locals were waiting for the ominous sound of gunfire which had strafed the country. Luisa watched as two snow white doves flew peacefully together in the square. No worries, no war, no fighting. An ideal life. How much simpler life would be if you could grow wings and fly away. Only that would mean running. If you ran you left your troubles behind, but they would still be there unless you confronted them. Suddenly her concentration was shattered. Church bells rang out all around her. As soon as one started ominously chiming another joined in. It created a foreboding melody. The doves scattered.

“Good Lord what is that? Mass?” Señor asked.

“No,” she replied. “Air raid.”

Anton looked through his binoculars and immediately dropped them in shock. “Dios mío. That’s a German plane.” A mottled grey plane clung to the sky like a hawk. Luisa felt like a vole seeing the apex predator flying ahead. A loud whistling noise echoed across the sky. Quickly she grabbed her two compatriots and dragged them into the cellar. The whistling gave way to a roar louder than any lion. Screams of anguish wailed through the sounds of crackling. Luisa’s heart dropped thinking of how many lives had been destroyed. She pulled the other two up; Señor’s glasses had shattered.

“Are you two okay? Good. We need to go and help with recovery!” she ordered. The three staggered out of the cellar to be met with Hell itself. In the distance a great fire summoned by Lucifer greedily lapped at the roofs of buildings. The smoke billowed high into the sky threatening to entirely consume the sun.

“That’s an incendiary!” Señor cried indignantly. “They’ve not hit the munitions factory! Those dogs have hit a civilian centre! Have they no sense of decency?”

Welcome to the Spanish Civil War. They never managed to get to the fire. The next wave hit. It was not one hawk this time. It was a swarm. Engines roared above them like thunder as they dropped their loads. Rubble smashed around them as bombs shattered the formerly tranquil city. Lucifer’s Realm spilled out into Guernica. Luisa saw fires consume all in their path, regardless if it was church, house or human. The flames of Guernica started filling her lungs, trying to strangle the life out of her. Smoke as black as coal vanquished the sun’s brightness to bring about Judgement Day itself. Screeching civilians fled into the streets to escape the great burning.

“Why is that plane so low?”  Señor shouted over the destruction. She could make out the black cross on the green-grey paint of the plane. The road exploded. Innocents were torn apart in red gore. Anton vanished in an explosion of crimson. Señor crumpled to his knees with an anguished cry. This was the end. Through flames and bullets Creation has come to an end.

Luisa and Señor walked through what was left. Hollowed out buildings were painted with white. Her once black hair had been stained grey with ash from the burning of buildings and bodies. She felt numb. Fighter and civilian had burned as one. Fighter and civilian had been strafed as one. Fighter and civilian had died as one. Command had given the orders to move town; the rebels were coming like vultures after a kill.

“Luisa, I do not know how I am ever going to write about this. The atrocities…People in Britain do not like to hear about that. What will I say?” Señor forlornly sobbed. It looked like he had aged fifty years.

“Simple. Say that we went through three hours in Hell.”

Bibliography

Raymond Carr, Spain, 1808-1975, (Second Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982).

Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, (Fourth Edition, London: Penguin, 2001).

Paul Preston, The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain, (London: Harper Press, 2012).

Three Hours in Hell

Written by Lewis Twiby

Guernica, April 25, 1937

“Franco is about to deliver a mighty blow against which all resis…” Testily, Luisa shut off the radio. The rebels had been blasting out their asinine propaganda for the last few hours. It had been affecting some. Over half of her battalion had been destroyed during their flight from Bilbao. Poor rations, political infighting, cramped conditions, and a sense of impending doom had pushed everyone’s tensions to the limit. Franco’s boasts over the radio didn’t help matters either. She gave a heavy sigh. It was getting to her now. Please Maria, be safe. Maria had gone missing during the flight from Bilbao. The big bad generalissimo was scared of women with guns and was very eager to acquaint them with a wall…

“Are you not at all fearful?” the Brit asked. The journalist from London had been nicknamed El Señor for his formality. His hair was still ruffled from their exodus.

