The smoke was blinding, choking. The sound of explosions and screams from the distance still reached his ears.
The crumbling of an adjacent wall sent another gale of dust and shattered cement towards him, and he flinched as the sharp stone gouged shallow lines across the back of his head.
As suddenly as it had started, it stopped.
The ash still hung heavy in the air, settling on him, his clothes, his tongue, but for a moment, there was blessed silence. Then it started again.
The BOOM of high impact shells seemed closer now, the ground shaking with each hit. Within the crumbling building, though, there was only the rushing inferno of the fire, pushing him closer to the shelling.
Coughing, dust and blood and ash forcibly expelled from his lungs, he spat a mouthful of it out.
He needed water.
Swiping at the tears in his eyes, threatening to spill, he found the strength to push up off his knees. If he squinted, looking up through the smoke and the cracked skylight, he could make out the shapes of bombers streaking away after dropping their loads. Dark and hulking, the sight sickened him.
“It... wasn’t...” The words didn’t come. Couldn’t come.
Clawing at his throat, he stumbled away from the flames, tripping on rubble. Slowly, he made his way out.
He was alone on the once-paved street. Eerily, he heard the distant shriek of someone, before they fell silent again. Then the hum of the planes were heard again, and he ducked away, pressing his back against an ashen wall.
From there, he could see the collisions and the explosions of each shell. Each strike sent clouds of debris into the air.
“It wasn’t... it wasn’t supposed to be... like this,” he managed to mumble, before the concussion of the next shell sent him spiraling into darkness.