Sunday 2 – Thursday 6 November 2014
Cowering in the church, crouched low behind the altar, they hid waiting for the aerial raid to end. Bombs rained down from the sky, halting any normality that the day might have held. It was far from uncommon these days, the sirens would scream alerting everyone to take cover. Those who had them hid in their shelters. Those who didn’t sought refuge in the sturdiest, strongest buildings that they could find.
‘One of these days this place isn’t going to hold up any longer. It’s been hit too many times this year.’ Eddie’s voice was barely audible above the explosions. Dust fell from the ceiling as if emphasising Eddie’s point. Mabel looked up to see if they were still safe. The roof was holding up, and didn’t show any more signs of stress than it had when they’d taken cover.
‘As long as it doesn’t collapse around us today,’ she replied. The young girl at Mabel’s side curled in tighter to escape the imminent danger.
‘Mabel,’ Eddie said, ‘we need to find somewhere safe for the children. Fighting off those thugs . . . we can’t go through that every time we need shelter.’
‘I know, but what can we do, Eddie? There’s nowhere else around here for us to go.’ The three younger children flinched at the sound of the bombs exploding. They were closer this time, and the walls of the church shook.
The icon above the altar rattled violently against the wall. Eddie looked up at it, and then drew Mabel and the younger children nearer.
‘Charlie, come closer,’ he said.
‘But I don’t want to sit near Donald. He’s smelly,’ Charlie replied sullenly.
‘I am not!’ cried Donald.
‘Boys, that’s enough!’ Mabel snapped. ‘You’re scaring Frances.’
‘No they’re not, Mabel. The bombs are scaring me, not the smelly boys.’ Frances smirked at both Charlie and Donald.
‘Stop it, all of you. Now is not the time for fighting over silly things. I’m the oldest, and that means you have to listen to me.’
‘Eddie’s right, children. He’s kept us safe, and it’s the very least we can do in return. So, stop your bickering, come closer, Charlie, and let’s just get through this as best as we can.’
Eddie smiled, relief inching across his face as yet another bomb exploded nearby. Support from Mabel was important if he was to keep them together and safe.
‘Will Jesus protect us, Mabel?’ Donald whispered.
‘I asked if Jesus will protect us? Is that why we keep coming back to the church when the bombs come?’
Mabel looked at the crucified Jesus hanging on the wall behind the altar. She struggled to find a suitable answer that would satisfy Donald’s curiosity. She looked to Eddie for help.
‘No, Donald, Jesus won’t protect us but this building will. That’s why we keep coming back.’
They braced against the altar as another bomb landed nearby. Jesus rattled in reply. The doors flew open, and the children heard footsteps scurrying through the church. Eddie chanced a glance around the altar. The hurried footsteps belonged to a dishevelled and bloodied enemy soldier. Making his way through the church, he looked left and right along the pews, searching for a secure place of his own to hide from the destruction. Eddie’s expression urged the children to be quiet as the soldier’s footsteps came closer.
He stumbled around the altar, stopping short of kicking Mabel and Frances. Leering down at the children, he pulled his pistol from its holster, cocked the hammer, and levelled the weapon at Eddie’s forehead.
‘You’re going to need to find a new place to stay, little boy.’
. . . To be continued . . .