It was a dark night. The wind was vicious and the rain pelted down like millions of tiny meteorites. A baby’s crying could easily be hidden. Well, that was what Oliver was hoping anyway. He cradled Adriana in his arms, wrapping the blanket tighter around her. He covered her ears and all her fingers and toes, knowing how easy it was for her to get ill in this type of weather. He leaned back against the wet brick wall, feeling every lump and bump indent on his spine. He was so tired. He hadn’t slept in two days.
“Oliver. I’m hungry!”
Came a voice, a little way off. It had to shout to make itself heard.
“Come over here, Solomon!” Oliver shouted back, cuddling Adriana tighter into his chest. His brother came under their discreet shelter and sat next to him, shivering badly.
“You didn’t find anything?” Oliver asked. Solomon shook his head, his jaw aching from his chattering teeth. Oliver stretched out an arm and took Solomon around his painfully thin shoulders, trying to bring some heat back into him.
“That’s alright. I’ll go out to look for something once this rain stops.”
Solomon nodded and leaned on his older brother’s arm, closing his heavy eyes and falling straight asleep. He had been searching for scraps of any food since before the rain started, half an hour ago. And before that, they had been walking and hiding for five hours.
Oliver put his little finger in Adriana’s mouth, desperate for her to take hold of it, desperate for her to be quiet so he could get some sleep.
“Please, Adriana,” he whispered, feeling tears well in his eyes. He could feel every area of his body aching with fatigue. “Please, just go to sleep. I know you’re cold and wet, but so am I. I know you’re hungry. I know you need food. So do I. But please, just be quiet, Adriana. I need to sleep. Please ...”
Adriana miraculously stopped crying, and looked up at his pale, gaunt face with stormy grey eyes. Her bottom lip wobbled. Oliver placed his finger in her mouth, and after a small moment, Adriana started sucking on it. She closed her eyes, still sucking, and fell asleep. Oliver breathed out a sigh of relieved desperation. He felt like laughing. But he didn’t want to wake her up. Smiling, he closed his eyes and immediately slept.
“Come on, Dad! You said you’d play with us!” Solomon called, pulling Brad’s hand and leading him outside. Oliver was already ready with the football.
“Janey! Help me!” Brad called in mock defeat. Janey laughed. It was a lovely sound – light and musical like a bird’s. She shook her head, smiling. She looked down at the bundle in her arms. A beautiful plump face looked back at her, eyes shining brightly and a smile revealing healthy, pink gums. A shadow passed briefly over her face. Janey looked up, and her smile disappeared.
“Brad? What’s that?” she asked, pointing at the sky. Brad pulled Solomon off his leg and looked up, squinting into the sun. There was a small black dot in the sky. The dot split into two, the first dot moving off, and the second dot getting larger. What was it? The boys had stopped wrestling now, and looked up at the sky as well.
All of a sudden, the larger dot grew twice its size. Then again, and again.
“I think we should move ...” Brad began. But it was too late. The bomb hit the ground, and a massive explosion followed. Brad and Janey fell to the ground, covering their children with their whole bodies. The entire world shook, as fire and rubble rained from the sky. That was the exact moment the war started.
Oliver jerked awake, feeling his blood racing and his neck stiff. He stamped out the thoughts of his nightmare. Every time he slept, he kept dreaming about that last day, two weeks ago. His mind created different variations of the dream. But in the end, it was always the same. His parents died. There was nothing he could do about it.
He sniffed. He didn’t want to think about that right now.
Adriana was crying again in his arms. He looked out of the shelter. The sun was rising and it had just stopped raining.
“Shh, Adriana, you’ll wake up Solomon,” Oliver whispered to her. She didn’t listen to him. Gently setting her down on the floor, Oliver went out of the shelter to look for food. He stuck to the damaged buildings, and was on the constant lookout for any guards. He almost fell flat on his face after tripping over a box, but he caught himself just in time. He backtracked to the box. It was a smallish and wooden. There was no catch on it, so he had to smash it to open it. Ignoring the pain of the splinters in his hands, he opened the unlabelled packet inside. As soon as he smelt it he knew what it was. Food. A grin spread across his face. His heart pounded with joy. He couldn’t believe his luck! He got up and started running back towards the shelter. His stomach was rumbling like an earthquake, but he knew he had to wait and share it with his brother and sister. A rock was accidently kicked into the middle of the road, and Oliver froze. He ducked down behind a broken wall. A guard came over to the rock. He looked around suspiciously, pulling around the rifle from his back.
“Who’s there?” he called. His voice echoed across the buildings. There was no reply. After five minutes, the footsteps retreated and Oliver heaved a sigh of relief. He hurriedly but carefully made his way back to the shelter. Little did he know that he had just fallen straight into the guard’s trap. The guard waited out Oliver’s waiting, then slyly followed him. The guard didn’t know if Oliver was going to lead him to any others, but it didn’t matter in the end. Oliver was going to die.
Oliver shook Solomon’s shoulder, still grinning.
“Solomon! Look what I found! Look!”
Solomon started awake. Once he saw the food in Oliver’s hand, he grinned as madly as his brother. Oliver picked up Adriana. He chewed a bit of the food, then put it in her mouth and she swallowed it.
“Go on, Adriana. Eat up!”
Solomon and Oliver laughed. They didn’t even know why. It just felt so good.
Oliver and Solomon gasped, whipping round to face the guard. Before the guard could say anything more, Oliver shoved Adriana into Solomon’s arms and ran towards the guard, screaming, “Run, Solomon!”
The guard, taken aback, was knocked straight off his feet by Oliver. Oliver glimpsed Solomon taking off with Adrian. While the guard was still winded, Oliver grabbed the rifle. But the guard was quick. Grabbing one end of the gun, he smashed it against Oliver’s temple. Calling out in pain, Oliver fell backwards, and the guard scrambled to stand up. He kept his boot on Oliver’s back so he wouldn’t move. He took aim with his gun, and fired.
The gunshot that Solomon heard gave him extra adrenalin. He held Adriana tightly, with no chance of her falling. The thought of Oliver dead didn’t even register in his mind. All he could think about was running away. He had to get himself and Adriana safe.
The guard left Oliver on the floor right where he was, and sprinted after the child and baby he’d seen slip past him earlier. He was bigger and stronger than Solomon, and he his rifle was lighter than the baby. He caught up quickly. Much too quickly. Bang! The running figure dropped to the floor. The guard jogged over, knowing that there was no chance now of the baby escaping. He stood towered above Adriana. She was crying so hard her voice was going hoarse. In the tiny second that she opened her eyes in her scrunched up face, Adriana met the guard’s eye. The guard stopped what he was doing. He was taken aback by the power of her look. He suddenly thought, How could I kill something so innocent? The finger on the trigger relaxed. But then his general’s voice spoke in his head, as if he were right next to him.
“Kill them all. Leave no one alive.”
Throwing the thought of sparing the child out of his head, he pointed the gun down at the infant. He didn’t look. Click! The guard stared in shock at the tiny baby, at those stormy grey eyes wide and staring.
He’d run out of bullets.