Thorn bush scratched his arms to blood and the path disappeared in the pile of leaves underfoot. Fearing snakes, widespread in these places, he kept looking under his feet and walked very slowly, but still lost the way. It was getting cold and dark very fast. He decided it was time to emergency call, but when he took out his phone the battery was dead.
This meant one thing: the inevitable cold night in the woods. Of course, he didn’t have even some hot tea with him. Lately he often forgot to bring food, water, or check the phone’s battery even when leaving the house for the whole day. And nobody was there to take care of him. Sometimes he wondered why he hadn’t started a family, or didn’t make friends with anyone in this mountainous region. But he knew it was easier this way: in silence, simplicity and without obligations.
Wandering through unfamiliar woods at night is not just pointless but silly. Trying to find a safe place to sleep, he noticed a large boulder of a weird form. Time ran quickly, so the choice was obvious: he would do a “fire bed” here. Fortunately, the he always had matches with him and a lot of practice of cold nights in the woods. Once an old army friend showed him how to stay warm even in the snowy winter, even if the only clothes were a thin jacket and summer pants. Now he had to find something with what he can dig, something that will burn and something that will make a “mattress”. For some reason he was sure that this night won’t be boring.
When the “bed” was dug-out and the bottom neatly lined with small stones, he fell it with branches and some leaves and the fire blazed. It was time to wait. Sitting back nearby, he was mindlessly staring at the flames when long forgotten images from the past, almost lost memories suddenly appeared before his eyes. His heart shrunk and he again heard short orders “Fire!” and the deafening rumble of missiles. He preferred not to remember…
…Back then they lost their way also: inexperienced commander, boys just out of school, early spring and false hopes that the war ends soon. It was cold; the darkness came quickly and forced them to stay in the forest at night. Then there were uneven reports of scouts, chaotic negotiations with the “center” and the order… None of them wanted to kill, but the war left them no choice, no chance to say “no”… or so they thought to ease their conscience. In the morning, cold and depressed they roamed around the burned village and saw what he would prefer never to see… and never to remember.
Today, thousands of miles from that village, and seemingly a thousand years after that night, he watched as his saving fire bed was dying away. His ears were buzzing, as if the sound of gunfire was not in the past but here, very near to him. Minute after minute, he watched the smoldering embers, unable to move, even though he knew that he had to keep them warm… That morning the remains of the peaceful village, which they had destroyed, were smoldering the same way. And in the houses were people, children, and animals – burned alive. He suddenly thought that maybe the world will become better if today he freezes to death in this forest. At that moment he noticed two large orange eyes staring at him. For some reason he smiled.