The Day When Time Froze

by Kari Mac

It was falling from the sky like snow. The ash. It fell everywhere and covered everything. It stuck to your eyelashes and filled your lungs when you tried to breath.

They flew through the sky like birds. The planes. They roared through the sky as their bombs whistled their way to the ground below. Each one landing with a sound that blasted its way to the core of ones self and shook their insides.

This could be my last day, I thought as I stood on the sidewalk, watching. I watched as the people ran, all fleeing for shelter unknown. All that they did know was that they had to get away from here. The faces of people gone pale from shock and fear stuck out among the gray surroundings, once colorful but now darkened and dirtied as but one of many effects of this tragedy.

Women clung to the hands of their children and men held the hands of their women, carrying the younger of kids in their arm. They all ran. But where to? There was nowhere to go, not since the planes had hit almost all of the surrounding areas. So I stood, a single being, frozen in time.

Time, as I thought, was one of the most ironic things in the universe. All can change in a matter of seconds. One minute you're walking through town, escaping from home, and the next you're hit by a car while crossing the street. One minute you're swimming, drowning the next. Time is not on our side. One minute you take to the streets in town, minding your own business, and the next all freezes. Everyone just stops and stares. All at the same time, at the same noise. What started a faint buzz then added a whistle, each growing louder by the second. And at that sound, time itself freezes. But the sound refuses to listen to time. Then, in a flash, is hysteria.

The sounds of screams, of fast, pounding footsteps, and of the weeping, fill the air. On must be careful as to not get run over. As I look up at my surroundings, I saw an orange glow surrounding the city. Fire. And the winds brought clouds of ash directly over us. By now I had drowned out most sounds, but one stuck out among the confusion. Anya! It called. Anya! Slowly, I ripped my eyes from the burning buildings and saw a boy running to me. It was Percy. I could barely hear him as he spoke to me. What are you doing hear? he asked. What does it look like, I thought, staring blankly at him. His normally golden brown hair was now grayed from smoke. Never mind. We've got to move. He told me, taking my hand. But where to? I thought. Come on! He yelled, and he yanked me forward, and I followed.

As we walked hand in hand through the thick throng of people, I saw people I knew. People I had looked up to and thought to be some of the strongest people I knew, now were turned to jelly. I hated them for that. For showing their weakness, for not standing up. Come, Percy said. This way. He turned right and led me down an ally way. Don't ever look back. Turn after turn he led and the back of him was all I saw. He was the only one who still had any wits about him. He obviously knew something that most others did not, for no one else followed. We stopped for a moment and were on a new street on the opposite side of town. I let go of his hand and turned, looking back. Then is when I saw what my town truly looked like. A ghost town on fire. Hollowed out, burning buildings, devoid of anything that would show the previous human inhabitants. All were gray and blasted out. My eyes continued to scan until they fell upon my home. The building my family lived in was now engulfed in flames. "Oh my God," I said, quickly waking up in this nightmare.

Percy, shocked at my finally speaking, quickly turned to see what I was looking at, what had drawn my attention enough as to actually make me speak. He quickly looked from the building to me, to the building, and back to me. I was a wreck now. My eyes burned and tears streamed down my cheeks as I yelled out. My feet had a mind of their own and began to carry me towards the burning building. "No, Anya," Percy said, taking a hold of me. I refused his grasp and tried to continue towards the building, hitting hits arms, twisting all around, anything to break free. "Anya! Look at me!" he said with such fortitude that there was no way I could not look at him.

"What!" I yelled at him. I turned my head was now facing him, his green eyes full of pain and sorrow.

"Don't look back."

"What do you mean don't look back. We have to go back. My family! They need me!" I rambled on and on, trying to break free from his embrace but nothing would work.

"Anie," he spoke softly. "We have to go. Now."

"No!" I screamed. He pulled me along as I continued to look back over his shoulder at the life I once lived. The life I had tried to get away from just before, now gone. I could not go back. And, once again, Percy was right.

