So I’ve been wanting to expand a lot of my older flash fiction pieces here. I decided to start with this — I’ll probably be making it into a serial at some point, but for now, it remains unedited, quickly-written flash fiction. Part 1 is here.
The Flight, Part 2
My breathing was heavy. My chest rose and fell, and with each breath a sharp pain pierced my chest. For a moment I wondered if I had cracked a rib when I had tripped, but I knew that it would be much worse if I had.
I handed our child to her gently and placed my hands on my knees, bowing forward over the ground, trying to regain my breath. My hair was wet and some caught in my eyes. I shook it away so that it still covered my eyes, but at least wasn’t in them, too tired to lift my hand to brush it away.
Finally I looked up. Each labored breath was now less severe than it was before. I knew I had to have a bruised rib. I lifted a hand to my face to brush away my hair when my hand swept over a deep gash on my forehead.
“Honey, you’re bleeding!” my wife said immediately. And the pain struck. I hadn’t even noticed I was bleeding until I actually realized the cut was there. I placed my hand on it, ignoring the intense sting that I was greeted with. When I removed my hand it was covered in crimson.
I moaned and placed my palms on the dirt floor of the woods. I could feel the blood trickling down my forehead, and I put my forearm against it to try and stop the bleeding while my wife got a piece of cloth from inside the satchel still on my shoulder. She pulled my arm away and wiped my forehead of blood, sweat, and dirt before pressing the cloth right on the wound and instructing me to hold it there, even though I already knew that.
I stood up slowly, my legs shaky with the adrenaline gone and their over-use. I steadied myself on a nearby tree and began looking around at the fellow survivors. There were about twenty of them, grouped together in a large opening within the trees. They, too, struggled to get their breath. But what pained me most were their expressions. Their eyes. I could see it in every one of them. The fear. The despair. The loss of hope.
A few had looks of determination, of anger – anger at the ones who had destroyed our homes and village. But they were few and far between. The mood overall was of sadness. My wife hugged me around the waist, and I hugged her back, kissing her on the top of the head before delivering a kiss to our child as well.
Our son. A beautiful boy, only a year and a half years old. His green eyes looked up at me with recognition: I was his father. I tried to smile down at him, but it probably didn’t look like much of one. I was too tired. Too pained. Too full of sorrow.
He shouldn’t have to go through this, I thought to myself. He was the epitome of innocence, perfection in a world filled with so much imperfection. So much madness and corruption. If we at all deserved what had happened to us – for everyone sins – he was the exception.
So I kissed him again, not sure of what else to do while the thought pained me. I tried to find a positive light to our situation, and in the end, I could only find one: We were alive. God allowed us to live.
But soon the sorrow overtook me again. I pushed the thoughts away, forcing myself to think for the group. For how to survive.
I came into the clearing of trees and looked upward at the night sky. I guessed it was probably midnight. The stars were bright, and the moon was nearly full, allowing us to see just a little.
I looked behind me again, still scared that they would be coming after us, but I saw and heard nothing. No movement among the trees. No snapping of branches or the yelling that they would probably be doing were they behind us.
And for a moment, I had hope. Our village was destroyed, but we could build it up again. We could make it and ourselves stronger as long as we stuck together.
But then I realized that we could never rebuild our village. We couldn’t go back. And ultimately, we had to keep moving forward. If they weren’t chasing us right now, they would be soon. But I knew that, at this moment, we had to rest.
We survived the day, but the fight wasn’t over. I took our son from my wife’s arms and held him close. We would figure out a way to be a family still.