Disclaimer: The following story is based on true events. However the places and people mentioned are figments of my imagination, the former being only very loosely based on reality. So I apologize for any factual discrepancies. This story is meant to provide some food for thought and I would like to thank Scarface for urging me to write on this topic. This is quite different from other stories I have written in the past so any feedback would be appreciated.
House number 16, colony 3, West Bank, Gaza.
Father 12:34 pm
Fear is a powerful emotion. It is very odd. It cripples you at times, and at times it gives you a feeling of being more alive than you can ever imagine.
It is all in the adrenaline, you see. FIght or fright.
For me, my entire life had been transformed into one endless nightmare. For the past ten years of my life, I had lived with the feeling of impending death looming above me. Then two weeks ago the bombs started to fall.
Now I can smell death in the smoke that spirals to the sky. I hear death in the silence of the streets. I see it in the eyes of everyone around me. Everyday another day in a living hell.
Death doesn’t scare me. Death is better than this life. But I can’t let anything happen to my family. My wife and my two beautiful children. I have to be here for them.
My son is ten and my daughter is six. They have lived all their lives like this: afraid. I don’t know what to do anymore.
I sit in the cramped room. I am thankful we even have this place. Food is scarce but we have enough money to afford it. Water is rare too. But we are alive and I am thankful for that. I have buried too many people as it is. So many friends I will never see again.
I look over to the small alcove that functions as an impromptu kitchen and see my wife kneading dough to cook later. It is almost finished. We will have to go the market again soon.
The children are asleep in the corner of the room, their faces covered with a shiny sheen of sweat in the sweltering heat. We used to sleep outside, but it is too dangerous now.
I just sit and stare at them, their tiny chests moving up and down in tandem with their breathing.
I hope they are having sweet dreams. In the kitchen, my wife begins to whistle as she cooks.
Son 02:24 pm
I am running.
I can’t remember from what.
I don’t know where to.
I don’t know where I am. I look around and all I see are flames. I spin around wildly until I hear something familiar: mother’s whistling.
With a start, I jolt upright in bed.
Just a nightmare, I repeat to myself. Just a nightmare.
I am shaking and mother runs over from the kitchen and wraps me in her embrace. I put my arms around her and sob into her shoulder. She smells of flour and perfume and the scent soothes me.
She runs her fingers through my hair and I lean against her shoulder.
I feel safe.
In the distance, I hear the Azaan ringing through the air.
In a few minutes, all of the mosques nearby are calling out for prayers. The voice carries more in the silence engulfing the city, and the azaans all coalesce into a symphony that reverbrates throughout the city. The streets still remain empty, a few people emerge out of the safeties of their homes to go answer the call to prayer. Most of them are too afraid after the aerial attack on a mosque the previous week.
After we all pray, mother and father ready themselves for a trip to the market. Mother dons her abaya and father extracts some ration coupons from the safe beneath a loose floorboard.
The market is nearby, only a five minute walk from our residence. But father still barrages me with instructions.
Take care of your sister while we are at the market.
Don’t open the door for anyone.
If the phone rings, pick it up as soon as possible.
And whatever happens, don’t go outside.
I nod and watch from the window as they walk hurriedly down the street. They are holding hands.
I take out a rusty toy car from under the sofa and begin to play with it, aimlessly.
It’s been ten minutes since my parents had gone. They should be back soon.
Just then, there was a huge explosion that shook the windows and made dust fall off the ceiling.
My sister jolted awake and I ran to the window, frantically peering outside to see where the explosion had come from.
My heart stopped in my chest. It felt as if someone had ripped a hole through my chest and was crushing my heart with an iron fist.
I could see a cloud of dust and smoke in the distance, right above where the market was.
Mother 02:48 pm
I remember the market used to be so much more alive the last time I was here.
Ever since the Israel airstrikes had begun, the market looked so lifeless. Only a handful of people were mulling about. It depressed me.
My husband and I quickly made way to the shop and bought some flour, some spices and we headed to buy a few vegetables from the greengrocer outside.
As I haggled with the shopkeeper, my husband spotted a friend of his and walked over to greet him in the centre of the market, by a fountain that had been dry for years.
It all happened at once.
People began to shout and the market erupted in chaos as everybody began to yell and run to cover as an aircraft shot across the sky. Something plummeted from the sky and landed squarely in the middle of the market, right on the fountain beside which her husband stood.
She saw the fountain explode in a fiery inferno. Her husband stood silhouetted against the billowing flames for a second. Their eyes met for the last time. His hair was billowing in front of him from the blast. He tried to raise his hand as if reaching for her’s. And then he was engulfed in the inferno.
The shockwave and the blast of heat hit her and she fell backwards. She felt a warmth spreading through her and she looked down to see her chest studded with shrapnel. The pain didn’t even hit her. All she felt was emptiness. Then she felt no more.
The last thing image in her mind was that of her children.
What would they eat at night
Son 03:05 pm
This can’t be.
They are okay.
They will be home any minute and we will laugh about his.
My sister is crying.
The phone is ringing.
I run to the phone and pick it up.
My hands are trembling. My throat is choking up and I try to say something but a mechanical voice begins to speak before I can say anything. It speaks in some language I don’t understand.
Please evacuate this area. You have three minutes before we will authorize an airstrike on this area. Please evacuate before that.
My sister is crying louder now. Outside the window, I can see people running.
Stupid people. Father said to stay inside no matter what happens. I go and hug my sister and try to stop her from crying.
I hear a whistling sound. I think it must be mother. But this sound is coming from above us.
Mother is whistling to us, calling us.
The bomb fell next to their window. The blast force killed them instantaneously. They did not suffer. The entire neighborhood was levelled and many people died in the explosion or from the resulting injuries. Many people were left homeless and helpless after the bomb fell.
When the rescuers removed the rubble later, they discovered two children, charred beyond recognition wrapped in an eternal embrace. They were laid to rest with the others.