The gleaming fright-filled eyes of a boy wearing an over sized soldier's helmet clutching a rifle almost as long as him was the last thing Marie had seen before the cellar door closed leaving them in darkness as enveloping as the grave itself. She had her two daughters huddled against the stone walls clutching each other tighter every time a shell impact shook the house and showered them with dust.
The blinding darkness made time imperceptible to the terrified widow holding onto her crying children. It seemed like the fighting had petered out, but there was no way to tell how long it was before the last shot, so she decided to wait just a little longer.
The static darkness made the futility of her prudence apparent. She decided if any time warranted using their last bit of kerosene this was probably it. She lit the lamp the radial glow of the wobbling flame illuminated their claustrophobic quarters and they watched the insects scurrying around their feet recoil from the light.
“Don’t go,” pleaded her older daughter Helen.
“I promise I will come right back,” Mother assured her.
“Don’t go don’t go!” whined her younger daughter Sara as she buried her face into her sister's shoulder.
“I will come right back,” she whispered again.
The cellar door was at the top of a wooden stair case. She put her first foot down slowly on the step hoping it wouldn’t creak. Her heart seized up when it did, but there seemed to be no reaction to the noise. She slowly made her way up to the flat door and pulled out the latch. ‘When she pushed up against the door with her should it suddenly seemed to weigh twice as much. She took a deep breath and pushed again, and it flipped opened falling flat on the floor. The impact startled her, and she nearly fell back down the stairs.
She stayed low as she came into the kitchen. The window was shattered, and shimmering glass was sprayed along the floor. She silently made her way over to the window making sure to stay low. Right when she was just beneath the frame a face appeared and stared down directly at the woman crawling along the floor.
He held a light under his chin and flashed a rotten toothed grin. A sharp gasp escaped from her chest, and she bolted back for the cellar. She could feel her skin raise as if being pulled. She scurried down the hole like a rodent. Her trembling hands pulled the latch back into place. She stayed at the top of the stairs and squeezed the handle of the door.
“Whats happening momma??”
She looked at her daughters. They both had honey blonde hair and hazel blue eyes. They were living dolls fetishized by hatred. There was only one way she could think to spare her daughters the festering agony of unspeakable trauma was to desecrate the little faces she and God had made for them and make them undesirable to the lustful marauders They heard the door to the kitchen smash open followed by the heavy thuds of boots against the floor
She reached for a suitably jagged shard of ceramic with one hand and pulled her youngest daughter to her chest with the other. She locked her arm tightly around her head and put her hand over her mouth.
“Bite down on my hand,” she instructed as she pressed the sharp edge into her tender cheek
When Sarah squirmed, Marie tightened her grip. Sarah bit down on her mother’s hand. Blood began to fill the fissure being carved into her flesh. Every micrometer momma added to the wound the girl's jaw clenched tighter and tighter The skin broke, and blood seeped freely from the incision.
Sarah thrashed around in her mother’s grip and pulled away far enough to scream in a ringing pitch that felt like a needle. Her mother acted fast and muffled the girl with her bloodied hand.
Every heart beat came with an eruption of pain numbing adrenaline. She could hear the soldiers looting and smashing. They were stomping closer and closer to the cellar door, they were close enough where she could tell exactly where they walked. She pulled her improvised razor further, and the cheek opened like a zipper
“Please stop please stop!” Helen screamed her body convulsed with hysteria.
Sara’s skin turned as white as flour. Her eyes were pried open by terror, but she ceased crying and now just breathed in quick sharp gasps.
“Shhhh” mother whispered. “Now you won’t feel anything they do to you,”
She heard her older daughter whimpering just outside the lantern's glow. “
“Helen, please come here,” she ordered softly but firmly.
Helen replied with choked cries.
She could hear the footsteps stop at the cellar door. They were pulling at the door, but the latch held it in place. They started smashing their rifles against the door
“Helen come here now!”
The burst of a sub machine gun exploded through the door. It was too late. Marie was subdued by panic. She closed her fingers tight around the ceramic shard in her hand opening a new gash in her blood drenched hand. The large figures were shrouded in long winter coats, and their heads were covered by pointed caps. As they came towards them, she could see their faces were pinched bright red by a combination of alcohol and late winter frost. They shouted to each other in what seemed like an impossible assortment of guttural alien tongues. Their skin was grimy and their faces unshaven. They were covered with layers of mud, grease, and human remains.
Marie was out of time and fate left her with only two options. This paternal kamikaze was preceded by a scream that for a small but a noticeably felt moment caused the soldiers to freeze up. She lunged forward with the point of her improvised blade pointed at the heart of the man closest to her. The gun barrels started to flash randomly, and in mere seconds the mother and her children had been smashed to pieces by the salvo of lead.
Marie was drifting away fast. The world was a fixed image that was dissolving itself into obscurity before fading away completely. Had she saved them from a fate worse than death? There was no way to compare outcomes so she would never know and now it didn’t matter and was well enough.