The first thing you realize when a bullet pierces your flesh is that nothing lasts forever. And when your body hits the pavement you realize the second one. The most lasting truths are actually lies.
Small steps carried our bodies towards the cathedral, like we all had forgotten how to walk. But it wasn’t that. We had forgotten how it was to be free. We were around thirty. Young, strong men. But in that bitter cold, with the darkness hissing in our ears, we could barely stand on our feet. From time to time, we looked at each other as if trying to find a bit of comfort. Our warm, steamy breaths curled around our throats and lingered in the freezing air above our heads like hangman’s knots.
Someone’s keys were rattling inside his pockets, shattering the blistering silence that hovered around us.
Some of us kept their heads bowed. Others, on the contrary, walked as if they were the ones who were going to kill the beast. As if they were going to be the ones who would save this country.
We were neither martyrs, nor heroes. We just didn’t expect to come back home alive. As we made our way towards the city square, our eyes darted around the town with greed, as if we wanted to take with us, in the Afterworld, a small piece of the country we loved.
We stopped in front of the cathedral. It was agonizingly quiet. We just stood there for a couple of moments, our bodies shaking in the cold darkness. Then, all of a sudden, a man stepped out of the crowd. He was carrying a flag from which he had cut out the party’s symbols. The devil’s symbols. He stabbed the concrete slabs with it. The flag fluttered in the strong wind.
“Come one, brothers! Let’s get rid of the cancer!”, he shouted as he turned to face us. Another one grabbed him by the shoulders.
“Are you mad? Do you want to die?”
“We’re already dead.” A third man broke through the crowd. We all looked at him. A madman’s smile cut deep into his pale face. We were all mad. “The mayor has declared martial law,” he shouted.
“We should make our voices heard”, the first one said, caressing the flag.
But nothing happened. We just stood there, in the cold bitterness of the night, staring at the cathedral. A murmur pierced the stillness:
“Wake up, Romanian, from the sleep of death, into which you have been sunk by the barbaric tyrants…”
It was an old song. A song none of us should have been singing.
And yet, slowly, the murmur grew stronger and stronger, as passion began to fill our hearts. Something much more than mere words echoed inside our chests. Our voices sent ripples across the entire town.