Once my rage had worn out and my crying had ceased, I was somber, not knowing what life had turned to. Not knowing if my family was alive. How could I go on without my family? Without my Papa's hug and my Mama's smile. Without anything. All was lost. All I had left was Percy, and him me. My thoughts broke for a moment and I saw that we were headed down the road to a neighboring town. "Why are we going there?" I weakly asked.

"To make camp and wake up alive. It has already been hit so I'm fairly certain that it should be safe."

Those were the last words we spoke for hours. Percy made me close my eyes when we had entered the town and he led me down the streets until we found a sufficient place to sleep in this rotting hole. We had made a small fire inside a skeleton of a building and sat, and, with a heavy heart, slept. At least he seemed to. All I could dream about was the look in children's faces as compared to those of their parents as they had hurried to escape. Now, those poor eyes will see no longer. I knew that they were dead, just like my family. Just like Percy's family. How could he hold himself together? "Percy?" I whispered out.

"Hmm?" he softly replied.

"What happened to your family? How did you make it out, and not them?" I reluctantly asked. He waited a moment before replying and I felt bad for asking.

"We were at the market. When the men came," he began, "the soldiers. We were split up into opposite sections. I knocked a guard out on my part and tried to get to my parents but couldn't. The soldier's wall was too strong. I looked into my mother and father's eyes and they told me to run. Run and never look back. And as I looked into their eyes for the last time""he paused. "As I looked, the ranking soldier shouted something and the guards turned, facing my family and other family's. The children, the old, the young, it didn't matter. They pulled their guns from their shoulders and pointed," Percy spoke in but a whisper now and couldn't go on.

"Oh, Percy," I said, moving towards him. "I'm so sorry I asked. I'm so sorry." I put my hand onto his shoulder and he bent his head down, putting it on my shoulder, and I wrapped my arms around him. I whispered into his ear and looked into the distance. I saw an orange glow in the direction of where we had come from. Our homes, our family's, our friends, our neighbors, all were gone. "We'll make it," I told him. He lifted his head and looked at me with a glint of a smile in his eyes. Hope.

"We will," he said back, kissing my forehead.

Two mornings later, it was raining. We were in need of coats, so Percy told me that we would scavenge. We stopped in front of a home that showed few signs of disaster and we stepped into the foyer. He continued on up a set of stairs but I did not follow. "Come, Anya," he told me, reaching out.

"No," I told him.

"No?" he questioned.

"You heard me. No. I will not go through someone else's things. This is stealing, it's wrong."

"It's called survival, Anya. It's all we can do now. We have to survive. Then we can tell our grandchildren our story and it will never be lost."

"It's wrong," I said.

"I know, Anie. But it's all we can do to survive," he said, walking up the stairs and not looking back. I reluctantly followed, not wanting to stand alone in someone else's home, it felt weird and wrong. We entered what must have one of the bedrooms and he opened a door that was to a closet and began rifling through it. I stood and watched, unable to do the same as him. "Ah, here's one for you," he said, holding out a red coat. I did not reach for it and he threw it over his arm. "And one for me. Here," he said, extending the coat. "Anya, please, take it."

"It's stealing." He simply sighed and put it over my shoulders, taking my hand, and led me back to the foyer. He placed his hand onto the door handle and froze, face turning white. "What is it? What's wrong?"

"Shh," he told me. "Listen, do you hear that?" I closed my eyes and listened for whatever it was he thought he heard. All was silent for a moment, until my eyes flashed open at the sound I then heard. Footsteps. My jaw dropped and I reached for the door handle to open the door. "No!" he hissed, hitting my hand out of the way.

"And why not? There could be others!"

