I am seven years old and dreaming of a bakery full of sweets when I awake to the smell of smoke.
The fire alarms begin to sound, a piercing screech that jolts me instantly out of the last remnants of my dream. I clap my hands over my ears and peer through the dark of my bedroom, but all I can see is the little, red light of the fire alarm blinking in the corner, and I think about calling for my mum but my voice is scratchy with sleep and I don’t think she’ll hear me over the noise. I wonder if it’s a mistake, if she’s left something in the oven too long again, but why would she be cooking in the night?
She bursts into my room in a flurry of motion that makes me nervous. I try to ask her what’s wrong but she doesn’t answer, and then I’m in her arms, and she’s lifted me out of my warm bed into the cold air, and out in the hallway it’s too bright and smells of smoke. I try to wriggle out of her arms as we nearly tumble down the stairs and then we’re outside on the porch, in the freezing air, and there’s my dad beside us, and I reach for him but he’s not looking at me. We run out onto the lawn. I look up and there’s a thin white trail of smoke reaching up into the sky above our house, and beneath it the brightness of red fire.
I start to cry. The way my mum’s holding me is uncomfortably tight, too tight, and I feel like I want to scream but I’m not sure why. I look around and see people in black emerging from the shadows. They’re scary men, with dark looks on their faces. As they get closer, I can see the marks on their hands, circles with dots in the middle and lines pointing out like little spears.
One of the men, the leader, says a word. I don’t hear the word, but I see it escape his lips, and at the sound of it the others dart forward. I’m clawing and screaming and reaching for my father as they grab hold of him and the gunshot sounds. He drops.
There are hands on me, and I cling to my mum. She’s trying to hold on to me, and I can’t stand to watch so I close my eyes and feel myself ripped away. I stop breathing and I feel my heart bumping in my chest. Bump, bump, bump. I open my eyes, and I see her, and I reach for her, but the men are all around her, faceless men with marks on their hands.
There is a scuffle, and shouting. The heavy hands holding me throw me to the ground. My hands crush the daisies that grow in this part of the lawn. I look up. My mother is kneeling, surrounded. And I run. I run away.
From under the cover of the bushes, I watch the leader walk up to my mother. I see him reach for his gun in the shaking red light of my burning home. He turns and places it in the hands of a small figure who appears from behind him, a figure small enough to be a child.
Hiding in the bushes, terrified and unwilling even to scream, I hear a shot ring out so loud I think it’ll split my head in two, and I watch as I lose my mother to those small, shaking, marked hands.
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