We ran. Ran until our legs burned and our feet blistered. The forest whipped past us as we dodged the trees, not concerned with where we were going as long as it was far away from here. In my arms I carried my 18-month-old son who was crying emphatically. But I ignored his cries, focusing only on the running. Concerned with only his safety and mine.
I chanced taking a look behind me and I could still see our pursuers hot on our heels. We weren’t gaining on them. No, they were gaining on us. In the distance smoke still rose from above the tree line.
They had come in the middle of the night with no warning, burning our houses, killing everyone in sight. When already half the village was destroyed the warning bell finally came. I was awakened, first from the horrid cries of my neighbors, then the ringing tone of the campanile got me on my feet. I quickly shook my wife awake, a sound sleeper, and grabbed my satchel which I kept for emergencies. I put the bag around my neck and placed my sleeping son in my arms.
“Go!” I yelled to my wife, who without hesitation began to run. We made for the tree line, following a small group of others who lived on same side of the village we did, the farthest part from where the attackers came, the bells in the clocher still ringing furiously behind us; the tower guards not yet killed.
And so we ran. Ran with all the strength we had. I wished I could help my son, give him something to make him stop crying. Something to tell him it was going to be okay. But I couldn’t. I could only run for dear life and pray to God the barbarians didn’t catch us.
My wife had tried to stay with me, but I ordered her to go on; she was faster not having to carry anything. I saw her up ahead, dodging the trees just as I was as she ran. For a brief second I saw her worried, scared, horrified face as she looked back toward me. I knew what she was feeling. We all did, and we all felt the same way.
It was hopeless. They’d catch us. But we ran anyway, fleeing from the place we had called home for generations.
I tripped over a root of a tree, falling face first into the frondescence that had formed on the ground. I kept my son in the air, taking the force of the fall on my chest and face. Pain seared through my being, but the adrenaline in my system allowed me to ignore it. To fight on. I picked myself up and ran again, holding my son even tighter in my arms. His weight was beginning to take its toll, and I wondered how long I would be able to keep it up. No, I ordered myself. You need to focus. You need to keep him safe.
Finally, after what had seemed like hours, I looked behind again. No longer were our pursuers following us. I stopped, taking a closer look and realized it was true. They were gone. Our number had lessened, but we were not longer being hunted.
I fell to my knees on the forest floor. My wife came up behind me, hugging me and our child closely closely. Tightly. The other members of our group gathered together to celebrate our victory. We were safe. We were alive. Our flight from the enemy was over.