Memoir: Twenty-four going on fourteen again.

journal entry, handwritten.

The first blast rocks the house down through our bones, dead sleep to adrenaline in a heartbeat. I'm out from under Rajiv's arm, calling for the others past ringing ears before he's crawling to his feet. Still drunk, old man. Darker than it should be, the light and shadows all wrong. Half the upstairs must be gone.

Stutters of gunfire echoing from up the street. It's a sweep. Tunnels. Get to the tunnels. Samir's staggering over the rubble on the cellar steps, dragging Tushar with him. Both of them white with mortar dust except for the eyes and the blood. Chicken livers dredged in flour and thrown in the pan. Tushar's not going to make it. There's already a blood trail.

Vinay's shouting from somewhere upstairs. He was on watch. Gods, not another under the rubble. Please. Rajiv's hand on my wrist, dragging me backwards like I'm a piece of luggage as I go for the stairs. You're not going. You're coming with me. I'm not leaving him. Beat my ass for it, I don't care. I'm not leaving him. Samir's voice, as he closes on us, dragging Tushar's lifeblood across the floor with him. Let her go. We can't leave him. Harit's cellar. We'll meet you there. Pushing Rajiv into the tunnel in front of him.

The second blast hits across the street. Arjun's people. They'll be pushing for Harit's, too. Tumbling back down the stairs, what's left of the kitchen wall sliding down with me. Teeth-on-teeth grinding of collapsing bricks. Shards of Jaya's plates everywhere. Painted so carefully. Cherry blossoms and babies-breath, transience and determination. This too shall pass.

Can't get past the rubble. Run, Vinay. Can you run? More gunfire, closer. He's firing back at them. Raha. Run. They're coming. RUN. Jangling metal and too many booted feet, coarse offworlder shouts. Target, left! They're right overhead. More bullets, none of them from Vinay. Basement. Check the basement.

Tinkle-tink-tank. Flashbang. A head full of tinnitus and yellow-grey rorschach blotches swimming in front of my face.

Stumbling for the tunnel, only to find dead, cold metal instead of bricks. The Sickbay doors. Power's out. It's useless. My point of view's all wrong. Unfamiliar in my own skin. Too short, too weak. Hair slipping out of my scarf, itchy on my face. Sandal-thongs tangling my feet.

Centurions bursting through the walls with mortar dust instead of sparks, the CMC bullhorns roaring with them. Do not leave your homes. Stay in your homes until All Clear is sounded. This is not a drill. This isn't right. This isn't how it happened.

Bullets spitting chips of brick back as I dive for the tunnel. Hot, stale air, thick with the stink of an abattoir in the summer. Instead of earth under my palms and toes it's corrugated metal. The stairwell. How did they get blood up to the ceiling? Everything's still warm, limp like they're only sleeping. Souls leaking out in front of me. Four floors to go.

Clank. Clank. Clank. Target, left high! Shots against metal, into the cooling meat around me. Too many stairs in the way. They can't hit me. Like I told you, Lieutenant. Shot /at/, but never /into/. Bombed, but never bombed /well enough/.

Rajiv's hand around my wrist again, yanking me up off the ground to dangle. No. He's not here. I have enough time to look up into the Centurion's face, devil's-red eye frozen on mine as the knife goes in, up, and through. Cold metal where bloodwarmth should be.

Fifteen minutes in the showers before it goes away.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License