I have this strange feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I know something terrible is going to happen. It has been quiet for too long. We are at war and quiet is never reassuring. It makes you believe that you are safe, but in reality, you are not. You are mere moments away from death. All the time. I have no idea, why we aren’t all going insane and slaughtering ourselves mutually, instead of waiting for the silent killers to take our lives and souls away while we are sleeping. Maybe it is only the fear that keeps us sane and alive.
It is getting dark as I walk down the street. The descending sun paints the sky in beautiful colours. The gravel crunching underneath my feet is all that can be heard, no people, no animals, nothing. And for a moment, I am lost in thoughts. For a moment, I am not afraid. For a moment, I am at peace. For a moment, watching the sun going down, I forget the impending doom. I hear a piano play from inside a house while I walk down the main road of the little village that I am passing. It is soothing. It is a bit of normalcy in a life that became too restricted lately. I needed to run and break free from everything and everyone who held me down, and now I am here. Tired, hungry and covered in grime. I don’t have the patience nor the discipline to stay in one place for too long. I can’t stand being with the same person for too long before I get bored. I need a change of scenery quite often. I need my freedom. I need my independence. I can’t submit to rules that I don’t understand and don’t require. One could say that I am a rebel, other would say that I am a coward. I am simply me. With all may layers. I add new layers daily. No one knows who I really am. Not even me.
My skin gets prickly, and the hair on my arms stand on end. I knew it. Too quiet. Too peaceful. And that’s when I hear that now so familiar sound. Bells. The telltale alarm sign. Bombs are coming. I hear the planes before I see them, and then, the first bomb is going down with a whistling sound. I see an explosion on the other side of the village, and I run.
I have no idea where I am, but I run. It is all I can do. Screams. Panic. Pain. Explosions that are in quick succession. Where am I supposed to hide? A woman comes running out of a house. She wears no shoes, but she doesn’t care. In her arms, she holds a small bundle. It takes me a second to understand that she is trying to save her child. The look on her face is one of pure horror. It’s the horror of war that turns beautiful faces into pale grimaces.
Politicians are deciding from safe places to kill innocent civilians, because of greed and for more power. We are collateral damage. People die, children die. Families lose sons and their entire existences, but the war goes on. Our future fades and turns into something unreachable every time we hear the sirens or the bells warning us from the evil that is raining from the sky.
The only thing we all have in common is fear. Constant fear. We don’t want to lose, but we the civilians, we the poor, can never win. We can’t win because all is lost. There is nothing left for us when the rich fed their protruding bellies with food and greed.
I keep running, scanning my surroundings for shelter, but safe space is sparse, and I am a stranger in this town. Who wants a stranger in their shelter, taking their space? I understand them, I really do. But I just want to live through this air raid and get on with my life. I don’t want anything else. I just want to live.
On a field left of me, I see the shadow of a man walking down into the earth. I shake my head at my own stupidity. There must be a bomb shelter, how else could a man walk down into the earth. I know that reaching this shelter is a matter of living and dying now.
Fear. My body is shaking, and I don’t know where the will and strength to survive are coming from. The noise is deafening, and I start running faster. I stumble over stones and upturned soil a couple of times, but that won’t stop me from running across the field. I have to get to that shelter. Maybe it is my only chance of seeing tomorrow. I want to see another sunrise.
Out of breath and determined to not fail when I am this close, I reach the closing doors just in time to pull them open again. A man stares up at me. If the look on his face is a mirror of mine own, he is as scared as me. He doesn’t hesitate to let me in, and with joint forces, we close the metal doors above our heads. Safe for now. The stranger descends the ladder.
Adrenaline is still pumping through our veins. Through mine. A loud rumble erupts over us. I’m still standing on the ladder, and I can feel it shaking. I pray to every deity in heaven to make this shelter safe. I climb down the rest of the way and hear a loud explosion again. I duck and put my hands over my head in a shielding manner. Rationally, I know that my hands on my head will not save me, but I do it anyway.
Nothing else happens, and I look at the man. I don’t really see him as a man. Not the way I usually watch men. I can’t say if he is handsome or which colour his eyes have. It is not essential now.
The stranger and I, we walk a little further into the shelter. There is another door, and he leads me through it; we close that one too. From one moment to the next, it is silent. Eerily so. The man finds a switch, and a flickering light bulbs cast a dim light over us. We both stand in the near dark, looking at the door as if we could see through it. See what is happening on the surface.
Maybe it’s just as good, that we can’t see anything. We can’t see the devastation and the destruction. We can’t see the pain in people’s eyes, and we can’t smell death. I feel my heartbeat in the vein on my neck. He must hear my blood pumping through my body in this absolute silence. There is a bed in this room and a table with two chairs. Along the walls are shelves, filled with tin cans and different supplies. I don’t want to look at it all. I don’t want to think about having to stay here. I am a bird. I need to be free.
We don’t speak. We just listen and wait. In this almost dark. Unconsciously, we move closer together. I can feel the heat of his arm against mine. It’s reassuring that I am not by myself. He must feel the same. We are comforting each other with our presence, not with words.
My legs are starting to get tired, and my neck is getting stiff from looking intensely at the door. It is still silent outside. No explosions, no rumble. No noise at all. I am not sure what is more frightening. The bombs or the silence.
After a while, my companion announces, that he wants to go up again. I follow him closely. I don’t want to stay behind. Be alone. At the top of the ladder, he tries to open our only way out, but he doesn’t succeed. He pushes harder and still, nothing happens. The metal door doesn’t budge.
I get up there too. Space on the ladder is very restricted, but maybe two can move more than one person alone. We push. But nothing moves. I have a vivid vision of one of us falling down the ladder and the other having to spend the rest of his own life with a decaying corpse. It makes me shudder, and I push harder until the muscles in my arms refuse to cooperate. Sweat runs down my face. I need to get out. I need to fly.
“Stop it! Gather your strengths. We are trapped.” The stranger hangs his head in defeat and walks down to the room where we were before. He is giving up. Why is he giving up? I need to get out of here.
Then, the realisation hits me hard; Trapped! It resonates through my head. My worst nightmare is coming true.