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(The Flickering Candle)

I saw him.  He was sitting on a bench in the unlighted basement moving the upper part of his body while staring at the floor… He spoke not a single word.  The others glanced at him now and then, but they paid more attention to the noises outside, since the drone of an airplane, a whistle that made their flesh crawl, interrupted the steady silence that may have lasted for hours.
The space was square and large.  Concrete and whitewash with wooden benches all around and an earthen basin full of water in the middle.   Once their eyes got used to the dark they tried to make out faces.  It wasn’t necessary to be someone familiar, as long as the look bore something of the street, the bakery and the marketplace.
Right opposite the main bench and next to the door, on the left as you came in, stood an oblong wooden table, its corners worn, its surface carved, and two of its four legs broken.  On one end that was never steady (it was constantly pushed by the restless legs of those around), sitting on a ramshakle chair, was an old woman of indeterminable age, bent, dowdy and somehow withdrawn from the others.  Whereas nobody had actually seen her face, seeing that she had never addressed herself to anyone nor did she like to stare as others did to humour their boredom, her presence, from the very first day of their confinement, made an impression on everyone.
And this bitter admiration for beauty that endured despite the smell of whitewash and the damp that was becoming even more acute, undermined in turn whatever plucky, fearless and firm was still left in those heads.    

Veroniki Dalakoura
 Translated from the Greek by Yannis Goumas