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  • Beni Mercurio

Fuori Con Un Piagnucolio 

Style: Speculative Fiction

Writer's Statement: "Fuori Con Piagnucolio" is a short story dedicated to the victims of war, specifically those who have been forgotten by the news; Slavery in Libya, the genocide faced by the Congolese people due to the greed of tech companies, the persecution of Uyghur Muslims in China, the ongoing genocide in North Korea, human trafficking in the Asia-Pacific region for the seafood industry, the struggles of women in Afghanistan and Iran, the recruitment of child soldiers in Cambodia, Laos, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, and Yemen, the plight of hungry children in our own neighborhoods, and the exploitation of slave labor in the production of clothing, shoes, and technology that we use daily in first-world societies.


"I can't breathe," thought Fio Berzatto as he stood alone in his quaint Italian-style kitchen; He was stirring risotto for his weekly Arancini fix. 


The overhead exhaust fan hummed softly, and Marco Mengoni’s Prisma album played quietly in the background. He sang the lyrics loudly like he always had since he was a giovanile. “e stasera la tua voce non è lontana” -And tonight your voice is not far away. Fio felt his chest tighten following the chorus, and each breath he took became a struggle to open his lungs –Panic coursed through his veins as he realized that something was very wrong. 


Fio is a chef from the small town of Modica in Sicily. He speaks four languages, and as a child split his time between football, cooking with his Nonna, and singing in a local boys' choir. He had dreams of opening his restaurant someday, but the start of the war rendered that dream impossible. Fio kept cooking for his neighbors and himself. It was his escape from the war, which was ever reaching and inching closer to his doorstep, slowly consuming his thoughts. 


Neighboring countries were embroiled in a bitter conflict, and occasionally he would hear about a town suffering casualties from toxic fumes emitted by the weapons. Although it had never crossed his mind that he might become one of those nameless people who die in the name of someone else’s hopes and ambitions. 

Fio burned his radio when the conflicts started because he only felt fear if he knew, but if he did not know he could not fear.


Consequently, if he had his radio five minutes before this, Fio would have known that the U.S. dropped a nuclear warhead on Vetta D’Italia, the northernmost point in Italy in the Bolzano province. 


The fumes seeped into the ground and blew across the country, into his home. He staggered away from the stovetop, clutching his chest as his vision blurred. The room seemed to spin on an unearthly axis, and he collapsed onto the cool, tiled floor. As he lay there, gasping for air, memories of his childhood flooded his mind. 


Fio remembered the fragrant gardens of his Nonna's home, where he had learned to cook his favorite dishes. Those were the days when the air was filled with the sweet scent of basil and the comforting perfumes of his Nonna's Pomodoro rossi sauce. Now, all he could feel in his nostrils was the sickening miasma of a war that had finally reached him. 


Struggling to stay conscious, Fio reached for his landline phone, but his weak fingers betrayed him. His callused and weather-beaten hands only minutes ago could swim miles in the sea, and cut ingredientì for hours were now unable to catch hold of the thick handle, he fell back on his knees, defeated. He couldn't call for help. Desperation clawed at his throat as he realized that these breaths might be his last. Dying to Andrea Bocelli’s “Libertá” felt a little ironic, he thought. 


But then, in the dim haze of his fading consciousness, he heard a voice. It was a distant cry for help, carried by the evening breeze. Fio summoned every ounce of strength left in his deoxygenated and poisoned limbs and managed to crawl towards the window. 


Outside, he saw his neighbor, an elderly woman named Elettra, collapsed on her porch. She was also gasping for air, just like him. Fio knew he had to do something, not just for himself but for her as well. He dragged himself to the front door and stumbled out into the open air. He laughed; it stung his lungs.


His crawling like this reminded him of Leonardo DiCaprio in that captivating American movie where that guy does so much Bamba he can’t walk. “What movie was that again?” 


The world outside was chaotic. People were coughing and choking, struggling to escape. Fio could see the warhead's plumes of smoke on the horizon, realizing. Despite the excruciating pain and his dying body, Fio reached Elettra’s side. Fio was Numb to the asphalt that had ripped his shirt and cut his legs and hands. He couldn't speak, but he grabbed her hand and squeezed it, letting her know that she wasn't alone. His eyes burned, and his body felt limp and useless. 


Elettra and Fio lay amongst the cracked asphalt bloodied, and terrified. They weren’t alone, the whole country; every big city and small town was experiencing the same. 


Bodies, so many bodies, in the streets, in the schools, in the houses, in the churches, in the mosques, in the temples, in the synagogues, but none guilty for any crime, except living. All the while the world watched miles away, tucked under blankets of greed and gunpowder. “A bullet with butterfly wings” 

They were the victims of a war they had never asked for and a catastrophe Fio had never prepared for. 


In his final thoughts, he found solace in the memories of the people he loved, his boyhood friends, his parents, coaches, and teachers who had shaped him, and the meals he had shared with them. He embraced the laughter, the warmth, and the joy of those moments. Fio’s memories are a pounding fortissimo in comparison to the pianissimo of a heartbeat finding peace amid chaos. 


Thousands of miles away, the war raged on, oblivious to the lives that had just flickered out. Fio Berzatto became another chapter in the tragic story of a world torn apart by conflict, leaving humankind with little humanity.

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