PROLOGUE

Whom would you die for?

The sound of explosions crashes around me. It takes only a minute to register in my mind what has happened; we are under attack. 

When I turn around to face the dancing white veils of smoke, darkness and fire in its wake, I see Father lying face down on the cold hard ground. 

“Father,” I call out as I run towards him―Anicey not far behind! 

I feel the thunder of my heart, for a storm has been brewing; it hovers over our heads like a rabid Nighthawk taunting and playing on our fears. 

We hide like diseased fugitives, fit only to exist in a dark. . .dark place beneath the earth. Nevertheless, it has landed, only to destroy everything and everyone I have ever cared about. 

“Father, Father!” I cry out once more.

Anicey and I both drop to the ground when we reach him. He is on his belly, face down, bleeding from hi

s back. 

Mother! I just remember she is still inside. I hear Father murmur, desperately trying to force the words from his lips. Father is alive! He is alive!

“Sara, Sara,” he calls out with a weakened voice.

“Father, don’t move,” I say, my voice unsteady, breaths, short and uneven.

Anicey looks on quietly, her body quivering as I make an attempt to pull the shard of glass wedged in his back. I pull it out slowly, and he groans. The bleeding begins to flow more profusely now.

“Anicey, I want you to press hard; press hard to stop the bleeding, just like they taught us in Health class.”

I place her hand firmly on the wound. The blood immediately squeezes through and around her fingers. 

She winces. 

“Don’t move it,” I tell her.

Mother is still alive; I tell myself. She has to be alive; she’s protected by concrete and steel, which had survived the nuclear attack. So, why wouldn’t she be alive? 

I rush towards the cellar, with every step being a test of my sanity, and a test of my own breath, or the lack of it.

I am near now. 

There are pieces of our home strewn all over―a reflection of what is left of our lives, our family. I step over pieces of burning wood, broken glass, and blocks of concrete. Flame and smoke dance in the wind. I look down at what is now a mangled mess of concrete and burning branches. A tree has fallen and is lying across the wide hole in the ground, which had once been our safe place. I can’t see mother! I must get closer!

I scream in my mind. I inch my way beneath the tree and into the cellar. There, I see a leg sticking out from beneath one of the metal shelves, which must have fallen on her during the attack. I feel a quickening dread travel through me, rendering me almost breathless, as if the life has been knocked out of me. I cough. The thick smoke is beginning to overwhelm me. However, I can’t let it stop me from helping her. She is still there, alive! I keep my eyes focused on, moving even quicker towards her.

“Mother, Mother!” I call out, but she does not answer. “Mother!”

My body trembles harder now. My heart throbs with anxiety and pain. I clear the smoky, burning path I take to reach her, scorching my hands, eyes burning, lungs caked with smoke, struggling to breathe. With a fervent desire for my mother to be alive, I quickly remove the shelf away from her body; the pain is unbearable as the hot metal burns my flesh. I scream because her leg has been severed from her body.