Not all wars are in distant lands, some are closer to home and completely unconventional.
| They say that the first explosion is always the loudest. It’s not. Each one is just as loud, and just as terrifying as the last. But it’s the first one that has the greatest impact. In that split second any sense of peace is obliterated and your subconscious is dragged abruptly back to reality; just in time for the next detonation.
I wish I could say that this was the first time I had been woken up by deafening booms. It seems hard to remember a night that wasn’t lacerated by flashes of light, or filled with the lingering, acrid smell of smoke and sulphur.
I had fallen asleep curled up on the couch again. I like to think I was dreaming of some tranquil faraway place, but I honestly don’t remember. The smell of stale coffee still hung in the air and the chairs felt cold to the touch. My parents had gone to bed hours ago. It’s always amazed me how unfazed they are by the nocturnal assaults. My mother was nervous, but she always managed to put on a brave face. Trying to show me it would all be okay. That there was nothing to worry about.
The first raft of explosions was quickly followed by another. And then another. Each one bleeding into the next until they fell away into an eerie silence. I had come to hate these reprieves. They were always short lived. The next onslaught could begin at any moment and would be even more intense than the last. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end. My heart had already begun to build momentum; my muscles to tense and contract. My body was preparing to flee; to find my safe haven. I only hoped I didn’t lose my nerve.
In the distance the muted drone of falling shells continued. The whole countryside seemed to be under fire. But while the distance had dumbed the volume, it had done little to quell the growing fear inside me. If I was to move, to make a break for it, it would have to be now. A moment longer and I would be frozen in fear.
I made my way through the kitchen, with the moonlight casting shadows and light across the stone floor. From above I heard the creak of my parents' bed and the soft grumbles of my father. My mother had begun to stir. I knew I wasn’t a pup anymore. I’d outgrown my hiding places long ago, but there was still only one place I felt safe. I padded softly up the stairs and gently nudged the door open.
I stood in dark at the bottom of the bed, waiting for the signal. My mother sleepily raised her head off the pillow as she patted the bed.
“Up you come Toby,” she said, “Fireworks night is almost over.”
There was no hesitation. I jumped, settling next to my parents on their bed. At last I felt safe.
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