Kara O'Neil / Word Painter
The sound of bullets rang through our ears. I shielded my brother’s innocent eyes from their lifeless bodies dropping to the hard ground. Tears welled in my eyes; I could hardly see. We were petrified. Our parents, the ones who protected us and loved us, were gone.
I wake up to the sound of my four-year-old brother screaming. I rush across the cold floor to his bedside and shake him awake. “Alex! Alex! Wake up! It’s only a nightmare,” I urge. He bolts upright, sweat dripping from his forehead and tears staining his red cheeks. He starts to cry and I pull him close. It is not hard to imagine what he has dreamt of. Although I shielded him from the horrific scene, Alex still heard everything. Dreams can make up parts of the event that he’d never seen. He probably envisioned something worse.
I kiss my brother’s cheek and we walk hand in hand to the kitchen. Or what is left of it. The smoke from the bombs is so pungent we can hardly breathe. Out of every cracked window are smoke and fire. Screams blare in our ears every now and then. We walk barefoot across the rubble that is now our living room. I open the cabinets to look for any remaining food. “Don’t eat too fast Alex, we haven’t got much food left,” I say, wearily handing him an apple. I didn’t want him to know that the apple was the last of the food. He would have insisted I eat it instead of him.
If only this were all a nightmare, I don’t care how long the nightmare takes, but I want to wake up with my family whole and healthy. I drift slowly into a daydream as Alex searches for his prized stuffed hippo. The smells of Christmas dinner waft up my nose. “Come here, child!” I hear my grandma call. With the broadest grin, I rush over and embrace her. She’s warm and smells like candied pecans. I love candied pecans. We glide across the shiny wood floor and sit on the worn, plaid couch. My grandma reaches into her pocket and pulls out a small box. Its red and green wrapping paper shimmer under the bright chandelier. I smile up at her and take the small box from her calloused hands into mine. “But it’s not time to open gifts yet!” I laugh.
Her smile warms my heart and she says, “Just open it dear….” If only I could stay in this dream world forever.
(Published January 2021)