A short story loosely based around the plot of the English Patient.
The sight of the crumbling villa silhouetted on the ridgeline was like that of rain clouds to a farmer in a drought-ridden land. It had been a dry, dusty day of the summer of 1945 and her swollen feet had carried her uncountable miles. The sun was still hovering hesitantly above the horizon this late in the evening, spilling its inky hues onto the darkening sky. It shone scarlet and orange on the landscape and in Eva’s weary eyes trees became fires and lakes were sickly pools of scarlet blood. Blocking these images from her swirling mind, she stumbled on.
The enemy planes had cast their storm of destruction over the villa and the splintering door gave way to an assertive shove. Heavy silence closed in around her as she picked her way over the remains of the once ornate furniture. Vines crept over shards of tables and the crumbling mantlepiece, pinning a cracked mirror to the wall. The waxy, emerald leaves were everywhere, growing like a disease through the house, choking walls and windows before crawling across the cold concrete floors.
A loose vine reached down and softly brushed the back of Eva’s neck as she stepped through a doorway in search of somewhere to sleep, sending an icy wave of disgust over her burning skin. She longed to scream and break the silence, but something stopped her, as if the vines had thrust themselves down her throat and ripped out her voice box. Eva leant out of the room’s solitary window. The sun was setting faster now and its angry rays were struggling to emerge from behind the hills.
Eva’s grimy hands came upon a chair that was still attached to its legs and she slumped into it, resting in the sticky silence. She sat in thought, her exhausted mind attempting to separate out the horrors she had witnessed, but instead churning them up into a myriad of death and pain. She ran her fingers through her unwashed hair and kneaded the back of her aching neck, only succeeding in crushing the dust into her itching skin. She winced as she felt the bruise on her shoulder from where she had fired her rifle and tenderly brushed her fingers over the cut above her eye. Somewhere in the house a creak rang out, most probably a hinge in the flickering evening breeze. Then another sound, so low that Eva had to strain to hear it again, a tiny whisper of a voice, raspy and coarse, pleading for help.
The man lying on the bed was young, his complexion leading Eva to guess late twenties, but his eyes were old, fading away even as she looked calmly into them. His mousy hair was pasted onto his forehead by blood, his bruised hands were balled into fists and his bare chest was splattered with fresh wounds, hastily patched up by whoever had abandoned him.
Eva turned to go and get help, but a sudden hand clamped on her wrist and she found herself staring into the young man’s fading eyes. A cold fire burned in the black pools of his pupils, but all the time it was getting weaker. His hand was a block of ice against her hot body. Eva finally understood what the man’s desperate eyes were pleading for and as he slowly released his grip she saw with a pained heart that he would not last the night.
The burning sun had finally been dragged away, giving way to the relief of night’s cool air and soothing moonlight. Eva sat in a threadbare woolen blanket she had salvaged from under a pile of debris – she had put the thicker one over her unknown companion, but she could hear him shivering in the darkness. Again his hand slowly stretched out to her, as if seeking comfort, and she took it in hers, the feeling of his gentle skin sending a blue stream of pity flowing through her. His dying eyes stared on and on.
The man’s shallow breathing became a quiet whisper and his shivering gradually ceased. His fingers felt so cold in her hands and she knew that it would not be much longer now. The pure white moon shone right onto his handsome face, making his eyes shine as a thousand stars reflected off them. His gasping breaths came slower and slower and his fiery eyes fell further away into an endless river of night. As his fingers slipped from her palm, she softly touched his eyelids shut, her hand lingering on his cheek for a second. Eva huddled into her blankets as white moonlight streamed onto her face, mingling with her falling tears.