She sat, skirt sprawled, on the filthy floor. Filthy with the blood and bile of the dead and dying around her. Cries of pain and suffering grated, amplified a thousandfold by the confines of the room.
She did not care. Only her eyes, pinned upon the lean features of the man whose head was cradled on her lap, displayed any form of emotion. The rest of her face, her dusted countenance, her body, was set in rigid emotionlessness. Lips thin. Cheeks pale, the soft streaks of tear tracks streaming down her face, puddling in the indentation of her mouth.
The man spoke, his voice weak and cracked with thirst. "Dana. Go. Go now, while ..its not...too late."
Dana only shook her head. Her eyes spoke horror at the very thought.
Nearby, concrete slabs pinned an old man heavily down on the floor. He was screaming wildly, jerking and struggling with all his remaining strength even as his ruptured abdomen continued to tear, issuing sickening ripping sounds, as his watered-down blood soaked his clothes and the floor. Nobody helped him. Another soldier, head bloody with shrapnel wounds, was spasming wildly, face contorted, limbs twitching on the floor. His eyes were white, sclera stained red from burst capillaries. Blindly flailing.
The man offered a weak smile. "You always...were...stubborn." Gasping. "Please...for my sake. They're coming...I don't want you...to..." He trailed off.
The unspoken remainder was not absent from the gravitas.
The thin old man stopped moving, finally. His eyes, wide with fright, froze and glazed over. His body slumped, and the air was suddenly filled with the overwhelming odour of faeces. Blood, pulpy tissue and bile slid sickeningly down the side of his shirt.
Dana's frozen countenance finally broke. "Nobody helps." She broke down in a gulping sob. "Nobody helps people like us. Pete, Pete, don't be like this, you've got to hang on, you've got to...don't do this to me..." She was crying, now. Tears falling like crystals over Pete's face, his mouth.
Pete couldn't reply; he found breathing difficult, and now, he, too, was on the verge of tears. What cruel fates were beheld to Man. What terror would be inspired from love. Quiet rumination on the verge of death, among the other beleaguered victims of a senseless bloodbath. He felt a quiet peace.
In and out, weaving through waking and sleeping, life and death. A timeless journey through fates unseen, pasts untold. Enter the Dream of Flowers, healing the pain that comes with Death. He felt a bright light, beckoning him towards peace, rest, the liquid joy of contentment.
His eyes opened, yet unseeing.
She stood there, smiling, holding out her arms, standing at the end of a long tunnel and at its end was light, purest, most sublime, heavenly light-
He was a child again, in her arms, when some small injury sent him crying into her comforting bosom. There, there, its just a small cut, don't cry, in life you've got to look your fear in the face.
That's when you're strong.
Dana stared at Pete, horrified at his unseeing stare. "Pete? Pete!" Cupping his face in her clammy hands. "Wake up! Pete, please, don't leave me like this!" Shaking him wildly. "Pete! Wake up!" She was shrieking now, crazed with terror. "You can't die!" she wailed.
The creaking wooden door burst open. Standing there, three soldiers, wearing armbands that spoke malice. "Well, well, what do we have here?" The lead soldier's eyes swept the room, lingered tauntingly at Dana. Lips curled in a snarl, he stalked over to the stricken woman and in one savage kick sent Pete's body tumbling down on the floor.
Pete's eyes snapped open.
"Dana! I...I've...", he breathed wonderingly. Then he saw them. "Dana? No!" Beseechingly, staring up at them. "Please. Don't-"
He never said another word, for two bullets were then lodged in his head. Face frozen in a grimace of hopelessness, he slumped on the floor, dead, amidst Dana's piercing, maddened screams.
The lead soldier devoured Dana with his eyes. His gaze made her skin crawl; even as she screamed her voice hoarse, beside the corpse of her beloved, amongst the dead old man and the spasming soldier, she felt filthy and unclean at the touch of his gaze.
The lead soldier cast down his weapon. Eyes hardened into icy slits, craggy, dirt-smeared face a contortion of animal rage. His two companions exchanged uncertain sniggers, then turned their eyes to look at their leader, beads of perspiration appearing on their necks. They were shivering, stomachs knotting.
There was anticipation on their faces, but their eyes betrayed horror.
With grim, deliberate steps he rounded on her.
There was the ripping of fabric and piercing shrieks of desperation.
Outside, the sounds of war were for a moment drowned out by ripping screams. Screams coupled with wild, maddened laughter.
Dana lay there, bleeding, exposed. Alone. The vacant stare of Pete had witnessed all. As his body lay there, face tipped in an awkward angle at her. Life seeped away; blood pooling slowly at her legs, life returned as it was given.
And awareness shfted. In and out, waking and sleeping. Life and Death.
And she stood there, wondering, and saw Pete smiling at her from the end of a long tunnel.
And the Dream of Flowers consumed her mind, and this time, there was no return.