“No, Señor. We ousted Napoleon and we ousted de Rivera. Franco is a coward, scared of women and the future while licking the boots of Mussolini and Hitler. No, Señor. We are not fearful.” They would never surrender and that was a fact. Luisa had left her rural home in Catalonia to achieve one thing: freedom. No one could take that away from her and thousands more ranging from Catalans to Basques, from anarchists to Marxists to women.

“Anyway, we have the Soviets on our side!” Anton cried, slapping the journalist so hard on the back that his glasses slipped off of his nose. “They helped us at Guadalajara and they will help us again!”

She stared mournfully at Anton. He was so optimistic.

April 26, 1937

It was another quiet day. Every day was a quiet day in Guernica. Unlike most days a tense feeling hung in the air. The tension was so thick it could be cut with a knife. Refugees from across Basque had flooded into the tiny city putting everyone on edge. The fighters were waiting for the stomping feet of the Rebels and the locals were waiting for the ominous sound of gunfire which had strafed the country. Luisa watched as two snow white doves flew peacefully together in the square. No worries, no war, no fighting. An ideal life. How much simpler life would be if you could grow wings and fly away. Only that would mean running. If you ran you left your troubles behind, but they would still be there unless you confronted them. Suddenly her concentration was shattered. Church bells rang out all around her. As soon as one started ominously chiming another joined in. It created a foreboding melody. The doves scattered.

“Good Lord what is that? Mass?” Señor asked.

“No,” she replied. “Air raid.”

Anton looked through his binoculars and immediately dropped them in shock. “Dios mío. That’s a German plane.” A mottled grey plane clung to the sky like a hawk. Luisa felt like a vole seeing the apex predator flying ahead. A loud whistling noise echoed across the sky. Quickly she grabbed her two compatriots and dragged them into the cellar. The whistling gave way to a roar louder than any lion. Screams of anguish wailed through the sounds of crackling. Luisa’s heart dropped thinking of how many lives had been destroyed. She pulled the other two up; Señor’s glasses had shattered.

“Are you two okay? Good. We need to go and help with recovery!” she ordered. The three staggered out of the cellar to be met with Hell itself. In the distance a great fire summoned by Lucifer greedily lapped at the roofs of buildings. The smoke billowed high into the sky threatening to entirely consume the sun.

“That’s an incendiary!” Señor cried indignantly. “They’ve not hit the munitions factory! Those dogs have hit a civilian centre! Have they no sense of decency?”

Welcome to the Spanish Civil War. They never managed to get to the fire. The next wave hit. It was not one hawk this time. It was a swarm. Engines roared above them like thunder as they dropped their loads. Rubble smashed around them as bombs shattered the formerly tranquil city. Lucifer’s Realm spilled out into Guernica. Luisa saw fires consume all in their path, regardless if it was church, house or human. The flames of Guernica started filling her lungs, trying to strangle the life out of her. Smoke as black as coal vanquished the sun’s brightness to bring about Judgement Day itself. Screeching civilians fled into the streets to escape the great burning.

“Why is that plane so low?”  Señor shouted over the destruction. She could make out the black cross on the green-grey paint of the plane. The road exploded. Innocents were torn apart in red gore. Anton vanished in an explosion of crimson. Señor crumpled to his knees with an anguished cry. This was the end. Through flames and bullets Creation has come to an end.

Luisa and Señor walked through what was left. Hollowed out buildings were painted with white. Her once black hair had been stained grey with ash from the burning of buildings and bodies. She felt numb. Fighter and civilian had burned as one. Fighter and civilian had been strafed as one. Fighter and civilian had died as one. Command had given the orders to move town; the rebels were coming like vultures after a kill.

“Luisa, I do not know how I am ever going to write about this. The atrocities…People in Britain do not like to hear about that. What will I say?” Señor forlornly sobbed. It looked like he had aged fifty years.

“Simple. Say that we went through three hours in Hell.”

Bibliography

Raymond Carr, Spain, 1808-1975, (Second Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982).

Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, (Fourth Edition, London: Penguin, 2001).

Paul Preston, The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain, (London: Harper Press, 2012).

Fiction: I Lost My Heart at Wounded Knee

Written by Lewis Twiby.

