The last Hell on Earth

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“There is no God and we are his prophets”
Cormac McCarthy

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It is a two-lane highway, without a crash barrier.

The drivers enter and exit, with 120 kph, without realising they run more than they can handle. Somewhere close to Potidaia, they do. More than often than not, it’s too late.

As we reach that point of our journey, we come across a traffic jam.

“What happened? Are we stuck?” I’m asking Nelly.

We look at the police cherry top.

“It is another accident” she says.

Both cars that collided are in pieces. It is an impact collision, with 120 kph. The traffic wardens are telling us to move along.

“Don’t look!” I tell her.

She buries her face in her arms. I’m looking straight ahead, driving automatically.

~~

My father was in the traffic police. There were some days, when he got back from work and he was more affectionate than usual. He would come in, kiss us, talk to us gently, and then his gaze would disappear into one of the corners of our room. Then he would leave, go to the kitchen, make a coffee and sip it without a word. He would just smoke. These were the days he would have witnessed an accident.

~~

“Don’t look!” I’m telling Nelly again.

With the corner of my eye I can see a black and white movement. I slightly turn my head and it turns colourful. I see a woman and a man running towards a parked car. Behind them there is another man. He is holding in his arms a baby dressed in an orange romper. The man’s shirt and the baby’s head are covered in blood. The baby’s hand is moving, but I can’t hear any crying; I can only hear Django Reinhardt’s guitar.

“Oh my God!” Nelly exclaims.

She has also looked.

We drive next to the cars. The windscreens are smashed and blood runs down the street.

“Don’t look” I tell Nelly, without an exclamation mark this time.

We pass by slower than usual. Everybody drives slower.

The image of the man with the baby is engraved in my memory. He was well tanned (it was the end of August already) and had a moustache. His face was a mask of panic and despair. The baby was moving his hand, but I could only hear Django, the gypsy guitarist with the moustache, playing the song “Tears”.

What I just witnessed is mixing up with the photograph of a Syrian father. He is also well tanned, with a moustache, holding his injured child in his arms.

The same terror, the same despair, but for a different reason.

~~

The same afternoon I start reading Cormac McCarthy’s novel “The Road”.

In the novel, human civilisation has been destroyed. Possibly by a nuclear holocaust. The author suggests things, but he doesn’t elaborate. He allows us to speculate and this is how we become victims too.

The main hero of the book (“a man”, “a father”, however his name is not mentioned) along with his son (“a child”, “a son”, his name is also not mentioned) are walking through a Wasteland.

The sky is raining ash. There is no electricity, oil, cars, cities, animals, trees or food.

The man and the kid are trying to reach the sea alive. It is a far more tragic descent than that of the Myriads. They are hiding. In the streets there are groups of cannibals.

There is no ethic, no law, and no rule apart from one: Live!

If they get caught by the “Marauders”, the father will be killed, eaten and then the kid will be raped and eaten.

There are no human beings anymore, only monsters. The father with his son are going to keep on moving, hungry, weak, sick, through the winter and the ash, just to reach the sea.

~~

McCarthy is ruthless. I bet Hemingway would be jealous of the Doric style of his means and Faulkner of his ability to fragmentise paragraphs and sentences.

While you read McCarthy, you participate to the drama and feel that everything is forever lost. However, the extermination is certain (not of the individual, not of the heroes, but of the entire human race). The father is putting on a fight; he is struggling for a single thing; that his child, his god is going to live longer, even if that longer is one more day.

There is one last bullet in his gun. He thinks: “Just before we get caught by the Marauders, you could crush this god’s head with a stone, just before you kill yourself ”

He is in constant denial. He finds the strength that he thought he never had. He invents devices and tricks. He lasts as long as he can, while his lungs are spitting blood. He is trying to last as long as he can. Longer than he thought he could, just to give his god, his son, one more living day.

~~

The baby with the orange romper is in his father’s arms. The son in the arms of his tanned father, in the Last Hell of Humanity. The refugees, fathers and mothers are struggling to reach a place where their children aren’t going to be murdered.

Nobody can stop them; no sea, no camp, no border, no army, because they protect their god.

And their god is a child.

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Translated by: Dimitra Kitridou

Since we’re not native speakers, feel free to suggest improvements and make corrections