I heard Ghoul begin to scream and I guessed he had now spotted Jamia and his children amongst the strange faces. Because in the crowd stood all our wives and children; Alisha and Christa stood together, hugging each other and crying, their arms clinging onto the other. The sound was too much, the sight was too much and for a second I thought I was going to faint. Jet moved first, his legs carrying him quickly to the window where he punched the glass furiously, his hands starting to spout blood as they hit the impossibly hard glass again and again. My brother and Ghoul joined him, desperately clawing at the glass to get to their loved ones but I just stood watching them, numb. Because I knew how this ended, knew what was about to happen. A single tear rolled down my cheek and I let it run, knowing this would be the last tear I would cry for my wife and child.
Ghoul’s voice travelled to me through my thoughts and I pulled myself back to the present to see his face, pleading at me to do something, to help them. But all I could do was raise one shaking finger back towards the window, making them all stop and look. Outside all sounds had stopped and they were all turned towards us, their faces sad but no longer crying. Lindsey was looking at me, her eyes big and sad and I dropped my gaze to look at Bandit, her face now still and seemingly calm despite everything. I saw her mouth one word, ‘Daddy’ before turning back to my wife, who just stood watching me. Her mouth opened and I saw her mouth the one word, the one thing that only she could say, a word that I had thought gone now. It was something that belonged to my old life, a life now dead and gone just like Lindsey and Bandit would be, soon.
I started to mouth at her, the only three words I could think to say, the only words which really mattered.
“I love-“ I spoke out loud but that was as far as I got before the ground underneath them gave way. An explosion sounded and the bodies of the women and children disappeared, falling slowly down into the pit the bomb had created beneath them. Blood showered on the ground over them and unattached limbs fell from the sky. The burning smell of flesh, the fresh smell of blood, the sooty sound from the explosion all mixed together to form a type of horrible perfumed smell, a smell that I believed I would remember for the rest of my life. But something was wrong, something was different. I fixed my eyes on the spot where the arm should land, where the ring would be, Lindsey’s arm, but it never came. I blinked, trying to conjure up the image of it, palm down in the dirt, bloodied and disfigured, just three fingers left. But it never came, the last part that connected me to my wife was gone. A second explosion sounded, most closer than the first and the force of it blew the glass out of the window frame, the sound ear crunching and the force of it making us fly off our feet. I hit the opposite wall, hard causing my head to spin and the room to squirm around in front of my eyes. The smell of blood was stronger now and I supposed it was mine. I closed my eyes tight until the room stopped moving and opened them wide, now feeling the pain of something lodged in my arm. I looked down at a large shard of glass as it stared back at me, its sharp edge causing red liquid to flow freely from my arm. This was just a dream, I remembered, a dream I always had. And yet it was different, it had changed. The pain was real and no matter how hard I closed my eyes, the image of the broken window with black smoke now swirling in the air outside, remained.
I looked quickly to my left and saw two figures slouched limply against the wall there. Ray’s head lolled and blood poured from an open wound there, the blood was covering his eyes but they just swam in the liquid, unblinking and staring at something I couldn’t see. Mikey lay with him, his face upwards on the wall, his neck up straight so he was facing me. But the glass shard in my arm was nothing compared to the one sticking out of his chest. His arms and legs were sprawled and the blood was starting to gather around his head. His eyes bored into me, hating me and blaming me for not saving them sooner. ‘You knew!’ His eyes screamed at me, ‘You knew this was going to happen!’ I started to sob, wrecked sobs escaping my throat as I begged Mikey to sit up, to laugh at my tears and come over to hug me, some stupid joke that he, Ray and Frank had thought of … But he lay still, just watching me.
The whisper came from my left and I turned sharply, causing a hiss of pain to escape my mouth. The crumpled form of Frank lay a few metres from me, his arm bent backwards in an awkward way but other than that looking okay, he looked almost perfect. He looked at me, his eyes big and scared, his face covered in someone elses blood. I wriggled my body towards him, ignoring the screaming pain of my arm and reached out my hand for him. The touch of his skin against mine was so real, I knew now that this wasn’t a dream, that this was real. He started to cry, tears down his cheeks, soaking his face with water. I wanted to hug him to me and quieten his cries but I couldn’t reach him. It was all I could do to keep holding on to him, my arm aching from the pain of the glass still. Suddenly a crack came from above us and we both raised our heads to see the large black crack zigzag its way across the ceiling. I looked at Frank’s surprised expression and saw his eyes widen in horror as a piece of the ceiling just above him came crashing down on his head. I lay dazed, looking at the space where Frank once lay, his body now covered with plaster and bricks, only his hand sticking out, his quickly paling fingers still clinging me mine. I tasted his blood on me and looked down at our clasped hands to see a chunk of his flesh gripping grimly onto my hand, its pale colour mixed with the blood red stains that coated me.
I looked up just in time to see the ceiling give way and I knew my life was about to end. My last thought was of mine and Frank’s hands, holding onto each other for all eternity. Then the world turned black.