“Bao, wake up. Don’t fuss. Hurry. We must go!”
The muffled restraint of my mother’s voice woke me from a dream. A dream I had many times pondered over in the morning after. A dream of flight, of rush. A dream just like this moment.
Through foggy eyes I watched her dress my sisters without tenderness. I could see her panic. It became mine. The unfamiliar sound of silence assailed our ears as we ran, crouching low, my mother’s hand on our heads pushing us down. I could just barely see the sun setting. The sky was red, stained with blood.
“We must not stop. We must not wait. It will be too late. Hurry, now!” She urged us on.
Ahead of us I could see it. I could hear the deafening whir of the grey metal beast. People were screaming out of anger, fear, confusion. Men pushed me aside, but my mother held onto my collar tightly. Her three children herded in front of her. Our heads were down, always down.
I can hear her pleading. The sickening pleas of a mother torn.
“Lady, there isn’t time. You must choose now. There isn’t enough room.”
“Let them go, I’ll stay.” She promised, pushing us forward.
“Not possible.” He shouted. I could not see his face, but his voice told me how little he cared.
She must choose. Two daughters, one son.
“Please. Please take them. I’ll stay.”
And there was a brief pause as she stood there thinking. The grip on my collar tightened, the arm around my sisters pulled closer. A man coughed; a woman sobbed. I could hear them shuffle as a stretcher was pushed off the loading bay.
My stomach felt the jolt of the beast as it moved upward. I tried not to look down. Down where those left behind would remain. The running patterns of my panicked neighbors who could not come. They waited too long. They who did not have a mother who loved them enough to push forward.
I close my eyes. Soon I will wake up. Soon the dream will be over.