The sky is dark, although the stars are fading and a stain of light indigo is beginning to seep up from the horizon. I'm walking, alone, through the woods. Down the road that once led straight to the heart of town. My town.
And remembering. Remembering everything.
The freezing rain that slices across my face doesn't hurt half as much as your tears did. "Never let me go."
I had to, darling, I had to.
The lacework of trees begin to thin and the first blackened heap appears ahead of me. The first house.
Razed to the ground.
I pause, staring at it like a fascinated child. My mind says to keep going but this time my feet don't obey. Suddenly, as the charred beams settle, a piece crumbles, sounding empty in the silence. It startles me, bad. My whole body tenses and my heart starts racing. Despite the rain, I can feel hot sweat begin to break out on my chest and forehead. I turn and start walking again. The rain gets harder and I blink it away. The sky is crying harder than anyone today. It blurs what I can see but it can't erase what I knew I'd find. I move, almost as if I'm dreaming, down the middle of the road. Everything is black. The bank, the granary, the milliners. Everything is empty.
You asked me not to leave you here alone- now look at me. I only wish I could be where you are.
As I pass the granary I look to the side when my eye catches sight of a familiar shape sprawled beside the road. I've seen too many bodies now for it to shake me too much, at least it seems it should be so. But every time it's a little different. This time I just move on. Part of me wishes I were there instead. Instead of walking, breathing, reluctantly living. For what? I close my eyes, the darkness making little difference for I can feel everything around me. My fighter instincts are saying 'open your eyes, fool, keep alert.'
Alert? Why? No one can hurt me now.
But I open them anyways,as I come to a halt. I stare upwards. It had escaped total destruction, only partially burned out. The once white siding is smoke-damaged, and one window is shattered.
I put my hand out to take the doorknob. As my fingers, shivering and red, touch it's dusky surface, it happens again.
* * *
Lily turned as if to go to the window. I reach out, pulling her back, dragging her across the room to where her little bed sits against the wall.
"Don't you dare look out your window," I say, as she looks at me, scared and confused. I sit down with her on my lap and hug her to my chest. "Darling, everything's on fire."
The flickering glow in the window, yellow and tangible on the wall, tell me the blaze is getting closer. I can feel her little body shaking as the screams outside continue. They pierce the air in audible silhouettes against the static, animal roar of the inferno outside our door. As she begins to cry, a thin wail that builds as something- or someone- crashes against our door with a dull thud. I begin to sing mamma's lullaby, as bravely as I can.
After a moment her sobs subside, as they always will with this song. Somehow, after a moment, she falls asleep, as though defying the terror closing in with the peace of slumber. As I sing through the song one last time, I hold her close, then lay her down. With one motion I grab my bow, and fling myself out the door. I hear it slam behind me as I half fall down the steps to the front door and plunge outside.
The horror that surrounds me fills my eyes, burning with more than just the unbearable heat from the bonfire of buildings in every direction. I try to step forward but my foot catches against something. I look down. Across the doorstep sprawls a black uniformed guerrilla, face downward and motionless. I clasp my hand to my mouth and look back up, trying to steady myself. Without looking back down, I step over him- it- and walk to the middle of the street. I try to look every where at once, to process what's around me and fathom how to react. Without meaning to I have my bow up, an arrow seeming to spring on it's own to the string. Every muscle tenses. I hear a yell behind me, I turn as they release-
* * *
I lean against the doorway, shaking, trying to cover my ears, to block it out. As the flames fade, I realized my nails have driven into my palms. Thankfully my nails are gnawed too short to cut in, but it stings all the same. I welcome the pain though, it jerks me a little toward true reality.
As I walk up the stairs, one by one, it feels more like this is the dream. The space around me feels like a doubtful mist. Any moment the nightmare could return. I unconsciously test each step, to make sure the boards are true. They groan, like they always have, but somehow my house had managed to survive. Like me.
I slip into the room and shut the door behind me. I lean against it, closing my eyes again. Then I push my self forward, forcing myself into motion. Like when I was young, a few months ago or so, and we would swim at the gym. You reach the edge, you can't go any farther- and then you push off the edge, back into continued momentum.
I feel the floor under my feet, the only thing connecting me to the earth. I kneel and lift it from the floor. Her doll. It's dented nose, the chunk of hair chopped off, the pen along its eyelids. It's still the same. Still here. As I sit on my heels, staring at it, I feel the tears coming, like the sting of smoke but from behind my eyes. I stare into the pieces of empty glass in the dolls face. My tears fall into them, giving it my sadness.
You're safe now.
This was inspired by Jackie Evancho's new single, Safe and Sound. It's a song from the Hunger Games, which I haven't watched, so I apologize if the story is too similar to the movie. My sister and I make up music videos/stories to go with songs we like and I thought it might be good to actually write one down:)
I might try to do it monthly, what do you think? Song + story Saturday (I love alliteration). I could even take song suggestions. (I realize this isn't Saturday but by the time most see this it will be so.) anyways let me know in the comments!