Author's Note: This story was written as a 600 word short story for school, and is set during WWII.
The blaring sirens pierce the silence of the Dresden night, awakening families in their houses. A young mother runs outside and looks to the sky, and her heart plummets: a large enemy bomber formation is approaching from the east, silent and deadly.
She runs inside the house and snatches her baby boy from his cradle. She wakes her teenage daughter. Holding her baby in her arms, she and her daughter run outside. They run towards one of the few public air raid shelters, forcing their way through the growing number of people frantically seeking protection.
The bombs begin to fall. The baby is screaming, but his cries are engulfed by the roar of explosion after explosion.
The streets are burning. Everywhere, there is fire. The air is so dry, so hot. The buildings which line the streets fall into ruins, plumes of black smoke and dust rising from the smouldering ashes.
Fierce winds buffet the flames, throwing people into the burning houses which they are desperately escaping from. Roaring flames, screaming people, explosions, collapsing buildings; the wailing air raid warning cannot be heard above the overwhelming noise.
A bomb explodes nearby, and the mother is filled with fear, but the thought of her children pushes her on. She continues to run.
She stops. 'Why have I stopped?' she asks herself. She is faint, and numb, and the air is thick with black smoke. She cannot breathe, she cannot see. She falls to the ground. Around her, people are clutching their throats. She stares, fascinated, as they scream and fall limply to the ground, like marionettes whose strings have been cut. They burn to cinders within seconds.
Her daughter, separated from her family by the crowd, turns around and searches for her mother amidst the swarm of desperate people seeking shelter.
The world stops.
Her mother is lying on the ground, her face frozen in shock. There is a dark patch blossoming over her heart, where a piece of metal is embedded. She is still clutching her baby boy.
As the daughter runs towards her mother, it seems like the world is against her. The crowd is pushing against her, keeping her away from her mother, but the daughter will not give up. She must reach her dying mother.
'Marlene.' The daughter's name. The whisper is barely audible over the chaos around them, but is loud in the ears of the daughter.
'Take Johann, Marlene. Take him. Save him.' This is the mother's last wish, for her precious baby boy to be saved. As her daughter nods, her eyes turn to the skies, seeking the stars above the clouds of smoke. One last time.
'Mother!' the daughter whispers in anguish, over and over. The people around them take no notice of the distressed girl. The dead body she is crying over is just another corpse that lines the street.
The daughter cradles her baby brother in her arms, and begins to run. She looks back at her mother, but her mother is already burning, already crumbling, already fading.
The world is burning. Burning people run to and fro, whole families are burning in their homes, and the dead, so many dead. The stench of burning flesh mingles with the smell of smoke. This is not Earth; this is Hell.
An insane fear grips her, but she refuses to cave into the fear, to give in and die. She must honour her mother's last wish, and save her brother.
Two sentences run through repeatedly her head: 'I will not burn. I will not die'.