The Bird In The Barbed Wire

Finalist in the 'Pieces of Paradise 2010/2011' competition

The world is black. Its blanket of darkness smothers the land, softening the sharp edges and comforting the fighters. Fighters who know that, beyond the edge of the world, the sun awaits.
The fighters are thankful, for they know what the sun brings. When the first rays of light pierce the darkness, when the orb of shimmering yellow and gold rises into the cosmos, throwing streaks of pink and pale orange across the horizon, they know that the fighting resumes.
Right now, the atmosphere is still. A lone bird-call crescendos and diminuendos into the blackness. Even the birds know that the safety will not last. Even they know that the war continues.

The night draws on. Stone still figures lay above the trenches, dew settling on their bloody rags and forming droplets on the back of their eye lids. Other figures, not so still, lay tossing and turning in their thin, hay stuffed mattresses under a canopy of rotting, wooden beams. Metallic pieces of shrapnel lay embedded in the muddy ground, reflecting the light of a weak moon that occasionally peeps out from behind heavy, rain stricken clouds.
Soon dawn will come, but there is still a moment of darkness left. In the trenches, a fighter wakes. He stretches out his weary limbs, hearing clicks and clanks as the bones stir around, settling into joint sockets. The fighter stands, cocking his head to one side. A bird-call, he was awakened by the sound of a distressed bird-call. He stumbles and then starts running through the frozen, mud stricken furrow. Past his tossing and turning comrades, past the still, fallen soldiers above the trenches. He stumbles to a halt, arms flying askew, legs flexing and stretching, taking the impact of the sudden halt.
And then he sees it.
A bird, a tiny robin, no bigger than a walnut, caught in the cruel spikes of barbed wire, which guards the edges of the trenches. Reaching out slowly, as not to startle the tiny creature, the fighter gently untangles it. He cradles it for a moment and then lifts the bird up towards the sky, to freedom.
“Sve je sjajno mala ptico”, (all is well little bird) he calls softly as he watches it fly into the brightening sky.

Dawn has come, the sun throws steaks of golden orange and pale crimson pink across the widening sky. Fighters above the trenches lay still, oblivious to the sound of a trumpet, signifying the start of another day. They lay there cold and unmoving, stiff white fingers clutching rusting rifles. Dew clings to their eye lashes and clothes, soaking them through. Most would say they are dead. Their companions look mournfully at them. Friends, relatives, siblings.
All wish no one has to die. All know this war is unnecessary. But don't lose hope, don't despair, no one is gone, no one is dead. All only sleeping, waiting for their comrades to join them, some sooner, some later. But in the end, all together.


23 was established in 1997, and since then we have successfully completed numerous short story and poetry competitions and publications.
We receive an overwhelming positive feedback each year from the teachers, parents and students who have involvement in these competitions and publications, and we will continue to strive to attain this level of excellence with each competition we hold.


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