The city burned easier than anyone expected.
One the farm on the very edge of the outskirts, Andrew climbed out of the skylight in his room, clambering up the tiles to sit next to the chimney, feeling the lingering warmth from the families fire through the brick. From his vantage point he could see for miles.
From his vantage point he could see the smoke and flames from the city.
Not clearly, he couldn’t see the people screaming, the cars crashing but it was enough. He could see the flames licking the edges of the sky, the smoke filling the clouds, the moon becoming grey and dusty.
It was the end the television was saying and he could hear the shouting and panic from his parent’s television set as they watched the chaos inside the house. Andrew didn’t really understand what was going on – his little sister had gone back to sleep, his older brother was watching with his parents.
His mother was crying.
Andrew didn’t feel well.
It was bubbling up inside him, the tightness in his chest and the shaking inside his stomach. Moving up and spreading through him, over his skin and into his bones. He wouldn’t cry, but he was struggling to breathe as the feeling started to squeeze him. He grasped the chimney breast as the flames spread over the city.
He had friends in the city, his school was probably already ashes. His cousins, his grandmother…
Where were they? Had his uncle gotten to home in time – dinner hadn’t been too long, they had all gone to bed on time. Headlights were everywhere, shining in all directions on the edges of the built up city. People escaping, getting out.
The window opened again and Christopher climbed out, throwing a blanket out first. He sat next to Andrew, pulling the blanket around him, before sitting down next to him. He was so much taller, the boy noticed, Andrew had never felt so short. And even when Christopher reminded him he was five years older and only a foot taller, he didn’t feel much better.
“I don’t understand what’s happening,” he whispered. “Why is the city on fire?”
“They dropped bombs,” he sad, “Nuclear on the capital, but normal bombs on the cities.”
“Not sure. Capans? Lucan. Iris.”
They were all names to Andrew, things he’d heard about in passing on the television, in bits of conversation between various adults. He didn’t push for further explanation though, he didn’t think it would his fear.
“Are we going to die?” he asked.
Christopher put an arm around him, pulling him close.
“Nah,” he said, “we’ll be okay.”
“Sure?” Andrew asked.
“Yeah,” Christopher smiled at him but Andrew could tell it was forced. He could always tell when they were just trying to make him feel better. “Don’t stay out here too long,” he said, “Promise?”
Andrew nodded, smiling weakly back at his brother. The older boy patted him on the back before getting back up to climb through the window. Andrew turned his gaze back on the burning city, curling up deeper in the thick blanket. He would stay for a little longer, if only to see if the flames ever went out.