Static on the radio. A young boy punches it gently, afraid of braking it but growing increasingly impatient with its low, cheap quality. It feels like deft fingers are puncturing into his spinal cord: crawling up and down like a tingling, cold molasses, or the rapid, creeping legs of a spider.

He's afraid of missing a single word, and he presses his ear to the speakers, screwing his eyes shut. A vortex in his mind is whirling in white, burningly blinding fear. His breath is raw and uneven, racing in and out of his throat, like his windpipe isn't large enough to handle the capacity of his lungs. He can't be older than three years old. His small fingers are trembling, and in the outside world, there are the sirens. The sirens that haunt him. The sirens that scream and wail like dying mothers, like a city crying, like a world being reduced to rubble in a matter of short, cleanly cropped seconds. The sirens of hell's gates opening, the sirens of children being slaughtered and burned. The terror inside him is spattered throughout his body, making him jitter, like an earthquake is rumbling within him, slicking him in his own boiling perspiration, and his fear balls in his throat like milk gone bad and coming up rapidly - his stomach contracts tightly in his abdomen, his intestines curling like poised snakes, and it won't stop, it won't stop—

They're coming, more static. The radio croaks, like an old man coughing, gagging and gasping on electricity and cigarette smoke. They're coming.

The boy pinches his lip with his front teeth - bones dig into the tender flesh of his mouth – and it tastes of liquid salt. He jerks the radio off and crawls hastily over to his bed, his sweaty fingers slipping along the wood as if he knows not how to use it. He sinks beneath the bed, and fumbles, jerking down the blankets so he may not be seen – God, save his soul. They're coming, his mind chants. His father was never coming home, and his nana was never coming back from that bakery she had left for four days ago – the sirens had taken her away, with their shrieking, bellowing mouths, and the smoke that had exploded from their ugly, wretched nostrils had suffocated her in a tornado of black smoke and spiraling debris. They were all dead. And they were coming. They were coming to kill more. And he would be next. He would be next he would be next and he knew it he knew it in his soul and the pounding of his heart was thudding into his throat and the cold adrenalin that gripped him was enough to make him vomit on the sticky syrup of his insides – They were going to kill him.

He knew it. He would die.

There was no escape.