Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Midday chimes, by Markéta Zavoralová

The Midday chimes

“Run, Jakob. Run to the cathedral and ring the bell. Save us.”

Jakob ran as fast as he could. Gunfire and scream of wounded echoed through the city of Brno, but he did not hear it. He heard his breath and the beating of his heart, faster than a flash. Taking a sharp turn to avoid platoon of Swedish soldiers, he nearly got hit by a cannonball, which flew just centimeters away from his head and crushed the stone wall of a small tavern.
            “May God protect us all.” he whispered as his eyes grew wide and filled with horror.
“Help” he heard soft sobbing and quiet whimpers. Dropping to his knees, he started removing stones and pieces of wood fast, as he uncovered a body. A little boy was lying there. Terror and pain were mixed in his expression and dirt was coloring the blood on his stomach and face darker than the night. Few drops of blood were coughed of his mouth as he was desperately trying to breathe. Unfortunately a few seconds later, he was not breathing anymore.
            Jakob looked frightened on his bloody hands. His mind couldn’t recover from the shock, but he was highly aware, that many other innocent younglings would die the same way, if his quest wasn’t successful.
            His legs felt like a jelly and when he tried to stand up, he almost fell back on the cold hard ground. However, the young soldier gained all his strength and rose up like a phoenix from the ashes. Jakob turned his head away from the dreadful sight and in the direction of his objective. Devoted to his orders, he forced his weakening body to start moving fast again. Surroundings turned into a blur as the reflection of the cathedral, in his eyes, started getting closer.
            The narrow streets full of barricades and soldiers ready to fight and defend the city, were passing fast. And suddenly, there he stood in front of the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul. The church seemed like an interpretation of a lighthouse of hope, for every broken soul seeking redemption. The soldier could feel God giving him the strength to complete his task, just by looking at it. New wave of energy washed his body as he ignored the quote from the Gospel of Matthew and entered the holy ground.
“Hello! Somebody?!” Jakob called out, once he stepped in. Some women and children were hiding and praying inside.
“What can I do for you, son?” The preacher stepped out of the shadows, calm and confident as ever.
“Souches sends me. We need to ring the bell.” He said almost breathlessly.
“But it’s not noon yet.” He said confused, turning to face the old bellringer, who was standing in the doorway.
“The Swedes have plan. The innkeeper heard general Torstenson say, that he will withdraw if he doesn’t seize us until noon. But hour remains until noon and the Swedes have already broken through the walls. If we don’t ring the bell now, Brno is doomed.” Jakob said as he moved closer to the old priest, his hands joined in praying gesture.
            Everyone in the cathedral was now watching them, waiting for the final decision of their destiny. The shepherd eyed each and every one of his sheeps and then turned back to the young man, standing in front of him.
“If God let the innkeeper hear their plan, than he wishes for us to survive. Go ring the bell.” He nodded to the weak man in the doorway.
“Thank you.” Jakob whispered and ran after the bellringer in order to help him. They both entered the southern tower and ran all the stairs as fast as they could. Jakob ran first and before the bellringer got upstairs as well, he looked out.
            The Swedes hit with everything they had. Cannonballs were being thrown by them and also by the defenders. Soldiers were climbing the walls as people from Brno were desperately trying to throw them down. Stacks of straws were burning to keep the streets blocked for the foreigners as Bohemians were lining with crossbows, pistols and poleaxes. Even from this far, he could see, how devoted the people of Brno were, to win and how bravely they fought against the big superiority.
            “We need to ring the bell now!” He shouted at his companion. Both of them positioned to the rope and pulled. The third time, they pulled the rope, the bell rang. The majestic sound echoed through the city and drowned the battle. Everyone were now looking up at the cathedral and glimmers of hope could’ve been seen in the eyes of Bohemians.
            Jakob stood in the window once more and looked down upon the people who stopped fighting. Listening to the "midday" chimes and feeling the light breeze on his body, he finally realized what he has accomplished.
“We won.” He whispered and laughed for himself.

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