In 1943, England launched a series of air raids on Italy in hopes of defeating the axis powers. Certain areas of the country were left untouched, however my grandmother’s hometown was bombed two times during that year. She was only six years old when she had to help her seven siblings assemble a bomb shelter in their backyard. She left school early on multiple occasions to help carry supplies from the house to the shed, and hauled sacks of sand to the windows of her house for countless hours.
On September 19th, Maria Teresa locked her front door behind her at 8:05pm to walk to her piano lesson. At 8:32, she covered her ears as sirens cried through the streets. At 8:42, Maria Teresa arrived safely at home to find her brothers crying while her mother collected photographs of her father from the mantlepiece. At 8:58, she held her baby sister in her shaking arms as the first bomb landed in a small town eight miles from her house. The British had arrived.
During the air raids, my grandmother was forced to squeeze into the shelter along with her seven brothers and sisters and her mother. They sat in the darkness for hours, listening to the monstrous thuds of the British bombs surround them. Her sister gripped her pinky and dug her head into Maria Teresa’s chest. She tried desperately to be the adult that her family needed as her younger siblings whimpered silently, but all she wanted at that moment was to crawl to her mother and cry in her arms. The war had ripped my grandmother’s innocence from her when she was only six, and she hated England with a fiery passion for not only destroying her town, but destroying her childhood.
Maria Teresa’s grandmother had once told her that when it rained, God was crying. In Turin, Italy, it rained quite frequently, so she had decided that God was painfully sad. That past summer, however, it had not rained once. The fields on the outskirts of town were brown and yellow, and the water-deprived trees seemed to whisper cries of help as gusts of wind rustled through their sickly leaves. Fields of sunflowers lay stiff under the scorching sun, their leaves crumpled and dead. Farmers from the countryside cursed to the skies as their crops failed to grow and their livestock lay motionless in the cool summer shade. That summer, the prices of fruit at the farmers’ market almost tripled, and young children threw fits as their mothers dragged them away from the tempting, yet unbelievably expensive figs on sale. The small city seemed to be completely motionless. It lay so still that when a rare breeze swept through the streets, the rustling leaves of dead trees seemed to be the only thing moving in the exhausted town. As the sun finally set each night, people slowly appeared from their houses as if they were a school of ants hiding from predators above ground. The town woke up with the moon, safe from the dangers of the blazing heat. As the night drew to an end, families would scurry back into their homes and shut the blinds as they waited for the blinding sun and prepared bags of ice.
Maria Teresa was the only child in the whole town who did not mind the seemingly endless heat wave. Yes, she hated how her hair stuck to her neck as beads of sweat dripped down her back and how the sun had killed the flowers she had planted, but she always remembered what her grandmother had told her. This weather meant that God was finally happy, which meant she could be happy. Thus, that summer was one of Maria Teresa’s favorites of her childhood. However, on September 19th, 1943 at 7:42pm, it began to pour.
As Maria Teresa crouched, shaking in the bomb shelter, it flew above her. Its black fingers, resembling charred twigs, rested beside its body as it scouted the Italian countryside. Its face was pitch black with the exception of the two red circles, serving as its eyes. Rumors said that if one looked straight into the eyes of the creature, their flesh would melt off their bones like wax off a candle. It was covered by a thin, grey cloak spotted with holes burned into the fabric. It smelled of ashes and charcoal.
On September 19th, 1943, it flew through the Swiss alps and into Italy, inhaling slowly as it searched for its prey. It crept past the countryside into the urban towns of the area, and its lanky fingers curled with excitement. Below, beautifully crafted buildings sat close to one another, each seeming to be untouched by time. The creature gracefully glided above the town; its cloak elegantly dragging behind its body as it danced in the wind. Silently, it stretched open its black face, revealing its mouth. As it sounded its silent call of death, balls of fire and iron dropped from its mouth and fell into the vacant town. Its flaming eyes gleamed with satisfaction. After hours of killing, it grew quite bored of the town, and with that, death moved on to its next victim.
Written by Isabella Auerbach