A streak of light

He stood on the grass, near the boundary wall, facing the building he had left just a minute earlier. He looked into the sky beyond the house. Dark clouds were moving in fast and menacingly from the west. Intermittent flashes of lightning tore across the horizon and the subsequent prolonged rumbles of thunder shook the very ground. Why he had come out here at this time of the night, he had no idea. He had just felt the urge to do it.

Then he heard it. The sound of jet engines was a muted distant whoosh, almost silenced by the rolling thunder. But it was there. The aircraft was still quite far. But he could tell from the sound that it was moving fast. He stared to the east, from where he had heard it coming. He scanned the sky for lights but could see none. He strained his ears, willing the whoosh to get louder while looking towards the general direction it was coming from.

Suddenly, as if coming back to his senses after taking leave of them for a while, he thought it didn’t matter anyway. He felt cold, and it would start raining any moment now. So he turned and started walking back towards the building. But then, just as he made the first step, a streak of light tore across the sky from the general direction of the jet he had heard and raced towards him. Was the plane crashing? What had happened to it?

He started running towards the house. Halfway there, he turned his head to look up at the incoming light. It raced ever faster, not deflected from its course. At that moment, a terrifying thought hit him. The light was too straight. No plane was crashing. This was a missile. And it was headed straight for the house. Inside the house, his fellow students were snoring away, perhaps having nightmares about the cold shower they would have to take in the morning.

He had to get them out! He increased his pace and started shouting at the top of his voice, knowing only too well how futile his efforts were.

“Wake up! Get out!”

Then time seemed to slow down. He heard the missile whizz over his head, the light increased in intensity, and he felt himself lifted into the air and floating away from the house at great speed. Then he made contact with the ground and thousands of needles shot through all parts of his body. He rolled along the ground and came to a stop, on his back, looking at the sky. Debris was falling all around him, some with flames gnawing at their edges.

He raised himself slowly from the ground, gazed at the spot where the dormitory had been. The building was gone, as if nothing had ever stood there. In its place was a huge crater. The flames roaring and leaping into the air made it look like a scene from a war movie. He was panting, his arm was bleeding, his head thumping.

“No,” he whispered to himself, still staring at the spot, his brain unwilling to process what had just happened. He heard the sound of feet pattering on the ground, getting louder by the second, getting nearer. He had to get away. He couldn’t think straight. But something kept shouting inside his head, telling him he had to get away. They couldn’t find him there. Being the only survivor was worse than being dead.

He looked at the black tracksuit trouser and the dark blue T-shirt he had on. They were dusty, but not torn. He walked towards the fence, and hoisted himself to the top and jumped to the ground on the other side. He landed on his feet and started running down the slope towards the forest. As he burst into the tree lie, the rain came down as if a giant tap had been turned on somewhere in the sky. He did not stop running.

To be continued.

Feature image: Photo by Imat Bagja Gumilar on Unsplash.

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