War Zone

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story written for India Emerald's latest Flash Fiction challenge.

Submitted: August 12, 2017

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Submitted: August 12, 2017

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War Zone

It seems to be quiet right now. There is no sound of gun-fire, no running footsteps; I can’t hear any explosions or breaking glass. Now is probably the best chance that I’m likely to get.

My mother is sitting in the kitchen, her head in her hands. We’ve had nothing to eat, not for a couple of days now. There is no food left and the fighting has been too intense for anyone to venture out there. It’s not her fault but she blames herself for our hunger.

My sister is sitting in the corner playing with our baby brother. At ages five and three they are too young to understand what is going on. They just know that they cannot play outside or see their friends. And they know that their stomachs are empty. Even food that they’d normally turn their noses up at they’d welcome now.

The water still runs from the tap but it is an odd color and smells.....strange. There are bits that float in it, slivers of metal, scrapings of rust, grit and gravel. We strain it and boil it but even so wonder if we really should be drinking it.

Samuel starts to cry. This is no loud outburst from the three year old that he used to be. This is a quiet cry of misery, of total incomprehension; a weeping of hunger and despair.

I’m going out now.” I say, and that startles my mother enough to get her to lift her face and look at me with her tear-stained cheeks, her red rimmed eyes.

No, Mona! Don’t go! You know that you will be killed.”

Listen, Mom. It’s quiet. There’s nothing going on out there right now. If I am careful it will be fine.”

But, Mona....”

No, sorry Mom. We can’t just stay here and resign ourselves to starvation. I won’t be long. As soon as I can find some sort of food I’ll come back and then we’ll be able to eat. It won’t seem quite so bad then, when you’re not so hungry.....”

I won’t give her a chance to talk me out of it. I grab the piece of white material we keep by the door just in case, and a bag for the supplies I’m going to find. Well, I have to try to be optimistic, don’t I?

Barricade the door behind me,” I say over my shoulder as I heave the furniture we’d pushed against it out of the way. I pull open the door and I’m outside. I’ll shut my ears to my mother’s calls and assess the street ahead.

So much devastation and destruction! We might be hungry but we are the lucky ones. Some of our neighbours houses are destroyed, are nothing more than rubble. I know not to look because who knows what is still buried there. No one has been to check for bodies, after all.

There is no sign of soldiers from either side. I think I can hear distant gunfire but I don’t have to make it far; just a couple of streets to what is left of the local store. I have no idea whether I will find anything there but that is where I’ll try for failing that I have to go right in to town.

The air stings my eyes, makes it hard for me to breathe. So much dust. So much smoke. And this smell of burning, but it’s more than just of that. The bullets, the bombs, the bodies – they have all left a lingering stench. I cannot allow myself to think of it; I have to make a move.

Willing my footsteps to be silent, I make my way along the street. I look neither left nor right, letting my ears do the scanning. My eyes have enough to do, navigating the rubble strewn streets. A junction now and I need to turn left.

I stop, put every effort into listening.......Nothing! It’s quiet. I move my head forward to look and the street is empty. Just a few blocks to go now....

But there’s an engine coming. It’s not here yet. Will I dive for cover, not knowing what I will find? No, I’m going to make a run for it. My feet scrabble their way over the concrete chunks littering the path. Three times I barely keep my balance. But I make it! I throw myself through the store doorway and my heart falls. It is destroyed.

Shelves and counters are toppled, split, broken to pieces. I have wasted my time.

But look! Hidden in the rubble and the rubbish there are cans and packets, battered, squashed but some of them are more or less intact. I wait, my mouth watering, for the vehicle to pass. And then I start gathering, as much as I can carry. I’m not worried about inspecting the labels, not really; as long as it is not pet food it will do. I scrabble around, scratching and cutting my hands in the process but I don’t care....I even find biscuits. Okay they’ll be broken, crumble, but they will still taste sweet.

Footsteps....A patrol! I hear voices but I don’t understand their words. I make my way towards the door, my bag bulging with the food that I have found, and I huddle close to the ground to wait until they have gone.

Back out in the street I make my way towards home as fast as I can. There is gun-fire, closer now, rapid and sharp. More death on the streets but today it won’t be mine. My home is in view and I bang on the door. Scrabbling noises from inside then I’m through the door, blocking it behind me.

There is laughter, there are tears and there are the sounds of eating. Not too much, just enough to take the edge off our hunger. We’ll make it last as long as we can, but soon I’ll have to go again.

 

 


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