Where We Once Knew

Submitted into Contest #158 in response to: Write about a character with questionable morals.... view prompt

2 comments

Drama Suspense Thriller

Time echoes throughout the city burned to the ground. Memories of a time long forgotten when light erupted steadily from window sills nonexistent. Bodies lay on the ground, their ashes more than anything scattered mercilessly across the barren streets. Too much time to save the city. Not enough people cared. Not enough people cared until it was utterly impossible to not notice. Till the skies turned red and fog engulfed the night sky. Less of a fog and more of a smoke that caught people's lungs and suffocated them without relent. A smoke that couldn’t distinguish between man and animal. A smoke that didn’t care who was left standing on the battlefield when the war was over. Somewhere in the city, there’s a little girl. Hidden away in her cellar somehow safe from the fire that raged nights passed. She waits for her parents to come back and tell her it’s okay like she was told. She can’t be older than five. She’s gotten used to the fires. Her little lungs conditioned to them since she was a baby; the smell reminiscent of a home long gone. She’s not the only one, but the only one who stayed. One of the only ones the fire seemed to spare time and time again. Her skin inflammable and her hair invincible. She holds her brother’s hand tight. His eyes watch her as she sleeps, amazed how this small child could survive everything. How she seems accustomed to the horrors of the world in which he lived. How she retains a blissful ignorance, not unlike that of what he had in his youth. He slowly picks her up and moves her to the ground, careful not to wake her, but not careful enough. Her little eyes open as he stands. Golden eyes fluorescent in the lamps. “Where are you going?” She tries to grab onto his trouser, but misses, falling face flat on the dusty floor. “Don’t worry, kid. I’ll be back soon. Remember that.” He pulled his mask and jacket on. Both falsely flameproof, and more for his mind than his safety. She grabbed onto his trousers once again pulling herself up and roping her arms around his legs. “Don’t go.” “I have to. It’s my job. It’s what I signed up for.” He sounds tired. Exasperated more, but the little girl doesn’t know the difference between the two. She lets go. Slowly, but eventually, and he pulls his mask over his eyes. He doesn’t want her to see the fear in his eyes. The fear that maybe he’s leaving his baby sister for the very last time. That he’ll never see her golden eyes flickering in the moonlight. He walks outside, heart beating, heavy breathing. It’s the first time in days, and he’s almost amazed at the outside. There’s something strange about the outside. A certain beauty encased in the sky, painting glossy orange and yellows across the battlefield that lays on the ground. Ashes and corpses of neighbours that waited too long, and thought themselves invincible. Neighbours that thought the fire was just something of fables. Called those that did believe crazies. But, that’s always the case, isn’t it? The brother knows he should be searching. Searching for survivors to make him feel less alone. He knows there isn’t any though. Too many souls lost in minutes without a moment to think of how to escape. He was lucky. He knows too many that weren’t. The fires have subsided for the time being. A unique airiness filling the air that he hasn’t felt since his childhood. A time free of masks and fireproof attire. It almost feels light outside. Like if he wanted to he could float. Float high above the mayhem and dead nature of his city. Slowly, he walks forward, careful not to step over the souls that lay in the street. He’s unsure whether he should move them inside, but alas, who would care. Somewhere not too far in the distance, he sees a light. Blinking light a flashlight in the dark. He sees life. A signal for someone or something. Uneven signals for help, waiting for someone to respond. No longer slow, filled with a profound sense of maybe, he runs fast. Long strides to beat the fire sure to come. Fire thought to come soon. His heavy boots scrape across the streets like a horse lost in the distance. Scraping and cleaving at a way to find itself back home. There are cracks under his feet. Cracks of maybe a patella or clavicle or mandible, nonetheless, cracks of lives that once were but are no longer. The Lifeblood of a city soon to be forgotten by the historians of the future. His eyes dart around the city that used to be home. Not unfamiliar, but too eerily different to say it's his. He looks for the flashlight that he saw. Blinking in something not unlike morse code. It’s gone off. Slowly like all the light in the city, another light has gone off. Another false hope imprisoned in the city that used to be filled with dreams. He slows his pace again, and feels sweat dripping down the nape of his neck. His feet take him to where he thought he’d seen life. Where he thought his loneliness had been cured. His eyes instinctively scan the area. Quietly, and with purpose. From up ahead again he sees a light. This time it blinks steadily through the dust like a hummer in the dessert. His feet take him once again up to where the flickers came from, coughing up the essence of a people gone in a flash. Maybe he’s crushed his mother or father’s pelvis in this run, but it no longer matters. The light goes out again, so this time he calls. “Is there someone there?” No answer and he can hear the fires getting louder in the distance. “I’m not going to hurt you.” His attempts are futile and most of the time not even audible through the thick covering on his face. “Stop playing games with me!” He yells up to hell in a fit of fury, launching someone’s femur deep into the distance. “Stop toying with my mind. Please.” He sinks to the ground, head and heart misaligned and pounding unpredictable. He sits there, broken in a snowy street of ashes, waiting for the fires to knock him out of his misery.

August 10, 2022 15:16

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2 comments

Sabrina Hauer
12:45 Aug 26, 2022

You set up a very detailed world and did a great job at pulling the reader in, however I am not seeing where questionable morality comes in or what the plot/theme is.

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Betty Gilgoff
14:44 Aug 15, 2022

You present an interesting description of an apocalyptic scene, as horrifying as that is, and your characterization of the little girl being so unaware presents her aloneness, her naivety well, though I’m left not quite clear as to where the story is going. Is it part of a longer work? I assume that the character with questionable morals is the older brother. He could be mistaken for a firefighter out to save people, but perhaps not.

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