by Seudonimo Voldeminty

I was ten when it happened.

I remember the fear, waking before daybreak. Mother's shaking hands raising me. Blinking my fleeting dreams away in the haunting greyness.

She thrusts a bundle at me. I hold it delicately, with awe. It is a tiny little thing. Squeezed-shut eyes, peaceful for once—my sister.

In a moment, my mother's fear begets fool courage in my heart.

Looking down at my sister, I swell with sudden, intense brother-love. I will care for her always! Never, ever will she be hurt.

With shaking fingers my mother ties the sling about me, tucking in the baby on my back. She murmurs, "You must take care of her, care for your sister."

She urges me outside our straw-and-mud hut. Mist curls evanescently over the surface of the world. Dew clings to the grass, silver stemmed in the fading dawn. The sky overhead glows a blazing, brilliant red. It is beautiful; yet we do not stop. Our feet stumble as we push on relentlessly. I can hear the gunshots in the distance, shattering the morning's peace.

At the harsh sounds, fear strikes through me like bullets.

We run.

The two of us crouch there together in a hollow surrounded by clumps of ragged grass. My mother breathes very slow. They are closer now, the gunshots louder.

The baby wails! She is cold, and hungry. Mother's eyes go wide—they are as pale as two moons in her dark face. She looks like a hunted deer.

Shouts coming nearer, the spluttering hail closer. My little sister wails louder. I try to smother her noise as the gunmen come ever closer, closer.

My mother screams, a high sound, as if all the life is coming out of her, and I want to scream then, too.

Up she goes; like a shot, she flees. A weak cry breaks my lips, but my mother does not heed me, nor the wailing bundle I clutch close.

She does not look back. She is gone, and the gunmen—they shout as the guns ring in a hollow, breaking, bloody world.

The baby is still crying—and the guns begin to fall silent. I hold my breath and plead to God that she would be silent—and suddenly she is, as if she knows the danger.

The sunlight spills over the lip of the plain, a yellow flood. The gunmen's shouts float far away.

The guns still echo in my mind.

I shiver, fumbling with the sling. I hold my sister close, pressing my lips, salt-dampened, to her forehead.

Then she cries, terrified in the silence that lies about us in millions of pieces.

Beta'd by Serendipitous Nonsense—much thanks! ;)