A lone, dishevelled figure stepped over the crest of the hill, where the matted clumps of dilute mauve heather stood up starkly against the sombre, slate grey sky. From his shoulders hung a lengthy, charcoal coloured knee length overcoat. The once magnificent woollen material was now frayed and tattered around the hem and sleeve edges; at which protruded a pair of dirty white shirt cuffs. His corduroy trousers were torn and on his feet, he wore an ancient pair of pointed boots. The leather was cracked and encrusted with congealed mud. From the tips of his upturned collar, a long, pale face could be seen, aged far beyond its years. A fine layer of soot and grime lay upon his creviced skin, which was weathered from bitter life and unforgettable memories.
His strong jaw line clenched, his pallid lips drawing thin. His russet eyes, the colour of autumnal leaves, scrutinised the scene before him. They flickered from side to side, surveying the landscape he knew so well. Or rather, used to.
He remembered a time with the outlook had been full of life. In the summer, the waist height citron grass would twirl in the gentle breeze, like a serene sea of liquid gold. Small children would race barefoot through it, playing chase, their hair and pearl-like teeth shining in the shimmering sun. A crystal clear brook wound its way through the valley, bubbling gently against the earthy banks, salmon swimming in its currents. Light would refract through its depths, creating sparkling rainbow beams amongst the up thrown water spray droplets. Pure white sheep would graze in their lower pasture, gazing nonchalantly as a whirlwind of time passed by them. In the distance lay a colossal expanse of forest, the fir trees looming, creating a deep lair beneath them. A village, his village, sat in the centre of this peaceful environment, the place where he, his parents, siblings and children had all grown up.
That idyllic world seemed so far away from the desolate pace which he could now see, but not register. The crops were bent backwards by fierce gales which whistled across the tabular plateau, and an eerie silence hung over the settlement like a dark curse.
The man, or Aetos as he was otherwise know, began to stride down the slope, his peculiar, uneven gait unusually matching his lofty, gaunt frame. A forceful blast of air swept his dark, tawny hair off his forehead, the flecks of silver which prematurely ran through it, glinting like the barrel of a pistol.
Throughout the fuscous meadow, he spotted the sere and yellow carcasses of cattle and other four-hoofed animals. Their gnawed bones' surface were imprinted with small, rectangular indentations, which, he later realised, were the teeth marks of the ruddy dun coyotes whom lived in the surrounding mountains. Throughout the valley, burnt tree remains stuck up like blackened cutlery forks.
Behind him, a trail of footprints lay in the inch-deep layer of ash, and as he entered the deserted ghost town, the musky, pungent odour of smoke entered his hooked nose and inflamed the back of his throat.
The tumble down buildings which surrounded Aetos overwhelmed him. Their timber and plaster were scorched and the thatched roofs which had been burnt to a cinder had caved in. The glass windows were cracked into intricate patterns like snowflakes, or had shattered with heat; the fragments now lying in sooty shards upon the dust lined cobbled streets. It was quiet other than the noise of Aetos' laboured breathing and the avenged harpy like screech of an awakened wildcat whom had been residing in one of the ruin's interiors.
His sharp eyes moved restlessly like stag beetles and pinpointed a mound in the otherwise smooth film of downfallen ash. Languidly ambulating over to the spot, he reached down. His bony fingers with tarnished, desiccated blood imprisoned underneath the bitten back nails, sank into the grit. They closed around the object which had caused the incoherent lump.
Pulling it out, he shook the excess flakes of cremated wood from its surface and with a twist of pain through his heart like a knife blade, Aetos recognised it. The figurine's mottled singed balsa face, which he had whittled all those years ago for his daughter, had cracked and its features had become undistinguishable.
With a scream of despair and rage, he hurtled it at a nearby stone brick wall, splitting it into countless divisions which settled with a minute uprising cloud of cinders upon the ground. Sinking to his knees, a sob rose up his throat, spilling out of his mouth as tears streamed from his eyes, cutting through and washing away trails of filth down his face. He collapsed onto his side, not caring whether he lived or died any more.