In response to Finish it #32 By Author S B Mazing.
They gathered what they could quickly grab, not much, not even all of the essentials something like this would need. She gently lifted the baby out of the cot while he gently woke their older son. They had to leave. Now. And the didn’t know when, if at all, they would be able to return. One last look back before they locked the door for good was all they could do for now.
She…dared not look back again once the little car sputtered to life and they began bouncing down the cobble stone streets. The driver kept looking fretfully back in the rear view mirror. She had gotten the call, less than an hour ago, this had just been an “in case”. They had been safe, they had never drawn attention, never flaunted their different-ness, or at least that’s what they had thought.
But the call had come, a hushed voice at the end of the receiver telling her that her world was over. That the fanatics had somehow gotten her name, and that of her husband, that if they stayed in their home they would be slaughtered within the day. The voice had be just barely calm, trying to veil it’s own fear, but it trembled ever so slightly, buzzing with a nervous energy that had seeped into her over the phone lines.
Beneath the words the voice spoke were the deeper meanings. The “Run, run, it’s time to run”, and “Death comes in the form of ignorant men, with the power of guns and the illusions of Godhood.” So they had run, they had scattered and scrambled, a mad dash for the border, before the trucks came, to burn and pillage. She looked down at the babe in her arms. He had been born into a world where ideologies and heritage had marked him for death, even before he had the ability to understand. She had birthed him into this, and she would see him through, perhaps to change this sad, vindictive world.
He…watched her draw a shaky breath staring down at their infant. He saw the determination in her face, and wondered if she was thinking what he was. If she was making up her mind that his life, was worth more than hers. That she too would lay down her life to see her boys safely away. God he hoped not. He hoped that she would know that they would need their mother, that they would need her light and her strength. They would need her calm and her resolve. They would need to learn from her.
The car slowed, and he saw why thorough the windshield. Armed men on foot, coming their way down the narrow street. Behind them an armored truck, no doubt filled with the people they had already dragged from their homes. Dragged out of sleep and into this nightmare. Or worse the bodies of those people.
“The alley.” the driver breathed. Motioning to a dark hole between two red brick buildings. “Go, she will meet you on the other side.”
He took a steadying breath, locked eyes with his wife and heft his half sleeping toddler in his arms. The bundle with their few worldly possessions already strapped to his back. The driver slowed and they made a hasty exist from a vehicle that slowed only enough to allow it without someone breaking a neck. He didn’t know the man’s name, he would never be able to thank him. But that is the way it was, they way it must be, those who help the Christians can never be known, or they would share the same fate.
She..followed him down the alley. Somewhere in the street behind them was the crash and creek of wood splintering under strain. A woman screamed, a man pleaded and then there was the peel of machine gun fire.
Nothing, not even the sound of boots on the cobble. Just quiet. This was the sound of death, this absence of audio. This would be the sound they left behind if they were caught. And so they hid. Behind a dumpster and pressed against the dark red brick. Trying as they might to will inconspicuousness upon themselves. But boots started beating the cobble, getting louder, closer. Bring doom with them.
A door to their right opened. They hadn’t noticed the door, almost to the end of the alley. The one they had been headed towards. The slight figure of a women peeked out, she glanced them and ambled into the alley, leaving the door open. She passed their hiding place and lifted the lid of the dumpster, depositing a bad of smelly things, and then she turned to the men approaching, giving a barely noticeable wave behind her now turned back.
She let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding, and sagged with relief. Every muscle relaxing almost to the point she wet herself. The blood still rushed in her ears, a throb throb throbbing, but at least now she know her allies were about her.
He…led them into the gloom of the building. Flattening them against the wall, as the old woman, greeted the gunmen politely. Assuring them with her thick exotic accent and her low gravely voice that she had seen no one, heard nothing, and loathed the infidels that had invaded them. She spoke, the men spoke, she laughed, and the sound of boots grew further away. It was his turn to let air in, to try to still the beating in his chest. The thump thump that would crack ribs if it continues. He tried to breath and felt something hot and wet running down his cheek. Was that hope?
It would be two weeks before they made it to the border. Two weeks of dank basements and dark tunnels, of rough cold bedding and meals spared by nameless strangers. It would be four months till the sound of footsteps in the darkness stopped sending hearts a flutter. Four years till the war was ended and they could reclaim their names, and their home.
But in that time the losses had been great. A father had been badly beaten almost to the brink of death, a brother beheaded. A sister lost to the shame of rape, and a mother dead by heartbreak. They couldn’t go back, they mourned from afar, but it was never the same. They wondered why they had been unable to convince their loved ones to make the crossing. They wondered how they would ever fill the holes those losses left for the boys, or if they could ever really explain the whys and the hows of what had happened to them. If small children should ever even be exposed to that vileness in the human condition.
It was 5 years before they returned to the house they had fled, to a city rebuilt after what seemed like conflict that would never end. You could barely tell the horror of that night, the fear didn’t cling to the white washed pavement, or the damp cobble. The red brick walls didn’t hide the freshly spattered blood. But where they looked, he and she, the memories were as fresh and the night they got that call. When their world had crashed and they had run.