“WHAM! The blast knocked me off my feet. I slammed down hard on my back, onto the floor. Winded, I lay there, stunned.
I’m dead, I thought. My body paralysed. My vision impaired. I must be dead. If this is death though, it isn’t at all what I imagined. I imagined my pain to be gone and my body transported to another realm. Heaven maybe. I imagined myself on a beach, the sun warm on my face and the ocean licking at my heels. The soft sea breeze tousling gently through my hair, as I watch the waves temporarily join with the shore, before being tugged back out to unite with the sea. Yes, death was meant to be peaceful.
This however was not peaceful, meaning I must not be dead. I was fully aware of the sharp pain coursing through my leg, throbbing in agony. I could feel my lungs tightening, trying to filter through what little oxygen there was. My throat was burning, as it tried to pass what it had foolishly mistaken for oxygen. Symptoms from the aftermath of what must have been smoke. My vision kept me submerged in darkness and my hearing focused only on the erratic thrum of my heartbeat. I could think of nothing but my extreme discomfort. At this moment, death would have been welcomed.
‘Get up! Get up! Get out of here!’ A voice pierced through my musing. A wavelength other then my heartbeat was passing through my ears, which was the fuel I needed to ignite the spark in my body. Commotion assaulted my ears, overwhelming me with the chaos that surrounded me. Alarmed screams and cries of terror were the only distinct sound. My eyelids were the next to cooperate; previously being tightly welded shut now broke apart, causing me to squint against the harsh flames of light.
‘Miss, we really have to leave!’ the voice kept insisting. ‘Like now’
I felt an arm link around my waist, and I was hauled from the ground. The sudden motion made me cry out in anguish, as the pain from my leg made itself known. My vision was blurred at first before adjusting to normality. Around me the building was on fire. Hot flames lurched at me like it was a tiger and I its prey. The man was able to drag me out of the building practically unscathed. What’s a couple of burns here and there?
Outside the building, I was struck with absolute devastation. The city I grew up in, overrun with pedestrians and roaring with life, was gone. In it’s midst, the ruins of a war torn battlefield fraught with only death. Buildings now reduced to piles of brick, strewn over the semi-identifiable pavement. A thick layer of fire, ash or smoke encompassed the whole city. Or what was once considered a city.
My saviour had half dragged; half carried me out of the building onto the street and dived in for others. He had thrown himself back into the clutches of the crumbling building. He was a hero. While his efforts were admirable, they were also wasted. A second explosion hit, tearing the building from its already fragile structure. My ears rang with the noise and all I could do was watch as flames engulfed the building hungrily. I sank to the floor, pinching my arm to try to wake myself from this nightmare.
Get a grip Charlie, I told myself forcefully. I seized a fallen lamppost, using it as support, to heave my body up. I stared at my leg, a shard of glass protruding from a jagged wound. I counted to three before yanking it from my skin. Hot tears balanced on the brim of my eyes but I pushed them back. Crying was a luxury I couldn’t afford while in this predicament. My brain was an unfathomable mess and I was unable to focus on one single thought.
A third bomb sounded behind me, the deafening boom resonating through the crumbling streets. My ears now seemed to be accustomed to the wretched sound; a constant high pitched ringing the only abnormality of my hearing. I thought back to before the first bomb, to what I was doing. I was with my mother, arguing over wether I could get a tattoo. A topic that just became so trivial in the light of current events. Then it hit me. My mother. Where was she?
I frantically scanned my environment. Around me was chaos, spawned from the panic of those around me. People ran around me in every direction and if they weren’t running they lay dead on the floor. As I limped down the street, I grabbed at peoples shoulders, asking of my mother. I got no coherent answer and I couldn’t help but let the tears flow. I stepped over unmoving body after body, loved ones lay weeping at their sides.
The smoke was suffocating, forcing me to drop to my knees. I crawled awkwardly around the floor, my wounded leg elevated and dragging behind. Everywhere I looked was a body, enveloped in dust and crusted blood. My efforts were futile and I was losing all hope. That was until I saw her. I limped swiftly over to the body, collapsing beside her. Her chest could still rise and fall indicating that she was still alive. I clutched at her shoulders and pulled her to me tight.
‘I’m sorry mum’ I cried.
She didn’t so much as stir. I assessed her body; finding a gaping wound in her stomach where red, hot blood trickled slowly out. I held it tight to stop the blood flow but it was no use. Her breathing was slowing. She wasn’t going to make it. She had to though. It was non-negotiable. She would make it. I grabbed at her arm, trying to pull her to safety but she was dead weight that I couldn’t move.
‘We have to move’ a male voice said from above me. I felt a hand clutch my arm and go to lift me up but I resisted. ‘NOW!’
‘I’m not leaving her!’ I yelled in frustration. She can’t die, she just can’t.
‘I’m not asking you, I’m telling you. We have to go!’ the voice insisted, hauling me from the ground, his muscle overpowering my minimum strength. At first I struggled and then I realised there was no use. ‘Another bomb is going to go off here’
‘How do you know?’ I asked, just as he swept me easily into his arms. My arm hooked around his neck and he left at a sprint. Moments later, the spot we had just stood, went up in flames. Another bomb exploded just as he had said. I could feel my eyelids getting heavy and the little vision I had was blurry. My head pounded and my eyes could leak no more tears. My leg wound hurt like hell and probably looked just as bad.
‘Who are you?’ I asked, my voice nothing but a whisper.
‘My name is Nat’ he replied. My eyelids closed, making his distorted image the last thing I see. I felt oddly safe in this strangers company. The last sound I heard was another bomb, sounding in the distance. My nose filled with the scent of incinerated human flesh. A sudden spurt of hysteria hit me, overwhelming me, sentencing me to a dark oblivion…