That night whole city was woken up by tremendous rumble, soon followed by another and another. When scared and confused citizens went out to the streets, their eyes were aimed to the supposedly dark sky.
‘’Is that a blowing star?’’ asked little boy, dressed in his green pyjamas, holding hand of his parent. It took a while to his father to tear shocked gaze away from the theatre above and comfort his child.
‘’Well, something like that. But we must find mommy now, alright?’’ he said, trying to hold his voice still. On the opposite of his little son, he knew far too well what was going on. It was indeed a theatre. Bloody theatre of war and death, and the actors were aircrafts and bombs. He took a few cautious steps through the mass of people present when the realization struck him hard. Maybe it was safer inside buildings than in open area like streets. He wanted to return when he bumped into a police officer.
‘’Sir, I advise you to go and hide in the shelter immediately.’’ The policeman told him quickly, while trying to set some discipline between confused citizens.
‘’What shelter?’’ asked worried father, now holding his five year old son in his arms. He never expected such situation to happen. Never thought he’d have to.
‘’Underground.’’ Replied officer and launched to spread that information somewhere else.
That seemed legitimate. Man quickly revised where the nearest underground station was, and marched in that direction, telling everyone he met to follow him.
Streets of otherwise peaceful and neat city were a mess. He saw confusion and fear that were clenching his heart, mirrored in faces of other people. Some buildings were destroyed. Some people injured.
‘’Close your eyes lad.’’ He whispered to his son, petting his blonde hair. What parent would he be if he would let his son see that? Averting his eyes away from all that blood and destruction he simply continued walking towards safety, while the stars were blowing on the sky continuously.
The crowd was getting thicker and thicker as he was approaching the entrance to underground system. There were a few policemen directing all those desperate people in attempt to get them all in as quickly as possible. No one looked tired, awareness of tough situation present in the air. He, being gentleman he was, let some young woman in the line before him, and waited for his turn. It took about ten minutes, although he wouldn’t know. One did not carry watch in their navy blue pyjamas. And even if he did, it would seem much longer, with constants thunders coming from above.
Like if the kid could read the atmosphere of the situation, he started sobbing quietly. His father cooed comforting words to his little ear, rocking him in his arms.
Then they finally got in, receiving two blankets from officers. After getting down to the platform, he fully realized that unbelievable reality. He was using underground daily, and yet it seemed so unknown and different to him. It might have been because of persons sitting and lying on the floor, curling up together, with fear craved into their expressions. His heart was heavy as he covered his son in blanket and sat him down.
‘’Lad, be careful. Daddy has to leave for a while, but I and mommy will be right back.’’ he started explaining to boy, who didn’t seem to quite understand. Little tears dwelled in his emerald eyes.
‘’ I don’t want you to leave daddy...’’ the child desperately clung onto his pyjamas top, crying.
‘’But I have to pick up mommy from work. Stay here, don’t talk to strangers. Here...’’ he scribbled boy’s name on and their address on piece of paper he got from officer earlier.’’ Keep this, and if lost, give it to some officer, they’ll bring you home.’’
It had no use. Boy was still crying, repeating he wanted daddy to stay. His dad almost gave up when someone interfered.
‘’I can watch over him.’’
Both males turned to that voice. There was that woman from the line, smiling at them. She had short, curly golden hair and American smile. Father seemed dubious for a moment, but she had strange, trustworthy aura around her.
‘’Would you be so kind?’’, asked the father hopingly. Having someone watching over his son would help him a lot. Woman nodded and offered him a hand.
‘’I’m Alice.’’ she introduced herself, still with that shiny smile, so unrealistic in that kind of situation. He accepted her hand and shook it.
‘’I’m Arthur, and this is my son Robert. I’d be grateful if you took care of him until I return.’’ He said, never forgetting proper education. Rob silently gazed at smiling lady.
‘’No problem. May I ask where it that you’re going is?’’ her voice was nice, quiet and sweet. For some reason, Arthur really had no doubt in her.
‘’I have to find my wife. She works as nurse in the hospital nearby. ‘’ he explained, uselessly pointing in the direction of the hospital, which couldn’t be seen anyway.
‘’I understand you’re worried about her. Just go, I’ll take care of that little one. Right, Rob?’’ she flashed another smile at the boy, who quickly agreed and grabbed her hand. His father thanked her properly and left.
He walked fast, if not ran through the streets, trying to ignore the blasts coming from God-knows-where. He said nearby, but it was far away when walking. On his way he saw disaster reflected everywhere, he could almost feel it, touch it. After a quarter an hour, which seemed like an hour to him, he finally arrived in front of the hospital.
And the whole world shook.
The place was a mess, pieces of walls and medical tools scattered all over the street. Air was full of acrid smell and dryness evoked from the fire. It had been burnt to the ground.
He just stood there for a while, looking at all those fire-fighters trying to save the most out of the ruin. It couldn’t be true. He was sure his wife; his sweet, darling wife was alright. She had to be.
He made a few steps towards the building, as if he wanted to enter it, despite the fire ravishing inside.
‘’You can’t go any closer, sir. The whole building might collapse, and the heat could hurt you as well. Please stay here. ‘‘, Said one fire-fighter, pushing him gently away. Arthur frowned.
‘’My wife is in there!! I have to help her!’’
‘’I understand, but you can’t do anything right now. Leave it to us.’’
‘’No, you don’t understand!! I have to help her!! ‘’he practically yelled at the fireman. Man just shook his head firmly.
‘’Go to information stand over there and report your wife. That’s all you can do right now.’’ He pointed at the stand where a policeman stood.
He complied, did what he had to do, and was told to return. He was, almost in tears, walking back, when the ground started to shake. An earthquake. It was coming from... Arthur set quicker pace as he ran through destroyed city back, only to have his clenching heart shattered to pieces at the sight. He hopelessly tried to catch breath as he watched the disaster. The underground...
Two days after that horrendous night, there was a public funeral of all the people that lost their lives during the bombing. The sun was shining on the clear blue sky, like if it was trying to make up for that night. Hundreds of people gathered there to tribute to the dead. Air was filled with smell of flowers and candles, but the burn was present in their hearts.
Arthur stood there, holding tiny hand of his son, looking at the memorial, realizing how lucky he was in the end. We won’t forget, the sign said. He wouldn’t ever forget.
His wife died while trying to save patients from the fire. She was a hero, but there was really no dignity in death. It didn’t hurt any less. His tears were already dry, but the hole inside his heart was raw and painful.
‘’Go on and put it there. Say goodbye to mommy...’’ he whispered hoarsely, trying to fight the sorrow. Little Robbie nodded, and slowly went to put flowers on the grave, along with others.
‘’Have you lost your wife?’’
He turned around and saw a young man standing next to him. He was tall and strong looking, but his eyes were red and watery under glasses he wore, and he had more than slight American accent. Arthur nodded.
‘’Me too.’’ he said, his voice still, but his hand shaking slightly. He didn’t wait for the other to say something and continued.
‘’She died when the underground fell in. They....they said...she had protected some boy, sheltering him with her own body.’’
Arthur was quiet, realizing just how small the world was.
‘’I’ve met your wife.’’ He said slowly. When his eyes met with the other, blue ones, he added. ’’She saved my son.’’