The Angel of Epirus

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story with a beginning, middle and end in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

The Angel of Epirus 170727

Photoprompt (c) J Hardy Carroll

The Angel of Epirus

They met in the fragrance of pine trees and the harsh smell of shattered dwellings. Hans should have killed her, but he was sick of violence. Magdalena should have screamed for the partisans; but Hans looked like her brother, dead twelve months. He looked despairing.

Shuddering, terrified, she removed her dowry necklace, pressed it into his hands.

She hissed hated German words. “Walk! Three days!” She pointed west. “Find boat. Pay man. Italy.”

Now the new buildings after the war are themselves old and in disrepair. Magdalena still feels the scars of her whipping. She still hears the whisper “Krautfucker!”

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50 thoughts on “The Angel of Epirus

    • Thank you so much for your complimentary comment! As regards the link, I saw the obsolete telephone, and thought of a building that was new in the 1950s and now shows its age. Magdalena’s meeting with Hans happened in the early 1940s, of course, when Magdalena was about eighteen, and in the last paragraph she’s very old.

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    • Thank you, Varad. I’m glad you found it powerful. Brutal, though? It’s actually intended to be a story about redemption, and the very high cost that can carry. Certainly there are brutal actions, but the two key actions are those of compassion and humanity. I’m really glad you commented, because it helps me understand that my emphasis may have been subtly wrong. Not quite sure if I have the skill to improve the story to emphasise the humanity, without losing the impact… hmm.
      Thank you once again!

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      • Thank you very much for clarifying, Varad! You’re right; Magdalena’s ‘reward’ for her compassion was very brutal. And yet, that action was essential. If people are not prepared to show compassion even at great personal risk, then life will become pitiless indeed.
        I’m starting to wonder whether to try to expand this story. It holds the kernel of a lot of what I want to say as a writer.

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  1. powerful story in few words,Penny! I like it lot! They have been terrified, had to burden a lot and the scars and some memories wil always stay. But I think they could be stronger afterwards and happy? Without feeling bad moments, you will not be able to feel the good moments. I would also want to know, what happend to Hans?

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  2. I have to say.. And I am proud to say it if this was a competition.. You would have been the winner.. An angel whose wings were burned for Solicitude.. It changed my perspective on story telling.. Restrain.. Oh the wonders.. Bravo..

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    • Dear Sight11, Thank you so much for the lovely comments! I’m delighted you enjoyed the story so much. There are some terrific writers in this group and I’m proud that my stories should be read alongside theirs. It’s a great place to study our craft, isn’t it?

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      • Yes, but their story(as well as mine) are different. Yours is well vivid.. A trait of classic writers that is lost.. I didn’t know the such depth could be achieved in minuscule interstices..

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  3. Penny , this is an awe-inspiring story – especially because it is centred around divine compassion and fellow feeling . Magdalena’s resolve to help Hans, in the face of odds is exemplary .You have made me really admire and respect and like her in less than 100 words. Speaks for your resourcefulness as a writer . Had it not been for the tags and comments, it would have been difficult for me to grasp the essence of your wonderful story .
    Best wishes ,
    Moon

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  4. I have to confess I didnt quite get the story at first but I read the comments and then the story again. Quite quite brilliant Penny. You managed to say so much in so few words. The first lines suggest a romantic tryst in the midst of destruction but then we are taken in an entirely different direction. But an important message comes through – despite the mob madness, often individual sanity kindness and compassion sees us through. And the fact that Magadalena doesnt escape unscathed gives it a touch of reality which it otherwise wouldnt have had and made it less powerful. Kudos Penny. I am not quite clear about the title though…

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    • Hans can take a boat to Italy after walking three days west. That shows he’s in the Balkans. Epirus is a region in the north-west of Greece with a suitable coastline for such a trip. It’s reasonable to guess that the story is set in Epirus. Who would think of Magdalena as an angel? Certainly not family or community. The only person likely to think of her as an angel is Hans. He understands the significance of her action, which is, in effect, to relinquish the hope of marriage, and, indeed, to put her life at risk. So, the fact that the story has the title ‘The Angel of Epirus’ hints that Hans did, indeed, escape. To be honest, I wouldn’t expect most readers to be sufficiently familiar with Greece to take the implication of the title – it’s there for my personal pleasure!

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      • And I thank you for explaining it so beautifully. I did google it but I wasnt very convinced but having read your stories I knew it was bound to be of significance. Glad I asked😊

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      • sorry, but I still can not understand, which was this moment where the sory turned??? And why she could not marry. For me the facts are much more simple, Hans and Magdalena met, They recognized, that they want to forgive. She helped him, to be able to survive….both of them could do whatever they wanted,afterwards, no? But I think this story is too difficult for me to understand….or I just can not switch in this past time?

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    • Thank you very much for your comment, Dahlia. It’s very helpful to have such detailed feedback and I really appreciate the time and effort you spent in understanding the detail of the story.

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    • This is a reply to Noonespecial. The parts of the story you don’t understand are largely cultural, I think. Magdalena gives him her dowry necklace. This was a valuable item that a young woman had as ‘payment’ to her husband. The loss of this, at that time, would have made it more difficult for her to marry. Add to that her loss of reputation because people believe that she had sex with Hans, and she’s most unlikely to find a husband. That’s why Magdalena doesn’t marry.
      Hans, by contrast, could choose to marry – but instead he willingly chooses to serve God as a priest, in a church which does not permit its priests to be married.
      But you’re right about the heart of the story. Two people meet and recognise their common humanity despite the appalling circumstances under which they’re living.

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    • Thank you for commenting, Alice. Yes indeed, he let her live. And she had a long life too. I like to think that although she couldn’t marry, she would be a happy aunty to the children of her brothers and sisters.

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