Snow drifted gently from the grey sky, matching the sadness in his heart: the heart that had been ripped from him. All the warmth that had been in his mother’s body had started to drift away. A warmth that had kept him safe through his ten years. A warmth that ended when the blue-coated soldier had fired upon his mother. Her body was the only thing that stopped him from sharing her fate. He was so scared. His entire body shivered through fear and the biting cold. What was going to happen to him now?

He had been scared when they had fled with the other Hunkpapa to join Chief Spotted Elk when the Indian agents had killed noble Sitting Bull. Almost a man, he had vowed not to cry but his mother let him weep into her shoulder as they fled to the new reservation. Life had been hard on the old reservation: the ground was dry, crops refused to grow, wasting diseases took people like his father away, the rations were meagre, and the warriors could not hunt the buffalo even if the Indian agents said they could because there was none left. Sitting Bull had given them hope, though. Sitting Bull who had managed to get so many to safety when they went to war against Long Hair Custer. Who had parlayed with the Americans on behalf of the Sioux people. Who had visited the big cities in the east with the funny-man Buffalo Bill. Now he was gone. Gone like his father, his grandfather… and now his mother.

Tears had frozen on his cheeks. Gently he kissed her on her forehead and took off the Ghost Shirt which he wore over his normal one. He placed it around his mother’s body so she would not get cold. She hated the cold. For that reason, he used to throw snowballs at her when the snows came.

“I hope the Ghost Shirt works better for you, mother,” he sniffed. A smiling warrior had given him the shirt during their flight after Sitting Bull’s death. He had never taken it off since. He had even urged his mother to wear it. Were the southern Navajo right? He had heard from the warriors that they had rejected the Ghost Dance. The young warriors had partaken in the ritual to make them immune from the bullets of the bluecoats, drive the invaders from their land, bring back their ancestors, and bring back the buffalo. He had been so excited. A chance to see his father again. It did not matter in the end. The dead remained dead, the buffalo were nowhere to be seen, bullets still killed them, and their land continued to be taken.

The snow crunched with his every step. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Before he lost his heart he had loved that sound. In a distant memory, he remembered his father showing him how to make a man out of snow. They had stuck stones into it to make a head and found some crow feathers, as dark as the night sky, to make hair. He and his friends had then pelted his father with snow. It was only two years ago but it felt like a lifetime. The bluecoats had taken everyone he loved from him: his father from the wasting disease, his mother from the bullet, his friends lost during their exodus from the reservation. For all he knew they could be lying in the snow like his mother.

All around him were tepees flattened by the long departed roar of the soldiers’ bullets, snow greedily drinking up the red blood, and gouges in the white from people fleeing, along with their pursuers. He was not scared of encountering any of the soldiers. It would be a relief. He could join his mother and father. Or maybe the stories of the young scouts were true about soldiers taking children to be raised by white families. Maybe he could tell a white family about what was happening to his people and they could tell the leader of the Americans what was happening. The leader of the Americans would see what the army and agents were doing and would give them back their lands, and give them medicine and guns and buffalo. Except that the only people around, Lakota or American, were lying dead in the snow.

A loud snort and the crunch of snow brought his mind back to the frozen reservation. Was it an American soldier, or a Lakota warrior? The rider wore a rifle across his back, brown trousers, and a white Ghost Shirt. His dark hair had smatterings of white, but not thanks to the snow. Upon his face were tell-tale lines of age. The aged warrior nimbly jumped off his horse like a man of half his years to land in the snow with a crunch. He waded through the snow to kneel before him.

“Are you lost my boy?” he asked in Lakota. “Where are your parents and kin?”

He felt tears welling up behind his eyes. To avoid his shame, he looked at the snow seeing it melt as his salty tears dropped to the earth. He felt the warrior grasp him in an embrace. “Do not fear child. We may be separated from them for now but we shall be reunited. Come, I shall take you somewhere safe.” He took the warrior’s hand and together they waded through the snow. The aged warrior gently lifted him onto the horse.

“I am Mahpiya Icahtagya,” the warrior said smiling.

“Chaska,” he replied.

Not wasting any time they soon left the scene of broken dreams and hearts. The snow continued to fall as if they had never been there.

Bibliography

Brogan, Hugh. The Penguin History of the United States, Second Edition, (1999, London).

Brown, Dee. Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee, (1971, New York).

Foner, Eric. Give me Liberty!: An American History, (2004, New York).