Smoke hangs, heavy in the air, stinging my eyes, choking my lungs. I cough. Pain. Everywhere. There is no end now that it’s registered in mind. My nerves are firing like blasters and I imagine them glowing a crimson red. The brain is stupid that way, how it fixates on the pain.
There is no noise aside from the C-sharp ring stabbing into my head, piercing my senses – scrambling them. I fight my shell shock trying to force myself to focus – to register what has happened.
I must be stumbling along because my view of the street – what’s left of it – shifts. My chest is heavy but I’m too in shock to cry. My mind can’t think clearly enough to send the reaction to my tear ducts so the weight tightens like a squeezing fist with each step.
I stand in the middle of the street. All around me I see nothing but rubble, nothing but a percentage of what once was not fifteen minutes earlier. Smoke has infested the street, rising in great black clouds every few feet. Piles of charred bricks and wooden beams lay stacked where buildings stood. Street lamps lay scattered across the torn up cobblestone street like forgotten toys and all that remains of one house is a steadfast chimney standing bravely amongst the aftermath – a brave soldier holding his ground. I don’t recognize this street. There is nothing familiar anymore.
I want to scream for him, to call out, but my mouth fills with the smoke and the ash and the taste of death and I choke. I am unable to speak but can finally cry. Hot tears spill over my cheeks and I am blinded by my own fear, my own despair. I am crying uncontrollably trying again to call but no sound escapes my dry throat.
The smoke is clearing and I take a look around. Smoke billows from the wreckage and somewhere in the distance a car alarm is blaring. I can hear the wind rustling the trash on the street and it flips my dirty hair into my face. Loss rips my heart open and I grasp my arms, shaking violently.
It is then that I hear him. I freeze. My mind is overloaded… it’s playing tricks on me now. I hear him as he calls my name again. His voice is not soft as it usually is, instead it is urgent and desperate. He is far away but I search, croaking his name in return, desperate to find him. Sobbing, I call to him as best I can until finally I see him. Time freezes as I stare at him, bloodied and beaten. He stands to the left, by the blackened remains of the iconic golden cross of the church that gave this town it’s name. Grimacing, he clutches his right shoulder with a torn hand, his eyes full of pain as he searches the scene. His clothes are filthy and ripped, his shirt no more than a scrap of green cloth clinging to his bare chest. His head turns following the path of wreckage until his eyes meet mine. I can see relief shudder through his very being and he simply opens his arms, the smallest gesture, and I run towards his open arms. There is nothing for me anymore but him.
* Photo curtesy of penywise @ morguefile.com