"Yeah, other soldiers!" The fight was over and he had won. Percy was right. Instead, we exited through a first floor window on the opposite side of the house. The rain had lightened to a sprinkle now, but the frigidness of death hung in the air. We walked on down the back street towards what we thought would be the center of town in search of food. Our belly's rumbled with hunger for not have eaten for two days. As we entered the center of town we saw many things. Shop windows were now blasted open and nonexistent. Pieces fallen from burnt buildings were scattered across the street. There was also an unmistakable stench. The stench of death. It clung to every corner and every cobblestone. I lifted my sleeve to my mouth in attempt to filter out the smell. Though it did little, it was just one more barrier between all this and myself.

Above one of the doorways, as it had no door, hung a sign that looked like a loaf of break. The Bakery, it said. We entered and instantly looked at the display cases. Empty. Devoid of anything. Though, why should it surprise me in this wasteland? It's not like there was actually ever anything anymore. Our hopes fallen even more, I stepped out of the bakery and instantly felt someone grab me and pull me back.

It was Percy. His eyes as wide as could be. I knew what he was thinking, soldiers. I looked out to the street and listened. I can hear footsteps. We quickly scurried back as quiet as humanly possible in this situation, and went into what must have been the room used for the actual baking, because there were ovens against the wall. The soldiers spoke something and then their boots crunched against the floor of the main room of the bakery. Fear filled me, head to toe. I tried to help think of where to hide and kept looking around the room. But all I could see were ovens. No tables, no closets. Wait, the ovens! I looked at Percy and pointed. We got up and stood, each of us in front of one. We looked at each other again, and simultaneously reached for the handles, opening the once infernos, used but days before. They still smelled of fresh bread.

The steps got closer and we had to be quick. I hopped into the oven and closed the door as quietly as I could, but the door was too heavy for me to pull from that angle. I used all my strength and pulled it so only two inches were still ajar. The crunching of footsteps was closer now, and my breathing quickened. My hands grew sweaty from panic when suddenly the door shut. Percy, I whispered. I could hear him hurrying to get into his own oven. But something wasn't right. The soldiers had stopped talking as if they were listening just as I was. Then there were footsteps, quick footsteps, in our direction. The soldiers started yelling and I heard them run towards my oven, but they went next to me. My hand flew to my mouth to try to hide my sobs. I was so scared. That was when I heard a voice I recognized. Percy. He was talking to them in a language I did not know. I hoped to God he would fight them, knock one out like he had before, but I heard nothing but words.

That was when I hear a loud, booming of intense force. It was a gunshot. Then I heard nothing. I tried my best not to cry but I could not stop it. I had to live, for him. He had saved my life by closing that oven door. If it weren't for him I would be lying on the ground next to him. Oh God, why couldn't I be lying there? My hands covered my face as I sobbed and the soldiers walked out.

Swinging my legs, I kicked the door open and rolled out, crawling to Percy. My vision was blurred but I could clearly make out a deep color of blood. "Oh, Percy! It's all my fault," I sobbed. I heard him breath very short and shallow as he tried to whisper something to me. "Yes? Wh-what is it Percy?" I asked frantically, wanting to hear his voice. He struggled with the next words he said, but I made them out.

"Don't look back," he said. "Run, and don't look back. Live."

The world grew dim and all I could see was the red of blood, Percy's blood, and the green of his eyes. His eyes that slowly grew unfocused and the lids grew lazy. "P-Percy?"

There was no more breathing. No more life. No more anything.

Slowly, I stood; a trembling hand to cover my mouth, a pair of stumbling feet to walk me out of the slaughter house. Only I didn't listen to Percy; I looked back, I had to. And it killed me. I collapsed and completely broke down, tears streaming down my cheeks to form a wet blotch on my skirt as I hunched over hugging myself. I crawled out and stayed like that in the middle of the street.

How long I stayed like that? Only God knows. All I knew is that I had to push forward. I had to strive. I had to live. I had to. That's what Percy would have wanted. So I followed a new savior, a white dove flown down from the sky. It was there to save me. I lifted my arms up to the sky, reaching for God, and he reached back. He had saved me, and in this new place He led me to, I found shelter from the implacable world.

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