We ran along the cold corridors of the underground sewer. We have to get away, we have to get away, was all I could think. I could still hear water splashing from where we had come. They would catch us.
I squeezed my oldest child to my chest protectively; he was whimpering from his injury. He buried his face in my shoulder to muffle his own cries. My legs trembled from fear and subconscious knowledge, which was screaming at me, but I didn’t have time to listen. I didn’t want to listen. I dragged along the youngest by his hand.
Fortunately, if there was one thing that the little one-year old had learned in the past two months, it was to run. Forget talking. He would probably never talk. He had changed from a normal noisy child to one that said nothing. The look in his eyes didn’t reflect things that a child’s eyes held. They were deep and sad and fearful. Even when I held him close, that look of fear never left his eyes. What would become of my children?
Turning a few more corners in the sewers, I finally heard no more pursuit. But my ears strained to hear what was not there. I knew something wasn’t right. It was too quiet.
I ducked into a drainage pipe. I slid on my back with my unconscious three-year old upon my chest, and the wet sludge gave me a chill. The youngest followed without a sound.
Sliding carefully, quietly, out of the pipe, I propped myself against the wall of the secluded sewer sections. Silence, even as the youngest crawled out of the pipe. Finally, perhaps, we were safe for a while.
Then, I turned to examine the oldest.
How many times can you keep a crying child quiet?
How many ways can you answer the question, “Where is my mommy?” How many times do you answer before you go crazy?
How do you hide your children, protect them, when they themselves are the one thing that puts them in the most danger? How do you protect them when you can scarcely protect yourself?
The answers are simple.
As many times as you have to.
As many ways as they ask. She’s dead. She was killed, She’s in Heaven. She can’t be here right now. If you be very quiet, you’ll hear her.
You don’t go crazy from the asking. You go crazy when they stop asking.
When alone in the effort, you do your best. You try to keep them alive. You try to stay alive, because your death means their deaths. You try…
I held the lifeless body of my three-year old child close. I felt as dark and broken inside as was the tunnel in which we hid. I felt the weight of a hundred thousand cuddles, kisses, tears. I could see his eyes, in thousands of shades, each painting a different emotion. All painting memories. The light in his eyes when he held his brother close. That light was always there, shining like a beacon in the dark. But now it was gone.
All of my body shook with pain and denial, but my soul spoke, saying that he suffered no more, that he had reached a place without fear and without danger.
I felt like a terrible father. I let him down. I didn’t even say a word to him. I didn’t tell him how much I loved him, how much I needed him. All I did was scoop him up and run. He deserved so much more than this. To laugh, to play. To see the sun again…
Dammit… Not like this… I…
I… didn’t even have a place to bury him. His little body…
Lying in the sewer… Such an injustice…
I took his little hands in mine. They were covered in dirt.
No I couldn’t do that… I couldn’t let that happen to him…
How did I let this happen to him… He’s just a little boy…
My one-year old shook his brother, and stared at me, as if to say, “Why won’t Bubby play?”
But, then those eyes became windows, windows peering into my being: a reflection of the emptiness and pain tearing at my soul.
He placed his hand on his brother’s face. “Bub-by.”
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