Mama told me to come away, to come back inside, but I couldn’t.
The first ones ran.
I stared, from my perch on the broken fence, as they hurried past, their concentration on the dusty road and their footfalls, not on me, a grubby child by the wayside. They ran so fast even my blistered legs curved below my torn skirts failed to move them. I winced as I changed position.
There were more, still running, always running, kicking up dirt and ash in clouds behind them as they hastened on. Then they slowed and I stared. Sunken cheeks, dull eyes, scorched rags, and blistered skin…like mine.
He was one of the last, walking, dragging, mumbling and stinking of anguished sweat. I backed away as he reached my fence, and I stared with mistrust in my eyes and escape in my legs.
“War is over,” he slurred. “War is over, my child…”
Tears streamed as my eyes met his. “Papa?”